Remember how excited we were when the Lord of the Rings extended edition dvds first came and we realized that instead of 10 hours of hobbits we would be getting more like 12? Well, I must say that there is something that generally excites us about getting ‘more’ because we feel like we’re really getting our moneys worth. I mean, who doesn’t eat themselves sick at a buffet simply because they paid for it and know there is no limit as to how much they can eat? Well, I hope that my collaborator Markus Cueva and I might ignite in you a similar desire to gorge yourself on prog through this Bite-size offering that delivers five fine albums. It seems like quite a while since we’ve churned out an article with five albums, so please enjoy; gorge yourself while you can.
Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost – The Blue Hour
The latest Rhys Marsh album offered me something I never expected: enjoyability. Honestly despite the fact that previous Rhys Marsh albums featured several of my most beloved prog musicians, I was never quite able to get into the indie-singer-songwriter vibe that they displayed. So, when I first heard The Blue Hour my expectations were very low. I found myself instantly surprised by what I was hearing. With some shame, I will say that I was delighted to hear the trons swapped out by great woodwinds arrangements. Yes, you heard me, basically what you get here is a vocal driven album with a mostly woodwinds band for accompaniment. Honestly, it sounds terrific. I was instantly sold when I heard the first track, “And I Wait,” which was so dark and moody, the tone being accented perfectly by the choice of instruments. While the songs are simple, they have a lot of feeling, and left me satisfied. At times, they can be incredibly stripped down, like the track “Broken Light” or “Further from the Truth,” but they retain a strong sense of magic, a deep tension that hinges on the fact that you wait for it to be released, but it never does. All I can say is that The Blue Hour is an album that will add some good diversity to your prog collection, even if leaving you a little ‘hipster.’
Galahad – Beyond the Realms of Euphoria
Well, I must say that the last Galahad album left me really pleased, so I was excited to see what Beyond the Realms of Euphoria would offer. From the first electronic drenched seconds of their latest efforts, I was pretty much sold, knowing that I was going to once again get a unique album offered by a great band. Their blend of neo-prog, electronic, and heavy riffs, is at it’s finest. Songs like “Guardian Angel” present epic riffs, strong melodies, brilliant layers of electronics and choirs. The intro to “Secret Kingdoms” gives off a sort of mix of Iron Maiden with loads of cool keyboard ambiance and quickly moves on to a very narrative feel in their composition which is completely engaging. There is one song though that I thought was terrible: “All in the Name of Progress.” The verse has some really annoying rapping like vocals that drove me insane, although the track isn’t without its redeeming qualities, and it hardly gives you a good reason to not buy this splendid record. All in all, Galahad offers great variety and a fresh sound, two things which are very hard to find in music, but which are essential for a memorable album; Beynd the Realms of Euphoria fits that category perfectly.
Aldo Tagliapietra – Nella Pietra E Nel Vento
By Markus Cueva
Italian vocals never sounded so good! I kid, but seriously, Nella Pietra E Nel Vento makes me wonder what some of the Italian masters would have sounded like back in the 70’s if they had access to today’s recording equipment. The album represents the third solo effort by Le Orme’s Aldo Tagliapietra, and his songwriting chops are on full display. Expect emotion-filled passages galore, with powerful melodies that put modern singer/songwriter music to shame. What this album lacks in frenetic, musically challenging sections that defined Aldo’s music with Le Orme it makes up in atmosphere and compelling verse structure, and I believe even hardcore vintage prog fans will appreciate Tagliapietra’s ability to craft a tune that is quick to capture the attention. Plus, listeners are still treated to the occasional dark, brooding passage (see: the end of Silenzi) and some intricate musicianship and soloing (see: Dio Lo Sa).
Ornithos – La transfigurazione
Ornithos’ debut album presents in one package just about everything we love about RPI. When you hear La transfigurazione you won’t be surprised that this band was started by members of Il bacio della Medusa. The album opens up with such a classic symphonic prog sound, full of enough flute and organs to make anyone happy. “La persistenza della memoria” instantly brings us incredibly Italian vocals which are not over the top, but extremely well done. As the album goes on, the next couple of tracks offer us a sort of Spanish style ranging from a kind of film sound to a bit jazzy. Speaking of fun jazz influenced prog, “L’Alba del nuovo giorno” is sure to be a classic with its frequent use of sax and frantic Hammond solos that will make you grin. Additionally, there’s one thing that there is no lack of on this album is a fair share of wild instrumental prog, with great examples being tracks like “Al torneo” and “La notte,” the latter starting out as a full rocking piece with guitar solos and then transitioning into great use of vocals as instrumental backed by organ, and then some very heavy grooves with haunting keys and a sax solo to boot. While not necessarily a blow your mind Italian album, the boys from Ornithos/Il bacio della Medusa show us time and time again that the Italian scene is in good hands.
Lost Kite – Lost Kite
Father and son duo Lost Kite serves up a nice debut album of ambient prog that will be sure to delight fans of ambient progressive music. The album kicks it off with very strong emotion with a dark and moody feel that presents glistening guitars and mournful saxophone. The use of texturing and percussion is super effective in producing a bleak emotion that continues throughout “A Walk.” “Sails Across the Sky” presents a bit more of a positive vibe than its predecessor while still maintaining a sort of new-age feel. While the album was going pretty good, through the first three tracks, I did not really get into the fifteen minute closer all too much, as I felt that the melodies during the first five minutes felt a bit stiff and uninspired until it gets to the really light parts in the middle of the song that act as a sort of tension builder as it shifts from acoustic guitar to ambient vocals and then some organ. All in all, the tracks on Lost Kite are pretty lengthy; combining this with the somewhat ambient nature of the songs makes this music that can easily enjoyed in the background without feeling like you’re losing too much. In the end, its not bad for a debut and definitely has something to offer fans as it is an album that would play well in a variety of settings.