Friday, 29 November 2019

Geoffroy (Emeraude, 1981)

If you like well written mellow prog, this French band is definitely for you. And as I have to choose just one song from their little repertoire, here you are Geoffroy, a 17 minutes song with some beautiful changes and strong folk roots. The Medieval smell of this track and its acoustic passages did not go unnoticed back in 1981 and Emeraude's debut album, intended for a few local fans, was re-released in 1994, then in 2014. First of all, the musical themes are very good, ballad-like melodies and yet richly finished. 

Emeraude: a Medieval way to prog...

In tis folk influenced song, there are also many spacey keyboards and even a Gilmour-esque guitar finale, and maybe some will find this final section a little too long, but it's so sweet and packed with magic that I surely like the whole composition. The lyrics about knights and mystic quests perfectly fit with Emeraude's music, so that this can be considered just another hidden gem from the most difficult decade of progressive rock.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Ember (Haze, 1985)

Haze are one of those brave bands fighting the Prog Resistance Wars durind the early '80s and finally allowing our favourite genre to survive. Useless to say, I'm partial to such a bunch of musical heroes, that's why I always listen with pleasure to this Sheffield based act. As this song will testify, Haze's prog has an excellent rock texture on which they build up a solid and elegant music despite the low budget production of their early works. "The Ember" has the genuine taste of those border crossing years, mixing the classic progressive rock sonds with the new wave ones. 

This is the original 1985 EP's cover art. It was re-released on
CD as "C'est la Vie / The Ember".

The final result is definitely anchored on the rocky solid ground, but you'll finde there the right amount of lightness and melodic inspiration you expect from a neo-prog band (and neo-prog is not a reductive term in this blog!). It is amazing how these musicians, that only released two EPs during their roaring days (their first studio album came out in a 2013 reunion) atill sound so fresh and punchy...

Monday, 30 September 2019

Seventh Hell (Ars Nova, 2009)

This track by the Japanese band Ars Nova is a treat for those into powerful and dynamic symphonic rock. The Seventh Hell album (also titled La Vénus Endormie on the French market) was a turning point in this act's career, marking a substancial enhancement of their line up, adding new players to the original female trio, even if only the dummer Hazimo was credited as an official  member. This opening and title track is simply bombastic, a huge wall of sound where an apparent chaos is perfectly conducted and finalized to build up a well written and shapely instrumental composition. 

This cover art belongs to the French edition of the album.
Apparently, it seemed too explicit for the international market.

Two main themes and several pleasant interludes follow one another and lead the listener through a musical tour de force. All players show their skills, but no one impose herself (or himself). That's saying something, expecially in the prog rock genre! A moderate electronic touch supplements the traditional paraphernalia of a proper prog band. Of course, Keiko Kumagai shows once more her compositional skills and her keyboards wisely combine the individual sounds into an artistic unity. 

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Washed Away (Edison's Children, 2019)

This is the only song included in Edison's Children's fourth CD titled "The Disturbance Fields". It's a very long suite (some 68 minutes) divided into 14 movements and several sub-movements too. Still, like most of this band's songs, it's as fresh as a mountain spring. Edison's Children came out with their new release in 2019 just in time to take their own part of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary celebrations and with a very good reason, as Rick Armstrong, the son of Neil, plays guitars and even bass guiitars on many movements here. Of course, Edison's Children is mainly the brainchild of Marillion's bassist Pete Trewavas and his American friend Eric Blackwood, a multi-instrumentalist a special FX Technician in many films and TV shows. As we already knew, both Eric and Pete are in love with the most dramatic and sci-fi oriented side of Pink Floyd and this is the background sound you'll find in "Whashed Away".

Warning: an emotional hurricane is approaching!

But there's more than this. Each movement has its own pace and mood, describing the approaching, the fury and the aftermath of a natural disaster. And after all the band should know about that, having suffered both hurricane and earthquake during their previous studio album sessions. Dark and majestic, this suite lines up arcane electronic movements, fresh acoustic ballads and rockier passages, all well written and performed. Changes and solos are each in its right place and the listener never gets bored, despite the track's huge duration time. If you like spacey moods, sweet melodies and sharp riffs, listen to this...

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Sad Rain (Anekdoten, 1993)

Even if Swedish proggers Anekdoten will create more sophisticated tracks during their career, I'm fond of this early track (available as a bonus track in a re-release of Vernod and also remixed in the band's compilation Chapters, a real milestone in their musical evolution. You'll find here both Crimsonian sounds (Anekdoten were practically born as a KC cover band) and Scandinavian melancholy. 

An arcane cover art, isn't it?

These will remain two pillars of Anekdoten's distinctive sound, along with other elements that these musician will add during the years. Here you can enjoy soft passages, stronng walls of sound, beautiful melodies and sharp riffs in an unpredictable and well found pattern. That's prog, babies!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

All Alone (Final Conflict, 1992)

Final Conflict have a very smart name. Because melodic prog always include a fierce battle between an accessible and recognizable way to prog and the quest for a personal style. These English musicians surely were hugely influenced by Fish era Marillion (is it a deadly sin? We all were...), but they also had two very good singers, namely Brian Donkin and Andy Lawton, and they created their own version of highly emotional prog.

I like this artwork by Brian Picken... that reminds me of something! 

Dreamy guitars and keyboard carpets are never too showy, but strongly effective, as the whole band tend to the same (and never too easy) target: that is to put in music their inner world. "All Alone", coming from the album "Quest", is a good example of such a visceral approach: no virtuosity, no intricate interplays, no special effects of any kind. Just the essence of music: pure pathos. And a beautiful melody, moreover...

Friday, 31 May 2019

Ättestupan (Sinkadus, 1997)

This Swedish band belongs to the best Skandinavian prog tradition, picking up some of the musical elements from the '70s masters and adding their own personality to their rich pot. Ättestupan (meaning Precipice) is the closing track from the band's debut album "Aurum Nostrum" released in 1997 and displays a good deal of their highlights. First of all, the fluid sequence of tempos, ranging between calm and introspective moments to frantic rock or jazzy interplays, via a few majestic largos.

"Aurum Nostrum" features  four long tracks. I like all of them.

Electric and acoustic instruments build up an everchanging and solid piece of music, where every bit of sound finds its right place into the great picture. The sung parts (in Swedish) by Linda Johansson and Rickard Bistrom are also good, especially the female ones, which add a folkish touch here and there. And after all, as I said before, variety is the strongest point of Ättestupan (and of Sinkadus best songs), even if such a diverse inspiration requires both control and instrumental skills. Just listen and tell me if these musicians have them or not...