The Gabriel Construct – Interior City 

Featuring ex-members of the prog metal band Periphery, Interior City is the product composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Lucas Riccio. Don’t think that this is just a metal album, because in many ways it’s a record that is interesting because it is genre defying; in fact, metal rarely comes into the picture at all, and when it does it’s in subtle ways. If you’re looking for an interesting album that sounds totally fresh, Interior City is a solid one to check out.

Interior City shows that it’s an emotional ride from the start with “Arrival in a Distant Land,” a mostly piano and vocal piece that screams out passion and sadness. “Ranting Prophet follows it up with an eastern inspired sound that is loaded with violin, moments of extreme metal drumming, and a dreadful sense of atmosphere (in a cool way). “Fear of Humanity” delivers some really cool low vocals, moody ambiance, and great melodies while “My Alien Father” gets downright haunting in its use of piano and creepy vocal harmonies that slowly build, not to mention the lyrics themselves are pretty eerie, making this one of the highlights of the album. “Defense Highway” struck me as immediately catchy and seems to hold some of that djent atmosphere/rhythm without actually being really heavy or fitting into the genre. Angular vocal lines with densely intriguing harmonies and a rollercoaster ride through a variety of moods and dynamics make this one a standout piece. And as if you didn’t think there was enough strange stuff going on here, “Inner Sanctum” and “Curing Somatization” just had to pull in the saxophone; not that sax is rare in prog, but this is a very distinct kind of music and we just upped the ante again. Talk about ending on a brutal foot, “Curing Somatization” is probably the most intense combination of heavy dissonance, sax, and dense vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard.  With this piece they literally pull out all the big guns to create a chaotic storm of rhythm and sound that  would knock anyone’s socks off.

Bottom line is, The Gabriel Construct managed to deliver an entertaining and highly original album, a feat which is quite tricky to do nowadays.

Yuka and Chronoship – Dino Rocket Oxygen

Yuka and Chronoship sure have been keeping busy; it seems like only yesterday that I reviewed Water Reincarnation, and now these Japanese proggers are out with their latest release, Dino Rocket Oxygen.  As is quickly evident, the album title is the combination of the three musical suites existing on the album, each consisting of several instrumental songs: “Dinosaur Suite,” “R is for Rocket Suite,” and the “Oxygen Suite.” The first thing to look out for is this is, in essence, a synth-centric album. In fact, if you are a fan of Erik Norlander’s work, you will most likely love this to death since there are moments when I could swear that this was done by Mr. Norlander himself.

The album kicks it out with the three part “Dinosaur Suite.” The opener, “Which Came First, the Dinosaur or the Egg,” apart from being a cool title, delivers a Mellotron-gasm that will make even the most hardened prog veterans salivate as it delivers some of the most delectable, warbly, and decrepit 3 violins you could imagine over an eerie heartbeat. From here, the album truly begins as it moves into “Dance with the Dinosaurs” with some fusion elements and old school style and finishing off the suite with “Ruler of the Earth,” a piece with some nice guitar licks and a very strong Norlander style. Next up is the “R is for Rocket Suite,” delivering the rockin’ riffing and fat synth of “Cutting Gravity,” an upbeat, if slightly redundant, song in “Skygazer,” and “Beyond the Fence,” featuring female vocals and a sort of game soundtrack style, among other tracks. Last up is the “Oxygen Suite” (with song titles that’ll remind you of chemistry class). Delivering cool doubled parts on “O,” an easily approachable and repetitious melodic approach on “O2,” and probably the most interesting piece on the album in the form of “O3” (with some great uber effects female vocals), Yuka Funakoshi and the gang wrap up the record.

Overall, Dino Rocket Oxygen was an album that really excited me initially, but at a certain point I realized that the variety on the album is a bit slim and found myself struggling to listen through the entire thing in one sitting (I recommend it in chunks). For fans of Erik Norlander or synths in general, there will be plenty to appreciate on this album, and here’s hoping to more good releases from Yuka and Chronoship in the future.

Nektar – Time Machine

Legendary British band Nektar follow up 2012’s A Spoonful of Time with Time Machine, an album that doesn’t really do anything new or impressive. While the album does feature some proggy Nektar moments, there’s honestly a little too much going on here that simply leans towards pop rock, such as is evident in “Set Me Free, Amigo” and it’s easy going vacation like guitar rhythms and leisurely atmosphere, or “Destiny” and “Mocking the Moon,” which have a vibe that could make them easily fit in on soft rock radio alongside Phil Collin’s latest pop hits. That’s not to say that the pieces aren’t well composed; the transitions are smooth, the music is highly atmospheric, and even the narrations are well done. The only thing is that at a certain point, around “If I Only Could” and the title track “Time Machine,” Nektar seems to be banking on a serious 80’s neo-prog vibe with synth heavy pieces that deliver on catchy choruses, but without the charm that the best neo-prog bands have delivered. If there’s one piece that’s truly listenable, it would be “Juggernaut” a nice instrumental featuring great walking/melodic basslines, jazzy keyboard work, and a sense of togetherness that serves the song itself.

Long gone are the pyschedelic and krautrock inspired ambitious moments of old for this once great band that seems to have run out of steam.