You will note that on this most recent issue of Prog-size Bites I have learned to count backwards from four to one without repeating numbers or adding lesser intervals, a feat for which I am quite proud. However, this accomplishment did not come easy, in fact, it was the most difficult of all; it involved only sheer luck and coincidence. I present to you both the amazingly awesome and the astonishingly annoying. In the end, however, these are but one man’s opinions which leave it up to you to decide for yourself by either catching these while they’re still on or buying them cold. Just some advice: you can buy Dark Suns album Orange cold. I’m fairly certain you won’t regret it. It’s quite the treat.

Dark Suns – Orange
Have you ever listened to an album that didn’t impress you for the first few tracks and then suddenly it took off and blew you away? That’s exactly the experience I had with Dark Suns’ album Orange. Once this album got going, it really got going. Orange has a bit of pop rocky feel, but in a good way. There’s lots of great vintage organ and the music is a bit quirky. In fact, the organ sound is absolutely fantastic and it’s incorporation is beautiful. In terms of style, there’s a ton of diversity on this record. There’s slower pieces like “Not Enough Fingers” which had really good atmosphere, laid back grooves and a very strong mood that the guitars conjure up. Other songs, like Ghost have subtle shifts between ultra-aggressive organ driven rock and evocative jazz tinged sections. There are some very frantic pieces on this album as well, like “That is Why They All Hate You In Hell” with high energy rhythm and screaming falsetto vocals. Pieces like “Vespertine” have great dissonant chords, jazzy elements, and wild sax solos. “Scaleman” is simply a great track, and the closer “Anti Pole” does a great job at melding post rock, avant-rock, and prog. My guess is one of two things is going to happen with you. Either you’re going to love this album from minute one until the end, or you’ll be bored with the first 4 tracks but then rest of it will not you off your feet so hard that you buy it anyways for its sheer brilliance. This is a killer album and a good buy no matter how you look at it.

 Raven Sad – Layers of Stratosphere
I’ll start off my review by saying that this is an Italian album which could have fooled me into thinking it was a German album. Whether or not that’s where the influences actually are, it seemed to have a bit of that good ol’ krautrock/space rock feel characterized by lots of ambience, synthesizer arpeggiation and super-grooving bass lines. There’s lots of great texturing going on here, melodic guitar playing, and nicely composed synth parts that are always melodic and purposeful and never feeling like you have to keep up with them; even the leads are more there for ambience and feel than anything else. “Mind Flies” is a great example of this. The two downsides for me were that the vocals never really grabbed me. They weren’t frequent, but when they were present, for example, in tracks like “The Highest Cliff,” I always felt like the singer’s voice was a bit too mundane for my tastes. The other downside is that while all the tracks were good and fun to listen to, there wasn’t really a track that blew me away. Everything was good, this is definitely a good album, but nothing was amazing. However, in the end, this could be just my preference. I would definitely recommend this to people who are big fans of space rock; I think they would most likely be quite pleased. Layers of Stratosphere is most certainly an enjoyable album from start to finish.

Exawatt – Among Different Sights
Here’s a weird album that sounds like a pretty typical prog metal release without sounding too much like a typical prog metal release. What I mean by that is that it sounds pretty much like metal with keyboards and melodic vocals; pretty standard fare. There’s a guy and a girl singer but none of them stand out too much. The compositions are good, but don’t really set themselves apart from the competition or bring anything new to the table. At least that’s what you think at first listen. Although I didn’t really enjoy this album very much  it did seem to get better with multiple listens and there was just something about it that was a bit tricky to place. Weird things pop up every once in a while, like the smooth jazz intro to Lucid Dreams; that was unexpected. But then it kicks into a normal mid-tempo prog metal piece. There’s also some very conventional pop rock, and some more jazz influences inters parsed, which gives the album a distinct feel. At times the melodies can be a bit too poppy in the bad kind of way, like in “My Friend,” but like I said, after several listens the album seems to get a little better. Small nuances in the music make this release unique, but overall I felt like it was a bit mediocre; not really brave enough to catch my attention.

Sylvan – Sceneries
The name and cover made me wonder if it was one of those Lifescapes CDs before I started playing it. Even though that’s not what it was like, that’s about how much I ended up liking it. In the end, what I’m hearing is symphonic rock that is rather mellow and has a focus on slow but catchy chord progressions and guitar solos that will attempt to move you. There are some not so great transitions during some of the long tracks that seem kind of unnatural, like the composers thought they had to incorporate a particular riff they loved into the song didn’t know how to attach it quite right. In terms of vocals, let’s just say they drove me absolutely nuts in a bad way, like 90’s alternative meets bad Christian rock. There were good moments from time to time though. For example, I enjoyed a lot of the music in “The Words you Hide.” It had a strong emotional pull and had great use of instrumentation and pacing. When it comes to Sceneries overall, my ears bled plentifully from the vocals. I just couldn’t get past that.