Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 18

V1054Igorrr– “Spirituality and Distortion”
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 27 March 2020

First off, Igorrr is not going to be for everyone. If one were to look up extreme metal, I think Igorrr would be the definition. There is literally every thing including the kitchen sink in the music. “Spirituality and Distortion” mixes so many genres that should not work when mixed (yet do) and so many odd choices of instruments. Harpsichords? Accordion with blast beats? Yes indeed!

“Downgrade Desert” starts off with a middle eastern acoustic guitar before going into a sick groove metal style and eventually a middle eastern style vocal. That one actually makes sense. “Nervous Waltz” is indeed a waltz that alters between strings and a pounding guitar riff. Even then it goes many other places that keep you on your toes. One of my favorite tracks.

“Hollow Tree” is the harpsichord led track. “Camel Dancefloor” takes the middle eastern theme and mixes it with dub. Normally, I am not keen on dub but Igorrr figure out how to make it entertaining. Remember the accordion with blast beats? That would be the track “Musette Maximum” which is another favorite. But there’s also epic metal to be found as well with “Himalaya Massive Ritual.” There’s really something for everyone, provided you have an open mind and a fearless spirit. That’s what Igorrr is all about.

“Spirituality and Distortion” is another breath of fresh air. Igorrr take what Mr. Bungle was doing and mash it with everything else possible. It takes a TON of talent and courage to make music this interesting and inventive. For those that say that it’s all been done before, check out “Spirituality and Distortion” for proof to the contrary.

BEM080 album coverZopp – “Zopp”
Label: Bad Elephant
Release Date: 10 April 2020

Zopp are an instrumental project led by the multi-talented Ryan Stevenson. Outside of the brief intro track, the self titled album is just amazing. I just have a thing for starting off with a throw away track. Style-wise Zopp merge classic prog with a modern sound. “Before the Light” kicks the album off more properly. The key with any great instrumental album is to have strong melodies and this track has one right from the very start. And to be fair, every track after does as well.

“Eternal Return” has a wonderful dual melody line along with some brilliant keyboard work. It sort of reminds me a little of Goblin. “Sanger” sounds like Gentle Giant trying out some cool jazz. The whole album is very bright and powerful too. “V” is a favorite for sure. Love the keyboard choices and the drumming of Andrea Moneta, who is amazing throughout the album.

“Zopp” the album is a must for prog rock fans that want that old school vibe. Great music is still being made and Stevenson is doing it. More people need to take note of Zopp…NOW!

ImpressionDool – “Summerland”
Label: Prophecy Productions
Release Date: 10 April 2020

I loved Dool’s debut album, “Here Now, There Then.” The band has a ton of atmosphere and write really great songs. But the key for me is vocalist Ryanne van Dorst. Honestly she has probably my favorite female voice…ever. She is hard to define. There’s power to her voice and androgyny. It doesn’t matter what gender she is and of course I realize I sound like an idiot for even pointing out gender.

“Summerland” is Dool’s followup and I couldn’t wait for this one. If you liked their first album, you will LOVE “Summerland.” Dool don’t fuck with their overall sound, rather they hone it down and come up with another batch of Katatonia meets modern day Opeth style tunes.

The album kicks off with the driving “Sulphur & Starlight.” It’s a great representation of what the band is all about and made a great first release for “Summerland.” “God Particle” is really cool because it does show that the band is going to add different things. The acoustic folk intro to start the song is very cool before the song leaps into a slithering stomper. “Can you relate to me?” Indeed I can.

The title track is a slow, swaying number that showcases the incredible vocals of van Dorst. Listen unbelievers! On the flip side of that is the upbeat “The Well’s Run Dry” which would make a great single. The album closes with “Dust & Shadow” which is absolutely MASSIVE. It does start with what sounds like a music box before getting fucking huge. If I needed to be sold on this album, this track clinched the deal. WOW!

Of course, I didn’t need to be sold on it. I was sold from the first few notes of it and pre-ordered the deluxe edition on the spot. I can tell you that “Summerland” will be on my best of 2020 year end list for sure. Dool know how to write great songs, arrange them properly and execute them flawlessly. I cannot recommend “Summerland” enough!

Posted in art rock, atmospheric metal, avant garde, dark rock, death metal, extreme metal, jazz, modern prog, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dynazty – “The Dark Delight”

cover_smalGonna do something a little different and step outside the box on this one. The prog box, that is. Don’t worry, this page is still prog. But thought I would highlight a non-prog band just to show that there is some other good music out there.

Dynazty is a melodic power metal band that hails from Sweden. And this album makes number 7 for them. So they’ve been around a while. They’ve always been that hard diving rock/metal band and on the last one, Firesign, they had more of a keyboard influence to it lending a bit of an Amaranthe sound at the time. This one is back to the “in your face” onslaught of guitars. There are still some keys, but they are dialed back a bit.

The band is: Jonathon Olsson (Lindemann and PAIN) on bass, Georg Harnsten Egg on drums, Love Magnusson and Mikael Laver on guitars (the latter of which has worked with Lindemann and Joe Lynn Turner), and finally Nils Molin from Amaranthe on vocals.

I must say, this album is full of hooks, huge choruses, and killer riffs. It’s been on constant play for me the past couple of weeks since I got it for review as I haven’t quite been able to stop listening (with the exception of checking all the new music that comes out on Fridays). One downside to this one, sadly, the album is really loud. Not so much that I can’t listen to the whole thing. But it is LOUD. I think it could stand to be dialed back a bit and some more separation in the mix. But as it stands, it’s a burner!

We kick things of with Presence of Mind (video below), that fades in with a bit of a subdued electronic sound with the chorus growing and then kicks into the riffs and builds through to one catchy as hell chorus.

“This is where we crash and burn. 
This is where we start to learn

Ground Zero… this fear of your presence of mind”

Kind of pertinent lyrics for today.

Up next is Paradise of the Architect which comes in with some complex, driving drums, chunky guitars and keys. The chorus here definitely has an Amaranthe air to it, though with male vocals. Some great soloing as well.

The Black has a driving drum beat at the start and calms a little for the verses and rips back open for the chorus that is so damn melodic, you will no doubt be singing along with it. But that can be said for most of these songs.

We then hit Sound to Silence, which begins with some more electronic elements, almost hinting at industrial, and then comes in with yet another rocker. Rockers are the name of the game with this album. And we are introduced to our first taste of growl like vocals on this album. They are more accents here, as the more clean and melodic vocals reign. There is one point toward the end where the riffage gets mean sounding and the growls come in but it is way too short. I think it could have given this song that extra kick to carry it on longer. Oh well… still a great track.

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Hologram gives us the closest thing we are going to get to a ballad with them. Ok, more a power ballad. Starts off with piano and acoustic guitar and a calm vocal delivery for the verse with the full band coming in for the chorus and stays for the rest of the song. They do power ballads just the way I like them. With an emphasis on power! So this is one of my favorite songs on here.

Heartless Madness is an interesting beast. It comes in sounding like Sonata Arctica, circa The Days of Grays. the keys totally have the sound from that album. And the driving galloping beat and melody just so matches that style. So this is also another favorite of mine from this one. Check out the video below as well.

Another one of the singles released leading up to the new album is Waterfall (video below). The keys are present but again fairly well buried in the mix under the guitar, which, by the way, is another meaty chug. And, you guessed it, another catchy chorus that will having you singing along.

And the chorus speaks, once again, to our present time:

“Waterfall
Let the rain come wash away it all
One final overhaul
Until we dream no more
Damn it all
Will not wait here for a miracle
Wash away it all

Rain a waterfall”

Got another pattern developing here. Soft keys intro quickly followed by the guitar crunch. Threading the Needle does let the keyboards shine through a little more during the verses. Almost a little breather before the full force of the chorus comes in with another galloping riff. I would like to note here that the drums are excellent on this album. Sometimes they stand out and make me notice them more that in other places. I found myself paying more attention to them on this one for some reason. Not sure why, but I enjoyed them.

The Man and the Elements kicks in with a nice, upbeat Celtic sounding guitar lead and the song gallops along with it nicely. Almost a jig. And yep… another catchy and melodic chorus. Man I’m loving this album. Again, the drums are standing out. This song really has me wanting to get up and Riverdance the hell out of it.

Apex gets us back to a hard driving rocker and lands us back squarely into Sonata Arctica territory… same era as before. And I LOVE that influence here. They do that sound justice and then some.

Man… I can’t believe we are almost to the end. The Road to Redemption starts off as another acoustic song before the band kicks in for a nice mid tempo rocker that almost has a country western feel to it… almost. But it is definitely rock. Make no mistake.

The Dark Delight closes the album, or at least my review copy. The CD had a bonus track that I didn’t have in my possession to review. Some lone reserved keys start us out and quickly once again the full band kicks in. The verses carry on with an air of tension that ebbs and flows but bursts into the chorus. Still with that tension holding on. This song has that epic sound you would expect of an album closer. And they do it so well.

As you can tell, and as I have said, I love this album. This is that kind of melodic metal that just makes me smile. I would be tempted to give it a perfect score but I have to subtract a point for that darn loudness. Sigh…

So, if like me, you haven’t fully painted yourself into the prog corner and can appreciate other genres, and like hard rock/metal, give it a go! But if you are a stickler for prog, stand by… we have another review coming to you soon!

 

Rating: 9/10

 

Tracklist:

01. Presence Of Mind
02. Paradise Of The Architect
03. The Black
04. From Sound To Silence (feat. GG6)
05. Hologram
06. Heartless Madness
07. Waterfall
08. Threading The Needle
09. The Man And The Elements
10. Apex
11. The Road To Redemption
12. The Dark Delight

13. The Shoulder Devil [bonus] (not on the review copy)

 

Label: AFM Records
Release Date: 4/3/2020
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Pure Reason Revolution – “Eupnea”

637146050489579614There’s been a lot of bands making comebacks lately it seems. One band that I’ve wanted to reform is Pure Reason Revolution. Their debut album “The Dark Third” is essential. While their next two albums didn’t quite live up to the debut album, both were very good and showed the band’s willingness to explore. They are back and as potent as ever with “Eupnea.”

“Eupnea” actually takes the template of their first album and mixes in some of the experiments of the other two albums to create something very special. This is the album I was hoping that PRR would release. “Eupnea” defines the genre “modern prog.” It takes the Floydian vibe, adds a Porcupine Tree edge and never shies away from hooks and melodies. Basically this is what I enjoy listening to right here.

The album kicks off with “New Obsession” which immediately emphasizes what PRR are about: atmosphere, great hooks and the vocal interplay of Chloë Alper and Jon Courtney. They are the only returning members of PRR but to be fair, the band has always been their vehicle. “New Obsession” is a great introduction to both the album as a whole and to those not familiar with the band at all. The guitar riff and solo that toward the end does remind me of Porcupine Tree (as I’d mentioned) but then PRR were contemporaries of PT.

“Silent Genesis” was the first single from “Eupnea” and at 10 minutes, it’s the throw back PRR epic that their fans have been waiting for. It has the space and vibe of something like “This is the 21st Century” by Marillion. Such a nice groove and effortless flow to this song and when it kicks it the riffs are even more powerful thanks to the preceeding vibe. One thing that I’ve noticed about the album is that while it does feel more like a true follow up to “The Dark Third,” it still has the experimentation of the band’s other albums too. Alper and Courtney are keen to show all of what they have been by showing what they can be.

“Maelstrom” has a cool primal drum beat to start but veers into a soaring lush chorus. The song is yet another example of how great these two sound together when they sing. For all of the musicality on “Eupnea” (and it has many layers to be sure), what makes the album for me are the vocals. Granted, that’s always been true on all of their albums. Whether it’s the sweet beauty of “Ghosts & Typhoons” or graceful harmonies of “Beyond Our Bodies,” “Eupnea” is an album that proves strong melodies and vocal harmonies are indeed still a cornerstone for prog.

The title track closes out the album and is the other epic on the album. Powerful Floydian synths? Check. Great vocals? Of course. Emotional guitar parts? Indeed. The song takes you on a wonderful ride. PRR never lose the listener yet they still make sure there’s plenty of things happening around you. Whether it’s a solo vocal from Alper or a powerful riff that kicks ass, this song is yet another PRR classic. “Eupnea” was an album that I was hoping for from Pure Reason Revolution. They are a band that I think the prog world has been missing. We all need an escape from the world and “Eupnea” can provide a wonderful distraction that is rewarding each time you hear it.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

  1. New Obsession
  2. Silent Genesis
  3. Maelstrom
  4. Ghosts & Typhoons
  5. Beyond Our Bodies
  6. Eupnea

Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: 3 April 2020
Facebook: www.facebook.com/purereasonrevolution

Posted in art rock, modern prog, progressive rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

Former members of Jellyfish reunite as The Lickerish Quartet

This is GREAT news. 3/4ths of Jellyfish have reunited! I wish Andy Sturmer would come out of hiding! Still, the first track from The Lickerish Quartet is a dandy! Here’s the press release:

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March 13, 2020 — It’s the semi-reunion Jellyfish fans have been waiting for since 1993. After months of loud buzzing on social media, the time has come to give those fans what they’ve been dreaming of for over two decades. As they say, absence does make the collaborative heart grow fonder.
Ladies and gentlemen: THE LICKERISH QUARTET.
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In 2017, three masterful musicians–Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Beck, Air, Cheap Trick, Imperial Drag), Tim Smith (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Finn Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Umajets) and Eric Dover (Imperial Drag, Slash’s Snakepit, Alice Cooper, Sextus)—reconnected the melodiously fruitful bond they formed in 1993 on Jellyfish’s second and last album, SPILT MILK. In the midst of supporting the visions of the other artists they’ve performed with since then, they’ve spent these last three years creating something they could truly call their own.
To that end, Manning, Smith, and Dover’s undeniable chemistry can now be found within every sonic pore of the four brand new songs that comprise THE LICKERISH QUARTET’s cheekily named THREESOME VOL. 1 EP, which is set for release on May 15 via The Lickerish Quartet/Label Logic, as distributed by INgrooves. Pre-orders are now available here.
The first single, “Lighthouse Spaceship,” recently premiered on Popmatters.com and can now be seen on the band’s official YouTube page.
From the mischievous harmonic invitation of “Fadoodle” to the folk-tinged uplift of “Bluebird’s Blues” to the twangy lamentation of “There Is a Magic Number” to the cosmic muscle of the EP’s first single, “Lighthouse Spaceship,” THREESOME VOL. 1 confirms the communal strengths of a trio of songwriters who have clearly retained an intuitive sense of knowing exactly how to elevate the sum of each other’s musical chops. A video for “Lighthouse Spaceship” was recently released (NEEDS INFO).
“While touring with Jellyfish, it was pretty clear to me that both Eric and Tim had plenty to say as writers in their own right,” Manning reports. “All these years later, it was like picking up where we left off in many ways. Ultimately, the songs go on their own journeys, but I also think our collective vocal sound puts a stamp on all of them, no matter who’s singing lead. That’s what really joins it all together.” Smith very much agrees with that assessment. “It’s a good feeling knowing we found a way to blend together again as the three of us, and then find new ways to explore our ideas,” he marvels. “I think all the songs we did make something magical out of the mundane aspects of daily life.”
THREESOME VOL. 1 opens with “Fadoodle,” a Dover-driven look at how to rekindle the fires of a long-entrenched relationship. “Well, I’m always looking for new ways to say dirty things,” Dover observes with a laugh. “I found a big list of naughty words from back in the day for what people used to denote fornication. It’s fascinating, because this has the distinction of being a pop song that has the world’s oldest slang yet is released in the 21st Century.” Adds Manning, “This one has that eighth-note driving thing that was a big part of the glitter sound of the early punk wave, so it’s got that kind of energy right out of the gate. Thankfully, once we had Eric’s lyric in place, it was just a free-for-all in having fun with the vocal interplay.”
Next comes Manning’s “Bluebird’s Blues,” which features Mellotron and a 3D feel born from a musical bed he initially came up with back in 1988. “That one was very much a guitar song,” explains Manning, “and after showing my idea on piano to Tim and Eric, they were able to run with it immediately to give it that folkie guitar feel that it needed, and was calling out for. All of our contributions, including those of our drummer Jeremy Stacey, show the intricacies and clever ways of how we were able to move through that folk chord progression.” Interjects Dover, “It was an instantaneous thing we did, from Note 1. It set the mood, and it’s a beautiful moment. Being able to do that is one of the things we have going on together musically.”
The third track is “There Is a Magic Number,” a Smith-penned rumination on how to deal with the sad circumstance of two people who have drifted apart after putting the blame for their dissolution on a number that signified the last straw — all buttressed by a signature trippy guitar line courtesy of Dover. “That just had to do with my favorite ’60s psychedelic garage records along with a little bit of surf music thrown in because I like some of those clean, twangy things,” Dover confirms. Adds Smith, “You never really hear any sad surfer music, do you? I just thought this was an interesting play on the idea of what could cause a relationship to end, without them really knowing why but blaming the circumstances on the final number you reach in your head after experiencing X amount of things, X amount of times.”
The EP concludes with the quite heady 6½-minute trip on a “Lighthouse Spaceship.” Manning reflects, “It was just a big experiment we were eager to conduct, and Eric’s genesis for the idea of the lyric really helped pull it all together. Once we had that very vivid imagery in hand, we could start expanding upon it in the arrangement to help paint the visual extension of his lyrics, which are wonderfully psychedelic.”
Given the inherent, aurally seductive nature of THREESOME VOL. 1, they have a feeling many fans both old and new will want much more of THE LICKERISH QUARTET music in their lives — and then some.
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White Stones – “Kuarahy”

White Stones - Kuarahy - ArtworkWhite Stones is the solo project of Martin Mendez, bassist for Opeth. It’s surprises me that he’d never done anything outside of Opeth. But I suppose it’s just as surprising that he is finally doing something. “Kuarahy” was an album that I was really looking forward to. The biggest question is “how much does it sound like Opeth?” The quick answer is that it does sound a bit like old Opeth.

Mendez is often overlooked when it comes to Opeth but he is a HUGE part of their sound and has been for many years now. So it stands to reason that some Opeth DNA will make it’s way into White Stones. “Kuarahy” is more like the old prog death metal of Opeth’s earlier days, just without the clean vocals. Mendez had intended to perform the vocals as well as bass and rhythm guitar. The problem was, he wasn’t liking how his vocals sounded.

Since he was tracking the album with his friend Eloi Boucherie, Mendez asked Boucherie to take a shot at doing the vocals. Boucherie is not only the owner of Farm Of Sounds studio but he also fronts his own band. Mendez loved what he heard so he had a new frontman. Vocally, he sounds a smidge like Mikael but he is more like a really dried out Steve Tucker. Yeah I don’t know. If you don’t like harsh vocals, Boucherie’s voice isn’t going to change that.

Ok so now that you’re up to speed on the band, what about the album? “Kuarahy” is book-ended by instrumentals that are good at setting the mood, both coming into and out of the album itself. I am not keen on tracks that aren’t actual “songs” but each are fine as part of the album as a whole. The album kicks off more officially with “Rusty Shell” which has a bad ass riff and awesome double bass action. “Worms” keeps things going with, yes you guessed it, quite a few KILLER riffs!

That’s what I love most about “Kuarahy,” that Mendez can really write a great riff. It would seem that he was a massive untapped resource in Opeth. That makes White Stones so incredible. This is definitely a tour de force for Mendez. The lead track off the album “Drowned in Time” has tremendous atmosphere to start the track which would not have sounded out of place on “Still Life” or “Blackwater Park.” And when this track kicks in, HOLY SHIT it kicks ass!

“Ashes” is another track that I love. The dissonance of the main riff is about as Opethian as it gets. “Infected Soul” is yet another track that I really like, especially since it has more of a proggy vibe to it. This might go without saying but the bass playing on this album is incredible. The guitar parts sit perfectly with Mendez’s fuzzed out basslines. Kudos to the guitar solos by Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth who handles all the solos except one (Per Eriksson plays on “The One”). Åkesson is one of my favorite guitarist so it just adds to my overall enjoyment of this album.

Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I guess I assumed I would like it since Mendez is a very talented bassist. It turns out that he is also a great songwriter, master riff-ologist too. “Kuarahy” is absolutely essential for fans of the early Opeth days. It is not a copy of that however. But it is an alternate path that could have been taken. So now fans can have an alternative should they choose it.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1.Kuarahy
2.Rusty Shell
3.Worms
4.Drowned In Time
5.The One
6.Guyra
7.Ashes
8.Infected Soul
9.Taste Of Blood
10.Jasy

Release date: March 13, 2020
Label: Nuclear Blast

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Gentle Giant to reissue first 4 albums on vinyl on April 3rd

It just does not get more legendary than Gentle Giant. In my opinion, they are the purest form of prog. If you are a fan of progressive rock, you probably know Gentle Giant. But I think it’s important if you haven’t checked them out, you do so but make sure you give them a chance to penetrate your brain. Like any great prog, Gentle Giant need repeated listens.

If you missed out on buying their albums on vinyl back in the early 70s, you have a second chance coming! On April 3rd, the band via their label (Alucard Music) are reissuing the first 4 Gentle Giant albums. That includes their self titled debut, “Acquiring the Taste,” “Three Friends” and my personal favorite “Octopus.” Each of these albums are true masterpieces. Plus I think the band just kept getting better and better as time went on, though their vision was indeed fully formed from their first album.

The albums will be manufactured in 180 gram vinyl with the original gatefold artwork from the UK The album covers for “Three Friends” and “Octopus” were different in the US back in the 70s. I asked about the mix for these reissues and Derek Shulman had this to say:

The vinyl LPs were mastered from the flat 1/4 “ tape stereo transfers of the original LPs. Nothing was tampered with. What you’ll hear is what you heard in 1970!

So what you are getting is the same thing you would have gotten when these albums were originally issued. Hopefully the band continue this with the next 4 albums: “In a Glass House,” “The Power and the Glory,” “Free Hand,” and “Interview.” All of these albums are also ESSENTIAL. “In a Glass House” was actually never issued domestically in the US! Yet the album sold a lot as an import!

No one sounded like Gentle Giant then and, though bands have clearly been influenced by them, no one sounds like them now. Vinyl fans rejoice! Gentle Giant are back on vinyl!

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Toundra – “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari”

Album_Cover

One’s discovery of new music is an ongoing process. I have to, nay, must argue with those who say as one gets older as a human that you are less open to new music. That has not been my case for me! I am aided in my discovery of the new by social media, and by writing for this website. Yet again the boss offered me an album for review by a band not in my orbit.

Toundra is a band from Madrid that has been releasing music since 2008. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is the band’s sixth album.

The title of this album comes from a classic silent film from 1920. (There are some newer versions out there.) The band have created a soundtrack to this film, which I’ve never seen. But like all wonderful music without words, my brain created visuals to go along with the music as I listened.

The set here provokes the mystery and expectations of what might come next – perhaps something horrible, perhaps something strange.

Guitar leads many of the themes presented. A favorite moment for me is the track
Akt III, where the quiet moodiness of the piano guides the listener to a buildup of sonics that create tension in the moment.

All the scene pieces presented here flow together, as good soundtracks should. The music also piqued my interest in seeing the film – and to check out Toundra’s other albums!

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari kept my interest whilst I listened and nothing felt out of place or overlong.

If you enjoy bands such as The Fierce And The Dead and Explosions In The Sky, give Toundra your ears for a little while.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1.Titelsequenz
2.Akt I
3.Akt II
4.Akt III
5.Akt IV
6.Akt V
7.Akt VI

Band members:
Alberto Tocados (bass, synths)
Alex Pérez (drums)
David Paños “Macón” (guitars)
Esteban Girón (guitars)

Release date: 28 February 2020
Label: InsideOut Music
Website: www.toundra.es/caligari.html
Facebook: www.facebook.com/toundra
Twitter: twitter.com/toundra
Instagram: www.instagram.com/toundra
Info about the film: www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

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