Following on from a debut album, Frequencies Of Day And Night, which was made available as a free
download on Aurovine, the band, Nth Ascension, have recently released album No
2, Ascension Of Kings. The music on
the debut album, released in 2011, had been likened to such bands as Grey Lady
Down, Arena and Pallas.
The band, when the 2014 album, Ascension Of Kings was recorded, was a 5 piece unit comprising
Martin Walker (guitars), Gavin Walker (bass), Craig Walker (drums, percussion),
Alan “Spud” Taylor (vocals) and Daniel Treece Birch (keyboards). Unless there
is a huge coincidence in the names, I might hazard a guess that the first 3
band members might be related.
The album, Ascension
of Kings, is an 8 track release with a total running time of around 57
minutes. The final track, “Vision,” is the longest track at 18:44 minutes and
track 2, “Return Of The King” is the shortest at under 4 minutes (3:44). Tracks
4, 5 and 6, although separate, form parts of a trilogy, with “Overture,” “Realm
With A Soul” and “Seventh Rider” being subtitled Clanaan Parts 1, 2 and 3
“Fourth Kingdom” (6:21), the opening track on Ascension Of Kings, starts with a little
soundscape with wind whistling, but quickly moves into some excellent work on
the drums and bass and a little hook being played on the guitar. The feeling of
the track is reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and the guitar riff, and drum/bass powerhouse
hinted at a subdued Black Sabbath. This is an excellent track that moves along
with a feeling of aggression bubbling just under the surface, but the great
achievement is that this “hidden” aggression is controlled and never allowed to
“escape,” which results in a very classy piece of work to open the album. In
the latter half of the track, the keyboards are allowed some time in the
spotlight and this just adds the perfect finishing touch.
Tracks 4, 5 and 6, “Overture” (6:08), “Realm With A Soul”
(3:51) and “Seventh Rider” (4:00), as mentioned earlier form the Clanaan
Trilogy. “Overture” is the scene setter with a superb soundscape being “painted.”
The sound builds with keyboards playing a subtle little theme, with synths
adding flourishes now and again. An almost choral effect is generated and the
listener is left to use their imagination as to what they think is happening.
At around the 2:30 minute mark the drums enter and the track moves up a gear.
The simple theme is repeated, morphed slightly and then returns, all the while
emanating waves of magnificence. As the music moves into “Realm With A Soul,”
it initially seems to be setting a darker style piece of work, but with a
sudden synth flourish, an acoustic guitar takes up the reins and is joined by
some very gentle delicate vocals. This is a passage of great harmonizing with
some superb synth fills in the background. The final part of the trilogy,
“Seventh Rider,” bucks the general trend of multi-sectioned tracks by refusing
to become a full blooded reprise of the early theme, and instead makes the
third part a thing of delicate beauty. Some superb playing with excellent
guitar flourishes makes the final part of the trilogy little short of stunning.
Increasing intensity builds the music before the guitar theme reappears. These
three tracks flow together so well and show that Nth Ascension have the writing
ability and instrumental techniques to become one of the bigger players in the
world of progressive music.
The final, and longest, track, “Visions” (18:44) once
more starts off by setting a barren, sparse scenario, but without any warning,
the track abruptly changes to a full band workout. This is a track that
initially drives along with touches of light and dark and a powerful vocal.
Slight touches of the metronomic drumming style appear, but the excellence of
the music refuses to let the track flounder on this. From around the 6 minute
mark there is a long instrumental section, driving guitars, soaring keyboards
and synths and amazingly solid power being generated from the drum/bass duo. A
more acoustic passage is escorted around the 11:30 minute mark, just prior to
the reappearance of the vocals at 12:00 minutes. Another 30 seconds and there
is more guitar work with a “wind” in the background, and this continues to wash
along taking the track on an elongated exit. A louder vocal kicks back in
around the 17 minute point as the albums second tour-de-force is allowed to
slowly fade into nothingness.
I always look upon my reviewing as a chance to come across
some excellent new material. Reviews for well-known bands are great, but one is
aware of the standing of the band and to some extent, this “colors” the
expectation. Once in a while, a new name just nails it and literally blows you
away. Ascension of Kings by Nth
Ascension, is just such an album, where from the word go, you are pulled into
the places the band want you to be and treated to an amazing statement of
musical skills, each track seeming to take you further into their world. The
advice is again simple, you should clear a small space on your CD shelf, as I
can guarantee, with close to 100% certainty, that once Ascension Of Kings has been heard, you will immediately part with
the necessary shiny coins to allow you to own it.
Tracks: Fourth Kingdom, The Clanaan Trilogy, Vision Tracks: Fourth Kingdom Return Of The King Strange Dreams Overture (Clanaan Pt 1) Realm With A Soul (Clanaan Pt 2) Seventh Rider (Clanaan Pt 3) Weight Of The World Vision
London, UK - 'Secrets of Angels' is the eagerly anticipated new album from UK rock ensemble Karnataka. Featuring eight brand new tracks and showcasing a more dynamic and symphonic direction, the new album propels the band to powerful and majestic new highs. Recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios and Quadra Studios in London the new album explores themes from despair, anguish and the futility of war to love across cultural divides and culminates in the 21-minute opus and epic title track, “Secrets of Angels”. The music was written over a period of two years following on from the band's last tours in 2012. The new tracks showcase a more dynamic and symphonic direction.
The album embraces several interlinked themes - temptation, lust, secrets, darkness, division and betrayal but with a constant underlying message of searching for an inner strength, to battle through when hope is lost or emotions are at their weakest, 'to step free from shadows cast'…. a sense of defiance that always wins through. Says bassist Ian Jones, “There are threads running through the album. The title track 'Secrets of Angels' has a theme of war through the ages – the futility of war – told through the eyes of two people. The despair and anguish experienced. 'Secrets of Angels' refers to the secrets a person takes to the grave… 'Road To Cairo' is a love letter to Egypt as a country but it also has a personal theme about love across religious and cultural divides. ‘Forbidden Dreams’ is about temptation and passion. ‘Poison Ivy’ is about betrayal, anger, danger...
The album features guest appearances from Nightwish's Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes and whistles, one of Ireland's top young harpists Seána Davey and a string section from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Karnataka rose to the forefront of the female-fronted symphonic progressive rock scene with the release of their landmark album 'Delicate Flame of Desire'. Their follow up and critically acclaimed album 'The Gathering Light' won best International Album at the World Prog awards.
The band features an international line up of world class musicians. The beautiful voice of enigmatic lead singer Hayley Griffiths (Riverdance, Lord Of The Dance), the virtuoso fretwork of Italian guitarist Enrico Pinna, the melodic driving bass of Ian Jones, the innovative and symphonic orchestrations of Turkish keyboard player Cagri Tozluoglu all powerfully driven forward by the dynamic drumming of French sticks man Jimmy Pallagrosi. Together they create a beautiful tapestry of sound that transcends musical boundaries and showcases the band‘s sublime songwriting and musicianship all of which have won plaudits from Radio 2's Bob Harris, Rick Wakeman and many others.
The band's powerful live performances have entranced and captivated audiences across the UK, USA and European mainland and also seen them perform alongside prestigious artists such as Robert Plant and Porcupine Tree. Karnataka will be launching the album with a full UK tour in March 2015.
Road To Cairo
Because of You
Feels Like Home
Secrets of Angels
In closing Ian has this to impart, “We hope you enjoy listening to the new album as much as we enjoyed making it. Every Karnataka album is a labour of love and 'Secrets Of Angels' is no exception. We’re very proud of our new creation – time to let it loose! We've explored some darker themes in the new album… temptation, lust, secrets, darkness, division and borders and betrayal but also war… we're all living in a time of constant war… many experience the loss and anguish first hand… for others it has become a white noise constantly in the background of our lives. Writing about war is a sensitive and difficult issue – the temptation is not to try… but we didn’t feel we could ignore it. The title track 'Secrets of Angels' is about the futility of war - the anguish and despair – war through the centuries seen through the eyes of two people. A repeating theme is division and borders… both personal and cultural – another theme that is touching many today.”
SECRETS OF ANGELS TOUR 2015
Feb 27 Bury The Met Theatre
Feb 28 Lowdham Hall
March 7 Derby Flowerpot
March 8 Bilston Robin 2
March 13 Edinburgh The Voodoo Rooms
March 14 Chesterfield Classic Rock Society
March 20 Bristol BierKeller
March 21 Worcester Huntingdon Hall
March 22nd Leamington Spa (special guests of Arena)
March 26th Norwich Arts Centre
March 27th Milton Keynes The Stables
March 29th Southampton The Brook
April 12th Swansea The Scene
April 17th Leicester Y Theatre
May 9th London Islington Assembly Hall
release arrived on my desk a short while ago for review, but I was already
aware of the band, Kaukasus, and indeed, had already aired a couple of tracks of
‘I’ on my radio show. The band was
initially formed as an experimental project into the Krautrock style of music,
but evolved into modern, dark, Nordic progressive rock, containing subtle, and
sometimes, not so subtle hints at Krautrock, Art Rock and World Music.
Influences have been drawn from such diverse bands as Japan, Genesis and Can,
to name only a few.
Kaukasus comprises Ketil Vestrum Einarson (alto/soprano
flutes, tenor horn, treated flute, hulusi, electric piano and EWI synthesizer),
Rhys Marsh (voices, electric guitar, acoustic piano, bass guitar, Fender
Rhodes, mellotron, drum machine and pedal steel guitar) and Mattias Olsen
(drums, percussion, mellotron, orchestron, moog Taurus, VCS3 and Mother Modular
System, baritone guitar and bass marimba). The three musicians are very well
known and respected progressive musicians, Ketil as part of Jaga Jazzist and
Motorpsycho, Rhys as part of Autumn Ghost and Opium Cartel and Mattias as part
of Anglagard and White Willow.
a 7 track release with a total playing time of around 47 minutes. Track 5,
“Reptilian,” is the longest on offer at 9:10 minutes, with track 6, “The
Witness” being the shortest at just over 4 minutes (4:11).
The opening track to the album, ‘I’, “The Ending of the Open Sky” (5:34) has some very atmospheric
flute as an introduction, together with some synths in the background. The drums
then enter and some breathy vocals before there is a great riff on the guitar.
Rhys vocals are amazing, so clear and powerful and riding high over the
background. The drums continue to underpin the track and drive the music along.
Around the 2:30 minute mark there is a little passage that almost enters the
discordant with the sax playing but the general feeling of excellence is
maintained. There is then a return to the flute led passage and back to the
vocals by Rhys. There is then a little bit of double tracking on the vocals,
the drumming by Matthias is superb throughout the track and the flute, and
saxophones, provided by Ketil are excellent. Around the 5 minute mark the
vocals and the drumming disappear and an atmospheric soundscape takes the track
Track 2, “Lift The Memory” (8:53) sees Matthias’ drumming
providing the start point for the first 30 seconds before the track bursts into
life. Rhys vocals are again clear and powerful and the lyrics are easily
followed. Around 2:30 minutes there is a total change with the instruments
dropping away and the track then moves into a very jazzy veined section powered
by the drums and Rhys vocals continue to drive the track along. This track is
certainly one that conjures up thoughts of David Sylvian (especially when he
recorded as Rain Tree Crow). The sound that these 3 musicians can generate is
excellent. This track has quiet passages, but every so often, it seems to throw
in some “killer” hooks. The breathy whispered lyrics, which are just about understandable
at points adds to the atmosphere. Around the 5 minute point there is an aural
soundscape which takes over with a plaintive passage and a synth that enters
and leaves in the background. This is a simply stunning section of a
magnificent track. By 6:30 minutes, the track is into some heavy riffing and
then into the main theme again before the track takes its leave with a gentle
fadeout for the last minute or so.
“Stillness Of Time” (5:57) starts with the piano, bass
and terrific drums with Rhys voice over everything. There is very simple
drumming with synths appearing initially and then the power kicks in with a
heavier, almost muddied, background. A return to the sparse drumming, which
also conjures up the sound a train generates, and the piano, heralds the return
of the vocals. Around 3:30 minutes there is a terrific synth passage which
drifts into a gentle soundscape. Atmospheric is a word that comes to mind
frequently and this soundscape takes the track out with some extraneous sounds
away in the background.
“Starlit Motion” (5:21) is a synth led haunting melody,
with the synth “painting” a scenario which seems very bleak, until another
synth can be heard bubbling away underneath and this is soon joined by some
superb flute from Ketil. The sound is very reminiscent of the Snow Goose era Camel. Ketil continues to
push the track along before more synths build up a melody again, again joined
by the flute and the feeling is that of very early Kraftwerk territory. This is
the type of instrumental that pulls the listener deep into the track and
demands that they hang around to enjoy everything the track has to offer.
“Reptilian” (9:10) is the longest track on the album and
starts in a sort of Eastern style which merges into drums and saxophone prior
to the entry of the vocals by Rhys, which moves from channel to channel on
alternate lines. Synths carry the track along with more Mattias magic on the
drums and the sound builds into a mélange of Eastern bits and pieces. Breathy,
almost inaudible lyrics paint another excellent soundscape before the track
builds up again and into the mélange mentioned earlier. The shift in the use of
percussion in different areas is stunning in its simplicity. Guitars, from
Rhys, help to build the atmosphere in the track. If there is one area that is
slightly disappointing with this particular track, it is the very repetitive
vocalization which can “drag” a little. From 7:30 minutes, there is the setting
of another haunting aural soundscape which escorts the track out.
The penultimate track, “The Witness” (4:18), is the
shortest track and starts with guitar and flute with the synth adding little
flourishes. The deep, clear vocals provided by Rhys explain the tale of the
witness and the addition of a pedal steel guitar passage adds another level to
the track. The feeling within “The Witness” is that of a sparse barren
scenario, but at just over 4 minutes, it appears close to perfection.
“The Skies Give Meaning” (8:06) is another chunk of
haunting atmospherics, with flute, drums and percussion all dovetailing into
place. The track slowly builds with layers appearing and disappearing until
around 3:30 minutes when a “cloak of heaviness” descends. This time, Rhys voice
seems to be in a battle with the instruments to determine the victor.
“Reptilian,” as mentioned, was a little disappointing. “The Witness” turned
that around into near perfection leaving the final track a lot to do to keep
the flow going, but unfortunately for some reason, it misses the bull’s-eye.
This last track just seems to lack the “je ne sais quoi” that was apparent in
most of the earlier tracks.
Despite the bit of a letdown with the final track, this
is a superb album. Very few albums can claim to be “perfect” throughout, apart
from some Greatest Hit albums, and ‘I’
is no exception. ‘I’ needs to be
listened to several times to fully appreciate what these 3 musicians have
achieved. Both stickers appear on the cover of the Kaukasus album, “One to Buy”
and “The Experience will last Forever” and my simple advice on ‘I’ is “get out there and buy this album,”
settle into a comfortable chair and let the stunning artistry that is ‘I’I
wash over you.
Tracks: Lift The Memory, Starlit Motion, The Witness
Tracks: The Ending Of The Open Sky Lift The Memory In The Stillness of Time Starlit Motion Reptilian The Witness The Skies Give Meaning
Milan, Italy – Italy's Fading Records/AltrOck will be releasing the highly anticipated second album by the Milan-based band Not a Good Sign, who acquired a worldwide following thanks to their catchy, dynamic, dystopian versions of prog-rock merged with pure rock. The new album is titled “From a Distance,” and in these tracks many will recognize the 'old school' Prog from the '70s, but in a modern key, with a pinch of hard-rock and psych. Resonant vocal melodies and lyrics complete the gloomy but colorful imagery of the band.
Says Not a Good Sign, “For every band, a second record is a great achievement and at the same time an occasion to focus on past experience and visions. We expect we'll satisfy all the people who enjoyed our first work and we hope to gain new fans, even amongst people who don’t like progressive rock.”
Not a Good Sign are proud and full of hope. Their second release, “From a Distance”, follows up where their 2013 self-titled debut album left off. Released, like their first work, by Fading Records/AltrOck, one of the best known and most appreciated Italian record labels, priding itself on the innovative quality of its products, “From a Distance” starts from the best parts of its predecessor and presents new developments and solutions. The Milan-based band, created in 2011 by Paolo “Ske” Botta and Francesco Zago (Yugen) along with producer Marcello Marinone, has a renewed line-up. During the February 28th album presentation, Not a Good Sign introduced to the fans their new guitarist Gian Marco Trevisan, replacing founding member Zago who left the band after the recording of “From a Distance.”
Not a Good Sign began as a project by AltrOck and some members of bands signed to the label. Marcello Marinone, Paolo “Ske” Botta and Francesco Zago, after a successful collaboration in Yugen and Ske, propose a new blend of their musical attitudes. The result is an ominous, fascinating sound melting vintage keyboards, powerful guitars and voice, besides ethereal and autumn nuances, supported by a compelling rhythmic drive. In 2011 Botta and Zago began to write the music, and Zago provided the lyrics too. Soon G. Guidi Colombi and Alessio Calandriello, from La Coscienza di Zeno, joined the band.The drummer Martino Malacrida completed the line-up in 2012. Alessandro Cassani joined the band in 2013 after the release of the first album.
Different from the classics in the progressive genre, “From a Distance” doesn't feature long suites, being instead limited to ten songs of medium length in which various souls merge – from the most melodic to the hardest. One of the aspects that makes Not a Good Sign stand out is their new interpretation of the progressive rock musical language, often labelled as unable to renovate itself. “We are unable to consider Not a Good Sign simply a creature of its time: our music features too many references to the 1970s – the golden age of progressive. At the same time, there are a lot of much more recent references, particularly for what concerns the production; some of them even stray from rock. Our originality is in a honest approach, derived on one side from the present days on the other from the memory of an unforgettable period in music history.”
The five-piece is supported by Maestro Maurizio Fasoli (Yugen) on the piano, Eleonora Grampa on oboe and English horn, Jacopo Costa on glockenspiel and vibraphone, and Gian Marco Trevisan on guitar. “The band, on 'From a Distance', is more mature, more aware, and its vision is clearer and easier to understand. There is a deeper melodic research that highlights the shadow play. The guest musicians and their instruments enrich the band’s sound and occasionally take center stage.” Not a Good Sign also filmed a clip for “Flying Over Cities”, a video highlighting and strengthening the contrast between the dystopian lyrics and the musical dynamism.
After the February 28th showcase, the band will perform on the following dates:
March 1st – Arlecchino Club (Vedano Olona – Varese); March 2nd – Live Unplugged Radio Lombardia; March 13th – Floyd (Legnano – Milan); March 27th – Musicolepsia (Melegnano – Milan); May 29th – live unplugged Radio Cernusco Stereo; August 20th – Crescendo Festival (St. Palais sur Mer, France).
“From a Distance” studio personnel:
Paolo “Ske” Botta, keyboards
Alessio Calandriello, vocals
Alessandro Cassani, bass
Martino Malacrida, drums
Francesco Zago, guitars
Maurizio Fasoli (Yugen), grand piano
Eleonora Grampa, English horn/oboe
Jacopo Costa, vibraphone/glockenspiel
Live 2015 line-up:
Paolo “Ske” Botta, keyboards
Alessio Calandriello, vocals
Alessandro Cassani, bass
Martino Malacrida, drums
Gian Marco Trevisan, guitars
I am very aware of the existence of the band, Gong, especially having reviewed
Steve Hillage releases as Steve was a member of the band in the early days.
What I was not aware of was the fact that the band is still on the go. I See You is a new release and makes the
number of studio albums released by Gong now reach 23, from the debut album in
1969, Magic Brother, to the
previously issued release, 2032, out
This new album, I
See You, will delight the die-hard fans of the band, Gong, but the
information also recently released on the website will have been devastating.
Original member, Daevid Allen, who contributes gliss guitar and vocals, had indicated
that he had a terminal illness with only months remaining and just passed on
The band for the recording of I See You comprises Daevid Allen, Orlando Allen (drums, vocals),
Dave Sturt (bass, computer samples), Kavus Torabi (neoprog smart guitar), Fabio
Golfetti (guitars) and Ian East (saxophone, flute). Kavus Torabi is also a
member of the band Knifeworld, and also joining as guests on the album are
Gilli Smyth (sprinkled space whisper) and Mark Robson (keyboards).
See You is a 12 track album with a total playing time of around
63 minutes, with consecutive tracks, numbers 10 and 11, “A Brew Of Special Tea”
and “Thank You,” being the shortest, and longest, at 1:22 minutes and 10:35
minutes respectively. An interesting aside is that the members of the band were
recording in different places, Australia, Brazil, Israel and the UK, and then
the results seamlessly merged to produce the 12 tracks on offer.
The opening, and title, track, “I See You” (3:24) opens
with some spoken word passages and a distinct jazzy feel to the music. The
vocals put me in mind of the style of David Byrne (Talking Heads) and the track
merges horns, guitars and synth swirls in a fairly pleasant, in unremarkable,
manner. This is an easy going track to set the album in motion.
“Occupy” (2:51) almost shouts out “King Crimson,” with
some frenetic horn work and sudden unexpected time changes which certainly kept
this listener on his toes. As the track moves into its fade-out sequence, it is
awash with Gilmour/Floydian style sounds.
Track 3, “When God Shakes Hands With The Devil” (5:36)
has almost rap-like vocals and the excellent drumming, guitars and flute
contribute to a very interesting track.
“The Eternal Wheel Spins” (7:07) has a soft spoken intro
by Gilli and then proceeds to drive along in a manner not unlike an in-form
Hawkwind. Some amazing guitar from Fabio is a real highlight of this track and
its 7+ minute length seems to fly by. This is my personal favorite track from
the first third of the album.
“Syllabub” (4:30) is one of those “stop-start” musical
pieces which really never grabbed this listener. The constant time changes
prevented the track from flowing. “This Revolution” (3:44) is a hard hitting
diatribe on revolution set amidst horns and a “spacey” style background. “You
See Me” (3:44), which is possibly linked to the title track, shows the King
Crimson style again, especially with that bands characteristic time shuffles.
A change of style sweeps in with “Zion My T-Shirt” (6:09)
with some excellent choral styled chanting setting the scene. Subdued drumming,
subtle guitar and a set of breathy styled vocals make for a very atmospheric
track. The longish spoken section of lyrics sits within the track well.
Next up is a real piece of whimsicality with
“Pixielation” (4:43). The sections within this track are separated by very
atmospheric music, and the result is a very clever track that embeds itself in
The very short “A Brew Of Special Tea” (1:22) is a mainly
sound effect track with an old style radio type vocals in the background, but
grabs the listeners attention.
The longest track on offer “Thank You” (10:29) is one of
those hypnotic drone style tracks which builds in intensity very slowly with
some excellent synth guitar. Just prior to the 4 minute mark, the track becomes
very sparse, before building again with some more excellent guitar, but I did
find that the “atmospheric” sounds in the background proved more of a
distraction than adding to the soundscape. This section seems a little too
long, going on as it does to around the 7+ minute point, before the track moves
into a simple chant like vocal, but the magic generated by the first 4 minutes
seems to have vanished. This genuinely sounds like the final track of an album
so it is interesting to see how the band do close the album.
“Shakti Yoni and Dingo Virgin” (9:32) veers in another
direction, being built up of atmospheric and ambient soundscapes, instrumental
in nature, apart from the “sprinkled space whispers” supplied by Gilli.
See You is an album that will sell well to Gong enthusiasts, as
here we have a band that, while recreating some classic Gong style music, have
refused to simply “go through the motions.” There are huge hints at the
contents of some early classic Gong albums, but the motivation and enthusiasm
of the musicians involved ensure that this is a “new” Gong. I See You could also pick up sales from
music aficionados keen to sound out Gong, and several listens to this album
could well see them search out early back catalogue material.
Tracks: The Eternal Wheel Spins, Zion My T-Shirt, Pixielation Tracks: I See You Occupy When God Shakes Hands With The Devil The Eternal Wheel Spins Syllabub This Revolution You See Me Zion My T-Shirt Pixielation A Brew Of Special Tea Thank You Shakti Yoni and Dingo Virgin