Mark Wingfield – “Tales From The Dreaming City”

W173

My string of reviews covering instrumental albums continues with guitarist Mark Wingfield’s Tales From The Dreaming City.

Mr. Wingfield is British, with an established music career, and yet he might have passed under my radar if I wasn’t following his label’s Bandcamp. And then the boss offered me his latest release to review.

Bandcamp is a wonderful music resource, with many artists offering physical media to go along with the digital downloads and streaming. There is much to be discovered there.

Mr. Wingfield’s music style is described as jazz, but I feel this album is more than just that genre. The tonality I hear is unique, and this can be confirmed by this quote from the man’s press release – ““Most of the unusual tones I get are from the way I play. I use a lot of unusual slurs, attacks, vibrato and pitch bends. I often don’t play any notes in a normal way. And because I’m not using the expected phrasing and I’m concentrating on creating different tones with my fingers, it tends to sound like I’m using a really unusual guitar sound or a lot of effects, whereas in fact I’m not. My approach to phrasing and tone is something I’ve worked on for a long time and continue to work on. And the key to finding my sound was learning how to really let go when I played and then teaching my fingers how to create the sounds I was hearing in my head.”

The guitarist’s playing style is appealing to me on this recording, as it strong enough to carry a song as a singer’s voice might. As in the other albums I’ve reviewed, I feel this is a wonderful asset. Mr. Wingfield’s tone is so clear and melodic, effortless to listen to, with every note as it is meant to be.

One of the tracks i most enjoyed is Ten Mile Bank, which, to my ears, leans toward a progressive rock sound.

You can hear the love Mr. Wingfield has for his craft in his playing.

I think if you enjoy the guitar playing of Allan Holdsworth, you would certainly like the style of playing featured on this album. Or if you are a guitar fan of almost any stripe, there is much to be loved here.

If you are willing to open your ears to a journey of discovery, I strongly suggest you check out Tales From The Dreaming City.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting

The Fifth Window
I Wonder How Many Miles I’ve Fallen
The Way To Hemingford Grey
Sunlight Cafe
Looking Back At The Amber Lit House
This Place Up Against The Sky
At A Small Hour Of The Night
A Wind Blows Down Turnpike Lane
Ten Mile Bank
The Green-Faced Timekeepers

The players:
Mark Wingfield – guitar, soundscapes
Yaron Stavi – fretless bass guitar
Asaf Sirkis – drums, konakol singing (10)
Dominique Vantomme – synth soloist (3, 5, 9, 10)

Label: MoonJune Records
Bandcamp:markwingfield-moonjune.bandcamp.com
Facebook:www.facebook.com/MarkWingfieldGuitar
Website:www.markwingfield.com

Posted in jazz, progressive rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fog Light – “2nd Impression”

news-foglight-2ndimpressionInstrumental prog metal is a very well populated sub genre. But it takes a lot of skill to really pull it off. However, skill is a lot more than just being precise and technically adept. How good are the riffs and how good are the melody lines? Those are the key questions. For Finnish metallers Fog Light, the skill is there but the riffs are not quite up to the task.

Think of a car that is revving up in neutral versus speeding down a highway. On “2nd Impression,” Fog Light are stuck in neutral. Whether it’s beating a weak riff into the ground for two minutes like on the opening track “Alkutila” or the lack of additional riffs on the next track “Kyllä/Ei,” Fog Light just don’t have enough weapons at their disposal.

For me, you start with a riff that introduces the song before moving fairly quickly into one or two more compelling riffs. Fog Light tend to get stuck on the first riff for WAY too long and then once they emerge from it (assuming they do), the next riff is essentially more of the same. This is not something that ALWAYS happens which is why it’s a little frustrating. Fog Light have a TON of talent and sometimes they click.

The band draw inspiration from shredders like Tony MacAlpine and John Petrucci while trying to incorporate a more jazz fusion approach as well. This comes to the fore on tracks like “Mystinen viiksimies” which is one of the stand out tracks on the album. This is the one that got me to add this album to my review queue. The fretless bass alone make this one really cool. I think it comes down to tempo of the song too. “Aika” is another slower groove and it works better as well.

The questions re-emerge though. “Kiven möyhennystä” has some heavy riffs that feel more repetitive and there are some parts that are more annoying than interesting. It’s Fog Light trying to be Blotted Science and missing. “Tarkista totuus” sounds more like a Joe Satriani outtake. While the closer “Väärä ovi” isn’t the climax that I was hoping for.

There’s no questioning the potential of a band like Fog Light. At times, they really sound amazing. Unfortunately at other times, they get stuck in neutral and nothing happens. “2nd Impression” didn’t make the best FIRST impression with me. But I do think fans of instrumental prog metal should give this a shot to see if it works well for them.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Alkutila
2. Kyllä/Ei
3. Mystinen viiksimies
4. Aika
5. Puun ja kuoren välissä
6. Ei (ihmis)kontaktia
7. Kiven möyhennystä
8. Naamion takaa
9. Tarkista totuus
10. Väärä ovi

Label: Inverse Records
Release Date: 15 June 2018
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bandoffoglight

Posted in progressive metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Gabriel Lucas Music – “The Dwelling”

a4251062464_16EPs such as “The Dwelling” by Gabriel Lucas Music are a sign of the times. An indie artist seeks out the help of more established musicians to bring their music to life. The more established musicians offer their services for a fee to those willing to pay it. I’ve seen this more than ever lately thanks to how fucked the music industry is in today’s world.

In most cases, the musicians hired are more experienced and overshadow the artist that hired them. “The Dwelling” is a bit of an exception to that rule. Sort of. Lucas has the assistance of Dave Young and Ryan Van Poderooyen, both formerly of the Devin Townsend Project. They are joined by vocalist Erik Severinson and bassist Mike Young (Dave’s brother). The four of them were in the band Ten Ways together. So the four of them have chemistry. The problem is they don’t have it with Lucas.

The 3 of the 4 songs are all fairly short and that’s part of the problem. By the time you get into the opening track “Absolution,” it ends. In fact the first time I heard it, I actually said “Oh that’s it?” out loud. “To Neso And Back” is along the same lines in that by the time you have a grip on things it’s over. The one track that works best is the title track which is 6 minutes. It has room to grow and breathe. The instrumental closer “Die is Cast” is also over before it does anything.

Performance wise, Severinson isn’t a good fit for the music. He is on the first two tracks and tends to over sing on music that doesn’t require that. He’s got a good voice but just doesn’t connect with the vibe of the music. Similarly, Van Poderooyen seems to overplay at the wrong times and under play other times. It’s not until the mid point of the title track that he seems to pay attention to what Lucas has written.

This is the biggest problem when you employ people to play your music, versus write things as a band. Granted all of this, including having underdeveloped songs, would be fixed by a good producer. Since the Young Brothers are listed as the producers, it falls on them. They seem more like they just collected all of the performances and put them together rather than pushing for the best possible outcome. If not, then I’d be curious to know why these songs weren’t allowed to grow more.

The songs have some very solid moments and like any seed, they could have bloomed if watered properly. Lucas has talent but this feels like musicians who just did their job rather than connect with the music itself. It’s 15 minutes long altogether and perhaps it’s a case of this was all that could be afforded. I don’t know but I feel like Lucas deserved better. It feels incomplete to be honest and that’s probably the most appropriate rating I can give. This is not on Gabriel Lucas though.

Rating: incomplete

Tracklist:

1. Absolution
2. To Neso And Back
3. The Dwelling
4. Die Is Cast

Bandcamp: gabriellucas.bandcamp.com/album/the-dwelling

Posted in progressive metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tyranny of Hours – “Darkling”

Tyranny of Hours Darkling Cover Art smallBefore getting this album to review, I haven’t heard any music from Tyranny of Hours before. At least, that I recall. But it has been 5 years since the last album and I have listened to A LOT of music since then, so… who knows? That said, I went into this album with a blank slate and no preconceptions. This is a band full of talented musicians and it is reflected in their playing here.

.The riffage starts in earnest with “River of stones”, but backs off where it needs to for the brooding atmosphere. Good track. Now, I’m not a fan of single word choruses but the next track “Oceandead” did grab me but I don’t feel it should have been the lead single. It definitely rocks, though! So why not? If there was ever a song that needed a lyric video, it is this one. The enunciation of the words is a little hard to figure out at times but thankfully I had the lyric sheet to go along with it.

.Up next is “Waited” with a nice little spotlight on the grungy sounding bass. I really dig that sound. Michelle Mattair has a heck of a voice too and sounds great here. But again we have some words blending together on this track. Lyric sheet to the rescue!

.At this point, I’m starting to notice a pattern emerge. Songs start off with great riffs and a great shreddy instrumental section and then slow down for the slow sung verses. “Unwired” has more of that slow singing. I guess it’s just their sound. So be it. The instrumental section on this one is really good as well.

.Night Becomes Light” has a great chugging guitar to start. Another nice riff. Then slow down for slow verses again. I dig the chorus on this one. It has some nice background vocals that kind of lean toward a bigger chorus, which I like.

.The title track, “Darkling”, has its own personality for the most part. But yet another slow verse section.  One of the better tracks on the album, though.  And then we reach the longest song on the album in “The King’s Mirror”, clocking in at over 9 minutes, which gets into a nice instrumental groove later on and is another track that has its own personality. I know they can do it as they have done it twice in a row now.

.I love the chorus on “Tapestry”. Very catchy. And now we have three songs in a row with their own feel. The mid to last half of this album is definitely the best.

.Cerulean moons” starts off with a very sad keyboard sound that I feel didn’t last long enough. It would have given the song its own signature but quickly goes into the same kind of riffage as we have heard many times on this album. As it stands, the opening keys at least help me tell the song apart from some of the others on the album. And the last track, “Therefore I Am” is a bit of the same.

.That is the problem I have with this album: that by just hearing a song, I couldn’t tell you which track is playing. And I have listened to this album about 10 times through. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part they all follow the same formula.

.The band was formed in 2011 by Guitarist Don Graham (also on keys and orchestration as well as the band’s GM) and lead vocalist Michelle Mattair. And joining the band in 2015, Mat Galligan on bass and additional guitars and Alex McDonald on drums. They started out in Portland, Oregon, and have been growing their fanbase with regional shows and playing headlining slots at some festivals.

Tyranny of Hours Band photo 1 small

The band is really talented, as I have said, and man, can they write a hell of a shredding instrumental section. It’s the overall song structures and personality of each tune that I think could be improved upon. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good album. But it could be great! And I know they have it in them and look forward to what they bring us in the future.

.This album is only being released digitally for now at all the usual outlets, except Bandcamp, it seems. Their previous album is available both digitally and as a CD from their website.

.Stand out tracks for me: Night Becomes Light, Darkling, The King’s Mirror, and Tapestry.

.

Rating: 7/10.

Traklist:.

  1. River of Stones  5:22
  2. Oceandead  3:51
  3. Waited  4:29
  4. Unwired  4:47
  5. Night Becomes Light  5:10
  6. Darkling  6:24
  7. The King’s Mirror  9:28
  8. Tapestry  5:01
  9. Cerulean Moons  6:11
  10. Therefore I Am  5:16

.

Label: Independent

Release Date: June 15th, 2018

Website: http://tyrannyofhours.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TyrannyofHours/

Posted in power metal, progressive metal, symphonic metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fates Warning – “Live Over Europe”

PrintLive albums are always hard for me to review. It’s one thing to be at the show and another to listen to one on an album. It’s all about the energy. Plus I rarely find live versions of songs to be better than the original studio versions. Sometimes it’s about the special nature of the show. With the latest live album from Fates Warning, the songs aren’t really better than the original versions but there’s an energy to this album that really brings the listener in.

Fates Warning have had other live releases including one by the “Awaken the Guardian” lineup last year. So basically, this means there are essentially two official lineups that fans can choose from. This lineup is the current one led by mastermind Jim Matheos (who is the only member in both lineups) and long time vocalist Ray Alder. Joining them is bassist Joey Vera (also in Armored Saint) who has been in Fates since 1996! It’s mindboggling to think that. The vastly underrated Bobby Jarzombek is on drums with Michael Abdow as the touring second guitarist.

On “Live Over Europe,” the band focus solely on the Alder era material of which there’s a ton anyway. Since there’s a lineup that has played the John Arch material, it’s not needed here. The song selection is quite good with the band playing multiple songs from EVERY Alder album, except for my personal favorite “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” which only gets one track played: the amazing “Part IX.” It’s great that the band play as much from their latest album “Theories of Flight” too because too many bands that have been around as long as Fates will stick to more well known songs rather than focus on the new stuff.

The band sounds awesome live and unlike some “live” albums, this one sounds really live. The backing vocals aren’t from tapes and nothing is cleaned up. Alder still sings as great as ever BUT his upper range doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, he alters the melodies to fit where his voice is today. While this does make the songs lack some of what the original recordings have, I love that he doesn’t try to strain and miss those insanely high notes. It’s sad when older singers do that (no names but you know who they are).

This is more apparent of course in the older material like “Silent Cries,” “Point of View,” “Through Different Eyes” and others. One newer track does seem to be a challenge for Alder when it comes to the pace of the vocal, “The Light and Shade of Things.” But I can’t sing at all so who am I to talk shit about him? The band nail all the older material and sound great. One issue is the lack of keyboards however. “Still Remains” really needs them and while the performance is really good, the song sounds a little bare without Kevin Moore’s keys.

The sequencing is great as well. They plow through a string of shorter songs before getting into longer tracks. Again, the inclusion of all Alder albums in the set is great. Back to back songs from the underrated “FWX” was a nice surprise. Playing the “Acquiescence” section of “The Ivory Gate of Dreams” was also very cool too. While I was a little surprised that they didn’t do “Ghosts of Home” or a few other songs, it’s hard to fault a diverse setlist like this one.

With “Live Over Europe,” Fates Warning fans now have 2 current live albums from each singer in the band’s long history. This album actually makes an excellent introduction for anyone who may not have gotten into the band yet. The performance is dynamic and superb. It’s clear that Fates Warning still have a lot of life left in them and I can’t wait for more new music.

636626023106373962

Tracklist:

CD 1:
1. From the Rooftops
2. Life in Still Water
3. One
4. Pale Fire
5. Seven Stars
6. SOS
7. Pieces of Me
8. Firefly
9. The Light and Shade of Things
10. Wish
11. Another Perfect Day
12. Silent Cries
13. And Yet it Moves

CD 2:
1. Still Remains
2. Nothing Left to Say
3. Acquiescence
4. The Eleventh Hour
5. Point of View
6. Falling
7. A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Pt. IX
8. Through Different Eyes
9. Monument
10. Eye to Eye

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 29 June, 2018
Website: fateswarning.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FatesWarning

Posted in progressive metal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Burial in the Sky – “Creatio Et Hominus”

unnamed(3)In the league with Black Crown Initiate, early White Arms of Athena, and Fallujah, I’d label Pennsylvania’s Burial in the Sky Progressive Melodic Death Metal.

In my opinion, track one “Nexus” and the last minute of “Tesla” tells the listener sit back, buckle-up, hold on; we’re going on a journey. Creatio Et Hominus isn’t pedal to the metal the entire time.
There is plenty of compositional considerations within each track – this isn’t a simple riff-fest. I hear the influence of early Contortionist at the half-way point of “Nautilus’ Cage” along with some post-metal stylings.

I’ve had my fill of the deathcore growls however well executed they are. The inclusion of the saxophone is a nice respite from the blast-beats. The guitar solo in track 4 is great. I appreciate the inclusion of keys in track 4 and 5. “Psalms of the Deviant” flips between doom and black metal and settles on a prog-metal course in the Fallujah-vein with more fluid guitar acrobatics. Track 5 seems to be the realization of what Burial in the Sky are capable.

Until we reach the instrumental title track, with droning synths, solid melodic statements, and multiple guitar solos. This is a well-executed exclamation point to end the album.

With few specific melodic hooks, instrumental or otherwise, this journey is not as enjoyable as it could be, however, the journey does get better the further you go. I think I understand what Burial in the Sky is trying to accomplish and I believe they are on the right track.

Rating: 7/10

Tracklist:
1. Nexus
2. Tesla
3. Nautilus’ Cage
4. The Pivotal Flame
5. Psalms Of The Deviant
6. 5 Years
7. Creatio Et Hominus

Release Date: 1 June, 2018
Facebook: facebook.com/burialinthesky
Bandcamp: burialintheskytheband.bandcamp.com/album/creatio-et-hominus

Posted in atmospheric metal, death metal, extreme metal, melodic death metal, progressive metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Sea Within – “The Sea Within”

Press_Cover_01The Sea Within is the latest prog rock supergroup to come along. The band was assembled by Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt who immediately brought in Jonas Reingold, also from the Flower Kings, on bass. Stolt added Tom Brislin (former Yes touring keyboardist) who he had worked with on the Anderson/Stolt album. Drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, ex-Steven Wilson Band, etc) was also brought on board. For vocals, Stolt tapped Pain of Salvation frontman Daniel Gildenlöw, who was in the Flower Kings also.

The lineup was complete. Or was it? With Gildenlöw having touring commitments with his main band, Flying Colors vocalist Casey McPherson joined late in the process to sing on a few tracks and he has subsequently joined the band for their tour. So the main question was going to be how the music would sound. Would it just be The Flower Kings meets Pain of Salvation? Not at all. While there’s certainly some elements of Stolt’s primary band, The Sea Within is clearly it’s own beast.

As for Gildenlöw, he is VERY reserved compared to some of the more over the top singing he has done in Pain of Salvation. That’s not to say he does sing incredibly, rather it’s more to suit the song than his own chops. McPherson sings all of two tracks on the main album (“Goodbye” and “The Hiding of Truth”) and he sings the middle section of the epic “The Broken Cord” as well. What’s great here is that both vocalists fit the music really well. It’s a nice bonus!

The two big weapons on this album for me are Brislin and Minnemann. Brislin is such an underrated keyboardist and it’s awesome that he’s finally getting a chance to show off his skills. He has great solos throughout the album. Minnemann’s inclusion in the band is interesting because if you’ll recall, Steven Wilson said some rather controversial things about two of Stolt’s bands (The Flower Kings and Transatlantic) a few years back. While it probably wasn’t the reason for Minnemann to join Stolt, it has to be a nice bonus to thumb his nose at Wilson since the two have had some “issues.”

Minnemann showcases his chops but in a very different way than in the past. With The Aristocrats, he is always freewheeling but here he shows that he can drive the song along as needed while showing some flash when appropriate. On the bombastic opener “Ashes of Dawn,” Minnemann shows his knack for incredible fills. While on the very catchy second track “They Know My Name,” it’s Minnemann’s cymbal accents that make the chorus even catchier. If this was a kind world, the song would be a hit.

On the epic “The Broken Cord,” there are actually 4 different singers. Gildenlöw tackles the main vocal. Yes vocalist Jon Anderson provides some very ethereal vocals in the middle section which McPherson sings over. Stolt even gets a brief vocal appearance as well. Plus the unison vocals at the end make for a great climax to the song. Just an overall great track! Both of songs with McPherson on vocals are favorites of mine. “Goodbye” has a cool yet rocking vibe to it. While “The Hiding of Truth” makes an excellent closing song on the main album. It’s a stately number accented by Brislin’s piano work.

And to be clear, this is prog ROCK. This music is not watered down neo-prog. This album does rock! Need proof? “An Eye For an Eye For an Eye” kicks some serious ass. It’s the one track that I think sounds most like The Flower Kings meets Pain of Salvation. If you’ve noticed, I’ve used the term “main album” a few times. That’s because there’s a second disc of 4 songs that are bonus tracks.  I love bonus tracks and these are no exception! 26 extra minutes of great music!

“The Roaring Silence” is a great track that also rocks and is as good as anything on the first disc. Both “Where are You Going?” and “Time” are solid songs that match up well too. “Denise” is probably the only song that really sounds like it doesn’t quite belong. It’s also not the best track to end the entire release with. It’s not a bad track just not as good as the rest.

I give Stolt credit for selecting the musicians that he did. All of them fit so well together and this sounds like a new band rather than a continuation of any other band. He and Reingold turn in great performances as well and I didn’t want to overlook their contributions. The Sea Within are definitely a case of the sum being even greater than the parts. These are some greats parts but when you put these musicians together, you get an incredible self titled debut album. I really hope this is just the beginning!!

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Ashes Of Dawn
2. They Know My Name
3. The Void
4. An Eye For An Eye For An Eye
5. Goodbye
6. Sea Without
7. Broken Cord
8. The Hiding Of Truth

Bonus tracks:
1. The Roaring Silence
2. Where Are You Going?
3. Time
4. Denise

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 22 June 2018
Website: theseawithin.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSeaWithin1

Posted in art rock, modern prog, progressive rock | Tagged | 2 Comments