Older reviews of CD and DVD releases in the world of progressive rock

December 12, 2005
TOMAS BODIN - I AM
by Robert Dansereau

This is the third solo album of the great Tomas Bodin, royal keyboard player of the mighty Flower Kings. A lot of people various newsgroups whetted my appetite, stating that Tomas Bodin's I AM album is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. So I had high expectations for this album. All I can say is that I was not disappointed!

Upon my first audition, the first keyboard notes I heard had my hair standing on end. Ooh, this sounds sooo good! The three tracks, who are aptly titled "I", "A" and "M", are just brilliant. No other word can describe this complex, melodious, versaltile music.

Marcus Liliequist and Jonas Reingold contribute greatly to the entire album, the bass work is just generous and luscious, with riffs that will leave you grinning with satisfaction! And the drum parts are coming from the guts, lots of emotion and plenty of dexterity. I am most impressed by the tight, precise, interaction of all the musicians. A great bunch of professionals putting it all out on this album. And Jocke JJ Marsh is a spectacular guitar player, complementing Mr. Bodin's keyboards with grace, elegance and intensity! As for Tomas... he's like a fine highland scotch, getting better and better with age, the perfection of his work on this album should erase any doubt that he is in the top ten of all keyboard players on earth, all musical styles confounded!

1 The first track, referred to as " I ". Cheerful, powerful, intense, going from an enthusiastic mood of "Wheel Spinner" , to a very Flower King-ish "Day By Day". Much variety on this track, which ends in an orchestral crescendo followed by a bit reminding me of Pink Floyd's "Outside the Wall".

2 The second track, referred to as " A ". It begins with a pleasant melodic piano bit, just to turn into the power fest of "Take Me Home", agressive and grandiose. The "Path of Decision" part reminds me of the great jams on "The Truth will Set You Free" ... that great bass line by Jonas is unique to him. And again, little "samplings" of the Flower Kings throughout the album like this little "Truth" bit at 11:40 of track 2. Great ending with "Close the Deal", Tomas has a flair for the grandiose, it's just absolutely majestic.

3 The third track, referred to as " M " begins with "In The Land Of Retrospect" with vocals à la Rogers Waters... bla bla bla bla as Anders says! Part 2 has a great hard, edgy tone with a really catchy melody! The next section, called "Voice Macabre" begins with metallic overtones, turning into a cool, jammy keyboard solo! "Path of Light" features a very powerful, soulful guitar solo, ending in a powerful crescendo that terminates most abruptly!

Splendid musicianship and a great overall sound thanks to TFK's ultra perfectionnist sound man, Petrus Königsson, who mastered the album. I have to mention that this Anders Jansson on vocals has a certain tonal quality and pronunciation vaguely reminiscent of Hasse Froberg's vocals, but at times a bit strained and forced... another little negative point; throughout the album, the use of whispering voices detract from the main melodies, it gets slightly tedious at times. But the addition of female vocals, with the use of Pernilla Bodin's and Helene Schönning's beautiful, melodious voice, just adds a great layer of texture to the album... icing on the cake if you could say!

A great CD from Tomas Bodin. A must for all TFK fans, and a great introduction to Tomas' keyboard talents for those not familiar with his work.


4 out of 5

track list:
1. I . . . . . . . . . . . 23:12
2. A . . . . . . . . . . . 21:18
3. M . . . . . . . . . . . 18:43

Total Time 63:14

Line-up:
- Anders Jansson: Vocals
- Jocke JJ Marsh: Guitars
- Jonas Reingold: Bass
- Marcus Liliequist: Drums
- Tomas Bodin: Keyboards

additional vocals by:
Pernilla Bodin and Helene Schönning

Release info:
Tomas Bodin's official website at: http://www.tomasbodin.com
format: Single CD
InsideOut music # SPV CD 085-48342
release date: June 27 2005


March 16, 2006
CANVAS SOLARIS - PENUMBRA DIFFUSE
by Robert Dansereau

An instrumental prog metal group from the United States, Canvas Solaris is composed of Nathan Sapp on lead guitars and synthetizers, Ben Simpkins on bass, synthetizers and rhythm guitar and Hunter Ginn on drums and percussions. Their mucic would remind you in places of Gordian Knot and Voivod, but one cannot avoid the obvious heavy influence of Liquid Tension Experiment on that band. Highly cohesive and technically adept musicians, their compositions form a very solid ensemble, an album that flows very well. At times, challenging and elaborate, the music is definitely edgy and aggressive, but still demonstrates a wide variety of styles and very good musicianship from the trio.

The first track, Panoramic Long Range Vertigo, is quite heavy, with influences of LTE, especially in the guitar department, a catchy melody with many layers, ending abruptly. Horizontal Radiant is quite different, stylistically... a great atmospheric, piece which builds up into a tight, powerful rock piece. Accidents in Mutual Silence is a bit more complex with unusual time signatures and edgy guitar work. A dramatic change in style with Vaihayasa, which has a very eastern sound, with tam tams and a guitar that sounds like a sitar, very exotic, with mesmerizing harmonies. To Fracture picks-up in the rhythm department with a vengeance, it starts with rather intense and frenzied guitar, then a smooth, rhythmic middle section, to pick up again in intensity towards the end. Psychotropic Resonance is a quirky, odd little number, slightly dissonant, which builds up into an stinging guitar showcase, blending admirably smooth acoustic guitar with metal mayhem. The CD concludes with Luminescence, the longest and smoothest track of the album, which begins with a quiet, rhythmic intro, an intense, dramatic passage midway and ends with a grandiose finale.

A good power prog CD that sounds great and has great moments, although a bit short at only 49 minutes. It's nothing revolutionary or innovative, but it has a good hard rockin' feel to it. I only wish there might have been just a bit more creativity in their compositions, although the song titles are quite original. Great potential for this band!


4 out of 5

track list:
1. Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo . . 3:51
2. Horizontal Radiant . . . . . 11:24
3. Accidents In Mutual Silence . . 4:13
4. Vaihayasa . . . . . 4:22
5. To Fracture . . . . . 7:42
6. Psychotropic Resonance . . . 4:53
7. Luminescence . . . . 12:00

Total Time 48:44

Line-up:
Nathan Sapp: lead/rhythm guitars,
acoustic guitars, MicroMoog synthesizers,
guitar synthesizer
Ben Simpkins: rhythm guitar, bass guitar,
mandolin, acoustic guitar,
Hunter Ginn: drums, percussions

Release info:
format: Single CD
Sensory/Laser's Edge CD SR3030 (2006)
release date: March 1st, 2006
Canvas Solaris' official website at: www.canvassolaris.net


March 8, 2006
THE D PROJECT - SHIMMERING LIGHTS
by Robert Dansereau

The D Project' Shimmering Lights is the first solo album of Stéphane Desbiens, lead guitarist of the Quebec-City band Sense. His new solo project revolves around the creation of his new studio and his stunning custom-made ASL 304 guitar, hand-crafted with the help of Jérôme Foy. The music is a guitar-driven combination of sophisticated symphonic prog and hard rock. Stéphane is accompanied on this album by his usual team of collaborators and friends as well as an all-star cast of guest musicians.

The album is composed of seven tracks, plus a bonus video. The first track, Shimmering Light begins with an ethereal, atmospheric intro, building up to a groovy, rhythmic interlude, then the main theme of the album, a great composition with a dynamic beat. They Come And Grow is a captivating track, with a great floyd-ish theme and cool mellotrons in the background, with a quieter passage that features dramatic violins, and ends with a wicked guitar solo by Stéphane. Hide From The Sun is a melancholic ballad, with a guest apperance by Tomas Bodin of
The Flower Kings on the synths, a beautiful, moving number with a dramatic ending that links to What Is Done Is Done, an agressive, intense track with a powerful, relentless beat, riveting lyrics and stunning guitar work from Stéphane. End Of The Recess has a quiet, melodic, slightly medieval theme with a beautiful moog contribution from Martin Orford, IQ's keyboardist. September Solitudes, the epic of the album, begins with a bluesy, melancholic theme and features the mesmerizing keyboard work of Tomas, this piece features great back vocals and really showcases the talent of all the musicians involved. That's Life begins with a metal rock intro, a dynamic and catchy track that features breathtaking guitar work from Stéphane, what an amazing player! Glass Hammer's Fred Schendel contributes delicious B3 and moog keyboard work on this track.

Shimmering Lights is an incredibly dynamic, delicately crafted album from a highly creative composer and talented guitarist. It features a wide variety of musical themes, wonderful melodies and harmonies, combined with world-class musicianship and impeccable production quality. I highly recommend this new album, a must for any Sense fan, and if you're not familiar with Stéphane's work, The D Project is a good place to start, a great musical discovery for any classic prog fan.


4 out of 5

track list:
1. Shimmering Lights . . . . . . 8:54
2. They Come And Grow . . . . 6:23
3. Hide From The Sun . . . . . . 7:59
4. What Is Done Is Done (Rat) . . 3:36
5. End Of The Recess . . . . . . 3:51
6. September Solitudes . . . . 10:08
7. That's Life . . . . . . . . . . . . 7:39
Bonus video

Total Time 48:31

Line-up:
- Stéphane Desbiens: vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Danny Robertson: drums
- Sandra Poulin: violins
- Alyssar: back vocals
- Mathieu Gosselin: bass, Chapman Stick
- Francis Foy: back vocals on Hide From The Sun

Release info:
format: Single CD • Ipso Facto # IF2027
release date: April 2006
The D Project's official website at: http://www.thedproject.com/


July 2, 2007
DREAM THEATER - SYSTEMATIC CHAOS
by Robert Dansereau

Dream Theater's long awaited Systematic Chaos is the band's 10th studio album, and with the quality of material released over their 21 years of existence, expectations are obviously high. This latest release is a brilliant piece of work musically, but the compositions just fall a bit short of my own expectations. The writing is very sophisticated, Labrie's vocals are truly better that ever, the compositions are intense and elegant, but there aren't really any tracks that are outstanding, there's no composition on the album that truly sticks out... there isn't a Sacrificed Son or a Stream of Consciousness on this album. But that's not bad, the album just flows well and is quite absorbing as a whole.

The album is composed of 8 tracks, beginning with In The Presence of Enemies, part 1 that starts on a blistering Petrucci riff, and includes some tasty Rudess solos, instrumental for the first half with Labrie joining in at 5:13. Forsaken is the catchiest song of the album, a wonderful dramatic composition with a cool melody but just short a bit of a memorable DT classic. Constant Motion is very dynamic and agressive, the darkest and most metallic track of the album. The Dark Eternal Night has rather annoying phased "cookie monster vocals" that detract from an otherwise powerful, dynamic track. Repentance begins on a quiet note, a dark ballad that features a beautiful guitar solo, and ends with a bit of those background narrations/social comments that were introduced with
Six Degree's The Great Debate. Prophets Of War is very rhythmic, with soaring vocals from LaBrie, and odd back vocals. The Ministry of Lost Souls begins on a quiet note, picking up the pace and turning into a fierce showcase of spectacular solos, with a grandiose end. The album concludes with In The Presence of Enemies Part 2, the longest track of the album, clocking at 16:38, a very intense track with a catchy, sinister chorus... and more cookie moster vocals and power shouts, ending with skillful guitar solos only equaled by the keyboard solos.

The Special Edition DVD includes the entire album mixed in 5.1 surround sound and features Chaos in Progress - The Making of Systematic Chaos, a 90-minute documentary directed by Mike Portnoy. Production quality is outstanding, and the 5.1 mix is simply fantastic, but I'll admit that this new effort did not captivate me as much as any one of their last three albums,
Six Degrees, Train Of Thought or Octavarium. As far as the quality level of the music, it's very high, and it is one of those great albums you can play over and over again. An album that will definitely appeal to hard rock/prog metal fans and certainly to Dream Theater fans, not truly essential, but a great addition to your collection.


3.5 out of 5

track list:
1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt.1 (9:00)
2. Forsaken (5:36)
3. Constant Motion (6:55)
4. The Dark Eternal Night (8:51)
5. Repentance (10:43)
6. Prophets Of War (6:01)
7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (14:57)
8. In The Presence of Enemies Pt.2 (16:38)

Disk 2 (DVD): Same setlist with all tracks in 5.1 audio plus "Chaos in Progress - The Making of Systematic Chaos", a 90-minute documentary directed by Mike Portnoy.

Total Time 78:46 (disk1)

Line-up:
- James LaBrie: vocals
- John Petrucci: guitars, backing vocals
- John Myung: bass
- Mike Portnoy: drums, backing vocals
- Jordan Rudess: keyboards

Release info:
format: CD + DVD • Road Runner #1686-179822
release date: June 2007
Dream Theater's official website at: http://www.dreamtheater.net


April 16, 2006
THE FLOWER KINGS - PARADOX HOTEL
by Robert Dansereau

The long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Adam & Eve, Paradox Hotel is a major change in style for the Flower Kings, a bit of a return to the glorious days of of Retropolis, Stardust We Are and Flower Power; enthusiastic symphonic progressive music with exquisite melodies, integrating classical symphonic prog with more contemporary sounds. The result is a phenomenal album, one of their best!

The first disk, entitled Room 111, begins with the eerie Check In which features ground control narrations of a space vehicle launch and concludes with the sounds of ping pong balls, an hommage to The Rhythm Of Life from the
Retropolis album. The track that follows is a gorgeous epic, Monsters And Men, beginning with a beautiful, heartwarming intro on the piano, which builds up to a great, catchy melody, majestic music that is very reminiscent of the classic era of Retropolis and Flower Power, the vocal harmonies that Roine and Hasse deliver are simply moving, and although Daniel Glidenlow is a great musician, his absence on this new album is of no consequence to the overall sound, which is actually more exuberant, more "bombastic" as Roine describes it! Mr. Bodin is simply amazing on the grand piano, and his church organ sounds will send shivers down your spine. The 22 min. epic concludes with a grand finale that will simply take your breath away... can't wait to see this one live! Jealousy is a delicate ballad with great lyrics. Hit Me With A Hit is an enthusiastic track with a really catchy jingle and cool percussions... a predestinate name since this track could very well be radio-ready single material. Pioneers Of Aviation sees the main theme of the album reworked into a solemn instrumental intro, picking up the pace into a dynamic number with great synth work from Tomas, a highly rhythmic mid-section with stunning bass riffs from the Jonas! Glorious stuff! Lucy Had A Dream explores Roine's fondness of the Beatles, a very "fab four"-sounding track, sung by Roine, wich concludes on a circus-like atmosphere. Bavarian Skies is an odd little number about a old nazi living his last days at the Paradox Hotel, a nostalgic and slightly sinister composition. Selfconsuming Fire is a catchy track sung by Roine, beginning with a quiet intro on the acoustic guitar, building up to a powerful track with a wicked guitar solo by Roine. Mommy Leave The Light On is a very smooth, melancholic ballad with touching lyrics, the quietest track of the disc. End On A High Note does just that... a joyful track with great vocal harmonies and a brilliant melody.

The second disk, entitled Room 222, begins with Minor Giant Steps, sung by Hasse, an exuberant track, with a toe-tappin' melody, and great, powerful guitar work. Touch my Heaven is a slow-paced, Beatle-ish composition bringing back many themes from previous tracks. Unorthodox Dancinglesson, although written by Roine, is very much Hasse Bruniusson's contribution to this album, a quirky RIO-ish instrumental track chock-full of Hasse's zany percussions and wacky time signatures, ending with a chaotic crescendo of instruments. Man of The World is a rhythmic, captivating track with a cool moog solo and a great melody. Life Will Kill You is in the similar vein as the previous track, and features powerful vocals by Hasse and a charming melody. The Way The Waters Are Moving is a very smooth ballad, very relaxing. What If God Is Alone features grandiose, inspired vocals by Hasse. Then on to the title track of the album, Paradox Hotel is a really catchy, brilliant composition, one of the highlights of the CD, which brings us to the final track, Blue Planet, beginning with a quiet intro that brings back the theme from Monsters and Men in a grandiose, regal way... the last few lines of that track sung by Roine will make you think.

An album with unparalleled continuity, it flows very smoothly from one track to the other, and not one bit of "filler" on any of the two disks. Impeccable production, combined with brilliant compositions and world-class musicianship makes this album one of the best Flower Kings releases, and definitely a contender for best prog album of the year. Unlike
A & E, which took me a little time to warm-up to, Paradox Hotel hooked me instantly, it has great, hummable melodies and some of the greatest musical passages ever played by TFK. The album features beautiful, moving vocals by Mr. Fröberg, stunning guitar work from Roine and some of the most majestic keyboard work from Tomas. To say I recommend this disk is an understatement, Paradox Hotel is really what symphonic prog is all about, now go and get the damn thing!


4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disk 1 (room 111)
1. Check In (Bodin)
2. Monsters & Men (Stolt)
3. Jealousy (Stolt)
4. Hit Me With A Hit (Stolt)
5. Pioneers Of Aviation (Stolt)
6. Lucy Had A Dream (Bodin/Stolt)
7. Bavarian Skies (Bodin/Stolt)
8. Selfconsuming Fire (Stolt)
9. Mommy Leave The Light On (Stolt)
10.End On A High Note (Stolt)

Disk 2 (room 222)
1.Minor Giant Steps (Stolt)
2.Touch My Heaven (Bodin)
3.The Unorthodox Dancinglesson (Stolt)
4.Man Of The World ( Reingold/Stolt/Bodin)
5.Life Will Kill You (Fröberg)
6.The Way The Waters Are Moving (Bodin/Stolt)
7.What If God Is Alone (Reingold/Stolt/Fröberg)
8.Paradox Hotel (Stolt/Bodin)
9.Blue Planet (Stolt)

Total Time 73:04 (disk 1) • 63:11 (disk 2)

Line-up:
Roine Stolt: guitars, vocals • Tomas Bodin: keyboards, backing vocals • Hans Froberg: vocals, guitar • Jonas Reingold: Bass, acoustic guitar, vocals • Marcus Liliequist: drums, percussion, backing vocals • Hasse Bruniusson: Marimba & assorted percussion

Release info:
format: Double CD • InsideOut # SPV 48872 DCD release date: March 28 2006
The Flower Kings' official web site at: www.flowerkings.se


May 12, 2005
FROGG CAFÉ - FORTUNATE OBSERVER OF TIME
by Robert Dansereau

Frogg Café's third studio album is a brilliant CD! What an incredible piece of work... and what an incredible evolution for the band! One of those albums that is so thoroughly enjoyable that you'll have a hard time taking out of the CD player. Fortunate Observer of Time has some of the most amazing melodies, highly hummable tunes that will stick in your brain like chewing gum in your hair! This album breaks the boundaries between progressive rock and jazz fusion with a vast variety of influences and styles, though highly cohesive and very accessible. Frogg café started as a Frank Zappa tribute band in the Long Island area, and at the beginning of the new millenium, eventually turned to their own compositions, inspired in their own words, by Tull's Ian Anderson, Zappa of course, Phish, King Crimson, early eras of Yes and Genesis, Stravinsky, Ravel, Mingus, Coltrane, Ives, and Copland. Their style can be described as a brilliant mixture of prog rock, jazz fusion and modern chamber music. Andrew Sussman composed one of the more challenging, intricates tracks of this CD, the incredible Abyss of Dissension, where Steven Uh shines, offering us a simply brilliant, inspired, warm guitar solo, splendid multiphase vocals à la Gentle Giant, also a special contribution by Frank Zappa's percussionist, Ed Mann on this track. Bill Ayasse on violins instills a majestic, grandiose sound to this CD. James Guarnieri's jazz drumer roots are well represented on this CD, as well as the highly intricate prog rhythms he plays with so much ease. Nick Lieto's contribution on vocals, trumpet, keys and in the composition of many of the tracks, is simply immense. What a true multi-talented musician! The brilliant piece You're Still Sleeping, builds up to a grandiose crescendo, only to be broken in half by a New Orleans-style circus parade on fluegelhorn by Nick, great hook on that tune, you just can't get it out of your head!

The musicianship of this album is simply unrivaled, imagine having 5 immensely talented music scholars/perfectionists in one studio, must have been long recording sessions! Production quality is very good, and the final mix was handled by Bill Ayasse. It's one of the sleepers of the year, and one of my top 5 CDs of 2005. I highly recommend this CD for the hardcore Frogg fan as well as any prog fan not familiar with their music... it's simply that good!


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. Eternal Optimist . . . . . . 6:31
2. Fortunate Observer of Time . . . . 7:04
3. Reluctant Observer . . . . . . 9:27
4. No Regrets . . . . . . 8:13
5. Resign . . . . . . 1:05
6. You're Still Sleeping . . . . . . 10:43
7. Abyss of Dissension . . . . . . 14:38
8. Release . . . . . . 3:56

Total Time 61:37

Line-up:
- Bill Ayasse: electric & acoustic violins, vocals, mandolin, percussion
- Steve Uh: electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards, violin
- Nick Lieto: lead vocals, keyboards, piano, trumpet, flugelhorn
- Andrew Sussman: electric bass, cello, vocals
- James Guarnieri: drums, percussion

Release info:
format: Single CD • ProgRock Records # PRR136
release date: June 17 2005
Frogg Café's official website at: http://www.froggcafe.com/


October 12, 2006
FROST* - MILLIONTOWN
by Yves Dubé

The progressive world has its share of established musicians that manage to make a name for themselves and create a small ripple in the vast musical ocean. Occasionally these musicians like to team up on projects and create what we call “supergroups”. It seems to be a growing trend as every year seems to bring us a new such project. 2006’s entry is the band currently under review: Frost* (yes, with an asterisk). Milliontown is the name of the album born out of the meeting of Jem Godfrey (keyboards), John Mitchell (guitar), John Jowitt (bass), and Andy Edwards (drums). Jem’s musical background is rooted in pop music, where he wrote songs for bands such as Atomic Kitten. Mr Mitchell’s pedigree includes stints with such notables as Arena, and last year’s supergroup sensation KINO, among others. John Jowitt has been around, well, forever. Best known for his work with IQ, he has also worked with Gary Chandler’s band Jadis. Mr. Edwards is IQ’s newest drummer, replacing Paul Cook.

Born out of Jem’s love for progressive music,
Milliontown juxtaposes shorter pop-laced numbers with a long sprawling epic. The music goes from quiet acoustic piano excursions, to full-blown bombast, and back again, within a few heartbeats. Jem demonstrates a flair for flamboyant keyboard work and his style is firmly rooted in following the footsteps of keyboard giants such as Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, while retaining a modern edge to his sound. His writing style is very grandiose and the entire disc has a larger-than-life sound which tends to please fans of the new modern symphonic progressive music. The opening Hyperventilate sets the mood for the entire disc. It’s a slightly over-the-top instrumental number that amply demonstrates the tightness and musical proficiency of the band members. It is followed by No Me No You, which has a very Porcupine Tree feel to it. It’s a fast-paced crunchy number with a very catchy chorus. Jem’s voice is heard for the first time. I find his vocals to be reminiscent of Neal Morse’s lower range utterances, and quite pleasant. In fact, Jem’s approach, his prog via pop route has a few resemblances to Mr Morse’s. Nothing blatant, mind you, but a vocal line here or there that rings familiar bells in this reviewers ears. John Mitchell also supplies some backing vocals, giving the tracks interesting counterpoint voices. Snowman is the third track on the disc. It opens in a Beatlesque manner with Jem playing piano and crooning softly. The track is the disc’s only ballad, but fits in well with the bombast of the other numbers and acts as a great musical sorbet, if you will. The Other Me is the next number. Yet again I hear early Spock’s Beard (circa The Kindness Of Strangers) on this number. It has a slightly pop penchant and an almost danceable beat. One can’t help but tap one’s foot to the song’s infectious groove. More radio-friendly music ensues with Black Light Machine, only this time there’s a twist. Pop tunes don’t run 10:06, and this track soon shakes off its thin pop veneer and delves into classic progressive music. John Mitchell lays down a very emotional and tasteful solo in the middle portion and the track never looks back from that point. The closing segments have got all members firing on all cylinders, and remind us that this isn’t a pop disc that we’re spinning. But, this is but a warm-up .The meat of the disc is yet to come. It’s supplied courtesy of the 26:35 title track. All the musical ideas that were hinted at in the opening 5 numbers all come to fruition on Milliontown. The number dances and weaves its way through a kaleidoscopic musical tapestry. Long musical flourishes show off individual members prowesses, but always within the context of the song itself. There’s a guiding hand directing this sprawling number. Godfrey’s obvious keyboard wizardry is front and center, in counterpoint to Mitchell’s fast and furious fretwork. Fans of the epic are well served indeed here. Denigrators of "the song that never ends" can take solace in the fact that this number does not come across as a mish-mash of shorter numbers awkwardly sewn together. The entire number, like the entire disc, has been well crafted. It closes off a surprisingly good hour of music.

This band and disc, as stated in the opening, have created a buzz in the prog community. The band will be making a much anticipated appearance at the Rites Of Spring Festival in April 2007. There have been rumors of the band making this project the only one under this name. It would be a shame if
Milliontown were to be the band’s debut and swan song, but rumors are just that. Time will tell if this foursome will release any more music together. It would be a shame if they didn’t.


4 out of 5

track list:
1) Hyperventilate . . . . . . 7:31
2) No Me No You . . . . . . 6:06
3) Snowman . . . . . . . . . 3:55
4) The Other Me . . . . . . 4:51
5) Black Light Machine . . 10:06
6) Milliontown . . . . . . . 26:35

Total Time 59:05

Line-up:
- Jem Godfrey: vocals, keyboards
- John Mitchell: guitars, vocals
- Andy Edwards: drums
- John Jowitt: bass

Guest musician:
- John Boyes: guitars

Release info:
format: Single CD • Insideout # SPV IOMCD252
release date: July 16, 2006
Frost* official website at: http://www.frostmusic.net/


May 9, 2005
GLASS HAMMER - THE INCONSOLABLE SECRET
by Robert Dansereau

Glass Hammer is one of the most remarkable examples of this genre you could coin as "keyboard-based symphonic prog rock" and one of the best contemporary American prog bands. Coming from one of the unlikeliest of places for progressive music, Tennessee, most reknown for its Grand Old Opry and the king of Rock and Roll, Glass Hammer have been known to release several concept albums like 1993's Journey of the Dunadan and 2001's Middle Earth album, obviously based on Tolkien's writings, 2002's sublime Lex Rex album, exploring a Roman theme, and this year's album, centering around an old English medieval theme.

And to consolidate their current place in the world of progressive music, none other than Roger Dean, reknown for his stunning artwork on the Yes and Asia albums, designed the cover art for their latest album, as well as their new band logo. This triple gatefold cover is a splendid piece of work, typical of the best Dean-esque mystical landscape art.

This is a 2-CD album, with nearly 100 minutes of world-class prog, produced and composed by Fred Schendel and Steve Babb. You will find a special section on disk one, featuring the album's lyrics, a high resolution version of roger Dean's artwork, a video of the Inconsolable Secret recording sessions and a novel/poem by Steve Babb called The Lay of Lirazel. Cool bonus stuff.

One thing I must point out is that in many circles, Glass Hammer is considered a Christian prog band, but their "christian" message isn't as in your face as Neal Morse, for example (whom I still admire greatly, but cringe at his over-the-top ultrareligious lyrics). Often, this label tends to turn off some people, but Glass Hammer's lyrics have a good balance, respectful of their faith, while not really trying to drive the christian message overzealously. Here's a quote from Steve Babb about this subject: "GH is “not” a Christian band. I get asked that all of the time. It just so happens that the members of GH are Christian, and that I write a lot of our lyrics based on Christian themes. I think I have mostly done so in a way that secular listeners are okay with. But unlike any contemporary Christian music band I can think of, I have also written on such diverse topics as foul-smelling Dwarves (“No Crown For Balin”), aliens communicating through old prog albums (“Chronometree”) and horses with a taste for man-flesh (“Run, Lisette”). See?"
Exerpt from an interview on www.popthought.com with kind permission by Amy Sturgis

So on to the album. Disk one, called "The Knight", is composed of two tracks, clocking at around 40 minutes. The first track, called A Maker of Crowns, begins with a piano intro that leads to Fred Schindel's trademark Hammond B3 sound, with nice background mellotrons.... aaah, mellotrons! This marks the main theme of the album, an extremely catchy, wonderful melody, very hummable! Halfway through the song, a great keyboard solo à la ELP. The secont track , called "The Knight of the North", begins with a very medieval-sounding violin intro, and much more of the highly Emerson-inspired keyboards, some beautiful guitar interludes, reminiscent of something right out of Genesis' Lamb album, followed by a part featuring some honky tonk sounding piano, and ending in a beautiful, spine chilling choir, singing in latin no less!

Disk two, called "The Lady", has 11 tracks, clocking at 58 minutes. Throughout this disk, the orchestral elements are more present, including a string trio, many back vocalists, giving incredible depth to this CD. It begins with Long and Long ago, featuring a piano intro reminiscent of Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, great guitar licks on this track. The third track of this disk, called "Lirazel" has this very delicate medieval tambourine percussions and vocals by Suzie Bogdanowicz. The fourth track, called "The High Place", would make Howard Shore proud! Sung in Elvish (really!), with the full orchestral treatment, the spacy choir and celtic flute, it would fit perfectly in The Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Morrigan's Song is again very medieval, slowly turning into a somber melody, leading to another Tolkien-ish melody, called Walking Towards Doom. Quite a temporal shock when it turns into the great Hammond B3/mellotron/piano piece called Mog Ruith, a very enjoyable, intense solo bit. More orchestral interludes with The Lady Waits and The Mirror Cracks, and ending most obviously on a grandiose note with Having Caught a Glimpse, which features a wonderful blend of the orchestral, vocal and symphonic elements.

The album features some stunning production quality throughout, great lyrics penned by Steve Babb and impeccable musical arrangements. This is by far their most elaborate, painstakingly detailed album. Spine-tingling melodies, brilliant solos, great, flowing compositions... Glass Hammer's evolution with this epic album takes them one step closer to perfection! It's one of those albums that instantly hooks on to you and that you'll enjoy listening over and over again. immensely enjoyable album from great storytellers and equally brilliant prog musicians!


4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disk 1
1. A Maker Of Crowns
2. The Knight Of The North

Disk 2
1. Long And Long Ago
2. The Morning She Woke
3. Lirazel
4. The High Place
5. Morrigan's Song
6. Walking Toward Doom
7. Mog Ruith
8. Through A Glass Darkly
9. The Lady Waits
10.The Mirror Cracks
11. Having Caught A Glimpse

Total Time 40:04 (disk 1) • 58:21 (disk 2)

Line-up:
- Fred Schendel: keyboards, electric guitar, steel guitar, vocals
- Steve Babb: keyboards, bass guitar, vocals
- Walter Moore: vocals
- Susie Bogdanowicz: vocals
- Matt Mendians: drums

additional guests: Sarah Snyder: Featured Soprano, Bethany Warren: Backing Vocals and Girls Choir, Flo Paris: vocals, Eric Parker: Acoustic Guitar, Laura Lindstrom: Vocals, David Carter: Lead Guitar

Release info:
format: Double CD • Arion Records # SR1320 • release date: July 12 2005
Glass Hammer's official website at: http://www.glasshammer.com


October 1st, 2005
HELMET OF GNATS - HELMET OF GNATS
by Robert Dansereau

Helmet of Gnats is an instrumental prog fusion band originating from Stamford, Connecticut, and one of my latest musical discoveries, thanks to my visit at the Prog In The Park festival (in Rochester, NY) this year... I had the pleasure to witness one of the coolest, most amazing bands I have heard in a long time! HOG will leave you speechless! Their live performance is simply astonishing, and so is their self-titled CD. The band itself was created in the early 80's by two highschool buddies, Chris Fox and Matt Bocchino. After numerous personnel changes, and a first album in 1996, the band is still hard at it, and their 2004 album is among some of the best prog fusion stuff I have heard in years! Oddly enough, this can be considered as their second self-titled debut CD, Chris Fox mentions on this subject "Our first album was a long time ago with a whole other lineup, and it wasn't technically as sharp and tight as our latest is."

The album begins with a great track: Almost Babylon has this cool jazz fusion intro, followed by some great guitar work by Mr. Fox, love that fuzzy B3 too, you can hear a bit of Happy the Man influence in there. Chinese Leftovers is a slightly RIOish track, with some great rhythms, changing completely in the middle to a spacy melody that builds up to some great guitar riffs, returning to the original theme, quite a bit of variety in this number, thoroughly enjoyable. Yesterday's Brain puts more accent on the keyboards, and has a great proggy/jazzy melody that just hooks you instantly, with a bit of inspiration from Metheny and Chick Corea, a terrific number with blistering guitar riffs, that ends on a spacy reminder of the original theme... Wow! Crumbs is a quieter piece, with a more traditional jazz structure, with a bit of influence from John scofield and Zappa at times, with great keyboard bits throughout. Lesser Beings is an odd little number, very experimental, a collection of noises and soundscapes mixed together to give a slighty sinister feel, again, reminding me of a Metheny track on
A Map of the World... creaking noises, a drum beat sounding like distant thunder... quite a change in tempo from the next number, Misfit Toys, showcasing the individual talents of the guitarist and keyboardist, great drum beat on that number with a great powerful conclusion. Chimps in Space is a splendid piece, one of my favorites... terrific tempo changes, catchy melodies, with some more Corea influence, it's an incredibly original number, symphonic at times, jazzy, even classical at some points.

A world-class prog fusion ensemble, and an impeccable recording on this album, for those lucky enough to have a player supporting the SACD audio CD standard, this album was recorded using this technology, but even on an ordinary player, it sounds incredible! Go to their website at www.helmetofgnats.com, they have audio samples of the whole album, you'll fall over for this band!


4 out of 5

track list:
1) Almost Babylon . . . . . . . 8:23
2) Chinese Leftovers . . . . . . . 7:55
3) Yesterday's Brain . . . . . . . 7:45
4) Crumbs . . . . . . . 5:53
5) Lesser Beings . . . . . . . 3:34
6) Misfit Toys . . . . . . . 6:07
7) Chimps In Space . . . . . . . 13:05

Line-up:
- Chris Fox - electric & acoustic guitars
- Matt Bocchino - keyboards
- Wayne Zito - electric fretted & fretless basses
- Mark Conese - drums & percussion

Release info:
format: Single CD (Hybrid SACD Multi-Channel, SACD Stereo, CD Stereo) • Ambient Records
release date: December 15, 2004
Helmet of Gnats' official website at: http://www.helmetofgnats.com/


May 12, 2006
JADIS - PHOTOPLAY
by Robert Dansereau

Photoplay is the latest effort from Jadis, one of the great neo progressive symphonic bands with a history dating back to the early eighties. The group features John Jowitt and Martin Orford of IQ, It is sadly also Martin Orford's last contribution to Jadis, since he decided to concentrate his efforts on IQ from now on. Photoplay is a splendid CD that features a great collection of captivating compositions with beautiful melodies and splendid vocal harmonies.

There's a Light begins with a spacy guitar intro, and Gary Chandler's great vocal harmonies, a very catchy tune with a powerful melody and brilliant lyrics, this track has a great rhythm and would easily be a top-of-the-charts commercial radio hit if network radio would give prog music the time of day. What Goes Around is a more intense track, with a rhythmic guitar background throughout, a passionate, fun composition. Asleep In My Hands features the beautiful Chandler/Orford/Jowitt vocal harmonies in a most captivating way, a catchy, contagious melody, again a composition that would be easily radio ready, this is easily my favorite of the album, with a great, dramatic finale. I would classify it as a great "driving music" track! Standing Still will remind you slightly of the Wilson-era Genesis, a track where Gary's superb guitar play and majestic vocals are showcased, cool keyboards from Martin too. I Hear Your Voice again has slight overtones of
We Can't Dance era Genesis, another really catchy melody with great, passionate vocals, a great keyboard contribution from Martin on this one. Make Me Move has a very modern sound with a catchy beat and a highly assertive sound, vaguely reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz, with a powerful finale. Who I Am is a remarkable track with beautiful vocal harmonies, a very striking jingle and a cool guitar solo, interesting time signatures and great lyrics. Need To Breathe begins wit h a simple acoustic guitar intro, but turns into the more exuberant, rockier number of the album, great rhythm. Please Open Your Eyes is a straight arrow, a great track with a captivating beat, a toe-tappin' number. All You've Ever Known is a beautiful track with a slightly melancholic melody, great acoustic guitar and simply delicious electric guitars parts towards the end, the more complex composition of the album. The title track, and conclusion of the album, Photoplay, is a delicate, spacy instrumental number, featuring beautiful guitar work by Mr. Chandler.

Photoplay is definively one of their best efforts, composed of short but very consistent tracks with simple but oh-so-highly-effective melodies and great progressive musical arrangements. An exceptional production with a brilliant, crystalline, recording and impeccable sound, it truly showcases the great vocal harmonies of the musicians and features some of the best compositions from the group. The entire albums flows very well and is one of those CDs you'll listen to repeatedly. Photoplay crosses the boundary between symphonic prog and contemporary rock with its poppy, exuberant, melodious tracks. This album would be a great introduction to symphonic prog music for newbies, or fans of classic prog who aren't familiar with the contemporary prog scene. Highly recommended.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. There's A Light . . . . 4:57
2. What Goes Around . . . 5:18
3. Asleep In My Hands . . 5:39
4. Standing Still . . . . 5:21
5. I Hear Your Voice . . .6:15
6. Make Me Move . . . . 5:32
7. Who I Am . . . . . . . 6:07
8. Need To Breathe . . . 4:50
9. Please Open Your Eyes . . 5:35
10. All You've Ever Known . . 6:42
11. Photoplay . . . . . . . . .4:19

Total Time 60:35

Line-up:
- Gary Chandler: guitar, vocals
- Steve Christey: drums, percussion
- Martin Orford: keyboards, backing vocals
- John Jowitt: bass guitars

Release info:
format: Single CD • InsideOut SPV48782
release date: February 28, 2006
Jadis' official website at: http://www.jadis-net.co.uk/


May 12, 2006
CHARLES KACZYNSKI - LUMIÈRE DE LA NUIT
by Robert Dansereau

First off, let me say that reviewing this album was a very enjoyable experience, because Lumière De La Nuit is a majestic, emotional, epic recording, and an incredible undertaking from violinist/composer Charles Kaczynski. Renowned session musician in Montreal, he guested on violins on the first album of the Quebec prog band Conventum in 1977 and shortly thereafter, he started working on his solo album, which was recorded recorded from November 1978 to March 1979. This is the very first time that this glorious recording is available on CD, in a lovely digipak format. What an amazing musician! This album was single-handedly made from beginning to end by himself alone! Not only did he write the music, the lyrics and the musical and orchestral arrangements, but this talented multi-instrumentalist played every single instrument on this album, including violin, alto violin, cello, acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, piano, organ, melodica, flute, recorder, percussions, and vocals. This jewel could be described as progressive chamber music epic with medieval, celtic, baroque and folk themes, it has certain similarities at times to Jean-Luc Ponty and Mike Oldfield, but the musical concept itself is quite unique.

The album is composed of 15 tracks in the 3 to 5-minute range, all joined together to form a continuous, flowing opus. The first track, Éclipse, begins with a grand piano/violin intro, with eerie back vocals, and introduces the main theme of the album, a lovely classical ballad with majestic envolées. Lumière De La Nuit, the longest track of the album, has vocal passages sung in French (the lyrics are behind the transparent CD tray), and features beautifully crafted melodica and violin passages. Éveil Du Soleil features the main theme of the album, a very catchy vocal chorus that will stay in your head, with a march-like passage towards the end. Chant De Rêve is a brief vocal interlude that introduces Liberté, a lovely track will remind you a little bit of Harmonium, and also features a brilliant violin solo with bombastic percussions in the background, ending with a captivating, dramatic grand finale. Père De La Terre abruptly switches to a bass driven theme with great back vocals, a cool rhythm and edgy violins. Arrivée is a very folky violin/recorder track with an irish pub atmosphere. Réincarnation has dramatic vocals, sung in french, a very ethereal, violin composition. Naissance is a quiet melodic violin/flute composition that introduces Conscience, a passionate, emotional composition with an absolutely exquisite violin solo over ethereal back vocals. Indépendance, similar to the previous track, continues on the same theme with the addition of beautiful vocal harmonies. Évolution is a short interlude with a somber version of the previous themes that introduces Utopie, an eerie, chaotic orchestral medley of all the instruments, much like an orchestra tune up/rehearsal. Euphorie is a solemn, melancholic violin passage with a layered finale that expands in pitch, similar to the end of Pink Floyd's Echoes. Départ concludes this brilliant opus with an acoustic guitar theme over background vocals, the guitar slowly fading to leave only the chorus.

Magnificent!
Lumière De La Nuit is an historical album that should be considered among the gems of progressive music from Quebec, an underrated album that will be accessible for all to enjoy now that it's finally on CD. Just the sheer exploit of a single musician recording such a masterpiece all by himself is a remarkable feat. The album brings you through a range of emotions and atmospheres, with its exceptional musicianship and an extremely high level of creativity, truly a timeless classic unaffected by the fact that it was created over 27 years ago. Nowadays, Charles is the musical director/composer for Cirque Eloise, a musical theater ensemble similar to Cirque du Soleil, where his creative genius thrives. A note of interest for collectors, the original vinyl album released in 1979 is available in two different versions, the original French recording, used for this CD, and a rare English version, which runs a bit longer.



4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. Éclipse . . . . . . . . . . 3:34
2. Lumière De La Nuit . . . . 5:57
3. Éveil Du Soleil . . . . . . . . . . 2:35
4. Chant De Rêve . . . . . . . . . . 0:34
5. Liberté . . . . . . . . . . 5:38
6. Père De La Terre . . . . . . . . 2:30
7. Arrivée . . . . . . . . . . 2:00
8. Réincarnation . . . . . . . . . 2:56
9. Naissance . . . . . . . . . . 3:37
10. Conscience . . . . . . . . . . 2:43
11. Indépendance . . . . . . . . 2:10
12. Évolution . . . . . . . . . . 0:52
13. Utopie . . . . . . . . . . 1:12
14. Euphorie . . . . . . . . . . 2:33
15. Départ . . . . . . . . . . 2:25

Total Time 40:55

Line-up:
Charles Kaczynski: violin, alto violin, cello, acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, piano, organ, melodica, flute, recorder, cymbals, toms, bass drum, bongos, congas, percussions, vocals

Release info:
format: Single CD - digipak • ProgQuébec MPM14
release date: April 30, 2006


January 30, 2006
MAGENTA - THE GATHERING (DVD)
by Robert Dansereau

Here I digress a bit from the usual format and will be reviewing a DVD instead of an album, Magenta's The Gathering. I must shamefully admit that this was my very first contact with the group Magenta, and it truly left me charmed, what a spectacular band! Reviewing this DVD was as much a treat as it was a great musical discovery!

Magenta is a melodic, symphonic progressive rock band spearheaded by the beautiful lead singer Christina Murphy on vocals and percussion, Chris Fry on lead guitar and vocals, Rob Reed on keyboards and vocals, Martin Rosser on guitars, guitar synthesizer, and vocals, Matthew Cohen on the bass and Allan Mason-Jones on drums. A highly professional group with very talented and skilled musicians, Christina stands out with her beautiful, warm voice and her sensual, captivating presence on stage. Chris is an incredible, emotional guitarist, responsible for Magenta's unique, dramatic melodies and harmonies. Rob adds the symphonic, grandiose depth to the group with his brilliant keyboard work. It's an incredibly satisfying musical experience to see and hear this band. No surprise also that Magenta received in 2005 the Classic Rock Society "band of the year" award, a prestigious prize that had been given to the equally prestigious british group IQ a year before. The music of Magenta has many influences of the great classic groups of the 1970, such as Yes, Rush and Genesis, and some contemporary similarities to groups like Glass Hammer.

The performance presented on
The Gathering DVD was recorded on May 14, 2005 at the Pop Factory in South Wales, UK. Beautifully captured with 6 HD video cameras, it features a crisp, detailed image. And what about the sound! The 5.1 audio mix is simply gorgeous! The performance itself is flawless and very impressive, in front of a polite, proper british audience that lets more loose as the concert goes on, erupting in a frenzied standing ovation at the end. The tracklist consists of King of The Skies, a great rockin' number that showcases all the musicians and is a great intro to this DVD. Gluttony has a captivating melody and features great keyboard work. Demons is a powerful track, heavily influenced by Steve Hackett with a rich Hammond sound. Broken is a potent prog number, very precise and structured. Children Of The Sun is a 20-min epic with a dramatic, layered sound, Christina's singing will remind you of a cross between Loreena McKennit and Tori Amos at time, she has a great vocal range. Great solos from Mr. Fry on this one. Overture is a wonderful track, slightly bluesy, with spacy guitar work. Genetesis features emotional vocals and great guitar work from both guitarists, and grandiose, multilayered keyboards. Call Me is a melancholic ballad that features haunting, beautiful vocals from Christina with great interaction between Rob on the keys and Chris on the guitar. I'm alive is a very catchy, dramatic number with a heavy edge. The White Witch is Magenta's "Supper's Ready" or "Close To The Edge"... a majestic 23-min. epic that is truly the highlight of the group's discography and of their live performance. And for the encore, they offer Pride, a great rock composition featuring wonderful vocal harmonies and a great hook. The bonus material on this DVD includes interviews with the band members, with the audience, a music video of the track Broken and a photo gallery of their RoSFest performance in April 2005.

I have never been fond of the concert DVD format, or the concept of the music video for that matter, but as in few rare cases for me, I felt that Magenta's
The Gathering is a very satisfying DVD that captures a great performance from one of the most refined groups in progressive music. This is definitely not a DVD that will sit idle on my shelf gathering dust. The Gathering is a great way to discover this band, and a brilliant addition to any symphonic prog fan's collection.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. Intro [Opus 3] . . . . . . . 0:53
2. King Of The Skies . . . . . 4:36
3. Gluttony . . . . . . . . . 11:24
4. Demons . . . . . . . . . . 4:34
5. Broken . . . . . . . . . . . 4:11
6. Children Of The Sun . . . 20:24
7. Overture . . . . . . . . . . 5:34
8. Genetesis . . . . . . . . 11:07
9. Call Me . . . . . . . . . . . 5:04
10. I'm Alive . . . . . . . . . . .5:40
11. The White Witch . . . . . 23:36
12. Pride . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11:29

Total Time 135 minutes

Line-up:
Christina Booth: vocals, percussion
Rob Reed: keyboards, vocals
Matthew Cohen: bass
Martin Rosser: guitar, guitar synthesizer, vocals
Chris Fry: lead guitar, vocals
Allan Mason-Jones: drums

Release info:
format: Single DVD - NTSC • F2 Music # 200510D
release date: December 1st 2005
Magenta's official website at: http://www.magenta-web.com/


March 29, 2006
MARTIN MAHEUX CIRCLE - SIBYLLE
by Robert Dansereau

When I first listened to this excellent disk, I was a bit puzzled as to what category this would fall into... progressive? jazz? chamber music? Martin Maheux, best known as the drummer of famous Quebec prog band Spaced Out, has ventured into brave new territories with the album Sibylle. One could describe it as avant/jazz/classical, since the group of 8 musicians is basically a jazz quartet and a string quartet, joining forces to produce an unusual musical journey that combines jazz and classical in a very original, fluid manner.

The album begins with a very cool, very groovy, jazz sound on the track Tergiversation; mute trumpet and snappy piano improvisations, great rhythm and it concludes with a melancholic violin ending. Mauvais Cirque begins with the plucked strings of a violin, a dark string quartet number, leading to the track Aller Simple, which begins with a somber, theatrical, violin-based intro that makes place to slow-paced jazz that blends with a rhythmic violin theme, and ends with a jazzy drum solo à la Buddy Rich. Métamorphose is a melancholic, violin/trumpet number, picking up the pace and adding the flugelhorn to give a snappy, captivating track and ending with a quiet violin/trumpet conclusion. La Danse Des Cadavres has a rather somber title (Danse of the corpses) and is a solemn string quartet number, that leads to Résignation, an enthusiastic, cool track with Stéphane Grapelli-influenced violins and great piano and trumpet improvisations.

An exceptional gathering of talented musicians whose musical styles are not usualy associated together, the combination of the jazz quartet with the string quartet is highly original, resulting in a cool, fresh new sound that succesfully blends the best elements of jazz with the classical elegance of chamber music. Striking, imaginative, elaborate compositions from Martin. An album that will be truly enjoyed by classical, jazz and progressive enthusiasts equally.


4 out of 5

track list:
1) Tergiversation . . . . . . 8:55
2) Mauvais cirque . . . . . . 5:07
3) Aller simple . . . . . . 15:02
4) Métamorphose . . . . . . 13:19
5) La danse des cadavres . . . . 7:43
6) Résignation . . . . . . 8:05

Line-up:
- Martin Maheux: drums
- Ivanoe Jolicoeur: Trumpet
- Frédéric Grenier: double bass
- Éric St-jean: Piano
- Martine Gaumond: violin
- Sarah Ouellet: alto violin
- Jérémie Cloutier: cello
- Catherine Lesaunier: cello

Release info:
format: Single CD • Unicorn Digital # UNCR-5026
release date: March 29, 2006
Martin Maheux' official website at: http://www.unicornrecords.com/mmcircle.html


December 25, 2006
LA MASCHERA DI CERA - LUXADE
by Yves Dubé

The Italian progressive scene has often been viewed as one of the richest to be found anywhere. Throughout the 70s (and beyond) “The Boot” produced some of the most musically astute bands to ever grace the annals of progressive music: PFM, Banco, Area, Metamorphosi, Le Orme, Il Balleto Di Bronzo, to name a few from the 70s; Deus Ex Machina, Finisterre, and now La Maschera Di Cera, to name some more recent ones.

It can be argued that music represents a culture on the same level as cuisine does. You can tell a lot about a nation by their musical outpourings, as well as their culinary expertise. Thinking along these lines, it’s easy to draw a parallel between Italian food and Italian progressive music. In both cases, we seem to get very robust flavors created by using primarily the same basic ingredients. The Italian progressive scene has always seemed, to this reviewer, to produce bands with similar approaches and sounds, just like Italian cuisine seems to be comprised of a lot of the same ingredients used slightly differently from region to region. Keeping this in mind, if one does not appreciate Ital-prog, generally speaking, one will not find exceptions to the rule.

So, in keeping with this parallel line of thought, can it be argued that Fabio Zuffanti is the Iron Chef Italy ? The ubiquitous bass player has been a pillar in the Italian music scene, having participated in various bands and projects over the years. With La Maschera Di Cera (the wax mask) Mr. Zuffanti has wanted to re-create the classic Italian progressive sounds of the 70s. On
LuxAde, the band’s third studio release, that vision has become fully focused. This album is a stunning progressive juggernaut from cover to cover. Seven tracks, from 1:10 min. musical sorbets, to 24:29 min. feasts fit for a king, will not have you leaving the table feeling hungry. In true Italian progressive fashion, La Maschera Di Cera pulls out every conceivable instrument ever experimented with during the golden age of prog. Myriad keys, including the mighty ‘Tron, Hammond organ, clavinet, theremin, and even a Crumar, are front and center along with various flutes and saxophones, all bound together with traditional rock instruments. The vocals, all sung in Italian of course, are delivered in a very passionate mid-range voice, reminiscent of Metamorfosi’s Jimmy Spitarel. The music itself is a juxtaposition of softer, more ethereal passages, and heavier, pompous and bombastic moments. Un Senso All’Impossibile may be the best example of this contrast. The opening Teatre di Follia opens very soft and delicate, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety as the closing segment Il Ricordo generates a small tempest in a bottle, with its heavy backbeat, soaring flute passages, and driving organ; all very melodically delivered. In fact, it seems to be on the disc’s longer suites that the band can fully develop the sound they are aiming for. The 4-part Nuova Luce is an exquisite jewel. Walls of keys engulf the listener, interspersed by vocals which vary from soft croons, to passionate wails. The disc’s show-stopper though, is the 9-part, 24:29 Enciclica 1168. This track alone contains as many satisfying elements as entire Italian prog albums of the 70s used to (and clocks in almost as lengthy). Here, elements of all the classic Italian bands (most notably PFM and Metomorfosi) are resuscitated and restored. It’s a true epic track which takes the listener on a musical voyage of contrasting lightness and darkness, reminiscent of timeless classics like Le Orme’s Felona e Serona and Metamorfosi’s Inferno. The track, like the entire disc, delivers on what it promises.

As stated in the opening segments, La Maschera Di Cera emulates the classic Italian bands of the golden age of prog. If one is not a fan of this particular vein, one will not be converted by this disc. However, if one is a fan of the era (and I’ll venture a guess that most diehard proggers are) then one will be served well with
LuxAde. This is quite simply one of the best discs of 2006. I eagerly await their live presentation of this material at NEARFest this summer.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disk 1
Programma I
1. Porta del Cielo (1:10)
2. Doppia Immagine (7:49)
3. Un Senso All'impossible (10:18)
i) teatro di follia
ii) il ricordo
4. Orpheus (4:45)
5. Nuova Luce (10:13)
i) passato
ii) sogno
iii) presente
iv) realtà

Programma II
6. Enciclica 1168 (24:29)
7. Schema (v.s.d.) (3:41)

Line-up:
- Agostino Macor: keyboards, theremin
- Alessandro Corvaglia: lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Andrea Monetti: flute, recorder, saxophone
- Fabio Zuffanti: bass, bass pedals, choirs
- Maurizio Di Tollo: drums, percussion

Release info:
format: Single CD • Immaginifica Records #QQ 1003
release date: March 2006
La Maschera di Cera's' official website at: https://www.facebook.com/mascheradicera


October 9, 2005
MIRIODOR - PARADE + LIVE AT NEARFEST
by Robert Dansereau

Their most captivating album to date, and the most memorable, mature and perfect album in their long illustrious carreer that spans two decades. For those non familiar with their Music, Miriodor plays a style of music known in prog circles as RIO (rock in opposition), a musical genre made famous by eclectic bands such as Univers Zero, Present, Henry Cow and 5UU. This musical genre could be described as "chamber music rock", throwing away all conventions of classical prog music, with either a very structured, minimalistic approach, or an elaborate, improvised, experimental style. A daring move of Miriodor to release a double CD... their long-awaited Parade album, which features tracks that have been performed by the band for the past two years, and as a great bonus, the second disk, Live at NearFest is their great performance at the NearFest 2002 prog music festival in Trenton, NJ. Truly an astounding live performance of their best-known pieces.

With the contribution of legendary accordionist/keyboardist Lars Hollmer (of Samla Mammas Manna) accompanying the group on a few tracks,
Parade + Live at NearFest is some of the most stimulating, challenging and truly entertaining music I have heard this year. Impressive compositions with a high level of discipline and complexity, and a lot of variety in their sound, from jazzy to eclectic, to industrial, sometimes even intense and somber. It's hard to imagine that an album can rival the incredible quality of their last CD, Mekano, but Parade does! The production quality and level is simply impeccable. The mixing the live portion of this album can only be described as a technical marvel, thanks to the genius of Bob Drake.



4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disc 1 -
Parade
1. Pyramide . . . . 3:38
2. Scarabée . . . . 3:24
3. Caramba! . . . . . 0:50
4. Uppsala . . . . . 5:49
5. Tartine . . . . . 1:33
6. Contrées liquides . . . . . 5:45
7. Polar . . . . . 6:32
8. Boite à surprises . . . . . 4:06
9. Checkpoint Charlie . . . . . 3:20
10. Talrika . . . . . 4:59
11. Le cruciverbiste . . . . . 5:27
12. Gavotte chétive . . . . . 1:57
13. Bonsai givré . . . . . 6:45
14. Boite à rebuts . . . . . 2:00
15. Préparatifs de vacances . . . . . 1:17
16. Forêt dense . . . . . 6:17

Disc 2 -
Live at Nearfest 2002
1. La célèbre boucle . . . . . 0:38
2. Le règne des termites . . . . . 4:08
3. Toutes proportions gardées . . . . . 6:47
4. Mine de rien . . . . . 3:45
5. Singularité . . . . . 5:42
6. L'inévitable . . . . . 5:43
7. Mangeur de masters . . . . . 3:52
8. Le sorcier . . . . . 5:54
9. Mme X . . . . . 7:46
10. Le fantôme de M.C. Escher . . . . . 6:15
11. Le roi soldat . . . . . 4:16
12. Pas à ce que je sache, Sacha . . . . . 6:30
13. Igor, l'ours à moto . . . . . 6:51

Total Time 63:39 (disk 1) 68:07 (disk 2)

Line-up:
- Pascal Globensky: keyboards, synths, piano
- Rémi Leclerc: drums, percussion, electronics
- Bernard Falaise: guitars, bass, turntable
- Nicolas Masino: bass, keyboards, piano
- Marie-Soleil Bélanger: violin, erhu
- Marie-Chantal Leclair: saxophone

Release info:
format: Double CD • Cuneiform Records Rune 208-209 • release date: May 10 2005
"Parade" mixed by Pierre Girard and Miriodor, "Live at NEARfest" mixed by Bob Drake
Miriodor's official website at: http://www.miriodor.com


January 1st, 2006
DAVID MYERS - DAVID MYERS PLAYS GENESIS
by Robert Dansereau

David Myers Plays Genesis is a series of classic Genesis songs from all eras, played on a single piano. No drums, no guitars, no synths, no vocals... but no one could interpret these tracks like David Myers does. David as we all know is the keyboard player of the reknown Genesis tribute group The Musical Box, so his knowledge of the music of Genesis makes him quite an expert in his field. Here is what David says about this recording; "I am very grateful for the opportunity to make this recording: it has been an opportunity to commemorate the fantastic relationship I've had with the music of Genesis all these years." And David does an admirable job at arranging the music for this album. Recorded in December 2004 at the Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur in Montreal and mastered by Robert Lafond, it is an album that any Genesis fan must discover.

The album begins with the instantly recognizable intro of Firth Of Fifth, the whole song is brilliantly adapted by David, a truly mesmerizing version, intricately detailed and enthusastic. Seven Stones is a bit trickier to adapt to a single grand piano, and the song might not be as captivating as the rest of the album, but still played with much passion. Horizons is of course a piece made famous by Steve Hackett on acoustic guitar and it is an admirable adaptation for the piano, it might sound like an easy task, but it David injects in it subtle nuances making it sound terrific. Can-Utility And The Coastliners is a song that as David puts it "a favorite of the old Genesis hardcore fans", and this elaborate version came out as a majectic, solemn track, with much passion and intensity in it also. Another song originally guitar based, Blood On The Rooftops flows with such perfection and grace, one of the highlights of the CD. One For The Vine is definitely one of the greatest moments of the album, impeccably adapted, down to the quirkiest bits, a stunning version that showcases David's great talent and his uncanny ability to capture Tony Banks' essence and amazing dexterity. For Absent Friends is a quiet vocal-based track that has been well adapted for the piano, a masterful version. Time Table is one of those great Genesis tracks that has been often overlooked, never played live, David gives it a new life, with much emotion. The favorite of many, The Cinema Show is the longest track of the album at 10:46 and is given a particularly elaborate treatment. Such a complex track needed extensive work to be adapted on a single grand piano and David did it in a spectacular manner, adapting time signatures and tempos with string and drum parts conversion to the piano, resulting in an outstanding, simply captivating version, the solo part is simply breathtaking.

David Myers Plays Genesis is a perfect album with such an atmosphere, such presence. A necessary album for any Genesis fan, it is a vibrant tribute to Tony Banks, to Genesis, and to the roots of progressive music at its finest. David has earned the admiration of the musicians he pays tribute to, to the point that this CD is avalable on Steve Hackett's record label, Camino Records, but fear not, this brilliant CD is available at any good record store in town. A fine album, bringing together the sounds of classical music for piano with progressive rock in a flawless manner, It is even better than a simple transcription, because it is played with passion and experience, by a Genesis music specialist like no other.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. Firth Of Fifth (Selling England By The Pound)
2. Seven Stones (Nursery Cryme)
3. Horizons (Foxtrot)
4. Can-Utility And The Coastliners (Foxtrot)
5. Blood on the Rooftops (Wind & Wuthering)
6. One For The Vine (Wind & Wuthering)
7. For Absent Friends (Nursery Cryme)
8. Time Table (Foxtrot)
9. The Cinema Show (Selling England By The Pound)

Line-up:
- David Myers: Piano Engineering/Mastering

Release info:
release date: December 2005


July 27, 2006
PAATOS - SILENCE OF ANOTHER KIND
by Robert Dansereau

The music of Paatos is often described as being "melancholic post rock", their dark and brooding scandinavian style is vaguely influenced by Björk, Mostly Autumn and Landberk, with jazzy musical arrangements and features the beautiful vocals of Petronella Nettermalm. Silence Of Another Kind is a short and sweet album, at a mere 42 minutes. There is an air of melancholy throughout this album, it will evoke the dark and smoky atmosphere of a scandinavian lounge on a cold autumn afternoon... You have to be in a particular mood to listen to this type of album; it is relaxing, with beautiful sad melodies, and cool musical arrangements, but a bit on the gloomy side at times.

Shame is the most rhythmic composition of the album, that highlight the musicians' virtuosity, great vocals on this one. Your Misery has a very smooth jazzy rhythm, and a very catchy melody. Falling has the catchiest jingle of the album, with a haunting melody and beautiful vocals, a mellow composition with cool background mellotrons. Still Standing has a bit of an edge, a cool jazzy rhythm, with more intense passages, that will remind you a bit of Porcupine Tree. Is That All? begins as a very quiet ballad that highlights the lovely voice of Petronella, and has passages that will remind you of early Moody Blues at times. Procession Of Fools is a short musical interlude that introduces There Will Be No Miracles, a more enthusiastic number with a catchy beat, reminiscent of Sheryl Crow, a fun break in the consistent melancholy of this album. Not A Sound has a slight celtic/medieval sound, a very smooth ballad with unusual percussions, which ends with Silence Of Another Kind, an eerie atmospheric piece that one would compare as meeting a group of Hare Krishnas in a parallel universe! 

A bit of a disappointment as a follow-up to the splendid
Timeloss and Kallocain... It sounds a bit less focused and the vocals, although admirable, lack the warmth of their previous efforts, but still a very consistent album throughout, fans of Paatos will be in familiar territory and will appreciate the beautiful musical arrangements, the sophisticated, delicate compositions and the high production quality of this album, and this would be the ideal music if you happen to be in a dark and smoky scandinavian lounge on a cold autumn afternoon...


3.5 out of 5

track list:
1) Shame . . . . . . . . . 4:32
2) Your Misery . . . . . . . 5:06
3) Falling . . . . . . . . . 5:10
4) Still Standing . . . . . . 6:10
5) Is That All? . . . . . . . . . 6:49
6) Procession Of Fools . . . . . 0:34
7) There Will Be Miracles . . . . 3:36
8) Not A Sound . . . . . . . . . 7:25
9) Silence Of Another Kind . . . 2:41

Total Time 52:03

Line-up:
- Petronella Nettermalm: vocals, cello
- Ricard Nettermalm: drums, saw and delay
- Johan Wallén: piano, Mellotron, Hammond organ, syntheziser, sampler, harmonium
- Stefan Dimle: bass, double bass
- Peter Nylander: guitar

Release info:
format: Single CD • InsideOut # SPV48962
release date: May 25, 2006
Paatos' official website at: http://www.paatos.com/


December 27, 2005
PALLAS - THE DREAM OF MEN
by Robert Dansereau

Pallas is one of the great names in the world of neo-progressive music and has a long history, dating way back to 1978. For their latest studio album, they went all out! The Dreams Of Men is a remarkable accomplishment. Four years in the making, it is truly their crowning achievement, a perfect balance of the best of old-school prog rock with today's modern sounds and instrumentations.

The album begins with a long orchestral passage with a distant, wailing guitar; The Bringer Of Dreams is a powerful intro to the album, an aggressive beat and a very catchy melody, great lyrics, excellent solos throughout, there's a quieter passage midway through the song that breaks its mood a bit, though. Warriors follows, a really intense track, highlighting Niall Matthewson's work on the guitars and Derek Forman's relentlessness on the drums. Ghostdancers begins with a haunting violin solo, a poignant tale about the immigration of scottish and irish people to America and the displacement it caused; The highlight of the album in my opinion, a dark, dramatic melody, with a spine-tingling guitar solo, and ending with aboriginal indians chanting... one of Pallas' greatest work since their legendary Atlantis Suite. Too Close To The Sun is a quirky, captivating track with cool, humourous lyrics and numerous time signatures (including a challenging 11/8), great synths throughout, showcasing Ronnie Brown's immense talent on the keys, also some powerful guitar on this track. Messiah is a great heavy rock track, it has a sound resembling a cross between Gabriel's Sledgehammer and Yes' City of Love... Some great female background vocals and a deliciously caustic political message... "I'm liking it!" Northern Star is a sweet, quiet instrumental guitar track, very relaxing and atmospheric. Quite a change of beat with Mr. Wolfe, another of
The Dreams Of Men's catchiest tracks, this one really kicks ass, with an aggressive bass line from Graeme Murray and some great lyrics. Invincible is an hommage to the 1984 theme, a powerful track with some additional vocals by Graeme, even a bit of cookie monster background vocal at times! Splendid guitar work and brilliant lyrics on this track and a grandiose ending section that would put Dream Theater to shame! The album concludes with The Last Angel, highlighting Alan Reed's vocals, it's just a brilliant, breathtaking track, that slowly builds up to a magical melody, ending with a powerful church organ sound and wonderful female opera singer, Pandy Arthur, providing a spine chilling conclusion to this album ( à la Lakmé's Flower Duet ), truly the voice of an angel!

If you liked
The Cross And The Crucible, you will dig The Dreams Of Men. Both are similar in many ways, sonically in particular. There's a "Pallas" sound that is quite recognizable, a mixture of Niall's guitars, Alan's unique vocals and Ronnie's very particular keyboard work. But even if it does sound a bit like its predecessor, The Dreams Of Men has a style of its own and is a perfect, utterly worthy following to The Cross and the Crucible. The Dreams Of Men is a magical album, one of these precious few that you never get tired of listening to. Stunning production quality, and a perfectly balanced sound, this album is available in two versions, the regular 1-CD release and a 2-CD special edition, with a 32-page booklet and a 74 min. bonus disk featuring all sorts of goodies like background tracks and loops. I enjoyed listening to this album thoroughly and it is definitely one of my favorites of the year.



4 out of 5

track list:
1) The Bringer Of Dreams . . . . 9:49
2) Warriors . . . . . 7:14
3) Ghostdancers . . . . . 7:31
4) Too Close To The Sun . . . . 11:34
5) Messiah . . . . . 4:57
6) Northern Star . . . . 4:00
7) Mr. Wolfe . . . . . 5:48
8) Invincible . . . . . 10:44
9) The Last Angel . . . . . 11:28

Total Time 73:10

Line-up:
- Alan Reed - Vocals
- Niall Matthewson - Guitars
- Graeme Murray - Bass
- Ronnie Brown - Keyboards
- Derek Forman - Drums

Release info:
format: Single CD • InsideOut # SPV085-48552
release date: October 25, 2005
Pallas' official website at: http://www.pallas-uk.com/


July 7, 2007
PORCUPINE TREE - FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET
by Dave Ling *

Last September, seven months ahead of release, Porcupine Tree introduced their british concert audiences to the six songs that comprise this, their eight album. And boy did it pay off. After their London Astoria show, Classic Rock Magazine's reviews said the band had "metamorphosed from musicians into stars".

After 20 years of consistent artistic growth,
Fear Of A Blank Planet makes the transition complete. A seamless complete piece of music, its 50-odd minutes can nevertheless be broken down into six smaller chunks. The title tack is a mid-paced and hypnotic wall of sound. My Ashes begins slowly and mournful, overlaid with lavish orchestrations. Rush's Alex Lifeson adds a moving guitar motif to the 17-minute Anesthetize, the album's heaviest track.

Continuing the dark mood, Sentimental attempts to fill the shoes of somebody who wishes their life away; numbed by chemicals, apathetic and ambitionless. The theme of alienation continues with Way Out Of Here, punctuated by a swirling, mesmerizing piece of guitar playing from King Crimson's Robert Fripp. Sleep together, beautifully arranged as ever, seems to equate the finality of sexual congress with suicide, its ambiguity utterly beguiling. With the release of
Fear Of A Blank Planet, the first mandatory album purchase of 2007 has arrived.
*with permission from Dave Ling of Classic Rock Magazine (UK) ©2007. All Rights Reserved.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1) Fear of a Blank Planet . . . 7:28
2) My Ashes . . . . . . . . . . 5:07
3) Anesthetize . . . . . . . 17:42
4) Sentimental . . . . . . . . 5:26
5) Way Out of Here . . . . . . 7:37
6) Sleep Together . . . . . . 7:28

Total Time 50:48

Line-up:
- Steven Wilson - guitars & vocals
- Richard Barbieri - keyboards
- Colin Edwin - bass
- Gavin Harrison - drums & percussion

Release info:
format: Single CD • Roadrunner Records
release date: April 2007
Porcupine Tree's official website at: http://www.porcupinetree.com/


September 12, 2007
RITUAL - THE HEMULIC VOLUNTARY BAND
by Yves Dubé

This latest release is the band’s fourth, and considered their most adventuresome by those in the know. Kaipa’s frontman Patrik Lundstrom leads his bandmates through 6 very different, and for the most part very interesting, numbers.

The disc opens with the very Gentle Giantesque title track. The song offers many odd-metered time signatures punctuated with some counterpoint vocals. It sets the tone for things to come. I’ll add right here that the tracks are all based in Tove Jansson’s "Moomin" world (in case that means anything to anyone reading this) so it does give the disc a sort of conceptual feel even though I don’t get the impression that the tracks are recounting one tale.

Track #2 is the excellent In The Wild. Although mostly dominated by acoustic piano lines, this track closes with a bang as some excellent fretwork dominates the latter part of the number.

The following track, in my honest opinion, the only true clunker on the disc. Late In November is a sappy ballad that just doesn’t do anything for me. Lundstrom has a good crooning voice, and there’s nothing technically wrong with the number, but it just doesn’t grab me in any way. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

The 4th number, The Groke creates an anticipatory mood that never really delivers in the end. It’s as if the song were just one long bridge to nowhere. Again, this is a decent effort, but not the strongest part of the disc, for sure.

We’ve cleared the weaker moments and we’re heading towards the grand finale. Before arriving at the 26-minute closing opus, we’re served up the catchiest number on the disc. Waiting By The Bridge is an infectious number, with a pop-like chorus that immediately sticks into your brain. The middle portion of the track brings us back to some of the odd time signatures first introduced in the opening number.

We’re already at the final track, although, at 26:33, it makes up half the disc. A Dangerous Journey is a number that harkens us back to the glory days of symphonic progressive rock. The track features many different sonic textures. Elements of other influences on this band, most notably Jethro Tull, are front and center. The song begins inauspiciously with acoustic guitar and Lundstrom’s very pleasant voice dominating. It slowly builds into a more ominous intensity as the story develops. The only negative thing about this song, in this reviewer’s opinion, is that it’s extremely vocal-heavy. If you’re into that sort of thing then you’ll be well served, but I’ve always preferred opuses that relied on long instrumental passages. All the vocal parts make the track plod along at a slower pace. When there are instrumental breaks however, they’re very interesting and act to bring the song to other levels in a hurry. In fact, the song gets downright heavy in moments! It would have been nice to hear more of that heaviness in other parts of the disc. This number balances out many tempos and creates many moods, which keep it moving along, until it ends as inauspiciously as it began, with a "...and the tales goes on" feel to it.

All in all, Ritual has presented its fans with a very solid record. The musicianship is excellent, the vocals are very pleasing, and the production is impeccable. Where it loses points with me is in the slower numbers, and in the fact that it doesn’t really break any new ground. Fans of latter-day symphonic progressive will eat this one up, but fans of what is referred to as "small p" progressive probably won’t get much mileage out of this disc.


4 out of 5

track list:
1. The Hemulic Voluntary Band . . . 4:53
2. In The Wild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:53
3. Late In November . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:56
4. The Groke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:05
5. Waiting By The Bridge . . . . . . . . . 4:36
6. A Dangerous Journey . . . . . . . . . 26:33

Total Time 61:28

Line-up:
- Patrik Lundström: lead vocals, acoustic & electric guitars
- Jon Gamble: keyboards, harmonium, harmonica, vocals
- Johan Nordgren: drums, percussion, nyckelharpa, vocals
- Fredrik Lindqvist: bass, bouzouki, mandolin, flutes, vocals

Release info:
Format: Single CD • InsideOut # SPV 79562
release date: September 2007
Ritual's official website at: www.ritual.se


November 27, 2005
RPWL - START THE FIRE - LIVE
by Robert Dansereau

What an impressive release from this german band! RPWL's latest album, Start The Fire - Live is outstanding! RPWL's history began around 2000, with the release of their first CD accompanied by appearances at festivals and an extensive european tour, and they have been gaining in popularity worldwide ever since. This album should get them noticed on this side of the Atlantic! A good definition of the sound of the group would be: "RPWL is what Pink Floyd would have sounded like today if they would have still been together" and they are indeed heavily influenced by the late era Pink Floyd, sounding a bit like Porcupine Tree at times, but still with a great sound of their own, and really good, catchy compositions. Threshold and late Marillion would also come to mind in the similarities / influences department. Progressive, symphonic, psychedelic, metallic... this two-CD live album makes you go through all of these musical styles and more! it just sounds plain amazing.

The first track, Sleep, has some obvious Porcupine Tree influence, with subtle eastern influences on the percussion side. A great composition with great guitar work. Yogi Lang's vocals are a bit softer, deeper, more intense than on previous albums. Then, on to the title track of the album, Start The Fire (which appears in its studio version on this year's
World Through My Eyes) which is a rocky, catchy tune with nice rhythms, you'll snap your fingers on this one. The following track Who Do You Think We Are, has a bit of a late Beatles ballad sound, but then features the Floydiest (new word?) guitar work you can imagine, really showing Kalle Wallner's uncanny similarity to Gilmour's sound. Day on My Pillow is a nice, harmless little ballad, with a little tribute to Genesis' I Know What I Like in the middle, then building towards an edgy, powerful end. Roses features ex-Genesis singer Ray Wilson, and sounds a bit like a heavier version of something you would have found on Genesis' last album Calling All Stations... pretty good! Wilson is a great singer and this song fits his vocals to a tee, another catchy tune that will get your toes tappin', again with some splendid guitar work. Not about Us, also sung by Ray Wilson is indeed the Calling All Stations track from Genesis, and a nice version of it too. The Gentle Art of Swimming makes no excuses at being one of the most heavily modern-Floyd-influenced track, an aggressive, dark track with mellotrons and spacy guitar effects, a brilliant composition which stands out for me. Wasted Land has a great rhythm, great keyboards. Crazy lane is a quiet, dramatic ballad with melancholic guitars and nice lyrics. Trying to Kiss the Sun is a quirky, wacky little track, with an unusual background of wind instruments and great guitars à la Tom Petty, great melody, and a good conclusion to disk one.

Disk two is truly a tribute to Pink Floyd, RPWL's main influence. The first track, which is the name of their last studio effort (and of the tour from which these live recordings come from), World Through My Eyes is a bit psychedelic, a bit dark and dramatic, something you might have found on
Meddle, or Ummagumma... great bluesy inspired guitar work like Gilmour's early work. Tracks two, three and four are classic Pink Floyd compositions: the Barrett-era track Opel, Cymbaline from the album More and the Water-era track Welcome To The Machine, all three given a twist, a modern, offbeat grandiose feeling, which sounds really great. Track 5 is called I Don't Know and has a sound very similar to something from Pink Floyd's Division Bell, mixed with something that would come from Genesis' Calling all Stations... we do see a pattern here, but it is a very good track and one of the more commercially viable track on this album, a composition definitely worthy of airplay I think! Hole In the Sky concludes the live portion of this album, another excellent track with brilliant lyrics, a stunning melody and really great keyboard and guitar work. And a special bonus track is at the end of this disk; New Stars are born is a splendid piece with a brilliant melody and an extended, dramatic instrumental section reminding me of Dogs from Animals with some Steven Wilson harmonies at times.

Overall, an excellent production quality, a splendid job at capturing RPWL's sound live! Kalle Wallner delivers some of the most spine-tingling guitar work I've heard this year. This group has an incredible presence, and one of the richest, thickest, lush sound you'll find. It is said their live shows are something to see, they are visually spectacular and the elaborate multichannel sound system they use gives them a unique sound. Hopefully, we'll have the pleasure of seeing them soon in America! If you are unfamiliar with RPWL, this is an excellent album to introduce yourself to the band if you want to try them out, and definitely a must for fans of the group. This album ranks highly on my own personal top twenty list of the year!


4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disk 1
1. Sleep . . . . . 10:05
2. Start The Fire . . . . 4:48
3. Who Do You Think We Are . . . 4:35
4. Day On My Pillow . . . 6:20
5. Roses . . . . . 6:45
6. Not About Us . . . . . 4:55
7. The Gentle Art Of Swimming . . 8:45
8. Wasted Land . . . . 5:40
9. Crazy Lane . . . . . 4:23
10. Trying To Kiss The Sun . . . . . 4.58

Disk 2
1. World Through My Eyes . . . . 11:29
2. Opel . . . . 5:51
3. Cymbaline . . . . 14:56
4. Welcome To The Machine . . . 7:16
5. I Don't Know . . . . 4:18
6. Hole In The Sky . . . . 10:31
7. Bonus track: New Stars Are Born (studio - full version) . . . 12:39

Total Time 61:28 (disk 1) 66:58 (disk 2)

Line-up:
- Yogi Lang: vocals, keyboards
- Karlheinz Wallner: guitars
- Chris Postl: bass - Manfred Müller: drums
with guests: Ray Wilson: vocals (on disk one, tracks 5 & 6) - Markus Jehle: live-keys

Release info:
Format: Double CD • InsideOut # SPV48612 DCD - release date: October 25, 2005
RPWL's official website at: www.rpwl.de


December 12, 2007
SAGA - 10 000 DAYS
by Robert Dansereau

It is only fitting that Michael Sadler's last album with Saga be one that competes with the first three albums of their golden era back in the early 80's. 10,000 Days contains truly captivating material, catchy tunes with memorable melodies and appealing choruses. The group's sound has changed over the years, yet it is still instantly recognizeable with Michael Sadler's crystal-clear trademark vocals and Ian Crichton's syncopated guitar riffs. Some compositions are refreshingly original, while others retains the «frozen in time» sound of Saga in the early 80's. It's a sound that they never stray away too far from.

The album begins with Lifeline, a classic Saga composition with all the bells ans whistles, lush keyboards passages, guitar counterpoints and a great vocal performance by Michael Sadler. Very radio-friendly. The second track entitled Book Of Lies is a quirky, poppy tune with great dramatic guitar fills and a cool guitar solo towards the end. Sideways begins on a tone almost reminiscent of a Nathan Mahl ballad, but quickly switches to a dense, rich composition with a groovy, energetic beat and fuzzy guitars, bringing back the opening medieval chorus throughout the piece. Can’t You See Me Now brings back some of the odd rythms that you hear on
Heads or Tails' The Sound Of Strangers, although it might stretch for a bit too long. Corkentellis is a dynamic instumental number that showcases the Crichton brothers at their best, one of my favorites of the album. Turning to a much smoother tone, More Than I Deserve is a lovely, melancholic ballad with great vocals by Sadler and spacey guitar riffs. Sound Advice is a dynamic composition with a solid chorus and somehow reminds me of World's Apart's On The Loose at certain moments. The title track features a beautiful melody and a Gilmour/Sadler vocal duo just like the good ol' days, and some melancholic guitar riffs. It Never Ends captures the classic Saga sound in a perfect manner, a track that will appeal to fans of the 80's Saga, and marks a very important closing chapter of Saga's history.

With a very polished production and immaculate sound, this album is quite pleasant to the ear, perfect for multiple auditions. An album that will definitely appeal to Saga fans, as well as fans of classic 80's progressive rock and contemporary symphonic pop/prog in the vein of Frost*...


4 out of 5

track list:
1) Lifeline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:37
2) Book Of Lies . . . . . . . . . . . 5:44
3) Sideways . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:53
4) Can’t You See Me Now . . . . 6:12
5) Corkentellis . . . . . . . . . . . . .7:12
6) More Than I Deserve . . . . . . 5:22
7) Sound Advice . . . . . . . . . . . .5:17
8) 10,000 Days . . . . . . . . . . . .4:31
9) It Never Ends . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:10

Total Time 53:35

Line-up:
- Michael Sadler: vocals, keyboards
- Jim Gilmour: keyboards, vocals
- Ian Crichton: guitar
- Jim Crichton: bass, keyboards
- Brian Doerner: drums

Release info:
Format: Single CD • InsideOut SPV 79642
release date: November 2007
Saga's official website: http://www.sagaontour.ca


November 21, 2005
ROINE STOLT - WALL STREET VOODOO
by Robert Dansereau

Now There's something refreshingly different! Roine Stolt's latest solo effort, entitled Wall Street Voodoo is quite a break from the progressive brand of music that the leader of the Flower Kings has accustomed us to in the past, with projects like The Tangent, Kaipa, Transatlantic... not to mention TFK! This new album is blues wall to wall! And a generous offering from Roine, with nearly two hours of music on two CDs. Heavily influenced by the classic blues/rock of the seventies, you can hear melodies and riffs reminiscent of Zappa, Clapton, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Jeff Beck and the likes. As Roine says about this new album "...you could say it's a cross between blues, soul and funk from this new millenium... My ambition was to make it spontaneous and almost sounding like it was a live take from a Fillmore concert around 1969. Oh well, there's a bit of production too but i've tried to keep it vintage". And indeed it is quite a satisfying effort, with a rich, thick, generous sound. There's a laid back warmth to this album, with brilliant guitar work by the swedish maestro... some of his guitar solos are absolutely amazing, the best he ever played! Roine sings with a lower, warmer, bluesier voice, capturing the blues feel perfectly. Neal Morse's contribution on the Hammond gives a great mellow tone to the album, and let's not forget the combination of Stolt and Morse on vocals, great harmonies we remember well from the Transatlantic era. Marcus displays quite a variety of styles, showing how versatile he is on drums. The track Outcast sounds a bit like something that The Powder Blues could have written (remember them?).

But not to worry, there is still plenty of prog in this album, and I have to say that prog and blues mingle very well in this recording, much like the early Floyd albums of the seventies at times, you can even hear the familiar tones of a mellotron (or a sample of it) on a few tracks, including Dirt and Hotrod! And several songs could easily find themselves on a Flower Kings album and not seem out of place at all, like Remember. Roine's Flower sound is omnipresent throughout the album. There are even a few bits here and there that are inspired by the Beatles, like the track Everyone Wants To Rule The World (which has nothing to do with the Tears For Fears track of the same name).

If you look at the credits on the back of the album, you will see unlikely names like Victor Woof, Gonzo Geffen and Slim Pothead; one can only assume that due to some record label restrictions, the real guest musicians couldn't be mentioned at the risk of increasing production cost exponentially... still an interesting guessing game as to who they are. I highly recommend this CD for many reasons, its brilliant production and excellent sound, Neal Morse's wonderful contribution, and of course the fact that it's damn good music too!


4.5 out of 5

track list:
Disk 1 . . . . . . .60:02
1) The Observer . . . . 11:05
2) Head Above Water . . . . 5:25
3) Dirt . . . . 8:15
4) Everyone Wants To Rule The World . 4:05
5) Spirit Of The Rebel . . . . 6:10
6) Unforgiven . . . . 3:00
7) Dog With A Million Bones . . . . 8:10
8) Sex Kills . . . . 7:20
9) Outcast . . . . 7:50

Disk 2 . . . . . . .53:22
1) The Unwanted . . . . 9:00
2) Remember . . . . 6:55
3) It's All About Money . . . . 8:05
4) Everybody Is Trying To Sell You Something . . . . 6:55
5) Hotrod (The Atomic Wrestler) . . . . 9:10
6) Mercy . . . . 2:40
7) People That Have The Power
To Shape The Future . . . . 11:05

Total Time 60:02 (disk 1) 53:22 (disk 2)

Line-up:
Roine Stolt: Lead Vocal ,Electric & Acoustic Guitars & Percussion
Neal Morse: Lead Vocal & Hammond Organ
Slim Pothead: Wurlizer Piano, Mini Moog & Hammond Organ
Victor Woof: Fender Bass
Marcus Liliequist: Drumkit
Hasse Bruniusson: Percussion
Gonzo Geffen: Congas & Percussion & Loop treatments

Release info:
Format: Double CD • InsideOut # SPV48682 DCD - release date: November 15,2005
Roine's official website at: www.flowerkings.se


February 3, 2007
DARYL STUERMER - REWIRED (THE ELECTRIC COLLECTION)
by Robert Dansereau

Daryl Stuermer is best known for his long tenure as the official "live" guitarist of the group Genesis, but those who have followed his long and prestigious carreer know also that he played with Jean-Luc Ponty and appeared on many albums by the likes of Joan Armatrading, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and even Abba's Frida Lyngstad!

Aside from his obvious progressive connection with Genesis, Daryl's style of choice on many of his solo CDs is a cool blend of jazzy instrumental fusion and contemporary proggy pop. The album
Rewired - The Electric Connection falls in this category. The compositions on this albums are more of a collection of the best material that he recorded over the past 16 years, remastered and re-edited in a manner that they fit well together, giving an admirable tonal continuity to the entire album. Daryl surrounded himself with top-notch musicians such as Leland Sklar and Luis Conte, and the collection of tracks features some beautiful guitar and keyboard harmonies, dynamic rythms and skillful guitar work.

The album is composed of 10 instrumental tracks, and begins with the intense Yin Yang Boogie, an energetic fusion number with a good rock beat, that features a Late-Genesis-like interlude in the middle, followed by the toe-tappin' Road Warrior, a composition that wears its name well: crank it up on the road! Very dynamic, with some elaborate guitar and keyboard duos. American Fields has a Copland-esque theme, and features some great guitar solos, another good one for the road! Wherever You Are is a great ballad with a smooth rhythm and has some great guitar melodies. Highland Hip Hop has scottish traditional theme, mixed-in with some cool Black Watch style percussions. Transatlantic offers yet another delicious jazzy melody, beautiful dreamy harmonies and great guitar work. The album ends on a relaxing note with the melancholic The Least You Can Do, a great ballad with a simple, yet effective pop theme.

A bit of a short album, only clocking at 42 minutes, but a well balanced collection of tracks, with a great guitar tone throughout, showcasing Daryl's skills as a composer and a guitarist without ever going over the top. Excellent production quality and a great, flowing set of tight, captivating composition, this one's a winner!
Rewired will appeal to amateurs of contemporary pop as well as enthusiasts of proggy jazz fusion, and as I mentioned before, a perfect "road music" album. This release has great timing as Mr. Stuermer is about to embark on a European/North American tour with his old Genesis buddies this summer, and it is with anticipation that we wait for his upcoming visit!


4 out of 5

track list:
1. Yin Yang Boogie . . . . . . . 4:27
2. Road Warrior . . . . . . . . . . 3:56
3. Determined . . . . . . . . . . 4:39
4. Deadline . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3:35
5. American Fields . . . . . . . . 3:12
6. Morning Train . . . . . . . . . 5:28
7. Wherever You Are . . . . . . 3:53
8. Highland Hip Hop . . . . . . 4:13
9. Transatlantic . . . . . . . . . 4:17
10. The Least You Can Do . . 4:29

Total Time 42:18

Line-up:
- Daryl Stuermer: Guitars, bass (2,7,10), keyboards, percussion
- Brad Cole: Keyboards (5,6,8)
- Kostia: Keyboards (2,7,9,10)
- Leland Sklar: Bass (3,4,5,6,8)
- Eric Hervey: Bass (9)
- Mark Torroll: Drums (1,3,4,5,6,8)
- John Calarco: Drums (2,7,9,10)
- Luis Conte: Percussion (2,7,9)

Produced by Daryl Stuermer & Gary Tanin

Release info:
Format: Single CD • Unicorn Digital UNCR-5038 • release date: December 29, 2006
Daryl Stuermer's official website at: http://www.darylstuermer.com/


November 21, 2006
SYMPOZION - KUNDABUFFER
by Robert Dansereau

What a great musical discovery! Sympozion is a group from Israel that has been together for a couple of years, but just recently released their first album, entitled Kundabuffer, attracting the attention of the international music community in the process. The originality of their music and the richness of their sound makes them a group in a class of their own. This album was released quite early in the year and already many people are talking about the best new group of the year, top twenty prog album material and so on. Let me add my voice to all this talk: A brilliant album unlike anything I have heard in a long time!

The music of Sympozion is a truly original blend of RIO, avant-garde, jazz fusion with elements of chamber music. You could distinguish influences and sounds from Gentle Giant, Camel, National Health, Univers Zéro, Frank Zappa and many more, but I feel that Sympozion has quite succesfully created a sound of its own, and as a whole, the album flows very smoothly, a highly cohesive ensemble of tracks. One important note I must make is that the group is composed of amazingly talented musicians, playing a combination of brilliant melodies with the more complex elements of RIO, the richness of their sound comes from the multiple layers of rhythms and harmonies, becoming deliciously overwhelming at times. Musically, there is so much happening on this album that you'll need many auditions of this CD to catch all the yummy musical bits and subtleties throughout it. The compositions are mostly instrumental, with two tracks (Bird and Zona) sung in hebrew.

The first track, Patterns begins with a highly rhythmic piano/guitar intro and has a very complex and elaborate melody, brilliant stuff that just catches your attention instantly, the flute is omnipresent throughout this track. Happy War Holiday has a very Zappa-esque sound, switching to a great guitar improvisation, one the most captivating track of the album in my mind. Bird begins with vocals sung in hebrew, but don't let that scare you, the vocal harmonies are quite interesting, it is one of the more smooth and relaxed tracks of the album. Grapefruit begins with a syncopated piano intro, and is the more "Rock In Opposition-ish" track of the album with sometimes dissonant harmonies, offbeat time signatures and various sound effects. Six begins with a complex keyboard intro and has a more of a jazzier sound. Zona, again has some vocals sung in hebrew, with a more straightforward rhythm, some original keyboard work and some great guitar improvisations, with many catchy, jazzy bits in the middle, ending in a loud chaos of instruments. Too Much features great keyboard work from Arik Hayat and some good-sounding rock guitar and an ending that would make Hasse Bruniusson proud! Grapefruit Variations is the longest track of the album and begins with a melancholic piano melody, quickly picking-up the pace with a cool wah-wah guitar portion, bringing back the theme from the begining on the guitar and the recorder towards the end.

The album has been produced and recorded by long-time Present sound engineer Udi Koomran, whose roots run very deep in the avant-garde/RIO communities, his contribution made for an impeccable recording. Add to this the brilliant musicianship and the incredibly original music and it's easy to see why these guys are the talk of the prog community right now. This album is a must for any RIO fan, and great new music to be discovered by any progressive music fan.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
1. Patterns (Abraham) . . . . . 3:34
2. Happy War Holiday (Hayat) . . . . . 8:05
3. Bird (Hayat) . . . . . 3:41
4. Grapefruit (Hayat, Abraham, Halifa) . . . 8:48
5. Six (Abraham) . . . . . . 4:07
6. Zona (Hayat, Ben-Zvi) . . . . 8:06
7. Too Much (Hayat) . . . . . 4:53
8. Grapefruit Variations (Abraham, Hayat) . . 10:56

Total Time 52:15

Line-up:
Arik Hayat: Keyboards, Vocals, Recorders
Elad Abraham:Guitar, Recorders
Ori Ben-Zvi: Guitars
Dan Carpman: Bass, Vocals
Boris Zilberstein: Drums
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Udi Koomran at Ginger Studios

Release info:
Format: Single CD • Unicorn Digital UNCR-5036
release date: January 7, 2006
Sympozion's official website at: http://www.sympozion.com


March 30, 2007
STEVE THORNE - EMOTIONAL CREATURES, PART TWO
by Robert Dansereau

Emotional Creatures - Part Two is the second release of british singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Steve Thorne, and the follow-up to his hugely successful first album, which caught the progressive community by surprise in 2005. Steve's great vocals combined with his excellent sense of harmony and melody are the strong points of this album, as well as the fact that you will find contributions by a who's who of the best contemporary progressive musicians, including Tony Levin, John Mitchell, Gary Chandler, Geoff Downes, Gavin Harrison, Pete Trewavas, Martin Orford, Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio, resulting in a polished, varied sound spectrum, and it certainly helps in attracting the interest of progressive music enthusiasts! Steve's musical style is a blend of folky, light progressive music, with contemporary pop themes and ballads.

The album starts with the instrumental Toxicana Apocalypso which unlike its name, has an upbeat, poppy theme with a bit of a Jadis influence, thanks to Gary Chandler's guitar work. Wayward has a cool urban theme with a smooth rhythm. Crossfire is a great rock ballad that features great guitar work by John Mitchell and seamlessly blends into Roundabout, a more dramatic track, with a smooth beat. Hounded has a melancholic theme where you'll notice Steve's slightly raspy voice at times, with a powerful, dynamic finale. Other noteworthy tracks include 6AM and Solace, two eerie, amospheric instrumental tracks and The White Dove Song, a catchy rock theme that ends with a fantastic, soaring orchestral finale, a brilliant composition. Sandheads is a great folky ballad that concludes these 54 minutes of artful progressive rock.

The album is produced by Rob Aubrey, IQ's sound engineer... he did an admirable job as this album sounds awesome, with impeccable production quality. The album cover features great, colorful cover art by Danny Flynn and captivating images with lyrics inside the 16-page booklet. A great album that will appeal to people who like their progressive music on the lighter side, melodic, harmonic and not too challenging musically, my idea of perfect weekend morning music with a good cup of coffee. Highly recommended!


4 out of 5

track list:
1) Toxicana Apocalypso . . . 5:07
2) Wayward . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:50
3) Crossfire . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:42
4) Roundabout . . . . . . . . . . 4:23
5) Hounded . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7:12
6) All The Wisemen . . . . . . . 5:19
7) Great Ordeal . . . . . . . . . . .3:07
8) 6 AM (Your Time) . . . . . . 2:46
9) Solace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:32
10) The White Dove Song . . 5:58
11) Sandheads . . . . . . . . . . . 7:29

Total Time 54:34

Line-up:
Steve Thorne, accompanied by invited guest musicians: Tony Levin, Nick D'Virgilio, Geoff Downes, Martin Orford, Gary Chandler, Yan Zewada, Pete Trewavas, Anna Wyse, Louise Coggins, Lydia Handy, Katie Higgins, Bernard Postlewaithe, Adrian Cleverly, Kate Redwood, Arnie Cottrell, Liz Allan, Chris Beggs, Rob Aubrey, Gavin Harrison, John Mitchell and Dave Meros

Release info:
Format: Single CD • Giant Electric Pea # GEPCD1036
release date: April 2, 2007
Steve Thorne's official website at http://www.steve-thorne.co.uk/


February 2, 2006
THE TANGENT - A PLACE IN THE QUEUE
by Robert Dansereau

After two incredible CDs called The Music That Died Alone and The World That We Drive Through, and a year's worth of hard work preparing their latest album, It is obvious that many people will have great expectations about A Place In The Queue... all I can say is that people will not be disappointed, as it was well worth the wait! This new album heavily concentrates on the talent and musicianship of its members, and for those who love the sound of keyboards, Andy Tillson's work on this CD is simply exceptional, with some of the best melodies and harmonies that you've heard on any Tangent album. Roine Stolt's absence on this CD did not affect in any way the sound of the band, as a matter of fact, it actually released many ideas and sounds that might have been put on the backburner and gave a whole new dynamic to the group, in the words of Andy: "We have more personal freedom, and we take advantage of this freedom". On this new release, you'll find a lot of variety, tracks with Canterbury influences, neo-symphonic, jazz fusion, even some RIO and a disco number! A Place In The Queue is the "Cirque Du Soleil" of progressive music!

The album begins with the quiet piano intro of In Earnest, a 20-minute epic that features the instantly recognizable "Tangent" sound the most, a brilliant, captivating, exuberant composition with stunning keyboard work from Andy, impassioned Hammond organ work à la Keith Emerson and great, touching lyrics. Krister shows some mighty impressive chops on the guitar, not even halfway through this track, I had gone through the full range of emotions! Lost In London takes after the first album's "Canterbury Sequence", inspired by Hatfield And The North and National Health, a sweet little number with humorous lyrics and cool canterbury-ish flute work by Mr. Travis. DIY Surgery features a bizzare Zappa-esque intro, breaking into some brilliant jazz fusion sax, with definite RIO overtones. In three words; quick, quirky and surprising! The cheerful keyboard intro of GPS Culture prepares you for one the most enthusiastic tracks of the album, with vocals by the lovely Sam Baine, a very straightforward prog rock track with great interaction between Andy and Krister. Follow Your Leader is an intense track with an aggressive rhythm, about the frenzy of life in general, mixing Canterbury bits with ELP-styled keyboards, featuring great bass lines from Jonas and ending with a weeping guitar solo. The Sun In My Eyes will really catch you by surprise... it can only be described as a tribute to the white suits and bellbottoms of the late seventies, prog disco if you can believe! This dance floor number is a deliciously funny diversion, signs of a tight group of musicians with a sense of humour and self-derision! It will certainly bring a smile to your face, and features funny lyrics about people who loved prog music in the disco days. A Place In The Queue is the dramatic epic of the album and begins with a grandiose sax intro, followed by beautiful, haunting guitar work by Mr. Manning. Sensational keyboards and guitars throughout, a very elaborate composition and a truly mesmerizing track.

The bonus disk features another 55 minutes of tracks that couldn't fit on the 79-min. main disk, some remixed versions, live material and spacy, ambient pieces, great stuff that makes this exceptional album even more worthwhile.

A Place In The Queue is a spectacular album, with amazing melodies, world-class musicianship, great lyrics, unbelievable variety, impeccable musical arrangements and some of the best keyboard work you can imagine, a wild prog trip! To say that I loved it is quite an understatement. This album definitely establishes Andy Tillson as one of the best keyboard player of our times, easily sharing this title with Dave Stewart, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess. A Place In The Queue is by far the most elaborate, well-crafted work of the Tangent, an album that will easily find its way among the top albums of 2006 without any doubt.


4.5 out of 5

track list:
MAIN CD:
1) In Earnest - (Tillison) . . . . . 20.03
2) Lost In London - (Tillison/Manning) . . . . . 8.08
3) DIY Surgery - (Travis/Middleton) . . . . 2.16
4) GPS Culture - (Tillison) . . . . . . 10.07
5) Follow Your Leaders - (Tillison) . . . 9.21
6) The Sun In My Eyes - (Tillison) . . . 3.44
7) A Place In The Queue - (Tillison/Travis) . . 25.19

BONUS CD: SPECIAL EDITION ONLY
••Part One - Other songs recorded at the same time as the main CD
1) Promises Were Made - (Baine/Tillison) . . . 7.26
2) The First Day At School DEMO* - (Tillison) . . 5.30
3) Forsaken Cathedrals - (Tillison) . . . 4.54
••Part Two - Alternative Version
4) The Sun In My Eyes - Ext. Mix - (Tillison) . . . 9.12
••Part Three - Instrumental Ambience
5) Grooving On Mars (LIVE 2005) - (Travis) . . .6.16
6) Kartoffelsalat Im Unterseeboot . . . 13.37

Line-up:
Andy Tillson: Keyboards & lead vocals
Sam Baine: Piano, keyboards & vocals
Jonas Reingold: Bass
Theo Travis: Sax, flutes, clarinet & vocals
Guy Manning: Acoustic guitars, mandolin & vocals
Jaime Salazar: Drums
Krister Jonsson: Electric guitars,
except on (4) Special guest Dan Watts (of Po90): Electric guitars

Release info:
Format: Single CD • InsideOut # SPV48752 - Double CD InsideOut # SPV48750
release date: February 7, 2006 - The Tangent's official website at http://www.thetangent.org/


May, 24, 2007
UNITOPIA - MORE THAN A DREAM
by Robert Dansereau

Australia's Unitopia is a well-kept secret that I wish to share with everyone; the band's first full-lenght album entitled More Than A Dream is just a perfect little gem, you have to listen to this CD, it will hook you instantly! The band's musical style is a delicious mixture of light, melodic prog rock and world music with a poppy edge. One of the strongest points of this album are the catchy, soulful, innovative compositions and the wonderful orchestration. Great captivating lyrics on various social and environmental topics and beautiful, soothing vocals reminiscent a bit of Bruce Hornsby.

The album is composed of 9 tracks for a total lenght of 62 minutes. The first track, Common Goal begins with a nice mellotron intro, a catchy track with an energetic rhythm, horns, and cool, fuzzy guitar riffs. Fate is a radio-friendly track, a great rock composition, very reminiscent of the Bruce Hornsby sound. Justify is the longest track of the album and features many influences, from the later Genesis sound circa
Calling All Stations all the way to Rush' Power Windows. Great, catchy vocals and a beautiful melody, with some cool B3 action in the middle. Take Good Care begins with a dramatic orchestral intro (courtesy of the Adelaide Art Orchestra) and turns into a beautiful world music-themed track with a great, sweet melody. Ride begins with the exact same syndrum sound as on Genesis' Duchess, an energetic track that's also inspired by Genesis' Calling All Stations. More Than a Dream's intro again has this unmistakeable Bruce Hornsby vocals/piano sound, and the melody does sound a bit like one of Transatlantic's better known epics, a sophisticated track that includes some nice guitar passages and delicately arranged orchestral portions. Slow Down begins on a melancholic tone but picks-up the pace midway with a dance-like rhythm that puts quite a bit of emphasis on the orchestral portions and ends on the same melancholic theme as it began. Lives Go 'Round is an exuberant, enthusiastic track that features an infectious chorus and a mean synth solo in the middle. The album ends on a high note with Still Here, a track that features great percussion and cool back vocals mingling with the alto sax, a very peppy rhythm, with banjo (yes banjo!) riffs that are surprisingly effective, and concludes with an extremely catchy albeit too short chorus towards the end.

This great album will appeal to fans of progressive rock on the lighter side such as Jadis, Frost and of world music inspired by Peter Gabriel. It's one of those CDs you can listen to again and again without tiring of it. The aussie group released this CD a while back, in October 2005 more precisely, but got worldwide distribution when the album was re-released through Unicorn Digital on March 1st of 2007. A polished, quality production, this is a remarkable first album and hopefully one of many to come.


4 out of 5

track list:
1. Common Goal . . . . . . . . 4.36
2. Fate . . . . . . . . 4.57
3. Justify . . . . . . . . 12.52
4. Take Good Care . . . . . . . . 8.36
5. Ride . . . . . . . . 3.44
6. More Than a Dream . . . . . . . . 5.42
7. Slow Down . . . . . . . . 8.09
8. Lives Go 'Round . . . . . . . . 6.31
9. Still Here . . . . . . . . 6.40

Total Time 61:52

Line-up:
- Mark Trueack: vocals/hand percussion
- Matt Williams: acoustic & electric guitars/vocals/banjo
- Sean Timms: keyboards/vocals/mandolin
- Mike Stewart: soprano, alto & tenor saxophones/flute/clarinet/percussion/keyboards
- Shireen Khemlani: electric and acoustic bass/vocals
- Monty Ruggiero: drums/percussion
- Tim Irrgang: tuned and un-tuned percussion

Produced by Sean Timms

Release info:
Format: Single CD • Unicorn Digital UNCR-5039 • release date: March 1st, 2007
Unitopia's official website at: http://www.unitopiamusic.com/


July 13, 2006
WASTEFALL - SELF EXILE
by Robert Dansereau

Now this is incredibly cool stuff! Wastefall is a heavy prog metal band with a twist... they include sounds of their country of origin, Greece, into their music, as well as a little bit of jazzy funk fusion and eastern themes at times! Ouzo prog metal? Their compositions are quite original, Domenik has a gorgeous voice that never strains, a bit reminiscent of Daniel Gildenlow of PoS and Flower Kings. You will find similarities to the styles of Symphony X, Evermore and Pain Of Salvation in their music.

Their latest album,
Self Exile, is a perfect balance of heavy metal and progressive music, powerful and relentless, yet elaborate with many clever tempo changes and a variety of themes and styles. Brilliant musicianship from all the players, the guitar work from Alex Katsiyiannis is brilliant, a wicked shredder. The drummer, Kostis Papaleksopoulos, should lay off a little bit on the bass drum, that overexuberant "prprprprpr" sounds just a bit dated, but aside from that, his style is very sharp, precise and varied. The keyboard portions are a bit low in the mix, at times.

Self Exile clocks in at just above 51 minutes and is composed of 11 tracks, beginning with Intro, a very eerie, eastern-influenced vocal passage to the track Willow Man, a complex intense composition with many time signatures and layered vocals, great guitar licks on that one. The Muzzle Affection is a relentless, agressive track, quite elaborate, and features lovely female vocals during jazzy passages, a great musical paradox. Dance Of Descent adds a bit of the greek rhythms with bouzouki-sounding passages, over a eastern theme, quite an original and captivating track. Another Empty Haven begins with an intense, syncopated intro, one of the wildest, most intense compositions of the album, it will incite you to do a bit of "air guitar" ! Strife For Definition has an ethereal quality, slowly building into a a great hard rock sound. Sleepwalk is another slow-paced track, a somber ballad... the sound of the weeping lady towards the end detracts a bit from the otherwise interesting composition. E. Y. E. in contrast to the previous track wakes you up big time with an apocalyptic power intro, a highly rhythmic track with deliciously contrasting times signatures, great vocals on this one! Utopia Fragmented is a cool track, with passages reminiscent of Dream Theater and Karcius, a composition with an eastern theme, and headbanger rhythms. Minutes To Abandon begins with a smooth acoustic guitar intro, a quiet ballad with a dramatic melody. Provoke The Divine highlights the bass work of Nick Valetzis, a great vocal performance from Domenik on this one.

Overall, great sound, a well-balanced suite of tracks, excellent production quality and added points for the originality of their compositions. Excellent driving music, very dynamic and intense compositions, tight musical arrangements... an album that will spin often in my player.


3.5 out of 5

track list:
1) Intro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1:05
2) Willow Man . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:04
3) The Muzzle Affection . . . . . 5:26
4) Dance Of Descent . . . . . . 3:36
5) Another Empty Haven . . . . 5:54
6) Strife For Definiton . . . . . . 4:49
7) Sleepwalk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:37
8) E. Y. E. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4:44
9) Utopia Fragmented . . . . . . . 6:42
10) Minutes To Abandon . . . . . 3:55
11) Provoke The Divine . . . . . . . 6:13

Total Time 51:07

Line-up:
Domenik Papaemmanouil: lead vocals, guitars
Alex Katsiyiannis: guitars, backing vocals
Christos Kyrkilis: keyboards
Nick Valetzis: bass
Kostis Papaleksopoulos: drums & percussion

Release info:
Format: Single CD • sensory Records # SR3031
release date: June 6, 2006
Wastefall's official website at http://www.wastefall.com


July 22, 2007
YETI RAIN - DISCARNATE
by Yves Dubé

You slowly make your way across the Arizona desert as the sun is sinking on the horizon. Heat waves warp your view of the distance. A rattlesnake slowly wanders across your path but you pay it no heed; your mind is focused elsewhere. The shaman has finally agreed to see you. You are one step closer to understanding the ways of his people. Their rich traditions, whose meanings had seemed so elusive, are within your grasp. The lapis lazuli sky starts turning shades of indigo, and then deep purple by the time you arrive at his home. You are greeted by 2 mangy mutts who guard the discarded appliances and old automobile relics which litter the shaman’s land. You make your way to the smoke house, the same one that has been used by countless generations to seek truths hidden from the all but the wisest of men. You are brought to the inner circle of his tribe; the elders are all facing a smoking heap of leaves and branches. You are the last to arrive. The ritual may now begin. The room starts filling up with smoke. At first, you feel like you will choke on the thickness of it, but the shaman’s chanting takes your mind elsewhere. You start feeling as if you are leaving your body, your soul is being lifted out of its mortal shell, and an insight and understanding of the underlying truth unifying all living things starts to become very clear to you.

Such is the imagery my mind has created in listening to Yeti Rain’s Discarnate; a very dense disc which oozes with dark and mesmerizing imagery. The musical outpouring has an ominous reticence which becomes extremely hypnotic. Made up of Roger Ebner: wind synthesizer, wind drum, and William Kopecky: fretless bass, wind drum; Discarnate is a dark work which was “spontaneously composed” to give it a very immediate feel. Sounding like a movie score, one listens to this disc with a sense of foreboding; a sense of expectancy. The 7 tracks which make up the disc all flow seamlessly into each other, creating a dark musical opus.

Some may feel that the music could be categorized as "New Age" however it would be safer to call it "New Dark Age" as there is nothing particularly light or ebullient here. The music evokes a journey to the center of one’s conscience, where one may easily encounter skeletons long ago buried. Fans of bands like Tangerine Dream will take to this immediately, as Edgar Froese and Co.’s 70s output may have been the main influence here. I really didn’t know what to make of this disc at first, but I find myself reaching for it more often than I usually would for an album of this genre.

Are you ready for the Yeti Rain?


4 out of 5

track list:
1) The Veiled Daughters of Sleep
2) Book of Visions
3) Ebon Ebon Thalud
4) Sea of Endings
5) The Prophets' Needle
6) Darklight
7) Dreaming in the Teeth of Forever

Total Time 40:55

Line-up:
William Kopecky: Fretless bass, wind drum, tanpura
Roger Ebner: wind synthetizer

Release info:
format: Single CD • Unicorn Digital UNCR 5037
release date: January 2007


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