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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Druckfarben - Druckfarben

Canada, home of the three bands like; Max Webster, Klaatu, and Rush, have achieved cult status, but there is something that is coming out of the Great White North that deserves a lot of recognition and attention. That band is Druckfarben, a five piece band coming from the city of Toronto who’s influences ranges from; Yes, ELP, Genesis and sometimes a bit of the Pomp Rock band, Starcastle, they have got something up towards the highest mountains and screaming out for joy.

Their sole self-titled debut album released last year is one of the most must listen to albums in the Progressive Rock community and while they have a long road ahead of them, they carry the ‘70s influences on the badges and carrying the torches of Prog to the Olympic torch and lighting the flames for the older bands to give the up-and-coming bands the green light and see how they handle it the way they’ve done it and staying true to their roots.

With the thundering introduction of
ELPO featuring Troy Feener’s militant turned explosive drum solo and Ed Bernard and William Hare’s swirling guitar and keyboard work, it makes sound like something out of the sessions for Yes’ Fragile as Influenza kicks the door down with Phil Naro’s vocals kicks in as his voice resembles the sounds of Jon Anderson and Terry Luttrell as the band head into town for some heavy duty time changing boundaries that is a perfect chemistry.

One of the most surprising numbers that just completely blew me away is the 6-minute epic, Dead Play Awake. It has this dramatic yet uplifting tempo as it goes into the guitar fret work in the realms of Fripp and a soaring finale that sends you into the outer limits as a grand piano comes in quietly while Peter Murray plays some mean bass lines as he and Ed go into dueling town to see who can win in the race. Yet for all of the mind-blowing proportions, it is a centerpiece from the debut like no other.

It’s hard to believe, but this 5-piece really have done their homework assignment and got an A and received an award for best breakthrough band in the college circuit. As the last 5 tracks of the album makes it sound like it’s from 1978 to 1980 all over again, it has finally come to realization that Druckfarben are not a retro band, but a band that know their prog influences and show no sign of stopping.

The touches of Walk Away has more of the FM Radio sound quality that reminded me of the Snakes and Arrows-era of Rush while the acoustic crisp ballad of Seems So Real has a beautiful melodic structures as the lyrics deal with how hard your life is and falling down and not coming out, that what you have expected to come out of the blue is real and not fake. Nat Nayah has a catchy dance beat about survival as Sons of Anakim resembles Gentle Giant and Frank Zappa as if they had jammed together in the same room with a funky and hard rock sound as if they had teamed up with the maestro to go on the road.

The 7-minute closer, Nonchalant, sees them taking a break from the Prog and Pomp Rock sounds and going into a Middle-Eastern Folk featuring a mandolin and a fiddle to give it a warm bright sunset as Ed Bernhard takes control on three of the instruments to lend Phil a helping hand as a friend to see where he will go next. I have listened to Druckfarben’s debut album about seven times already and I’m quite impressed from what I’m hearing from this 5-piece band. Let’s see what they might have in store for us when they work on the second album.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kayak - Phantom of the Night: The Very Best of Kayak

Now while I’m not crazy about compilations and greatest hits albums it would be hard for me to put one here. Progressive Rock has been sort of the cream of the crop in Great Britain, Germany, and Italy, but it has been a different language as it carries through different parts of Europe including the Netherlands which has been to home one of the most important scenery’s of Prog and Symphonic Metal and have a huge cult fan base in their hometown and different parts of the nation to receive attention and packed houses in arenas.

The country is home to bands and artist like: Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Supersister, Focus, Within Temptation, Eskeption, Alquin, and Kayak. Yes, Kayak is still going strong since launching in 1972 by Ton Scherpenzeel and the late Pim Koopman, who passed away in 2009. With their touch of Prog, Pop, and a bit of AOR (Album Orientated Rock) in their sleeves, these songs have bits of the epic, balladry dance, and uplifting tempos that would make you take notice throughout the 40 years they have travelled on the long and winding road.

Phantom of the Night: The Very Best of Kayak is a compilation of 19 tracks that goes through the first nine albums that includes Eyewitness recorded live that give an introduction and history of Kayak’s Prog-Pop sound of the ‘70s and early ‘80s sounds of swirling organs, fantasy, single hits on the radio that would be national anthems, and giving the Netherlands and England a big surprise. It’s quite interesting that Kayak were sort of the under-rated prog sounds as if they would have given ELP a jaw dropping show that would be spectacular and mind-blowing.

All of these tracks will have some of the Prog listeners become Kayak fans from the moment they hear this. From the thumping sing-along sci-fi mini opera song,
We Are Not Amused that has a bit of a Glam Rock sound on the guitar, vocals and drums to the Medieval lukewarm crisp love song of Anne while they go full throttle on Total Loss poking fun at the Punk scene. Meanwhile, the 7-minute epic, Merlin which is half of a concept album and a centerpiece on the compilation, has a dramatic opener, touching vocals, riffing guitar lines, symphonic orchestral beauty, and out of this world keyboard sound that almost would have made this piece into a rock and roll movie as if they written the score for this.

The band always was somewhat writing about science fiction as if they were reading Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and Tolkien as well before forming Kayak. You can hear some of the story-telling pieces on ballads like the haunting
Wintertime and the dance-like melodies on Ruthless Queen, Starlight Dancer, and Phantom of the Night that is just unbelievable and wishing that you could have written lyrics like this instead of singing about leaves from falling from the trees or hanging on the sunset strip in LA.

Kayak’s music still carries Prog-Pop into another level. They have a touch of the Beatles, Klaatu, and Triumvirat all at one time. Now is this something worth listening to? Absolutely, if you love the four bands I’ve mentioned that have influenced Kayak’s music, this is a starting set to get into and enjoy the solar system ride.

Monday, June 25, 2012

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Century of Self

Perhaps a lot of recognition and showing no sign of backing down is one of the most things that happens to an up and coming band when they get a lot of recognition and word of mouth. And one of the most astounding bands to come out of Austin, Texas since launching in 1994, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead have took me by surprise and it goes to show that these guys would take the genres of alternative, punk, art, experimental, and the prog genre up a notch and give the underground scene a huge stamp of approval.

I first heard and read about the band back in the summer of 2009 when they were mentioned in the very first magazine issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog and I heard some snippets of their work and was completely blown away from not just the raw power they have brought to the soundboard and creativity, but how pummeling and spacey with a sonic structure in their own concept.

That and their sixth album,
The Century of Self, are the band’s mind-blowing spiritual journey albums to come out of the end of the noughties and their eruptive pieces ever. And while Conrad Keely, is the commander in chief of the band, he’s also an illustrator with a love of the Marvel Comic universe as of designing the cover of the album that captures an essence of the comic book world, but a tribute to the gatefold sleeve of the golden era of the 1970s.

Explosive guitar riffs, dynamic keyboard and drum sounds, and Keely’s vocals makes it a sci-fi adventure that would open the doors to set the tone on what is about to come and what journey’s you will discover when listening to this album. Take for example, the uplifting tempo Fields of Coal that goes from soft to a fast driven dreamland finale through a melodic vocalization, pumping drums, and goes into a somewhat soaring sound into the clouds into space finale that would have your jaws dropped.

Meanwhile, thumping epics like the swirling Isis Unveiled, Halycon Days, and the spooky touch on Bells of Creation are somewhat like a mini-opera that Conrad himself had wrote as if he was writing them as a graphic novel for different characters set in an alternate universe that go into darker territories that are filled with tension and make it explosive and jump in different areas that the listener would leap out of their seat and take notice of different parts of the compositions.

Elsewhere, the two-part Insatiable that goes into this grand piano waltz that sounds like something out of the sessions of Radiohead’s OK Computer as Conrad sings so beautifully that you almost couldn’t let go of. Then on part two, after the alternative rock sounds of Ascending and the Yes-like moogy classical chambers of An August Theme that segues into the finale, it goes back into the waltz, but it becomes a finale that goes walking into the yellow brick road letting everyone know that it’s okay and it’s time to move on.

The Century of Self is an amusing album that the Trail of Dead had put out back in 2009 and had some of the critics and fans dividing a line in the sand to decide if they should go back to their alternative roots or not, but all in all this a must listen to record that they have brought to the table.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fuzzy Duck - Fuzzy Duck

Formed in England back in 1970, Fuzzy Duck was a combination of Heavy Rock music and filling in the sounds of the Mark II-era of Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, and Uriah Heep in their early days filling with smokin’ guitar licks, swooshing organ sounds, and have a bit of funk in them as well with a bit of the Blues Rock influences in there. It was 1971 and along with the Norman Haines Band’s Den of Iniquity, the band’s sole self-titled debut album, released on the MAM label and now reissued first on Repertoire Records and now with Esoteric Recordings, proves that you can really have a sense of humor and have fun.

While they carry a touch of proto-prog and metal in their belt, they also came from different bands including; Tucky Buzzard, Andromeda, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and The Five Day Week Straw People and showed that even though they weren’t about to go into the same route that ELP was doing during that time period, they can do a psychedelic jam session and have a huge freak-out party from the evening until dawn. And while they suddenly disbanded mysteriously, it would have been great to see what they would have done next if they haven’t broken up.

Along with other obscure albums including Marsupilami’s
Arena and Norman Haines Band’s Den of Iniquity, this album is still going up for a rocket price on the vinyl format from online stores in prog sites and on eBay for that one lucky fan to spend either $678 or $1,200 to buy the album in its mint condition and cherish it and pass the torch for the younger person to understand about real good music. With its dynamite introduction on Time Will Be Your Doctor that kicks the album off and the soaring adventures on the organ for Mrs. Prout, the music is more of a time travelling adventure and very calming.

There’s also a touch of Blonde on Blonde’s Rebirth on Just Look Around You and the haunting touches of the wah-wah guitar rhythm on Afternoon Out that would have made listeners take notice of them and spread word-of-mouth about them. Then it’s Organ and Bass line sound going into the Funky Blues ‘70s town by going on the road and enjoying the trip on Country Boy while the mellowing soar of Jon Lord’s sound and Ritchie Blackmore in there as if they could have helped the band out on the boogie rocker, More Than I Am.

With a bit of Cressida and Gracious in there on the uplifting 6-minute piece In Our Time, the closing quackiness of A Word From Big D in which someone using the Duck sound makes it as if Disney’s Donald Duck was rapping as the band go boogie for a humoristic funky finale. The bonus tracks which are A & B side singles have a bit of Country, Blues, Hard, and Purple.

Double Time Woman has a crunchy blues hard rock attack mode that is jumpy while the Country tinged celebration featuring the brass section on Big Brass Band makes it a perfect FM hit single. With the fast-sped rocking touches ode to Deep Purple and Ian Gillian on One More Hour and No Name Face, shows that the band pay tribute to them and would give them a pat on the back. Even though its ahead of it’s time, Fuzzy Duck’s debut album is must have collector’s item and deserves to be recommended through the hidden treasures of proto-prog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

When it was announced that Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt were going to work together on collaboration back in 2010, it seemed like it made perfect sense. Coming from two bands in the realms of Porcupine Tree and Opeth in the Prog world working on something that was special, beautiful, disturbing, and yet breathtaking at times as if they were childhood friends they hadn’t seen each other for about 20 years and now reunited to work on something that was out of a gothic fairy tale in the realms of Storm Corrosion.

It’s one of the most twisted, strange, avant-garde, and yet compelling albums to come out this year along with a cover that would have make your jaws drop in awe for what they have done. Meaning, what they have given us, is a soundtrack that could have been done for the horror genre and knowing that they could have written this as a score for the 2004 film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and give it a bone-chilling soundtrack that would have made Dario Argento very happy for.

From the beginning, middle, and end, Storm Corrosion’s sole self-titled debut album, works with complete perfection and influences coming right at you. Opener
Drag Ropes kicks the album off with something gone wrong of making you realize that you are inside the mind of a crazy person locked up in an insane asylum. With its lushful string quartet going into a dark and territorial place and Mikael’s voice sending chills down your spine, adds the tension and realizing there is no way out of the house. Not to mention the homage to Queen’s The Prophet’s Song mid-section vocal arrangement in which is out of this world.

Then we come to the 10-minute title track, starts with this lukewarm acoustic fingerpicking crisp beauty that has melodic structures and touching lyrical boundaries and then it becomes a massive haywire new age sound between the strings and the guitar as they go into this shrieking nightmarish screaming sound becoming the sound of death as it goes back into the calm after the storm from Mr. Wilson’s vocals to let the listener know that everything’s okay.

Evil is everything that makes it a sinister and powerful word and the piece Hag is one of them. Featuring guitar, electric piano, and the mellotron, goes into a deeper dark cavernous cave as they pay tribute to Graham Bond’s Love is the Law as a little help from Gavin Harrison comes kicking the door down with a powerful drum work as he’s letting Steven know that even though Porcupine Tree is taking a long vacation, he still got his back and adding a touch of the groceries from the early Crimson in the 1970 period.

As Happy feels like a calm-like spooky acid folk finale, the listener thinks that album is over and done with, well they were wrong. Lock Howl goes into the first two minutes as a ‘70s rock format and then it goes into soaring mellotron boogie featuring a clapping rhythm section as it switches seats into an Avant-Garde territorial momentum that takes the person into a different section of musical sections to see where the note in the seat is going to land on.

Then we come to closer, Ljudet Innan as Mikael pays tribute to Thom Yorke that just took me by surprise in a way he sings along with the Rhodes as it goes into an atmospheric music sound from the mellotron going into a new dream of beauty and wonder that goes into the sound of early Pink Floyd and brings up this bluesy guitar work and vocals from Steven Wilson comes in to close the piece up.

After you have listened to album, you have just embarked on a dark and haunting journey. I have listened to this about five times and I’m still surprised and blown away on how Storm Corrosion has done it. Even though it will have mixed opinions from the Prog community, but what Wilson and Akerfeldt have brought to the table is like finding a lost diamond in the Egyptian sand.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Knifeworld - Buried Alone: Tales of Crushing Defeat

Kavus Torabi, who looks like a mad scientist who created Frankenstein, has a strong influential background in the Rock in Opposition and the Prog sound in the realms of: Henry Cow, Gong, Gentle Giant, Magma, White Noise and the Canterbury trio, Egg. That and his new band Knifeworld, which launched back ten years ago a solo project and now as a band, shows not just his obsession with the prog sound, but pushing the envelope with a mighty battering ram that would send a twisted wave like no other.

Now if King Crimson had teamed up with a band and taken them on the road back in the 1980s during the Three of a Perfect Pair tour and headlining them would be the Cardiacs, it would have been a perfect match made in twisted paradise. And Knifeworld’s debut album
Buried Alone – Tales of Crushing Defeat released on the Believer’s Roast back in 2009, is one hell of a debut that they have released not just on the prog public, but showing the influences with an attitude and would have given Tim Smith a huge smile in his face and have Karvus carrying the Cardiacs torch.

The scenery of the Future with the mellotron is very sinister and terrifying on the issues dealing with the big corporations on taking over and getting out of there with The Money Shot as they channel the Lizard-era of King Crimson on the Alternative Pronk (Prog-Punk) opener Singled Out for Battery goes into the pump out rock mode with unbelievable results that would send a shiver down your spine wanting more going into the outer limits of space and time.

Corpses Feeding Underground is a touch of ‘60s psychedelia and a touch of the saxes tooting and guitar chords dueling with the sax playing both at the same time making it very jumpy while The Wretched Fathoms sees Kavus and his comrades go into the Heavy Metal road. You could tell that Knifeworld have a huge amount of humor in them and adding the hard rock genre on the second track, makes it very fun and sometimes head banging with a funny touch.

An Arrival, has this touch of a lullaby gone wrong in an acid folk format that is very mystic and makes you hide in the covers as they go back into the Alternative Pronk in-your-face attitude on Pissed Up on Brakefluid to give it a big roar on the motorcycle riding on the road into the night-like sky. But don’t say that Knifeworld do epics, they do on the 8-minute sci-fi story-telling adventure finale on Me to the Future of World.

Filled with Organs, Synths, Fripp-guitar like sounds, and bass lines and a female vocal, makes it perfect that has a lot of jaw dropping moments of “what the hell did they just do?” Knowing that they pay tribute to earlier Crimson meets Yes and staying true to the golden era of the ‘70s. Knifeworld have a good start and if you want proof, just ask snooker champion Steve “Interesting” Davis.