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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Points North - Points North

Whether it’s a band or an artist that would sparkle a little light in my ears, I know it’s going to be an adventure for me. And one of the bands that have the sounds of the sparkle is Points North. The band have a huge following in the West Coast area in California for opening bands such as UFO, The Aristocrats, Michael Schenker, The Winery Dogs, and Al Di Meola to name a few.

With a melodic and instrumental rock rhythm to their sound, Points North have taken me by surprise. The band considers guitarist Eric Barnett who was a finalist in the Superstar competition in 2008’s Guitar Player magazine, Uriah Duffy on Bass from Whitesnake, and Kevin Aiello on drums. They have a dosage of Prog, Jazz Fusion, and Hard Rock rolling into one giant milkshake to enjoy serving.

This is their follow up to their 2012 debut, Road Less Traveled, and this is their sole self-titled second album released this year on Magna Carta Records. This is also my introduction to the band’s music. And from the moment I put the album on from start to finish, I knew right away Points North have just blew the door down with a cannonball at the right moment with an opening track just hits you with a blistering introduction for the ride of your lifetime for Ignition.

With intense riffs, drumming, and thundering bass line, the band are driving down the highway with a harder vibration. And it also resembles the elements between Rush’s Moving Pictures-era and The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame through different time changes by going from fast to mellow mid-tempo rhythms that have unexpectedly make it a staggering opener to kick things off with a big bang.

Uriah comes in center stage as he takes his Bass into higher levels with the rising and ascending beats towards the Northstar. His Bass playing is a journey into the world of music as he goes through the sounds of Geddy Lee and Stanley Clarke while Colorblind introduces vocals for the first time, pays homage to the British Steel-era of Judas Priest that shows that the trio can knock it out with a homerun anthem.

The 7-minute epic Turning Point (La Villa De Villers) shows Points North going into a driven and erupt sound that go back into the realms of Rush’s glory days in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. It feels almost as if the trio could have recorded this during the Hemispheres sessions. There are touches of Prog, Hard, and Melodic Rock thrown into the passages and the midsection shows a relaxing side on the highway before kicking back into the fast mileage for a finale on the last few minutes.

On both Foxes & Cougars and the roaring closer, Killer Pounder, it’s a trip back in time of the ‘70s hard rock sounds that makes you crank up the radio to a maximum level. With a blues-rock and Zeppelin-sque touch on the two pieces, I could imagine the trio are having a great time with this song filled with guitars cranking it up through the rhythm and riffs, drums going into different areas and unexpected bass lines, that will have jaws dropping at the exact moment.

This is my fourth time listening to their second album. I was blown away the moment I put it on and was on the edge of my seat and Uriah, Eric, and Kevin have done an excellent job creating the dynamics in their instruments. And astoundingly, they are the real thing to explore into their music and get ready for an undertaking voyage with Points North.

Here is a video of the band performing one of their pieces, Ignition from the album.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ut Gret - Ancestors' Tale

I’ve been a champion of labels such as Cuneiform, MoonJune, and Esoteric to name a few. And there’s one label that has been around for ten years and that is the AltrOck label which is founded by Marcello Marinone and Francesco Zago. I first became aware of the label when I was watching the documentary of Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt’s second documentary of the Romantic Warriors documentary covering the Rock in Opposition movement (RIO) and I knew I became hooked into the label right from the start in 2013.

And one of the bands that have taken me by surprise this year along with La Coscienza Di Zeno, Alco Frisbass, Not a Good Sign, and Yugen to name a few is a group from Louisville, Kentucky named Ut Gret. They are band that have been around since the ‘80s and they have this strange combination of Free Jazz, Rock in Opposition, and Medieval music rolled into one giant hot and spicy burrito and two milkshakes to enjoy for lunch.

This is the band’s fourth album and despite the various line-up changes, it considers; Jackie Royce on Bassoon, Contra-Basoon, and Flute, Stevie Roberts on Keyboards, Samplers, Marimba, and Vibraphones, Gary Pahler on Drums and Percussion, Steve Good on Clarinet and Bass Clarinet, and Joee Conroy on Guitar, Chapman Stick, Fretless Bass, Acoustic 12-String, and Electronics. And not to mention Cheyenne Mize on Vocals and Violin, Sydney Simpson on Double Bass, and Gregory Acker on Sax, Flute, Percussion, and Didgeridoo.

There are 10 compositions on the album and the band really do a lot of improvisations throughout their music with difficult time changes that had the hair on the back of my neck go up. They take those elements of the three genres combined also with the Canterbury scene that makes it well checked and well done. I can hear the sounds of King Crimson, Soft Machine in which one of the tracks is a tribute to the late, great Hugh Hopper, Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica-era, Univers Zero, and of course not to mention, Gryphon and it’s perfect inspirations that makes the tracks an adventure into those wondering touches.

I also love their usage of the Mellotron in which the mysterious captures the essences on the instrumental pieces and of course the Bassoon in which Jackie Royce is channeling the sounds of UZ’s Michel Berckmans. It creates the tension for the dramatic moments to create the atmosphere and almost like a film score for Bunuel’s short films and the touches of Chamber and Prog, can be a darker and tense motion that will shivers down your spine that will see where they would go into next.

I had a great time listening to Ut Gret’s Ancestors' Tale. And I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen to. And with a couple of listens about two times, they really capture those elements have done something out of the ordinary. And with the genres of Medieval, Classical, RIO, and Jazz. So if you are ready to explore the sounds of the four touches, then look no further and enjoy the adventures of Ut Gret’s fourth album. You will not be disappointed to have a Burrito and a Milkshake to listen to.   

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Twilight Motion - The Blind Eye

Since their formation seven years ago, Twilight Motion is for me, one of the most captivating electronic bands to come out of France. With a dosage of Trip Hop and Industrial music rolled into one excellent smoothie beverage, they really brought the concept and ideas to the table and almost produce a soundtrack for the 22nd century on what is about to come next.

That and their second album released this year called The Blind Eye in which it is a follow up to their 2011 debut Dark City, Twilight Motion have released an advanced yet visionary integrity that the group have done. With all of the samples and loops filled with Bass, Drums, and the Keyboard Machines to go together into one area, you can quite expect what you will hear from the moment you listen to their second album, to be prepared for something out of the ordinary that will make your eyebrows light up!

The trio considers Etienne Rousseau on Keyboards/Machines, Julien Nourtier on Drums/Machines, and Francis Lambert on Bass/Machines. And you can quite imagine Twilight Motion writing a score for a sci-fi film that would be on the edge of your seat and the album itself is the ultimate trip worth exploring into.

With the electronic sounds going into hyper speed overdrive, twisted/ominous atmospheres, erupted yet increasing maximum power, the trio really go in a higher level showing no sign of stopping to see where the car is going to take them into which part of the pieces they will embark on next in their compositions. It can be at times chaotic and right in front of your face to have your jaws completely dropped to the floor with some unexpected moments that will make you get ready for an adventure you will never forget.

As each of the beats have different per minutes, Twilight Motion have created wonders with some brainstorming ideas and they have nailed it down. This is my fourth time listening to The Blind Eye, and it took a good while to get into. And then on the third time I listened to it, I was hooked in from the moment I listened to the album from beginning and right into the very end.

Now I have to admit, I’m not a wild Trip Hop & Industrial music fan, but this is a band that really put me on the edge of my seat almost like a roller-coaster ride filled with mind-blowing music. And while this my introduction to Twilight Motion’s music, this album as I’ve mentioned earlier in my introduction, a soundtrack to the 22nd century and very much as if they could have done a score to a dystopian sci-fi film that would have given Ridley Scott’s approval.

So if you are ready for an adventure of Electronic, Trip Hop, and Industrial music, then buckle your seatbelts for an excellent yet thrilling ride of Twilight Motion.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Burnin' Red Ivanhoe - W.W.W.

Among its followers including John Peel who produced their sole self-titled second album on his label, Dandelion Records and Julian Cope who did the Danskrocksampler compilation eleven years ago on his Head Heritage site, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe were the band that took the Jazz Rock genre into another level in their hometown of Denmark since their formation in 1967. That and their third album, W.W.W. originally released in 1971 on Dandelion Records and reissued from the good people from Esoteric Recordings this year, shows how much Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe were way ahead of their time and often overlooked in the Progressive Rock genre.

Recorded in just three days at Rosenberg Studio at Copenhagen in the fall of 1971, the album is somewhat a conceptual storyline based on a book by Sir Walter Scott who wrote a novel about on the tale of Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe who was in a relationship between two Women (Rebecca and Lady Rowena). Rebecca was more of herself and center of attention whilst Rowena was noble towards him and fitted Ivanhoe’s position.

The music itself with its dosage of Psychedelic beauty and Jazz Fusion combined into one, is spot on brilliant. 2nd Floor Croydon starts off with a mourning organ, minor guitar chords, and flute along with Ole Fick’s vocals setting the tone in which it has this reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets-era and a group called Ainigma for the first minute and ten seconds.

Before the thumping bass done by Jess Staer and Bo Thrige Andersen’s drums head into a climbing rhythm section. And then Kim Menzer’s flute solo followed by Jess and Bo along with founder Karsten Vogel’s organ, go into an amazing midsection improve and it really shows the band going into an amazing grooveing as Ole’s vocal which almost reminded me of Steve Gould from Rare Bird, his guitar helps them out into the stars and the wah-wah’s galore from Menzer.

The title track has a surreal Avant-Garde flavor to the piece almost as if they were doing a score to one of Alejandro Jordorowsky’s 1970 cult western classic, El Topo. It’s Free Jazz like no other that the band go into more of the creative free rein in their instruments, but very much Spacey and challenging as it segues into Avez Vous Kaskelainen?

This is where Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe are heading off into space for a brilliant jam going into almost a Canterbury sound resembling the sounds of Gong and bits of early Hawkwind thrown in for a journey into the outer limits. But then all of a sudden on Kaske-vous Karsemose, Karsten is playing some brilliant melodies on his Organ as he along with Bo and Ole play the riff for a couple of minutes in a different time signature. There is some ominous and sinister riffs that they do and makes you feel that you aren’t alone and the pummeling beats just sends you into an unexpected jaw-dropper.

And then, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe take a break from their instrumental compositions as they go into relaxation mode and go into a psych-jazz pop atmosphere in a mid-tempo rhythm on All About All while going into the vibration of everything on what’s been happening, isn’t a fairytale and getting out of there towards the Oblong Serenade. Karsten is going through various motions on his saxophone in a whimsical and humorous touch to it and he’s adding the color to the movements on the composition. 

The closing track, Cucumber-Porcupine, in which both Ole and Jess do an ostinato riff between each other followed by the sax solo and a vocalization of the bouncing ball to singing to the la-la’s, that makes it an excellent finale and fading off into the sunset.

The Esoteric reissue is a gem of a kind. In the booklet liner notes done by Malcolm Dome from Classic Rock Magazine and Metal Hammer, it talks about the making of the album, formation of the band, and an interview with Karsten Vogel. So if you want to explore more of the obscure gems as if you are going into search for a Treasure Island-esque search of the lost and overlooked albums of the Progressive Rock genre, this is the band worth exploring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gong - Camembert Electrique

This review is a special tribute to the late great Daevid Allen. I remember hearing Gong’s music on the Prog Archives website ten years ago and I became hooked into their sound from the Canterbury sounds and the Space Rock genre, but mixed in with Avant-Garde and Jazz Fusion rolled into one like no other. It was like something coming in from another planet and exploring into this amazing and surreal world of the Pot Head Pixies.

This year, the reissue of Camembert Electrique, which was originally released back in 1971 on the BYG Actuel label and then reissued when they were signed to Virgin Records for a cheaper price for 59p at the time they were working on their fifth album, You. Their second album was recorded for only ten days at the Strawberry Studios in which its now known as the Chateau d’Herouville from June to September of that year and it’s this combination of surrealism, ambient, bizarre, weird, and mind-boggling adventure that would later become the basis for the Radio Gnome trilogy.

From the radio transmissions frequency of the introductions of Radio Gnome and seguing into the heavy guitar/bass riff of a psych-proto-punk sounds for You Can’t Kill Me featuring Didier Malherbe’s sax and intense drum work by Pip Pyle and a psych freakout guitar solo to go along, makes the song the perfect way to start off on a journey into space.

And then on the organ-driven humoristic touch as if Daevid is giving a sermon inside a galactic church with I’ve Bin Stoned Before as the mood suddenly changes to an increase tempo that have a lullaby sound as it goes into an homage to the Rolling Stones’ 2000 Man on Mister Long Shanks: O Mother. But it’s Gilli Smyth with the spoken word and space whisper coming into the picture with the ambient/atmospheric voyages on I Am Your Fantasy.

The lyrics have a weird touch, but it fits perfectly as the music sets the tone as Gilli nails it on the vocalizations as the thumping sax wah-wah sinister intensity of Dynamite, features the driven section of the rhythm and on I Am Your Animal is Smyth pushing the envelope of the sexual fantasies and instruments creates the tension on what’s going on and they nailed it!

And You Tried So Hard reminded me of NEU and Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk-era for the first minute and fifty-three seconds and then moves into the laid-back psychedelic on what the person can choose between love, choice on what to do, being strong, and how it can be wrong. But for both Fohat Digs Holes in Space and Tropical Fish / Serene, is the band flying into the space rock improvisations, but carrying a dosage of the Canterbury touch with some Zappa-sque vibes into the mix.

I have listened to Camembert Electrique a dozen times and this is for me one of my favorite Gong albums that I would play whenever I would get into the mood of excitement and weirdness inside me. On the reissue that Charly Records have reissued this year, is in a mini LP format with the inner sleeve, original lyrics, and liner notes by Mark Paytress about the making of the album.

There is no denying where the Pot Head Pixies would later go into next as they would enter into the Flying Teapots for the trilogy is about to come next into their work.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Omrade - Edari

Hailing from Sweden, Omrade are a duo that have this interesting of a spacey trip-hop adventure between the Avant-Garde sounds of Ambient, Electronica, Post-Rock, Industrial music in which it has this captivating combination, but with an ominous and haunting atmosphere which is evidential on their debut album, Edari released on the My Kingdom Music label this year.

When I was listening to their debut album, I can hear the sounds of Ulver, Manes, and Gazpacho. And also it reminded me of something that they could have used as if they had done it as a score of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It was almost as if they music have added the bits and pieces of the puzzle on what is to come on the characters plot twist as if the series had continued on with more of the who, what, when, and why.

It has the sounds of the futuristic atmosphere and also, dystopian at the same time of what the cities have now become a disturbing scenery and Omrade’s music sets it of where the characters go into. There are moments where its powerful, calming, softer, and eruptive at the same time and not to mention the spoken word elements thrown in.

But, there are four highlights on the album that is worth taken note of. On Satellite and Narrow, which features Asphodel on the vocals, begins with a minor-like piano chords followed by which almost features the sounds of Tuvan throat singing as Asphodel comes in with her vocals that just sends shivers down my spine on the double-tracking vocals as the electronic trip-hop industrial metal sounds come in that knocks the door down with a powerful punch, makes it hypnotic.

Meanwhile, Åben Dør is a strange and twisted track that you can imagine being inside of the mental asylum and hearing the sounds of the patients whimpering, screaming, and screeching out in pain. It’s almost as if Omrade were paying tribute by working with The Residents as if they were going into the Trip Hop section.

The opening track Mótsögn starts off with a calming ambient vocalization and ominous introduction. It has calming vocals, blaring trumpet solos and later, a laid-back sax with a jazzy feel, Omrade gives the listener go into the darker side with a moody and an intentional mood to see where they would take the listener into next.

Ottaa Sen in which it closes the album it is perhaps a brilliance of an ascending finale. Synths setting the introduction for a futuristic atmosphere a-la Blade Runner style with a Vangelis touch to it for an introduction. Then it climbs up to the snarling vocals and the electronic Industrial sounds filled with death metal and heading off into the middle-eastern midsection and clean vocals to close the composition to see where the road will go to next.

Edari is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but what they duo has done, is they really got something up their sleeves to go into those worlds and they nailed it perfectly to a “T”. It is an interesting combination between Industrial, Avant-Garde, Electronic, and Trip Hop rolled into one and what Omrade have accomplished very well into the sounds of their first album. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (Super Deluxe Edition)

This 3-CD/2-DVD and Vinyl set is a goldmine for any fan of ELP in this amazing Super Deluxe Edition that is almost a trip down memory lane. And for me, as a geek, I could remember getting some Hanukkah money on the fourth night and buying this album that featured the late great H.R. Giger's artwork and just being blown away in the winter of 1998 before Christmas started and buying this album and being hooked into the world of their music.

At the time, it was a crowning achievement in 1973 when their fourth studio album, Brain Salad Surgery was released. And despite some of the rock critics despising them and the famous joke, “How do you spell pretentious? E-L-P.” There was no stop sign for them and were the people’s band during that time. It was also their last real album before moving into the waters with an orchestra, which I won’t cover on.

On here, there is a large booklet featuring photos of the band and the original tapes also. With liner notes done by Chris Welch which included interviews with the band and Jakko Jakszyk who did the 5.1 mix, its almost like a stepping into a time machine and revisiting the memories of the band that would never back down despite the criticism.

The 5.1 and New Stereo Mixes that Jakko has done on here, is magnificent and I can hear material on the original album that were buried and hidden on here, come to life and in front as if my eyebrows went up and can’t believe what I was hearing. The great thing about the Super Deluxe Edition set is that included are both the original album, alternate versions and b-sides along with the NME Flexidisc experts, and the new stereo mix, shows that they don’t want to rewrite history, but staying true to the original and never letting go of the past.

The opening fanfare of their take of William Blake’s hymn and Hubert Harry’s music of Jerusalem which it was banned by the BBC for being blasphemous, makes it a perfect introduction featuring Keith’s organ and synths, Carl’s militant turn dynamic drum work along with tubular bells followed by Greg’s amazing vocals, sets the tone on what’s to come. You could tell the band can push the envelope on handling one of Blake’s hymns and would have given the master himself a big stamp of approval of their take of his hymn.

Toccata is an eruptive yet blistering adventure on another take of Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera’s 1st Piano Concerto in the Fourth movement, is where the band are in ramming speed. Both Keith and Carl are on fire on this using the Moog’s and Electronic drum kit with synthesized effects to use in different bars in the percussion section in where Palmer himself that have a haywire effect that would make listener’s jump on the electronic sounds.

Then the band take a break and go into a soothing and relaxing yet romantic ballad from Greg Lake as his shares his vocal touches on the acoustic wonders with Still You Turn Me On and the wah-wah sounds to give it a psychedelic vibration while they get into the Ragtime movement. The band also has this excellent sense of humor with Benny the Bouncer.

Greg’s cockney accent, Keith’s homage to Scott Joplin, and Carl using the brushing sounds on the drums followed by a bar room brawl with glass breaking and you can imagine the scenery of drag-out knock down fight inside the bar as the band keeps on going. But also, it has a 1920s feel that makes you feel right at home that the band wished they had recorded in that time period and have your feet tapping for more.

Then, we come to the epic of all epics of the 30-minute suite of Karn Evil 9. This is where ELP deliver the real goods to us in their masterpiece of a setting in a parallel dystopian universe where the Machines have taken over the human race and it takes place inside a carnival as we are witnessing a battle between good and evil. And I won’t go into further detail on spoilers, but this is such a brilliant epic to get your seatbelt ready for that almost a movie inside your head on what is happening in the story.

Alongside the 3-CDs, the 2-DVDs and the sixth being the original Vinyl LP, is a treat. The fourth DVD features both the original and 5.1/new stereo mix and the fifth DVD is a documentary along with a gallery which features memorabilia slide show. And the Manticore Special that originally appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in which the band was doing a European tour in 1973 at the time they were promoting the album.

Brain Salad Surgery is the album along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, refusing to die. The stereo remix is spectacular and it deserved to be cleaned up and Jakko has done an amazing accomplishment on what he did. So if you are ready to head back into the Carnival for the show that will never end, this Super Deluxe Edition is a must have and recommended for any Prog and ELP fan to delve into.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romantic Warriors III: A Progressive Music Saga - Canterbury Tales

In the words of Daevid Allen in wearing a knitted Teapot hat, "What is the legacy of Canterbury Bands to Future Generations? Thinky music in black shiny shoes." Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder are for me, almost the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of filmmaking. And they have come a long way since with the releases of the first two Romantic Warriors documentary of the Progressive Music saga including one of my favorites covering the Rock in Opposition genre and have made my wish lists bigger every time I watch their documentaries. This year they are covering the Canterbury scene and it is a wonderful take of the genre that has the sounds of Jazz Fusion, Whimsical Lyrics, and odd time changes.

The documentary does a wonderful job on the history on the genre that started back in the 1960s with The Wilde Flowers and listening to rare demos and recordings that they did along with others, would start the scene off with a bang. And then, beginnings of bands including the Soft Machine and Caravan got the ball rolling in the swinging psychedelic-era. This was a challenge for Schmidt and Holder to cover the genre and explore what the scene was like and they have done their homework very well.

There is also interviews including Bill MacCormick (Quiet Sun, Matching Mole), Robert Jan Stips (Supersister), Phil Miller (Delivery, National Health, Hatfield and the North), Brian Hopper, Roy Babbington (Nucleus, Soft Machine), Didier Thibault (MGP), Richard Sinclair (Caravan and Hatfield and the North), Dirk “Mont” Campbell (Egg), Didier Malherbe (Gong), and the late great Daevid Allen in which appears to be his last interview on the documentary. Despite the condition he was in, he still has the great sense of humor and gave it 100% and almost welcoming the audience, by saying “Welcome my friends to planet Gong. My name is the Divided Alien.” “I was an Angel’s Egg which god ate for Breakfarts!”

You could tell Daevid still has the humor in him and it’s a wonderful and emotional tribute to him and knowing the legacy of the Pot Head Pixies will live on in future generations to come. There also experts that talk about the Canterbury scene including Aymeric Leroy (Canterbury Expert), Leonardo Pavkovic (Founder of MoonJune Records), and Bruce Lee Gallanter (Founder of Downtown Music Gallery) who help describe the history about the scene and the history.

There’s also some great bands that were mentioned including alongside Soft Machine, Gong, and Caravan, bands like: Hatfield and the North, Egg, Supersister, Delivery, Quiet Sun, Moving Gelatine Plates, The Muffins, and Gilgamesh to name a few. And they also covered the bands today that are carrying the torch of the Canterbury scene including: Planeta Imaginaro and Forgas Band Pheonomena in which they are part of the Cuneiform label, Syd Arthur, The Wrong Object, Soft Machine Legacy, and photos including Phlox (Estonia), Machine and the Synergetic Nuts (Japan), Fulano (Chile), and Anaid (France).

The new bands are carrying the spirit of Canterbury as if the torch is still lit and keeping the flaming fire burning forever into the near future. And the rare footage is a treat to dive deep in the waters to watch the bands including various line-ups of the Soft Machine from the ‘60s into the mid ‘70s, Caravan, Gong, Moving Gelatine Plates performing at the Le Bourget Pop Music Festival in 1970, and Hatfield performing on a French TV show in 1973 with Robert Wyatt as a guest vocalist that will get your wishlist bigger as the size of Mount Rushmore.

I have watched Romantic Warriors III about eight times now and I have to say that Jose and Adele have done an incredible research and it’s great to see how the bands pushed the boundaries of the Progressive genre. So if you are ready to enjoy and explore the music of the Canterbury sound, buckle your seat belt into the Flying Teapot and fly into the world of the Land of Grey and Pink meeting the Pot Head Pixies and being blown away of the Moon in June along with some National Health, then this is the documentary to explore.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Unreal City - il Paese Del Tramonto

2015 is off to an amazing start. Amazing bands and artists from the realms of Steven Wilson, Beardfish, La Coscienza Di Zeno, Sanguine Hum, and Alco Frisbass to name a few, are the names that have got the wheel on the wagon rolling. Now the wagon is ready for another adventure and this time its Unreal City’s turn to shine.

Since their formation seven years ago in Parma, Unreal City are the real deal in the Italian Progressive Rock sound that are following in the footsteps of the masters and show no sign of stopping after the release of their debut album back in 2013 called, La Crudelta di Aprile. This year, they are back with a follow up to their debut with an album entitled, il Paese Del Tramonto in which it translates to, The Country Sunset.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Italian Progressive Rock sound from bands like; Le Orme, Banco, PFM, Not a Good Sign, Metamorfosi, and Museo Rosenbach to name a few. When I first heard Unreal City’s music two years ago when I was in College, I was completely on the edge of my seat with my eyebrows widening up being in awe and touched of what they have brought to the table.

The classical sounds, the British and Italian Prog inspirations, and the Symphonic elements throwing in, almost made it sound like they were doing a score for a movie. From beginning to the end, il Paese Del Tramonto is the continuation, but more for a movie as if they had done to set for both of the directors in the realms between Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci while Fabio Frizzi conducts the group and in awe of what they are doing.

Opening, Ouverture: Obscurus fio starts with backward tapes that increases the void followed by a synth to capture it and the piano comes in with a concerto-like introduction followed by a string section. And the drums, Mellotron, and Bass come knocking the door down as the rhythm begins along with a Guitar chord and Moog solo. It has this epic-like introduction and a surreal tone that captures the essence of Pink Floyd, ELP, and Banco Del Mutuo Sorcosso’s Darwin-era.

And then it segues into Oniromanzia (il Paese del Tramonto) in which the choir mellotron plays the same melody followed by drums, church organ and guitar. It has this wonderful reminiscent of Goblin that Unreal City pay tribute to for an introduction with the spooky sounds that Tarasconi does. And the keyboards just go into some improvisations with an amazing Hammond solo and the synths also. I have to admit, Unreal City have shown a lot in their sounds.

The ominous Caligari begins with a sinister and haunting atmospheric introduction. Francesca Zanetta’s guitar sets the tone in a style of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells as Emanuele’s keyboards go into a ghostly vibe and then it has an orchestral ascending roar. It then has a mid-tempo rhythm with a catchy melody with some unexpected twists until the very end Zanetta goes into her guitar structures of Robert Fripp-sque finale as Unreal City pay tribute to the finale of both King Crimson and Murple.

La Meccanica Dell’ombra has this mind-blowing introduction between Emanuele using both keyboards and a theremin that kicks off into high gear. It has this combination between middle-eastern and folk-like melodies thanks to guest violinist Fabio Biale. Followed by the improvisation solo from Zanetta, Tarasconi, and Bedostri laying down on the beats on the drums, it has a softer side and then back into Tarasconi keeping the groove in as he takes his Hammond into the waters to close it off for an amazing solo finale as the music reaches a climbing end.

Il Nome di Lei has this interesting combination between Pulsar, Pink Floyd, and Locanda Delle Fate as Zanetta is in the spirits of David Gilmour with a classical Harpsichord thrown in while their homage to Deep Purple golden-era on Lo Schermo di Pietra (Kenosis) is a blistering yet driven composition. I can hear the hard rock, ballad, and intense changes like a car going at 300 miles per hour that you could imagine Unreal City could have recorded this back in 1973.

Then we come to the 20-minute 4-part suite, Ex Tenebrae Lux, shows Unreal City their masterpiece. Various changes between ambient spacey voyages into Jazz-Funk groove, Vocals, Violin, Organ, Concerto Piano, homage to Gentle Giant, and back into the harmonic/orchestral rock sounds that gives it a warmth closure at the last few minutes.

This is Unreal City's finest hour since their debut and I was blown away from the moment I put it on and knowing they have accomplished well. The Rock Progressivo Italiano scene is getting stronger each time something special and magical has happened, and Unreal City are one of the most finest bands to come out the genre. Highly recommended and worth exploring along with their debut album also.