Karibow – Holophinium

holophiniumOnce upon a time, in Germany, Oliver Rüsing formed a one person musical project and called in Karibow. Over time, the project became his full time occupation, recording material with a total worth of 17 albums. As a multi-instrumentalist (but originally a drummer), he composed, played and recorded everything himself, with an occasional guest musician showing up here and there.

As I wrote last year in my review for the album Addicted, winning two prizes in Germany and getting the encouragement of his wife, he set up a live band for Karibow. As I witnessed their very first gig late last year, at the Blue Notez Club in Dortmund, only about 35 people, mostly invited guests were present. On a recent German tour with UK companions Saga, following the 2016 album release Holophinium, these 35 guests were succeeded with as much as 1200 paying visitors during a Munich gig. An overjoyed Oliver told me that they were even singing along to the previously released ‘single’ Victim of Light. [acfw id=2]

So what happened here? Easy: Oliver Rüsing composed 97 minutes of solid rock music, released on a double CD set. Music that moves him at big step forward from the AOR oriented Addicted, toward a more progressive rock approach. The AOR side of the music is still present on Holphinium, but the more complex and progressive line of F8 Al Ba6 and the emotional 9/16 continued on this this album. The overall sound is perhaps best described as a mix of IQ, Saga, Pendragon with a dash of Marillion. Here and there I even spotted a pinch of Iron Maiden to add even more spice.

Holophinium consists of music that contains many layers, and each listen brings something new to the ear. One time it’s the keyboard, the next a bass run or a drum pattern – and there are many of the latter! Due to this, the tracks are varied, yet similar enough to make it possible to recgonise it is all Karibow. The title track sets the stage for the rest of the album when it comes to that: synth and keyboard driven vocal parts, almost symphonic, are interleaved with heavier, metal influenced instrumentals and changing drum patterns. My favourite track of the album E.G.O. brings even more of that. Almost a prog rock epic, lyrically dealing with the cause and downside of egocentricity, and the need to reach out and love others than yourself as well. Oliver Rüsing brought in two external vocalists on this album (Michael Sadler on Rivers and Karsten Stiers on Orbital Spirits), but using his own low, 80s influenced voice on this one was the best choice.

Next to these I was most happy with the have-the-audience-sing-along-but-not-a-pop-rock-track Victims of Light, the beautiful River, and Quantum Leap, which has a hypnotic drum pattern and great keyboard work by Sean Timms of Unitopia and Southern Empire.

All of these, and more, are on the more than enjoyable first CD of the set, called Fragments. The second CD contains what is advertised as a single, 36 minute track, consisting of 7 parts: Letter from the White Room. The lyrics (or part of them) form a letter, written from the perspective of an astronaut in the white room, the room from which they enter a space craft before launch. This 36 minute piece could have been an album in itself, and is even more layered and complicated in structure than the first CD. Moon starts as an almost vocal only introduction, followed by Walk on Water with an Iron Maiden like guitar riff, and then the ‘suite’ builds up in heaviness throughout the 4 parts – with beautiful interplay between all instruments – until it drops back to a slow, question endon Plutionian.

So, this is the perfect album then? No. I’m not going to let Karibow get away with this – if only because even though Oliver has been on it for almost 20 years, Karibow have only just begun. There are small flaws, and I would love to see them do an album as a band, not having everything done by Oliver himself. So, putting on a little bit of pressure here. But apart from a few small things, the only real issue I have with the album is it’s length. I started playing it as two separate CDs, because 97 minutes really is a long time to listen to one album. Given that Letter from the White Room is almost an album by itself, it’s not a big deal though – we got two album for the price of one. Now let’s have Karibow enjoy life on stage, and with a bit of luck we’ll get another album from them in 2017 or 2018. Definitely highly recommended!

Crescent Moon – The Lidless Room

Twenty years ago, I could not have imagined having made as many friends through Facebook and other social media as I did in the past 18 months. By posting album reviews, and 9 months ago adding an internet radio show as well. It put me in contact with people that like the same music, share the same dreams and to some extend have the same fears. Fears that include losing our freedom and privacy to the net, while being (un)consciously aware of the fact that it is us, ourselves, giving up these things by being active on the net. Crescent Moon - The Lidless Room (Album)

Exactly those fears, and Kafka’s book For dem Gesetz (Before the Law) are what inspired four members of a single family into creating an album called The Lidless Room, and release it under the name Crescent Moon. Brother’s Frank and Eric Peters, and Frank’s 15 year old twin sons Bas and Tim managed to come up with a great concept album around this theme. [acfw id=2]

The album tells the story of a man, sitting before a guarded gate, who cannot pass
until the moment he gets rid of his VR glasses and smart phone. His mental road from arriving there until realising that is captured in music that sometimes resembles that of 70’s Pink Floyd (Roger Waters certainly was an influence), but is by no means a copy of that. Especially the vocals on Obsolete Man remind me of Eclipse, from Dark Side of the Moon).
With outstanding tracks like Aphids and Ants (melody written by Bas at age 13), The Lidless Room itself and the closing instrumental Through the Gate, the foursome proves to be more than average musical family.
The music is atmospheric, with the keyboards often carrying the rest of the band through the instrumentals.

To add to their credits, the band has taken a very professional approach to creating this album. They built their own studio at home, played, mixed and produced everything themselves, and have a great eye for detail. Proof of the latter: One part of the story tells about the man sitting in front of the gate remembering playing his first LP. Sure enough, the back cover of the CD nicely divides the 11 tracks over Side 1 and Side 2 in reference to that.

Happy to know these musicians, by their music and their regular attendance to the chat of my radio show. But even without knowing them that well, this album deserves to be qualified as highly recommended. Crescent Moon delivers progressive rock inspired by the classics, without becoming a copy of one of the classic era bands.

Luigi Milanese – Closer to Heaven

Luigi Milanese is an Italian guitarist, who just released a new album Closer to Heaven via Black Widow records in Italy. For this album, we did something I have never done before – I reviewed it track by track while discussing it on Facebook Messenger with Luigi himself.

The opening track, Never I Did, is a very melodic, almost acoustic track, with vocals by Claudia Sanguineti. Accompanied by acoustic and electric guitar, piano (Luca Lamari) and cello (Marila Zingarelli), she sings in an enchanting, almost melancholic voice. As I wrote during our chat session ‘this could play all evening – lights low, bottle of wine, brilliant.closertoheaven

This is followed by Riot House, for which Luigi told me to ‘Turn up the volume!’. A blues rock track, which reminds somewhat of ZZ Top‘s ‘Legs‘, played by the power trio of guitar, bass and drums, and fully instrumental. A big contrast to the first track, but no worse for it. The rumbling bass of Bob Callero, the pounding drums of Frederico Lagomarsino and the speedy guitar work of Luigi combine really well.

On All the Thing I Never Said, we’re back to cello, piano and acoustic guitar, this time with Claudio only singing note without lyrics, before leaving the stage for the flute of John Hackett, who starts in a South American fashion but moves on to other things quickly. Andriano Mondini adds a nice lower end with the oboe as well.The dreamy mid section almost lulls the listener into a trance when suddenly electric guitar riffs change the mood, a nice twist into the second half of the song – with great bass work once again. [acfw id=2]

Acoustic guitar in a slightly higher tempo, in a slightly rock ballad like way opens As a Chill in the Golden Night, on which Claudia Sanguineti once again takes care of the vocals. With a slightly bluesy edge to the guitar, this could have been inspired by the acoustic tracks from the end of the 60s (think Janice Joplin transferred to 2016).

Aurora has a similar structure as All the Things I never Said, starting acoustic and ending electric, with a lead role for John Hackett’s flute once again, but it has a different sound to it. The cello has a bigger role on this one than on All the things I never Said, and the transfer to electric is less abrupt – it actually comes in quite nicely, by means of an electric piano (Luca Lamari again) and some long, slighlty distorted long guitar chords. This combination gives the track a nice jazz rock feel. I think I can understand why this is Luigi’s own favourite track on the album.

Acoustic rules is a short track that featurs as a show case for Luigi’s acoustic guitar playing abilities. Starting with a melodic part, it moves on to powerful strumming, accompanied near the end by a little bit of drums (played with bare hands by Frederico Lagomarsino).

Visions from the Well Part I starts with what sounds like the end of a symphony played by an orchestra, followed by applause of an audience, and moving on to acoustic guitar and cello. With an e-bow added to Luigi’s electric guitar this track is quite a surprise after what came before, a haunting mix of acoustic guitar and cello, painting a vision of a dream.

Internal Dynamics is a wonderful fusion track, mixing classical elements with a lead role for John Hackett’s flute and Luigi’s electric and acoustic guitar – exchanging melodies. Each instrument contributes it’s own part here though, with drums and bass being unmissable.

Visions from the Well Part 2 is proof that Luigi Milanese studied music. Cello, guitar, piano and bass all play their own melodies, but it all fits together like magic, pity it only lasts for 95 seconds.

Epilogue, which closes the album, once again features acoustic guitar, accompanied by flute and keys to lay down how Luigi feels about music. Less than one and a half minute long, but a fitting end.

This is an album that is impossible to pigeon hole – it’s not rock, not jazz, not fusion, not psychedelic, but it has elements of all. If you are looking for something that is somewhat unpredictable, without becoming overly experimental – or just a nice piece of music crafted with love, this one is definitel recommended.

Messenger – Threnodies

When Messenger appeared on the musical stage in 2012, they claimed to be influenced mainly by folk rock and progressive psychedelia. I haven’t heard their first album, released in 2014, which seemed to live up to that statement. However, their 2016 release Threnodies does the same, adding what could be best described as metal influences here and there.

The album, entitled Threnodies (payers for the dead), was written and recorded at the end of 2015, and the title and music were partly inspired by the Paris shootings, during the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan.


The first track, Calyx is an instant claim to attention. The slow, atmospheric first half changes it’s rhythm a few times almost unnoticeably. It makes the listener at ease, with the soothing combined vocals of Khaled Low and Barnaby Madock, when suddenly a synth and a rolling drum and bass pattern come in, quickly joined by guitar and keyboards to create a musical storm – waking us up to what is yet to come.

On Oracles of War this continues, a track that starts with a dark guitar and then speeds up rapidly in a way that is influenced by Black Sabbath, according to the press release that came with my promo copy, but it could just as easily be influenced by early Deep Purple. The track slows down, back into the psychedelic, early 70s Pink Floyd realm half way, making it into a very enjoyable and varied piece of music. The slow, melodic guitar solo near the end proofs that point perfectly. [acfw id=2]

The band proofs itself further on the rest of the album. Balearic Blue reminds me of Pink Floyd again, but with an early Porcupine Tree flavour added. On Celestial Spheres, the pulsing bass intro makes me expect someone to shout “One of these days…”, which of course doesn’t happen, although it is joined soon by a very Floydian guitar soon. The music on this one goes straight into the psychedelic region again, with the two vocalists working tighter again very nicely. Somehow, the way they cooperate reminds me of IZZ, another great band I discovered only recently and far too late. Halfway, a bit of grinding bass adds darkness underneath the clean guitars introducing a nice twist into a slightly heavier sound.

Nocturne lives up to its name, with a pulsing bass and guitar and slightly haunting vocal harmonies. The guitar solo on this one works really well, giving a slight folky feel without loosing the dark edge of the music.

On Pareidolia, the band takes us to the early 70s hard rock sound again, with the first half alternating between this and a more friendly, almost folky sound. The second half of the track is a more psychedelic sound scape again, almost as an intro to the soft, melodic – almost bluesy Crown of Ashes. It has a slight folk ring to it as well, but is more powerful than the works of Aïnulindalë, whose album I reviewed last month.

This band had not appeared on my radar until the promo of this one landed in my digital inbox, but I’m definitely going to check out their debut album as well after hearing this. Warmly recommended.