Memories of August

The waters of life may be shallow

Or as the wide green sea, so deep

As I tried to swim in both, the difference

I know. It makes me want to keep

The things found in the ocean,

Hidden, brought to light

The water salt. But sweet

The memories of August

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Achala

When life is full of darkness and the sun is hard to find

the stars become invisible, your dreams pitch black at night.

Buried in this darkness, with tears that cloud your eyes,

it’s hard to see a future and the ones who reach their hand.

Yet even without seeing, can the helping hands be felt,

the spirits make you suffer, but always with a cause.

From darkness stretch your arms, and you will find support,

a heart to help you find the bright blue sky again.

Let the slayer of illusions kill your nightmares

And the angel be your dawn…

achala

Reviews

It’s been a while since I posted reviews regularly. I find it hard to find the time to write – not so much time to listen. So, I’m going to experiment with a new approach. The remaining albums to review this year will be done in the style of 100 word reviews. If that works, I might extend it to 150 max, but 100 seems nice. Next one up shortly!!!

100words

Intertwined….

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Cloud 9

One entered

Two looked green

Six. traced with a finger

Twenty eight the day

Fourteen came after

None matched the softness

Of four hundred eight

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You

All the things you say

Reach straight into my heart

I feel you deep inside

All through day and night

Never will I now forget

Not till the end of time

All that you mean to meforever

Aisles, Profuna Ocean and Little Eye at Extase, Tilburg 27-10-2016

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Last Thursday I finally got a chance to see my friends from Chilean band Aisles perform live. It was their first European tour, and the crowd was small, but they didn’t worry about that – the band played as if they had never done anything else in their lives. The energy, skill and enthousiasm were a wonderful experience.

Their support acts Little Eye (more rock than prog, but a very good live act with a great and expressive vocalist) and Profuna Ocean (prog/prog metal, with wonderful bass work) added to the atmosphere and warmed up the small audience quite well. Although I must add it’s always a pity if people coming to a gig as friends of a support act don’t have the decency to also stay around for the main act. Slightly disrespectful, but let’s not blame bands for the behaviour of their fans.

Below, a set of nice pictures I took at the gig.

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Inspiration #1: A haiku

Your apples bright green
two-peaches
Pink your autumn peaches;
Take me through winter

Nth Ascension – In Fine Initium

About a year ago I was introduced to the magical world of Clanaan, where the chords needed to create music are lost. And they’ve been lost for a while – I think at least two years by now….  Luckily, I know where they are. The missing rider is a man called Darrel Treece-Birch, and he’s using the chords to create beautiful music on any keyboard he can find, together with his friends Alan ‘Spud’ Taylor (vocals), Craig Walker (drums), Gavin Walker (bass) and Martin Walker (guitar). Come to think of it, looking at the names, maybe the next album should be titled The Rider, the Bard and the three Walkers…ifi-new-album-poster

Where The Ascension of Kings was certainly to my liking, I recall challenging the band into taking it another step up on the next one. Time to find out if they did.[acfw id=2]

The opening track Kingdom Keys already shows that if they haven’t picked up that challenge, at least they tried – and succeeded. The track starts rather loud, with big drums, but builds up into a more theatrical piece, with emotional vocals over layers of keyboards – to end in a wonderful, almost bluesy, classic rock guitar lead. And yes, Spud’s voice may be an acquired taste, but I like it more every time. It stands out among other vocalists, as in not being cliché, and he manages to put a lot of emotion into his singing.

He can also do other things – even if he doesn’t have the range of Bruce Dickinson, it’s mainly due to the vocals, and Darrel’s keys that I get reflections of late 80’s Iron Maiden (Alexander the Great, anyone?) on End of Days. It’s not metal, and far more keyboard oriented than, but I do get that image for some reason. The mix of piano and guitar halfway, and the bass in a quiet part add to the score.

Like Vision on the previous album, The Cage seems to tell a story – about war, but also in a way about how our leaders treat their people I think. With a driving drum and bass pattern underneath one of Darrel’s keyboard walls the track has a certain momentum, only interrupted by a slow bass, keyboard and spoken vocals half way, and a dramatic ending. And ending that lyrically makes me think of how we are currently selecting our ‘leaders’, and the way that gets criticised and opposed more and more. Hopeful, yet dramatic:

The World has changed forever, nothing will ever be the same
As the trumpets sound across the earth to warn and to proclaim
Confetti propaganda, falls like autumn dying leaves
And the rhetoric you all believed in the dirt now disappears

And did I skip over So, That was the Apocalypse here? Yes, but only because I was focusing on the tracks that match each other so well on this album. This track stands out among them, because it is completely different. On a radio show chat, it was discussed whether it could be an ode to John Lord. Lots of keys and organ, a biting guitar and a bass that propels everything forward – if not an ode to John, then to his band Deep Purple.

At the end of the album we find the next three pieces of Clanaan, a story that started on the previous album, and that continues here. On In Search for the Rider, the keys (a lot of it piano) lead the way for Spud’s vocal, over a slow, tight rhythm section. Some short melodic patterns, often hardly a second long recur in a recognisable way in between the intricate layers of the keys and guitar, providing a nice coherence to the track. That idea continues in a lesser extend in the instrumental Forever, before the the slow, sad When the Rain Falls leaves the listener longing for the continuation of the story on the next album.

So, is it perfect? No, because nothing is, but Nth Ascension got yet again a bit closer. This music is complex, melodic, emotional and definitely a nice mix of classic rock and symphonic. The Dutch talk about symphonic rock when keyboards rule, avoiding (useless, to my mind) discussions about whether or not it’s prog, and Nth Ascension fits that term very well. Highly recommended.

 

Fractal Mirror – Slow Burn 1

I am not sure whether it was the dark mood of this album, or the amount of work on my plate (“There’s too much on your plate”, Leo Koperdraat sings on the track Miracle as I write this), but it took me almost 6 months and countless listens to get around to reviewing this album. Does that mean it’s a bad album? On the contrary, this is a set of 11 thought out tracks, in the style that we know from Fractal Mirror’s previous album Garden of Ghostsscreen-shot-2016-10-07-at-23-10-07

However, compared to the previous album, there are quite a few differences.  Partly because of the lyrics, which deal with the way technology is disrupting our lives – from the internet and smartphones all the way to our large telescopes that makes us learn about the universe. The deep, slow voice of Leo Koperdraat, which has not lost any of it’s Steve Kilby likeness, tells what this all does to our minds and our lives, accompanied by his guitar and the ever so well executed drumming of Frank Urbaniak and Ed van Haagen’s deep bass and floating keyboard work – and a nice list of guest musicians, including bass players Leopold Blu-Sky and Kenny Bisset Sr, and guitarits/producer Brett Kull (Echolyn).[acfw id=2]

Playing this album during my evening walks in the dark makes me change moods frequently, in line with the music. From melancholy (Miracle, Embers) to wonder (V838), via sadness (Fading, Embers – where Leo sings “We slowly burn…”) back to melancholy on Universal. What makes me happy underneath is the skill with which the compositions are formed. The mix of rock, indie and progressive rock the band claims to create does work well with the lyrics, and the eminent darkness of the lyrics is complemented by wonderful, fitting melodies.

The band has been worrying, also in public, about the low sales, and I can see why – this is not the most complex album to get into musically, but the moodiness may keep people away from it. A shame really, because after these 6 months this is an album I’d like to recommend, for an evening of contemplation every once in a while.