Murdock is probably best known for being drummer and leader in progressive rock band Cymballic Encounters, and here he has used some of the musicians involved in that plus other guests in what is presumably a concept album of some type. Singer Tim Pepper is one of these, but while he can hit the notes, his delivery rarely has any real presence, and when that is combined with music which is rarely inspiring it results in a somewhat flat album where everything just washes over the listener who is soon looking to see how much longer there is to go (74 minutes in total). This is a real pity as there are bits and pieces which are real sparks of delight. For example, at the beginning of second track “Time Travelers from the Future” there is an instrumental passage which reminded me immediately of Colosseum II and I was looking forward to something of great speed and intricacy, but although that passage was repeated a few times, the rest of the song was somewhat lethargic.
I have not heard any of Cymballic Encounters’ four albums, but if they are in a similar vein to this then that will not be something I will be looking to address. Played multiple times, and I know that will never happen again. Kev Rowland 6/10
Born and raised in Sweden, multi-instrumentalist Kristoffer now lives in The Netherlands, playing in Kayak. Many people still think of him as being associated with his brother Daniel, and he played on the first six Pain of Salvation studio albums but since leaving in 2006 has built a reputation working with many different artists. ‘Let Me Be A Ghost’ is his fourth solo album, released towards the end of 2021, following on from ‘Rust’ (2012), ‘The Rain’ (2016) and ‘Homebound’ (2020). I reviewed the last, and I was intrigued at just how much at home he sounded with the one cover, Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2”
I many ways this is a logical extension of that album, as it is melancholic, and is something which really needs to be played on headphones. The songs are more like soundscapes, with a huge use of space and a slow tempo which really lets the listener into what in many ways feels likes quite a private world. Yes, there are a few additional singers and a drummer, but for the most part this is one person sat quietly, crafting something which is magical and mystical. “Lean On Me” is a case in point, gentle percussion, acoustic guitar, electric solo, and loads and loads of vocals including a wonderful high female from Erna auf der Haar who provides the perfect cut through.
This is not something designed to be played on the radio, nor can I imagine it ever being played in an arena, but is designed for small places, in the dark where the listener can really let their mind wander where it will. This is a marvellous piece of work and I look forward to the next album with great interest indeed. 9/10 Kev Rowland
As is my preference when listening to music, I read the press release only when it was time to write the review, so when playing this I was intrigued to hear the neo/melodic rock crossover sound of this new band and my thoughts immediately when to late Nineties Galahad. The keyboards are an important part of the overall sound, the guitars crunch nicely, and there are great vocals while the production is superb. I soon realised why the latter was the case as Karl Groom (Threshold) was involved, and I have been a fan of his skills behind the desk for 30 years. Then I looked at the band itself which was formed by André Saint (vocals) and Aaron Gidney (guitars, Chapman Stick) who then brought in Tim Ashton on bass and drummer Graham Brown. I know Brown from the excellent Cairo, but Tim Ashton? I first heard Tim on Galahad’s wonderful ‘Nothing Is Written’ and saw him play a few times back then before he moved to Japan, only to return later and rejoin the band for ‘Seas of Change’ before departing again. I honestly thought Tim had left music behind, so to see him on this was somewhat surprising. He was not in Galahad during the musical period this band reminds me of, but there are some obvious influences. No keyboard player though, even though it is important to their sound (and their website shows five members), so we have guests in Gary Marsh (Tiger Moth Tales/Red Bazar) and Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater/Sons of Apollo) while there are also two additional guest singers in Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen) and Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen among many others).
Given the background of all those involved it is no surprise whatsoever that this is a polished release, what is more surprising is the lack of reviews for it on PA! True, this is a hybrid and it is possible it is too prog for those who enjoy melodic rock, and too rock for those into prog, but to me it is a very fine album indeed. This never comes across as a debut, but from a seasoned band who have been honing their craft for many years. It is a very easy album to listen to, and I discovered the more I played it the more layers there are to discover. At times we have both piano and keyboards, and virtually no guitars, while at others that is the instrument which is right in your face. All singers take lead roles, with André obviously being the main, but they use the different vocal styles to great effect to add harshness or take the music in a slightly different direction.
This is an album which I am sure is going to be even punchier and more dramatic in a live environment and is something which fans of this music hybrid is sure to enjoy as it is forceful, powerful, dynamic and packed full of real songs with great hooks. 8/10 by Kev Rowland
2021 saw the release of the second album from GorMusik, following on from 2015’s ‘Fun In OuterSpace’. This is primarily the solo project of Gordon Bennett who originally recorded and sang everything himself, but then brought in some guests who added their talents to the record in Joseph Frick (bass), Jay T McGuinn (drums) and Peter Jones (vocals and Irish whistles) – how Peter Jones manages to contribute so much to so many albums is beyond me, but he does and is always amazing. GorMusik is a Christian prog band, and what we have here is a concept album which attempts to work through the timeline of the Bible, which is a huge task in just 67 minutes (broken into five songs).
Musically there is huge variety on this, as we have heavy sections which would not sound too out of place on a Rush release, and then we have others which are acoustic with multiple guitars. This variety means one is never quite sure where the music is going to lead, and there does at times appear to be a lack of direction, meandering without a final destination in mind. In many ways this does indeed feel like a solo project as opposed to a band, as there is quite a bit of repetition, and the ending of opening 18-minute long “The Beginning” feels as if he is run out of ideas and painted himself into a corner where he is not sure quite how to get out.
It is an album which is pleasant while it is being played, but even though there are some interesting passages, this is something which would have been improved if a band had worked on it together and they had undertaken some judicious editing. Not one to which I will be rapidly returning I am afraid. 6/10 Kev Rowland
I was chatting to keyboard player Kai Esbensen recently and mentioned I had never heard their 2001 debut, and he said he would send me a copy. I demurred, saying a download would be fine, but he was keen for me to have a physical version and as soon as it arrived I could see why. The rear cover shows the periodic table, but some are missing, and by running a finger over it one can feel that it is not that they have not been printed, but rather they have been cut out. Turn the digipak back to the front and there are the missing elements making up the album title, and again when running a finger over the name one can feel they have been added, while the band’s name is also embossed. I was impressed and I hadn’t even opened it yet, let alone listened to it! A huge amount of work has gone into the booklet, with each page containing the lyrics but very different in style to the rest and if this amount of work had gone into the presentation what on earth would the music be like?
The line-up in 2001 was exactly the same as it is today, namely Jonathan Smith (vocals, xylophone, guitar, flute), Blake Albinson (guitars), Kai Esbensen (keyboards), Jay Burritt (bass) and James Swensen-Flagg (drums), and even though this was the debut they were already demonstrating the ridiculous amount of talent they have, while also showing that progheads have a sense of humour (honest!). The throwaway “She’s No Vegetarian” is a blast of fun at less then 3 minutes long (and is not the shortest song on the album), taking us into the late Sixties yet is very much the only song of that type on the album as though they refuse to settle within any one area for too long. Musically they were already demonstrating their love of experimentation and pushing boundaries in a way associated in the US with the likes of Zappa while in the UK we would look to Cardiacs, whose classic ‘Sing To God’ came out only five years before this.
However, Bubblemath are a band who have resolutely stuck to their own musical path and have continued to do so to this day, even though this has impacted on their output, and we have only had three albums in total in more than 20 years. But when music is as fine as this then who are we to complain? One never knows what is going to come next, but with songs generally quite short (there are 12 songs on the album which is only 45:23 in length and only one is longer than six minutes), one knows there is not too long to wait, and that intricacy will be involved. The music is complex, complicated and incredibly intricate, yet at the same time it is an album which can be enjoyed the very first time of playing with hidden depths being uncovered the more one listens to it. The arrangements are unreal, with musicians going off at tangents only for it to all make sense later, the result being both experimental and adventurous. Undoubtedly this will frighten off those who want their prog to be delivered in a carefully manicured Genesis/Floyd manner, but those who want their music to be running straight past any perceived boundaries would do well to give this a listen. 10/10 Kev Rowland
I first came across Dave Bandana years ago when he was in Salander, followed him to his journeys with Birzer Bandana before he formed The Bardic Depths and released the debut album back in 2020. His colleague Brad Birzer was still involved, but he had brought in a group of stellar musicians and taken a huge step up in every way. Now The Bardic Depths are back with the second album, and this feels far more like a group affair as opposed to a project. History professor Birzer has again worked with Dave on lyrics to much of the material, and the core musicians have been brought back from last time, namely Peter Jones (Camel/Tiger Moth Tales/ Red Bazar), Gareth Cole (Paul Menel/ Fractal Mirror) and Tim Gehrt (The Streets/ Steve Walsh). There are a cast of thousands in terms of guests (especially for backing vocals), but it is the core quartet who share the vast majority of the workload, with others being brought in to add additional nuances and layers as opposed to taking on key roles.
There are times when the music is quite Floydian, with “The Burning Flame” sounding as if it could have come from ‘Wish You Were Here’ with delicate keyboards and a wonderfully restrained guitar solo, while at others they are more into the crossover genre as opposed to symphonic. Whereas the debut album was also viewed in some ways as the third Birzer Bandana release, there is no doubt that what we have here now is a band very much performing on their own terms and with their own identity. Like most people in the prog scene, I am a massive fan of Peter Jones and what he has already achieved within the genre, but this is a band where he has little input into the actual songwriting and is onboard for his skills as a musician and singer, which means some of the pressure is off and there is no doubt he relishes the opportunity, with a saxophone lead on the instrumental “Colours and Shapes” (one of only two songs where he gets a songwriting credit) which is simply beautiful, dynamic and full of power.
Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) has again been involved as a co-producer (as well as dropping in musically here and there), and he has worked with Dave to create an environment where the guys have been able to express themselves and allow the band to truly grow as a unit. This is by far the best album I have heard from Mr. Bandana over the years, and I am truly looking forward to see what comes of this band in the future. 8/10 Kev Rowland
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.