Jasun Martz – “Solo Exhibition – A Retrospective: The Pillory”

511tYM0opMLOriginally released in 1978, “The Pillory” was the 42 minute experiment by the multi-talented Jasun Martz. Now all these years later it is part of a box set covering the many different works of this eclectic composer and artist. All of Martz’s compositions are challenging it would seem. I tried my hand at a few of the discs and he does whatever he wants for sure. “The Pillory” was the one piece that I needed to explore.

First off, it’s a piece written for the mellotron along with other instruments and also a full orchestra (including Eddie Jobson, Paul Whitehead, Ruth Underwood and 40 others). If you are expecting something traditionally prog, you are in for a shock. Well you are in for many. This is a 42 minute journey that honestly was one of the scariest sounding pieces of music this side of Scott Walker. In fact, if Martz and Walker to join up, the world will be a very scary place.

The track evokes so many emotions while never doing anything overtly traditional. Sure the orchestra, specifically Jobson’s violin, is somewhat traditional sounding. But since Jobson and Martz played with Frank Zappa, this music is definitely more along the lines of “what would Frank do.” It’s not background music, and in fact you might not survive the whole thing in one sitting (or two!). “The Pillory” is one of the most challenging things that I’ve listened to, without a doubt.

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The question is do I recommend it? That’s difficult. I am not sure how often that I am physically capable of listening to this piece. It’s THAT epic and that avant garde. It’s definitely more like a piece of art than a standard piece of music. So if you do want a challenge, be prepared. You’ve been warned. Check out, a man who is more than just a musician on Jasun Martz -“Solo Exhibition – A Retrospective.”

To purchase this CD, and the rest of this box set: https://www.amazon.com/Solo-Exhibition-Retrospective-Jasun-Martz/dp/B01N5CNQEF/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1503091406&sr=1-2&keywords=jasun+martz

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Byzantine – “The Cicada Tree”

byzantineMost reviews on this site are either requested by bands or releases that I receive from labels or PR agents. This review is not that. I like when an album that I buy impresses me enough to WANT to write a review. The new Byzantine album “The Cicada Tree” is one of those albums. I got into this band a few years back when they reformed and released their self titled album. I was impressed and really enjoyed that album.

But the band upped their game on their last album “To Release Is to Resolve.” They have been a groove metal band from day one but on that last album they really developed a progressive side to their meaty riffs. As a result, the songs were stronger, the riffs were even better and the album as a whole kicked ass. It’s hard to believe it but their latest album “The Cicada Tree” takes things to an even HIGHER level!

When I listened to it the first time, I was blown away. Literally each song was a “holy shit this is good” moment. The mix and production are just incredible. The band’s playing has never been better. And the clean and harsh vocals from Chris “OJ” Ojeda and Brian Henderson fit each track perfectly. There is not a weak moment or wasted note on this entire album. Period.

I could go on and on about each track but I’ll highlight my personal favorites. “Dead as Autumn Leaves” is a very melodic, progressive track that might not be as “apeshit” as what comes before it, yet it’s still heavy and it showcases the band’s range and song writing talents. Along the same lines, the title track was one that made my jaw drop. There’s a level of depth to that track that most band’s can’t even approach. But then things actually get even BETTER with the NEXT track, the epic 9 minute “Verses of Violence.” Holy fucking shit! This song is a masterpiece. This song is what prog metal is about. Definite. The last 2 1/2 will melt your face.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next song is a cover of the Cars classic “Moving in Stereo.” Yes really. And it’s incredible!! I loved the Cars back in the day but Byzantine make the song their own but never lose the vibe of the original. Amazing version. I always say a band is only as good as their drummer and new guy Matt Bowles is the man. He pushes the band hard and it’s clear they are better for it. They sound tighter than ever!

For me, 2017 has been a sketchy year for music. Artists that I usually can count on for great albums have come up empty. So it’s really nice that Byzantine prove that if you are a hard working band, you can and will succeed. Not many bands have worked as hard as this West Virginia band and even if it’s takes 17 years for people to figure out how great they are, I am sure they will take it. “The Cicada Tree” is a fucking masterpiece and will be a contender for my album of the year for 2017.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

1. New Ways to Bear Witness
2. Vile Maxim
3. Map of the Creator
4. Dead as Autumn Leaves
5. Trapjaw
6. The Subjugated
7. Incremental
8. The Cicada Tree
9. Verses of Violence
10. Moving in Stereo (The Cars)
11. Servitude (Fishbone)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Byzantinewv
Bandcamp: byzantine.bandcamp.com/album/the-cicada-tree

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Unicorn – “A Collection of Worlds – Resurrection”

a2673913756_16I guess I should start with a disclaimer. Dan Swanö is a genius in my book, so factor that in as you read this review! This release is unlike anything Dan has done before. Unicorn was his prog band that he started in his late teens. “A Collection of Worlds” was originally recorded back in the late 80s. The young band recorded it themselves in a very basic demo way. They did the best they could but didn’t have a proper studio at the time.

Clearly, Unicorn has held a special place in Dan’s heart because he set about trying to update those very primitive demos and add new vocals to this mix. He gives an excellent essay on this process which explains just how much work was done to make this “resurrection” sound the way that it does. And certainly, the sound quality of this album is not one you’d assume to be an outdated 80s demo tape. The sound is fresh, bright and has plenty of power.

What about the music itself? Unicorn were definitely a band influenced by the British neo prog movement of the 1980s. There are definitely hints of IQ, Marillion and even Asia. The one area that is a little on the “cute” side is the lyrics. The line about getting “milk and donuts” in the track “Yellow and Greg” does make me smile. But the soloing on that same track makes you forgive whatever teenage lyrics might be somewhat cringe worthy.

Also, these are REALLY memorable songs. “Times of Change” and “Czarina of Vermillion” are so damn catchy that you will be singing along before too long. The music and melodies are VERY strong which is quite incredible for such a young band. You’d never guess it was a band of teens. The band also were great musicians too. The playing is very strong on every track. Sure there are some choices that maybe don’t quite work. Dan’s drum playing on “The Dumb” sounds a bit too eager but considering his age. It makes sense.

“A Collection of Worlds – Resurrection” is a brave project. But it shows the talent that Dan Swanö had as a teenager mixing with the talent that he has now. The rest of Unicorn should also be proud. Anders Måreby, Peter Edwinzon and Per Runesson each give stellar performances. Check out Måreby’s flute playing on “Lake of Time” for example. Clearly, “A Collection of Worlds – Resurrection” is a labor of love for Dan and it comes across that way. It’s more than just a sonic facelift. “A Collection of Worlds – Resurrection” is a complete sonic refurbishing.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Czarina of Vermilion
2. Yellow and Greg
3. Times of Change
4. The Dumb
5. Lake of Time
6. Visage
7. Exhibition of Souls
8. Tears of Joy

Facebook: facebook.com/unicornswe
Bandcamp: unicornsweden.bandcamp.com/releases

Posted in neo-prog, progressive rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

Freaky Jelly – “Reverse”

Freaky-Jelly-Reverse-2017For starters, Brazilian band Freaky Jelly have one of the worst names I’ve seen. It ranks right up there with Bad Salad! I realize that the good names are all gone and yeah I guess most of the boring ones are too but Freaky Jelly sound like a shitty 90s nu metal band. But the good news is they are not one of those. The band are more rooted in 90s prog metal, like Dream Theater and even Shadow Gallery.

The good news is they are very skilled musicians and, on their album “Reverse,” they do showcase their skills but not to the point of excess. So I do admire their ability to self monitor their talents. The lead track “Reflections” does properly show both the skill and restraint of Freaky Jelly. The one downside to this track is that it sounds like it ends…like REALLY ends before it starts back up. While I don’t mind false endings, this sounds way too much like a real end.

I think that moment does highlight one of the flaws. The band is not great with transitions. There are plenty of great moments through out “Reverse,” but often it’s a great verse followed by an awkward chorus. There are other times like on “Alicia’s Garden” were each part sounds really off. I just couldn’t get into that track at all. It’s just very awkward and has no good hooks to it.

Vocalist Ricardo DeStefano can sing but too often he falls off a note and his upper register does get very nasally at times. It comes across as being forced which is a shame. Drummer Mauricio Grosso is a fine drummer but he often gets lost in his own never ending fills rather than drive the song forward. And his toms are tuned so high that they really annoy the hell out of me when he uses them, and he does. It’s strange at first because I thought “what the hell was that?” So perhaps a bit less of that would help out the listener.

Again, this band does have the talent and the epic closing trilogy “Behind the Memories” does prove it. The problems just tend to be tightening up the song writing and perhaps playing a bit more to their singer’s strengths. Granted, I certainly would change the name! But what’s in a name right? Porcupine Tree is an odd name too, right? “Reverse” has its moments they just don’t come often enough for me.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklist:

1. Reflections
2. Highest Ground
3. Alicia´s Garden
4. Nothing to Feel
5. Saints and Sinners
6. Hardest Part of Goodbye
7. Behind the Memories – Part. I – Illusions
8. Behind the Memories – Part II – Wake Up
9. Behind the Memories – Part III – Morning Glory

CDBaby: store.cdbaby.com/cd/freakyjelly
Facebook: www.facebook.com/freakyjelly

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World Trade – “Unity”

WORLD_TRADE_unify_COVER_HI.jpgA lot of people know who Billy Sherwood is nowadays. He is in the “Drama” version of Yes, having replaced the late, great Chris Squire on bass. He also has a band with former Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye called Circa: and they released an album not long ago called “Valley of the Windmill.” I really enjoyed that album in addition to Sherwood’s last solo outing “Citizen.”

Sherwood first showed up on my radar when he was tabbed to join YesWest (Squire, Kaye, Alan White and Trevor Rabin) as the replacement for Jon Anderson back in 1990 when Anderson was working on the second ABWH album. Of course this led to the “Union” album and Sherwood didn’t join Yes at that time. It led me to check out the band that Sherwood was part of, World Trade.

World Trade had some definite Yes qualities on their self titled debut which came out in 1989 but they also had a lot of 80s Rush in their sound as well. They weren’t about play a lot of notes and always wrote songs rather than epics. They also weren’t writing fast paced songs either. World Trade resurfaced in 1995 with a second album “Euphoria” which sounded a lot more like the Sherwood/Squire project Conspiracy (which wouldn’t officially surface til 2000) than the first World Trade album.

So now years after that second album and many other projects by Sherwood, World Trade returns with “Unity.” The first thing I noticed is that it sounds very much like what I was hoping “Euphoria” would sound like, an updated version of the first album. They sound like a BAND again versus just another Billy Sherwood album. Having said that, if you aren’t a fan of Sherwood, “Unity” isn’t going to change that!

It’s great to hear the other members contribute to “Unity.” Both keyboadist Guy Allison and guitarist Bruce Gowdy get solos on “Where Were Going.” And original drummer Mark T. Williams is back after missing the last album which is great because he gives these songs a kick in the ass that they need. “Pandora’s Box” would probably drag a bit if not for Williams. This is something Sherwood’s material sometimes does. But with that added power even Sherwood’s bass playing has punch and power. Great solos on this track too.

Another track that I like a lot is “On Target On Time,” because it has a killer groove…not something World Trade has really had before. The descending riff on that song is really cool too. I saw some people bitching about the title track on YouTube. To be honest, I have no idea what these people are listening to. The song has a slight Buggles/Yes Drama vibe to it which considering the other band Sherwood is in, it makes sense. It’s just a fresh sounding track.

The album isn’t perfect, of course. “Same Old Song” does lumber a bit and ironically sounds like something I’ve heard before from both Sherwood and World Trade. Still, it’s not a bad track! The other thing I’ve noticed is how many Dream Theater fans think the artwork is somehow a rip off of “Octavarium.” The thing is the artwork is an homage to their self titled debut which came out as I said in 1989. “Octavarium” came out in 2005. Hugh Syme did BOTH of those. Do some research, kids.

It’s a shame that World Trade really was relegated to being an afterthought by it’s own members. It’s clear they’ve not lost any of their chemistry. “Unity” is not about a ton of notes but rather the right notes played properly at the right time. It’s a smart album and a stand out in Billy Sherwood’s discography.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. The New Norm
2. Where Were Going
3. Pandoras Box
4. On Target On Time
5. Gone All The Way
6. Unify
7. For The Fallen
8. Life Force
9. Same Old Song
10. Again

Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.

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Galactic Cowboys return with original line up and first album in 17 years!!

Here is the official press release. I am REALLY excited for this. I got into this band right from their self titled album on. I saw them open for Dream Theater in 1993. They’ve been missed…by many I think!


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Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group are thrilled to announce the signing of 90’s progressive metal adventurers Galactic Cowboys who return with the original line up and their first album in 17 years.

Dane Sonnier (Guitar), Ben C. Huggins (Vocals), Alan Doss (Drums/Keyboards) and Monty Colvin (Bass) are strapped in, heading back to the Ranch on Mars and are recording together for the first time since 1993’s ‘Space In Your Face’, to rain down a sonic meteor shower later this year.

The Houston, Texas quartet caught the attention of Geffen Records with their eclectic blend of melodic vocals, thrashing riffery and progressive explorations to release their self-titled debut in 1991, the same year as label mates Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’. Though the antithesis of grunge, the Cowboys none the less chalked up videos in heavy MTV rotation, and a memorable appearance in 1994’s ‘Airheads’. Tours followed with Dream Theater, King’s X, Anthrax and Overkill. Going on to release an additional 5 albums, the group disbanded after 2000’s ‘Let It Go’. Their music left a lasting mark on many musicians, including fans Mike Portnoy, Kerry Livgren (Kansas) and Eric Singer (KISS).

Talking about joining Music Theories Recordings (Ayreon, Flying Colors, Don Airey, Neal Schon, Paul Gilbert), Monty Colvin shares, “I am very excited to restart the artistic engine of Galactic Cowboys and bring the universe new music! We’re looking forward to a great working relationship with Mascot!”

“We said we’d only come back if the world needed us. When Mascot sent out the distress call we knew it was time to return. Get ready world. Here come Galactic Cowboys!” adds Ben C Huggins.

Talking about the addition to the label, CEO Ed Van Zijl went on to say, “Every music enthusiast has a favourite band that they dream would reunite one day. Fans worldwide will be stoked to see Galactic Cowboys back in their original line-up, and so are we. We’re excited to have them be part of our growing Mascot family!”

More details to come soon.

Posted in progressive metal | Tagged | 5 Comments