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 Pike 263 - Glacier by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.10 | 2 ratings

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Pike 263 - Glacier
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 263 - Glacier / 20th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 5 tracks / Clocks in at 30minutes 57seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

"Glacier" (13:50) slowly begins things with a nonchalantly unfolding guitar riff that becomes joined by bass and drums and then the riffing becomes a bit heavier. All stays mid tempo but after a while a cool echo effect takes over for a bit but reverts back to the alternative riffing that is punctuated by slower clean guitar segments. Melodically this track doesn't change it up too much and is remnant of countless other PIKEs that have come before but the dynamics are mixed up a bit with riff changes and tempo shifts. Nothing is jarring with this one and all is smooth as silk with riffing segments, soloing and predictable chord changes. One of those tracks that's perfectly listenable and unobtrusive but at the same time has been done many times before and has absolutely no luster to loose not to mention it becomes quite repetitive and outstays its welcome. Nice but not outstanding unless this is the first BUCKETHEAD track you've ever heard

"Relic" (4:03) begins soft and sensual sounding like a new wave guitar track but with also sounds a little flamenco in guitar strumming with a little surf guitar style mixed in. Sort of a new sound for BH actually. All stays subdued with clean guitar and a little Spanish guitar flair but never bursts out into anything energetic. The percussion remains light and fluffy and just when it all sounds like it's ready to burst into a full-fledge production, it steps back and becomes super mellow. Nice track though

"Food" (5:19) completely shifts gears and immediately pumps out blistering adrenaline fueled metal riffs at light speed. The riffs are a bit thrashy as they gallop along with alternative grungy distortion turned up. Between the gallops is a little dance of progressive licks but never hang around too long and jump back into the steady stream of metal madness. Nice melodic development that combines heaviness with a heady flow. Nice track

"Evaporate" (4:06) begins with clean guitar and ambient background. As the melodic flow unfolds it morphs into different riffs and then picks up steam after a while by incorporating a more energetic percussive drive but the ambience remains thick and the clean guitar tone never changes. It never picks up past mid tempo and then slows down again. Pretty mellow track and fairly average actually

"Plate" (3:39) jumps back into metal with jittery riffs and a bouncy rhythm. Sounds like something from the 80s hard rock scene but i can't put my finger on exactly what. Maybe a tad Van Halen but not quite. The riff dances around for a while and then a sizzling solo takes over until it derails and then the bouncy riff is back. Nice track but nothing OMG original

This is an average PIKE. Lots of nicely delivered tracks with a little bit of originality but for the most part rehashes of ideas already well covered on previous PIKEs. Nice to listen to but not one that compels me to return for future listens. Well played and good but nothing more

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 The Goddess of Darkness by ARS NOVA (JAP) album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.68 | 66 ratings

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The Goddess of Darkness
Ars Nova (JAP) Symphonic Prog

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars Ars Nova is the only all girl prog band I know of. While there are other all girl bands performing their own instruments, like the Go-Go's and the Bangles, they were simply mainstream pop/rock bands geared for pop hits. Who'd ever thought the only all girl prog band would be so over the top and bombastic to the core that they even give ELP a run for their money? Even ELP would throw in an occasional acoustic ballad ("Lucky Man", "From the Beginning", "Still... You Turn Me On") to lure people of less discerning taste, and for radio programmers to be able to play something from them without alienating their listeners. Not with Ars Nova. The Goddess of Darkness is their third album and regarded as their best one. Make no mistake who Keiko Kumagai takes for heroes: ELP, Goblin, Museo Rosenbach, Il Balletto di Bronzo, and classical music. I'd probably include Anglagard, but she stated how she wasn't too fond of the 1990s prog scene, and made no mention of Anglagard (making me think she probably would have dismissed them without hearing them), on the other hand I wouldn't be surprised in the least if she actually heard them, because on this particular disc, I get reminded a bit of them as well. It's that similar approach of going through constant changes only to occasionally repeat an earlier theme to let you know what you're listening to. The major difference being Ars Nova doesn't have their quiet, calm, tranquil moments the way of Anglagard. The keyboards are both digital and analog. The music is not only over the top and bombastic, but melodramatic as well, with that dark, Gothic overtone. And speaking of which, I have never been too fond of their Gothic image, probably due to my preference to long haired hippie girls with natural hair color and style. If this sounds great, you know you need this CD. On the other hand, if you dislike prog on the bombastic side,, probably give them a miss. It's really difficult to sift out the songs, as they all pretty much use the same approach. Ars Nova, while obviously paying tribute to the past, doesn't try to sound retro, because the production is pretty modern, and they aren't afraid to use digital synths, but on the other hand, this isn't neo-prog, which is a plus if you run at that thought. I really can't say anything else, but if my description sounds good, get this. BTW, my CD is the Musea pressing with "Isis - She Wakes the Dead" instead of "Ainsel - A Mad Little Girl" in case you own the Made in Japan CD (which features a different cover from the one posted here).

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 Opacities by SIKTH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.91 | 4 ratings

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Opacities
Sikth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars After a near decade absence after their 2006 album "Death Of A Dead Day," the English progressive metalcore outfit SIKTH dropped a little EP out as an appetizer to keep their fans salivating for yet another full album. Despite only having released two full-length albums, OPACITIES is actually the fourth EP following the twin EP output of 2002 and the 2006 release "Flogging The Horses." The band members are exactly the same as their previous lineup, so this is very much a genuine SIKTH release and once again the band delivers an outstanding cross-pollination of hard and heavy metalcore fused with their brand of extreme progressive metal that often reminds me of the type Enslaved weaved into their albums such as "RIITIIR." OPACITIES is a short but sweet EP with six tracks not quite reaching the half hour mark.

OPACITIES pretty much continues the well-known style that SIKTH unleashed on their full-length albums, that being highly caustic core type riffing mixed with progressive song structures. While on the full albums Mikee Goodman utilized his frenetic screaming vocal effect as his main sonic instrument of torture, on this one there is a lot more emphasis on clean vocal delivers. The opening tracks "Behind The Doors," "Philistine Philosophies" and "Under The Weeping Moon" are the most recognizable SIKTH tracks sounding very much like the noisiest and obnoxious tracks heard on the earlier albums, however the core elements are somewhat toned down and progressive metal riffing is just as and often more prevalent and sometimes it actually sounds more akin to heavy alternative metal styled riffs.

The biggest surprises are the spoken word "Tokyo Lights" which utilizes a poetic approach along with vocalized shadow and sound effects to create a very memorable and bizarre track. With no instruments to be heard. "Walking Shadows" returns with the full furry of progressive core riffing and metal intensity including some trademark frenetic vocals akin to the opening tracks but "Days Are Dreamed" completely changes things up with an etheric atmosphere that introduces a clean vocal track that is not metal at all but rather a progressive rock composition that will probably remind more of the newer Opeth albums than of earlier Sikth releases as the mood is thick and the symphonic touches dominate.

OPACITIES is a quirky little mix of old and new for SIKTH but still manages to deliver a satisfying shot of their unique hybridization of progressive rock, metal and the core elements that they belt out with all the technical precision one would expect. This band has maintained a very high standard and is fairly consistent from one release to another and in that regard OPACITIES will not disappoint especially if you can appreciate the diversity of styles as heard on albums such as "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild." This EP rekindles the past but also points to newer directions that the band could possibly carve out and expand on future releases, so it is indeed a satisfying whetting of the appetite for fans to anticipate.

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 Trout Mask Replica by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.75 | 310 ratings

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Trout Mask Replica
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Well I assure you sir, this thing sucks (Don Van Vliet on selling a vacuum cleaner to Aldous Huxley)

Of the many albums that sit gathering dust, undisturbed in the rack yet are routinely adored by their house proud owners, it is perhaps Trout Mask Replica that best represents the disingenuous litmus test for hipster candidates of 'high' office everywhere. What's odd about its assimilation into the condemned pantheon of 'maverick genius' constructions is that it's not even a rock album at all but rather, a free jazz inspired stream of consciousness 'f.u.c.k the lot of you' diatribe that has more in common with a Cecil Taylor arranged 'To Have Done with the Judgement of god' by Antonin Artaud than an unrequited love letter to any Howling Wolf. That's hardly a picnic with your childhood sweetheart and s.h.i.t.s.u puppy of course but it's still unnerving how far removed from the predictable lumpen plod of rawk (psychedelic, blues or otherwise) this album approaches at its furthest outreaches.

And therein maybe lies the key: Most rock fans including your reviewer get rather uncomfortable when their steady diet of cyclic rhythms and anticipated releases from harmonic tension are not resolved in a timely fashion. That's probably why I heartily loathe Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, et al as such aesthetic considerations are completely irrelevant to their art. This says more about my limitations as a listener and failing to understand the stimulus to hand but all the same, I want to like this malarkey but erm....am unable. We're also habitually guilty of confusing texture with content e.g. yes, there might be a sax on Brown Sugar but that doesn't make it any closer to Jazz than rawk. The textures at play on Trout Mask Replica have lured many an unwary critic into believing that the electric slide guitars, amped bass and drums menu is consistent with a delta blues inflected psychadelicatessen and are invariably frustrated when Don and his charges steadfastly decline to serve up such a dish. The only place where texture and content are in accord is perhaps on Hair Pie Bake 1 where Beefheart's solitary soprano sax is redolent of the sort of uncharted musical landscapes of Anthony Braxton. It also explains why so few echoes of Beefheart are present in the music of his avowed wannabees, disciples and acolytes from within the republican realm of rawk like the Residents, Devo, Pere Ubu, Tom Waits, the Fall, PIL etc. The cynical among us would hazard that this is just egregious name-dropping which also lassos Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and anyone else who was considered a bit 'out there' but has crucially just died into the R'OK Corral.

The best Captain Beefheart impersonation I have ever heard is probably from Edgar Broughton circa Sing Brother Sing in 1970 but here's the rub, the unwitting approximation by a completly sh*t faced English actor Oliver Reed on Michael Aspel's chat show from 1984 comes a pretty close second. You are cordially invited to check out the 'You Tube' footage at your leisure. Tread very carefully when using 'derangement of the senses is the gateway to wisdom' as an educational tool kiddies. (The playgrounds of the US are littered with casualties on a daily basis)

Don Van Vliet's lyrics are at best, inscrutable surrealistic glossolalia and at worst, when they even approach conventional narrative form, crassly and glibly asinine:

Dachau blues, Dachau blues those poor Jews Still cryin' 'bout the burnin' back in World War Two's One mad man six million lose Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues

We know that the good Captain enrolled as an art major in his youth but dropped out after less than 12 months. Draw your own conclusions if you will but thwarted artists with furry upper lips should really be given the widest berth possible.

It seems that like Mark E. Smith of the Fall, the Captain ran his erstwhile Magic band circa 1969 like a dark satanic mill owner where dissent was treated with ridicule, physical violence and privation in no particular order. The published testimonies of band members appear to attest to the rather unpalatable conclusion that their Don was an uber controlling c.u.n.t of Mansonesque proportions. Revisionist apologists for this alleged behaviour start to sound like those clueless footie pundits defending a leg breaking tackle who posit that 'without his underlying psychopathic and sadistic nature his talent would have been thwarted by mediocrities' Try telling that to the lads when they've been neither paid or fed for their unaccredited efforts and have to play with 10 men after their captain's red card for tackling his own team. (Apologies for milking the footie metaphors a tad)

I've also never understood why Zappa's mix is so heavily weighted in favour of Beefheart's vocal as most of these conspire to practically drown out the music and only serve to make prolonged listening a considerable chore. That's a shame as all told, there is much innovation and prescience buried in the bowels of this frankly appalling production to warrant a deeper appreciation of the creative input of the assembled Magic band.

There is some speculative evidence to suggest that the Captain refused to record his vocals using traditional headphones and therefore his delivery is commensurately out of sync with a backing he could only hear via the latency of speaker bleed. Being out of time deliberately would at least require some effort methinks? Anointed if you do, anointed if you don't. (He can't lose)

Long story short: This album doesn't belong on any Progressive Rock appreciation site. It is too far removed from such narrow evaluation criteria

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 Stomu Yamash'ta, Steve Winwood & Michael Shrieve: Go by YAMASH'TA, STOMU album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.38 | 37 ratings

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Stomu Yamash'ta, Steve Winwood & Michael Shrieve: Go
Stomu Yamash'ta Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars I've been aware of Go since 1994, but for all those years I was resistent at buying a copy. I would have expect it an incoherent mess. But I find a cheap used LP for $3, and took a chance on it, and let me tell you, the album is actually great. I was warned it was a bit cheesy way back in 1994, but to be honest, I don't notice that, as close to cheesy is probably the closer "Winner/Loser" (probably because it more resembles something off Winwood's solo album than on Go). Anyways, this was Stomu Yamash'ta's project, with Steve Winwood and Michael Shrieve credited, but a ton of others including Al Di Meola of Return to Forever fame, Rosko Gee of Traffic (later of Can), Klaus Schulze, and many others. "Solitude", "Nature" and "Air Over" really have a nice spacy, symphonic feel to it, complete with strings and oboe. Steve Winwood sounds, well, like himself. It sounds as I expect him to sound in between Traffic and his solo career, but more spacy, which is something I never expect. But then Klaus Schulze's presence helped with the spacy nature of the album, and it's clear his contributions on stuff like ""Stellar", "Space" and "Space Requiem" only proves that. Here it sounds much closer to his solo material, you probably wonder how some of this would have sounded like if they were stretched around 25 minutes, as was a common habit of Schulze on his own albums. "Man of Leo" is more in the funk fusion vein, with Al Di Meola providing guitar. What was up with that David Gilmour-like scream that starts the song? The album also have a more avant garde moments too, with creative use of percussion. "Winner/Loser" is the closing piece, and closes to solo Steve Winwood (at least his 1977 solo debut). It has a bit more commercial feel.

Winwood left after this album. I'm pretty sure he felt confident to return to music and start a solo career. After all, Traffic's When the Eagle Flies wasn't exactly a commercial success (nor was it one of their better albums) so I'm sure he didn't feel too encouraged to continue with music. I know Go wasn't exactly a big seller, but to me I think the album is great and a bit underrated. To be honest, I was never a fan of Winwood's solo career, Throughout the 1980s I was inundated with his music played on the radio constantly throughout the 1980s. To my ears, I felt he was trying to compete with Phil Collins for 1980s radio air supremacy. Because of that I never cared to own any of his solo albums. As for Traffic, that stuff was much better. Outside Traffic, I felt the debut of Go is the most interesting thing he's done.

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 Years In The Garden Of Years by EDENSONG album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.05 | 89 ratings

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Years In The Garden Of Years
Edensong Eclectic Prog

Review by Corcoranw687

5 stars I hadn't heard of Edensong before I purchased the album, and I don't even remember what brought me there in the first place. A chance encounter turned into a long sort of listening party, I remember interrupting and restarting the album several times because I needed to digest the first few tracks, and other people got home and they needed to hear this too! I pretty much listened every day to and from work these past two weeks and feel very comfortable throwing 5 stars around again for a real masterpiece. Cold City begins and you can see why people compare this band to Jethro Tull... for about 30 seconds, and then they show they are so much more with their heavy riffs, frantic instrumental sections and the pace of it all. This band is on fire the whole album through, there's no other way to describe it. Cold City has our very pleasant vocalist singing through the "telephone effect" before really coming out, leading a good chorus into a wild instrumental section that goes EVERYWHERE! Flashes of Deep Purple, Dream Theater, Camel, guitar playing akin to Steve Hackett, there is even a bit that sounds like it could have come straight off of Death's "Symbolic"! Tracks 2-9 appear to be one suite, which is why we get an overture in track 2 and the album really feels like it ends at track 9, before Yawn of a Blink begins as almost a little bonus. A few more thoughts; The Hollowed reminds me of Storm Corrosion at the start, and is also my favourite track. Down the Hours just rocks! Chronos has something going on around 6:30 or so and I don't really know what that is but I love it, perhaps those are bells in a somewhat metal context? The notes mention Adrian Belew on vocals in the Atman Apocalypse, but careful inspection shows he is only the incredibly distorted spoken word behind "Have you changed your Mayan calendar lately". I can't write enough, this album comes recommended to everyone, this is can't-miss stuff.

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 We Are Legend by MAGENTA album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.77 | 13 ratings

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We Are Legend
Magenta Neo-Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is easily Magenta's best album for a progressive rock fan, and right up there with Seven as a great starting place for their catalog of music. With three mammoth tracks, that alone should have most of us excited. Well, Magenta delivers an excellent performance on all fronts. Superb musicianship support these excellent compositions, along with sound samples and some well placed guitar solos with a Floydian vibe. It is clear that they put polish into these tracks. Christina Booth has an addictive quality to her vocal performance. She always draws me in on every album, and We Are Legend is no different. From the perfect pitch, to the exceptional phrasing, I always love the way she sings. The 26 minute Trojan starts things off, and I have no complaints with Colours or Legend. It is a must have album for a Progressive Rock fan. 4.5 stars.

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 Somewhere In Time by IRON MAIDEN album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.96 | 572 ratings

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Somewhere In Time
Iron Maiden Prog Related

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Guys, I've got a confession to make.

I don't like Iron Maiden.

I know this statement is akin to dousing a puppy in kerosene and overhand lobbing it into a raging bonfire, but it's true. I've tried my very hardest for almost four years now to enjoy them, to see the awe-inspiring craftsmanship everyone proclaims is prevalent on so many of their classic records...but I just can't. Not only do I think both drummers on Iron Maiden, Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain, plod out some of the most boring and repetitive rhythms of all time, but the songwriting of so much of their work may have worked wonders back in 1980, but like a joke it got extremely old extremely fast with each successive release following their self-titled debut. I think the revolutionary label slapped to Iron Maiden is quite reputable, but at the same time the asserted quality to match that is repudiable.

But, and I do mean a HUGE but -- Iron Maiden's 1986 work Somewhere In Time is one of my all-time favorite metal albums. Period. Strange, right? A band I dislike making one of my favorite albums? It's true though -- I think that Somewhere In Time is a precision-made, calculated masterpiece that distances itself so far from the band's discography that it might well be from a separate artist.

Somewhere In Time is a dystopian-based, Blade Runner-inspired record that came two years after 1984's Powerslave, an album that showed a lot of promise and had a few great tracks, but didn't nearly harness the same effect as it's successor. The Powerslave supporting tour ate up a whopping 187 concerts and excreted a whole lot of exhaustion onto the band following it, specifically Dickinson, who thus was not able to produce quality songwriting contributions. Dickinson had written some acoustic songs, in fear that if they didn't step up their game to a different level, that the band would "stagnate and drift away" (see even the band recognizes their sameness to a certain degree). Although these acoustic songs were not featured, this attitude continued into the eventual recording process, causing Somewhere In Time to be the first Iron Maiden album to harness synthesizers. While this might seem like a big no-no, considering that often it's the case that once a band starts leaning on the synths it's akin to them just committing creative suicide, but it's quite the contrary; Somewhere In Time's utilization of synthesizers gives a wondrous air of mysticism to the album, as it acts as a supreme background element to the its futuristic setting. It's also a key component in the massive epics that permeate the album. The title track opener, for instance, is a blazing fireball of a gallop that is one of the most prime examples of a perfect setting of the mood on any album, unheeded by the furious scream of synthesizer bursts. 'Wasted Years' is one of three contributions by guitarist Adrian Smith, and is the most lasting relic of this album's legacy. It does have a slightly poppier vibe, which may owe to this fact, but Dickinson's beautiful chorus and the magnificent guitar hook is nothing short of a knockout punch. One more highly recommended track is 'Stranger in a Strange Land', a bass-heavy, groovy romp which acts, in a way, as a better track representative of the theme of being "caught somewhere in time" than, well 'Caught Somewhere In Time'. Perhaps this is because of the lyricism of being in a mysterious world in which the rules are unknown, which I believe the album was trying to tackle. 'Caught' is still the best track, though. Not taking that back.

The band took their biggest step forward with this album, talentwise. McBrain, who I criticized previously for being extremely repetitive and leaning too hard on a a few stagnant drum patterns, is absolutely mindblowing on this release. His constant shifts between the groovy steel heel-click of the slower songs and the fast-paced explosiveness of the faster ones makes for one of his all-time best work. Steve Harris as always is extremely present and upfront, especially for a bassist. The neat thing about him is that, as a part of the percussion section, actually works off of McBrain to create this almost machine-like twang that follows his groove. Twin guitarists Smith and Murray are of course better than ever, offering extremely intricately-woven shredding that did well to pique my interest. Dickinson, although I'll always prefer Di'Anno, is at his zenith on Somewhere In Time, belting out a sort of sophisticated type of melodic yell that few of his peers have been able to accomplish. Absolutely stunning, all of them.

Many critics readily dismiss Somewhere in Time as being "half-baked", or "a hurried coverup of an atrophying creative muscle". These same critics will turn around and praise Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, an album I believe to be leagues below this one, and compliment it for factors they would say that Somewhere in Time wrongfully utilized. I say, pay no attention to them and embrace this one just like you would say Number of the Beast or Powerslave, because it's definitely up there with the best.

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 A Show Beyond Man And Time by RPWL album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.62 | 32 ratings

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A Show Beyond Man And Time
RPWL Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars This DVD was filmed with that same Metal Minds Productions team that have produced many projects oh that genre in the past and continue to do so at low cost for the artists. The show is 90 minutes of the complete concept album " Man Beyond Man and Time". This album was not intended to be a concept album at first but became one when musical ideas were popping out. This concept is based on the story of the responsibility of the man through different characters like the scientist, the fisherman and the blind. The band decided the only way to keep the audience close do that story was to create a dynamic visual experience with Yogi Lang costumes, projections, and big screens. The musicians were hiding behind those screens creating some Chinese shadows. As for the music, the live versions of that album was a real success and gives me the impression that the album was better than I could remember. For those who don't know how the band sound, the Pink Floyd influence is huge with more edgy guitars tones and a little Ozric Tentacles influence in the first part of the show. For the first time, Metal Mind has done a discrete surround sound where you can hear a lot of keys sound in the back to complete the visual experience and make it a nice addition to your collection.

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 Le Livre Blanc by LOUVETON, JEAN-PIERRE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.39 | 13 ratings

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Le Livre Blanc
Jean-Pierre Louveton Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars One of the finest French prog groups has decided to go on an extended sabbatical, leaving on a very high note with the release of the spectacular 'Coma' in 2015, a work that garnered seemingly universal praise from a wide swath of prog fans that span all genres. Yes, Nemo is gone, so I guess Coma is aptly titled, still plugged into a recharge battery system and perhaps they will return soon refreshed and exciting. Guitarist and guiding light Jean Pierre Louveton (JPL) always had a parallel solo career that began back in 2002 , so it's with a certain amount of trepidation that ' le Livre Blanc' is released in 2017, surely a manner of keeping the muse fed and content. Two of his Nemo band mates, Guillaume Fontaine on piano and drummer Jean-Baptiste Itier help round out the guest list, together with drummer Ludovic Moro, bassist Sebastien Delestienne and vocalists Steph Honde and Lazuli's Dominique Leonetti. Truth is Louveton handles most of the instrumentation, namely all the guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, programming and percussion. He is a tremendous player both in the acoustic and electric realm, carving out quite a reputation, in the course of his Nemo and solo career. The cover art is outstanding, medieval stained glass windows, 'ogive' arches, heroic figurines that hint at famed chevaliers Bayard and du Guesclin and a sense of mystery and passion that begs discovery.

'Un Livre Ouvert' (Open Book) raises the velvety curtains with rustic acoustic guitar that only serves to set into motion the countrified lick (I swore I heard 'Sweet Home Alabama' for a sec) that motors the track, as JP's hushed voice navigates page to page, recounting a story of one's unending skepticism about life and the sinewy road towards some kind of salvation. The heavily treated guitar takes some sensational directions, egged on by loopy synth maneuvres, pleading, urging and begging for some kind of resolution. Itier mans the drums perfectly, as he always does, constantly innovative and detail oriented.

The brooding 'L'Hermite' is definitely a high point, a 9 minute romp that swerves from soft to hard and then back again, layered with massive melancholic riffs, Fontaine's lavish piano and a solid rhythmic foundation, on which the tortured guitar leads flutter and caress, the lonely orphaned voice poignant and afraid. A world class track that deserves to heard over and over again, in fact becoming more enjoyable with each pass. The contrasts are stunningly effective and induce a profound sense of beyond.

Change of pace on a delirious track like the rocky 'Joker', where the guitars become crunchy and tainted with old school absurd, a cocktail of pervading riffs and slick electric licks that keep the pressure on. The wild bluesy English vocals from Steph Honde are clearly different in tone and style from JP's usual and distinctive delivery. Pushed along by Moro's pulsating beat, this is quite the departure and a welcome one at that! Hot, tectonic, spewing and erupting, the exuberance is manifest and clearly there for sheer enjoyment. Buoyed by an insistent bass motif, 'Trompe la Mort' is a more unperturbed piece, a somber ballad scorched by a troubled vocal, a smooth atmosphere that soothes the frazzled soul, fooling death once again, duping fate as it's dealt by the master of destiny. Groovy acoustic guitar work underscores the delicacy of the music and a persistent chorus that sears the memory banks, I could hum this forever! Tropical percussion gives this a glowing midnight sun feel that is simply delicious.

Bombast returns with 'L'Etoile du Nord', the lyrics are devastating in despair, a cry out for the guidance of the Northern Star, a personal beacon of light that can show the way once again, out of the darkness and into a better future. Musically resolute and persevering, the howling background choir expanding the symphonics with gusto, the powerful piece unites soft acoustic fragility with a strong melancholic rage, solitude hurting as the axe rages, undeterred. A song about love, faith and courage. A lighthouse in the middle of a vast and arid desert. Fantastic. A perfect segue is the mournful 'Convol'ances', the next step in the healing process, where memory and guilt hold hands and a breath-taking vocal is paralleled by a sublime guitar melody, peeling off to sizzle in evident agony and a binary drum syncopation that portrays loss and dysfunction. Louveton takes his frenzied and pained guitar out of the dark tunnel and into the light, slowly ascending, determined yet deeply wounded, perhaps forever more.

Manic and propulsive assault and battery is next with the monstrous 'La Peste et le Cholera' , two devastating epidemics that once ravaged Middle Ages Europe set to musical form, channeled by diseased guitars, feverish drum beats and bone breaking drum salvos. This is where JP gets to unleash a blizzard of notes, torturing, molding, cracking and bleeding all over the fret board, proving what a master axeman he is. A second section with spoken English words from none other than Ravi Shankar sets the pressure down to tolerable levels, letting a delightful bass solo to bloom from guest Delestienne , a weak-kneed moment for your truly!

History is never far away in the French psyche, 'Jehanne' seems to be dedicated or inspired by one of France's perennial heroes, namely Joan of Arc, the virgin of Orleans who fought off , albeit temporarily, both The English invaders as well the corrupt French church. She placed an inept and weak French king on the throne only to die, burnt at the stake in Rouen. This is where prog can really shine, recounting vivid historical events and coating them with contemporary armor, bringing back to life both legend and spirit, perhaps the greatest victims of today's society that has stopped dreaming. Ten minutes plus of athletic music gloriously presented, heroic in delivery, bold in action and stunning in emotion. The thrashing guitars emote on a multitude of levels, insistent and desperate, conveying the well-recorded drama that still fills history books.

The instrumental finale 'Le Livre Blanc' (the White Book) puts this exhilarating work to bed, while keeping the comatose Nemo alive, with a magnificent symphonic exercise, a perfect platform for Louveton' s dazzling guitar skills, which he is thankfully immodest to display. The flexible notes, the scouring leads, the clanging riffs, a fine bass undertow that keeps the lien straight and narrow, this is pure progressive heaven. Thank you Kev Rowland for inspiring me to hunt this down real fast, I follow your advice. You guys now follow mine, now. Sort of a prog version of 'Pay it Forward'.

5 White Books

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