1. An art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill, 2. Skill or dexterity 3. Skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile. 4. The members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild
When a band makes a album they frequently use words like write, record, produce, engineer and master. That conventional wisdom is not wrong whatsoever and those words are very appropriate to use to describe the album making process. Now when some people work on a project like a album they use attention to detail in every facet of that process. Attention to said detail can be called craft, crafting or even crafted once the process has reached its completion.
To craft something is to take extra attention to detail by carefully using a special set of skills to get a special set of premium results. This is exactly what Sweden’s Bla Lotus have done with their Melodic Revolution Records debut Tube Alloy’s. When we think of Sweden and progressive rock or metal music we usually think of Opeth or a Pain of Salvation, Flower Kings, Änglagård, Anekdoten, Spiritual Beggars,Nad Sylvan, etc …
Bla Lotus are a serious heavy prog band that carry various old school influences of late 1960’s to early to mid 1970’s stoner fried psychedelic music to a modern age of listener. Bla Lotus are a Hammond Organ lovers paradise combining elements of Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord meets Per Wiberg – Spiritual Beggars to craft a very unique melodic stringed section which is highly due the fact the band has no guitar whatsoever with the various Hammond, Mellotron and other synth’s. The fact they do not have a piece like a guitar does not cheapen the product at all. Even in the description on their official Facebook page says, ” Progressive rock trio. No six-strings allowed”.
For a band that started only two years ago in 2016 they have developed such a tight cohesive sound. On Tube Alloy’s you can certainly notice that Fredrik Andersson – Hammond Organ and Farfisa Organ/Mellotron/Synth’s/ElectricPiano/Flute and Vocals , Linus Karlsson – Bass Guitar/Theremin & Random Sound Effects and Wiktor Nydén – Drums/Percussion all mastered the craft at their individual instrumental roles much like musical journeymen. Now a breakdown of Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s track by track.
Trajectory begins heavily with a very deep bass/drum rhythm section that is soon met in perfection with a Hammond Style organ. From the first hooks the band transports the listener to the 1970’s based chord progressions and passages with a modern relevant sound. Fredrik Andersson definitely display’s his extraordinary finger talent on the synth sections on this one. Trajectory is also a instrumental track that gives the listener the appearance it serves as a smooth seamless transition intro to the next track Omnistellar Firefly.
Omnistellar Firefly picks up quite smoothly from Trajectory. This starts off in a very psychedelic manner much like the psychedelic music coming out of San Francisco California,London England or New York at the time. With very deep rhythm toned chord progressions and vocals that echo like a LSD trip this is any psychedelic purists paradise. You literally do not need a synthetic substance nor drug to feel the full melodious effect the band is portraying here. This also reminds me very much of the late great Jon Lord’s solo material with the orchestra.
Mephistopeles is a much more methodical groove laden piece. The rhythm and stringed sections definitely have a method to their madness and specific purposes in the body of the track or song itself. At 8:09 this is the second longest song on Tube Alloy’s and allows the band much more freedom to display their own skills while building a unified body of work. The echo vocals really accentuate the psychedelic feel to the song. The organs play in perfect time to the bass and drums within the rhythm section much in the vein of Deep Purple’s Space Truckin‘.
Moebius fades in quite subtly. This is most definitely the most experimental Avant Garde psychedelic track on the album. It is also a straight away progressive psychedelic track with standard stringed section and rhythm section until about a quarter or half way mark and then the experimental elements come into play. The experimental section works on all three major channels of the auditory senses, the right channel, the left channel and center channel. The band engineers this quite brilliant into a full surround sound package on the listener.
Recreational Nuke is the shortest track on the album, however do not be deceived it is still as full of progressive twists and turns and time signature changes. It may start a little slowly however do not let that be the focus. There are huge Hammond organ and rhythm sections. This is arranged perfectly within the album allowing a bit slower pace for the listener to begin to absorb the tracks of the album as a collective. It may require a few spins and listens for this to make sense to the listener. The psychedelic vocals are as strong on this as every other song on the album as well.
Indian Money starts out with big pounding and deep drum based rhythm sections. The drums are semi isolated allowing for a more heavier sound before the bass and Hammond and other organs come into play. This track takes all the various elements the band employed within the album as a collective. This one is written much like it was orchestrated or a symphony.
There is certainly a massive ground swell of this style of psychedelic progressive rock. Look at it like a over inflated balloon or a underground caldera waiting to burst through. I believe Bla Lotus will be at the forefront once this style of progressive psychedelic rock really takes off. This style of music will be the next significant genre to take off and bands like Bla Lotus will headline the pioneering spirit and craft of this style of music. Once this style does take off again Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s will be one of those future essential albums any fan of the genre must have. This is why I give Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s and 5/5.
Label: InsideOut Music Release Year: 2017 Country: Sweden Genre: Progressive Rock
Nad Sylvan – Lead Vocals/Electric & Acoustic (5) Guitars/Keyboards/Piano (5) Orchestrations (4,5,8) Pogramming (7) Poducer & Mxing
Tania Doko – Lead (8) & Backing (2) Vocals Jade Ell – Lead (1,2,5,8) & Backing (4,5,7,8) Vocals Sheona Urquhart – Lead (1,2) & Backing (4,5,7,8) Vocals/Saxophone (7) Steve Hackett – Guitars (5-8) Guthrie Govan – Guitar (5) Roine Stolt – Guitar (6) Anders Wollbeck – Keyboards & Programming (3)/ Orchestration (6)/Sound Design (1,2,4,8), co-producer (1,3,6) Tony Levin – Chapman Stick (3,7)/ Upright bass (5)/ Electric Bass (7)
Jonas Reingold – Bass (2,4,6,8)/ Guitar Riff (4) Nick D’Virgilio – Drums (2,4,6,8)/ Percussion (2) Doane Perry – Drums (3,5,7) Alfons Karabuda – Waterphone (3)
1. Bridesmaids (1:17) 2. The Quartermaster (5:38) 3. When The Music Dies (7:00) 4. The White Crown (6:15) 5. What Have You Done (8:29) 6. Crime Of Passion (5:59) 7. A French Kiss In An Italian Cafe (5:58) 8. The Bride Said No (12:26) – silence (2:00) 9. Black Sheep – hidden track
Eccentric A person of unconventional and slightly strange views or behavior.
Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
During his tenure with Genesis in the later 1960’s to early 1970’s Peter Gabriel was looked at the world over as being a bit odd, strange, different, theatrical, weird and even eccentric. With his choice of outfits on stage, to his public persona, Peter Gabriel could not escape the stereotypes that are mentioned above. Another thing Peter Gabriel was notorious for was his absolute genius with the creative side of the progressive rock and entertainment business.
After his departure from Genesis, Peter Gabriel began to really change into something else. This held totally true with the invention of MTV where Peter Gabriel had an era full of many field days with his video presentations. Some of MTV’s most notorious and strange videos came from Peter Gabriel with the likes of Games Without Frontiers, Shock The Monkey, Solsbury Hill and his juggernaut Sledgehammer. The fact that the world got to see this Eccentric Genius at work was a privilege to the world over. Over the years Peter Gabriel would tone down such presentations and focus more on the musical aspect. This left a void in progressive rock/ art rock until Nad Sylvan came along, thus the Eccentric Genius has come in a different individual. This also would shape his image and sound going into another great progressive rock band Nad Sylvan fronted and that being Agents Of Mercy.
Nad Sylvan is a bit of a Eccentric Enigmatic Geniusin the fact he really marches to his own distinctive vision and beat. Nad Sylvan is like the ‘Second Coming’ to Peter Gabriel. This is probably why Steve Hackett has invited Nad Sylvan on stage on many occasions to perform early Genesis material with The Steve Hackett Band. However as much as he is a reminder of Peter Gabriel, Nad Sylvan also has his own thing going for him and it certainly shines through with his latest offering The Bride Said No.
The Bride Said No is a continuation of his last album Courting The Widow in 2015. The story picks up where the female character is at in her relationship with her potential suitor/husband. This time with The Bride Said No, Nad Sylvan certainly explores much darker subject manner with both the instrumental part and the lyrical vocal part. The Bride Said No is also a little shorter and to the point than Courting The Widow was. Throughout the album there are many things going on and I will point these highlights out going forward.
Bridesmaids is a opening instrumental with special effects to simulate the ocean crashing on to the shore. We already see the female character second guessing or getting cold feet perhaps. The effects and instrumental are done wonderfully here.
The Quarter Master transitions seamlessly with perfect timing from Bridesmaids. This song also displays a very dark side on the album and of Nad Sylvan’s creative prowess. The heavy Hammond style organ already gives this song a deep layer of sheer darkness and conflict within the narrative of the lyrical content. The dark portion from the Hammond Organ also adds a deep layer inside the bass/drum rhythm section. The guitars work on both the stringed section and the rhythm section equally throughout the song. There are effects of people chanting here as well. On the vocal and lyrical narrative the song talks about the adventures into the night of a drunk in the masculine form. The instrumental displays the drunken sailor and his emotions and point of view perfectly. Soon a female vocal comes in as a female character explaining to the narrator specific warnings on the drunken man.
When The Music Dies is a bit of a departure within the concept. It has the appearance of a brief intermission. This incredibly soulful track is a dedication to all the great progressive rock giants we lost over the last few years. The song is written in such a way that it could become a possible single. This is also written, recorded and mastered in such a way as to have some appeal for those who are not really into this brand of progressive rock. The instrumental sections alongside the lyrical sections present a warm inviting atmosphere of reflection to the listener.
The White Crown begins with a beautiful eclectic intro that comes in the tradition of early Genesis, especially the Foxtrot and Trespass eras. This track also ventures into the ‘Heavy Prog’territory with a much heavier and darker chord progression that is met with a deep Hammond style organ and heavy 1970’s style progressive rhythm sections. By this point on The Bride Said No the listener starts to see that this epic story explores the darker emotions and the instrumental and vocal certainly adds much towards those darker emotions. There is a part where the synth’s go out into a more psychedelic area. The irony is that in all the dark instrumental sections, Nad Sylvan’s voice always remains as a positive optimism about it. This part of the story lyrically is one of heartbreak and introspection.
What Have You Done starts out with a beautiful piano and keyboard in perfect melody within their respective isolation on the engineered intro. Soon another layer of isolation appears in form of Nad Sylvans eccentric angelic vocal. This song can constitute as a ballad easily. The slower and lighter aesthetic allows the album to breathe and the listener more time to soak in and digest the album. The listener is able to look backward on the story and anticipate that latter half of the album. There is some beautiful guitar work on this one from Steve Hackett and Guthrie Govan. The special effect of a choir on here adds another layer of beauty to the composition.
Crime Of Passion opens up with a angelic atmosphere of a choir once again. Soon the track starts to rock on all cylinders with the deep rhythm sections and guitars. This track brings together elements of 1970’s original progressive rock with 1980’s neo progressive rock with very current and modern elements. With all those elements happening this song would hold up in any decade of progressive rock. This song lyrically has the male character in the story start to really question himself in relation to his potential bride. The instrumental half of this perfectly supports this introspective emotion.
A French Kiss In A Italian Cafe starts out with Tony Levin leading with a beautiful stand up bass with the drums. Soon the isolated vocal of Nad Sylvan shines through where the story can so eloquently be told. This track is very heavy in the rhythm section. It is this rhythm section that adds layers of beauty and layers of atmosphere to maintain the attention of the objective listener. The drum plays heavily off the snare on this one moving it forward with great continuity and grace. Sheona Urquhart lends a very beautiful Saxophone in the closing moments of the track.
The Bride Said No starts with a intro that is slowly faded in through world class engineering. One again the opening is very heavy on the on rhythm with a beautiful bass and snare lead drums. This is the first time in the story on the narrative we experience actual dialogue between the female and male characters. Sheona Urquhart & Jade Li has such a Kate Bush style of beauty in her vocal that perfectly compliments Nad Sylvan’s male narrative. Although they really love one another the male and female characters they come to the realization it may be better to depart and go their separate ways for their own personal reasons. The instrumental side to this has beautiful Hammond style organs and guitar solo’s that give the song the epic countenance it truly is. Instrumentally the track ends on a very positive and uplifting note.
After Courting The Widow and now its companion The Bride Said No I truly believe that Nad Sylvan has some very pivotal here. Please go back and listen to Courting The Widow first and then The Bride Said No will make better sense. These projects have great potential to be live classics. I certainly hope Nad Sylvan does perform both of these in their entirety live someday with some CD/DVD Bluray treatment. Through emotion and top notch musicianship The Bride Said No is on its way to becoming a ‘Prog Classic’. With The Bride So No, Nad Sylvan has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. I give Nad Sylvan’s The Bride Said No a 5/5.
Over the last 30+ years AOR, melodic hard rock, melodic heavy metal have certainly interchanged and mixed from time to time. In the United States and North America in general we have seen bands like Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Toto etc , gain world wide success on the AOR front. Some progressive acts from the 1970’s like Yes and ASIA even adopted elements of the AOR sound to remain relevant on the charts. Then something began to happen with the pop metal or glam metal started developing really high quality yet sometimes cheesy videos.
Some heavy metal and aspiring hard rock bands that did not want to be branded with the cheese factor morphed into Melodic Metal/AOR bands. Soon bands of the older guard like Bad Company with Holy Water,Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow(1980-1984), later Honeymoon Suite, Bohnam and Giant would begin to add some heavy metal elements, some progressive elements and the real backbone of melodic emphasis. By melodic emphasis I mean big range lead vocals and backing vocals to match note for note harmony to any given composition. Finally you had bands that were able to combine all these elements like Bad English, Firehouse, Steelheart, Mr. Big and Treat.
Although they may of went a little under the radar here in North America, Treat were huge in Europe and especially Japan. In 2016 Treat are better, heavier, and more melodic than they ever have been. Their Frontiers release Ghost of Graceland has proven that Treat are still a powerhouse band to be reckoned with. Ghost of Graceland proves that a band can age really well like a fine wine and still write, record and produce a album on their terms without it sounding dated.
Treat’s Ghost of Graceland has a little bit for the pure melodic rock, AOR, melodic metal fan. It is compiled 12 tracks for the standard release or 13 tracks for the exclusive Japanese Edition. This review is brought to you courtesy of the Japanese Edition. The band opens up the album with a straight away blistering yet melodic self titled track Ghost of Graceland. The track Ghost of Graceland starts with thunderous riffs and rhythm section before going into a more level melodic passage. Ghost of Graceland is very tight on the harmonious interchange between lead vocal to backing vocal.
Moving forward the vocals of Robert Ernlund– vocals are done with such precision and clarity. He has certainly maintained his range while many of his contemporaries have started to struggle. Anders Wikström: Lead Guitars and vocals Pontus Egberg: Electric Bass and vocalsPatrick Appelgren Keyboards and vocals all join Robert Ernlund with a mini choir and such spot on accuracy throughout tracks like I Don’t Miss The Misery, Better The Devil You Know, Inferno and Alien Earthlings, etc… that carry a very heavy melodic riff and rhythm section that all focus around the backbone of the band Jamie Borger: Drums.
On Ghost of Graceland you will find many more straight away melodic metal, AOR and some heavy metal throughout the entire album. There is really only two true ballads Do Your Own Stunts and the other on the album being Together Alone, which on the Japanese Edition that I am using on this review, shows up as a piano based track as a extra Japanese release only at the very end. The one main focus I keep hearing on the album is the storytelling element within each song and composition.
Some have said it is all production. I disagree with that. I believe the band placed a higher emphasis on the writing and tracking thus making the production much easier. The band not only focus on good storytelling but they also place a emphasis towards the melody, vocal harmony and even the instrumental to vocal harmony elements. The sound is a modern sound no doubt. Not too many bands of their genre or community from 30 years back can really claim that their sound has progressed forward in maturity and structure. Treat are one of the few that have not went backwards. 30 years later they still continue to leave their mark on melodic metal/AOR/progressive rock. Treat Ghost Of Graceland gets a 4.5/5 for progression and maturity.
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