The Samurai Of Prog | On We Sail
Label: Seacrest Oy Records
Release Year: 2017
Genre: Traditional Progressive Rock
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass
Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion
Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin/Flute/Guitar
Octavio Stampalia – Keyboards
Ruben Alvarez – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Kenny Shacklett – Keyboards/Vocals/Acoustic Guitar
Srdjan Brankovic – Electric Guitars
David Myers – Keyboards/Grand Piano
Jacques Friedmann – Electric Guitars
Luca Scherani – Keyboards
Michelle Young – Vocals
Sean Timms – Keyboards
Mark Trueack – Vocals
Jacob Holm Lupo – Electric Guitars
Oliverio Lacagnina – Keyboards
Flavio Cucchi – Classical Guitar
Brett Kull – Electric Guitar
Daniel Faltt – Vocals
Roberto Vitalli – Moog Taurus Pedals
Stefan Renstrom – Keyboards/Vocoder
The Samurai Of Prog are definitely a modern ‘Progressive Rock Enigma’. There is a uncanny ability among its members to celebrate progressive rocks’ past while appealing to a modern more current audience with more contemporary elements that make for their unique sound. Last year in 2016 I was introduced to this Progressive Rock Enigma by Marty Dorfman at House Of Prog. It turned out to be one of the best introductions I have had with a pure progressive rock band in the past 20 years. What I heard defied some of my expectations as to what a progressive rock band could do.
When Steve Unruh sent me the promotion copy of Lost And Found I was floored by the physical presentation of the packaging. It was at that moment I noticed that this band was very different from where their contemporaries were and are. It may of been a CD , however it certainly opened in the way a gatefold would with a vinyl experience. The individual disc’s even had their very own sleeves within the fold out jacket as a whole. The very detail in their packaging and physical representation translated very well into the music itself. My review for The Samurai Of Prog Lost And Found can be found HERE
Where Lost And Found was older music dusted off the shelf and reworked, re-recorded and remastered, On We Sail is a album of all brand new material. On We Sail on the surface gives you the appearance that it might be a conceptual work, however the 9 songs on the album are more set to a common theme or thread throughout the album. Once again Marco Bernard, Steve Unruh and Kimmo Porsti have gathered together a all star cast ensemble of world class musicians as noted above in the ‘Guest Musician’s’ roster. On We Sail also sees the band bring both its progressive rock influences such as Jethro Tull ,Gentle Giant, Yes, Camel, Caravan, Renaissance on the early end. On the modern end there are influences from 1980’s Neo Progressive Rock with the likes of Marillion, IQ, Galahad, Pallas, Pendragon and Enchant.
The Samurai of Prog seem to know what they want in album art and never shy away from recruiting top artists in the progressive rock art genre. One name that has remained synonymous with The Samurai Of Prog has been Ed Unitsky. I remember when I reviewed Lost And Found last year how utterly accurate Ed Unitsky captured both the band’d personality and their personalities in relationship to the music on the double album. Ed Unitsky is easily in the same conversation with the likes of Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson as one of the definitive progressive rock album artists of the past 50 years. Once again Ed Unitsky has captured the personality and mood of The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail perfectly like he always has. The packaging is almost too gorgeous to open.
When you open The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail it is a 6 panel digipak style with the exception that the plastic tray has been replaced with a very fine mini jacket sleeve much in the tradition of a vinyl album. When you remove the CD it even share the same spirit and tradition of a vinyl release in a otherwise digitally handicapped musical atmosphere. With the lyrical content on the album having a heavy nautical theme throughout it, Ed Unitsky has perfectly and tastefully captured that in a moment in time that will help preserve the albums integrity and eventual legacy.
The Common Nautical Thread
The listener does not have to look into it too much to realize that The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail has a common theme through it. This is a heavy nautical theme. Although there is not a main concept, each song is a representation of what the band want to convey to the listener. The listener also hears something new or something different with every listen due to the multiple instruments and melodic layers. Let us now journey into The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail with a track to track analysis.
On We Sail
Music – Kerry Schaklett
Lyrics & Vocal Melodies – Steve Unruh
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin , Kerry Schacklett – Keyboards, Srdjan Brankovic – Electric Guitars
This one opens up with a beautifully done vintage style synth with modern neo progressive rock elements. Soon the deep rhythm section of bass and drums adds to the deepening layers the band utilizes through out the song and the album. Soon heavy melodies of violin come into the mix. The instrumental melodies really jump out with brief breaks to allow the composition to breathe. Soon a Gentle Giant style vocal comes in perfect harmony and melody with the instrumental backdrop. The violin enters in and soon provides even more layers to the song. The instrumental solo’s are very deeply rooted a more neo progressive mindset. The guitar solo’s really allow the track to gel with this heavily stringed section composition. Some of the guitar work reminds me a lot of Steve Howe meets Ronnie Stolt of the Flower Kings.
Elements Of Life
Music – Octavio Stampalia
Lyrics – Steve Unruh
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin/Flute , Octavio Stampalia – Keyboards , Ruben Alvarez – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
This one has a very unique isolated flute to open up the track. The isolated flute reminding me more of Camel with a little bit of Jethro Tull in it. The flute also adding a more classical music imprint. Soon the song takes a more lush orchestral direction before the deeper warmer bass comes in both as a melodic and rhythmic instrument. The track itself has a deep classical musical aesthetic throughout it. On the instrumental portion of this the band provides for a great soundtrack to the various weather elements of the human experience. This is perfectly matched in harmony with the lyrical content of the song. Like Fire, Wind, Water, Earth the band explores all these within the melody in relationship between the instrumental and lyrical content. Part of this reminds me of parts of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. The deep Rickenbacker bass adds a deep Earth like tone to the rhythm section. The guitar solo’s do a great job in conveying the wind elements. The keyboards have a heavy Dixie Dreg’s style to them.
Music – Luca Scherani
Lyrics – Pikko Salhi & Kev Moore
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass, Kimmo Porsti – Drums/Percussion & Backing Vocals , Steve Unruh – Violin/Vocals/Flute , Luca Scherani – Keyboards , Ruben Alvarez – Electric Guitar , Michelle Young – Vocals
If you like Annie Halsam and Renaissance you will like this. Michelle Young stands out as a true treasure on vocals. She sings with a very sultry yet soulful voice. The opening of this track sets up much in the tradition of Renaissance’s Mother Russia. The guitars have a heavy Floydian influence about them. The opening top this is very stringed section driven with obvious emphasis on guitar’s , violins, and keyboards interchanging and weaving like a beautiful web. It is matched in melody and harmony with both rhythm sections and beautifully orchestrated feminine vocals. This is a track that also places a great emphasis on time signatures and chord progressions. There is also beautiful exchange of both male and female vocals. The backing vocals are very heavily symphonic in their nature. There are some nice breaks in between vocal lines allowing the track to breathe so the listener can take in its full intended purpose.
Music – David Meyers
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass, Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Violin/Flute , David Meyers – Keyboards , Jacques Friedmann – Electric Guitar
This open up with a very atmospheric keyboard orchestration that is soon picked up in melody with a subtle and brilliant bass line from Marco Bernard. It soon takes a more fusion funk chord progression with the gentle style of the flute accentuating the instrumental melody. The electric guitar opens this one up into a deeper layer of a atmospheric track. The way this was tracked you can tell they had some fun with this instrumental. It all comes together like they played it live as a unified band in the studio. This is one of those tracks that appears to have been minimal effort with the pay off of maximum distribution. The piano allows a classical element to be present in the song as well.
Music – Sean Timms
Lyrics & Some Vocal Melodies – Steve Unruh
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Violin/Vocals/Flute , Sean Timms – Keyboards , Mark Trueack – Vocals , Jacob Holm Lupo – Electric Guitars , Ruben Alverez – Electric Guitar Solo
This opens with a beautifully guitar led passage that is enhanced with the subtle sound of the flute and immediate vocals. It is a perfect set up for a great story. There are great melodies and layers of violins and flutes along with the guitar and keyboard stringed sections. This has a very heavy Celtic/Folk atmosphere about it much like a element of World influences. The rhythm section really anchors this allowing every other instrument involved their ‘Day In The Sun’ if you will. I also feel at times elements of Camel and Caravan peaking through the melodic veil. Steve Unruh has such a highly distinctive flute that has become a major staple in the discography of The Samurai Of Prog. I like the way the track isolates the piano and vocals around the 5:30 mark. The vocals are very Southern Empire meets IQ. This is also a very uplifting song lyrically wise. The band also has a very astute ability to let every song breathe where all the instruments shine through and this song is a perfect example of it.
The Perfect Black (Instrumental)
Music – Oliverio Lacagnina
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass ,Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Flute/Violin/Additional Classic Guitar , Oliverio Lacagnina – Keyboards , Flavio Cucchi – Classical Guitar
This is a little bit darker track. It begins with a deep rhythm section along with a open atmospheric style Hammond Organ. This is a heavily stringed section based track along with a heavy wind instrument track. Its nature carries a tone about it like the captain of a ship navigating through some rough waters. The Perfect Black is a excellent title due to the unpredictable chord progressions and time signatures. The very backbone to this track is heavily classical in nature. For those who score films this track gives the listener the appearance that a symphony orchestra is playing to a set of film clips. This track also allows the listener to breathing room to absorb the adventure as they see fit instead of forcing the motion picture on the screen of the theater of the mind. The piano reminds me more of Bach or Mozart playing progressive rock. The classical guitar’s also have a heavy Latin element about them.
Music & Lyrics – Kerry Schacklett
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Volin/Flute , Kerry Schacklett – Acounstc & Electric Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals ,Brett Kull – Electric Guitar
This definitely has a very vintage Jethro Tull element about it. Much of the opening passage is in the tradition of Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick. The band does a great job in storytelling with the lyrical content. Even traditionally non progressive fans can relate to its content. The heavy Ian Anderson influenced flute of Steve Unruh is the unsung hero in this song. The drums of Kimm Porsti really allow the flute and stringed instruments the opportunity to engage the listener on many levels. This is another uplifting and positive song of childhood innocence. In general this is a very fun song that will resonate with many objective listeners.
Over Again (Instrumental)
Music – David Meyers
David Meyers – Bosendorfer Grand Piano
This opens up with a baby grand piano passage about it. The piano really reminds me a lot of Beethoven meets Bach. This is a great transition instrumental that will work in live sets to give the other members of the band a brief rest period. This is also a very soothing track that allows the listener time to digest the album thus far. It also transition’s seamlessly into the final track on the album Tigers.
Music & Lyrics – Stefan Renstrom
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin/Flute , Stefan Renstrom – Keyboards/Vocoder ,Daniel Faldt – Vocals , Roberto Vitelli – Moog Taurus Pedals
This comes right in smoothly and seamlessly off Over Again. The track opens up with most its instrumental in one melodic coco phonic harmony. The opening has some very heavy piano and violin elements. It drops and then the isolated piano in harmony with isolated vocals begin to tell the story intended by the band. This track is a very traditional progressive rock track. It is heavy on the keyboards, flute and violin to add greater depth and layers that are the signature of The Samurai Of Prog. The vocals are very soulful and executed with great conviction. The vocals not only serve as a harmonic story teller, they also hit every note perfectly as they go. The transitions within the vocals are spot on perfect. The open ended guitar solo’s add a depth of great emotion about them. The rhythm section also picks this up quite nice towards the 7:00 to 8:00 minute marks.
This final track gives the listener the appearance that they have taken the album to its final destination thus finishing the beautiful melodic journey that has been The Samurai Of Prog On We Sail.
Although this was not a deliberately planned out conceptual piece it certainly felt that way. I like how the band always leave breathing room for the listener to absorb and digest every album according to their individual personalities. The Samurai Of Prog also prove there is still a market for organic uncompressed traditional progressive rock. Nothing ever seems forced to appease a record label or the industry whatsoever. They also have a intelligent awareness to incorporate newer elements that may attract a newer listener base. I am giving The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail a 5/5.