Eris Pluvia - Tales From Another Time

Eris Pluvia is an Italian band that produces  excellent progrock, often influenced by folk atmospheres when the band uses flute, sax, violin and acoustic guitars. The band sings in English and it is clear that this is not their native language, but it does bring some elegance to the words.  This Genoese band has matured since their 1991 debut “Rings of Earthly Light” of which many say that album contributed to the rebirth of the Italian Prog Scene. Since then they released another 3 albums, that said, with a hiatus of nearly 20 years before the follow up of their debut saw the light  “Third Eye Light (2010). The band said this was due to a coming and going of bandmates, personal problems etcetera. Between “Third Eye Light” and “Different Earth” was a 6 year gap, due to the untimely death of founding member Paolo Raciti. The band said: “We had to start from scratch since he was the leader and heart of the band.”

Fortunately there’s only a 3 year gap with this new album “Tales from another Time”.

 It is no exaggeration to say that Tales From Another Time is a well-conceived piece of work, sometimes really fantastic for both the compositions and the way in which they are presented to us and this also thanks to the capability of an instrumental technique that Eris Pluvia is show casing here. The band has the ability to interact the composition. The amalgamation between the various components  demonstrate their qualities. Certainly they are inspired by the great names of the symphonic progressive scene, but yet they create their peronal touch and that keeps the listener hooked.

 The music of Eris Pluvia is delicate, powerful and visceral at the same time, everything fits perfectly, almost like a score written without the aid of instruments, as if the band had that quality that belongs only to the geniuses, and who was writing the scores without the help of piano or harpsichord if not the great Mozart? Here, Eris Pluvia are one step away from becoming the magnificent of Italian rock, and perhaps they are already that, thanks to this fantastic Tales From Another Time.

A quick review on the tracks on the album:

-When Love Dies, an instrumental, shows off a creepy classicism thanks to the beautiful piano that develops a theme dictated by Canterbury style and perhaps Camel.

-Lost In The Sands Of Time is the first song, sung in English by Roberto Minniti. It give the song an atmosphere of great sinforock, a truly remarkable piece. It  reminds us of Lanzetti of PFM or even  Łukasz "Gall" Gałęziowsk of Polish band Millenium.

-La chanson de Jeanne clocks at about 19 minutes and this is were Eris Pluvia shows you what they’re capable of also thanks to the voice of Ludovica Strizoli. A comparason with Pink Floyd is easy made but they made this timely piece their own. A joy to listen to.

-The call of Cthulhu despite having a Goblinian introduction immediately jumps into a thousand and one night rock opera and clocks at about 12 minutes. It’s a three piece suite (A Stormy Night, The Secrets Of The Sea, The Awakening Of The Gods), Rock Progressivo Italiano at its best and very symphonic.

-Last Train To Atlana brings  us to delicate atmospheres. This entirely instrumental song gives the chills and takes you back in time tot he golden age of Prog, the seventees.

-The Hum, the last song, again divided into different parts (5) is so elegant and well structured, that it could have been made by a very renowned prog band, but this is Eris Pluvia we are talking about and they should be better known in the Prog Scene.

So in short, this a most elegant and structured album with very atmospheric pieces. Fans of Camel and for that matter Pink Floyd will enjoy this very much.

Rating 4,5 out of 5

Review: Jens Bertjens ©2019

United Progressive Fraternity - Planetary Overload Part I - Loss

Led by great singer Mark Trueack (Unitopia), who's voice is in my opinion a cross between Chris Thompson and Guy Garvey, the band further consist of Steve Unruth (violin, guitars, flute, vocals), Mark Franco (bass), Joe Toscano (drums), Marek Arnold (sax), Matthew Atherton (synths), Dan Mash (bass),Christophe Lebled (keys), Cornel Wilczek (orchestration). Again loads of guest appearances on the album by the likes of Michel St-Père (Mystery), Jon Davison (Glass Hammer/Yes), Nick Magnus (Steve Hackett), Michelle Young (Glass Hammer), Hasse Fröberg (Flower Kings), Steve Hackett, Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and many, many others. 

The album comes with a bonus CD, with different mixes and remixes from their previous album "Fall In Love With The World". Total playing time for both album is nearly 2 hours. We stick to the basic album for this review however.

The first part Phase One 'Dawning on Us' consist of 4 individual songs with spoken words on the first song, "Loss Anthem", from a.o. Sir David Attenborough, warning us of the imminent Climate Change, with flute by Steve Unruth and the angelic voice of Jon Davidson and is a nice opener for what is to come. After that introduction the band asked themselves "What Happens Now". Strong words: "Look at Nothing We Have Done", in other words "look in the mirror and what have you done?". A strong and heavy song with Mark Trueack at his best. "Cruel Times" is the 3rd song from the first chapter taking on rising water levels in our oceans and seas, stating "We are the ones who can make this right", again beautifully sung by Mark Trueack, backed by Lisa Wetton and Hasse Froberg, with some nice jazzy and folk intervals. Quite an Anthem clocking over 8 minutes. The last song of part one is called "What Are Doing To Ourselves", strong lyrics again "While the first World will find solutions where the third World would have to pay". All set in a marimba setting. "Is there anyway to getting through?", again some words from Sir David Attenborough at the end about public enemy number one: "PLASTIC".

"Stop Time" marks the beginning of the second phase of this album called "Destraction and Destruction" about Global Warming, plastic waste, in general. It has a bit of King Crimson feeling to it. Message clear and understood. "One More" is a ballad with nice guitar and violin and the strong voice of Mark Trueack asking the question "What Happens Now?" (The Economy is more important than the air that we breathe). "Mercanaries" is the most heavy song on the album. Goes to show that we are led to believe that everything is gonna be alright. Is it? Anothe ballad follows "What If" only guitar and sax and vocals, asking the question "If we could live in peace following" when a child asks his father "What are we doing to ourselves". "Forgive Me My Son" starts with guns blazing (literaly). A war song. One cross, one flag, one goal, once choise. Strong lyrics again, reading throught the lines, "what's the point of it all?".

Phase III “Growing”  starts with "Dying to be Reborn", which is probably the most "radio friendly" track on the album. Again strong lyrics "Die just in this world, until the mind is reborn". Can we do and will we be able to do it all over and do a better job, is my interpretation. What follows is the Opus on this album, clocking just under 20 minutes, and UPF is on its finest on this one. "Seeds For Life" includes the full staff on this album (Steve Hackett does a nice acoustic guitar solo) and leads us to the polution of the earth by large scale farming objects leading to agricultural problems. If the other tracks on this album did not get you wondering, this one certainly will. (We will bury our own World, stands out in the lyrics) Some nice brass sections, in this song, layered with synths, guitars and violin. The final song" of Phase III is "Loss To Lost" bears a message "Time to change the way we think, and it's staring us in the face" 

Wonderful artwork by Ed Unitsky by the way!  

Final conclusion: a truly formidable album by these Aussies. Looking forward to Part II.

Rating 4,8 out of 5  

Review: Jens Bertjens © 2019

Super Sister Projekt 2019 - Retsis Repus

With music which has been compaired by many reviewers as Canterbury Scene, Supersister could easily count itself among the best Dutch bands of the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Albums like Present from Nancy and Iskander still stand the test of time some 50 years later. So what may SUPERSISTER have sounded like in 2019? According to Robert-Jan Stips in his own words. Well, on this album “Retsis Repus”, released under the name Supersister Projekt 2019,  the recognizable Supersister sound is still here, as can be clearly heard in the opening track Memories Are New IV, with the highly recognizable Supersister organ sound. But on the other hand, a new sound has been added by the addition of violins and trombones. Both styles, for example, come together beautifully in For You And Nobody Else, and makes this Supersister sounds slightly like Big Big Train but with unusual tempo changes and a beautiful violin solo. In Next Door Movie, on the other hand, a vibraphone is being added. I Am You Are Me sounds like the most old-fashioned Supersister. Max Eco and Yellow Days gives a real glimpse into 2019. A serious addition to their oeuvre. Guitars are absent, being somewhat of a trade mark of the band. A large number of guest musicians cooperated with mr. Stips on the album including the rhythm section of the Golden Earring (Rinus Gerritsen: bass, Cesar Zuiderwijk: drums), the Dutch stand-up comedian Freek de Jonge (in Cuckoo), Henk Hofstede,  Rob Kloet, Joke Geraets of the Nits, Peter Calicher (Gruppo Sportivo), Leon Klaasse (Sweet D'Buster, Powerplay, The Pilgrims), Bart Wijtman (Ocobar), Rob Wijtman (Ocobar, Guus Meeuwis) and original Supersister drummer Marco Vrolijk.

Who would have thought that 50 years later the spirit of this band is still around and people like Robert Jan Stips brings this musical playground back to life. Not for a  moment this is old-fashioned or boring. This is fresh, varied and inspiring.

Let’s hope Robert-Jan Stips does another Supersister Projekt !!!

 

Review: Frans Verweij ©2019

Still thrilled that we went to the same school.

Oscillazioni Alchemico Kreative - Giordano Bruno

This gem comes from Italy and the driving force behind this project is Jerry Cutillo. The album is, what we can expect from Prog artists, a concept album. Jerry takes on the story of Giordano Bruno, a 16th Century Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet, cosmological theorist and Hermetic occultist. He had strong views on the Catholic faith and towards Jesus as Christ. For all this (and more) he was imprisoned, trailed and executed under the Roman Inquisition on 17 February 1600 at the Campo de'Fiori, Rome. So that's in brief the story behind it, now back to the album:

Mr. Cutillo is a very talented guy and has delivered a very original album. He personally signs for Guitar, percussion, keyboards, tubular bells, time generator, flutes and all orchestral arrangement. He invited also some guest to come along by the likes of David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), Richard Sinclair (Caravan/Hatfield and the North/Camel), Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) and the late Maartin Allcock (Jethro Tull).

The album is a pleasure to listen to. At times bombastic, then sweet, I can hear Focus in there, but when mr. Cutilo plays his keyboards, his rapid moves reminds me of the late Rick van der Linden of Dutch band Ekseption. This is a very very enjoyable album, again this is a concept album so let mr Cutillo take you on a trip to the 16th Century and let his music gently kiss your ears

 

Artifact: Jerry Cutillo had a big (disco) hit in 1985 under the name Moses with: We Just (Our Revolution)

 

Review: Frans Verweij © 2019

Steve Hackett: At The Edge Of Light

One can only have a look at the output of music Mr Hackett managed in the last decade to find him a very productive musician. Beside his own studio albums (26), live albums (18) and numerous collaborations with other artists/bands like Hungarian Djabe, Dave Kerzner's Continuum, Squackett (with Chris Squire), GTR (with Steve Howe), his brother John and I'm sure I left numerous out. Given the man being on tour with his Genesis Revisited since 2012 (originated from his 1997 idea to do the Tokyo Tapes, where he played Genesis songs live with the creme the la creme of prog (a.o. John Wetton, Ian McDonald, Chester Thompson) it makes you wonder if he perhaps need a SatNav to direct him to his home. 

Now 2019 brings this new album, which we as TVRDO classed as Album of the Month (AOM), another 160 tour dates (mixing the “Selling England by the Pound” album, his first eponymous album “Spectral Mornings” and of course his new stuff...) 

‘At The Edge Of The Light’ is, like it's predecessor "The Night Siren" under the influence of "new" music, in that respect a comparison with his former band mate Peter Gabriel springs to mind, also the fact that Hackett is still an explorer of "new" sounds. Again on this album he's using the sitar, didgeridoo, tar and duduk. This makes the album again not stuck in a certain genre, sure it's Progressive but he throws in Blues, Gospel, Classical guitar being Hackett to pieces.  

Hackett explains that while this isn’t a concept album, there is a unity of themes throughout the music. 

“Fallen Walls and Pedestals” has great examples of Hackett’s signature lead style, both melodic and manic(!) which set the scene for what lies ahead, but it appears not to have been finished. I'm missing somethings and at a little over 2 minutes it's the shortest track on the album. “Beasts of our Time” address the subject of darkness and light in the world today, mixing acoustic and strident sections to illustrate the contrasts, the story told by the lyrics and the sound pictures. The layered vocal harmonies on “Under The Eye Of The Sun” give way to some of atmospheric world music elements mentioned above, combined with some very prog keyboard playing. The McBroom sisters’ (Pink Floyd) performance on “Underground Railroad” is a real highlight and one of the first times Steve has brought a gospel style to his music.

Then nealy 12 minutes of epic prog in “Those Golden Wings”. This is a sumptuous offering, with lush orchestration, choir and 12-string guitar supporting his lead vocals. It also features some of the only classical guitar we find on the album. The rhythm section of Nick D’Virgilio on drums and Reingold’s bass is particularly rewarding while Hackett offers the closing solo. This is certainly one of the highlights on the album.

"Shadow and Flame” has the real deal with Sheema Mukherjee on sitar, also accompanied by tabla. These wonderful, traditional instruments meet Hackett’s and co-writer/arranger Roger King’s standard approach to orchestration and percussion, and might even have a George Harrison feel to it.

The final three tracks should be listed to as a whole drawing everything you have been listening to before to a close. We find dark and militairy rhythm like chords in "Descent" which flows into "Conflict" with speeding and furious rhythms and percussion. The track ends with fading strings and a piano is mixed in to become the final part of this section called “Peace”. Then a voice which echoes into a choir with hopeful lyrics. The band joins in and have the song raised with a perfectly harmonized guitar section which leads to a lyrical closing solo. If the rest of the album did not move you in anyway, these closing tracks must certainly do. 

Mr. Hackett will celebrate his 69th birthday on the 12th of February.

Review: Jens Bertjens © 2019

Rating: 4,35 out of 5

Trevor Horn & Sarm Orchestra-Reimagines The Eighties

Producer Trevor Horn first came to prominence as part of the duo The Buggles and the Number 1 hit, Video Killed The Radio Star, in 1979. After that he was briefly a member of prog rock group Yes. At the time many eye brows were raised at this unusual move.

He found more success as a record producer for acts such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Grace Jones, Seal and even Dollar, not forgetting Sheffield's ABC debut iconic album The Lexicon of Love.

On this album Durham born Horn has gone on to record with the Sarm Orchestra versions of 80's hits - with some working better than others.

The Tears for Fears 1985 hit, Everybody Wants To Rule The World sung here by Robbie Williams, works to a degree but the vocal seems to miss the innocence of the original vocal sung by Curt Smith.

Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark is almost unrecognisable in the version sung by Gabrielle Aplin - this slower version does not sound as bombastic as the original version and is probably one of the tracks on the album that sounds as good as the original.

When Seal performs David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes you think why have they tried to replicate the Bowie song? The original is the definitive version so why even try?

X Factor winner Matt Cardle though does a good job of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's The Power of Love and Marillion lead singer Steve Hogarth gives a soulful version of Joe Jackson's Its Different For Girls.

The Grace Jones hit, Slave To The Rhythm sounds good with Rumer's vocal and has the lushness of the original, but lacks the directness and mystery that Grace Jones gave the track.

Tony Hadley gives a new slant to What's Love Got To Do With It - Hadley gives it his best shot that would even impress Tina Turner. When Yes had their big stateside hit in 1983 Horn had given back the microphone to Yes singer Jon Anderson though Horn did co write the track and produce it. Here he provides a good vocal to the track that even gives the song a slight jazz touch midway through.

Horn takes over the lead vocals on A-Ha's Take On Me which for me doesn't work in this new version, the track now sounds too drab and mournful.

The New Order hit Blue Monday done here with the Rev Jimmie Wood sounds like it could become a favourite at Last Night of the Proms, this rousing and bouncy version comes out shining here.

The main thing though that pulls all these tracks together is the orchestration and the new arrangements. And why no Video Killed The Radio Star you might ask, that was 1979, though if you really want to be picky he could have done a new version of The Buggles 1980 hit, Living In The Plastic Age. Now that would have been unexpected. 

Review: Graham Clark © 2019

Antimatter-Black Market Enlightenment

060119


The Liverpool based Antimatter has been the long time project of Mick Moss who took the reins after fellow founder Duncan Patterson parted ways in 2005 leaving Moss as the sole director of the project's destiny. While the earlier albums were a quirky mix of dark electronica with Goth rock-tinged trip hop graced with feminine goddess vocals, the newer releases since 2012's "Fear Of A Unique Identity," has found Moss going more into the alternative rock arena with the complexities getting more sophisticated leading him into the progressive rock world. It's been three years since "The Judas Table" and Antimatter is back with “Black Market Enlightenment”  which continues the trend of mixing borderline heavy alternative rock / Goth metal with progressive almost neo-prog symphonic splendor.
While the previous album had a more stripped down effect this album expands the dimensions of the elements set forth once Moss essentially went solo. This album's theme is that of drug addiction and tackles the extremely heavy subject matter in the lyrical department while creating a dark and lugubrious musical backdrop to push it forward. The material is some of the most complex that the band has done with a sense of melancholy that hangs over the album like a lingering black cloud but very effective indeed as the impeccably produced mix and excellent compositions create one of the rare instances where Gothic rock and progressive rock work so well together. This is surely one of the most tense listens of the year as it walks a tightrope between complete emotional breakdown and a sense of suppressed rage waiting to explode but somehow keeps its cool throughout its run.
While Mick Moss is the sole member who plays acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass and provides vocals, the album also adds four extra musicians providing flute, saxophone, drums and a traditional Iranian bowed string instrument called the kamancheh (also kamanche, kamancha or qamancha.) There are also two female vocalists that provide a feminine touch on backing vocals. While the creepy mid-tempo music adds an almost shoegazy sort of guitar distortion with Moss' Gothic vocal style leading the way, the Middle Eastern percussive drives and the kamancheh take the music to an eerie new world where various strains of reality intersect in an unfamiliar way. The synthesizer rich darkwave atmospheric overcast keeps this one in the clouds like a perpetual brain fog that is tuned into some foreign radio station that is set to sadness.
Like most Gothic related music whether it exist in the extremities of metal or the more sensual touches of the Nick Cave camp, this music is eerily romantic and fragile. While the music generally creeps along, the Middle Eastern drumming can become energetic especially on tracks like "Essential," and while the guitar heft is mostly reserved as an atmospheric generator with echoey distortion, it is also implemented to create some metal riffs that chug along to add a sense of crescendo to the mostly stoic and detached emotional tug of war. Moss' vocal style is very limited as he sings in a low register but has mastered the art of eking out emotional responses with subtle vocal vibrato and tantalizing trills. While this album has been accused of moving more to the world that Anathema (which ironically ex-founder Duncan Patterson played in) has carved out and there is some truth to that, the mood remains more reserved and much more dependent on the darkwave synthesizer dominated atmospheric touches to convey its overall plan.
With utterly addictive composiitons that are instantly catchy and a nice interplay between the sensual acoustic, heavy electric and atmospheric elements, this album qualitatively connects the listener to the subject matter and draws you into the bleakness of the grimy world of substance abuse. The instantly catch tracks will hook you immediately but the sophisticated and subtle mix of the swirling storm of sonic interplay will keep you coming back for more. This album is considered heavier than previous ones and offers just enough bombast to create the perfect corrivalry of musical elements. Antimatter is not only back but seems to be getting better with each new album.


Review: Jens Bertjens © 2019
Rating: 4.13 out of 5