Parallelas – Introspección (Album Review)

Parallelas is a prog rock project from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The line up consists of only 3 people, with the dominant sound being keyboards and piano. The lyrics are in Spanish, yet the project’s name is in Italian, meaning parallels, as a tribute to Italian prog rock. The trio started their efforts to compose music in 2017, and finally recorded and released their 2 year-long work in 2019, titled Introspección. The album includes a fusion of South American and Italian progressive rock. Songs are joyful and incredibly animate. The movement is mostly driven by arpeggiated grand piano parts, with the vocalist singing loooong notes on top of the chord changes. Some songs like Pasaje are instrumental, and introduce a more mellow mood to the mix. Some like Diverso take advantage of the diverse range of electronic sounds in a synth, which reminds me of the sonic diversity of ELP’s music. I noticed that they used a few modes, like the Hijaz maqam, that are not commonly used in this subgenre. Overall, the album brings back 70s-80s non-British prog rock with a few modern additions.

Line-Up

  • Vicente Nadal Mora: bass
  • Ignacio Euclides: drums
  • Juan Ignacio D’Iorio: keyboards and vocals.

Total Length

48:15

1- Despedidas (2:57):

The album opens with what sounds like a combination of electric piano and harpsichord, and after a short intro, the vocals enter rather early on. Being used to prog songs with elaborate openings to start off the album, we are left to think that maybe more effort could’ve went into devising a more thoughtful intro to the band’s debut record.

Keyboards musically encompass a great fraction of the album, and this becomes evident from the very start. Probably because the singer/founder Juan Ignacio D’Iorio is the keyboard player, it lets us take a breath from all the guitar dominated modern progressive rock/metal bands. The section is further flavored by the cymbal work of Ignacio Euclides. By first introducing the drums softly, it creates a natural transition when he starts to use the kick drum and the snare.

Now we should confess that no one in the Prog Loop team can actually speak or understand Spanish, so apart from the music (which in this case is rather universal), we had to ask Juan to provide us with some rough translations of the songs. The title translates to ‘Farewells’ (an odd topic for the introduction of the album) and the lyrics actually reinforces the title of the album: Introspection. It can be interpreted that the narrator is actually talking to himself (in second person) when reflecting on the impact of “never-ending goodbyes”, yet at the same time, tries to comfort by offering hope that there will be something more (“when the time arrives”) behind these farewells.

The song features some interesting interludes in the middle, although still feeling empty because of the lack of instruments in the track. The harpsichord can create some absorbing chord progressions but without the contribution of more instrumentation, the listener is left “half-absorbed” throughout the song.

2- Brasil (8:34):

While reminding another song about Brasil that was released earlier this year (Ed O Brien), this song follows a completely different direction than EOB’s song, both songs are reminiscent of the same fresh atmosphere and breeze of the city. The peaceful long piano intro. With the addition of drums, the song gradually increases the dynamics and resolves to an instrumental section that was led by interesting “wah” pedal effected bass and guitar sounds. After we hear similar melodies of the intro, we end up with a new section indicating that the direction of the song has changed.

Even if the bass solo, nearly in the middle of the song, is one of the highlights of the album, the personal favorite moment from the album is where the narrator starts to read poems – creating an artsy and romantic atmosphere thanks to the poetic flow of their native language.

The outro of the song is liberated from the earlier parts of the song, since the ryhtm gets doubled and we hear a new synth sound that has never been used in the song before.

Lyrically, Brasil tells the story (at least in our interpretation) of a nation that was forced to abandon their native land and to love in another place – a place which is far from their own people. However, as they discover the new land that they are now a part of, they are now loving there, conveying a simple message: what makes a place significant is the people that live within it.

3- Para Henry (4:43):

By creating similar intros and using similar rythms and notes, Parallelas is stuck within a similar atmosphere compared to the previous song (and one can’t tell if it is a good or bad approach writing this way). Even though the atmosphere and the instrumental style are similar, we get to hear a higher register in terms of vocal performance – understanding the capabilities of the performer.

After each time the main piano riff hits, the drums play a fill that seems like slightly out of sync -creating the drunk playing feel that was made popular with Adam Neely’s Youtube videos. The juxtaposition between this rhythmic illusion and the highly melodic and peaceful vocal-piano performance has also found a place for itself in the lyrics: Although one should share its happiness to feel what he is feeling is real, how real can it be if you must depend on others to feel its reality?

Henry is a complicated character, full of dilemmas and contrary conditions of human behavior. After knowing the contrast of good and bad, blessed and evil, peace and war; one doesn’t want to continue this condition called “existence”. Henry has been a philosophical metaphor for all human kind, showing the deep and critical lyricisim of Parallelas.

4- Tiempos Compartidos (3:09):

The piano from the start creates a more somber feel and could benefit from a more atmospheric approach, which can also separate the intro from the rest of the songs. Again, we hear the soft cymbal work of Ignacio show itself beneath the piano layer. And Vicente Nadal Mora’s bass fills the place in between.

The next section is very hard to analyze, as it is exactly the same interlude from the first song “Despedidas”. I don’t if it’s more concerning if they did this on purpose or not. Either way, it takes a lot of courage to serve the same thing twice while well knowing that we will criticize it to the fullest. So to follow their path, I copy the same section from the first song’s review:

The song features some interesting interludes in the middle, although still feeling empty because of the lack of instruments in the track. The piano can create some absorbing chord progressions but without the contribution of more instrumentation, the listener is left “half-absorbed” throughout the song.

The lyrics sounds like a love song without actually talking about love. You can feel the strong emotions the narrator is feeling towards the person whom he is talking about. Although they are separated, he still finds himself waiting for that person to come back. He’s in full desperation, where “everything seems lost”, when that person “shows from the sky and saves [him]” (we may be lost in translation as we had a hard time interpreting what this line actually meant).

5- Ma (7:16):

Much like every other song, ‘Ma’ starts out with a usual short keyboard intro that leads to the verse. This can get rather repetitive after a few times and shows that intros aren’t really the strong side of the band. Although it sounds like what came before it in the album, the vocal melody and the subject of the song is stronger and feels more unique. The verses are grouped of questions to a mother (which actually reminded me of Pink Floyd’s own “Mother”) and features juxtaposing imageries (like “darkest abysses” against the lightening of the mother).

There is no drums or bass in this section, only the classic keyboards of Parallelas and Juan’s vocals. It helps to create a more sincere relationship with the mother, to whom these questions are directed at. It makes one wonder what caused Juan to write these lyrics at the first place. Only after a minute and a half do we hear another instrument. With the addition of drums and mellotron (some prog on its way?), the song picks speed.

Around this section, I want to talk about Ignacio’s drumming, because honestly sometimes I can’t decide whether he accidentally gets out of tempo or is he consciously doing it to catch the listener off guard.

The lyrics evolves with the music, in the sense that the questions start to carry more of a mature melancholy, and less of a childhood innocence. And at the very end, although it could’ve been more climactic musically, Juan lays the final question that once you hear it, eminently enhances the emotional aspect of the song:

How many have cried
For recalling a bit late
To say a simple
“Mom, I love you."

6- Pasaje (1:00):

Serving as an interlude between songs “Ma” and “Esta Cancion No Es para Vos,” Pasaje is a simple piano passage (the “Pasaje” means passage too). Taking clear inspirations from classic music, this song, even though being the shortest piece in the album, one of the most emotional. The chords they pick and their execution with arpeggios seem simple but effective. Chords come after one and another seamlessly and finally fades to silence leading to the next song.

7- Esta Cancion No Es para Vos (4:28):

This song, whose name translates to “This song is not for you,” is completely written for the lyrics. It’s about freeing yourself from societal expectations and learning to live. The song structure is very interesting! After the piano intro that we learned in 7 songs to be Parallelas’s signature, enters the chorus. The chorus sounds like a verse, but is repeated 3 times in the song, where the “verses” sound like choruses but change lyrics at each repetition.

While it’s impossible to decipher what the writer exactly wanted to say in the lyrics, I have a few opinions. The song entirely talks about how everyone else is wrong about how you should live your life. Thus, I interpreted the song title as an ironic phrase. It’s as if someone is hiding the truth from you by saying that you shouldn’t listen to this song. “When are you going to live? / If you don’t let it go” means that while everyone is telling you that you will fall out and be miserable if you do not continue being a gear in the machine, you never truly live if you don’t let it go and if you take everything too seriously. “What if this is all a lie?” further reinforces the doubts that every one of us have when going about our daily lives. “You should search / That ignored path / To your own sea.” Juan Ignacio says that Parallelas is more than a band because it includes his tastes of art and literature in it. That’s why these lines reminded me of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Many of us have a choice to make between two: either live life without thinking as others want or explore yourself and live life as you want. The “default” is the former. While Robert Frost says that he “sighs” and regrets the choice he made, The lines I mentioned point out that you can very well take the “ignored path” and turn your life around.

8- Diverso (5:14):

Contrary to “Esta Cancion,” this song is all about music. Diverso is a piece resembling ecstatic Italian prog with a tad of inspiration from Canterbury Scene. The song starts out with a very wacky synth sound layered on top of electronic piano chords and a single-note acoustic guitar sound. It lives up to its name, translated as “different” or “diverse.” The intro has a very weird swing to it that I have never seen in any other song. Then enters the main melody for the song. The zippy melody is played in several different ways, in 2 different keys. Another fast-paced part with more chord comps than melodies bridges 2 macro-repetitions of this melody. I found the drums a bit chaotic and sloppy in this part of the song. While the drummer does a good job in supporting the melody with ride-bell accents, when it switches to very quick 32th note triplet runs in the toms, they just can’t handle it. The keyboard melody is already plays a note in every subbeat, so it might have been better to just use very occasional fills with a steady beat.

The theme entering at the 3:19 mark is probably the most interesting part of the song. The pace change that comes with 3/4, the accordeon sound, the build up to the harsh high to low glissando all set the atmosphere of a clown show in a circus. Perhaps a clown is the best symbolism to show how colorful and playful the Parallelas sound is.

9- Lugares Comunes (4:26):

Opening with one strong chord, “Lugares Comunes” pulls the listener to itself with its simple piano sound after the weirdness of the previous song. It seems clear that Vocal took inspirations from some of the other Italian prog bands with his singing style. His accentuations give the same feeling as other prog bands.

The structure of the song is simple. The piano gives the chord progressions while simple drumming gives the rhythm. The bass works as a connecting device between melody and rhythm. The bass uses different pedals and different voices and different playing styles to enrich the song in all ways. Sometimes it is simple and works to enrich the melody and rhythm, sometimes with is funky sound takes all attention to itself. After a simple piano interlude (which is a common signature of Paralellas) same as the beginning phrase connects the simple and calm song to a build-up. The piano gets stronger, drumming becomes more intense. Piano spits out incredibly fast passages and drumming explodes.

At this point, a keyboard solo enters. It spits some shred-like phrases that the listener saw in the piano interlude. Composed of big jumps between notes and vibratos this synth solo reminds the listener to some of the Camel’s work. The tone and phrases they use to create some energy while bass gives out a simple line. The keyboard stops its solo and screams its last long notes and song cuts to silence.

10- Cruzados (6:28):

The last song of the album opens with a hollow tone. Crows caw, the wind blows, and crickets chirp. A harpsichord, coming out of the baroque age, plays a cycling melody which at every end of the loop chord progression moves a little more. It spits out more of these melodies that go up and down, creating the feeling of a baroque piece, and it finally slows down to lead to the vocal.

Harpsichord continues at a low pace while the vocal sings about crusaders. He talks from the perspective of one crusader: How he was hoping for salvation through a war against the unfaithful. He starts confidently with his mission. However, time goes by and he starts to question the morality of it all. He knows that he must save his soul but was this the correct way. Confrontation starts and everything turns into bloodshed. Murder for murder’s sake alone, stealing, rampaging… After all of this, a man can’t be the same. Our protagonist too questions this crusade’s purpose.

Even though the story takes place in the Middle Ages, some easy parallels (or should I say “Parallelas”) can be made. In today’s world, it is exactly the same. Mean interest, power, thirst for expansion is disguised as salvation. People die only for their leaders’ personal gains, making the rich even richer and the those in power even more powerful. It is sad to recognize that humanity actually didn’t improve from the dark ages as much as we thought.

Our protagonist is not a special crusader, he is a simple man who has to endure this corrupt system. He represents all of us. He is used for other’s means but he also can’t fight against it. He has to fight for something he does not believe in. He keeps brandishing his sword and killing the “unfaithful” while his pain inside increases. He can’t find inner peace in this world anymore, a world fueled by personal greed and full of exploitation. Our tragic hero goes to the only place that he knows that he can only find peace. Underneath a tree, with a rope…

Bells toll for the crusader. After our tragic character’s death, an organ, resembling the tone of the funeral march, plays the farewell to him just like it gives the farewell to its listener. It explodes with screaming vocals, hard drumming, and powerful organ. Organ reaches the highest point; the song and with it, the album, reaches its final destination.

Christopher Har V – Life Cycle (EP Review)

Christopher Har V’s songs struck me with their heavy ambient focus despite being prog metal compositions. His single-handedly composed, recorded, and produced EP “Life Cycle,” released on 14 May 2020, is more so than the other 2. His previous EP was highly technical and energetic, whereas this one seems more focused on atmosphere and melody. According to the description on his YouTube video, he composed this one “from the heart” instead of “the mind.” Each track on the EP has the feeling of the 4 main elements: water, fire, earth, and wind. “One Moment” starts with a 2-note acoustic guitar riff and continues with a very soft keyboard sound in the background, both of which sound like water drops. “The Point of the Journey” represents life in a bell-curve progression, – starting out mellowly like childhood, growing up with increasing tempo, and ending with a fade out symbolizing old age and death – like a fire starting and dying out. The atmospheric choices in “Earthen” create an all-encompassing vibe, a feeling of being fully surrounded. “Understood” can easily generate the feeling of wind (and thunder as the song moves on) with a huge layer of guitars with a bunch of chorus on. The song is absolutely devastating, with a simple chord progression looping through the whole song, getting increasingly intense with each loop. The 4 tracks are filled to the brim with instrumental symbolism that take the listener through a complete life cycle. The songs tell a story that we are all too familiar with, so familiar that it doesn’t need words.

Total Length

29:15

Track List

1. One Moment (6:40)

The EP opens with a guitar riff composed of four 2-notes merging into one concrete melody over time. It is rather a slow way to start a song, but since this is the first track on the record, it gives the listener enough time to get used to the sound of the artist. In Christopher Har V’s case, this sound consists mainly of guitars and showcases a keen inclination towards melody. Although during the buildup, you can somewhat deduce (because of the overall silence in this section) that the drums aren’t actually recorded live, it is quickly forgiven as this project is a one-man effort that deserves our compliments in any case.

The buildup, which by now layered multiple guitar and percussion parts, is quickly, and also unexpectedly, resolved into a 7/8 section that once again feels like a buildup on its own. This sudden change increases our anticipation for some kind of a resolution even though the song still carries a calm feeling. This resolution finally arrives around the 2 minute mark where an electric guitar and a synthesizer pierces through the calmness. There isn’t much effort to introduce the synth but after arriving, it certainly makes the song more than “another prog guitar song”. In one-man bands, you can usually hear one instrument take over as it’s the main instrument of the musician, so for Christopher Har V, by incorporating more of other instruments, he could separate himself from this music scene.

The song mainly builds upon the theme that was introduced at the beginning and some variations of it. He manages to keep the song grounded by this technique, but even if he took the song to other musical realms by differentiating the theme even further, we as the listener wouldn’t leave him alone on this path because of the firm foundation that he builds earlier. And there is proof that Christopher himself deliberate on this potential of the song around after the 4 minute mark.

The final heavy section features a synth playing the main theme of the song (which sounds more and more like water drops) over the guitars. The song ends with how it started, creating a bookmark effect that makes you reflect upon the title of the track: ‘One Moment’. It’s always fun to guess how the artist came up with the name when there is an instrumental song, especially prog. In this case, the main theme could symbolize a single moment in time where it flows within itself but looks singular and constant from the outside.

2. The Point of the Journey (6:57)

“The Point of the Journey” is the answer to the EP’s name “Life Cycle.” With its 4 staged structure, this song resembles a “life cycle” that consists of four parts: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. The song describes this journey with its 4 unique parts with 4 different keys. Every part carries a resembling to the era of life with its features.

Childhood starts with a soft and delicate guitar melody. This is the first key in the journey of life. It is peaceful, optimistic, and full of life. Reverb guitar’s tone really fits with the mood of this part and later, accompanied by lively bass, they create a serene environment. It gets more developed with drums and distortion guitar to symbolize the more energetic part of childhood. It gets a build-up for its release in adolescence.

Adolescence, the second key, is a stepping stone from childhood to adulthood both in real life and in the song. It is a combination of thick and grooving bass and drums though still having a childish and romantic guitar solo in it. Similar to teens, this part is full of romance and excitement. It is definitely harsher than childhood but it still has its hopeful roots. It loops to a different version of the childhood part. Now it is not that peaceful but instead, it is distorted, showing the loss of childhood innocence.

Adulthood enters hard. The listener sees the harsh reality that was glimpsed in puberty now cranked to 11. The guitar solo is not romantic, it is focused, heavy, and steadfast. This metal part shows both sides of adulthood. It is both powerful and disturbing. Just like adulthood, a person is fully in charge of its life and they have the power to do what they want. However, with approaching adulthood, a person can never taste the sweet side of childhood again. They lost their innocence and this is shown in the song with the comparison of clean and distorted guitar.

Fast-paced adulthood ends, leaving its place to old age. Christopher has an optimistic view of old age. Even though it doesn’t have the energy of adulthood, it is still a high tempo and full of life. It has the somber feeling of death however it is not covered in melancholy. It is a circle of life and it is going back to the beginning. It is even hinted by using some parts of the childhood melody in the ending part of the song. The journey of life ends in a grand, emotional finale at an old age. Now “Life Cycle” can be considered complete.

3. Earthen (9:04)

You would expect a slow build-up from the longest song of the EP, as the way it should be. The melancholic atmospheres of the previous songs showed that it is a fingerprint of Chris, and the distinct characteristic tone is even more explored with the heavily reverbed guitar melodies’ duet with piano. A minute in the song, the drums manifest itself with little touches to the ride, as also it builds-up and resolves to an ethereal soundscape of distorted guitars.

After the intro part of the song, the tempo and the dynamics of the instruments constantly switch; especially the drums are the set tone for the post-intro part. One would want or wait to see a structure in a piece of instrumental music that would include interludes later on in the pieces – especially after we hear the most fundamental parts of the tracks. However, Chris instantly cuts through the sections that he has written with even smaller interludes from the beginning, using the dynamic changes which are mentioned – making his music structurally complex and intriguing.

Considering the way he wrote the songs, Chris wasn’t able to use the keyboards that would be the main instruments for the sections or pieces are built upon; since he isn’t keyboard player that would be able to compose like his guitar compositions. Nevertheless, he was able to fill up and tighten the guitar parts with the keyboard productions that he used throughout the EP – layering lots of different kinds of tone and voice choices and melodic use of the 70s influenced synth sounds.

Probably the hook of “Earthen” is the groovy guitar riff in the middle that is accompanied by the messy yet still well-structured drums syncopations. As it is the most obvious song that indicates the theme of itself and the whole EP, Earthen is representing the idea of element earth and also the feelings that come with the Jungian images of these elements. The messy and constantly changing structure of the song reminds the audience of the history of the world, from beginning to today: the bloody wars with heavy riffs, the renaissances with the soft sections, and everything in between which is a part of the constant changing world similar to the song.

4. Understood (6:35)

Understood is an absolute tear jerker. Christopher started to write this song with his brother’s heroin addiction in mind. By the time the production was finished, he had died because of complications from his addiction. I can not begin to imagine how much of a pain this has caused for him, yet he was able to capture some of it in this song. The whole song consists of 6 chords, no other changes, no other keys. The background riff stays the same throughout. You can headbang through the whole song without noticing the odd time play. The first 3 chords are played in three 15/8 bars while the last 3 chords are played in one 17/8 bar. Every 2 bar completes each other into an even beat, which makes the odd time go unnoticed. The sameness seems to be a metaphor for the addiction, while the underlying oddness seems to be a metaphor for the underlying effects of the addiction that goes unnoticed by the addicted self. Many guitars play in unison behind the opening riff, with a main acoustic guitar, which creates the feeling of “wind” in the listener.

Everything switches to distortion for the solo in the middle. He says that he was influenced by Satriani for the solo, and by Meshuggah and Periphery for the rhythm. I also picked up a bit of Guthrie Govan and Petrucci with the slides and faster licks. In the final bits of the distorted middle section enter a very soft and simple melody played with the keyboard. Yet, the background rhythm is the heaviest it ever got in the song, full with the heavy metal breakdown energy. Christopher describes this by saying “it is this sonic fury of calmness, this immense anger that is completely devoid of hatred because it is enraptured in a sobering understanding.” The song thus returns back to its roots, the odd timed acoustic riff, and fades out with one of the two improvised parts in the album. The improvisation seems like a symbol of being at loss, not knowing what to do, fitting to the tragedy that inspired this song.

Skybound – Pink Cloud Summer (EP Review)

Born in Ottawa and metaphorically raised in Tokyo, Skybound released their instrumental post prog EP on July 17th 2020. The band takes inspiration from Dream Theater, Haken, Periphery, and Intervals. The prog instrumentals are mixed with a beautiful atmosphere, one that makes you imagine a “Pink Cloud Summer”, and alt-rock riffs. Electronic sounds and staccato distortion riffs together almost sound like a modern cover of 2000s anime or game soundtracks. It’s as if Skybound took the ending to “Galaxies” out of an 8-bit platformer. The band confirms that this was indeed the purpose by saying that they were “aiming to create a dreamy aesthetic” to induce “an overwhelming sense of nostalgia” with inspiration from Japanese culture. While the nostalgia is there, the songs also carry a futuristic vibe. The whole EP may as well be played in the background of a self-improvement montage in a Hollywood film, or more appropriately, in an anime. The dreamy vibe can be correlated with a hopeful one. According to the band, the instrumentals are based on “the idea of someone wandering through a seemingly endless city, searching for someone or something they’re not even sure exists.” The album begins with the “sunset”, continues with a look into “galaxies” and the “luna” (moon), and ends with “pink clouds” (representative of the sunrise). Even without lyrics or set structural elements, Skybound found a way to set a theme in this album.

Line Up

  • Tiago Santos – Guitar
  • Michael Henley – Keyboards and Piano
  • Dave Ramsay – Bass guitar
  • Jamison Tomka – Drums

Total Lenght

20:09

Track List

1. Tokyo Sunset (2:20)

The EP opens very much like a journey. The serene view of a Tokyo sunset unfolds before our ears, with expressive and jazzy piano chords depicting the aerial scenery while a reassuring beat created with the synth tying us to the ground. It’s almost like watching the sunset itself, with each key press from the piano resembling the last pieces of warmth from the sun.

The song builds from these emotions, with the use of orchestral strings that remind the listener of movie scores. The staccato strings are employed to create tension within the piece; and this time, the reassuring beat turns into an instrument to build up this tension. The song until this point uses a very straightforward structure, each sound adding to what came before it. However, when we finally reach the climactic middle, the song completely shifts the serenity with a more energetic feel, thanks to the addition of electronic drums and the lead synth sounds. Though one can argue that the band could’ve spent more effort on making this section feel less like those generic inspirational soundtracks from commercials, perhaps by lowering the movie score influence.

The ending returns back to where we started, almost symbolizing the recurrence in nature: the hope that the sun will rise again on us tomorrow; that this is not the end, it’s merely the beginning. The jazzy piano returns with a little more spice to wrap things up. And the final chord, that can feel out-of-place, doesn’t just show the band’s wit; but also a sense of indulgence while staying unique to one’s own style.

2. Liquid Courage (3:26)

5+5+5+5+4=24. That’s the basic premise of the Liquid Courage intro riff. 24 16th notes add up to a 6/4 time signature. The clean guitar here feels like a percussive instrument, played along with the metal rims of drums. The transition to regular snare from the rims brings about a very soft clean guitar strum. The intro thus features 2 clean guitars used for 2 different purposes. When the distortion finally hits, you realize that you already got used to the odd subdivision with the help of the soft intro. The intro clean guitar uses melodic notes on the last 4 16th notes to transition into the next bar. The distortion guitar is the complete opposite, the last 4 notes are muted, creating a percussive effect, while the other notes are melodic.

Starting from the bridge, every part flows into each other with such an ease that the contrast between parts is not able to be perceived. The bridge finally features the long-awaited 4th note intervals, but the kick drum continues to remind us of the subdivisions in the beginning. As the guitars ease into a 4-bar loop, the drumming starts to transition from being a backing element to a driving element. In the second half of each bar, the drummer first plays soloish transitioning licks, then draws itself back into the song while supporting the rhythm with crash hits. The same thing happens with the much slower grand piano part. From the beginning of the first bridge to this mark, the song stayed on a consistent low.

The next part builds up into a nostalgic double synth melody. Long notes swim between the drums and the lead synth, playing around with 4th and 16th note beats. At this crucial high, the song ends as the synth parts fade into nothingness, preparing an atmosphere of the space in the cosmic sense.

3. Galaxies (4:20)

Opening with an interesting four-chord loop, “Galaxies” is built up with this fast-paced guitar arpeggios. The opening guitar carries lots of complicated emotions in it with chords they pick and the way they perform the chords. The chord progression itself actually is a very sad one. It resembles the feeling of wandering in a vast galaxy all alone. However, the execution with extremely rapid guitar and explosive drum gives this chord progression the energy it lacked.

This looping arpeggio seamlessly transitions into a guitar part from Dream Theater with Japanese characteristics. It explodes heavily with the addition of the drums. Drums with heavy bass accompany the high guitar notes, completing each other. Even though this is enough for a normal band, for Skybound, this is just the foundation. A more overdriven guitar enters and starts soloing. This was not a hard shred like what the listener saw earlier. This is a pure melodic guitar solo. This incredibly catchy melody echoes a standard opening song for an anime and this is how you understand a melody rocks.

After that, the band decides to slow down a little bit. Muted guitar murmurs a soft melody. Then the extension of synth and bass enriches the tone of it by a lot. It adds a jazzy vibe to the whole melody. Then they even create more space for the song to breathe. Contrary to the start of the song, the notes now are not jammed into one place but they have space to breathe. They aren’t just here for the melody, they now serve to create the atmosphere. Light guitarwork in the background, dreamy synth chords all work to create this dreamy atmosphere where you feel like you are among stars. However, first the drums, then the opening guitar loop enters the frame and the mood slowly changes, and loopbacks to the beginning.

It continues with a funky and djenty breakdown. The slapping and the licks of the bass creates a funky feeling while distorted guitar creates a heavy groove. Then a synth resembling the human voice enters and enriches this breakdown. The tone he picks can be considered odd to the breakdown however it works perfectly. The ending continues with just the synth. Away from all of the instruments, with just the bass synth, the whole song turns into something that can come out of an 8-bit video game. Even though this electronic ending is different from the rest of the song, this melody still encapsulates the essence of it.

4. Luna (6:07)

The longest track of the EP, which also contains the contribution of Richard Henshall, is the song that showcases the characteristic sound of the EP; and the band in general. While the track is basically Skybound “in a nutshell”, we also get the feeling behind the EP mostly on this track; which is a dream walk through a neverland of desires and accomplishments.

The post-rock style atmospheric synth intro directly drops you to the place where the band wants you to be: the warm excitement of a peaceful search. Piano and drums enter as you continue on your journey, being independently syncopated and as if improvised. As the drum carries on a certain groove with the melodic fills of the piano, other instruments cut through the atmosphere with the heavy power chords that come in and out of the song throughout the 2nd section. The heavy kick pattern accompanied by djent-ish bass tone with the tapping guitar technique instantly reminds you of another artist and album that explores a similar direction in the modern prog scene: Plini’s Handmade Cities. The harmonic structure of the chord progression with the tone choice is certainly an aspect that puts the band above many aspiring prog artists today.

Dynamically, the song slowly builds up to a highly melodic guitar solo. The rhythmical “wait and continue” may be the most interesting thing of the song structurally and functionally; since after the constant stopping and playing of the bass, guitars, and drums, the track finally resolves to an uplifting guitar solo that differentiates from the previous parts and feels stronger because of this rhythmical choice of the band.

The ear-catching grooves of Jamison Tomka’s drums on this track prove itself as the fundamental layer of the song, as Luna slows down the tempo and creates space for the listener to absorb the previous sections. It is important to notice the sound choices that the keyboardist Michael Henley made in order to procure a certain feeling in the bridge. The harmonic and unison come-backs between the keyboard ends with the grand finale, the melodic post-rock guitar solo with the addition of all the other instruments.

5. Pink Cloud Summer (3:56)

The last track on the EP, which also gives it its name, is a fulfillment of what the band has to offer crammed into just below 4 minutes. As the band themselves said, this was the last song that they put together and became one of their favorites from a “maturity and arrangement standpoint”. That’s an interesting remark to make, and might not exactly be understood before actually listening to the song. By putting the last song they produced at the end of the EP, the band also demonstrates how recording these songs helped them evolve as individuals and as a group of people. Through the music, we can see how the band matured and how they used their newly acquired experience and skills to make the song musically more interesting.

The song opens with a short and calm intro driven by the guitar, where each instrument contributes something, no matter how small, that proves the attention to detail the band gave during production. The feel of the following section contrasts with this calmness considerably with a 9/8 guitar riff that always seems to rush before the beat (a clever way to use the 3:4 polyrhythm), preventing you from nodding your head just right with the notes. Eventually, you get it right, but before you can, the band has already moved on to the next section where we are welcomed with a more “djent” beat backing a very minimalist guitar and bass solo (more like an atmospheric work) that adds a more ethereal quality to the song.

Michael Henley’s great variety of synths is also mentioned in the song with a short riff that helps build the climactic madness that follows. Instrumental prog is all about these sections where it’s proven once again that sometimes the music itself carries emotions so complex that adding vocals would only ruin this special connection between the artist and the listener. The song features a piano solo, that finally embraces the jazz influence that was hinted at throughout the album. The ending perfectly captures the feeling of summer, where hope shines a light to all our souls and a calm, mystifying wave of emotion loosely hangs around the corner.

I couldn’t help but think whether the song’s name was connected with the ending. “Pink cloud syndrome” is a stage of early addiction recovery where you feel very confident and excited about recovering. This feeling of confidence is also reflected and connected with what we feel during summer.

Frogg – The Golden Path (Album Review)

Frogg is a prog metal band based in Milan. While its modern counterparts view music as a standalone art form, Frogg’s music takes its roots from art and literature. Their debut concept album “The Golden Path”, released in 19 June 2020, depicts Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze.” Like the frieze, the album represents our desire to be happy in a world full of suffering, and the external and internal struggles that one has to overcome to achieve this goal. As the name suggests, the 3 acts that comprise the album take us through the “golden” path to happiness, starting with an introduction to our protagonist, an artist, and ending with the artist meeting the art itself. It is interesting to hear the prog metal technicality – tribal-sounding back-and-forths between the rhythm section, and the classic odd-time prog metal riffs backed by a heavy atmosphere – blend with the mythological backstory narrated angelically by Letizia Merlo. While you are checking the album out, we suggest you look at the frieze and follow the story both visually and aurally. It is certain that you find a piece of yourself in this artistic and musical path.

Line Up

  • Letizia Merlo – Vocals
  • Luca Bisio – Guitar
  • Davide Silva – Guitar
  • Federico Medana – Bass
  • Mattia Santobuono – Drums

Total Length

48:31

Track List

1. Prelude (1:10)

The opening of “The Golden Path” welcomes the listener with indistinguishable ambient sounds that create an immersing atmosphere. With the addition of the guitar with a fully cranked reverb and delay, the atmospheric feeling can only increase. This calm but haunting riff loops while something grows in the background. Background noises grow in size to fill the entire song with its noise while reverb guitar becomes insignificant. While the main rift starts to get quieter, a more confident guitar takes its place, making the tension reach the peak only to release itself in the following song.

2. Ascension (4:58)

The hair rising feel of the opening carries on to the next track, but Frogg surprises the listener with a hard and loud guitar riff elevated with Mattia Santobuono’s drumming. Unlike the first track, they don’t hold back this time, showcasing the metal side of the band while grabbing your attention for what will come next.

But the real technical side of Frogg actually comes after the intro, with the combination of djent guitars and Letizia Merlo’s vocals. It is a rather unique kind of layering enriched by Merlo’s unmistakable tone and the steady groove laid out by Santobuono. The song is, according to the band, about ‘an artist seeking for a new idea of art that could complete himself’. From the first verse, we clearly understand the narrator’s struggle:

I am too blind to see 
But alive to feel 
There’s a burden in me

This struggle has reached an irrevocable point where he is literally begging someone to help him in this quest. That’s when the song changes direction, both musically and lyrically. What follows is a more acoustic section, with softer vocals and other instruments. The artist has encountered another being, described with considerable imagery. Taking into account that this all happened in the first minute of the song, it proves the versatility of the band.

In the chorus, we get to hear what the band calls ’The Muse’, personifying – judging from the song’s context – the creativity or the inspiration of artists. Unlike the artist, he is more confident in what he says (with the use of imperatives), yet his short passage seems much more veiled in imageries and metaphors by comparison. It’s also in here where we first hear the name of the album, perhaps to imply that what comes next is the artist’s journey on this golden path to reach this new idea of art.

The band is very open about the fact that the concept of the album was influenced by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s ‘Beethoven Frieze’. If you read the lyrics with this in mind, the artist’s pursuit becomes not only for art but also for happiness. This is reflected in the chorus: ‘Spread the sail of joy’.

There is a distinct contrast between the hard rock and soft sections, but this contrast could’ve been reflected more upon the vocals. The theme of gold, much like in the painting, is underlined very early on, which makes it that much fun to try to spot it throughout the album. Going from Klimt’s path, there is a lot of room for symbolism and we hope that the rest of the album is up for the challenge.

3. Hostile Forces I: Mortal Frame (8:48)

“Hostile Forces I: Mortal Frame” which is about the main character struggling with “hostile forces” that stand in front of him, opens with an incredibly sick prog descend, followed by heavy and grooving riff with solid drumming. The song starts to increase its pace with the new riff in an odd time signature. A bass, so heavy that you hear the strings tremble, accompanies the riff. Theni it reaches the bridge and they harmonize it beautifully with steps to create the build-up for the verse.

Its fades to delicate and calm acoustic guitar. It lacks the power that the listener experienced earlier, resembling the weakness of the protagonist. He is indecisive about what to do. The slow and calm acoustic guitar gets cut by a powerful and distorted riff. It creates contrast from the first part in terms of emotions the main character is facing. This distorted guitar resembles the pain he faces in the face of mortality and fading away. With the powerful delivery of the vocal, the listener can absorb how intense his suffering is.

Right after that, Frogg makes a heavy transition without losing any pace. The use another riff with an odd time signature which becomes Frogg’s strong sides in this song. They implement it with such ease and such care. The vocal delivers the main concerns he has:

I’ve been counting days

I won’t fade away

I am struggling with life

This fear is like a wall to climb

A sick breakdown enters just after the vocals end. Full with explosive drumming, this head-banging riff slows down and matches with the high and gentle voice of the vocals. In this part, the listener understands that the protagonist’s desire to reach immortality isn’t material. Actually he is “willing to lose [his] mortal frame.” He is not afraid of the death, the Azrael, end of his mortal body; He is afraid of achieving nothing and losing the “halo” he has. He realizes and points out that the only way to reach immortality is to reach “the golden path.” The golden path lies not in the material world but in a spiritual one and only following the spiritual needs such as art can only defeat death.

After this realization of both the listener and the protagonist, the song starts to change a little bit. Energetic acoustic guitar sets the background. The use of percussion elements enriches this background. A guitar goes up and down and creates a loop. Then it goes one level above with the addition of bass and drum and starts gaining momentum. A thing that rarely happens in the music happens in this song. Yes, a bass solo, and it is enjoyable and you don’t talk over it and you actually care about it. Bass spills up incredible licks and spices things up.

After that, the character from the previous song, the Muse enters and whispers to our main character’s ear. The creativity of the artist supports the protagonist in his way to the golden path. Without losing any of the passion, guitar starts on an energetic solo, echoing the ambition of the protagonist. Then it connects to a sexy sax solo. Fast passages and licks really match with the previous guitar. Even though saxophone uses mainly the low register of the instrument, it still shines with delicate and catchy licks it spits out. The sax connects looping and exciting guitar part. It gets bigger and bigger only to resolve with incredibly sick prog descend similar to the start of the song.

4. Hostile Forces II: The Chant of Sins (14:18)

The second chapter of the trinity about the struggle with inner demons that stands between the narrator and the spiritual immortality that he wants to achieve with art begins with a groovy-even funky bass riff that harbors the heavy mid-range tone of Chris Squire (of YES), most memorizable with the infamous bass riff from the song “Roundabout”.

As they panned the guitar strokes all around the listeners’ ears, you understand how the band was giving importance to even such small details and start to give attention to the high-quality prıoduction of the songs in general. After the mellow yet expressive acoustic guitar-saxophone duet end of the first part of the second chapter, the heavy contrast between the whole style of guitar riffs foreshadows that the two songs will be very different than each other — indicating that the self-empowering attitude of the narrator as the HOMO’s inner struggle seems to cease as he realizes the beauty of art again:

I’m feeling in my feet
The fuel to start fleeing
Facing the wind

The gold has started to weep,
I breathe again.

I see you down the lane
Feeding my heart

Never seen such beauty before

The bass riff of the intro turns into a guitar riff, showing the signature groovy guitar riffing of the band. The rhythmical creativity of the guitarists evokes itself as they used this simple 4/4 riff and harmonized the riff at the second time that we heard of it and changed it to a 7/4 with the addition of different notes to it at the third time. In between these main verses of the first part of the song, the song completely changes direction to a mellow chorus, while the drums switch to the ride from the classic hi-hat action and the guitars lay out the chord with high reverb and distortion. Song-writing legend Thom Yorke once said that if one wants to write a distinct melody, one should take the melody where it doesn’t want to be. The unexpected chord progression and melody of this section follow this attitude. The romantic vocal feel of this part of the song heavily contrasts with the aggressive voice of the verse – since Letizia Merlo runs back and forth between ambient and distorted vocal tones (showing her versatility).

After the verses and the choruses of the first section repeated several times, the chorus resolves to the mixolydian guitar riff. This is the exact part where HOMO gets back on his feet again, accepts his struggles, and finds the motivation to carry on through the Golden Path. The upbeat and considerately happy section represents this mood change of the narrator. However, the mad 7/4 instrumental transition to a heavy 7/8 part with bluesy guitar solo warns as if it won’t be this easy for him to achieve his goal of pure Art. If we look at the general instrumentation and structural components of the album, they have many influences all over the prog scene; however, in this specific groove and accentuation of hi-hats sound no other than Tool, embarking Frogg on the ship of the great bands that were influenced by them.

Nearly halfway through the song, we are facing a mystical and meditative environment sound consistent with nature and bird noises — accompanied by a repetitive tom groove and bassline. The whole little section sounds as if they wanted to take us through a silent walk through the jungles of the Golden Path. With the addition of angelic yet horrifying (caused by the harmonic minor chord progression and melody) vocals, the listeners get the exact mythological feeling HOMO is facing — reminiscent of Genesis’s mythological concepts and soundscapes. Lyrically, this part is where the narrator gets falls back to despair as the metaphorical questioning of his own abilities to create art continues:

Nymphai / Running
Illness / Madness
Yelling at me / Yelling at me
I don’t wanna live / Scared to beScared to bleed

As the tension rises again, the narrator falls to despair, leaving us with a phrygian major (a.k.a. Hicaz scale) guitar riff, foreshadowed at the previous section which would be able to carry the tension for the song. It was highly possible to get reminded of Dream Theater’s “Home” while listening to the song since they are a big influence on the playing style of the guitarists and the two songs consist of very similar aspects structure-wise. However, since Home is one of the most popular prog songs that use this scale, we would be blind not to see the beautiful similarities.

It would be disrespectful to try to describe the instrumental section that comes after. A funky, dissonant, groovy madness of the band jamming and showing their ability to play their instruments. With beautiful tones and instrumentation, anyone would want to listen more of this part — or expect their own “Dance of Eternity”.

The ethereal finale of the longest track of the album does justice to previous parts of the song and the rest of the album, as it gradually builds up and resolves to the last part of the trinity and also the second chapter of the story: the battle with the monster Typhoeus.

5. Hostile Forces III: Typhoeus (6:46)

Typhoeus is a mythological creature mainly depicted in narratives as a hundred-headed giant with wings and serpent legs. In the frieze, it is represented with a creature similar to a gorilla. He is one of the sons of Earth. In a failed attempt to overthrow Zeus (or Jupiter), he was buried under Sicily, and continued to wreak havoc by creating typhoons and volcanic eruptions from the Mount Etna. This part of Hostile Forces is about our protagonist’s encounter with him.

The song starts with the continuation of the previous song’s last riff. As the atmosphere settles into a mellow clean guitar chord progression, the vocals enter. The crunchy bass sound keep the suspense going as the protagonist expresses doubts concerning what to do about the creature standing in front of him. He describes the Typhoeus with the lines “choking gaze, blinding stench, the cry of flesh”

Each verse in the song is a part of the dialogue between the protagonist and Typhoeus. Typhoeus’s lines are backed by harsher instrumentals, almost simulating the monster’s growl without an actual metal growl. The atmosphere changes reminded me of the comedy rock duo Tenacious D, especially their final showdown with the devil. In the protagonist’s second verse, the clean guitar is swapped with distortion guitar playing a muted rhythm. The rhythm sounds exactly like the riff backing Typhoeus’s verses, except it does not introduce any harmonic motion, which preserves the suspenseful atmosphere.

The meaning of the verses can not be understood without first reading about the mythological background. Typhoeus’s main arc, as I said in the beginning, is fighting Zeus and trying to gain control over the skies. In the first verse, the protagonist doubts whether to stand against or join Typhoeus. In the last verse, he asks for guidance from Muses, who are goddesses of science and art. The 9 Muses are daughters of Zeus, which reveals the symbolic meaning of Typhoeus: he is an opposer of art, inherently blocking our protagonist from his creative endeavour. The dilemma the protagonist faces is that of continuing to create art (facing Typhoeus off) or not (joining him). Typhoeus informs him that “the price [of joining him – which is losing connection with art] is no sight for those whom just need to exist.” Art is for those who seek a creative outlet, not for those who “just need to exist,” and our protagonist has to figure out if he is inherently an artist or not.

This is the halfway mark of the song. As our protagonist is trying to figure his destiny out, the song enters a tribal drum-bass back-and-forth, reminiscent of Tool. A latin verse enters, a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses V. The quote is the description of Typhoeus’s conditions during his imprisonment under Sicily.

He struggles it’s true and often tries to rise, but his right hand is held by the promontory of Ausonian Pelorus, and his left hand by you, Pachynus. Lilybaeum presses on his legs, Etna weighs down his head, supine beneath it, Typhoeus throws ash from his mouth, and spits out flame.

The symbollic flame and ash he spits out – his words of enticement – has taken over our protagonist. He is trying to rise by enticing others to continue his pilgrimage. But what is that? A thunderous breakdown enters, and we immediately know, the protagonist decided to fight and continue the “golden path.”

6. Aurora (2:01)

After ending the head-banging medley of Hostile Forces, Frogg decides to give the listener some relaxing time with the sound of ambient noises of a rainy day. The clean chords create a contrast to the rest of the album. A beeping noise loops in the background. It is all calm and cozy. Then the rain starts to increase. Some little thunders can be heard. The ambient noises start to deviate from calmness. A storm is coming and this was just the silence before the storm.

7. Melting Souls (10:31)

In many ways, the closure of the album is very much a parallel of the opening. The short instrumentals before each one signal that something to pay attention is coming. And starting both songs with a guitar riff divided as 7/16 + 9/16 (an easy way to make 4/4 feel more syncopated) really draws on their similarities. Again, the interconnected rhythms that bind the guitars and the drums together shine from the first few seconds to prepare the listener, this time for the end of this journey.

Though I said that it was similar to the opening, there are also differences. Realizing the similarities of the intros pushed me to subconsciously compare the verses too, for which I found the ‘Melting Souls’ to be executed with lesser aim. From a lyrical standpoint, the narrator “is ready to meet the fulfillment of his own idea that had become pure Art”. He doesn’t feel the insecurities and the fears that seemed to infest his soul at the beginning, talking more confidently than before:

Sorrows never hit me again
I’ve never felt so alive before

The lyrics for the song follows Klimt’s own ideas very closely, with floating voices and golden draperies as direct images from the frieze. There are also references to the influence of the frieze itself: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (with “ode to joy” which was used in the fourth movement of the symphony).

The song gets musically more interesting after the first verse with a 7/8 buildup leading to another vocal section. The guitar solo that follows Is kind of a surprise but a welcome one indeed. The band seems to pay a lot of effort in order to keep the song as upbeat and alive as possible, like a musical depiction of what the narrator is feeling in the lyrics.

Of course, this is until we encounter the Muse again. As we explained at the beginning of the review, it symbolizes the inspiration of the artist and his arrival is foreshadowed with a softer and calmer section: this time, a 6/8 section for Letizia Merlo to show a more gentle side of his voice. The subtle piano backing the vocals is a great touch from the band to create a more acoustic feel. The Muse’s words are still highlighted with the use of imperatives and connects to the frieze while still preserving the unique approach of the band. The “melting two souls” described are directly from the frieze (two lovers kissing), and looking at the band’s website makes it impossible not to see. This kiss is the fulfillment of the artist’s idea of pure Art, with Muse’s words signaling a universal unity between the art and the artist.

This time a longer buildup leads us to the final chorus of the album, which is actually also the first chorus. This not only creates a musical connection throughout the album, but also a lyrical one that emphasizes the concept of the songs. The final words “Dive into the Styx / Your laurel will live forever” is, like the frieze, a reference to Greek mythology, where Styx is the name of a miraculous river that could make anyone invulnerable. Our explanation for why the band chose to end the concept album with this reference is to draw attention to the eternal side of art, that even though the flesh can disappear, pure Art (and through his art, the artist) will never cease to exist.

Luxrem – Dreamwalker (Album Review)

Luxrem’s own “brand of prog” is a balanced melange of clean, easy flowing rock and odd, heavy prog metal. Blending their technical musicality with the story of “a being that’s essentially the reaper that takes you if you die in your sleep,” the band released their debut album Dreamwalker, on June 27, 2020. Each song is a dream that the protagonist has before he dies. The amazing rhythmic riffs played by the guitar and supported by the drums are the highlight of the album. The lead keyboard parts are similar to those you can hear in a Dream Theater record. Though, the keyboards create more of the atmosphere than any keyboard part you can hear in any prog metal record. Amazingly, you can breeze through the album not noticing many of the technical details because it all fits together and flows so easily. The band confirms that that was indeed the purpose by saying it is “fun enough to jam to but technical enough to still be considered prog.” In addition to DT, they list their influences to be Arch Echo, Leprous, and Haken. However, we believe they have gone far beyond the classic sounds of these bands. The amount of experimentation and innovation in this album is far beyond most other bands that are just starting out. For example, the odd time swing part with the old record effect in Dreamwalker is never-before-heard-of in any prog band. The elaborate classic guitar parts and the vocal arrangements that sound like a back-and-forth that the lead singer has with himself are 2 other examples to this phenomenon. Interestingly, what, at first listen, sounds like a huge hodgepodge of everything there is to music, grows to become Luxrem’s signature sound at subsequent listens. Be sure to check them out if you want a journey to uncharted areas of prog metal.

Line Up

  • Jonathan Sookdew Sing – Vocals
  • Marcus Noga – Guitar
  • Gabriel Cuevas – Guitar
  • Ed Escalante – Drums
  • Frank Hernandez – Bass

Total Length

47:23

Track List

1 – Fade (2:44)

The album opens with an instrumental track that literally sets the tone of the album from the first second. The sound of an old alarm clock being set both reflects on the themes that will be explored throughout the album and creates the feeling of a journey just starting.

The piano and electro guitar create a light theme which slowly builds up to a dramatic and orchestral-like arrangement. The song corresponds to the “light sleep” stage of sleeping where our muscles begin to relax, our heart rate and breathing slow down, and we slowly let go of ourselves into a deeper phase. This appears to be Luxrem’s purpose too, by putting this short track to help us get into the whole atmosphere of the album laying ahead.

2 – Reflection (6:53)

After the promising and intriguing intro of the album, Luxrem show their heavier influences – guitar sounds that are reminiscent of the newer Dream Theater releases – with the second track of the album: “Reflection” It is impossible not to groove with the heavy 5/4 guitar riff. However, as if they want to get the listener even more into the song, they change the rhythm to a 7/8-which, later on, shows itself as the foundation of the whole song.

The rhythm section is probably the most attention-grabbing aspect of the song. As the track constantly changes its dynamics, the drummer Ed Escalante changes his playing style from heavy double-kicked tom grooves to jazzy ride actions. Although the song mainly settles on the djent-ish guitar riffs with dark atmospheres, the harmonized guitar solos break through the melancholia with the contribution of the mood-determining bass sound of Frank Hernandez.

Other than the originality of the combination of different genres and styles that the guitarists Marcus Noga and Gabriel Cuevas were able to come up with while writing the riffs and solos of the song, “Reflection” also shows the versatility of the singer Jonathan Sookdew Sing, as he shifts the vocals between his soft metal-core voice and his more distorted growly sound.

Production-wise, the song has been produced wisely so that you can clearly distinguish between the toms and different guitarists and the added atmospheric sounds constituted by the back-vocals, keyboards, and extra guitar layers.

Like all the other songs in the album, “Reflection” is about an essential feeling of human nature: the feeling you have when you have to choose between right and wrong. Should we be “selfish” and make the decisions that benefit us, or should we also be looking for other people’s interests for the things that we are going through?

All in all, the song harbors most of the signature aspects of Luxrem – enough for the listeners to understand where their sound is coming from (influence-wise) and to shape their general idea toward the album.

3 – Ghost Pirates (7:10)

Atmospheric intro of the “Ghost Pirates” calms the listener only to shock them with a grooving heavy riff. Descent of the bass in this distorted riff connects the soft and hard parts of the song with incredible ease. It also connects the heavy part with an even heavier one, full with fast double-kicked drums, and Dream Theater influenced, fast and rhythmically rich, guitar. Then, this rollercoaster of a song takes a step back to chill and lay the work for the vocals. This kind of dynamic songwriting becomes one of Luxrem’s powerful tools in the album and their talent in combining dualities like heavy and light in their songs is worth appreciating.

The haunting tale of “Ghost Pirates” is conveyed to the listener with the atmosphere creating synth and vocals that carry the needed emotions. His descriptions of the captain of the pirates are enough to unsettle the listener. While the story continues, a build-up is happening. Djent starts to become more aggressive. It blows with fast sequences of synth and coordinated guitar and drums. Then, with a simple segue of drum fills, Ed Escalante changes the way he plays the rhythm without losing any of the momenta. This occurs lots of times in the song which produces captivating drumming that always innovates itself and makes the drumming interesting through the 7 minutes of the song.

This heavy metal and djent influenced part of the song resolves itself to calmness only to create another build-up with an exciting drums and the use of cymbals. This explodes into a heavy sounding chorus with lots of Dream Theater influenced synth and guitar work. After that, they trick the listener just like the start of the song and gets even heavier with growling vocals and exploding guitars.

It connects to incredibly well written and performed synth solo. Even though there is not a keyboard player in the band, their use of synth is very well-done and sounds like played by an experienced player. This synth solo combines perfectly with the upcoming guitar solo that can come out of a Dream Theater record.

After that, songs get heavier and heavier. It gets faster and faster. Finally, it ends with a strong chord, resembling the nightmare sequence of the person who is dying is finally ending and he is finally free from haunting pirates and can rest (his ears.) 🙂

4 – Aurora Borealis (5:31)

Starting with probably the most atmospheric (and lightest)? riff on the album, Luxrem show their inclination towards odd time signatures with interesting rhythmical syncopations. Even though the band doesn’t have any keyboard players, their sound has been heavily influenced by the bright synthesizer harmonies in this track. As the song changes its rhythm respectively to 7/8, 4/4 and 7/8 again, the atmosphere gets even more vivacious.

Especially guitar-wise, the players of Luxrem have been influenced by two artists: Plini and Thomas MacLean (Haken). As the fresh atmosphere that was created by the harmonic parts comes together with the 7-8 string heavy guitar riffs we get to hear the signature elements of the guitarist – which we come across throughout the album.

The band was trying to capture the feelings that they had throughout their lives with music that they are creating. We labeled this track as the most uplifting one in the album, “Aurora Borealis” describes the best feelings that the band is having in their lives – which are the times that they spend playing on stage. Therefore, they created this simile between the stage’s lights and Aurora Borealis (or the northern light), stage lighters to the stars in the sky, and the crowd to the crashing waves below.

5 – March Forward (6:03)

Never lose sight and “March Forward”! Even though you sometimes make mistakes and fall down, you should wear your mistakes proudly and never stop marching down the path you’ve set. This is the main idea Luxrem is trying to convey with their song. This inspirational song never takes a step back. It is full of high energy and high motivation.

Inspiring lyrics of “March Forward” can be ironic when considered that our protagonist will never march again. However, even in the direst situations like death, Luxrem states that this mentality should stay and you should show how strong your will is to achieve what you want in your life.

It opens with tom grooves that represent the marching music accompanied by the guitar that creates hype for the rest of the song. The chord progression they decided to use works incredibly well to create a motivational and positive atmosphere. Fast passages by guitar also help the song to sound more powerful. “March Forward” is full of guitar licks which both serve as a bridge and as a complement to vocal’s inspiring lyrics.

After a heavy chorus ends with “Can you hear me?”, guitar clearly answers this question. Getting louder and stronger, the guitar gives out a solo that is thematically and musically linked to the rest of the song. The guitar really shows itself with its catchy licks that can be found all through the record and makes a great job of creating bridges.

Acoustic elements used in the song represent the falling down we encounter in life. It resembles our response to our mistakes. However, guitar playing still has energy in it, waiting to get up and has its guard up. The moment the vocal ends, guitar starts to get up and grow in size. It turns to a sick breakdown, then on top of that, it becomes an extremely swift guitar solo. After that, it turns to a thing that can be explained with just two words: “pure metal.” The transformation of the guitar represents what we can become when we don’t lose our sight.

The verse comes back and keeps on giving motivation with its lyrics and energetic guitar. After the verse, first the guitar, then the drums come and I have to say that I incredibly enjoy the melody of the guitar and energy of the drum fills. The bridge they made shifts to another energetic solo that echoes Dream Theather. The song slowly fades out while guitar can be heard from far away while the bass stays with us, saying everything will be ok by giving a calming end to this energetic song.

6 – Beginning of the End (6:52)

Beginning of the End starts with a very soft acoustic backing and vocals, much like the lull before the storm. This is the song that describes death, the central theme, in the harshest way. It uses biblical references, mainly the end of days, to depict an atmosphere of remorse and terror.

Enter distorted guitar. Combining two over-used metal riffs with different subdivisions and using them back to back, Luxrem seems to have found a cool way to create variety in a prog track. This verse riff follows the vocals and deviates from it repeatedly, symbolizing the confusion of the protagonist as the end comes near. High pitched but low volume keyboards follow these riffs, which induces an infernal atmosphere. Similar to before, the 5/4 riff backing the line “The beginning of the end is near” follow the vocal line almost to a t.

The protagonist says that he is “watching the end of days through angels’ eyes.” In the following breakdown, vocalist Jonathan Sing switches to a darker and harsher, almost brutal voice. This symbolizes the start of angels’ fight with demons in order to save humans.

The theme starting at 4:23 makes this song unique. The splashing drums give this theme a sense of alertness while soft guitars and grand piano work to counter it. The bass sounds a lot like Chris Squire, which is interesting to hear in a prog metal context. Before and after, the fight continues, but this part serves as a relief from the tension-filled song. The 20-second ending features a combination of many of the main instrumental themes in the song, and the song ends with the line “when angels die.”

7 – Dreamwalker (12:10)

The magnum opus of the album, which also gives it its name, is a 12-minute journey to prove once and for all the sheer creativity of Luxrem, both from a musical and lyrical standpoint. Considering that a debut album is responsible for carving out the unique ‘sound’ of a band, the closing track should let it run through the very veins of the song so that the listeners would still be affected by the band’s craft long after their first listen. It was this simple principle that made King Crimson’s debut so much more effective, and it’s safe to say that Luxrem is aiming for a similar aesthetic.

The intro of the song feels like an entrance, with Ed Escalante’s crash and haunting tom pattern proclaiming “the long-awaited reveal of the reaper”, as the band put it. Accompanying the drums, Marcus Noga’s djent guitar riff creates a tension that fuels the dread we as the listener feel towards this reaper. Even the time signature changes frantically as the guitar riffs morph into one another, from 12/8 to 4/4 to 5/8.

The vocals only come around at about the 2:40 minute mark. This might be a deliberate attempt from Luxrem’s side to first introduce a supernatural being with solely instruments, in order to withhold the human side of the reaper and leave us at awe of his presence. However, the first thing that we hear him say is “Don’t be afraid / I mean you no harm”. This juxtaposes with our prior beliefs about reapers and how they are usually portrayed, but also immediately reminded us of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. In addition, Jonathan Sookdew Sing’s vocals for the parts of the reaper appear to be much calmer than that of the protagonist, whom we’ll hear later on with Sing utilizing more of his growling voice.

As this is the end of the album, and the story likewise, the protagonist is at the edge of death confronting the reaper in his sleep. Although, he is reluctant about going with him to the next phase, the reaper persuades him almost with guidance that is also towards us, the listener. The reaper also makes references to other songs on the album (“pirates’ battles”, “flashing lights” etc.) and this might be read as Luxrem’s attempt to make the album feel more unified and emphasise that it’s a concept album. By saying that he will take the protagonist “through this cloud of dreams”, the band also shines some light on where the term “dreamwalker” comes from.

The next section of the song deals with the actual death of the protagonist and we can positively say that it was one of the most interesting ways we’ve heard bands handle death in music. The old record effect feels so absurd yet once you listen to it again, it starts to make sense. First of all, this is a prog song and it is nice to see this kind of creative perspective reflected on a heavy theme like death. And the fact that it is actually in odd time with a swing feel added to our amazement immensely.

The song ends with some more melodic riffs, and also an acoustic interlude just as we thought there couldn’t be any more sections. Although this can feel rather forced, that’s the thing with keeping long songs interesting and we believe that there is potential for Luxrem to experiment with longer song structures.

There is no doubt that it’s not easy to create original prog metal songs, when the genre is filled with many mislabeled bands and misconceptions. But Luxrem, by putting the style in a new context, succeeds to get past these general misconceptions. We hope that it was as fun to record as it was for us to listen and that they will be pushing the boundaries of the genre much more often.

PAARIS – Nora (EP Review)

Venezuelan guitarist and composer PAARIS (Enrique Marquez Paris) released his debut EP “Nora” on April 17th, 2020. Before that, Enrique was known locally for his expertise in producing, composition, and guitar. Now based in Los Angeles, he carried this spirit of collaboration to a solo project, with well-known names such as Anup Sastry (Intervals, Monuments), Joey Izzo (Arch Echo), Adam Bentley (Arch Echo), Rudy Pagliuca (Latin Grammy Award Winner producer), Luis “Peep” Mendez and Diego Alvarez (Latin Grammy Awards Winner percussionist). While “Nora” is mostly a prog metal EP, it has a wide variety of sounds ranging from flamenco in “Herrera” to synth-based power metal (that kinda sounds like video game music) in 2020. Though it packs so many sounds, the transition is seamless, sort of like a wave that carries you through the EP. One moment, you are headbanging to “1ra”, the next, you are playing bongo on your lap during “Herrera”. Each song has a beautiful melodic base reinforced with burning shreds. This and the upbeat nature of most songs leave you panting from all the dancing at the end of the EP, wanting another 19 minutes of PAARIS.

Total Length:

19:28

Review:

The opening track of the EP, called “Caric” is also the longest one. Though it is still very short for prog standards, don’t let that dissuade you. This concise nature of the EP helps set the backbone of PAARIS’s music by not wasting any time on filler materials and sections. Opening with a 11/8 (divided as 5/8 + 6/8) piano and synth foundation, the track already draws in the careful listeners. On top of it, Enrique lays some mellow guitar licks, reminiscent of Plini’s tone. Around the one minute mark, with the entrance of drums, the song sticks to 6/8 but as the layers get more intense and complicated, you don’t even notice it. As with most instrumental prog albums, the influence of minimalist compositionblends with hard rock and creates a unified atmosphere that emanates through the music.

After you got hit with the opening track’s unique prog approach, you can’t help but wonder what more PAARIS can offer.The second track “Arista” instantly captures you with the atmospheric synth sounds and delay-guitar riff. Unexpectedly, the song shifts 180 degrees to a heavenly-djent sound, creating a larger soundscape- as if the song was played by a huge orchestra. The proceeding part includes a soulful-shred solo over the constantly changing bright riffs. Though the artist did not play around with time signatures as he did in the opening track, the complex syncopations of 4/4 throughout the song signifies how creative PAARIS can get with rhythms. The outro of the song has the same rhythmical subdivisions with the intro that creates a connection between the beginning and the end, which can be divided as “3-3-3-3-2-2”, leading to a “bookmark” effect.

The track “2020” is, as its name suggests, similar to the year 2020: it makes you want to stay home and jam. It is mostly a guitar shred based on a metal melody with a power metal sound. A lot of the times, it sounds like two guitars conversing with each other through melodies. The most interesting parts are when these two guitars leave their place to a more mellow, groovy bridge. The first bridge features a tom groove that acts as both a breathing space and a build up to a much more uptempo solo. The second bridge includes Guthrie Govan style melodies that once again connect to the next solo. In the end, it is satisfying to hear the synths and guitars come together to raise the tension as high as possible, and then end in a snap. The last thing you hear will be your own exhaling…

The shortest track, “1ra”, shows very different influences of Enrique Marquez Paris with the opening thrash metal riffs. It is my first time hearing this thrash-power metal and electronic synth sound combination in the modern progressive music stage. The little polyrhythmic tricks and offbeat-syncopation of drums in this song show the rhythmic trademark and signature sound of PAARIS that he utilizes in most of his songs. Even though it is the shortest, its also one of the most salient tracks from the EP – with its combination of unexpected elements and creating an end product that combines the Plini-style bright atmosphere with djent, electronic, and thrash music in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

“Apollo” starts with a tight groove that creates the main structure and the foundation of the song. Throughout the track, PAARIS explores more and more intriguing ideas. With calm and emotional melodies with the use of piano, a banger sound from the distorted guitars with exciting drumming and metal breakdowns, there is a lot going on in one song (which by now, became an expected characteristic of PAARIS’s music). While one distorted guitar is used to control the groove with a heavy sound, other guitar shreds all through the song. The performance is always something new. Sometimes hard and emotional, sometimes exciting and dynamic, sometimes pure metal, the guitar puts lots of memorable melodic lines, and the aid of the second guitar creates a dynamic in the song. To summarize, this track has a lot of things to sayjust like all the others in the EP.

“Herrera” is a little bit different from the rest of the EP. It is certainly an interesting choice to end this energetic journey with a more acoustic and “flamenco” way but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. After a whole bus of shreds ran over the listener(a.k.a. this ep), a little time to relax and enjoy a flamenco-inspired guitar really feels good. This track can be considered as a stranger in the EP but still, it is a creative choice to end an EP with an intentionally distinct song. The use of bongos instead of loud drums creates a sincere feeling for the listener that resonates well with the song. While PAARIS takes a step back on distortion, he doesn’t take a step back in the quality. The melodies co-exist in perfect unison and every transition is so casual yet effective. His playing style is a perfect mix of his influences and his own creativity.

Lunear – Curve​.​Axis​.​Symmetry. (Album Review)

Earlier this month, we reviewed the 2018 Lunear album called “Many Miles Away”, which was a combination of pop, rock, and progressive influences of the trio. Due to the fineness of the first album, we also listened to the new album that came out last week and was thrilled by the fact that they have enhanced their sound and ideas. Lunear is a French pop-rock-progressive band with a very accessible style. Simple elements from pop songs and intricate details of prog-rock unify in one sound which is both distinct and something that deeply resonates in one’s heart. In their second album, “Curve​.​Axis​.​Symmetry.”, they went for new ideas both musically and lyrically. In this album, Sébastien Bournier put his idea of a concept album that contemplates whether immortality is a blessing or a curse. Nothing will last forever and after everything ends what will happen. This scenario becomes the starting point and the main focus of the album. Musically, they still have their proggy heavy synth use, pop sing-alongs, and unique way of singing; moreover, their guitar solos and acoustic guitar use crown this record.

Line-Up:

  • Sebastien Bournier – drums, vocals, lyrics and music
  • Paul J. No – keys, lead vocals and music
  • Jean Philippe Benadjer – guitars, bass, vocals, music and mixing

Total Length:

51 Minutes

Review:

The opening track “Lemniscate” directly creates the melancholic yet powerful atmosphere of the album with the distorted guitar and synth sounds. The machine drum sound adds the exhilarant feel to the song, capturing the listener for the whole journey of the concept album. Considering the whole soundscape, it is a blend of many different styles, bands, and genres – including Pink Floyd and 90’s drone music. We also hear the name of the album, “Curve.Axes.Symmetry.” vocalized by the niece of the keyboardist and vocalist of the band, Paul J. No. The whole texture and layers in this song build up to a perfect passage to the next song, “First Death”. An exemplary album opener.

Lyrically, the second track “First Death” shares the experience of the character after he died and came back to life. It is the starting point of this concept album, which is about people who can’t die. The general airy tone of the album was also captured in this song, with different experimentations on instrument use and song structure. The time signature between the bridge and chorus was a remarkable section in the song; and throughout the verse and after-chorus, we are able to see the Yes and David Gilmour influences, considering the synth-guitar tones and the emphasis that they put on the atmosphere.

After a powerful start to the album, “Same Player. Shoots Again.” lowers the tempo with an addictive tom groove, bass and atmospheric synth sounds, which is very similar to the song “Traffic” from another modern wonderful electronic music album that came out last year – ANIMA by Thom Yorke. As the 3 chord guitar riff enters the song, we hear the song changing direction to a more energetic direction by turning into a pumping rock song. In this part of the story, the character realized that he is not able to die, and this has become an existential crisis for him since he is stuck inside reality-boredom takes over one’s entire existence.

“Nothing Left To Do” describes the psychological state of the character, after he has done all of the things that can be done and still continues on living. After all the pain that he has gone through of losing his loved ones over thousands of years, experiencing everything that could be experienced and becoming the “Boredom of Majesty”; he tries to end his life many times, but still he is banned from dying. The acoustic and ambiance synth-based soundscape of the song sometimes creates contrasts with the darkness of the lyrics and represents the same shifting mood that the character has experienced over time.

One of the personal favorites from the album, the break song between the long compositions “A Passage Of Time” instantly captures the listener with its basic Genesis inspired acoustic instrumentation over the 70s mellotron sounds. It is certainly a reminiscence of the band’s prog influences, in the easiest and most intense way possible. The song is indicating how the character was lost in the non-ending passage of time, by making you get lost in the short duration of the song.

The Rise and Fall of The Earth” slowly builds up with the layered percussions, creating the structure that the song has been built on. Being the slowest song since the beginning of the album, the romantic synth vocal reminds of the 80’s slow disco hits – especially “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. However, the song shifts to a more groovy melancholic piece, with the addition of the highly emphasized bass and funky guitar strumming. In the second part, the song gets even better by harmonizing all the instruments together on a flute melody. Especially the vocal parts in this track were very unexpected and experimental, considering the entire album. After all, the character has seen the ends and reborns of humankind multiple times, trouble with his never-ending loneliness.

After an immeasurable time has passed, our narrator is the only person left from the entire human civilization. On the track “Earth’s Population: 1”, he bewails about his current complete loneliness, obsessing around the empty buildings, lands, and the times when other lives existed. Starting with Alan Parson-ish highly tensioned distortion guitar riffing over delayed double synth riff, the song instantly changes rhythm to a 7/4, waking you up from your sleep. Then turns again to a 4/4, without even making you notice. Structurally, instrumentally and harmonically, the song can be the strongest track of the album – while also having the memorable Air(its a band) inspired synth and vocal melodies.

“Earth’s End” welcomes the inevitable doom of our lovely planet, Earth. Slow arpeggios with the atmospheric (even though there is no atmosphere left) sounds from the synth create the mood for this song. Heavy synth use presents the epic feeling of floating through space. While repeating the same chord unifies the song, the band manages to keep the dynamics interesting. With lyrics that reflect on the mental state of an immortal that loses his home, they create an immense environment.

After the depressing end of the previous song, “Adrift” starts in an energetic manner. With lively acoustic guitar and exciting bass and percussion, they imagine an interesting version of drifting through space. Then energy keeps on rising with a Gilmour-esque guitar solo which carries the bittersweetness of floating in space, being both lost and free. The song becomes bigger and bigger every second. The quality of the mixing of this album shines on this track. Just when you think that the song is over, it becomes richer with the additions of incredible guitar and synth work, and they carry the energy of the album to the top again while the main character contemplates his meaningless journey through space.

“From Its Sky” opens by showing that Lunear’s influence from pop elements is as beautiful as their prog elements. This emotional piano and vocal intro with its beautiful chords, this hard foundation of the chord progression in the song show the power of the two while the main character finds hope in his meaningless journey. As our main character’s hope becomes larger, music follows; it also becomes louder and more powerful. The melody is proof of the beauty of simplicity, and the chord progression is memorable. The vocal really shines in this song and helps the listener understand the desperation and the will of the main character while he wants to “fall from its sky.” This emotion gets even more impactful with a guitar solo and a bassline reminiscent of Pink Floyd. In the end, he has nothing to do but witness these changes.

“Forever” starts with arpeggios that have their own rhythmical cycle resembling a clock going round and round creating the sense of “foreverness.” The main character embraced the “forever” and tries to look at the past that was long gone. With the rhythmical dynamic and structure, this song tries to capture the infiniteness of forever, being 7 minutes helps :). This journey full of distorted guitar and heavy synths shows their influences from the prog by the song’s unique structure. It contains multiple highs and lows and resembles the full journey of the character. In the end, lines “Curve Axis Symmetry” creates a full circle in the album.

The final touch of the album “First Death (Epilogue)” leaves the story ambiguous. This acoustic ending, which is very similar in the way of its placement in the album to “Her Majesty” from Abbey Road, says that our immortal main character died and has risen from dead. However, from the full circle of “Curve Axis Symmetry”, this can be interpreted as the beginning of his immortality. Putting the beginning to the end shows the obscurity of the understanding of the time.

Lunear – Many Miles Away (Album Review)

Lunear is a French pop rock band with a distinct progressive sound. This sound can be summarized in a sentence by a quote from the keyboardist Paul J. No: “I loved the idea of doing a simple pop song and mixing it with some obscure bridge.” This sound is induced by the heavy synth use and is supported by distortion guitar melodies and vocals that remind us of 80s rock bands. The band released their debut album “Many Miles Away” in 2018. The trio first started to come together when Paul J. No and Sebastien Bournier, who have been working together for nearly 20 years, decided to write together. They wrote 8 songs, and then added Jean-Philippe Benadjer to the band to complete the 10 track record.

The band is currently working on a new album set to release soon. It will be called “Curve. Axis. Symmetry.” A single from the album is available on all platforms. Do check it out!

Line-up

  • Sebastien Bournier – drums, vocals, lyrics and music
  • Paul J. No – keys, lead vocals, music
  • Jean Philippe Benadjer – guitars, bass, vocals, mixing

Total Length

52:11

Review

“Closed Doors“ is a song about “what-if.” What if you didn’t choose that way but the other? It’s a song about regrets and getting over those regrets. The “closed doors” refer to decisions that have already been made, and can not be changed. The song starts off with a dreamy Genesis-like synth intro, and builds off of a distorted hard rock riff that is almost a representation of the bitter truth laid in front of us.

“In Between“ sounds almost happy, yet the lyrics are as dark as it can get. It discusses the songwriter’s loneliness and incompatibility. He can not fit himself in any regular category, and can not get people to notice him. This premise is reminiscent of “Luminol” by Steven Wilson, which is about a man that has become a ghost while still alive. The music, at first glance, sounds very simple. The chord progression may be unfamiliar to those who have only listened to 1-4-5 or 2-5-1 progressions. The most interesting part is what is “in between” 2 parts of the song, the bridge! It is in 4/4, but repeats every 7 bars. The chords are unusual, yet the melody on top is very simple, making it easy to listen and appreciate.

“A Last Time For Everything“ is just about that: everything has an end. The acoustic guitar intro adds a very moody atmosphere to the song, and the slow tempo, the few-note guitar “solo” at the end, and the keyboards all support it. Then, the borrowed major chords hit, which creates a feeling of hope. Transitioning between sad and hopeful without changing the music much, makes a new interpretation arise: We should live our remaining days to the fullest because we don’t know when they will end.

“Just Another Song About That Girl” is the band’s attempt to replicate (and make a little fun of) all those catchy love songs about the perfect girl, from the usual 4 chord opening progressions to the 80’s synth sounds. If you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, you might as well think that this is “just another song about that girl”, which shows, apart from the band’s wittiness, how good they fitted a whole genre of music into one song.

“Heaven?” actually makes you ponder about the subject at hand with the intriguing questions that Sébastien Bournier directs at the listener. The song has maybe the most bizarre intro from the album, with the blend of drums and the bass. The vocals afterwards resemble the Moody Blues, especially in the chorus. The repeating lyrics in the second section reminded me of John Lennon’s “God” (interestingly, both touch upon the subject of religion). The song reaches another level with Benadjer’s guitar solo: though he doesn’t wander away too much from the main melody, he adds another musical layer to the song’s structure.

“Don’t Be Scared” has, as the band themselves put it, “a strong Steven Wilson influence”. Although the use of a 12 string guitar in modern prog generally resembles Mike Rutherford’s style, Lunear achieves a much darker atmosphere. The lyrics takes the form of a conversation between a father and son, a very personal one indeed. The ambient sounds create a collage of the war and pain, which we are exposed to every day through the news. It’s a clever way to connect the lyrics with the music to create a coherent story. The heavy section that comes afterwards features a painful bluesy guitar solo by Benadjer and you can clearly see the Pink Floyd influence (especially the transition in “Money”). After the guitar, this time Paul J. No uses an intense and searing synth to create the emotional solo which toparlamak the song together. And the band’s final message in the end (from a lyrical context, the father’s last message to his son) is much more optimistic than a Steven Wilson song, which maybe is a way for Lunear to separate themselves from their influences.

In the middle of two of the record’s most powerful songs sits the record’s title track: “So… Many…” Lyrically, the song is a complement of the first track, “Closed Doors”. The main idea, as we interpreted, is leaving the past behind and looking at the future instead. It talks about a radical change in one’s life, which many of us experience. The mellow, warm grand piano is the main element, while the bass creeps out from behind with delightful licks. During the verse, every 5 bars, 2 bars are left blank for the bass to make an appearance. It seems the band likes to use this technique of a 4/4 melody with an odd number of bars to create familiarity for both the prog and pop audience.

“Conflagration” is a very energizing song due to the abundance of synths throughout. From the very beginning, you can hear the layers of synths slowly building over each other. Bournier’s lyrics, on the other hand, paints a darker picture. It’s a man’s inner dialogue as he desperately tries to escape from a building on fire. Every second, the flames get higher and closer, which actually explains the song’s structure of never slowing down.In the end, it is revealed that the man, thankfully, is saved from the wreath of the songwriter 🙂

“You Owe Me Nothing” is, compared with the other tracks, a simpler song. It grabs your attention with the heavy bass notes that No lays out on the piano, and the addition of Bournier’s easy-going drums (sidestick is really the perfect choice) creates, as Benadjer said, a “simple” and “light” pop song about the end of a love story. It’s important to add that the song features Bournier as lead vocals. After “Conflagration”, the song seems like a contrast as we get closer to the end.

The last song of the album, ironically called “Fresh Start”, is the longest track with a total of 8 minutes. The song is very atmosphere-based so the length is somewhat justified. From the opening, the eery cellos, arranged by Paul J. No, blending with the steady piano riff, which keeps the rhythm together, takes the listener to a world different from the other songs in the album. Since there aren’t many instruments to fill the space, the lyrics stands out with its directness which is caused by the use of imperative statements. As the piano and cello explore dark chords and even darker emotions, we are left to contemplate on the lyrics. Being the first song that Sébastien and Paul worked on, it carries an intimacy with it. Taking the approach of “less is more”, the band tells us a lot more by creating a soundscape rather than a typical song.

The Fat Turtles – Return of the Foggy Logger (EP Review)

The Fat Turtles is a progressive rock band based in Iowa. It was first conceived as a metal band, but the latest release is far from that. Instead, they took inspiration from traditional prog rock bands such as Genesis and King Crimson. This inspiration is apparent in their sound featuring a high amount of keyboards and the orchestral-sounding composition. This composition is done by the primary member Luke Johnston, who also writes lyrics, records vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards and bass. The Return of the Foggy Logger is a 15 minute EP with 3 songs telling different stories. The stories take us to worlds so different yet so similar to ours. They contemplate our assumptions about the world, and the system that is in place. The Fat Turtles are planning on releasing a full album by the end of the year. Though, to perform, they need a drummer and a keyboardist. 

Line up

  • Luke Johnston – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keys, bass
  • Noah Carrell – electric guitar
  • Seth Strahan – drums, percussion

Recorded at Forte Studios in Boune Iowa, produced and engineered by Mathew Lemon.
Cover Art by Stephen ”Gus” Walsh.

Total Length

15:12

Track List

1. Return of the Foggy Logger (6:17)

The first track of the EP starts with heavy bass action, accompanied by the drums. Though they were in unison at the beginning, the drums start to play its own rhythm – which creates a groove with 3 different parts. As the melody changes with the keyboards, we start to feel the carnival-ish environment, as if we are entering an old world full of fairy tales. As the vocal kicks in, we understand that Johnson’s intention was to create this dreamy scene – where he starts to tell us a story: “Return of The Foggy Logger”.

We certainly can hear the Yes influence all over the track, with the highly emphasized uplifting bass and keyboard sounds. After we hear the same rhythm in the intro, the vocals also sing the lyrics in unison. However this time we hear people talking on the background of the music, adding to the theatrical atmosphere and the artistic value of the piece.

After some repetitions with a variety of background noises, we sense a change of direction in the song. The dreamy acoustic guitar enters, while the bass plays a melody to wake us from our journey inside the world that the Fat Turtles created. After the dreamy interlude with Genesis influenced percussion, the song repeats itself and finally ends – leaving the taste of a mystic yet futuristic tale in our ears with catchy melodies that we will hardly forget.

If you listen to the lyrics carefully, you’ll hear that the story and the music are connected – to create a through narration for the story of The Foggy Logger. The song is about, as Johnson stated, a lumberjack that had been displaced by his job because of the automation in the world. This lumberjack, Foggy Logger, tries to destroy the machinery to stop the robots that are harming the environment. However, in the end, the narrator reveals that the machine had already cut down all the trees and that the Foggy Logger has failed.

2. Hourglass (3:55)

Compared to the opening track, “Hourglass” starts in a calmer and more serene manner. Soft and relaxing arpeggios of the 12 string guitar welcome the listeners and take them to their happy place in their mind where everything is peaceful. The band clearly shows their influences from great prog giants, especially Genesis with Mike Rutherfords’s use of the 12 string. Even from the beginning of the song, things are starting to get complicated and a lot richer. Luke Johnston’s taste in harmony shines as another melody by an acoustic guitar starts to emerge and merge with the main guitar, creating a complex but still pleasing and peaceful section which is a hard thing to manage at the same time. They create a great intro and a solid groundwork for the rest of the song with just the guitars.

The intro slowly fades away, only to return with a greater punch. With the dominant bass, beautiful unison singing by Johnston and the deep and astounding sound of the piano, the song shocks the listener for a second but grabs their attention nevertheless. After the calm intro, this powerful part creates a contrast from the beginning and thereby shapes a grand and epic atmosphere just like a hymn.

Staring through the hourglass
The sand inside erodes
Time is moving slowly
As present turns to past
The mirror reflects my face
As the contents inside
Around the glass, it goes returning back in place

With these lyrics, the songwriter Johnston dives into a philosophical concept of time, as you can understand from the title: “Hourglass.” Nothing can outrun the time, even the sand grains inside an hourglass. Time is moving slowly but surely. He also talks about mankind’s inability to conceive time and accept the changes it brings. However, he also talks about the cheeky thing about the time, that it repeats. Nietzsche once said that “time is a flat circle” and therefore it is destined to repeat just as the sands in the hourglass have to return back to their place. There is a lot to unpack from just this small amount of lyrics.

For the rest of the song, the chord progression is led by the piano which has the role of the bass in the song. While this catchy progression continues and repeats (just like time itself), the keyboard pulls the mood through darker places and with the help of some effects, this peaceful song turns into a terrifying one. It changes, like everything in the hand of the time. It ends with a single definitive chord. Even though everything moves, changes, and repeats; only one thing is certain: that it all must have an end.

3. The Knight in Red Armour (5:00)

The third and the last song on the EP falls no short of the others. It starts almost instantly without any introduction. It’s a daring move from the band’s side, but what comes after is worth the abruptness of the beginning.

The song opens with a four-chord progression played on the mellotron strings. The sound is clearly reminiscent of King Crimson’s debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, with Ian McDonald’s use of mellotron. From the chord progression and the atmosphere, the influence is clear and feels intentional. Along with it, the tom-toms are melodic and dynamic, tearing through the melancholic mellotron sound. Vocals by Luke Johnston resemble the mellotron, where it pierces through our ears and levitates the lyrics. Decaying of some notes are kept longer which greatly enhances this effect.

The lyrics, according to Johnston, is about someone “who loses a friend in war.” He is “very bitter about his friend’s decision to fight in the war” and the song revolves around the man’s contemplations:

Knight in Red Armour
You gave it all away
Have nothing left to say
Your helmets cracked and broken
Just like your brain
Were you always this insane
Bloodied stained and fractured
That’s how you’ll be recalled

It is written in the form of a diatribe, where the narrator condemns his friend for his decision and his eventual death. Written in first person view and addressing the friend as “you”, the song eludes from the fantasy-esque lyrics of the early stages of progressive rock and establishes a more personal tone. The one-way nature of this conversation makes it easier for the narrator to jump between years and create a striking contrast between the past and the present. His memories gives us foreshadowing imageries (like the boy with the toy sword) and leaves us, the listener, asking the same question: “Why?”

The interlude that comes afterwards features the piano and guitar more prominently in order to balance the song. Taking advantage of this section’s calmer nature, the band shifts to more unexpected chords to retain our interest. One can even argue that the band still has the potential to try out even more intricate chords.

The second time the vocals come around, it is harder, harsher, almost feels like the music itself becomes restless. The shouting of the extended last note would remind any prog fan of In the Court of the Crimson King’s title track. The mellotron’s melodic build-up accompanied by vocal harmonies highlights the evocative quality that makes the Fat Turtles unique.

If I heard this band on the radio (who am I kidding, prog on the radio?), I would’ve subconsciously regarded them as an underrated prog band from the 70’s. Although this song concludes the short EP, we genuinely hope that this band’s career will be much longer.

The Fool’s Agenda – From the Underground (EP Review)

The 5-piece rock band The Fool’s Agenda released their debut EP “From the Underground” on October 31, 2019. From Salem, Massachusetts, the band was formed in June 2019, and it seems that they swiftly navigated their way around songwriting and completed an EP in just 5 months, with the debut single “When the Sun Shines” being released on September 13, 2019. The band, which define themselves as “a vintage inspired fusion of rock and blues, with a healthy dose of fantasy”, consist of college students whose ages differ between 21-23. The theme of their debut EP is moving on from the past mistakes or victories and realizing the effects of past experiences on oneself. They handle this heavy subject in 4 songs and a total of 14 minutes. I must say that the short length disappointed us as we were left wanting more of the classic rock-influenced instrumentals and especially Rhiannon Callahan’s beautiful voice. That said, “From the Underground” is a good teaser for what is to come from the band’s future releases. 

Line Up

  • Rhiannon Callahan – lead vocals
  • Conor Reinold – lead guitar
  • Maddie Roth – rhythm guitar, keys and vocals
  • Jon Gray – bass and vocals
  • Kamryn Bode – percussion

Recorded at Small Pond Studios, mixed and produced by Ryan Blaney.

Total Length

14:50

Track List

1. When the Sun Shines (2:48)

The first song on the record is heavily connected to the over-archingtheme of change. This can clearly be seen in the chorus: “When the sun shines / Change is on the rise”. This theme is developed using lines such as “Distant music calls through the air / Pouring through the cracks of fear,” which convey the idea of not being able to move on. The “music” represents the peace that moving on will bring about.

The song is mostly built on top of a chord progression by the rhythm guitarist, Maddie Roth. The guitar plays by itself in the beginning, and the song progresses as the band members add their own unique parts to it. The lead guitarist Conor Reinold plays a line similar to the vocal melody of the verses in the beginning. When the vocals enter, Rhiannon Callahan takes over this main melody and the lead guitar serves as an embellishment for her bright and unique tone. At the 1:50 mark a new 4/4 riff enters, with a 3-3-2 subdivision. The lyrics at that point are “I hear you call me back,” signaling the chorus once again. The song ends at a very climactic point. If you play the first verse and last chorus back to back, you can definitely hear the rising action. 

2. Stardust (3:24)

The third song of the EP starts with a simple guitar motif that will be played throughout the song. Then the synth and vocals come in, outlying the 3 chords of the verse of. After that, the drums kick in, giving the song the groove that makes us stay with the story that they’re telling. We get to hear the verse again with the added organs and back vocals. The way that Rhiannon sings the vocals reminds a lot of the way that Annie Haslam sang with Renaissance-they both sang as if they were telling a tale of a fantastic place. The ghost note touches of the drums and the mystical synth sounds give this chill and fresh sound to the song. The song feels complete with the little reverb-guitar solo in between the verses. The track’s theme resolve on the general theme of the EP, which is the way that your past/experiences grow you.

The story is told by the first-person viewpoint, where the author has lost the woman she loved and whining for her comeback. She is the beloved one that everyone is after. Even if this woman has “slipped through” her fingers, the song tries to give the message that we shouldn’t keep looking back-wanting to go back to those days that we miss. Instead, we should embrace the experiences and pased time and see how it grew us as a person, which is the most important thing after all.

“Daughter of the woods
Sunkissed and star-eyed
I still see her mind
Hiding beyond the clouds”

The song has a positive atmosphere and carries this signature mellow rocky sound of the TFA, which helps them to set the themes up that they want us to hear.

3. Whispers (3:13)

The third track from the EP, “Whispers”, mainly revolves around a four chord progression which, like the name suggests, almost feels like a tenuous whisper (when the drums and vocals enter) that even though is sometimes barely heard, can still be a crucial element that gives the song the feeling of unison and familiarity.

Having said that, the first cycle of this progression is actually without the drums and vocals (but this is also true for some other songs in the EP, which may cause a sense of repetition). This isolation helps set the scene without worrying too much about an intro, and the small addition of the piano at the start just proves the extent of how much attention the band can spend on small details like this.

The thing that struck me most as I was listening has to be the daring and incisive lead vocals by Rhiannon Callahan. Her intonation blends perfectly with the attitude of the band and literally carries the lyrics to another level. Her vocals for this song is not exactly a “whisper” (yes, pun intended) but much more of a poignant shout-out to the listener. Along with the back vocals by Maddie Roth, which are from a higher pitch, the band creates the perfect opportunity for possible experiments with vocal harmony which we are definitely hoping would be explored more on later songs to expand the sound of the band.

The song follows a simple structure of verses and a chorus followed in the end by a guitar solo by Conor Reinold that, along with Kamryn Bode’s drums, carries an influence from Jimmy Page while still preserving a unique and lively sense. Lyrically, the song follows a journey through a road where “the miles go on to nowhere.” The constant use of “we” as the subject shows that the listener is in this journey together with the narrator. The line “Babe I might just stay” directly reminds us of the loosely love-themed rock ballads from the 70’s while the cryptic lines in the last verse (“You wouldn’t understand”) carry the song into a darker atmosphere.

Overall, the song contains a tad of the oldies like Led Zeppelin, with a resemblance to more modern bands like Greta Van Fleet. As with their influences, The Fool’s Agenda also does a good job of bringing blues and rock together on a cozy medium that welcomes an audience from all ages.

4. Underground (5:25)

The final track of the EP, which is also the track that gives the EP its name, starts with a mysterious bassline that comes literally from “underground”. Its tone is both dark and calming which symbolizes the underground. The arpeggiated bassline creates a relaxing atmosphere for the song and catches the listener’s attention from the start. Opening the song with bass sets this song apart from the rest of the EP.

After the listener is introduced to this bassline, drums start to excite things by slowly building up. It continuously gets louder until the explosion that comes with the entrance of the guitar. By this point, you must have realized that build-up is a common factor in all songs of the EP. Unlike the other songs, the guitar just helps to create a rhythm and a dynamic for the song while the bass is creating the melodies. Then after a few repetitions, just at the right time, the song introduces the listener to another layer so that the listener would always be on their toes. The guitar bombards the listener with a fast, catchy and interesting lick.

After the relaxing song turns into an energetic one, vocals enter singing about moving on after the death of a loved one. The first thing we are introduced to is a man on the moon that watches us and wants to see us smile. However, when the drums get hotter and the chorus hits, we learn that it is not true that he is on the moon; actually it’s the opposite, he is underground. The underground motif symbolizes that he is not “in the moon” watching us, rather he is just dead and “he won’t see [us] anyway”. After he died, he didn’t go to somewhere above to watch us, he is just dead, buried. The feelings of the narrator can be felt from her passionate voice. In this sense, the name of the EP, “From the Underground”, starts to have a new meaning: moving on after a loved one.

After the chorus, the bass starts to shine even more. Spitting more incredible lines and doing them in a such a perfect order and dose that it makes the listener feel like they have been waiting for this for their entire life. Then after the bass, it is guitar’s turn to shine. Conor Reinold performs an intense guitar solo that states the feelings of the narrator which then continues with a spooky sounding keyboard solo.

As we return to the chorus, we find ourselves singing along to a song about death. I didn’t ever imagine myself doing this. But I want more.