Scardust choir: Basses: Jonathan Wolf, Ray Livnat, Yarden Gruman, Amit Fortus, Erez Tovi, Guy Moshkovitz, Yanai Avnet. Tenors: Elad Peretz, Baruch (Bam) Gruman, Ben Saada, Ray Livnat, Chen Sharon, Dima Fridrich, Yan Ben Yosef, Adar Elmackias. Altos: Rakefet Ann Ben Shabetai, Shani Gruman, Leah Marcu, Tali Shahar, Hadar Shemesh, Neta Ben Harush, Yael Cohen, Yael Abady. Sopranos: Rinat Gruman, Atalya Emily Shuorki, Zohar Ben Haim, Nitsan Cohen, Shaked Baydatch, Almog Dror, Carmel Cohen, Yael Abady, Hadar Shemesh. Children: Amit Brenner, Dana Maimon, Noam Minster, Gaya Maman, Ori Peretz Conductor: Noa Gruman
Drums recorded at “Bardo” studio by Yonatan Kossov, Carmel Peach Drums edited by Yonatan Kossov
Choir, Strings quartet and grand piano recorded at “Mitzlol” studio by Jonathan Barak Vocals and children choir recorded at “Gruman” studio by Jonathan Barak Guitars, bass and keyboard recorded and edited by Yanai Avnet, Yadin Moyal and Alex Nicola Extra vocals (in “Queen of Insanity”): Yotam ‘Defiler’ Avni Vocals edited by – Noa Gruman
Sands Of Time 1. Act -I Overture 2. Act-II Eyes Of Agony 3. Act-III Dials 4. Act-IV Hourglass 5. Act-V Sands Of Time 6. Arrowhead 7. Out Of Strong Came Sweetness 8. Queen Of Insanity 9. Blades 10. Gift Divine
*Editorial Op-Ed Note* For a while now I have been wanting to highlight quality progressive metal and progressive rock from the great country and state of Israel. There are certainly many bands and talent in Israel that get overlooked on the global progressive rock/metal communities. That hopefully is all about to change. Just as I believe that Israel deserves to exist as a state and nation I also believe its artists and bands from the progressive rock and metal communities deserve to be spotlighted with articles and the upcoming series of album reviews I have coming to Power of Prog.This series is also in celebration of Israel’s Independence in 1948. This series will go all the way through 2018 to mark the 70th Anniversay of Israel becoming a nation. My personal views on Israel or my album review observations do not reflect the other members and staff of Power of Prog.
In a part of the world that that is often rocked with such great turbulent turmoil there often goes a great musical community that can be easily overlooked. Surrounded by enemies from all sides and those that seek to destroy her is the nation of Israel. Centuries old conflicts on the world stage sometimes gather more attention than its very vibrant and thriving art and musical community. Among the vibrant thriving symphonic progressive metal community in Israel is none other than independent upstart’s Scardust with their debut album titled Sands Of Time.
When Noa Gruman – Lead Vocals told me she was sending a physical CD along with a digital press kit I was truly grateful. This has allowed me to follow the lyrical content, instrumental content and the artwork that seems to get pushed aside, however is just as significant as to what you hear on the album. All these factors work wonderfully hand in hand together.
Scardust are just not another Epica, After Forever or even a Delain clone from Israel. Scardust as a band have far more to offer and their own unique sound that to draw a comparison to those bands would be very unfair. I will venture to say Scardust have developed their own sound that many newer bands going forward will be taking something away from them. First of all Noa Gruman – Vocals has a death growl, a semi operatic voice and even a deep powerful power metal vocal about here and that becomes obvious throughout the entire Sands Of Time album. The Sands Of Time album is a partial concept album with the opening multi tracked 27+ minute epicSands Of Time that encompasses the first five tracks of the Sands Of Time album. In terms of any comparison, I would compare Sands Of Time the 27+minute epic to something like Dream Theater did with A Mind Beside Itself – 1. Erotmania, 2. Voices & 3. The Silent Man from 1994’s Awake album. A epic that was multi track to suffice a label yet without abandoning their fan base. Sands Of Time is that epic for Scardust.
Sands Of Time Parts 1-5
1. Act -I Overture
This starts out with a isolated violin and stringed section before a very explosive orchestral instrumental atmosphere in harmony with a equally explosive choir in perfect time and harmony to the instrumental melody. The instrumental contains both metal and symphonic elements within it. It only contains four verses/stanza’s however they prepare the listener a brief over view of what is to come within the Sands Of Time story.
2. Act-II Eyes Of Agony
This seamlessly transitions smoothly from the first act Overture. There is a melody of piano with heavy rhythm sections happening both in the guitar and bass/drum. Soon the beautiful feminine vocal narrative comes into being. The lyrical narrative can be seen from the perspective that a person can not shake the images of war and that those images plague them night and day, awake or in a their sleep. The instrumental does a beautiful job adding to this emotion. Soon it goes from a clean female vocal narrative to a mean and angry melodic death metal narrative done from the angrier perspective provided by the dual vocal personality of Noa Gruman herself.
3. Act-III Dials
Once again this seamlessly and smoothly transitions off of Act-II Eyes Of Agony. The choir continues to bridge the gaps and tie the over all Sands Of Time epic from the very beginning of this track. This is also a pivotal point where the band start to really tighten up their unique cohesive sound and present more as a musical brand. Accompanying the choir is a deep bass/drum rhythm section along with some reprisal portions that maintain the epic atmosphere. There is a very Chris Squire-esque Yes type of bass to keyboard section within this before it gets back into more familiar and modern progressive symphonic metal territory much like a cross between Epica and Dream Theater. Lyrically the track remains rather dark and anger driven properly and on point with the bands main objective of the Sands Of Time epic. This part of the epic ends with a very symphonic induced section that sounds like a mini orchestra with a beautiful soprano conveying the lyrical and melodic narrative.
4. Act-IV Hourglass
This continues the epic through a smooth and seamless transition off of Act-III Dials. It follows with a beautiful guitar and keyboard atmosphere before the female narrative vocally comes in with some isolation and then joined in melody with the instrumental portion of the track. It also seems the band are really tightening up everything into a core unit of sound. There is this perfect balance between progressive metal and symphonic metal really happening here in this portion of Sands Of Time. Some of the vocal narrative is almost cabaret like at times both in the singular narrative or the plural narrative in the choir. This is also the perfect transitional portion of Sands of Time to begin to close it on the final portion Act-V Sands Of Time.
5. Act-V Sands Of Time
This seamlessly transitions perfectly off of Hourglass. It begins with a beautiful piano with the beautiful female vocal. This starts as a beautiful ballad like atmosphere. The choir comes in and out lending further depth and layers into this classically endowed piece. On the lyrical side the song and story begins to come to a close thus completing the entire Sands Of Time epic.
Arrowhead starts the last half of the album. It is ironic that the band incorporate the sound of crickets and give the track the personality of a morning style atmosphere. It is symbolic to the new beginning of the other half of the album. Noa Grunman’s isolated vocal picks the listener up where it left them on the Sands Of Time epic and once again hooks them into another story line lyrically. Instrumentally this track is full of thunderous rhythmic blast beats and a very percussive bass to match the equally tuned down rhythmic stringed sections on the guitars. The other half of this song is very choir and vocal harmony driven.
Out Of Strong Came Sweetness opens up with a sound much in the tradition of Savatage’s Hall Of The Mountain King instrumentally. The levels off into a more orchestral and symphonic track utilizing various choirs and various off vocal harmonies. The instrumental really works very well both melodically and harmoniously especially when the grunts work in tandem with the choral portions. The choirs are a huge attraction to this song.
Queen Of Insanity starts off with a absolute shred fest that morphs into a blistering and thunderous rhythmic frenzy. The guitar riffs remind me very much of Jeff Loomis Nevermore era, meets Mike Romeo SymphonyX. The growls and grunts done by Noa Gruman remind me of classic Mark Jansen Epica ex-After Forever. The female vocals of Noa Gruman ascend to a entirely different level and we discover her immense vocal depth and ability. She is a fine breed of both power metal and progressive metal with symphonic tendencies.
Blades opens up with a beautiful ballad like atmosphere with a beautiful duet between Noa Gruman and Jake E Amaranthe. This is all highlighted by the beautiful progressive/symphonic instrumental that is often at time atmospheric in nature with the soaring guitar solo’s and orchestral portions. This track reminds me a lot of Kamelot’s The Haunting. The guitars are very well balanced between progressive passages and symphonic passages.
Gift Divine opens up with a beautiful atmospheric piano that is soon met by the beautiful atmospheric female vocal narrative. The heavy orchestral portions of both keyboard and bass and a entirely different dimension than what the rest of the album has been. The band really know how to layer various instruments in on perfect time. The layers are very progressive in attitude yet symphonic in nature. The band has a very cunning ability to bring the listener in that is more of a warm invitation without overwhelming them. This song is a excellent example to all the band are capable of doing.
Israel is a country that is very under rated and often overlooked for their progressive rock, progressive metal contributions to the world. In a land that has given the world Orphaned Land, Reign Of The Architect, Quietus, Yossi Sassi Band, Soul Enema, Distorted Harmony, etc … Scardust are certainly a band that can continue to establish Israel as a progressive metal powerhouse on a global scale. Due its unique sound and consistent intensity, I am giving Scardust’s Sands Of Time a 5/5.
Quadrus Main Composer John Galanakis Releases Video ‘Destroyers Of The Worlds’
John Galanakis had this to say from his Facebook profile:
“Ok folks here it is! The first cinematic soundtrack ‘Destroyers of the Worlds” from my upcoming sci-fi concept album ” The Doom Vanguard” is here.”
The story on this album takes place on the distant future were mankind is on the brink of destruction by some alien race who lives in a parallel universe. Humanity stands no chance of fighting the Xenos attackers and falls back deep into the core of Kepler 2.0 where it builds enormous galactic ships to fight back the destroyers of the worlds. Those ships are powered by powerful entities called “The heart of the ship” and they act both as a source power and adviser for repealing the alien attack. If you are interested you can find more on my official web page. “
Earlier in the year Power Of Prog reviewed John Galanakis other out Quadrus with their debut conceptual album Entropia. You can read that by clicking here.
When Opeth returned in 2011 with the release of Heritage many believed that the death of true extreme progressive death metal had come to a end due to the lack of growls to balance out the cleaner vocals. Many people did not know where a suitable replacement or a new hero band would come from or if it was going to return at all. Little did people know that one of the answers to this very question would come from Opeths neighbouring country of Sweden, Finland. The band out of Finland would be Perihelion Ship.
Last year I discovered these guys and was totally mindblown by their strong independent debut titled A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. With haunting Hammond Organ and Mellotron style keyboards over a traditional progressive death metal sound, Perihelion Ship would be one of those very bands that kept the progressive death metal sub genre alive and well. Not only are Perihelion Ship one of the answers to that void left by Opeth, they are very serious contenders to take the throne as the kings of that brand of progressive death metal which Opeth left vacant. This could not be more true with the bands second album and sophomoric effort To Paint A Bird Of Fire.
To Paint A Bird Of Fire sees Perihelion Ship mature quite quickly within under the year since they debuted with A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. To Paint A Bird Of Fire builds upon the rock solid foundation laid with A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. In some areas To Paint A Bird Of Fire is quite a bit more abrasive and aggressive than A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring, especially with the guttural growls. The growls are more a blackened death vocal this time around. This will be pointed out and highlighted as this review moves forward. To Paint A Bird Of Fire has 6 very unique tracks yet they all remain in a tightly and sometimes very unpredictable objective. It is book ended by New Sun and New Sun? leaving the listener either the illusion or appearance that this could be a two part epic broke up deliberately to conveying a unspoken point. Now a few highlights from the album with a track by track analysis.
New Sun starts out as a post modern extreme progressive doom style chord progression. This is met with haunting Hammond style organs creating a very dark atmosphere that allows the deep bass chord progression to explode. The song starts to assault the senses of the listener in a beautiful brutal passage. The band always has a very cunning ability to weave in 1970’s pure progressive concepts with the mellotron and Hammond styled organs with the various modern time signatures both in the rhythm section and the guitars. This song quickly demonstrates the bands uncompromising approach to pure progressive rock and to transcribe it through the filter of today’s modern progressive metal elements. The band certainly storms out of the gate with a very tight cohesive vision and execution of sound.
Bird Of Fire begins with a very eerie dark Hammond Organ chord progression that forms a very dark atmosphere. Soon that recedes and a full all out assault of all instruments forms a deep thunderous melodic rhythm section with the clean vocal first. Thereafter the band takes the listener through a roller coaster of various time signatures and chord progressions before the death growls come in and change the complexion of the track.
The Sad Mountain opens up with thunderous blast beats that are soon met with the melancholic atmosphere created by the synths. The rhythm section goes to further and darker areas of melody in harmony with the clean yet somber vocals. The band have a uncanny ability to use the bass both as a melodic and percussive instrument. Jouko Lehtonen – Bass Guitaris gradually establishing himself as one of modern progressive metal’s best bass players. This also sees the growth and maturation of Andreas Hammer – Guitar, Vocals starting to come into his own as a powerhouse progressive metal frontman. He is also a firm reminder of a younger Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth or Jonas Renske of Katatonia. Perihelion Ship definitely remain on point and objective this far into the album.
River’s Three opens up with a beautifully played acoustical guitar that creates a dark and once again yet somber atmosphere. Jani Konttinen’s – Hammond Organ, Mellotron orchestration of simulated wind instruments is a delightful brainstorm that yields a beautiful melody alongside the beautiful acoustic guitar. This track is a great track that it allows the listener to breathe and begin to digest the album.
Wind Of No Echoes continues to demonstrate the bands atmospheric side. Once again semi acoustic guitars alongside the beautiful keyboards give the album a particular sound signature where it is starting to become part and parcel to the brand of the band. That melancholic vibe before a wall of extreme bliss seems to be how the band likes to approach things at times. This is also accompanied with heavy rhythm section provided by the bass and drum. Then without notice the band changes up the atmosphere briefly yet with taste as not to disturb the listening experience. Through all the heavy passages there is a spoken word section that is met with some of the most venomous and sinister blackened death vocals I have heard in quite sometime. The sheer anger in the vocals is perfectly matched with the instrumental half of the track.
New Sun? This track goes well into the world of extreme progressive metal with some equally as heavy psychedelic elements to it. This is also the longest track on the album. It really explodes out of the gate with a heavy progressive and melodic unity within all the instruments. The deep rhythm sections are still in play as well as the intricate guitar chord progressions. The clean vocals are very strong on this one and are articulated quite well. If this is a continuation of the first song New Sun there are not any reprisal areas that lead the listener that way. The death growls certainly kick in perfect harmony with the deep double blast beats of the drums. The psychedelic portion comes with a wicked and sinister laugh that reminds me a lot of Porcupines Tree’s Voyage 34 when the main character Brian goes on that bad LSD trip. The mellotron style keyboards lend a heavy psychedelic vibe to those laughing spots. With this being the final track on the album it finishes very tight, professional and strong.
Last year I went on record and called Perihelion Ship’s A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring the best extreme progressive metal’s strongest debut album of all time. I also remember giving such praise to the pioneering independent spirit to that album. For a band to return just little under a year like Perihelion Ship has now done with To Paint A Bird Of Fire is another lofty feat in of itself. To Paint A Bird Of Fire is yet another full length album and it demonstrates the band’s ability to mature a lot in such little time since their debut A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. Due to the band’s quick maturity and non inhibition of exploration I am giving Perihelion Ship’s To Pain A Bird Of Fire a strong 5/5. This could possibly be my progressive metal album of the year.
Kansas have streamed a new live version of their biggest hit Carry On Wayward Son. The song, which reached No. 11 in the US Billboard chart in 1976, was originally taken from the band’s Leftoverture album. The new version is taken from the band’s forthcoming new live album Leftoverture: Live And Beyond.
Kansas, who cancelled their prog stage headline slot at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair citing security concerns, have instead been touring the US celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the 1976 album which reached No. 5 in the US album charts, from which the new live album has been recorded. “When we saw how much our fans enjoyed the Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour shows, we knew we had to record a live album,” drummer, Phil Ehart said in a interview.
“When it came to finding someone to produce it, we thought the best possible person would be the guy that produced Leftoverture forty years ago. So, we called Jeff Glixman!”
Leftoverture: Live And Beyond will be released through InsideOut Records on November 3. The album will be available as a double CD digipak, four 180 Gram Vinyl boxed set, and digitally.
Stay tuned to Power Of Prog for continued news related to this new live album from Kansas as it becomes available.
It is always often a gamble to write, record, engineer, produce and master a concept album. First you need to have a tangible plot or story-line that finds an audience or even a niche. Second you need a band or personnel surrounding you that is willing or actually shares the same vision towards the main concept or story. Many bands that fall under the progressive rock banner usually do not make a concept album on their debut. However there are exceptions to this notion.
As a matter of fact, some bands refrain from making concept albums or wait until they are many years into their recording careers with a established audience before they even introduce the world to a concept album. So when I was introduced recently to Norway’s Gentle Knife and learned that their 2015 debut album was a full blown concept album I could not resist myself and proceeded my journey with the band.
A little history into Norwegian Progressive Rock.
The usual discourse of discussion concerning progressive rock bands from Norway usually leans towards Norwegian progressive metal bands like Pagans Mind, Circus Maximus, Leperous, Borkgnar, Enslaved, etc. In reality there is a whole other community within the Norwegian progressive rock scene that is sometimes overlooked due to the greater progressive metal and black metal exports that come out of this beautiful Scandinavian progressive outpost. Bands like Airbag, Magic Pie, White Willow, Wobbler, Pictoral Wand, Gazpacho and the subject of this review Gentle Knife have also solidified Norway’s place on the global stage of progressive rock.
Gentle Knife are made up of 10 very different yet interesting members that make up the beauty of the sound of the band. These are 10 very unique personalities that really have developed a well cohesive unit both as a band and in their vision into the album creation process. The vocal narrative of the band is carried by both a masculine male perspective so articulately done by Håkon Kavli – Vocals & Guitars and the feminine female perspective eloquently done by Melina Oz – Vocals. The entire concept is about a urbanite wanderer that ventures into the vastness of the forest and gets lost.
The sound of Gentle Knife can be described as very traditional symphonic progressive rock that is rooted into the purity of 1970’s progressive rock with influences of Genesis, Van Der Graf Generator, King Crimson, Amon Dull ii and Renaissance with a modern 21st century twist to it with bands like Magenta, Kingfisher Sky , Mostly Autumn and IONA to name a few. The very fact the band has 10 members makes for quite a very interesting orchestral unit in of itself. There are so many possibilities with more members in a band compared to a typically standard four or five members that seems predominant within the progressive rock community.
Gentle Knife even open up vast possibilities due to three dynamics working in union within the band. These three dynamics are a very beautiful stringed section along with a beautiful on time rhythm section with the well balanced blend of woodwind instruments serving as a base for the band. Gentle Knife’s Gentle Knife 2015 has eight uniquely crafted tracks. I will talk about some of the major highlights going on with track by track analysis.
Eventide is a immediate invitation and intimate look into the ability of the band as a core unit. It comes out on a full cylinders with a deep rhythm section matched by the intensity of the woodwind’s and stringed section. The band automatically begins to show both its technical and melodic prowess all in one time. The band firmly establishes both roots in 1970’s progressive rock and displays the evolution of progressive music to modern standards in their own distinctive way. The deep rhythm melodies along with the woodwind sections takes the track into a level of layers upon layers.
The female vocal narrative and male vocal narrative certainly give the song two different dimensions allowing for the listener to warm up to the story lyrically. The 10 person dynamic continues to amaze the listener with layers that are very unpredictable always bringing something new with every spin of the album.
Our Quiet Footsteps opens up with a deep drum to bass rhythm section with a beautifully well executed Hammond Style organ to compliment the rhythm section. Soon layers upon layers of Gentle Knife’s signature woodwind sound enters into it and takes the rhythm and stringed sections to a entirely different dimension. The band really executes these layers in a perfect balance where all instruments are easily digested by the listener. The band clearly have a great insight to create ‘Pure’progressive chord progressions and passages that do in fact open up possibilities between the older progressive purists and even newcomers to the progressive lifestyle. The woodwind portions of this particular track remind me a lot of Camel meets White Willow. Mina Oz’s vocal is both beautiful and angelic that works perfectly in harmony with the male masculine narrative. I like how the band executes certain elements of isolation within the vocal narratives where everybody’s vocals can be heard and felt.
Remnants Of Pride is a more keyboard stringed atmosphere in the early seconds of the song. Soon after the beauty of the male vocal comes in with such storytelling clarity. The melody and harmony are always very balanced. The male vocal is met in spot on harmony with the female vocal where the band performs this with a more symphonic orchestral approach. This is the kind of track the band will be able to attract more attention from the audience in live sets. Another unique thing this track has going for it are its odd time signatures both in the woodwind and vocal harmonies that add to its mystique.
Tear Away The Chords That Bind is a much more heavy prog induced track. The rhythm section is much deeper and heavier. The vocal is done with abstract filters much like it is pumped through a megaphone. The bass serves as a more percussive instrument in various spots to lend to the heavy prog atmosphere the band creates on the album. By the time this track comes into the arrangement the band really tighten up in the rhythm sections allowing for both the stringed and woodwind portions to really breathe and shine through. The woodwind’s serve both as 16th CenturyRenaissance and current jazz fusion style passages.
Beneath The Waning Moon is a another track that serves as full validation of the bands intricate understanding of well written rhythm sections with beautiful wind instruments. There are a lot of elements going on here that make it nearly impossible to compare to other bands or albums. Gentle Knife clearly are establishing their very own distinctive sound by now. A sound that can only be noted as the Gentle Knife sound.
The Gentle Knife truly begins with a heavy stringed section with a beautiful keyboard and deep off step rhythm section that all come together in melody and harmony to anchor the track into a beautiful composition piece. The vocals between the female and male narrative continue to add a layer of elegance and grace to the song. This is one of the few songs where a full guitar and keyboard solo are distinct and can be heard. The absolute interchange between all the instrumental portions is a beautiful testament of the band’s understanding of melody.
Epilogue Locus Amoenus begins with a beautifully orchestrated Hammond style organ with some vintage 1970’s fuzz to it. Even in its vintage sound it is not dated and still stands up to modern progressive rock elements. The guitar comes in as well and has a more center stage appearance about it. This is the most atmospheric track on all levels. At around the 3:45 mark the guitar takes on a flamenco style that is very unexpected but very interesting. This is met with a very smooth and eloquently performed saxophone in harmony to the instrumental. This track continue to explore the depths of where the band can and does go.
Coda Impetus begins with a late 1960’s psychedelic groove laden passage with big bass and drums along with a Hammond style organ and a modern style keyboard. This is a track that builds layer upon layers of various rhythm sections met with equally deep rhythm sections from the guitar’s. In its simplicity this track offers a very complex and intricate look into another layer of the bands instrumental prowess. The saxophone laden jazz sections are a thing of ‘Fusion Genius’.
For a debut album this was one of the most ambitious and thought provoking I have heard in quite sometime. People kept mentioning this band to me all through 2016 and after this I know what the hype was all about because this debut lived up to it. This is a first of two from me concerning Gentle Knife. The next is Gentle Knife II Clock Unwound. I give Gentle Knife Gentle Knife a 5/5.