The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light Inner Darkness

Aaron Clift is the central figure to The Aaron Clift Experiment, being the vocalist, keyboardist and main composer of the band’s music. Together with Eric Gutierrez (guitar), Devin North (bass) and Joe Resnick (drums) he’s been active since 2012 to make this project work.

As their main influences, the band claim acts like Genesis,Dream Theater and King’s X, but also classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach and jazz legend John Coltrane.aaronclift

On this album the opening track Kissed by Death and Aoide, Goddess of Song stand out, while The Last Oasis is my favourite.

Kissed by Death is a varied piece, starting with an ear catching guitar riff followed by great keyboard work. A real violin adds a nice touch. A touch that will come back in other tracks as well, since five string players were added as guests to the line up for this album. The bass solo half ways is a very nice surprise, Devin North knows how to wield his axe (my apologies for that old cliche). [acfw id=2]

Aoide, Goddes of Song opens with a piano piece that hints at something bigger following, and certainly develops into that, with interchanging lead roles for the guitar and keyboards. The Last Oasis, as said my favourite, is of slightly different nature, starting with only a string quartet. When the rest of the instruments join in, the band sort of delivers a symphony for string quartet, piano and rock band.

These three tracks, together with the slightly too long Moonscape and the string quartet and band piece Bathed in Moonlight make this album worth listening, and probably buying as well.

The downside here are three other tracks.  Locked, Fragments of Sleep and to lesser extend Your Arms Hold Them To The Dark are leaning too much to the AOR side for me, and lack the nice compositional details of the tracks highlighted above. These are track two, three and four and if Your Arms… hadn’t shown a classical influence and a haunting opening melody to catch my attention, I would have given up on the album too soon. Now skipping over the tracks that I enjoy less make it a worthwhile expeirence. Recommended, but there’s room for future improvement for this band.

Aïnulindalë – Nevrast

Sometimes a band surprises you, and an album even more, by proving that is has to grow on you. The first time I played Aïnulindalë’s Nevrast, I was not sure what to do with it. It was on my review list, but I don’t like posting a review if I am not fully behind it. With that, I postponed the review for a while, and played the record whenever I thought of it. The last week before writing this review, it’s gotten more playtime than before, because I felt I could not postpone it any longer. And that proved to be worthwhile. [acfw id=2]

nevrastThis is not the average folk album, nor is it a real prog or rock album, but what Aïnulindalë presents is everything but bad. Mainly driven by acoustic guitar, the album contains 8 tracks inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The writer, who’s work have been done a slight injustice by the overly pompous 6 movies created based on his masterpieces The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has certainly inspired a soundtrack here. Centred around the acoustic guitar of Thomas Reybard, the band plays folk from Middle Earth. Sometimes slow and mesmerising, sometimes building sad, and always melodic. The guitar paves the way, often accompanied by an acoustic bass, for soft, sometimes almost spoken vocals by Reybard, and his vocal companion Alice Jean. When the voices are absent, (real!) strings, trombone and percussion fill in the atmosphere. Especially The Parting, Namarië and the title track have an almost cinematic sound to them – close your eyes and see the world of Tolkien appear in front of you.

The closing track Distant Land led one friend to remark that ‘this is Camel, with acoustic guitars added’. I think the band can take that as a compliment.

This is an album not for those who seek guitar driven rock or walls of keyboard, but those in search of a soundtrack to their fairy tale and traveling fantasies will find this worthwhile.

The 5.1 DVD is a nice bonus, but since I don’t have a 5.1 system, I can’t say more about it.

Unified Past – Shifting the Equilibrium

On the day that guitarist and keyboardist Stephen Speelman asked us whether it is true he looked like Yanni in the 90’s, it’s time for me to fill ina promise: the promise to review the latest album of his band  Unified Past. The band I had heard about long ago, but I never really listened to their music until this album came out. Mainly due to the fact that they are classified as progressive metal, and I’ve not been interested in metal for a number of years. That changes every couple of years, and so also now.

Unified Past - Shifting the Equilibrium - cover-art by Ed Unitsky

Unified Past – Shifting the Equilibrium – cover-art by Ed Unitsky

On this album, Speelman is accompanied by bass player Dave Mickelson, who’s rattling strings might have been a bit more up front in the mix, drummer Victor Tassone  and vocalist Phil Naro. The latter two I also know from projects like Andy John Bradford’s Ocean’s 5 and Corvus Stone, which are musically quite different from Unified Past.[acfw id=2]

The music of Unified Past certainly isn’t the kind of sky rocketing freak metal as we find for example on the albums of bands like Dream Theater in the last 10-15 years. Instead it’s more a mix of 90’s and 00’s metal, with the keyboards and guitar tunes playing an important role – making it all quite nicely bombastic at times.

Instrumentally, the band is as capable as vocal chameleon Phil Naro is on vocals (check his other projects and random Youtube videos to see what I mean), and as tight as 1980s hardrock skinnies. I haven’t tried to count, but I doubt there is a lot of 4/4 beat going on on this album, tempos change every time, and it’s hard to spot mistakes.

My favourite track is impossible to identify, every track on the album has its own strengths. I love the keyboards on Smile, despite not being a big keyboard fan, and the vocals on Edged In Stone give me goose bumps. Peace Remains in this World could’ve been a hard rock classic from the 80s yet doesn’t sound dated at all, and Deviation from a Theme is a wonderfully built up instrumental – this time not going from small to big, but rather the other way round – with a shiver inducing guitar solo near the end.

The only issue I may have with the album is that the sound is quite dense, a little more dynamics would’ve been nice – even if this is classified as metal (the dynamic range meter gave a level of 6 as explanation)

Definitely recommended – and rock enough to also appeal to those who are not into full on metal.

My radio show got a special mention in a Murky Red review…

My radio show Angelo’s Rock Orphanage got a special mention in a Murky Red review by Memowakeman on

“I first knew about Murky Red thanks to Colin Tench, a wonderful man who I’ve been in contact with for some time, who talked me about this Belgian band and project in which he is also involved. Later, listening to Angelo’s (our PA’s Angelo) radio show I listened for the first time to a Murky Red’s song, and later in the chat, I met Stef and Yolanda flaming, both musicians who are part of this band and who kindly shared to me their music. Now with this brief introduction, I would like to dedicate the review to these four great people.” ~ Memowakeman (Guillermo), Progarchives Special Collaborator