Finally the third and final list in the Album Of Year 2017 series has come to its completion. This was probably the absolute toughest list to compile. Due to the very tough nature of this list, I decided to sit on it a month before release it here at Power Of Prog . Another reason these sorts of lists are becoming tougher with every passing year is due to the immense volume of music out there. There seems to be too much music out there with the advancement of technology through social media. Therefore due to all these factors it is become more challenging to compile these lists. Thank you all who joined in for the Top 10 Album Of Year 2017 Melodic Hard Rock/ Melodic Metal/ AORlist and Top 10 Progressive Metal Album Of Year 2017.
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/AdditionalClassic 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.
I spent my music time this weekend recording violin and flute for the next King of Agogik album! As usual, it was a thrill ride to solo over bizarre time changes and difficult key signatures. And it was, as usual, fun and rewarding.
So that’s that. The Samurai of Prog’s 2016 album, Lost and Found, is out. The new Decameron box set is out. The Resistor Box Set is headed to the manufacturing plant. The master CD of new Resistor album (Underground) is done – just awaiting development of the artwork. Other than my 9th solo album (which I’m getting used to procrastinating), all my ongoing projects are wrapped.
Onward into the Fall, with primary focus finally shifting to UPF – with apologies to Mark Truey Trueack and the guys that I went 2 months over schedule. (And I will occasionally carve out a little time for The Samurai to keep from delaying TSoP’s next album due to missing input from me, plus of course we’ll hold weekly Resistor rehearsals).
It feels good. I wanted to do a top-notch job on these projects. I think I have done so; none of them got shorted, and I’m quite happy with most of them. (And truly thrilled with some.) It will be a welcome change of style and focus to make UPF top priority for several months… the end of this weekend marks my musical focus shift.
For all those who care about this stuff, I thank you! I love what I do, and it’s a pleasure when others want to share it.
Label: Seacrest Oy, Musea Release Year: 2016 Country: International Genre: Progressive Rock
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Basses, Project Coordinator Steve Unruh – Vocals, Violin, Flute Kimmo Porsti – Drums And Percussion, Audio Engineering With : Stefan Renstrom – Keyboards, Arrangements David Meyers – Music Composer Tom Donocourt – Keyboards, Music Composer Chip Gremillion – Keyboards, Music Composer Ken DeLoria – Music Composer
And Special Guests:
Jojan Ollen – Electric And Acoustic Guitars on ( She/Plight of the Swan/The Demise) Karmen Alan Shilkoh – Electric Guitar (Inception) Jon Davison -Vocals (She) Steve Scorfina – Electric Guitar (Preludin) Richard Maddocks – Narration (The Demise) Keith Christian – Vocals (The Demise) Mark Trueack – Vocals (The Demise) Linus Kase – Saxophones (The Demise) Llorian Garcia -Electronic Bagpipes (The Demise)
Sometimes in the Prog Rock Community certain releases and recordings are all about timing and their respective due dates. This is certainly a fact for The Samurai of Prog Lost and Found. Dusted off from old cassette recordings or reel to reel recordings from band jam sessions, the six track 2 CD set were once and for all given the light of day. The Samurai of Prog present a very 1970’s vintage progressive rock sound with some very modern elements and sensibilities. Lost and Found carries all the signature hallmarks of vintage late 1960’s to 1970’s progressive rock supplying the listener with tracks from 2:00 minutes + to 57:00 minutes + in length thus giving a full journey and audio experience motion picture in the theater of the mind of the audience.
The Samurai of Prog’s core unit of Marco Bernard, Steve Unruh and Kimmo Porsti have definitely come to the table with a cohesive plan and vision for Lost and Found. For as ambitious as the band appear on Lost and Found, they are also very modest as to allow every passage, progression and time signature to breathe and allow the listener to absorb what they are listening to moment by moment. The band were very keen on eliminating most of the compression that sadly ruins a lot of great music nowadays. Throughout my review I will be doing a analysis on each track and for the first time ever the brilliant packaging of the physical CD.
The Artwork Of Ed Unitsky
The artwork of Ed Unitsky on The Samurai of Prog’s Lost and Found reminds me a lot of the world of Gentle Giant, especially their 1970 debut self titled masterpiece. When you open the gate fold to the CD there are three men who represent the three core members of The Samurai of Prog, Marco Bernard, Steve Unruh and Kimmo Porsti. The two jacket sleeves for the two CD’s is like that of vinyl where you have the sleeve covering the wax, except in this case it is more like cardstock jackets with tasteful and appropriate depictions of the respective music presented on each CD. The artwork of Ed Unitsky really does reflect the collective personality of Lost and Found as a whole.
The Samurai of Prog’s sound carries a vast collection of influences ranging from Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The lyrical content is a perfect compliment to the instrumental orchestration and production. Although this is not billed as a ‘Concept Album,’ the engineering and production are very concept minded in scope and arrangement. CD 2 with the 57:18 track The Demise could take on a very in depth conceptual appearance in nature as it takes up the entire second CD. Now let’s explore The Samurai of Prog’s Lost and Found.
The Samurai of Prog’s Lost and Found opens up with two back to back instrumentals with Preludin and Along The Way. These instrumentals are both effective for both old and new fans alike. They give the older fans and listeners a wonder melodic reminder of who The Samurai of Prog are. It works for the newer fans in a way that the instrumentals are a great way for a newer audience to find out the band’s sound and presentation.
Preludin opens with a beautiful rhythm section with the violin and flute wonderfully tracked in harmony with the melody. It is almost in the vein of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull at many times throughout the track. Preludin also has a 16th Century appeal about it as well. This track contains some basic progressive time signatures however this is a warm up for the journey to come in Lost and Found. Around the 4:35 mark the piano comes into play heavily with the violin and flute giving Preludin another layer of progressive excellence. Throughout the whole project the listener will also notice that the band allows for every instrument to be heard and breathe.
Along The Way begins with a beautiful stand alone piano passage. This really serves well to even the harsh of critics. The piano passage is allowed to breathe and serve as a prelude to the next track the 20:02 epicInception. Along The Way is sort of like the melodic trailer for the 20:02 film about to be shown in the theater of the mind with Inception.
Inception elegantly opens with a flute and keyboard combination that is appropriately layered and engineered on top the rhythm bass/drum section. There is a method to the band’s madness and at about 1:40 mark the lyrical content comes in to carry the listener off into a epic journey of harmony between the lyrical section and instrumental portion. Inception reminds me so much of the classic progressive rock epics such as The Revealing Science of God: Dance of the Dawn and The Remembering (High the Memory) from Yes’ Tales of Topographic Oceans, Genesis Suppers Ready, Tarkus from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Pink Floyd’s Echoes with a sprinkle of Gentle Giant over top of it.
The keyboards early on during Inception take almost a Kraftwerk electronic vibe before they move towards the more traditional progressive rock pattern of being a highlight over a very deep rhythm section between the bass and drums. The vocals have that distinct Gentle Giant vibe that they breathe and steer away from the compressed and rushed vocals or long vocal lines.
She (Who Must Be Obeyed) has many reminders of Yes’ And You And I and Heart Of The Sunrise. The vocals take a very high alto soprano personality much like Jon Anderson did with the Yes’ tracks I just mentioned. This one has has deep lush profound rhythm melodies that place a lot character on the track. This track takes on a mild orchestral vibe with certain breaks and passages as well. The last half or 6:00 minutes plus, the track takes on a heavy Celtic old world sound with modern elements and sensibility in certain places.
Plight Of The Swan opens with a nice beautiful piano passage with warm vocal melodies and harmonies. Soon it takes on a very heavy 1970’sKing Crimson meets Gentle Giant sound. The thunderous almost proto thrash instrumental passages meeting a very articulate vocal harmony. The Hammond style synth takes on a more complimentary element to accompany the bass/drum rhythm section. The keyboard also serves a quiet mild element while the isolated vocal harmonies are at play. Plight Of The Swan is a very traditional progressive hard rock piece in its very nature.
CD 2 (The Demise) 57:18
The Demise is a mini motion picture film for the prog minded. It gives the collection of the 2 CD set of Lost and Found a conceptual landscape. It begins with a narrative which sets this epic up to begin to paint that picture on to the tapestry of the listeners mind. The lyrical content in a nutshell is about a society in jeopardy whose leaders send on magistrate out to begin to restore order from chaos. On top of the opening narrative the track on the musical side is broken up in to 36 parts like 36 minichapters of a novel telling a very captivating story.
The first 15:00 to 20:00 minutes the track is like Yes joining Gentle Giant and King Crimson to bring a very heavy handed progressive rock epic to a vast progressive rock audience. The old school Hammond Organ style keyboard blended with the flute sounds new again recorded with modern methods in hand to bring something satisfactory to many progressive rock audio palettes. Around the 21:00 mark the track reflects more of a classical symphony orchestration with the various progressions, time signatures and passages. The band has this uncanny ability to take both stringed and horned sections that are inside a symphony and transcribe those melodic narratives to the instruments they have before them.
The keyboard passages throughout The Demise are as if they share a intimate kinship with the style of Rick Wakeman’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth. The Demise continues to draw the listener into the story in such a way as to allow the passages to breathe so the listener can really absorb both the lyrical portion and instrumental portion evenly transporting the listener into the world the band created here.
At around the 40:00 mark the bagpipes fire up as if a old world Celtic king is being welcomed home from a battle on the war field. It begins to wrap up the absolution of the story as a collective. The final 17:00 minutes allow for the listener to be enveloped into the elaborate ceremony and pageantry of the moment in the world the band created for this kingdom. If the listener gives The Demise full attention they can definitely become immersed into another dimension, a vacation in the mind to a different world.
There is a quote or a saying that goes something like this, “It is not where you start in life it is how you finish.”The Samurai of Prog with Lost and Found are the perfect example of this. For having such a rocky and rough start on tape and going through the digital metamorphosis to the final product, the band surely had not only a clear vision but the courage to finish this collection of songs. They also remained totally on point of their objective and now the world can enjoy the epic journey that is the collection of tracks on Lost and Found. Do not be surprised if this winds up in my Top 5 of 2016 as it is a very heavy contender for Album of 2016 with me. This gets a 5/5 for excellence.
Thank you Marty Dorfman at The Waiting Room with The Prog Doctor at House of Prog again !!!
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