Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband – “Tor & Vale”

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Simplicity in instrumentation does not equate to simplicity in sound.

Tor & Vale is an album by Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband. It features Mr. Wingfield on guitar and Mr. Husband on piano. This duo can make an immense sound.

The album includes 3 tracks that were captured as improvisations. A listen to these tracks should let one know that these two musicians work well together.

The title track is a 16 minute plus improvised piece, and it is my favorite. This selection features guitar tones that transform into other sounds, with interjections from the piano. Here the ease of interplay between the two musicians is on display.

This release showcases the skills of the players. The music flows forth, and it is a joy to listen to. Certainly it was a joy for the musicians to perform!

If you are a fan of guitar music, piano music, jazz or progressive rock (these genres are related in my book), give Tor & Vale a listen.

Rating: 9/10

Mark Wingfield – guitar and soundscapes
Gary Husband – piano

Tracklisting:
1. Kittiwake
2. The Golden Thread
3. Night Song
4. Tor & Vale
5. Shape Of Light
6. Tryfan
7. Silver Sky
8. Vaquita

All compositions by Mark Wingfield except 04, 05, 07
which were improvised by Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband

Available July 31, 2019

Bandcamp: markwingfield-moonjune.bandcamp.com/album/tor-vale-hd

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Pure Reason Revolution reunite; sign to InsideOutMusic for release of first new studio album in nearly 10 years

Pure Reason Revolution are BACK! Check out the press release below!

 

Jon Courtney & Chloë Alper have reunited the much-loved Pure Reason Revolution, playing their first show in close to 8 years at the recent Midsummer Prog Festival in the Netherlands, and performing their debut album ‘The Dark Third’ in full. They comment: “The festival & crowd reaction was incredible. We were touched that people had travelled from Canada, Russia, Italy, Spain, UK & many more countries. The tracks are exciting as ever to play & it’s encouraging to see the material still has relevance & connects.”  
PRR

 

The band have also revealed they are working on a brand new studio album, and have signed to InsideOutMusic for its release in 2020. Jon Courtney comments: “We’re currently working on material for the new album which returns to a more progressive sound & it’s nice to remind ourselves of the genesis of PRR” while Chloë adds: “it’s sounding spectacular.”

Pure Reason Revolution originally parted ways in November 2011, following touring in support of their 2010 album Hammer & Anvil. Since then, Jon Courtney started Bullet Height and released their debut album ‘No Atonement’ in 2017, while Chloë Alper began a new band called Tiny Giant as well as playing live with the likes of Charli XCX & James.

The band originally formed back in 2003, releasing their much-loved debut album ‘The Dark Third’ in 2006 via Sony BMG. They went on to release the albums ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’ in 2009 & ‘Hammer & Anvil’ in 2010.

Look out for more information on the bands forthcoming new album.

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iamthemorning – “The Bell”

Sad songs are assumed to be sad by definition.

Sadness, though, can mask deeper feelings, maintaining a semblance of composure in the face of self-annihilation.

iamthemorning’s fourth album, The Bell, is more than its description as a song cycle of human cruelty, told through Victorian-inflected lyrics.
Deeper, darker emotions grow from a body of surface-level sadness, creating a moving and incisive study of the nature of pain and its impact on the human psyche.

The music, both in Marjana Semkina’s vocals and Gleb Kolyadin’s classical sensibilities informing the instrumentation, is beautifully melodic even in its most chaotic moments. Semkina creates complex vocal lines in this album, quickly moving between soaring highs and and resonant lows, while still keeping floating lulls that sound gentler than the songs imply. Her style has evolved gradually into a stunning tour de force that remains catchy while defying conventional structure. Semkina deserves credit not just for her vocal work, but as a sophisticated lyricist. She writes deeply disturbing material without being overly graphic or bombastic in nature, instead letting the emotional effects of the story overtake the listener.

The album kicks off with one of its most progressive and epic numbers, “Freak Show”. Sung from the perspective of being a spectacle for others’ amusement, the piece crashes between flamenco-inflected guitar (calling to mind Steve Howe’s guest appearance on the Queen song “Innuendo”), and a klezmer-styled saxophone solo . Like the following song, “Sleeping Beauty”, this song goes between bitterness, to resentment, to erupting in anger, reprising nursery rhymes almost as mantras to reinforce the hurt of each song’s subject. “Sleeping Beauty” is musically much softer, with an arrangement that wouldn’t be out of place on a Marillion ballad from the later 1990s or early 2000s.

“Blue Sea” debuted on Ocean Sounds, and remains a soft, gentle song with painful lyrics. Here, it serves as a sort of break between the first two interconnected songs and the next two, as “Black and Blue” and “Six Feet” also thematically reflect one another, both repeating lyrical motifs of white dresses and burial, bringing back the undercurrent of anger in the music. The softness of Semkina’s vocals almost hides the venom in a lowly-sung question: “Should I thank you?”
“Six Feet” is told from both sides of its dark narrative: a woman buried alive by her husband. In material, it calls to mind Steven Wilson’s song “The Pin Drop”, and would be terrifyingly beautiful if performed as a duet.

The second part of the cycle begins with “Ghost of a Story”, where Kolyadin’s piano shimmers like sunlight on water as Semkina gives voice to the feeling of soul-crushing emotional numbness. “Everything has its boundaries, including your grief.”
“Song of Psyche” follows in a similarly calm melody to obliquely depict self-destruction. In this retelling of Psyche’s descent into the Underworld, she won’t make it back, and if the descent is for the human psyche rather than the mythical, it too ends unhappily.

“Lilies” is the most explicitly classical song, its Schubertian piano calling to mind a rushing, rippling river that overtakes Semkina’s Ophelia-like vocals. It’s interesting to note that the middle songs of both halves of the album tell stories of drowning that counteract the emotions around the other pieces: “Blue Sea” is more resigned amidst stories of anger and resentment, while “Lilies” comes across as more anguished and almost panicked amidst songs where the subjects’ pain is more tied in with resignation that the pain cannot and will not disappear unless they do.

“Salute” melds the epic nature of “Freak Show”, the relationship narratives of “Black and Blue” and “Six Feet”, and the carnival-esque measures of “Matches” from the previous album Lighthouse. As a song cavalierly describing how the narrator will be destroyed by the subject for defying them, the hopelessness masked as passive-aggression is catchy and captivating.

The finale and title track, “The Bell”, is a soft but appropriate finale. Lyrically, this song is the only one that sounds resigned but hopeful, almost contented in death to escape a lifetime of pain. As a resolution, it answers that if the causes of human suffering are not mitigated or reduced, the only way to end the suffering is to end the sufferer.

This album is neither light nor easy listening, for its journey through suffering. If that doesn’t faze people, it’s a skillfully composed, breathtaking experience.
And if listeners identify with the pain in the lyrics, it’s a strangely comforting work for hearing the darkest recesses of emotion brought to light.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

  1. Freak Show
  2. Sleeping Beauty
  3. Blue Sea
  4. Black and Blue
  5. Six Feet
  6. Ghost of a Story
  7. Song of Psyche
  8. Lilies
  9. Salute
  10. The Bell

Label: Kscope
Release Date: 2 August 2019
Bandcamp: https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iamthemorningpage

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PMP takes on Heavy Montréal

After Matt’s coverage of ProgPower, Progressive Music Planet takes on a new contender!

Unfortunately, Wacken and Tuska were not viable options. Both too far away, and too expensive for this reviewer to get to, festival-wise. (Maybe another time?)

But, North America does have one last bastion of European flavour: Montréal.

Both a mainstay for prog acts that often don’t play elsewhere on the continent, and officially declared a “heavy metal city” in April 2019, the city has a lot to offer in musical eclecticism.

The summer festival Heavy Montréal approaches its 10th edition over the weekend of July 27 and 28, and with a Montréal-based contributor (yours truly) now adding to the PMP oeuvre, a collaboration not only felt appropriate but inevitable.

I haven’t seen any of the acts playing the festival, so this coverage will be coming from a “beginner’s mind”. Not without a critical eye, but still open and encouraging to check out what’s there.

For the prog side of the 2019 roster, Ghost headlines the first night with their only North American summer show. I first discovered them through a Rush forum during the R40 tour, and between the initial rave reviews from other prog fans, the band’s penchant for intense theatricality, and the guest appearance of Mikael Åkerfeldt on their 2018 album Prequelle, Ghost’s credentials are solid while remaining accessible to less-intensive prog or metal fans. (For a band that does solid arena rock with clean vocals, their ghoulish revelry works wonders. Ave Satanas.)

Of Rob’s top picks from 2018, Rivers of Nihil are booked to perform, and Devin Townsend is choosing to once again surprise the hell out of people by playing an acoustic set.

Beyond that? More acts to be surprised by, from the satirical overdose of hair metal and hairspray that is Steel Panther, the Tex-Mex stylings of Metalachi, the Viking fury of Skálmöld, all the way through to the blood-soaked rituals of Watain.

It will be heavy in Montréal this weekend. Let’s see how heavy it can get.

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Richard Henshall – “The Cocoon”

henshall“The Cocoon” is the debut solo album from Haken guitarist Richard Henshall. As with any solo album, one of two options can happen. Either the artist needs to show other sides of their talent or the album is an extension of their band. For Henshall, “The Cocoon” is the latter. Many of the songs and riffs would not sound out of place on a Haken album.

The main differences on his solo material is that Henshall does the vocals. While he can hold a tune, he has a very limited range and is a serviceable singer at best. I’d rather hear Ross Jennings singing this material to be quite honest. One other issue that I have is the material itself. It’s rather disjointed overall. The ideas seems to jump from one to the next. Having a band means that others can help work through the “kinks.”

“Twisted Shadows” is the first single and a wise choice since I think it’s one of the better songs but even there, the song goes from swing to metal to jazz and never really figures out what it wants to be. The album starts with a nice intro piece “Pupa” which does transition well into the title track. Still there’s too much reliance on tech versus talent. Things sound like “Vector” in that regard.

Also, there’s a bit too much djent on “The Cocoon” which doesn’t work for me. Djent is fine when used sparingly but Henshall leans on it a bit too much. “Silken Chains” is next and is way way too synthetic sounding. “Limbo” is a decent track with a lot of atmosphere. Definitely one of the better tunes. “Lunar Room” has a lot of parts to it, and most of those work really well. But the biggest gaff is the rapping at the start of the song. Yes rapping. It just doesn’t work for me.

The rest of that song is pretty interesting but it does seem “all over the place.” The album closer is “Afterglow” and is another solid song. Overall, I had very high expectations for “The Cocoon” but much like the last Haken album, this fell well short of my expectations. None of this will matter as Haken fans will love this because that’s how die hard fans operate. For me, I’ll pass. The vocals are too weak and the songs just aren’t strong enough, though the musicianship is top notch.

Rating: 5/10

Tracklist:
1. Pupa (2:26)
2. Cocoon (10:27)
3. Silken Chains (8:10)
4. Limbo (3:55)
5. Lunar Room (8:22)
6. Twisted Shadows (8:47)
7. Afterglow (5:16)

Release Date: 9 August 2019 (updated)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RichHenshall

Posted in djent, progressive metal | Tagged | 5 Comments

Billy Sherwood – “Citizen: In The Next Life”

823972Billy Sherwood returns with his follow up to 2015’s “Citizen” with a sequel called “Citizen: In The Next Life.” Sherwood is a busy guy as he plays in versions of Yes and Asia, trying to fill the shoes of legends. While he does still have a vocal style similar to the late Chris Squire, on “Citizen: In The Next Life” it seems that his voice is beginning to show some wear and tear.

The vocals are rather raspy and thin at times which doesn’t help an album that (like all of his material) rely heavily on melody. Sherwood has a style musically. The songs are slower and not terribly technical. That’s fine so long as the songs are good. I did like the ones on “Citizen,” but I think “Citizen: In The Next Life” is more of the same…but without the uniqueness.

Sherwood is going over the same ground. The concept is still about a time traveler (The Citizen) who meets people and places through out history. Unfortunately, this one sounds like outtakes from the first album. “The Partisan” is about Hitler, while “Monet,” “Via Hawking,” and “Mata Hari” are about their namesakes. But it’s hard to distinguish one from the next after a while. Mid to slow tempo, thin vocals and average playing. Soft and mellow. And the songs just aren’t unique.

To be fair, Sherwood has made a career out of that style. It’s just that he did it better within World Trade, Conspiracy and Circa:. Perhaps, he needs a band to keep him from settling into this sort of bland material? I’m not sure. Or perhaps he is just worn out? Who knows. “Citizen: In The Next Life” isn’t going to get him any new fans and it might not even interest the ones Sherwood has.

Rating: 4/10

Tracklist:
1. The Partisan
2. Sophia
3. Monet
4. Skywriter
5. We Shall Ride Again
6. Via Hawking
7. By Design
8. Sailing The Seas
9. Mata Hari
10. Hold Quite

Label: Frontiers Music
Release Date: 12 July 2019

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A Look At Civil Defiance

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Los Angeles, 1989… A 19 year old me went out with some friends to see some bands playing on the strip in Hollywood, a somewhat regular occurrence. On this particular night there was a band from the town I was living in (Tujunga) so we made haste to the venue to see what all the fuss was about.

Thrash and speed metal was the topic of the night and the all the bands delivered but one band stood out from the crowd… Civil Defiance. The band started their young career as a thrash/speed metal band but even then had a unique sound and often experimented with their music. I found myself fascinated with this band and attended nearly every show they played. Songs like “Storming Normandy”, “Bondage” and “One, Number One Son” had the crowds circling in a frenzy.

As time passed, the band became more and more experimental, often jumping genres into jazz and utilizing classical instruments. Eventually, in 1996, the band signed to Dream Circle Records to record “The Fishers For Souls” album and later, in 1999, they released “Circus Of Fear” on Grind Syndicate Media. That was the last we heard of them. Later, guitarist and vocalist Gerry Nestler went on to form the more widely known band Philm with then ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo.

Present day… There is a reason why I’m writing this article. Recently there has been talk of Civil Defiance reuniting and rehearsals are under way. For me, as a long time dedicated fan, this is exciting news. However, this band is not as known as it should be so I set out to deliver to you some information about them. If you are into bands like Death and Voivod, you will most likely dig Civil D. But make no mistake, there is really no comparison to the sound of Civil Defiance and I urge you to take a listen for yourself. I for one, have waited a very long time for some new music from these guys.

Line up;

Gerry Nestler – Guitar, Vocals, Piano

Mike Kinney – Guitar

Jenk Kent – Bass

Brad Hornbacher – Lyrics

(drummer to be announced). R.I.P. 2005 Mike Kent – Drums

Posted in progressive metal | Tagged | 2 Comments