Wednesday 31 January 2024

Sign of The Times (Pallas, 2023)

Pallas are like good wine: they improve with each passing year. Their December 2023 album titled "The Messenger" is a very fine piece of prog, full of energy, creativity and, last but not least, beautiful musical themes. "Sign of The Times" is the opening track and it includes all the essential features of the album: majestic riffs, tight progressions, unpredictable changes, atmospheric passages, impeccable performances, an underlying strain and a challenging plot. 

Such a beautiful cover art!

The harsh lyrics are well written and perfectly sung by Alan Reed, a singer I adore. How can I describe his voice? Last time I tried to he desagreed, but he seems to me he's like a modern Janus with two faces: an angel and a devil. And I like both. The rest of the band, of course, is also awesome and our friends from Aberdeen are a perfect clockwork, a treat for the pickiest ears. Just listen to this song and you'll be aboard the most exciting roller coaster... don't stop the ride!

Friday 29 December 2023

Rytter av dommedag (Lars Fredrik Frøislie, 2023)

 As many of you surely know, Lars Fredrik Frøislie is the keyboard man from Norwegian band Wobbler (see elsewhere in this blog) and a proud exponent of symphonic prog revival. This 16 minutes song comes from his 2023 album titled "Fire Fortellinger", meaning "Four Tales" and aptly consisting of four tracks. I chose this Rytter av dommedag (meaning "The Rider of Judgement Day") as a good specimen of Frøislie's vintage but never derivative music. 

Four tales, four images... it all falls into place!

It is, of course, an outstanding display of keyboard-based music with a helping hand from Nikolai Hængsle's bass guitar, while Frøislie also plays drums. It sure is in the wake of classical masterpieces from the '70s, but it has its own atmosphere, well balanced between classical music, folk hints, mildly jazz passages and rock flares. As everything goes through relentless changes, you can't possibly get tired by this musical whirlwind and by the beautiful themes Mr. Frøislie creates. Fairy, suspended passages introduce unexpected storms, devilish solos open on beautiful, peaceful melodies. In one word, this is prog!

Thursday 30 November 2023

Listen through The Noise (Rainburn, 2023)

Rainburn are a gifted Indian band, responsible for a modern, diversified and enjoyable eclectic prog. This track, coming from their 2023 album titled "Vignettes", featuring a new line-up, has a highly dynamic structure and a welcome King Crimson reference many of you will recognize. The rythmic weaving is thick, exciting and full of surprises, The tempo changes are perfect and all the instruments are smart and stingy. 

Fun and colourful. "Vignettes" cover art is perfect for the music inside.

I also like Vats Iyengar's vocal performace, suitably backed by the other band members. The general feeling is that of a refreshing, modern and open minded approach to prog rock. Rainburn are a worthy band to explore, as their music follows many different paths. Like ol' good prog should always do.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Trip (Maciej Meller, 2020)

Maciej Meller is a staple in Polish prog scene since the early 1990s, having been a  founding member of Quidam and being a current member of Riverside, not to mention the supergroup Meller / Gołyźniak / Duda. This stunning guitarist only released his first solo album, titled Zenith, in 2020 and I especially like this track, Trip, full of atmospheric and dreamy moods. Trip is co-written by Meller and Duda with lyrics by  Krzysztof Borek and really is a riveting track to me, combining an enthralling sung theme and a rich electronic background. 

This is the cover art for the original album released in 2020.

Some well placed tempo changes and the beautiful instrumental second half (including a slow and piercing guitar solo) grace this track and raise it to the highest level. Just a final note: Meller also released in 2021 an acoustic version of his album and there you'll find a version of Trip featuring an instrumental finale with trumpet and sax. Also beautiful, of course.

Saturday 30 September 2023

Negative Zone (Negative Zone, 2005)

The sole album by this short lived French band is among the best examples of derivative still beautiful music around. Sure, they are in love with Pink Floyd and they re-create all the Cambridge band well known moods, but how convincing and even refreshing are those 

Musea released this album in 2005.

The title track is the lomgest and most diversified one, lining up power keys, Gilmour-like guitars, atmosferic moments and psychedelic loops. And, last but not least, some good melodies. Really, it's a colourful emotional trip I strongly recommend to you all.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Another Life Not Lived (Galahad, 2022)

2022 Galahad's album "The Last Great Adventurer" was a very, very good one. And of course there were some upbeat and intricate tracks I enjoyed and still enjoy today. But even in prog rock there are momens, lyrics and songs going beyond music itself and giving you a kick inside. Take this one. A suspended, beautiful ballad the band dedicated to their late bassist Neil Pepper (who died in 2011) and dealing with pain, injustice and memory. 

I loved everything in this album, including its perfect cover art.

What makes a tribute song a great track is its capacity to get the core of a tragic loss turning a private sorrow into a universal experience. In order to do such a thing you need many things as a good theme, a suited arrangement, a delicate approach and, of course, a heartfelt vocal performance. Now Galahad put into "Another Life Not Lived" all the above and much more and they went directly into my deepest soul. This really is a great sdventure for all listeners, believe me.

Monday 31 July 2023

Al filo del abismo (Praxis, 1987)

This Mexican band released their only album in 1987. Originally called "La eternidad de lo efímero", this instrumental work was re-issued on CD seven years later by Italian label Mellow Records with a different title, simply "Praxis". Useful to know, one of the members of Praxis comes fron the Mexican well known act Iconoclasta (also present in this blog). "Al filo del abismo" is the opening track, a very lively and intriguing example of symphonic prog, even with a 80s instrumentation. 

I must admit the cover art is as intricated as most of the music inside.

At first sight, the listener is overwhelmed by the instrumental skills of the band and especially by the keyboard / guitar plots, so swift and dazzling. A further  examination will reveal the brilliant work of the rythm section and the clever exploitation of the main theme. If it is true that a different keyboard set would have improved the general effect of this song (and album), but it is also true that each era has its own sounds and some would consider that as a further reason to rediscover this forgotten work.