Monday 30 December 2019

The Flower (Amenophis, 1983)

If you had time and kindness enough to read some of this blog's posts, you're likely to know how much I appreciate the bands that had enough guts to keep the prog flame lit up during the '80s. Amenophis did so. Not only this German band released prog albums, but they even dared to play a soft and mystic kind of symphonic rock that I certainly like but - of course- didn't assured them a successful career. This track comes from their debut album and is perfect to appreciate the delicate and varied style of Amenophis. It's a 7:30 minutes suite divided into two parts (The Appearance and Discovering The Entrance in The Shadow of A Dying Bloom), where you'll pick up a srong (and welcome) Camel influence, especially when the guitar comes in, and a very good keyboard work. 

This album was re-released on CD in 1992 by Musea.

Some of the vocal sections sound too predictable (and maybe too much Gabiel-esque) and the production is just as good as the band could afford back in 1983, but there are such beautiful, dreamy moments there that I could forgive much worse flaws. The lyrics about a mystic vision of Nature are reminiscent of the '70s, still they perfectly match with the musical mood of this trio. If you didn't know this band, I'm glad to offer in my blog a chance to get into their world (and you'll find more in my old posts).

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...

Saturday 27 April 2019

In The Dark of The Night (Ines, 1994)

Ines Fuchs is a German keyboardist and composer, gathering around her a skilled band of neo-prog influenced musicians, some of them coming from well known German bands, such as Asgard or Anyone's Daughter. This song, a favourite of mine, comes from her first abum, called "Hunting The Fox" and is a fine example of melodic, catching and still intriguing prog song. Ines plays her keys with a beautiful dynamic approach, while the rest of the band provides a liquid groove that perfectly fits the musical theme.

This album was released by "Music Is Intelligence" label.

After a sung section (Ines doesn't sing herself), the second half of "In The Dark of The Night" is a long and enthralling instrumental coda, where the guitars play an essential role. You won't find here too many tempo changes or intricate interplays, but I bet you'll like the way the instruments follow each otheron asolid path leaded by Ines and her rythm section. Enjoyable, that's the word.

Sunday 31 March 2019

Who Are You Now (Justin Hayward - John Lodge, 1975)

The Moody Blues members Justin Hayward and John Lodge released a beautiful pastoral prog album titled "Blue Jays" in 1975, during the long band's hiatus between  "Seventh Sojourn" (1972) and "Octave" (1978). I do love this record, a stunning collection of folk-based ballads and captivating melodies. "Who Are You Now"perfectly depicts the misty mood of the entire LP and in less than three minutes displays a heartbreaking range of melancholy chords and effective arrangements.

Phil Travers is a true master if you need  melancholy landscapes.

This song was written by Hayward and surely bears his most appreciated trademarks, such as the warm, autumnal sound, based on acoustic instruments and backing calm, friendly vocals. The lyrics perfectly match the music, wondering about someone the singer loved and got out of touch. A moving sketch, really.

Thursday 28 February 2019

Fonte perenne (Celeste, 2019)

Celeste released their first album in 1976 (see the post titled "Favole antiche" in this blog), a record that gained increasing reputation after its re-release in CD format, thanks to Mellow Records. The fairy, gentle and mainly acoustic style of Celeste perfectly embodies the melodic side of Italian prog and their long awaited new album, "Il risveglio del Principe" ("The Awakening of the Prince") resumes in 2019 the same charming features. "Fonte perenne" ("Perennial Source") is a good example of the delightful way Ciro Perrino, the mind behind the band, has to paint Celeste's sensitive universe.

Laura Germonio provided this beautiful artwork for Celeste. 

It's a clean musical watercolour, both vivid and delicate, flowing all around the listener's ears, exploiting a good deal of instruments such as sax, violin, cello, piano and flute, carefully arranged and beautifully blended. A very special mention goes to the keyboard sound carpet (oh, that Mellotron again!) and the delicate percussions, providing the common ground for such a diversified instrumental palette. Last but not least, Perrino's very nice voice gently outlines the main theme of the song, giving the final touch to the big picture. Believe me, this is magic. Progressive magic, that's to say.

Thursday 31 January 2019

La Dame de braise (Magnésis, 2015)

One of the most prolific bands in  the Neo-progressive galaxy and in the everchanging French national scene, Magnésis are fond of dark and Medieval atmospheres, but also of tempo changes and long compositions. This title track comes from their "La Dame de braise" album, released in 2015 and is a melodic ballad, part  of this folk-inspired concept, dealing with phantoms, unlucky love stories, wars and noble families. Nothing new, that's true, but everything here is very well done. 

A somber story of love and fire...

If Magnésis's longest tracks are sometimes a little artificial and even weak in some of their passages, this band is perfect when it comes to gentle and shorter songs. This is the case with "La Dame de braise" (meaning "The Embers Lady"), a lunar, dreamy piece of music, including a beautiful guitar solo and a long coda of burning sound effects linked to the concept story. In short, a pretty, evocative song for your collection.