My heart weeps and goes out to the self-mortifying shoddy banner of our editor of the slender ankles (http://progulator.com/news/bi-weekly-news-update-jealousy-edition/). While he is afflicted with visual progular starvation, this week’s edition of Bite-size comes on a not quite so bite-sized platter for all of you. Oops! I know these were supposed to be shorts, but there’s a review or two that ended up running a bit longer than I had expected. I’ll blame the long-windedness on my Italian genes. Make sure to check out these albums on progstreaming.com while they’re still there for free streaming of the entire album! Once again, reviews are in order from most awesome to less-fortunate.
The Psychedelic Ensemble – The Dream of the Magic Jongleur
First off, who is this guy and why does he want to remain anonymous? The Dream of the Magic Jongleur seriously took me by surprise and knocked my socks off. Apparently this anonymous bard plays just about everything on the album, and it’s all amazing. Ultra spacey synths everywhere, brilliant layers of vocal harmonies and intertwining keyboard and guitar leads and melodies make this album a fantastic listen. What we basically get here is an amazing blend of jazz fusion (reminds me very much of Return to Forever’s first album) with northern European folk overtones joined together by hyper-spacey symphonic prog arrangements. All the notes and chord shifts count on this record. The leads are fantastic, the tone is gorgeous and the runs are fun and expressive. On songs such as the Overture, you get this great vocal like dialogue going on between keyboards and guitar leads, in a Borg Sex kind of way (for the Satriani fans out there). The vocals are fantastic (somehow recalling a bit of Jethro Tull?), making you enjoy the entire composition rather than skipping straight to the keyboard solos. For all the comparisons to other bands, I didn’t feel like the album was a rip off in the least bit. This is just fantastic symphonic prog. Period.
After Crying – Creatura
Creatura is the very first encounter I ever had with the Hungarian band After Crying. The album cover did absolutely nothing to spark my interest in this band, however, the music is an entirely different story; it caught my attention right away. Creatura is a very eclectic album without really straying into areas of ‘weird’ or ‘experimental.’ This album is bombastic and symphonic! I felt like it was extremely fresh even though the individual sections were very familiar and didn’t really break much new ground. Basically what we get is a really cool mix of elements of modern and classic prog, jazz, pop rock, symphonic, and ethnic music. The key here is in the diversity of styles, cool compositions, and fantastic performances. If you like a ton of variety on your album, this is for you. Honestly, I think that this is an album that would make a great addition to anyone’s collection.
Joseph Magazine – Night of the Red Sky
Let me just start off by saying that this is a non-essential, but very, very enjoyable album. Honestly, if you like prog metal you should buy this because it’s got most everything that’s good about prog metal squeezed in there in some way but without sounding like the slew of ‘prog metal’ bands that pretty much all sound the same as each other. Joseph Magazine has a cool approach, which is really catchy songs with great prog sections that are not blown out of proportion. And it works. From the very first track, the really great groove in odd time coupled with grunted/rasped vocals over non-distorted music really caught me off guard and drew me in. This has catchy written all over it. It’s got great clean parts with nice synths, ultra heavy and fast parts, Dream Theater-esque riffing parts, etc. What makes it great is just that it’s so catchy and the each part is great. Never blows your mind, but always feels good.
Fredde Gredde – Thirteen Eight
First off, can I point out the pretentious self-referential album title? Fredde Gredde actually does some really interesting things here that will undoubtedly split the votes on ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ this album. I’ll try to give you both ends and I think you’ll catch on to what I mean really quickly. Just to get this out there, this is really good symphonic metal composition; not like Nightwish “symphonic metal,” but more of a symphonic rock feel but with metal style guitars and drums. The compositions are unquestionably first class and the arrangements are gorgeous: great instrumentation and seamless use of odd time signatures, good melodies, catchy, familiar feel (yet not stale), great heavy riffing, nice synth leads and exciting drumming. The intermingling of the keyboards and guitars are truly above par and the songs offer a dynamic range of moods and excitement.
But like I said, you’ll either love or hate this album. For me, it has absolutely everything going for it, except for one thing, which in the end, makes it something that I won’t be coming back to often: emo vocals. And it kills me. They’re like a whiny/emo/indie kind of sound, basically sounds like an emo version of Steven Wilson singing. You’ll get the picture. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll love this. If not, it will grate on you. The upside is that this may serve as a gateway band into prog for many young people.
If you go on Gredde’s website you’ll see a tremendous list of amazing prog influences, and you can feel that indirectly here. The music is totally fresh, he doesn’t sound like any of those bands but has carved out a way of producing phenomenal progressive compositions. But, the vocals killed it. I found myself enjoying a few songs, but then had to struggle to listen all the way through the album because of the vocals. The instruments were so good though that I did make it through. Props to Fredde Gredde for making amazing compositions. I am hoping for improvement on the vocals in the future. If there is, he could be producing some of the top albums in upcoming years.
Seven Steps to the Green Door– The Book
Very weird combination of progressive rock, progressive metal, ambient rock, and… 90’s R&B and funk? It’s pretty weird, and at times I feel like it’s great, but at times, unbearable. The Book is a very melodic album; it’s catchy. The guitars lean towards the chugga-chugga kind of riffing and the keyboards like to do flashy arpeggios with pretty good lead sounds and include frequent Hammond type sounds. The vocals are a mixed bag: sometimes hardcore, sometimes power metal, sometimes R&B. In the end, I wasn’t really able to get into this album.