Category Archives: Prog Rock

Circle of Illusion – Jeremia’s Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms

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Jeremia’s Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms” is one hell of a prog rock\metal gem, both its strength and weakness stemming from its theatrical style. It uses motifs that instantly proclaim it a rock opera, like the classic-esque arrangements and the dual operatic vocals, where the two heroes of our story share an unfolding dialogue. The band’s music at first brings to mind bands like DT and Haken, but the great focus on dialogue you hear from beginning to end on this album sets Circle of Illusion apart from other modern prog acts.

Beside the obviously needed and well-placed instrumental breaks, the music seems to be always following the lyrics – by either preparing for them, accentuating words to convey what feelings are being expressed, or complimenting them in the next arriving melody; As I said, a rock opera. Personally, I found following the lyrics was a bit tiring, Maybe since it’s not a very straight-forward story and the lyrics are way too vague at times. So if I were to recommend this album to a friend, I’d ditch the story part and emphasize the great, great musicianship featured in this releaseespecially on tracks like “The Beginning“, “The Memory Returns“, or “New Age“.

– We’re talkin’ beautiful, often symphonic arrangements using many classic instruments as well as modern synth pads and metal guitar tones that set the groove just right. Using this wide diversity of sound together with those perfect female vocals by singer Elga Shafran gives the songs an element of surprise. It’s such a refreshing listen – the most memorable moments for me being probably the Disco sections. Not kidding, there are a few Sections of proggy disco parts and they work really well, reminding you immediately of ABBA with their infectious phrases and hooks. Have a listen below:

As you can hear, the band fuses together many genres – and travels through many moods, doing so in such a charming way it feels very organic, never forced. The only flaw this album has in my opinion, is that by deciding to stick to the theatrical, it is bound to be somewhat formulaic. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of creative freedom here. The guys are exceptional musicians, among the best you’ll find in prog really. I’m merely suggesting that the band’s (obviously conscious) intention was clearly the creation of a rock opera, and they do not deviate from that idea, for good or bad. (Mostly for good, but if you know me – I just gotta have a bit of chaos and destruction in my playlist!).

Putting my tendency for critique aside though, I’d take this record over the countless power-prog copycats out there any day. Forget’em! Circle of Illusion offers you a whole different wonderful thing, an album with so much thought and effort put into it it’s impressive, and if you’re a fan of progressive music, this record of theirs should be in your collection, no doubt about it! Don’t miss out and give it a listen on their Bandcamp page!

9/10

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Ayreon – The Theory of Everything

Ayreon’s 8th studio album “The Theory of Everything” might sound like a very “smart”, lyrically complex album, but the “Theory” issue is only a background plot device that gives vibe and drive to this very familiar story about a genius outcast mistreated by society; “Society”, in this story’s context represented by different characters: The Father, The Mother, The Psychiatrist, The Girl, The Rival. And although these characters differ, they all have the same main motif to their roles, which is misunderstanding the young genius (or “The Prodigy“), and treating him badly according to on their own interests:

-The Father totally disregards the emotions of his son, treating him only as a tool that functions\dysfunctions.
-The Psychiatrist is driven only by his education & research, and to promote the latter he is willing to put the prodigy’s life at risk.
-The Rival represents violent competition and manipulation.

Other characters like the girl or the teacher are more balanced, but almost everyone – except the mother – pushes or pulls at the prodigy, abusing him while falsely claiming to “help” him. If you take the “Theory..” issue out, this story feels common & very familiar. It could easily be the story of an intelligent kid with Asperger\ADD\etc, pick your favorite syndrome. I won’t spoil the entire thing for you, but the story is tragic, as most characters are oblivious to their doing, and even the mother, who can see the truth through her compassion, alone by herself cannot stop this collective abuse.

Regarding the music itself, although claimed to be “four long tracks divided into various segments”, I found the division into many mini-tracks makes it very hard to put the pieces together, mentally speaking. Almost each track has its own unique intro and outro – more like a rock opera or a theatric play\musical than “four long tracks”. Now add to that the huge musical variation this album features and you got an immeasurably segmented thing going on. Describing the different genres at hand would be futile, just know this is prog rock done the right way. Arjen Lucassen is one incredibly inspired guy and he makes DT‘s last album look awful. I mean, MORE awful.

However, in terms of musical coherence, the album loses me halfway. I really want my rock\metal to have something to hold onto, be it a repeating chorus or a kickass riff. Repetition is important, even in prog. Creating tension and breaking it is powerful, yes, but without some repetition in between, songs become a disorienting experience. I get that going “full-prog” or how’d you call it perhaps means the composer gives himself complete creative freedom. I respect that kind of art and my guess is listeners will immensely appreciate it. But you certainly will not be rocking to this CD in the traditional sense, unless you are a diehard fan of Lucassen, or are obsessed with musicals.

7/10

The Very Best Of Progstravaganza 13 – PART I

Today’s post will be quite a different one – Instead of covering one album, we’ll be taking a look at a very interesting promotional catalog of songs by different artists published by prog-sphere.com – entitled: Progstravaganza 13 !

Yes, “interesting” will be a fittingly objective word to describe this prog-ish catalog which contains such musical broad range both in terms of its quality(ranging from amazing to downright ridiculous) – and the numerous sub-genres. Anyway, since reviewing all 76 songs makes for a ridiculous task, a better idea would be to tell you only about the very best of this tracklist. Let’s get to it!

This very, VERY long listening experience starts with couple of cringe-worthy cheesy openers, but quickly enough, we arrive at few notably creative groups like Omb, Ornithos, El Trio and Telergy.

Israel’s Omb are an impressively frantic band instrumentally and vocally, immediately reviving this list with a vibrant wild & colorful composing style that includes almost zero repetition. You’ll ever love it hate it, Here’s “An Ordinary Caveman Sings Ode to Obsession“:

Next up at number six we have Ornithos who play quite quirky & surprising heavy music, their unorthodox approach bringing together female vocals, a saxophone and a flute. They do so without losing their metallic edge, and the result is just a lot of fun, grabbing your attention, and also not overstaying its welcome, which is good since the vocals are a tad overbearing.

Less heavy n’ all straightforward, at number eight we got El Trio introducing to us a more playful jazzy style . These guys do a good job balancing their experimental and jammin’ side sound with a coherent song structure on “Descontectar“.

At ninth we have the coolest song so far, by the band Telergy. This instrumental’s intro is such a slow, long buildup its funny, but the wait is well worth it, finally concluding in a brilliant entrance of raw riffage and powerful orchestration. This one literally pulls out the inner prog metal nerd outta ya! A Killer song, solid and diverse, and it’s well mixed too. Here’s “Rumors”:

Follower “Once More With Feeling” by Traffic Experiment may come across as something you’ve heard already, and yeah I’ll agree it’s more retro than original, but the song grows on you, and channeling the classics, it serves as a soothing prog rock break. This might also be a good place to take a break ourselves! ‘Hope you enjoyed Part I of The Very Best Of Progstravaganza 13.


Trioscapes – Seperate Realities

Trioscapes initially started as a short-term instrumental project back in 2011, when bassist Dan Briggs(Between the Buried and Me) contacted drummer Matt Lynch and sax player Walter Fancourt. Despite being quite technical, the group’s music, which is comprised of fusion, prog rock and jazz, proved to be a success live, and the band went on to record a full length album: “Separate Realities“.

As rock fans or metalheads, you’ve probably noticed this short introduction to the group’s music did not include many “heavy” attributes. I mean, the album doesn’t even feature a guitar besides Briggs’ bass, bringing up the obvious question – does this album rock at all? Well, the answer, weirdly, is yes.  In its own untraditional way, “Seperate Realities” succeeds in being heavy. Instead of a guitar it is the sax that shreds here, while the drummer brilliantly pounds away with a wide arsenal of both subtle and hard-hitting rhythms. The bassist completes the instrumental trio, providing a groove with surprisingly dark & often distorted tones, which at times feel unnecessary, but more on that later.

Trioscapes‘ intricate and quite quirky ride begins with “Blast Off“, which you can right away tell is the strongest track here. Its main melody whirls around itself in a very catchy manner, and delves into an improvisation part that culminates dramatically, of course, only to return back to the familiar, and may I say, danceable main musical phrase. This one’s pretty flawless:

Next comes the title track. Only the second track here and it’s no less than 11 minutes long, which might seem a bit off-putting at first, but clearly works for the group. It continues in the same manner as “Blast Off“, but allows the band to cover more ground and explore different ever-changing, enjoyable, confusing and amusing paths – never boring the listener.

With “Curse Of The Ninth“, Trioscapes continue to pave their offbeat jazzy way to success in a more mellow style,  A flute arriving unexpectedly like a bird in flight, soothing the ears and serving as a relief from all the chaos. However, during this piece, a certain problem begins to surface. As I wrote earlier, Briggs’ bass takes form using somewhat peculiar tones on this album, and while I get the intent behind the distorted sound, the result can become overbearing. Moreover, his playing often grows stagnant, following the a melody or riff stubbornly, without much creative freedom, and when he does go all out, it blatantly feels too much.

I don’t think this issue ruins the album or anything, as it’s more of a subjective, love-it-or-hate-it type of thing. However, the mentioned experimental effect, like it or not, persists on the following tracks and for that reason I can’t give “Separate Realities” the better rating it could have had. Nonetheless, it’s all still very intriguing material played by highly talented musicians, and I highly recommend it to open-minded fans of Prog\Fusion\Jazz.

7/10

This post also appears on http://www.metal-observer.com