Album Review – JPL’s “Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum”

JPL-SAPIENS-3-v3-300x300JPL (Jean Pierre Louveton), Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum, Quadrifonic Records, March 2022
Tracks: Paradis Perdu (5:53), Mon Cercueil (6:08), Alia (La Mahine) (4:50), Dansez Maintenant (5:12), Memento Mori [a. Marche Vers l’inconnu, b. Tempus Fugit, c. La Mort Du Roi, d. Paria, e. Acta Fabula Est] (23:01)

Over the last several months, Progarchy HQ has received a fair number of CDs from France for review. The first such record is the third album in a trilogy of records about the history of humanity from Jean Pierre Louveton, under the alias JPL. Louveton is perhaps most well-known for his work with NEMO, a now on hiatus French progressive rock band (sort of on hiatus – the band is releasing a re-recorded version of an earlier album later this year). Since the lyrics are in French, much of Louveton’s work is likely unknown to all but the most dedicated of English-speaking prog fans.

Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum is the only album of the trilogy I have heard, but I must say it is quite good. It travels the breadth of progressive rock, with hard classic rock elements, forays into jazz and fusion, and swashes of symphonic rock, especially most prevalent in the album’s 23-minute epic, “Memento Mori,” which is split into five tracks on the CD.

As you might expect, since it is the final chapter of a trilogy of records, the album sounds like it is picking up in the middle of a story. There isn’t really a big build-up in the first song, “Paradis Perdu.” It has an instrumental opening for the first few minutes, but it doesn’t strike me as being any sort of overture. Even though I haven’t heard the other albums, I quite like that this one gets right to the point. At 46 minutes in length, the album lacks the fluff that often gets padded into many progressive rock albums today.

“Mon Cercueil” starts off pretty slowly – perhaps too slowly – but it digs into a nice bass groove in the middle of the track with a brooding layer of synths over the top and complex drumming lifting up the back end. This moves into a faster tempo section with a vocal duet between JPL and Stéphanie Vouillot, who also plays piano on “La Mort Du Roi” and “Paria.” She has a lovely voice which I wish had been used even more on the record. “Mon Cercueil” ends with a great guitar solo that foreshadows the closing of the record.

YouTube – “Mon Cercueil”

“Dansez Maintenant” has a bit of an unexpected surprise with the inclusion of a Hurdy Gurdy played by Marguerite Miallier. The Hurdy Gurdy (vielle à roue in French) is a medieval-period stringed instrument used primarily in European folk music (German metal band Saltatio Mortis also have a Hurdy Gurdy player). It is operated by turning a wheel at the lower end. It adds a very distinctive sound, somewhat similar to how a bagpipe might sound if played at a fast tempo.

“Memento Mori” travels through five different movements, and it is heavy on the instrumentation. There are large symphonic elements, along with a heavier guitar sound in parts. “Tempus Fugit” is a particularly strong track in the way it combines the heavier rock sound with the orchestral tones. JPL’s vocals on “La Mort Du Roi” are more spoken in a quick whispered fashion at the beginning of the track before they are sung in a slower fashion. The band takes its most experimental route on “Paria,” with a fast jazz fusion sound and even a saxophone solo featuring Sylvain Haon. The album closes with a stellar guitar solo from JPL that builds along with the symphonic parts to a satisfying ending to the album, and I suspect also a satisfying ending to the trilogy.

The artwork by Stan Decker is another feather in the JPL cap. Somewhat reminiscent of Roger Dean’s artwork, although distinctively different, the album cover has a lot of detail that draws you in for a closer look. Jupiter in the background, Earth in the center, rising columns of green Dean-esque shapes with alien-looking bugs and flying sea rays roaming the skies. And that isn’t even all of it. The CD booklet and packaging contain further art, which certainly adds to my enjoyment of the record.

Awaken your inner Francophile and check out JPL’s Actum. Musically it will not disappoint, and for the ear accustomed to English styles of singing, the French lyrics and style of singing might be a nice change of pace for you.

Stay tuned for more reviews featuring French artists in the near future.

http://www.jplouveton.com/home-2/
https://www.quadrifonic.com/en/home/552-jpl-sapiens-chapitre-33-actum-cd.html

Bandcamp (CD quality): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum
Bandcamp (High Resolution audio): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum-hr

Album Review: Bjørn Riis – “Everything to Everyone”

BjoBjørn Riis, Everything to Everyone, Karisma Records, April 8, 2022
Tracks: Run (5:56), Lay Me Down (11:40), The Siren (7:20), Every Second Every Hour (13:20), Descending (4:33), Everything to Everyone (7:28)

At the risk of throwing objectivity out the window, I’ll start this review by saying I absolutely love this album. I think it’s the best music I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s Bjørn Riis! By this time I expect no less than the best from him.

While I still haven’t quite gotten into Airbag, the band for which Riis is most well known, I love his solo albums. They’re all excellent, and they seem to get better with each record. His 2019 album, A Storm is Coming, was brilliant, and it made my year-end best-of list. I expect Everything to Everyone will be near or at the top of that list this year. To make a contemporary comparison, Riis’ style reminds me most of Steven Wilson, both his more progressive solo albums and his work with Porcupine Tree. Riis is on that same level, as well.

Rather fascinatingly, Riis says the influence for the concept behind this album came from Dante’s Inferno. He comments,

A bit pretentious perhaps, but I’ve always been fascinated by that very personal journey and the search for some kind of peace or redemption, while being both mentored and hurt along the way. Musically, I wanted to take the listener on that journey, experiencing both hope and anxiety.”

The lyrics are filled with emotion, reminding me at times of Mariusz Duda’s lyrics. Riis is clearly a very thoughtful man, and I’ve found his lyrics always resonate with me. There’s a lot of depth in them, which allows for reflection on repeated listens. The music is often melancholic, which I especially enjoy, and this is frequently reflected in the lyrics.

The opening instrumental track acts as an overture for the rest of the album. With a careful listen you’ll spot musical themes from this track throughout the album. Parts of “Run” are on the heavier side, which sets a nice stage for the record, which has both its heavier rock sides and its spacier contemplative moments. Both are equally alluring.

“Lay Me Down” may start off a bit slow, and admittedly it is a bit of a jarring transition from the heavy rock of the opening instrumental track. The song really catches its groove a minute 20 seconds in, though, when the drums kick in. A little later female vocals come in to back Riis’ soothing voice, and the result is very [don’t say Floyd, don’t say Floyd, don’t say Floyd] spacey. The song is almost 12 minutes long, so it ebbs and flows through various passages, some of which do indeed remind me of Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is obviously an influence on Riis’ guitar playing, and Riis lives up to his musical influences. The song also has its heavier parts, reflecting the opening track.

“The Siren” was one of the singles for the record, complete with its own video. It’s a haunting track on the relaxed side of Riis’ musical spectrum. The lyrics are from the perspective of someone sitting in the audience at a dance performance, where the dancer performs for both you individually and for everyone all at the same time. It’s an interesting dynamic, but the lyrics are also written in such a way that deeper meanings can be inferred. I’ve found mine own rather personal meanings in it, and as such the song has grown on me to the point where I find it very moving.

Bjørn Riis – The Siren – YouTube

I’m not the biggest fan of the artificial vocal distortions on parts of “Every Second Every Hour,” mainly because I think Riis’ voice is great and shouldn’t be hidden, but it doesn’t take away from the song too much. Just a minor quibble. I have to keep my enthusiasm in check somehow. Overall this song is epically wonderful. It’s over 13 minutes long, and like the other similarly long song on the album, it ebbs and flows along the range of Riis’ styles. The acoustic guitar and piano passages with simple singing abound, but these also give way to soaring guitar solos and walls of drums. The synth soundscapes help create a wall of sound that isn’t particularly dense, but it lays a beautiful background to the song.

“Descending” is another instrumental track that has an interesting name because the music actually appears to ascend rather than descend. It starts out quiet and gradually gets louder and heavier as more elements are layered onto the song. If we go back to the inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, however, I think we get our answer to that question. In Inferno, Dante is given a tour of Hell by the poet Virgil. Hell is depicted as a ring of concentric circles, with each circle filled with increasingly brutal punishments for increasingly heinous sins. As such, the story gets more intense the further Dante and Virgil descend into Hell. When viewed in this light, “Descending” makes sense for this particular song on this particular album.

The title track is a quintessential Riis track, featuring the spacey electric guitar solos, walls of acoustic guitars, and emotion-filled vocals. There’s also more female backing vocals. The song gradually builds as it closes out, with a wall of sound created through guitars, drums, and piano. It’s very Porcupine Treeish in the best of ways. The lyrics talk about reaching out for help as we stumble through the dark parts of life.


Put simply, Bjørn Riis’ Everything to Everyone is a thing of beauty in very dark times. The album reflects the good and the bad we experience through our emotions, and it tells a beautiful story through music and words. Do yourself a favor and buy this record. Dwell with it. Let the music and lyrics wash over you. You won’t be disappointed.

https://www.bjornriis.com
https://www.karismarecords.no
https://bjornriis.bandcamp.com/album/everything-to-everyone

Bjørn Riis – Everything to Everyone – YouTube

We Still Have Time – Marillion’s Message of Hope: “An Hour Before It’s Dark”

marillion-ahbitd-1Marillion, An Hour Before It’s Dark, March 4, 2022
Tracks: Be Hard On Yourself (i. “The Tear in the Big Picture, ii. Lust for Luxury, iii. You Can Learn) (9:27), Reprogram the Gene (i. Invincible, ii. Trouble-Free Life, iii. A Cure for Us?) (7:00), Only a Kiss (0:39), Murder Machines (4:20), The Crow and the Nightingale (6:35), Sierra Leone (i. Chance in a Million, ii. The White Sand, iii. The Diamond, iv. The Blue Warm Air, v. More Than a Treasure) (10:51) Care (i. Maintenance Drugs, ii. An Hour Before It’s Dark, iii. Every Cell, iv. Angels on Earth) (15:18)

I may not be the most avid Marillion fan in the world, but of all the bands out there making music, they force me into deep reflection more than anyone else besides Devin Townsend. But where Devin Townsend forces me to be introspective, Marillion draws me outside myself. I disagree with their politics, yet generally I’ve found their perspective and the way they present it to be helpful in drawing me out of my own bubble. Their 2016 album, F.E.A.R., was a masterpiece in that regard, and it has been an album that has stuck with me since its release. I’m not ready to say that their latest record An Hour Before It’s Dark is on that level, but it is very good. I expect it will grow on me as time goes by. I’ve been slowly digesting it for a few weeks now, and I’ve been compelled to return to it more than any other album in that time.

Musically there are few bands that can match Marillion. Steve Rothery is one of the finest guitarists in the business. Pete Trewavas’s bass booms throughout, taking a primary role in various parts of the mix. Ian Mosley’s drums will no doubt win him awards, and Mark Kelly’s keyboards round out the Marillion sound. This is an album that sounds like a Marillion album. In many regards it sounds very similar to F.E.A.R. It’s a continuation, not a progression, but what did we expect? Marillion is doing what they do best, and who would fault them for that?

At first glance An Hour Before It’s Dark appears to be a rather dark album, although Steve Hogarth says despite the lyrical themes, the album is rather upbeat. I agree in part. There are dark and brooding elements of the music that are a lot like F.E.A.R, but there are also peppy tracks that defy their lyrical doom. “Murder Machines” is about the frustrations during Covid of not being able to be near loved ones for fear of killing them with love.

I put my arms around her
And I killed her with love
I killed her with love

Marillion – “Murder Machines” – YouTube

The opening track, “Be Hard on Yourself,” is a cutting critique of our culture of excess. The band extol the listener to “Be hard on yourself / You’ve been spoilt for years.” Like much of Marillion’s catalog, the melody and lyrics work their way into your ears. It’s catchy, yet the music is still unashamedly progressive. On the musical side of things, Kelly’s keyboards are particularly noticeable on this track. Hogarth’s signature style of speak-singing is in full force, bringing the lyrics into the forefront.

Cause of death: Lust for luxury
Cause of death: Consumption

The first two sections of the track examine the culture of consumption, but in the final section Hogarth offers a solution: get up and do something positive. He ends the song with such a call:

You can do better
You can do better
But do it now

We haven’t got long
We haven’t got long
To the end of the song

Be hard on yourself

Strap in
Get ready
Foot down
Push the button
Blow it all up
Blow it all up

Paint a picture, sing a song, plant some flowers in the park
Get out and make it better
You’ve got an hour before it’s dark…

As the late David Longdon told Progarchy last summer, “That’s the beauty of being human, we don’t get forever.” Make a change before it’s too late. Say a kind word, or at the least don’t say that unkind word. Lend a helping hand. We all can make a difference before it gets dark. The hope in this message alone makes the album worth listening to.

Continue reading “We Still Have Time – Marillion’s Message of Hope: “An Hour Before It’s Dark””

Album Review – Erewän’s “How Will All This End?”

ErewaErewän – How Will All This End? – Anesthetize Productions, December 10, 2021
Tracks: 
Rising Sun on the Shore (4:06), Childhoods (5:05), Walk Away (5:32), Headline (7:07), The Banshee’s Keening (5:45), Witches of the Middle Ages (4:33), Twist of Fate (5:24), Evil’s In Us (8:14), Highlands (5:49)

Erewän’s late-2021 album, How Will All This End? has a fresh sound mixing a variety of rock and acoustic sounds. While Erewän may sound like a band name, it is actually the stage name for a Nice, France-based solo artist. Musically that may surprise you, since there is a rather heavy Celtic influence on the record. Erewän wrote all of the lyrics and the music, and Alexandra Lamia and Eric Bouillette guest on a couple of tracks. The rest of the music was performed by Erewän, who also made the artwork.

The album mixes elements of traditional progressive rock with folk music, particularly Celtic folk music. Irish whistles and violin are prevalent, along with acoustic guitar. Erewän plays some excellent electric guitar, as well. It’s a very pleasant album to listen to no matter where the music goes. At many times it’s rather soothing.

How Will All This End? is essentially a concept album, with all of the songs connected by the theme of the evil mankind has committed throughout history, and how that evil infiltrates each of us. The lyrics are sobering, and they force us to take a good look inside. Thankfully the music isn’t as gloomy as the lyrics can sometimes be.

Evil is deep down inside men
Evil is in each of us

Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil!
Man is a wolf to man, He is the danger
He’s proved it through the ages, man can be toxic
Obsessed with one thing: How to own more
More power or money, so he made up the war

– “Evil’s in Us”

As you can imagine, the record has some rather dark moments. “Headline” is a difficult track addressing the problems of bullying in schools and school shootings. It takes a very dark turn with the sounds of gunfire and screaming midway through the song. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a reminder of the evil we deal with in the world.

Thankfully the next song starts off more upbeat musically. “The Banshee’s Keening” has a very Celtic feel, as the name might suggest. I’ve always enjoyed the sounds of Irish whistles, which this song has in abundance, along with what sounds like fiddle in the background. The song is about exactly what the title says. A banshee is a spirit in Irish folklore that roams across the land “keening,” or wailing, in response to someone’s death.

“Witches of the Middle Ages” displays the calmer elements of the album, with a simple acoustic melody and the haunting Irish whistles and what I believe are bagpipes (it might be a guitar effect). The lyrics tell the story of a girl accused of being a witch and then executed by the Inquisition.

Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom. In the lyrics of “Evil’s in Us,” Erewän gives us a glimpse of hope:

But demons rub shoulders with angels
Yet maybe angles could win sometimes
If you take time to listen to your heart
To your heart
To your heart

The final track is instrumental, which is a very good thing. The album is quite dark lyrically, and “Highlands” gives the listener a chance to decompress. It’s a soothing track, starting out acoustic with Irish whistles, piano, and strings before gradually adding in the rock elements. Midway through it jams into an electric guitar solo that retains the Celtic folk music styling with its melody. It’s a great bookend to the opening instrumental track, which eases the listener into the journey Erewän takes us on. Both songs remind me of Dave Bainbridge and Dave Brons’ solo work. If you’re a fan of their work, definitely check out Erewän.

My one complaint about the record is Erewän’s vocals can sometimes be difficult to understand. His accent is thick, which might leave the listener lost at times. I’ll compare it to the recent Premiata Forneria Marconi album, which features both English and Italian versions of the songs. I listened to the English version first, and I found Franz Di Cioccio’s vocals to be difficult to follow, although I really enjoyed the music. When I listened to the Italian version, his vocals sounded great and very natural. All that to say, I would love to hear a version of Erewän’s album with French vocals. I know that would limit the marketability of the record, but it still would be nice to hear.

Even as it is, How Will All This End? is a great album filled with a beautiful blend of rock and acoustic folk music. The lyrics make you think, which is what good art should do. The guitar solos soar, blending well with the Irish whistles. Give it a listen on Bandcamp.

Erewän Links: https://linktr.ee/erewan
https://www.facebook.com/Erewanproject/
https://anesthetize.fr/en/

Album Review – Drifting Sun’s “Forsaken Innocence”

CoverDrifting Sun, Forsaken Innocence, 2021
Tracks: King of the Country (11:37), Insidious (8:08), Dementium (9:11), New Dawn (6:49), Forsaken Innocence Part 1 (10:52), Forsaken Innocence Part 2 (14:53), Time to Go (2:29), Hand on Heart [Bonus Track] (4:49)

I’ve been following Drifting Sun for a while now, having reviewed two of their albums in the past rather favorably. I have to say that their latest, Forsaken Innocence, is their best record to date. The album is sprinkled with neoprog overtones, but there’s also a touch of baroque classical influence right from the get go.

One of my favorite aspects of Drifting Sun is the keyboards and piano, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the band is the brain child of keyboardist Pat Sanders. His use of synth sounds and clean piano brightens up the album, giving it both prog flair and a depth of sound. John Jowitt’s bass adds a subtle low end that nicely complements the keyboards. Mathieu Spaeter’s guitar adds a baroque element along with the synths at times, as well as the heavier rock side when needed. He reminds me a bit of Martin Barre. Drifting SunThe wonderful Gareth Cole also plays guitar on “Time to Go,” along with Eric Bouillette, who also plays the violin on “King of the Country” and “Forsaken Innocence Part 1.” The violin adds a nice touch, which perhaps could have been used even more throughout. Even so the album sounds great as is. Jimmy Pallagrosi’s drums pull everything together in gentle crashes of snare and cymbal.

The vocals are courtesy of someone named only as Jargon on the band’s website. His voice matches this style of prog very well, and it is rather versatile. He sings in a few different styles throughout the album, adding a layer of theatricality to the record. He helps bring the story to life, as well as makes the album a real treat on repeated listens.

As you can see from the track listing, most of these songs are on the longer side. The music has the chance to grow and build. I love the way the album opens with a bit of a classical and fantasy overtone, which is carried throughout the album in various ways.

When played together, “Forsaken Innocence” Parts 1 and 2 create and almost 26-minute-long epic, with part 2 being a 15-minute-long instrumental track. These songs are the high point of the album. The instrumental portion is particularly excellent. The band really jam well together, and the length gives the song space to develop, grow, and move through different themes. Everything about it works so well, to the point that you get lost in the prog madness. The swirling synths, the corresponding guitars, the solid bass shining through, the drums keeping everything together. This song rocks hard. I love the moment when they move back into the main musical theme for the album with about two minutes to go. The melody repeats over and over, and it’s just so good.

The album closes rather quietly with the brief “Time to Go,” which is a nice little debrief after the 15 minute instrumental epic. The bonus track, “Hand on Heart,” doesn’t follow naturally from that [duh, it’s a bonus track], but it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. It has a heavy back and forth between chorus and verses with that great interplay between the keyboards, guitars, and bass.

The album’s lyrics have a dreamwork quality to them. They’re very poetic, which supports the baroque fantasy elements in their music.

I used to hope that life could bring me peace
Could lull asleep my deeply gnawing mind
I was a fool: the senses clear with time
I used to love to cure my old disease
Lovе led me to a thick of enmitiеs
I used to hope that life could bring me peace
I was a fool: the senses clear with time

A church bell grieves, a log in the fireplace smokes
And hums falsetto to the clock’s catarrh

My head on my hands, I watch from my lofty home
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and then, with Winter’s monotone of snow
I close my shutters – a time to be alone

Summer days gone, taking stock of the misty dawn
(fall in the well of dreams – wander through aimlessly)
I dream my way into treacherous labyrinths
Nothing can draw me away from this neverland
(a world of kisses sweet – birds singing merrily)
Sun rises in my heart, warming my aching soul

– “King of the Country”

Forsaken Innocence sees Drifting Sun at their very best. The album is thoroughly enjoyable with every listen. It’s heavy on the rock, the synths, and the story. Highly recommended.

https://driftingsun.co.uk/home
https://driftingsun.bandcamp.com

A View from the Top of the World

It’s Dream Theater, so by default it has to be rich in melody and progressions. But, A View from the Top of the World is riveting too. Mike Mangini-John Myung duo crafts a razor sharp bass-drum framework – more than adequate to accommodate their typical musical complexity. And often tailored to precisely slice and frame this perpetual train of John Petrucci-Jordan Rudess orchestra. This balance in musicianship is striking — omnipresent melody, James LaBrie’s signature wails, and complementing bass-lines all live in systematic harmony. Resulting compositions are meticulously high grade.

Album revives and reinforces quintessential Dream Theater qualities, sometimes illustrating them in seemingly novel ways. For better or for worse Mike Portnoy was a captive of Neil Peart school of drumming. But Mike Mangini’s style allows them to evolve, beyond those ornate confines of Rush-metal blueprint. Clearly enabling that exhibition of seemingly novel influences from symphonic prog, and atypical passages often seen in their own side projects. Or at least we can now prominently hear those influences, which were merely latent in earlier works.

Image Attribution : Darko Boehringer https://dreamtheater.net/photos/images-words-beyond-tour-2017/

Aphrodite’s Child: A Retrospective

What could be described as an under appreciated psychedelic rock band from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Aphrodite’s Child, created several phenomenal songs worth hearing. They were a band comprised of three, main members: Evangelos Papathanassiou (Vangelis), Demis Roussos, and Loukas Sideras. With the combination of Vangelis’s extraordinary composing, Demis’s unique voice, and Loukas’s skillful drum work, this is a solid band worth coming back to.

From left to right: Demis Roussos, Vangelis, and Lucas Sideras.

The first song I heard by the group was “End of the World”. It was actually recommended to me by fellow Progarchist Connor Mullin. However, it was not until I heard the song “It’s Five O’Clock” that my eyes opened to how special the band was. The ending of that song dazzled me with its auditory brilliance. When the ending piano instrumentals gently floated into my ears, I was so shocked. The last 30 seconds consist of pure, psychedelic ecstasy. You can expect to be shocked by this band’s work throughout the course of their 3 albums. The short but oh so sweet musical endeavors of Aphrodite’s Child deserve to be discussed again and again. I’ve put together some of what I believe to be their best songs—enjoy!

“End of the World”—is one of my personal favorites because I find it so unique. It is the perfect teenage love song: full of doom and gloom (hence the name) and a feeling of being unwanted. It captures the romanticism of running away with someone you love and forgetting about everything else. But, it also deals with the unfaceable truth of rejection. Vangelis does such a wonderful job at setting the tone of when love feels apocalyptic, thanks to not only his awesome piano skills, but all of the other ominous sounds in the song. There is a great live version of this song on Youtube worth checking out. Every time I watch it I wish I could jump through the screen and be there; everyone’s outfits are superb. In addition, Demis’ opening vocals on the track are haunting in the best way possible. After hearing them, I was ready to drop everything and go to the end of the world with him! No questions asked.

“Good Time So Fine”—is my absolute favorite! This song made me fall in love with Demis Roussos. I have such a respect for his voice and musicianship. I adore this song’s playful tune. The pitch changes of Demis’ voice makes this song so much fun! It’s amazing that he is singing both parts of the song—I would have never known. The lyrics are sweet and feel like a breath of fresh air; it’s a song you’d happily be singing along to in the sunshine. The chorus makes you feel the freedom and joy that is love. This song feels like it belongs in a musical, which makes it easy to dance and sing along to. I watched a live recording of Aphrodite’s Child performing this song and it was so impressive to see Demis sing, play bass, and play the trumpet, all in the span of a three minute song. This song was made for Demis Roussos.

“Rain and Tears”—this song is an adaptation of Pachelbel’s Canon and is the band’s most commercially successful song. The most notable part of the song is its bridge. It transitions from a mediocre love song to a heart wrenching melody. The song could have remained in somewhat basic state, but it goes a step further. This is thanks to the masterful vocals of Demis Roussos. The song goes to such an ethereal level when Demis croons those beginning lyrics of the bridge. It’s no wonder this was such a hit.

“Marie Jolie”—can be described as one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard. Again, Roussos vocals transport the listener to a celestial level. It seems like his heart and soul were put into every word he sings, which makes the lyrics so intense. Roussos’s vocals add a profundity to the otherwise simple lyrics. My favorite lyric from the song is ‘Love is everywhere you are’ because Demis presents it so powerfully. Every time I hear this song it gives me chills and I find myself swaying to the soft combination of Demis’ voice and the graceful percussion provided by Lucas Sideras.

“The Four Horsemen”—is the perfect song to get in the Halloween spirit. With an electrifying guitar solo and haunting vocals and lyrics, this is one cool and timeless song. The song —and the entire album—refers to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death—referenced in the Book of Revelation. The lyrics are quoting from the scripture itself, adding to the eeriness of the song. You’ll feel like your in the end times listening to this song, but in the grooviest way possible.

Aphrodite’s Child has so much to offer and I am so happy to have been shown their music. A huge thank you to all the talented people that worked on any of their albums. Aphrodite’s Child’ will live on forever and ever.

A special thank you to Vangelismovements.com for providing such detailed information about the band.

Lucid Planet to Issue Their Second Album on Vinyl

Lucid Planet - IIYou may remember way back in January when we reviewed Australian band Lucid Planet’s sophomore album. It’s a great album, and now it will be coming to vinyl on November 5. Pre-orders are open now. With beautifully detailed album artwork, the large record sleeve will look great. A real eye-catcher. 

The band also has some promotions going as part of the pre-order campaign. Check those out at their newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/097491d28ead/october-2021-update-lucid-planet-ii-is-coming-to-vinyl?e=aaaffa1bc4. You can sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of the home page on their website: https://lucidplanet.net

You can order the vinyl from their store: https://lucidplanet.net/shop/itemdisplay/41.

Sunday Jazz – Benjamin Croft’s “Far and Distant Things”

Benjamin Croft Far and Distant ThingsBenjamin Croft, Far and Distant Things, Ubuntu Music, 2021
Tracks: Overture (1:13), Far and Distant Things (6:13), Brock (4:47), S.A.D. (Spatial Awareness Disease) (6:21). Tudor Job Agency (6:25), S&R Video (5:07), The War Against Loudness (6:17), How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize (6:17), Than You, That’s What I Wanted To Know… (5:35), St Gandalf’s (1:55), The Cashectomy (6:25)

I don’t listen to as much jazz as I should, probably because it is such a diverse genre that I barely know where to begin. I’ve always enjoyed jazz music in live settings. I think the genre excels when played live because it is a highly experimental genre, allowing room for improvisation. When I was in college I loved attending the concerts put on by the faculty jazz band. They were always so much fun. I think I enjoy jazz for some of the same reasons I enjoy progressive rock, which obviously is heavily influenced by jazz. At its most basic, the technical musicality in jazz keeps me interested. 

UK musician Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things has been such an enjoyable CD to listen to over the past month and a half. Croft wrote and arranged all the tracks on the album, and he also played all of the keyboards. In addition to Steinway and Yamaha grand pianos, Croft plays a whole list of various synthesizers and keyboards, thus bringing in a bit of a prog texture to his jazz record. Perhaps those elements are why he sent us his CD for review, but regardless of why, this is an excellent album. At any rate, the artwork is certainly prog, featuring cover art (and other artwork on the CD and in the packaging) by Hugh Syme. 

Beyond Croft on keyboards, the songs have a revolving cast of characters, with Tristan Mailliot or Laurie Lowe playing drums on most of the tracks, except for “St. Gandalf’s,” which features Chad Wackerman. Flo Moore and Henry Thomas share bass guitar duties on the record. Guitars and on the album are played by a few guests, as are the wind instruments. Garthe Lockrane’s flutes on “Overture” and “Brock” are really quite something. It brings in that element of classic progressive rock as well as a fresh classical texture.

As is typical in jazz, there’s a lot of soloing on each track – keyboards, guitar, bass, trumpets, flute. Not each one of those on every track, but you get my meaning. The playing is smooth and easy to absorb. Some jazz can be overpowering, but Far and Distant Things sets you right at ease. The drumming and bass create a smooth yet complex rhythm throughout the entire album. The interplay between piano, keyboards, and the various wind instruments is quite pleasant. 

“How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize” is an interesting piece in the way it shifts over the course of the track. It starts off as a more typical jazz song before speeding up and morphing at the end of the song into more experimental territory before fading out. It’s a shame it fades out, because I wanted to hear where they were going. The title of the track, along with others on the album, hints at a bit of sarcasm, which I can always appreciate. 

Benjamin Croft – Far and Distant Things Music Video – YouTube

There are some rock moments on the record. “Far and Distant Things,” featuring Frank Gambale on electric guitar, is perhaps more rock than it is jazz, especially when you take the synths into account. “Tudor Job Agency” has its jazz moments, but the guitar, played by Barry Finnerty, has a Clapton-esque vibe to it. There is also a passage of some incredibly fast drum beats that add a rock element to the song.

Give Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things a listen for a laid back Sunday afternoon or evening. Or for any day of the week. The music is exceptionally well-written and equally well-performed. It brings me back to simpler times when I could enjoy a live jazz show without worrying about… well all the things we seem to worry about these days. This instrumental album will take you a world away, if only for an hour. 

https://www.benjamincroftmusic.com
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Bantamweight – The Prog Metal Find of the Summer

Bantamweight_Sounds+HapticsBantamweight, Sounds + Haptics, June 19, 2021
Tracks: Contact (4:17), Apparition (1:15), Hellion (5:12), Phoenix (2:04), The Weight (5:39), Interim (4:22), Terminus (1:15), Fall Away (4:55)

Prepare to be blown away by the best half hour of progressive metal you’ll hear this year. Los Angeles-based duo Bantamweight released their sophomore record, Sounds + Haptics, back in June, and it absolutely slays. My apologies to the band for not reviewing it sooner – it’s been a busy summer with my vacation time from my regular job spent doing another job. 

I went back and checked out Bantamweight’s first release, 2019’s EP Fear, and it’s far more atmospheric. It’s still quite good, but it doesn’t have the progressive metal complexity, heaviness, and drive that Sounds + Haptics has. Nevertheless that first release has a lot of interesting synth elements and thick bass tones, which the duo have retained in the big step forward they’ve taken with their second release. With Sounds + Haptics, the band have firmly placed themselves in the halls of contemporary progressive metal. I hear elements of Haken, Pain of Salvation, Leprous, Caligula’s Horse, and the Devin Townsend “wall of sound” effect. With that said, Bantamweight make their own sound in a way that only a metal band made up of a drummer and bassist could. 

Yes, that’s right – only drums, bass, and the synths/keyboards both members play. Max Kelly plays drums and keyboards (at the same time!) and Keith Shacklett slays on bass, vocals, and keyboards. Watch one of their music videos or live videos (see below) and be amazed. When playing live, Kelly plays the drums with his right hand and feet while he plays complex keyboard riffs with his left hand. That’s absolutely insane, and he does it all with more skill than most drummers or keyboardists have. Shacklett has a huge gritty bass tone that more than makes up for the lack of electric guitar. His playing style can be compared to someone like Connor Green (Haken), but the role his bass plays in the music is more comparable to Mariusz Duda from Riverside. His voice is perfect for this kind of metal. It has the grit needed in distorted moments, but the mid-range cleans keep their music from becoming overly aggressive. 

“Hellion” – YouTube

On this short record, each of the longer, heavier songs is spaced out by shorter instrumental tracks that highlight their more atmospheric edge (except for “The Weight” and “Interim,” which are back to back). These tracks tie all of the songs together, helping it all to sound like one longer epic track. Those synth sounds, which also appear on their longer songs, give their music a fuller sound reminiscent of Riverside or Devin Townsend. But again, they sound like themselves. The syncopated drumming, complex bass riffing, and Shacklett’s distinct voice bring Bantamweight to impressive heights. 

“The Weight” is probably my favorite track on the record. I can’t help but headbang to that heavy drumming. With that wonderful mixture of synths, drums, bass, and vocals, I don’t miss the lack of lead guitars. I love the way the song goes from heavy to calm in parallel passages.

“Hellion” and “Fall Away” are two more standout tracks, with musical complexity and catchy choruses abounding. In a nice handwritten note Max Kelly sent me along with the CD the band sent me, he noted that “Fall Away” has over 400 layers in the mix. That’s a Devin Townsend-level of dedication, and also where DT gets his “wall of sound” effect. And much like Hevy Devy, these guys can also play all of that live through the use of multiple synthesizers and sample pads. Most impressive. 

“The Weight” – Youtube

I honestly can’t recommend Bantamweight highly enough. Sounds + Haptics is fantastic. It pulls far above its weight. The band name is fitting since there’s only two members of the band, yet they create a sound that larger bands have taken years to perfect. This is the prog metal album of the summer for me. Even though the band’s influences are clear, their sound ends up being totally unique because of the core drum and bass sounds. These guys could hold their own in a music festival featuring the top names in progressive metal. Record labels take note – Bantamweight could (and should) be the next best thing in prog metal. I can’t wait to hear what’s next. 


As a side note, the album is name your own price for a digital download on Bandcamp, so you’ve got no excuse to not check them out: https://bantamweightofficial.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-haptics. They also have CDs for sale on Bandcamp.

https://bantamweight.band

Sounds + Haptics Live – Full Album – Youtube