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Graeme (Scotland)

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The Optimist
The Optimist
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pessimist, 24 Jun. 2017
This review is from: The Optimist (MP3 Download)
I love Anathema but am struggling with this one. I purposefully did not do a knee-jerk review, else I would probably have made this a 2 star review. From what I've read this is a sort of companion piece to 'A Fine Day to Exit', possibly my least favourite Anathema offering. It actually puts me in mind of their reworking of older stuff, 'Falling Deeper'.

It works much better as an album played from start to finish, but I often find I've come to the end of it without really noticing it passing. Maybe in another few weeks or so I'll be up to 4 starts with it, but at the moment, for me, it feels like a bit of a bump on the road.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy prog-tinged wonderfulness, 4 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Coal (Audio CD)
Like one of the other reviewers, I also saw Leprous supporting Haken. Unlike that reviewer, however, I was already aware of Leprous and knew what to expect, at least in terms of a set list. As a final note on this aspect, Leprous and Haken were joined by Maschine (all bands signed to Inside Out label), and while the three bands are more or less proggy to differing extents, they each offer something very different. Variety being the spice of life and all that.

Leprous hail from Norway and offer a powerful and heavy spin on prog, laced with aspects of djent. There's a fair bit of those heavy, rhythmic guitar and bass punctuating throughout Coal. When they reproduce it live, they're one of the tightest bands I've seen. This heavy, rhythmic approach is not to the detriment of a damn good tune, however. The vocal performance on Coal stands out and is much smoother than on previous Leprous offerings. The closing section of `Vow' for example, sees an a capella section which works wonderfully. Vocals soar again in `The Valley', an absolute powerhouse of a track which uses the heavy rhythms superbly.

There are quieter moments on Coal; it's not all one-paced. But Leprous are progressive in that they will challenge their own sound and push their boundaries. They will not - at least not on available evidence - provide you with a noodly guitar and keyboard extravaganza. Bet they could, though, if they really wanted to.

From Scotland With Love
From Scotland With Love
Offered by musicMagpie
Price: £7.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of 2014, 15 Oct. 2014
This review is from: From Scotland With Love (Audio CD)
I love King Creosote. Quirky, Scottish folk-pop with intelligent, often humorous, lyrics set to wonderful melodies – what’s not to like? ‘Heritage’ was one of my favourite releases of that particular year, and ‘From Scotland With Love’ will definitely be one of my favourites from this year.

I have no difficulties with the inclusions of any of the songs. Each depicts a small piece of a Scotland from a time gone by, and yet each song feels entirely relevant, now. And I’m sure you won’t need to be Scottish to appreciate these songs of fishing fleets, of seaside holidays, of war, of industries long gone, of growing up.

I say ‘folk-pop’ above, but that’s just a label. I have fairly broad tastes (my other reviews will testify!), but KC is one of my favourite artists. He has such an ear for a tune and is capable of delivering beautifully touching lyrics without being overly sentimental. I won’t repeat what others have already said, but would simply commend this as a further piece of wonderfulness from Mr KC.

The Third Day
The Third Day
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £7.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, challenging and wonderful, 10 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Third Day (Audio CD)
‘The Third Day’ is NAO’s Third album (unconnected fact (?) – ‘On The Third Day’ was ELO’s third album!). An intriguing album title: is it a reference to the day the New Testament accounts say that Jesus will arise from the dead, or the Old Testament account of the day when creation provided for grass, herbs and trees? Or something else altogether?

Anyway, what about the music? I’m a fan. I saw them live in Edinburgh shortly after ‘Fog Electric’ came out, and while the venue was fairly small and not great acoustically, the band was really good. The NAO sound is driven by synths and drums, but not to the detriment or exclusion of guitar and bass. That synth/drums sounds dominates almost throughout (more later) TTD.

Vocally, it’s another fine performance by Sam Healy. One of the vocal standouts for me on TTD is ‘A nice Little Place’, where Sam sings to a background of big chords to provide a song that feels slightly uncomfortable, slightly sinister. It’s then followed by ‘Penrose’ (funnily enough, a nice little place in the Lake District, though I’m guessing due to the various mathematical diagrams in the inlay that it’s probably about a mathematician of the same name?).

Overall, it’s another solid offering from NAO which isn’t too far removed from what they’ve already offered on their previous two releases. It always takes me a good few listenings to fully enjoy a NAO release, and TTD is no different. The sound is complex and the lyrical meaning not always obvious (maybe says more about me than the lyrics). But it’s always rewarding and when it does sink in, it’s tremendous.

The final song comes as a bit of a surprise, as it’s probably the most acoustic thing NAO has done. It really is a pleasant surprise and I wonder if it’s an indicator of the direction the band might take in future.

An easy 5-star release for me. Complex but not show-offy; challenging but not unmelodic.

Abel Ganz
Abel Ganz

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understated and accomplished, 23 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Abel Ganz (Audio CD)
I think this probably came to my attention via Amazon Recommend, in which case, thank you, Amazon.

First listen, I was rather underwhelmed. I thought it was okay, but nothing particularly special. After another couple of listens I started to think it was bit better than okay. And now, a few listens later (I've kept going back to it), I love it. It's hard to pin it down. There's a folkiness to it at times; there's an air of world music to it now and again; there's strings and woodwind and brass; there's pop/rock - a bit of everything. There's even a rather lovely ballad accompanied by an acoustic guitar with the sound of crickets chirruping in the background.

So, a real grower with a good mix of styles and tempos which slowly works its magic. So glad that I took the chance on this, and equally glad that I didn't review it after only a couple of listens.

Price: £13.80

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another quality release, 17 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Magnolia (Audio CD)
A new album from the Pineappple Thief is always going to be something that I’ll look forward to. And ‘Magnolia’ doesn’t disappoint. It’s not a huge departure in terms of sound or style, carrying smoothly on from where the last offering, All The Wars’ left off. What does come across, though, is that the songs are shorter and sharper – it feels a little like TPT are trying to offer their trademark sound in more bite-sized chunks. That’s not a bad thing and neither is it a criticism.

If you’re already a fan then you won’t be disappointed. ‘Magnolia’ provides you with the quality that you’ve come to know and enjoy. What about new fans, then? Will this be the ‘breakthrough’? I doubt it, but that’s more a comment about the band getting its music out to that untapped audience. The track lengths may be radio-friendly, but I just don’t see mainstream radio picking this up. I’d love to be wrong.

So, in case there’s someone looking in who isn’t already a fan and you’re wondering about the TPT, you’ll probably see the word ‘prog’ appearing in reviews, here. TPT aren’t really prog at all, though they do appeal to prog fans. I’ve heard them compared to U2 and Bends-era Radiohead. I can see that. I’d also compare them to Manchester outfit Puressence (another great band who’ve never quite managed to find that commercial breakthrough).

TPT is melodic, thoughtful, mainly guitar-driven rock with ample use of electronics and strings. If you like great tunes and well-suing lyrics, give TPT a chance. ‘Magnolia’ won’t disappoint.

Hitchhiking to Byzantium
Hitchhiking to Byzantium
Price: £22.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid stuff from Down Under, 12 Sept. 2014
I really hope a few people find this and read this review.

Anubis are an Australian prog rock band, and the 'rock' part of that label is well deserved. One of their tracks featured on a Prog Magazine sampler (from their previous album. 'A Tower of Silence'. I rather enjoyed it, so I did the usual nosey around and listened to some more of their stuff. Ordered the full catalogue of three CDs direct from the band (sorry, Amazon people!) and it's probably one of the best purchases I've made this year.

So, what about Anubis? I think it's fair to say that they're Floyd fans. That comes through strongly on each of their albums, but it's more a flavour of influence rather than a copy cat effort. For me, there's a strong hint of Porcupine Tree in there, too. What you end up with is strong, melodic rock that slowly starts to creep into your consciousness after two or three listens. Very capable musicians and a good vocalist combine to produce interesting - often lengthy - guitar-driven tracks ably backed up with a thumping bass, solid keys and a strong rhythm section.

Hitchhiking to Byzantium is a fine album with lots to offer. If the couple of bands I've mentioned are to your fancy, give Anubis a go; I'm fairly sure you won't be disappointed. This is a really fine modern prog band that deserves to be heard by a bigger audience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2015 4:09 PM BST

Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £5.90

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Less prog; more rock, 11 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Mystoria (Audio CD)
Amplifier really don’t sit still. For some bands, that’s a good thing, but I get the feeling with Amplifier that they’re struggling to find the direction they really want to take. Maybe this – Mystoria – is it. There’s a comment on their website that says something like, ‘Less prog; more rock’. A fairly clear statement. Add that to the fact that they’ve moved away from the proggy KScope label after only a single offering and you start to get the feeling that Amplifier really just want to do things their own way.

So, is there a little intentional irony right from the off with Mystoria when the strains of ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from Holst’s ‘The Planets Suite’ sounds out? What could be more pretentiously prog? But that opening instrumental soon gives way to the extremely rock-driven remainder of the tracks on offer (though those same ‘Mars’ notes do appear later on the album).

I’ve listened to this a few times, now, and I need to listen to it more. But after those few listens it doesn’t strike me as being anything special. It’s good, it’s enjoyable, and I’m giving it 4 stars because ‘I like it’, but for me it’s a collection of decent rock songs, no more, no less. Personally, I preferred ‘Echo Street’, and this just isn’t in the same territory in terms of style. I wouldn’t say this is a backwards step as such; as I’ve said, it’s a decent offering, but it’s quite a departure from their last offering. Which, when you think about it, could be considered rather proggy.

Songs From November
Songs From November
Price: £14.88

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Change of pace, 22 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Songs From November (Audio CD)
‘Songs From November’ is completely different from what you might be used to from Mr Morse. There’s barely a hint of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic or, indeed, his last solo offering on ‘Momentum’. It’s actually quite MoR and some of the lyrics are, dare I suggest it, a bit treacly. But it’s also very good!

Most songs are around the four minute mark and adhere to a no nonsense verse-chorus type structure. The songs all sound very personal (I don’t know Mr Morse so can only guess), especially track 9, ‘Daddy’s Daughter’. This heaps the treacle big time but at the same time it comes across as being very honest. It’s the sound of a dad telling his daughter unashamedly what he feels about her.

There’s plenty of hooks and lots of great melodies on offer on this pop with occasional tinges of country offering. Having listened to it three or four times now, I feel it’s a CD I’ll be playing fairly regularly. I’d like to give it four and a half stars, so will need to content myself with giving it four. If you’re looking for Neal Morse prog epics, this isn’t it; if you’re looking for a solid set of songs with good tunes, fill your boots.

Distant Satellites
Distant Satellites
Price: £16.61

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patience rewarded, 12 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Distant Satellites (Audio CD)
Anathema are a progressive band in the way that Radiohead are a progressive band. That sometimes makes for division within the fanbase as the band refuses to stick to one particular ‘era’. That’s why there are reviews here that will pine for the days of Serenades, while others aren’t happy that this isn’t Weather Systems II. But it is still Anathema and it has Anathema stamped all over it.

I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed by the first listen. I left it a day then listened to it again. And then I gave it a third go. In my view (and I can’t offer anyone else’s), Distant Satellites stands up to anything else Anathema have done.

I’d say that the first six songs of the album are very much in the WHBWH/WS mode. The album starts with a Part I and a Part II (of Lost Song), an obvious echo of Untouchable on WS. There’s no huge departure in terms of structure at this point – quiet starts, slow build, crescendoing towards a finale. For me, the album turns around ‘You’re Not Alone’ (a song that really wouldn’t feel out of place on earlier Anathema offerings). It’s followed by three tracks that dabble in a more electronic approach. We’re not talking the leap from Ok Computer to Kid A, but it’s definitely new territory for Anathema. Not a huge risk, but it at least shows a willingness to not stand completely still.

Distant Satellites won’t bring Anathema to a whole new audience. But it’s a solid offering and adds admirably to the band’s catalogue. It’s a grower. So glad I didn’t review after a single listen (beats me why anyone would for any kind of music).

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