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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Know You Well Miss Clara - Chapter One

It would be quite a huge risk to take both of the genres of the Canterbury scene and the Jazz Rock sound of the ‘70s to give it a heavier beat. But when you have an Indonesian band like I Know You Well Miss Clara, who has been around since 2009, you can expect the unexpected. The band came around from the Indonesia Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta which is a college university helping students to teach them about visual aid, performance, and the media arts to show the styles of international music and the sounds of Jazz Rock fits the band perfectly.

The band considers Reza Ryan on Guitar, Adi Wijaya on Keyboards, Enriko Gultom on Bass, and Alfiah Akbar on Drums. Their debut album, Chapter One, released this year from Moonjune Records, is very much a laid-back, groovy, trip to memory lane, and a fantastic instrumental album that is a magical experience. Hypnotic guitar lines, Flourishing Organ turned Rhodes-like sounds on the keyboards, and impressive drum work laying down the beats and tempos. It’s really quite a journey to go on while seeing where the quartet would take different areas of the sound. Not to mention it was recorded in 18 hours from start to finish and picking the right takes and the right notes and where they would go with it.

The opening 10-minute suite, Open The Door, See the Ground, begins with a minor melodic chord progression done by Wijaya as he sets the tone on what is to come. At first, it’s a tribute to Gentle Giant’s introduction line on Pantagruel’s Nativity, before Akbar and Gultom create this disturbing walking line as Reza comes in full swing with this guitar work as he comes in at the exact moment by doing his mind-boggling work on the instrument as he goes in the style of John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, and Allan Holdsworth.

And then it becomes frenzy for the last 3-minutes as they go through a spaced out attack as if it was recorded for the sessions for Pawn Hearts before Wijaya closes the piece with a dramatic turned sinister finale on the piano. Conversation and Pop Sick Love Carousel  are more of a Canterbury ‘s take of Steely Dan’s Aja-era as Wijaya creates some Thelonious Monk-like beats on the Rhodes as Reza comes up with a bluesy-soul beat on the solo while the gloomy yet ambient aspects on Reverie #2 is at first a free-for-all as keyboards and funk-bass wah-wah collide and the drumming goes into a Bruford-like beat and guitar just goes into haywire mode that is like an alarm siren going off as it goes into a panic mode! Intensity gets the better of the music.

Love Letter from Canada is back into the ambient surroundings. The Rhodes, Minor Guitar Chords, and coolness on the drums, makes it almost a touch of Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra-era that has this emotional and balladry surroundings to the love of the town, the state, and the Maple Leaf. Dangerous Kitchen is a wooshing psych chord progressions as Reza Ryan comes into town with these wonderful minor sounds on his guitar as the band come into a Bebop movement and it’s in the style of King Crimson’s Island-era and the Soft Machine’s Third-era as they are combined into one.

The closer, A Dancing Girl from the Planet Marsavishnu Named After the Love, is a homage to the great Jazz Rock band of the ‘70s, The Mahavishnu Orchestra.  It begins with various movements from their work and it’s quite a wonderful tribute to McLaughlin, Laird, Cobham, Hammer, and Goodman. The band shows their true love and passion of this music and how they were heavily inspired of the Mahavishnu’s music.

If Matching Mole, D.F.A, Hatfield and the North, and the Soft Machine had a younger nephew, it would be I Know You Well Miss Clara, and Moonjune have done a fabulous job signing this band to their label. There is always some good feelings when it comes to the label. Whether its Marbin, Mahogany Frog, The Wrong Object, and Machine Mass Trio, you know something wonderful is about to happen. Chapter One is a blessing and it’s a must have album for any Jazz or Prog fan to understand the meaning of the combination of the two.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Active Heed - Visions from Realities

Active Heed came from the mind of Umberto Pagnini who wanted to take music to a different level and reach for the voyage that is about to come. When you think of the word for a band name like that, you think of spiritual adventures and a journey that the listener is about to embark on that is melodic, beautiful, powerful, and will take you into different universes you haven’t seen before. The band’s debut album, Visions from Realities, is a laid-back, folky, symphonic, and progressive-pop like no other and it’s a one of the most touching albums that I’ve enjoyed.

Pagnini, who wrote the music and lyrics behind the album, brought in some special collaborations to be a part of his project that features Lorenzo “il Magnifico” Poli on Bass and Keyboards, PelleK on lead vocals, and Giovanni Giorgi on drums along with additional vocals from Mark Colton and Marit Borresen while the mixing and mastering is Alberto “Einstein” Callegari. Now I have listened to Visions from Realities about five times already and it is something special that Pagnini brought into and the influences I hear, rage from: Genesis, The Strawbs, Marillion, and Yes.

There are 15 tracks on the album and there’s no epic 20-minute piece on here, however this is something special as each of the compositions has a narrative and story-complex songs in there as they flow with wonderful results and track by track, it is a staggering, yet captivated inspirational adventure. And through each composition, there is hope and uplifting moments that endures seven centerpieces on their debut work.

Segues between Now What? / Me, Five Seconds Before Which features this ‘70s organ-driven orchestral roar along with a psychedelic guitar line resembling Cressida’s sole self-titled debut album turned into a catchy yet jumpy rhythm section as PelleK sings his heart out as the band creates some magic here. The Celtic Renaissance Folk Ambient boundaries come in full swing on Melting of Realities. It features pumping percussions, Floyd-like acoustic guitar strumming, atmospheric keyboards, and layers of electricity on the chord section that is very lively.

Flashing Fast Forward, has this ‘60s psych swirling keyboard work and crisp guitar work and its closer to a Space Oddity-era of Bowie meets Yes’ Time and a Word period that is at times alternative prog that has some very interesting beats and groovy sounds while the tender Forest and Joy, goes into a Jazzy Folk Rock ballad and throwing in some classical guitar lines. Then, everything becomes almost like a mini-Rock Opera.

Every Ten Seconds Before, has this ¾ time signature of a Prog Waltz that is very dance-like before going back into the 4/4 signature and a knockout. A roaring surroundings of electric/acoustic guitars and organ to help out the tempo before it’s a fast-driven finale to make it to the finish line as the time signatures, while it’s different, can go through soft into a head banging melodic charm. Me, One Second Before Johan Robeck, in which the track is named after a philosopher, who wrote this essay on allowing Suicide to come from a theological point of view, has a sinister and darker view on the subject.

It starts out soft and gentle, before it goes into a hard rocking edge as it stops all of a sudden and transforms into an Avant-Rock mass madness after PelleK shouts “Give Me a Break!” It turns into orchestral buzzing noises a-la Zappa meets Van Der Graaf Generator style that is very Spaghetti Western-like noise before the calm after the storm of the Folky-Prog balladry comes in to let the listener know that everything is okay.

Pagnini has done one hell of a job unleashing the music and lyrics along with the vision he has in his head and stays in true form of the Progressive Rock genre. I have listened to Visions from Realities seven times already and let me just say, it delivers the greatest power and the vibrating glory. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dave Martone / Glen Drover - Live at Metalworks

It is very clear that Fusion Guitarist, Dave Martone and Glen Drover of Megadeth are hypnotic and completely mind-blowing when it comes to having a grand old time and enjoying yourselves to perform in front of an audience who are completely are experiencing an amazing adventure, they have ever dreamed of. Both guitarists have brought the ingredients of Progressive Metal, Thrash, Jazz Fusion, Virtuoso, and Humor thrown into the Grocery bags to see which direction they would flow into and the label, Magna Carta has unleashed something special and electrifying.

The performance was recorded on September 25, 2011 at Mississauga, Ontario for the Metalworks series which they did online in limited locations for a worldwide webcast that was watched around the world in 63 countries and viewed by over 25,000 people which is mind-blowing. And the performance has been finally unleashed on CD and DVD. Watching this performance, you get the feel that you are right in the audience, completely jaw dropped, get into the groove, and dare I say head banging to some parts of the pieces of the music that Martone and Drover bring onto the stage.

There are two acts in the performance. The first act is Dave Martone himself as he comes onstage as if the Olympic Torch of Guitar Virtuoso has been given to him to light the events off with a bang from the roaring applause from the crowd as he kicks the show off with The Goodie Squiggee Song.  It has this Jazz Rock style but with a swinging metallic twist as Martone is going into town in the style of Steve Vai as if he had recorded this piece back in the days of the late ‘30s to get the floors going to jump and jive.

Elsewhere, Angel Fish has this wonderful homage to Elton John’s Funeral For a Friend as if it was left off the sessions for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road while on Got Da Blues, Martone gives the band a chance to share their moments of shining glory.  He goes into this wonderful style of George Benson meets Ottmar Liebert meets Django Reinhardt and going into the mind of John McLaughlin for a laid-back beat that is at times, middle-eastern and Brazilian atmosphere.

David Spidel goes this tribute to Jaco Pastorious and Flea on his bass by coming up with some of the most Fusion-like licks and not to mention slapping and popping the strings to get into the Funky groove as drummer Gary Grace goes into this style sounds of Ginger Baker, Billy Cobham and Bill Bruford on the drums to get the flow going as audiences go bonkers for the two members as if it a jet engine had zoom very loud in a quick second to get the flow going.

His take on the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia with different lyrics instead of violin, it’s a guitar competition between Johnny and the Devil himself. There’s bits of Power Metal flowing in there as Dave growls the song before doing a little bit of In the Hall of the Mountain King-sque line in the guitar that sends shivers down the listener’s and crowd’s spine along with the cool vibe on the atmospheric Dinky Pinky.

He closes the first set off with Glen Drover as a guest as they kick into full energetic gear with a thunderous take of Joe Satriani’s Crush of Love.  On this piece, they know their true love of the guitar heroes they grew up with. And the vibrations are frenetic between both Martone and Drover as they come up with overwhelming results.

The second act is Glen Drover’s turn to shine. In Glen’s group, there’s Jim Gilmour on Keyboards, Paul Yee on Bass, and Chris Sutherland on Drums. It’s more of a Progressive and Symphonic music mixed in with the Fusion and the Metal genre to the core as he pays tribute to Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty (which is on the DVD).  

The spacey voyages on Don’t Let The World Pass You By starting with Gilmour’s ambient keyboard surroundings along with Yee’s smooth bass lines, Drover comes in with some storming licks that resembles Alex Lifeson and a wonderful homage at times to La Villa Strangiato while Gilmour goes into some swirling moog-like surroundings that is off the wall. Opener, Frozen Dreams, which starts the show off, begins with Jim doing homages to Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess as Drover creates this soaring riff before they go into Prog-Metal town with various difficult time changes and uplifting tempos to get the room going. Illusions of Starlight and Colors of Infinity are both a laid-back voyage turned into a Galactic adventure while the segue between the quirky yet thumping take of Zappa’s Filthy Habits and the emotional yet spiritual beauty of Ascension, shows the textures and electrical powers of Glen Drover’s guitar work.

The closing yet entranced track, Ground Zero and the encore featuring Dave Martone to help out as Glen sings one of Megadeth’s thrashier yet futuristic take on Symphony of Destruction, makes it a perfect closing way to drop the curtain with a lot of heavy climatic boundaries to get the explosions ready to hit at the right time at the exact right moment. The DVD also features jubilant bonus tracks that Drover and Martone did along with rehearsal footage, photos, and compositions and a Jean-Luc Ponty cover that almost could have been an extended version of the live set.

Both Dave Martone and Glen Drover are quintessential and the performance at Metalworks is absolutely a shining yet thrilling experience that is unleashed. Importance and a lot of hard work have been done to come upon here and they have done one hell of a job from beginning, middle, and end.

Monday, August 12, 2013

White Willow - Ignis Fatuus

White Willow could have easily been formed around at the beginning of 1971. However, they were formed in 1993 in their hometown in Norway and their debut album, Ignis Fatuus in 1995. Originally released on The Laser’s Edge label and reissued by Termo Records, it has this beautifully digipak format featuring this leave-like background and it’s a 2-CD set along with an amazing liner notes done by Sid Smith and an interview with Jacob Holm-Puto about the making of the their first album.

Norway at that time period in the ‘90s was a Black Metal scene and there wasn’t a Prog movement. But when White Willow went into the studio, they knew it was time to give the Prog genre a huge revival and a wake-up call. They combined the sounds of early Genesis, Mellow Candle, Comus, King Crimson, Sandy Denny, and the late great Nick Drake. And man, can they really take it up a notch thanks to the gentle gothic acid folk turned symphonic rock opener, Snowfall featuring harmonizing vocals of Sara Trondal and Eldrid Johansen doing this duet that you can feel the goose bumps on the introduction.

Then, it’s the homage to Tudor Lodge and Trees’ The Garden of Jane Delawney-era on Lord of Night and the uplifting Now In These Fairylands features some classical boundaries. With a combination of; string quartets, harpsichord, lukewarm fingerpicking acoustic guitar structures, and a moog to fill in the void and not to mention a fuzzy organ solo as an homage to Mike Ratledge and Dave Stewart of the Soft Machine and Egg done by Jan Tariq Rahman to get that Canterbury feel as well.

Elsewhere, the Celtic Opera comes in handy with the Renaissance atmosphere on Song while Piletreet goes back into the acid folk movement featuring bass, acoustic guitar, mellotron flutes and female vocalization that resembles Annie Haslam that is a calming advantage along with the layered structures of Ingenting and Till He Arrives that has some jazzy elements flown in there. Meanwhile, everything becomes a haunting soundtrack.

The 11-minute epic, Cryptomenysis, starts off with a doomy organ sound in the styles of Black Widow meets Arzachel and featuring spooky vocalization done by Sara as the band follows her voice to see which direction she goes into. It becomes a laid-back groove featuring the violin before getting back into the heavy rocking mode as if Black Sabbath, Van Der Graaf Generator and Darryl Way teamed up to create a nightmarish terror that is unexpected.

Signs is back into calm after the storm while Lines On An Autumnal Evening is a somber yet stirring classical folk featuring recorder, flutes, strings, and guitar that makes it feel as if they had recorded this piece inside a tiny little cottage having cups of tea and creating magic in their sound. The Withering of the Boughs, which sounds like an episode of Dark Shadows, at first it has this moody atmosphere before they pay tribute to the Italian Prog sounds of Premiata Forneria Marconi’s debut album with a bang at the very end.

The closer, John Dee’s Lament, is one of most mind-boggling yet beautiful epics that is an experience you will never forget. Beginning with a piano phrase and featuring melodic vocals before it segues into a harder and edgier hypnotic hard folk rock attitude featuring a thumping bass line, staggering guitar chords, violin beauty, and the drums coming in setting the tension. It reminded me of Curved Air and King Crimson’s Red-era, with an attitude.

The bonus tracks on the second disc feature demos (Grankvad, Snowfall, Till He Arrives), two outtakes of unreleased material (I In The Eye and Det Omvendte Bæger), a cover of King Crimson's Moonchild, and a rare live performance in Los Angeles at the Variety Arts Theatre at the time they were promoting the album and you could feel that you are in the audience in awe, tears, and blown away from a band that is soon going to receive word of mouth and attention in the Prog and Independent circuit.

Hats off to Ken Golden who started The Laser’s Edge since 1987, helping the band to get recognition in the Prog community and get the word out. I have listened to the reissue of Ignis Fatuus about seven times already and I’m completely hooked of what White Willow had brought into the table with the grocery bags of their music inspiration. An amazing re-release done by the people at Termo Records and if you love the Acid Folk and Obscure side of Progressive Rock, then White Willow is here to serve you.

And if you want proof, just ask Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and Lee Dorrian of Cathedral/Napalm Death.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Raving Season - Amnio

Now, when it comes to Doom, Gothic, and Death Metal that is rolled up into one, you know something eruptive is going to happen. The growling and sinister tones featuring the Beauty and the Beast vocals of soft mixed with operatic sounds and growling and vicious roars makes it unexpected and an experience that you will never forget. One of the most up-and-coming bands to come out of Italy is a group called, Raving Season, a quintet that has this combination between Epica, Anathema, and My Dying Bride, shows how astonishing they can take it up a level.

Since their formation in 2005, they were trying to find their niche and sound to see which direction they want to go into three years ago. And after releasing an EP back in 2009 and finally getting a buzz in the audience and some line-up changes, their debut album, Amnio, released this year from My Kingdom Music, is dark, symphonic, and surreal, and it goes to show how they have come a long way. In the band they are; Judith on clean vocals, Federica doing the growling vocals, Sergio and Marco S. on Guitars, and Marco on Bass and the session drumming is done by Luca.

There are a lot of the doomy and bits of the symphonic elements floating through on the compositions that almost makes it an operatic atmosphere at times between Judith and Federica doing the soft and evil singing to give it huge jumping surprise moments on nine compositions that are on the album and ‘80s synthesizers coming in the arrangements to make it almost Film-Noir at times. Songs like My Last Murderer, Silent Lake and Restless Rain (il Rumore Della Pioggia) go into a deeper darker cavernous place and very gothic setting.

Most of the time, it’s a mourning and a cry for a loss one and uplifting momentum to feel you are on the edge of your seat.  Then on Testament, it’s an homage to Amberian Dawn and Dotma thanks to Judith’s strong vocals with an operatic twist with a tense moment of heavy guitar riffs and laid-back drum work while the electronic motions on the title track, goes into the styles of Radiohead, Bjork, and Tangerine Dream as it becomes a synth-layered-acoustic paradise as if it was recorded for a crime/sci-fi movie set in a dystopian universe.

There’s no question that Raving Season’s debut album is soon going to become a part of the headphones album genre. By going through various motions of the genres of electronic, symphonic, doom, gothic, and moving into uncharted waters, Amnio is an enhancing yet sharp intense debut and that is a primary and a basic touch that is strange but beautiful.

In Silentio Noctis - Disenchant The Hypocrites

Something fresh and startling has risen out of the waters of Finland that has taken Symphonic Metal into an unbelievable touching, dramatic, and passionate sounds of overwhelming results. Bands like Amberian Dawn, Dotma, Katra, and Apocalyptica to name a few have formed in their hometown to create monstrous and orchestral metallic music along with powerful story-telling. And In Silentio Noctis, who have been around since 2006, they are soon going to be on the same boat with the others and they are definitely going to have a warm reception.

The band who had various line-ups, now features a new line-up and it considers; Armi Paivinen on Lead Vocals, Tuomas Leskinen and Samuli Reinikainen on Guitars, Aleksi Ahokas on Bass, and Veikko Ringvall on Drums. And special guests Ville Koponen on violin and Johannes Salo on Piano to lend help on the quintet.  Their new EP, Disenchant the Hypocrites, is a concept piece dealing with the issues of God and his servants.

There are touches of Opera, fast-driven guitar lines and riffs, machine-gun rapid firing sounds of the drums, and Armi’s vocals which is in the realms of Heidi Parviainen and Tarja Turunen rolled up into one and it’s a perfect combination to see where here vocals will go into various directions as the band follows her to see which road she goes to with her voice and they follow her with tension and difficult time changes.

There are only three tracks on the album, so it’s more of a Metal Opera with a lot of dramatic structures and let me just say, it is a complete knockout from start to finish. The Pit starts off with a militant snare drum and a string quartet along with keyboards before it goes into full gear with the church organ and guitars going into a thunderous mode to set the tempo and introduction of who In Silentio Noctis really are as Armi’s vocals kicks in and the time signatures go through fast and slow movements to see what would they do next.

The Black Metal sound comes in full handy and while there aren’t growling vocals on here throughout the story, it shows that there is a lot of momentum. Of Deception, for example has a lot of the heavy blistering riffs, doomy rhythm chords, and powder keg drum patterns that makes it the perfect tone to capture the symphonic boundaries in there and the vocals again, will send chills down your spine all of it coming to the closing track, Haunted.

Dramatic Chords and Classical Horn and String Section fills the section and not to mention the riffs coming in full swing that makes it an eruptive composition while the vocals and rapid-gunfire sounds of the drums charges in before it becomes a harmonic tour de force between the instruments and Armi herself to make it a climatic sinister finale that leads the door open to see what happens next in the story.

I have listened to Disenchant the Hypocrites about four times already and it’s an explosive, soaring yet poignant EP that makes you get your seat belts buckled up for a roller-coaster ride that you will never forget the moment you listen to In Silentio Noctis’ music. So if you admire story-telling and heavy driven beats, then this EP is a must have.