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September 15, 2014

Progressive Rock Review: Simon McKechnie-Newton’s Alchemy

Release Date: 26th August 2014
Label:    Voyager Records


Simon McKechnie is a composer, arranger and musician based in London, and again is a new name to this reviewer. Simon has been active since around the start of the millennium and has composed music for the BBC, founded the fusion band, Azul, has been the guitarist in the backing band for the Portugese artist, Nuno Silva and also debuted as a solo artist in 2011. His debut release was London Reborn, which was his “take” on old London folk songs and the follow-up release was Clocks and Dark Clouds in 2013. This 2013 release eased him towards the more progressive side of music and his new album, Newton’s Alchemy, is a prog rock album based around Isaac Newton’s quest to “uncover the deepest mysteries of existence.”

Newton’s Alchemy features Simon (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, dulcimer, psaltery and percussion), Adam Riley (drums), Clare Salaman (nyckelharpa) and Jan Hendrickse (bass flute). To help out with a couple of the instruments, the psaltery is a stringed instrument of the zither family and the nyckelharpa, is a traditional keyed harp.

The album, Newton’s Alchemy, contains 9 tracks with a combined playing time of around 55 minutes. The shortest track included is the penultimate track, “A Great Secret” at 3:14 minutes and “Animated Mercury” is the longest track on offer at 9:11 minutes. An interesting fact about the lyrics on the album is that they are a mixture of quotes from Isaac Newton and original material from Simon. I’m not sure that attempting to fuse these two sources works perfectly and at times feel the lyrics seem “clumsy” and don’t gel particularly with the music.

“The First Matter” (7:51), the album opener starts with some gentle sounds merging into some wonderful electric and acoustic guitar parts before Simon’s voice puts in an appearance. The fusion of the music and the lyrics I find at times strangely distracting, despite listening to the album many times. The music is original and switches tempo suddenly, maintaining interest and at times, the vocals seem to work very well, but appear “at odds” with the music at other times. Some of the vocal styling brings to mind that of Freddie Mercury, but there are swathes of spoken/chanted sections throughout the album.

There are 3 tracks that seem to be linked, through the Emerald Tablet, an “enigmatic document believed by alchemists to have ancient origins and hold the key to understand first matter and transmutation.” “Miracles Of Only One Thing” (3:48), “The Father Of All Perception” (3:24) and “Force Above All Other Force” (3:25) all carry the sub-titles “Emerald Tablet Parts 1, 2 and 3.” The lyrics of this trilogy are the translations of the Tablet by Isaac Newton. The music on these three tracks is very atmospheric, with some themes being linked and the skill of the musicians involved shines through. The violin, acoustic guitar and flute all provide superb passages within the tracks.

“The Work Begins” (8:51), “Star Regulus” (7:23), “Animated Mercury” (9:11) and “Turning Of The Wheel” (8:24) have a continuation of the stunning musicianship that is so prevalent throughout this album, but I will readily admit that I am still unsure as to whether I like the album or not. At times I get immersed in the soundscapes that are being woven and yet at other points this just does not happen.

 At the moment of writing this review I am really enjoying he final track, “Turning Of The Wheel”, which I had failed to “get into” previously, such are the underlying complexities presented by this album.

Newton’s Alchemy is definitely an album that you require to hear several times and then you may be able to decide whether you fall on one side of the fence of the other.

While I have been excited by some of the new music I have come across in the last year or so, there have been some examples that have underwhelmed me and my grading has indicated this. Newton’s Alchemy has presented me with the biggest problem to date as I am not sure if it is a tremendous album or not and has made the grading a complex task.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Work Begins, Animated Mercury, Turning Of The Wheel

Tracks:The First Matter
Miracles Of Only One Thing  ( Emerald Tablet 1)
The Work begins
The Father Of All Perception ( Emerald Tablet 2)
Star Regulus
Force Above All Force  ( Emerald Tablet 3)
Animated Mercury
A Great Secret
Turning Of The Wheel

 


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

September 15, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

September 12, 2014

Progressive/Experimental Review: Garden Music Project-Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork

Release Date:  7th July 2014
Label: AR Garden Records

This is another of those artists/albums that I would probably not have come across by chance, but getting Garden Music Project with the album Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork to review gives me the opportunity to broaden my horizons yet again.

This release by Garden Music Project also coincides with the eighth anniversary of the Pink Floyd founder members passing. The creator of the project is Adriana Rubio, who has a rare neurological phenomenon called synaesthesia. This is a condition whereby one sense can trigger one or more other sensory responses.  As an example, a synaesthete might hear sounds in response to a smell or see a certain number as a color. The album, Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork, is probably best described as an “epic interpretation of Syd Barrett’s paintings, using synesthesia perceptions.

The music for Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork, was written by Adriana Rubio and Alexander Ditzend. The Garden Music Project is a 4 piece band comprising, Alexander Ditzend (guitars, lead vocals), Stefan Ditzend (bass, saxophone), Nicolas Saganias (drums, percussion) and Fabrizio Gamba (keyboards, synths).
Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork is a 12 track album with a total playing time of around 48 minutes, with the opening track, “Garden,” being the shortest at 2:46 minutes and “Coliseum,” the longest track on offer at 6:14 minutes.

The opening track to the album, “Garden” (2:46) certainly recalls very early Pink Floyd, with that laid back feel, bass melody, jaunty keyboards and then morphing into a psychedelic soundscape. Chunky keyboards, guitars, and a staccato vocal heralds the entrance into track 2, “Squares, Lines and Polygons” (3:00), which then switches into a melodic passage, returns to the intro theme and then into a jazzy section. The amazing guitar work in the last minute certainly ensures that the track is memorable.

“Isolation” (3:40) is another piece of music seemingly steeped in 60’s/70’s psychedelia, but the following track, “Transformation” (5:47) is well named, as it moves into another style. Introduced by a drumbeat and keyboard, prior to a spoken vocal, this track tries to “paint the scene” before there is another example of some stunning guitar work. At times, this track is almost discordant, but it just about works, as does the meandering saxophone around the 4 minute mark. This is an interesting track, almost jam-like at times but possibly outstays its welcome slightly in its almost 6 minute length.

“Bullying” (3:23) has train noises as an introduction which then builds into another “retro” psychedelia track before leaving the stage to “My Ladies” (3:41). This has terrific strummed guitar and a vocal provided in a sort of disconnected, deadpan manner. The electric guitar starts to soar away behind the vocals and there are classic little hooks here and there.

Classic keyboards and a retro sound announce “Leaving Home” (3:28) and the tempo is noticeably slower. More simple, but effective, guitar builds up during this track. More natural sounds, including thunder, rain and a ringing phone disguise the sudden dive into “heavy” psychedelia that is track 8, “Crime Scene” (3:36). There is a very atmospheric sound to this track, recalling the older police dramas from the USA.

The longest track on offer, “Coliseum” (6:14) has an eastern style at the outset with percussion and synths which slowly merge into a majestic passage, evoking thoughts of the “Christians versus the Lions” soundscape before there is a sudden sideways shift with the saxophone then recalling the Clint Eastwood western trilogy, a la “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” The track then reverts back to the eastern style starting point with a spoken voice in the background.

“Tour Bus” (4:25) is another slow builder of a track, sweeping from light to intense in a heartbeat. There are some amazing keyboards over a simple drumbeat around the 2:30 minute point. By the time this listener has reached this point, the same feeling that was apparent on the first listen has reappeared. The style has started to sound repetitive and the feeling of “newness” has gone.

The final track, “Self Portrait” (4:48) features more natural sounds and employs the same style of staccato lyrics. Spoken lines then give way to a very mellow saxophone passage which paints an interesting soundscape with the help of some excellently played guitar.

Having listened to Inspired by Syd Barrett’s Artwork several times, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Some of the music sounds as if it could have come from early Pink Floyd albums, but it doesn’t seem to be able to maintain that scenario. Some tracks try hard to succeed, but they don’t seem to quite get there. There are some stunning tracks on this album, but I found the second half of the album seemed unable to maintain the momentum of the first part. The lyrics are certainly interesting as they do reference this unusual complex linking of senses.

Inspired By Syd Barrett’s Artwork I found a bit of a mixed bag of tracks, but as usual, I urge people to listen to the album a few times. This is my opinion and I am aware many people will have a very different view of the album.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Garden, My Ladies, Coliseum

Tracks:
Garden
Squares, Lines and Polygons
Isolation
Transformation
Bullying
My Ladies
Leaving Home
Crime Scene (To The Memory of Dr Arthur Barrett)
Coliseum
Tour Bus
Bridge
Self Portrait

 


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk

September 12, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

September 10, 2014

Progressive Metal Review: Evergrey-Hymns for the Broken

Release Date: September 30, 2014
Label: AFM Records

When it comes to making great music, there is no country who does it quite like Sweden.  It must be something in the air, because this northern land is not in want of talented musicians and bands, especially when it comes to making kick-ass metal music.  With their origins in Gothenburg, the same place that spawned such bands as At the Gates and In Flames, Evergrey have been at it since the mid-90s and are in their best shape yet.

Fronted by Tom S. Englund (guitars, vocals), Evergrey has seen a revolving doors of artists come through, leaving Englund as its only original member.  However, this has not stopped Evergrey, nor has it effected the quality of their music.  The rest of the band consists of Rikard Zander (keyboards), Johan Niemann (bass), Henrik Danhage (guitars), and Jonas Ekdahl (drums).  These are a great group of guys and it really shows on this fantastic and intense album.  

Hymns for the Broken starts with the short and mysterious “The Awakening.”  This leads right into “King of Errors,” which comes out with a sound that is loud and majestic and sets the stage for the rest of the album.  There is a real presence here with the soaring guitars, the booming drums, symphonic keyboards, and, not to forget, the harmonious vocals.  Everything just fits together so well and so smoothly.


Announcing itself with authority, “A New Dawn” captivates with its hard and crunchy sound.  The chorus really takes it to new heights, as everything is put into the vocals and it is just gorgeous.  Also, it has a guitar solo that will take your breath away. “Wake a Change” takes the album in a different direction.  It dials it down for a slower and introspective pace, allowing for a more emotional connection.  With its symphonic opening, “Archaic Rage” is heavy on the atmosphere and has an incredible instrumental part that really dazzles.   


The second half of the album begins strong with the exciting and demanding “Barricades.”  It is like the soundtrack to a dark fairy tale that will haunt your dreams.  “Black Undertow” carries on in the same dark vein as the previous song.  “Hymns for the Broken” is another towering effort, showcasing everything that is right with this band and album.  The music is dark and crushing, and Englund’s voice just towers over everything, creating that extra emotional affect as it is impossible not to hear the heart in his voice.  With the album nearing its end, the punishing sound of “A Grand Collapse” crushes it with its menacing atmosphere. Closing the album out is “The Aftermath.”  Its somber atmosphere and emotional yearnings are practically cathartic after previous songs and makes for a wonderful conclusion. 


We find Evergrey in fine form on Hymns for the Broken.  I think that there is not a song that I would consider bad or out-of-place on the album.  They have weathered their hiatus and line-up changes over the past few years very well, and created one of the top progressive metal albums of the year thus far.  I am excited for what these guys will do next. Until then, we have Hymns for the Broken to enjoy.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: King of Errors, Archaic Rage, Hymns for the Broken

Tracks:
 
01.The Awakening
02.King of Errors
03.A New Dawn
04.Wake a Change
05.Archaic Rage
06.Barricades
07.Black Undertow
08.The Fire
09.Hymns for the Broken
10.Missing You
11.A Grand Collapse
12.The Aftermath


 
Brian McKinnon

September 10, 2014

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

September 8, 2014

Bill Nelson's “After The Satellite Sings” To Be Reissued By Esoteric Recordings September 29, 2014


London, UK - ESOTERIC RECORDINGS imprint Cocteau Discs, the home of BILL NELSON’s catalogue between 1971 and 2001, continues their series of ongoing releases with the release of a newly remastered edition of the album, “AFTER THE SATELLITE SINGS”.

The album was recorded in 28 days at Fairview Studios in East Yorkshire in 1995 and saw Bill push his constantly evolving musical boundaries still further. A collection of fine songs and three instrumental pieces, “After the Satellite Sings” is a fine album that remains fascinating and engaging nearly two decades on from its first release.

The Cocteau Discs edition fully restores the original album artwork and features a new note by Bill Nelson.

“ 'After The Satellite Sings' is an interesting album on many levels and I'm pleased to see it being given a re-release.” - Bill Nelson

• NEW REMASTERED EDITION OF THE CLASSIC 1995 ALBUM BY BILL NELSON – UNAVAILABLE FOR MANY YEARS
• BOOKLET WITH FULLY RESTORED ARTWORK & NEW ESSAY

TRACK LIST:

1. DEEPLY DAZZLED
2. DREAMSTER 2 LR
3. FLIPSIDE
4. STREAMLINER
5. MEMORY BABE
6. SKULL BABY CLUSTER
7. ZOOM SEQUENCE
8. ROCKET TO DAMASCUS
9. BEAUTIFUL NUDES
10. OLD GOAT
11. SQUIRM
12. WOW! IT’S SCOOTERCAR SEXKITTEN!
13. PHANTOM SEDAN (THEME FROM TAIL-FIN CITY)
14. ORDINARY IDIOTS
15. V-GHOST (FOR HAROLD AND ELLEN)
16. BLINK-AGOG

For more information: http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=4807

Bill Nelson's official website: http://www.billnelson.com/

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158 (USA), glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Free Download: Lunatic Soul - Cold (from Walking on a Flashlight Beam)

Ahead of the release of the brand new album, Lunatic Soul are giving fans a glimpse into what to expect from ‘Walking on a Flashlight Beam’ with an opportunity to stream and download new track ‘Cold’ http://bit.ly/1rKEfF9
Pre-order the album: http://bit.ly/1js34Qc

Commenting on the new album Lunatic Soul’s creative force Mariusz Duda comments: “The new album is about self-imposed solitude and is a prequel to the black and white history. Musically – it will be slightly different, less oriental, more… alternative. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever created – the most elaborate, diverse and coherent Lunatic Soul release.”

‘Walking on a Flashlight Beam’ is due for release on 13th October (UK, France & RoW) / 17th October Germany / 28th October USA & Canada, through Kscope and Mystic Production in Poland.