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.

Friday 30 June 2023

Vesper's End (The Id, 2017)

 The Id are a truly International band, with members coming from different countries and that apparently never met in the flesh. Nevertheless, they released six albums between 2015 and 2019. They play a melody-oriented neo-prog music and if they're in this blog is because I think they know how to do it. Even if their arrangements aren't stunning new and the production is just the best a self produced band can get, they write beautiful melodies and always put emotions first and that's exactly what I like. 

There's alway a disquieting eye on The Id's cover arts.

This 20 minutes suite taken from their 2017 album "Confluence 1", is one of their best tracks, IMHO. You'll find here instrumental skills, beautiful tempo changes, catching riffs, enlightening atmospheres and, of course, well found musical themes.  The solos are perfectly performed, but they're never showy and always functional to the big picture. Another good reason to love The Id.

Wednesday 31 May 2023

Esotanc (Yesterdays, 2022)

Yesterdays are a very good prog band from Hungarian speaking minority of West Romania. This song Esotanc (meaning "This Dance") comes from their fourth album titled "Saint-Exupéry álma" and released in 2022. As most of their music, this is a clever mix of different styles, including a Yes-inspired symphonic rock, jazz-rock and folk elements. Multi-instrumentalist Bogáti-Bokor Ákos is the life and soul of Yesterdays, but all the members add their own skills and the final product is a multicoloured, unpredictable 20 minute pure prog song, including both acoustic and electric passages. 

Bogáti-Bokor Ákos is also responsible for this cover art.

Guitar solos and piano  passages, a vast choice of keyboards and Stéphanie Semeniuc's  vibrant vocals, Kecskeméti Gábor's flute and some well found electronic effects are just a few of the reasons to listen to this track (and to the rest of the album, as to that). Yesterdays really provide a rare blend of classic prog and new, original sound. Something prog rock always needs so much.

Sunday 30 April 2023

Cascate di cristallo (Celeste, 2023)

The few readers I have in this blog, already know Celeste and their master mind Ciro Perrino. If not, feel free to browse my previous reviews. The band's return in the late 2010s confrmed their skills in weaving and perfecting the sweetest and most refined melodies. This song comes from their 2023 release introducing a new and welcome feature: an entire orchestra formed by more than a dozen members and including winds, woods, strings and, of course, a piano. 

The CD cover painting is by Mara Catelani. It is perfect for what'is inside...

...and this is the LP painting by Ciro Carlo Antonio Perrino. Another beauty!

"Cascate di cristallo" (meaning "Crystal Falls") is simply perfect to me. Not only it enhances the suitably called Celestial Symphony Orchestra potential, but it includes some of the best and most inspired compositions by Ciro Perrino. The exquisite intertwinings, the elegant themes and the manifold arrangements are a treat for any musical sweet tooth. This instrumental track is not the only pearl in such a beautiful album, but it surely catched my attention on first hearing and proved itself more and more profound during the subsequent listenings. Don't miss this one, my prog friends!

Friday 31 March 2023

Funeral (Mice on Stilts, 2016)

 Let's explore something from the dark, even mourning side of prog. "Hope for A Mourning" was the second album by Mice on Stilts, the brainchild of singer, writer and guitarist Ben Morley and one of the most interesting acts from New Zealand in recent years. Sure, the sombre atmosphere of "Funeral" reminds me of some Scandinavian bands from the '90s, but there is a special, thougtful way here, both melancholy and dreamy. 

What a beautiful and inspiring cover art!

Despite the mournful titles of both the song and the album, there is less proper grief than spiritual abandon in this music, like in a  misty dawn over still waters. It's an intimate journey, a dreamlike meditation and still we're far from the minimal approach of ambient music. The melody line and the arrangements are rich and set on a slow paced crescendo that drags the listener's soul through dramatic landscapes and a growing sense of wonder. A beautiful, enriching experience.

Tuesday 28 February 2023

Time Capsule (Arena, 2022)

 This was one of the first tracks Arena  released from their "The Theory of Molecular Inheritance" album and one of the more diversified ones. The album was based on a tricky concept about a scientist able to riproduce the genius of dead people into living brains. 

Arena publish on their own Verglas label.

This is a surprising song, including both hard and melodic passages, all perfectly melt into a coherent sound. Mitchell vocals are stunning and, of corse, all the band are there to show their skills. Pure prog, folks!

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Il petalo del fiore (Greenwall, 1999)

 "Il petalo del fiore" (meaning "The Flower's Petal") is a na long suite (nearly 34 minutes) split into two tracks and six movements by the Italian act Greenwall, the brainchild of keyboard player Andrea Pavoni. It comes from the band's debut album and proves once more the equation prog = diverse, probably the only mathematics thing I perfectly understand. Keyboards are obviously the main course of this song, but if the piano driven sections are my favourite ones, I also like the way other instruments come in and draw a colourful fresco all around me. 

Mellow Records is responsible for this hidden prog jewel.

Fabio Nani's guitars are simply perfect here in both electric and acoustic moments, even where a dreamy mandolin comes in. I like the wide range of musical writing, spanning from well found (and so Italian) melodies to groovy, nearly spoken lines, not too far from the '70s singers-songwriters way. Furthermore, you'll find complex and symphonic parts along with ethereal, minimal phases. That's the perfect solution to the above equation.