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ARCHANGEL Tales of Love and Blood (Neo-Prog, 2013)

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother — `Tales of Love and Blood' is a well performed and produced concept work by former The
Watch/current Ubi Major Italian keyboard player Gabriele Manzini, operating under the
project name of Archangel. With the help of other players, the musician has composed a
range of dense extended works and branching suites of music, as well as some cover
versions, that run through a range of power AOR, heavy progressive rock, Neo prog and
classical gothic sophistication. Gabriele is certainly influenced by the bombastic
symphonic rock of artists such as Ayreon, Lana Lane and Arena, but he still brings a typical
Italian flair to his keyboard and piano playing, and there's even little traces of doom metal
kings My Dying Bride and the Alan Parsons Project worked in throughout. It's no surprise to
find that the album is especially keyboard dominated, but there's also plenty of
opportunities for the other musicians brought in to offer nice contributions. Sadly a number
of issues stop the album and band from achieving the best results, but there's so much
potential on display here.

`The Countess Bathory Suite' covers the first four tracks of the album, and there's
numerous standout moments. Opening with a narrated passage that details the
background of the notorious historical figure before a fanfare crescendo, the blustery and
stomping AOR rocker `When The Night' kicks in, a serious and theatrical vocal from
Gianluigi Girardi over Gabriele Manzini's pulsing Hammond runs and some stirring electric
guitar soloing. Then a sombre take on the Blue Oyster Cult's `Nosferatu' features a truly
beautiful opening floating keyboard and creeping Mellotron introduction and a darkly
crooned vocal from Joe Salati that brings a sense of flair and dark drama. `Misplaced Love'
has lovely chiming Neo flavoured acoustic and 12 string guitars, a superior and touching
vocal from guest Damian Wilson with some dazzling Rick Wakeman-styled Moog solos in
the first half. The middle twists into a heavy instrumental that races through urgent tempo
changes, ghostly piano and searing Mellotrons. This suite is easily the highlight of the disc!

Unfortunately, although the almost 14 minute `The Night Scythe' is probably intended to the
crowning achievement of the disc, it's one of the least interesting pieces on offer. Several
long stretches feature unmemorable melodies, over-wrought vocals and dragging
repetitive passages, it's seriously plodding and rapidly grinds the album to a near-halt. It's
a shame, because it starts out very promising with some sinister My Dying Bride-styled
brooding guitars, has lovely fluid bass throughout and there's endless beautiful piano
passages to Manzini's credit.

The `Love and Blood Suite' quickly improves things again. With a soothing melody that
greatly resembles `Green-Eyed Angel' from `Pendragon's `Not of this World', `The Black
Bride' is another classy Damian Wilson-led ballad with sadly romantic piano and rising
electric guitars. It moves through a melancholic and tasteful cover of Roxy Music's `My Only
Love' (always an underrated track from that band) with glistening electric piano, ripping
Hammond and dynamic guitar solos in the finale, before closing the album on the intense
and stalking `In Loneliness', full of doomy riffs and hellbound organ with a classic Neo-
styled dreamy bridge.

Regretfully, the band also includes a bonus track, a well played but utterly cringe-worthy
and overly polite cover of Black Sabbath's `Wheels of Confusion' that is completely devoid
of all the scuzzy charm of the original. Sigh...

Although I've praised many sections of the album, sadly this sort of overbearing AOR/hard-
rock is rarely my sort of thing, and I have a very low tolerance of similar acts like most of the
Anthony Aryen Luccassen-styled projects. Despite being very impressed by numerous
sections, I still find much of the histrionic and deadly serious vocals quite draining, with just
a slight hint of blandness creeping in a little too often as well. The cover versions are well-
done but distracting and totally unnecessary, because the band already displays more than
enough confidence to stand by their own work. But I can truly appreciate talented musicians
performing complex arrangements, and there is no doubt Gabriele Manzini is something of
a virtuoso musician, and frequently (and thankfully) his playing is subtle and restrained. I
have a feeling he's slowly honing his craft and will soon make a truly defining and grand
musical statement all his own in the future.

So it's three stars for me personally, but any fans of the above mention Ayreon-type artists
can probably add another star to this rating, and they may find this album the perfect way to
pass the time until the next proper Arena or Luccassen albums.

Oh, and Gabriele - ditch the covers and let your own talent shine!

IQ The Road Of Bones (Neo-Prog, 2014)

Review by Warthur — Although its street date is May 5th, pre-orders of the sumptuous collector's edition of IQ's latest
album have begun shipping already in order to get the sets to purchasers in time for the album
launch show (tickets to which are included in the collector's edition), so I have been lucky
enough to hear this latest release already.

The Road of Bones is the second album in a row from IQ to feature a lineup reconfiguration,
following the incredible streak from Ever to Dark Matter where the band lineup had remained
extremely solid and stable. In fact, the lineup shake from Frequency to this is the largest
between any two consecutive IQ albums, with three of the five band members not appearing on
Frequency. Paul Cook and Tim Esau are, of course, old hands in IQ, being the group's original
rhythm section (indeed, Frequency was the only IQ album not to feature Cookie on drums),
whilst Sphere3 keyboardist Neil Durant makes his first appearance on an IQ album here.

The obvious question, then, is how this shakeup affects the band's sound. Frequency was a
refreshing update to the IQ sound; would the return of Paul Cook and Tim Esau reverse that
musical progression, or would Neil Durant's inclusion allow the group to continue it? As it
transpires, Durant is the surprise star player here, proving equally adept at a bang-up-to-date
keyboard style and performances living up to the heritage of IQ's earlier material.
(Constellations, one of several tracks on the bonus disc in the special edition of the album,
showcases this distinction particularly nicely.)

Tonally, the album finds IQ in a melancholic and reflective mood - one which often serves them
well, as it did on albums such as The Wake or Ever - whilst the special edition of the album
provides a bonus disc with a brace of songs which to my ears are just as strong as the
compositions that made the cut, but which didn't fit the particular vibe they are going for here,
and as a result the special edition presents a more diverse sound. Whether you plump for the
1CD or 2CD editions, right here you have IQ incredibly managing to continue their streak of top-
quality albums which began with the classic Ever and still shows no signs of slowing down.

QUANTUM FANTAY Terragaia (Psychedelic/Space Rock, 2014)

Review by meganeura — Kings of the universe of Ozric clones are going to Mother Earth .... welcome. End of talk
about non-originality - who understands that he will be pleased.

Group expressed some sense of humor and trying to confuse the listener name plates,
expecting that this album would be just another space rock album. Did the same thing in
the prehistory of this musical subgenre Nektar did on his album Down to Earth, a return to
Earth. But they then came up with a surprisingly lightweight album full of melodic songs
with brief footage and circus image of members. And that's the joke (hard to tell if
contrived?) - On this album is, in fact, everything remains the same and also shows how
difficult it is to escape the shadow of their own, let alone the shadow of the founding fathers
- Ozric Tentacles. Return to our Earth - Terra Gaia, is marked by the repetition of known and
proven practices. Fortunately, or unfortunately?
For fans of the band and the style is everything okay, we have another serving of delicious
melodic music coming from a space rock traveling in the footsteps of Ozric Tentacles, with
overlap mainly in dub and ethno (Africa , the Celts , the Far East), which fully corresponds
to that it is a concept album conceived as a return trip after our home planet . In this album
has a lot of parallels with the legendary Erpland . If reaches its qualities anyone's guess.
Someone may not be to the taste of straightness rhythms, another grins than
impressionability melodies of songs, others will be irritated a little taste of the band
experiment more , but I think it is necessary to appreciate the quality of the band , mainly
songwriting potential bandleader Pieter Van den Broeck [ aka Pete Mush ] that does not go
in the making of this , perhaps forever minority and unjustly neglected branch of music
because the band playing this music that should never easy. Yet it is doing very well ,
especially in the countries of Scandinavia.There should shop around those who yearn for
the more experimental space rock, there is operate the pack type Oresund Space
Collective, or Taipuva Luotisuora.
Finally, I should add that after a series of previous 3 great albums is difficult to establish
and continue to set high standard of quality. Still, the band managed to record an album
continued in the best traditions and would be a small miracle if at times showed no fatigue
invention. This, however, show any other album.

Highlighs? Desert rush, Aargh, Chopsticks and gongs, Cowdians( surprising space
country!).

TRANSPORT AERIAN LOVE.BLOOD.LIVE (Crossover Prog, 2014)

Review by Second Life Syndrome — True artists are difficult to find nowadays. I don't mean people that can simply make music,
even well. I mean the real deal, those people that are saturated with eccentric-ism, and
those people around the world that have an aura of creativity and imagination in everything
they do. Hamlet Transportinae is one such individual, and he is rather proud of that fact.
His 2013 album "Bleeding" was an excellent example of his eclectic, unique style, and that
album even received an HD re-release through Melodic Revolution Records a few weeks
ago.

So, on the heels of all that, Transport Aerian has released his first live album,
"LOVE.BLOOD.LIVE". As you might have guessed, this isn't your normal live album. There
are no cheers, applause, or any crowd noises at all. Plus, the entire show is put on by only
two people: Hamlet and his friend Stefan. These two put on a fine show that includes plenty
of real-time triggered programming, but also plenty of amazing instrumentation and
splendid vocals. Like I said, "LOVE.BLOOD.LIVE" is not your normal live album.

But how does all this translate? Incredibly, the show goes on without a hitch, and it's often
difficult to tell where the programming starts and ends. Another thing I've noted on each
listen is how different the music sounds. Transport Aerian's sound is a rather unique mix of
darkness, melancholy, wonderful guitars that range from riffing to soaring solos, synth that
sounds unlike any I've heard, and Hamlet's accent-laden, rich voice. Yet, he messes with
the structure and sound of many of the tracks, to great effect. The music sounds warmer,
more inviting, and incredibly sophisticated. There is a poetic vibe to the whole
"LOVE.BLOOD.LIVE" experience that sucks you in, and I think much of that may even come
from the excellent sound and mix.

The track list is also a real treat. Some of my favorites off of "Bleeding" make an
appearance, such as "Love", "Inspire", and "Winter", but also tracks that I'd never heard,
such as "Minor Moody" and "Radio Void". The former three are tweaked and polished to
perfection. Of greatest note is "Inspire", an excellent song that has been made into
something even more spectacular through the use of a great mix, awesome programs, and
a rethinking of some parts. It may be my favorite on this live album, especially because I
appreciate the incredibly unique synth solo that is simultaneously catchy and hard to follow.
The latter two tracks range from atmospheric to astonishingly bold and even heavy at parts.
All the while, Hamlet excels in the vocal department, as his live voice seems to have even
more personality and depth.

Transport Aerian's first live album, then, is a true success. "LOVE.BLOOD.LIVE" is
interesting, never dull, and keeps even the fans on their toes. Whether it be the poetic
readings of "Triangle Town" or the meatier version of "Winter", this album mixes up
everything to a level of elegance, maturity, and refinement. If you are interested in unique,
fresh progressive rock, I highly recommend this fine live album.

COSMIC GROUND Cosmic Ground (Progressive Electronic, 2014)

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother — 2014 sees the release of the self-titled 'Cosmic Ground' debut album, and it is comprised of four
long, droning instrumental electronic pieces. `Cosmic Ground' is actually the title given to this solo
project by German musician Dirk Jan Muller, a name that may sound familiar to progressive
audiences due to his involvement with psych/prog/krautrockers Electric Orange. Although that
band had plenty of electronic elements, they were rarely a main focus, so the artist has taken this
opportunity to delve straight into the black hole of dark space music, and it is the sort of album you
can spend a lifetime travelling through.

`Cosmic Ground' was fully recorded on vintage equipment (seriously, just look at the equipment list
on the CD details above!), with the CD booklet proudly proclaiming `no MIDI used', and it is
constantly fuelled by endless haunting Mellotron. It means the album is an absolutely perfect
vintage flavoured electronic album in the early Seventies style of Klaus Schulze, Adelbert von
Deyen and Tangerine Dream's less melodic earlier works. A great source of inspiration was
actually Tangerine Dream's `Zeit', with initial promotional material for this album pointing this fact
out, and anyone who appreciated that darkly fascinating defining double LP from the 70's may find
this equally as wondrous.

The appropriately titled `Legacy' opens the disk, setting the template for the whole album that
proudly acknowledges the past masters, while always travelling it's own path. Haunting gothic
Mellotron choirs groan over endless windswept deserts, lonely Rhodes piano teardrops drip
through peaks and lulls of washing electronic waves, and frantic bass loops stalk through the
blackest waters quickening your pulse. Heavy white noise, rising spectral church organ and
enveloping electronic pools that comfort as much as suffocate welcome the eventually beat heavy
`Deadlock'. A ticking Schulze-like percussion gently enters then quickly turns more strident and
purposeful, almost dance-like in a few spots by the end, truly bridging the old styles with the new.
The 33 minute `Ground' incorporates wavering hypnotizing psychedelia, occasional clipping low-
key beats, placid synth breezes that rise and fall and chanting Mellotron. Regal, imposing yet
almost triumphant themes, lulling and soothing affectionate passages and dark near-malevolence
also briefly appear, the final ten minutes especially entering very deep drone territory with a
beautifully executed build. The eerie and ominous `The Plague' joins crystalline Mellotron veils,
delicate heart-breaking electric piano footsteps and reverberating electronic hums to almost reveal
an evocative cinematic quality.

Buyers take note - when you purchase the physical CD from Bandcamp, you also receive a bonus
download track that didn't fit onto the disc due to time constraints. The 18 minute `Decay' blends
somber early 70's Pink Floyd-styled organ with Tangerine Dream-like sequencer pattern thrums,
and it's just as good as anything on the main disc, and probably one of the more easily accessible
pieces on offer here as well.

This album was originally recommended to me by Michael Bruckner, another German electronic
composer and genuinely nice guy (his recent albums `In Letzter Konsequenz', `Naura' and
`Thirteen Rites of Passage' are well worth looking into as well). The last month I've been in and out
of hospital quite a lot, and this album, along with various shows from the Stillstream net-radio
station such as Rebekkah Hilgrave's `At Waters Edge' program, has been a great source of
comfort during my time there. It's easy to get swept along and drift away on the uneasy waves of
ambient electronic bliss here, lulled into a trance-like state, and I hope we see more albums from
Mr Dirk Jan Muller under this project name in the future.

`Cosmic Ground' is simply one of the best Berlin School-styled albums since the Seventies
classics, recorded in the same manner, and anyone looking for more works in that same style now
have the perfect album to discover. Anyone who can make the time to properly listen to this work
repeatedly and has the patience for the subtle electronic/ambient genre will relish this tantalizing
work. So far it's one of the best progressive related releases of 2014, and I have no hesitation in
rewarding it the highest score.

Five stars.

TUGS Europa Minor (Rock Progressivo Italiano, 2013)

Review by apps79 — Tugs were not a dissimilar case to Italian bands from the far past, that didn't earn the fame they deserved.Formed in Livorno in 1978 around Pietro Contorno (vocals, guitar), Nicola Melani (guitar), Bruno Rotolo (bass), Michele Lippi (keyboards) and Claudio Cecconi (drums), they tried to mix Classic Italian Prog with melodic Singer/Songwriting stylings.Their music came to another level during the 80's, when they performed their material on theater stages with the support of technicians and artists.It was around 1985, when Marco Susini joined Tugs on keyboards, but the band had little live left in the tank.In the new millenium the band returned with Contorno, Melani, Rotolo and Susini from the old line-up and new drummer Fabio Giannitrapani.2013 sees the official debut of the band ''Europa Minor'' on AMS, dedicated to the European history.The album features guest musicians Martina Benifei on cello, Claudio Fabiani on flute, Antonio Ghezzani on mandolin, Francesco Carmignani on violin and Matteo Scarpettini on percussion.

Another case of a band that could produce some lovely music and the revival of Progressive Rock gave them the chance to offer an interesting album.Tugs sound quite close to acts such as IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE and PHAEDRA, beautiful Italian vocals surrounded by melodic still intricate musicianship with symphonic and folky parts, characterized by romantic textures, intricate interplays and grand breaks.Very balanced style, where flutes and violin often prevail, always supported by dreamy piano interludes and deep, keyboard moves.But the electric moments are not absent either.A great and energetic rhythm section provides the needed spark and Nicola Melani's appears to be a fantastic guitarist, delivering interesting lead parts and some great solos.As with every Italian band of the style, Classical Music is a major influence on Tugs' musicianship and the arrangements contain big symphonic sections with keyboards, strings and flute in the forefront.But an album dedicated to European history is sure to have also a pronounced Ethnic vibe, thus acoustic guitars and more traditional instrumentation often take over in rural textures, which still hold a secure rock background.Rich and melodic music, guided by the 30-years experience of the musicians within the Progressive Rock standards.

Over an hour of dreamy Italian Progressive Rock in a classic style.Melodious themes, symphonic movements, folky references and plenty of quirky instrumental passages.Warmly recommended.

ENTITY Il Falso Centro (Rock Progressivo Italiano, 2013)

Review by Rivertree — Extraordinary prog rock songs from Sardinia, my beloved place in Italy! What more could one want?
Since I lhave listened to the album for the first time, it was clear that I had to write about those
interesting guys who are officially residing in Bolotana/Nuoro. Now, surprisingly, they are already
active since 1994, but I've never heard of them, although I'm periodically situated not very far
away in Santa Maria Navarrese. And that also means it took a long way until the debut finally saw
the light of day. Some line-up changes occured since the beginning, seemingly not being pressurised
in any way they reserved the time to refine their song material, which comprises several live gigs too.

'Il Falso Centro' - I'm not aware of the story behind - probably the album tile is something
thought-provoking. Anyway, the music's flow mirrors a high proportion of atmosphere, dramaturgy,
empathy. And this should mean a lot to a prog fan, right? While showing a sligthly classical as well
as jazzy approach. Davanti allo specchio is a fine entry into the album. Towards the end they
switch to a rocking behaviour, immediately leading over to the first extended album suite Il
Desiderio . Marco Panzino's strong accentuated drumming attracts attention, in the same way
Marcello Mulas' partially slicing metal alike guitar style.

With a dramatic as well as charming way of expression Mauro Mulas claims his due with varied
keyboard input. Comprising organ, piano, synths and orchestral string patterns he obviously cares
for the symphonic orientation. And finally, if you're inclined to assume that this is an
instrumental album ... singer Sergio Calafiura comes in with native Italian vocals to complete a
rounded ensemble. Well, currently there's a lot going on, speaking of the Rock Progressivo Italiano
genre. While offering fine melodies and an entertaining flow ENTITY turns out to be a real shooting
star, this album certainly belongs to the Crème de la Crème.

ANIMALS AS LEADERS The Joy of Motion (Tech/Extreme Prog Metal, 2014)

Review by Warthur — Animals as Leaders' third album feels like it's hitting diminishing returns on the djent side of
the equation compared to the rather more interesting Weightless, but it manages to just about
make the cut thanks to the exploration of jazz fusion and Latin styles that yields a more diverse
sound than they've previously enjoyed. At the same time, I can't help but wish that these
momentary flirtations with expanding and reconfiguring the group's sound had gone a little
deeper, since whilst they add a little spice here, they don't go quite so far enough as to open up
enough new creative directions to feel confident about the group's long-term prospects.

ALCEST Shelter (Experimental/Post Metal, 2014)

Review by Warthur — I'd found the previous Alcest number, "Les voyages de l'âme", to be rather disappointing, but in
retrospect it's clear that it was a transitional release which suffered from Alcest's increasing
disinterest in the metal half of its black metal/shoegaze fusion. Here, the problem is solved by
Alcest abandoning metal altogether, yielding a pure shoegaze release which manages to turn
in a decent but not revolutionary performance in that genre. Metal fans will find little to love here,
shoegaze fans will have heard this all before, and if you're one of those who feels really excited
about the aesthetic possibilities of blackgaze, you'll probably find this a deeply unambitious
release.

HUIS Despite Guardian Angels (Neo-Prog, 2014)

Review by Anon-E-Mouse — I am not a great fan of Neo-Prog. You know, bands that tried to imitate Genesis with some
success. Marillion have produced some very pleasing stuff, but then in turn, they
themselves were being copied, or imitated as peers. Just how far can we stretch the same
musical piece of rubber? Neo-Neo- Prog? (I guess, we've already being at it for years
without making a clear distinction?)

The album title here "Despite Guardian Angels" was very close to put me off in the first
place. Being a spiritual person, I felt that if one failed to honour those guardian angels, then
one could not complain about them going elsewhere. Had it not been for the odd, positive
review, I would have given a complete miss to this effort.

Now, onto the music - if only briefly. The album starts off very strongly. Both the instruments
and the voice are pleasing and convincing at the start. Powerful playing that holds promise.
Close to Genesis, even Camel at times it appears to be credible work. Till you feel that there
is something missing. It's called, subtlety. You know, those fleeting seconds where you'd be
tempted to add a couple of half notes - if only in your mind - that would make the piece more
whole. The effort is worthy of encouragement, but far from what I would be pleased to hear
too often.
The second half of this piece is less impressive. Short of calling it filler material, the band
has just lost me there.

Pretty good stuff, probably worth a listen, but not something I'd miss in my collection. Many
missed opportunities tend to spoil my fun. Nearly a 4, but not quite.