AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS DOCKER OF DOCKER’S GUILD

Having come up with a debut of supreme class, DOCKER’S GUILD mastermind Douglas Docker took time out from a busy schedule to answer questions on the creation of “The Mystic Technocracy”, his musical background and future endeavors.

Hi Douglas, thanks for agreeing to this interview, how are you doing today?

Very well! Thanks for having me here J

The debut album from Docker’s Guild has just been released by Lion Music. Getting a great review from us at V1 how has the album been doing elsewhere?

Yes, your review was one of the best and also one of the first reviews to arrive. Thanks for that! Most reviews since then have been of the same standard, the response has been overwhelming, which is a little humbling! I am very happy and very proud of how things are going.

Let’s go back to the start of your musical career, tell us about your musical upbringing and how your journey has led to the creation and formation of Docker’s Guild?

That is very long story, so I’ll try to keep it short. I started when I was 7, first as a classical pianist then violinist, until I graduated in classical piano in the ‘80s. In the meantime I discovered rock and lived the golden age of those amazing days. I eventually found myself in Hollywood where I joined Biloxi, an AOR band that had lots of success in the early ‘90s. Later I returned to school and became a researcher in ethnomusicology with a specialization in Thai ritual music and demon worship by Thai musicians. It’s a very metal thing to get involved with!

Docker’s Guild was born in 1990-1991 when I wrote most of the songs for Season 1. I kept writing and developing the story until it expanded into a 5 album project. It never came out because I never found the right partners, the general reaction in those days was rather scornful, and the musical environment very hostile to this kind of stuff. So I waited. Four years ago I finally decided the technology and the musical environment had become ripe to bring this project to its full conclusion.

“The Mystic Technocracy” is quite a body of work, a lot of intricate elements; lush arrangements and a big sound yet still very accessible with it.  How did the vision for the album come about?

Musically, I wrote the music I’d like to hear out there and rarely find. My main influences cover three directions: AOR (Journey, Asia), prog (Yes, ELP, early Dream Theatre, Threshold), and some more eclectic flavours (David Bowie, Duran Duran, JM Jarre and The Rockets). The music is complex, much more than it sounds, but it’s packaged into an AOR wrapping, so those that just want to enjoy great melodies don’t have to dig too deep. But for those that like aural challenges, there is a lot of intellectual musical playing under the vocals. Odd meters, atonal sections, non-triadic harmonies. A lot of thought was put into all this.

Can you give our readers a basic premise of the concept of the album?

The main concept is the result of a simple observation that has been hounding me since I was 20. Why have people been murdering each other for 4000 years in the name a God no one has ever seen and for three religions that are supposed to be founded on love and compassion. Something is just not right. I plugged this premise into a science fiction story and the rest developed from there.

This is season 1 of a 5 part story correct?

Yep, with a few surprises along the way 😉

Are the future season’s written or just ideas in your head at this point?

Musically, Season 2 is about 70% written, season 4 and 5 about 20%. Season 3 is going to be very obscure and experimental, it is planned but not written yet. Regarding the story, I know the beginning, the middle and the end in great detail, some parts still need to be fleshed out, but I am very clear about how and where I want to bring this.

The assembled cast of musicians is highly impressive, yet unlike a lot of albums which have a lot of guest musicians it seems you had a clear vision of what you wanted from each artist.  It all works quite fluidly, how did you go about dividing up the parts and deciding on who would suit what?

Thank you, it’s been a real honour to have these great musicians and singers on board. Well, first of all I like to give myself rules, little challenges and see where they take me. The first rule was that the singers all had to be AOR stars, I wanted to see what they could do with prog. That gave a highly melodic approach to the whole thing. Most of the musicians were chosen in a similar way. I also let each singer choose on which song they wanted to sing, that helped in making each voice fit the part.

Give our readers an overview of the other musicians involved and also perhaps a little of what you felt they uniquely gave the album?

I was able to convince most of the artists just through the strength of the preproduction demos. I didn’t know any of them basically. The exceptions being Tony Franklin, with whom I had worked in LA in the ‘90s, Magnus Jacobson who is great friend of mine and who introduced me to Goran Edman. The rest was hard work and a lot of typing!

I am very happy with all their performances; they contributed well beyond the call of duty. The rhythm section is thundering, Guthrie’s guitar is just unbelievable, and the singers perfect. They brought this strange mixture of metal, prog rock, AOR and intelligent pop that makes the album unique.

Was it a daunting prospect pulling in all these different performances?

Yes! I was terrified at first. The worst part of the project was opening and listening to files, I was so scared I wouldn’t like anything I heard that I often waited two days before I had the courage to listen. That said, things went incredibly smoothly, there were no technical problems and the parts were recorded rather quickly. Gregg Bissonette for example recorded his 8 songs in one single day!

Did you give the artists a blueprint of what you wanted or where they allowed to throw in a little of their own ideas?

Every single part was carefully mapped in the preproduction demos and I had charts for each instrument, but I left them some freedom, and they often added their own ideas and styles to the mix.

There’s some epic numbers on the album i.e. Darwin’s Tears, The Divine Comedy and The Secret Of DNA trilogy suite, is it easier to write a more complex number than a shorter one?

The more complex the music, the easier it is to write. Intellectual games and large scale structures are just a matter of sitting there like an architect and draw at the table. It is immensely more difficult to write e 3 minute timeless masterpiece with 3 chords. That is the real challenge, because it comes from instinct, which is much more powerful than logic.

What led to the cover of David Bowie’s “Loving The Alien”? It fits the album perfectly.

Yes it turned out real nice, I am very proud of that one. Well, I’ve loved that song since 1984, and the lyrics inspired a great deal of my own story, so I thought it was the perfect choice. That is another little rule I made: each season will have two covers, but they have to be chosen to fit the story. I didn’t write the story around the covers, it’s the other way around. It’s quite a challenge, but that’s how I like to have fun.

How did the actual recording take place your end? Do you have a home studio? Or did you do demos at home then record the proper tracks in a studio elsewhere?

Yes I have a very simple keyboard oriented preproduction studio called The Planet of Freedom Studio. All demos were recorded here, as well as final keyboard tracks, acoustic grand piano, clarinets, saxes, my vocals and all spoken voices. The special guests recorded in their own studios around the world. I then assembled everything here, but the final mix was done in England by the magic of Simon Hanahrt of Marillion and Asia fame.

Was the album recorded in running order?

Not at all. First I did all the demos, and kept all my vocals and keyboards. Then we recorded all lead vocals over the demos. The last thing were drums, bass and guitars.

Did any real nightmares take place during the albums creation?

Yes, I got screwed by a graphic artist and lost $6000… I’d rather not talk about it too much though. Thank God Carl-André Beckston saved the day with some spectacular work.

I believe a mini film for “Darwin’s Tears” is in production, when is the end product likely to be relased?

We just shot the video this weekend, and it looks awesome. It is 9 min long, and will be in a 1920s German Expressionist style, black and white and very, very creepy. It should be ready this fall if all goes well!

What other plans do you have in the pipeline for this album?

Promotion, merchandising, maybe an album release party and showcase still to be organized with some of the special guests. Then it’s on the second album which… will not be Season 2. You’ll have to wait a bit to understand this one! But it all ties up to the story.

Ok, name your top 5 favourite artists and your favourite albums…. And why?

David Bowie – any album (but let’s pick Let’s Dance). My mentor in all things, there is no one above him

The Rockets – Galactica. Obscure space rock French band that sold millions in Italy. The masters of sci fi shows and space rock.

ELP – Brain Salad Surgery. You can’t do more than that with keys no matter how hard anyone’s tried.

Yes – 90125. A production and songwriting masterpiece

Journey – Raised on Radio. Wow!

If you could take only 3 songs to a desert island what would they be?

Duran Duran – Come Undone

David Bowie – When the Wind Blows

Yes – Leave It

Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Thanks for the support! I hope you’ll like the album, it was a real labour of love 🙂

Many thanks for your time. 

Thanks you!

DOCKER’S GUILD – THE MYSTIC TECHNOCRACY (SEASON 1: THE AGE OF IGNORANCE)

Released 15 June 2012 on Lion Music

Now here we have a bit of a treat for all lovers of progressive rock.  Written and led by the keyboard dazzle of Douglas Docker, the cunningly named Docker’s Guild sees a whole host of first class musicians involved in this, the first part of a series of albums.  How do the following grab you? Vocalists John Payne (Asia), Goran Edman (ex Malmsteen, Karmakanic), Tony Mills (TNT) and Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Epica),  guitarists Guthrie Govan (Asia) and Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder) and drummers Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth / Joe Satriani) and Magnus Jacobson (Miss Behavior). Not bad eh and fortunately the album sees good use of all amongst captivating compositions that have depth and soul.

The sound of The Mystic Technocracy results from the mixture of several music styles. Progressive rock is the main driving force with reference points in sound being Yes, ELP, Dream Theater and Genesis.  Whilst the songwriting and vocal arrangements have an air of more traditional melodic rock and AOR acts, mostly Asia and Journey about them.

Couple this with more subtle and unusual influences from the likes of David Bowie (including a great cover of “Loving The Alien”) and Jean-Michel Jarre and you will start to see how this is a big sounding record.

The Mystic Technocracy is perhaps, to be expected, a concept album (or first part of). It is the fictional outcome of a very simple observation: for 4000 years man has tortured, murdered, waged warfare and committed genocide in the name of the same God worshiped by Christians, Jews and Muslims, the three monotheistic religions. It is not a story against religion, but it is a story about the madness of man when he falls under the influence of fanatical dogmatic faith. This religious premise has then been plugged into a science-fiction universe, in which religion was created by a silicon-based life form, the Mystic Technocracy, in order to control, manipulate and eventually destroy humanity.

Song wise the album contains complex multi-section suites, more straightforward rock songs or ballads, as well as more unusual instrumental or groove-oriented tracks.

Highlights are pretty much all over, and whilst it make take a few spins to fully take stock of all on offer there are many moments of instant gratification such as the driving rock of the title track “The Mystic Technocracy” home to chugging riffs, parping keyboards and big vocals.  The 8 minute epic “Darwin’s Tears” showcases some of the more obscure influences mentioned but really works being a very compelling composition.  “Judeo Christian Cosmogony” and the 11 minute 3 part-er “The Secret Of DNA” have everything plus the kitchen sink in them but are no worse off for it.  Overall its compelling stuff with great performances from all involved.

Negatives? Not many, perhaps the guitars sound a little digitised being devoid of midrange but in a way this helps create a more “space age” quality to the music and is a small gripe.

Sonically the album is big, perhaps to be expected where keyboards (and variants of) make up a big part of the sonic landscape but its well mixed by Simon Hanhart (producer of Asia, Marillion and Arena) and mastered by Mike Lind (Dio, Talisman, Candlemass etc) so no complaints here either.  The artwork inlay also promises to be a lush affair designed by the excellent Carl-Andre Beckston (aka monowasp).

Fans of any of the classic big prog names, or indeed newer variants ala Ayreon etc are urged to check this album out when released.  A work of art is here with the emphasis firmly on songs and it promises to be a superb journey on future releases.

Rating – 94%

BEYOND THE BRIDGE – THE OLD MAN AND THE SPIRIT

Out now on Frontiers Records

Progressive Metal is something of a rarity on Frontiers.  Normally you see them throwing big bucks (perhaps) at established names like Vanden Plas but seldom do you see them giving new prog metal bands a shot.  Beyond The Bridge is the exception to this trend though.  A 7 piece band hailing from Germany, “The Old Man And The Spirit” has been in the works for close to 2008 according to the promo sheet and certainly is well crafted yet is not without its pitfalls.

Musically its hard to avoid Dream Theater in prog metal and Beyond The Bridge share a number of musical traits with the American genre leaders.  However, vocalist Herbie Langhans is far less grating on the ears than LaBrie and possesses a Lande’ esque tonality, his vocals are paired with the female leads of Dilenya Mar, not the most accomplished female vocalist out there but at least she has an original quality rather than aping the likes of Sharon den Adel.

Lead guitarist Peter Degenfeld is not a million miles away from Mr Petrucci with first rate technical ability, yet he also shares Mr Petrucci’s less than exciting guitar tone.

Fabian Maier handles the drums with equal apblomb and knows when to lay off the flash and groove so extra marks here.

Highlights come in the guise of opener “The Call” which is a strong first track, good melodies and nice chord progressions. “The Apparition” follows and is a very enjoyable 8 minute ride, dark with good melodies and nice musical interludes.  “Doorway To Salvation” is a high energy up-tempo number with some 7 string riffery and reminds a little of Adagio at the start before progressing through some different areas.

All is not great though, the poppier textures of “World Of Wonders” is just a little too twee, clichéd and lacking in staying power.  Likewise “The Struggle”  features some quite dreadful vocals, supposedly two sides of a personality in conflict one suspects, but its effect to these ears is somewhat annoying, and “Where The Earth & Sky Meet” is a slushy power ballad, the likes of which Dream Theater gave up on after Another Day.

Indeed it’s the second half of the album is where my interest seriously started to wane, as highlighted by the tracks in previous paragraph.  Its here you feel the band got a little too bogged down in the story telling and, well, went a little too far up their own arses for their own good.  You can see where the albums 3 year creation process went, ultimately the album comes across as overly long, overly intricate (and not in a good way for a prog metal release) and ultimately sees it loose marks.

There is no denying that Beyond The Bridge do have the tools to be able to make a great album, this is halfway towards that, and whilst the weaker moments are a little too frequent when its good, its very good.  Overall, one to watch and hopefully Frontiers will give the band time to grow and not look for an overnight success.

Rating – 75%

SUN CAGED – THE LOTUS EFFECT

Out now on Lion Music

Sun Caged, the Dutch progressive metallers with two impressive albums already under their belts return after a four year absence with “The Lotus Effect”.  This new album sees the band consolidate their sound in fine style with an album that’s clocks in at over 70 minutes across 14 tracks and has been well worth the wait.

“The Lotus Effect” sees Sun Caged deliver not only their heaviest album to date, but also their most varied with a lot of different musical textures adding to the big riffs coming out of guitar master Marcel Coenen’s guitar.  The melody is high in most numbers, aided by Paul Adrian Villarreal’s distinctive and impressive vocals and Rene Kroon’s keyboard work also covers a lot of ground.  New bassist Daniel Kohn has also formed a formidable rhythm unit with drummer Roel van Helden.

Opener “Seam Ripper (and the blanket statement)” is an 8 minute stunner which perfectly characterises Sun Caged unique take on prog metal. “Tip-Toe the Fault-Line” and the blinding “Shades Of Hades” (see audio player above) deliver a more straight-ahead delivery with potent riffs and strong choruses.  The melody is high in numbers such as “Ashes To Earn” and the 10 minute epic “Pareidolized (The Ocean in the Shell)” which is a stunner pure and simple.  Elsewhere the quality is exceptionally high. Whilst the album takes several spins to full reveal itself the listener is rewarded further with each passing play – and this is a release you will find yourself coming back to.

“The Lotus Effect” may have taken some time to see the light of day, but its Sun Caged finest release thus far and an essential slice of progressive metal.  For those fed up of the hundreds of Dream Theater and Symphony X clones check out this album for a refreshing and original take on the progressive metal genre.

Rating – 95%

JORDAN RUDESS – RHYTHM OF TIME (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Magna Carta

Jordan Rudess is best known as the keyboard player of Dream Theater with Rhythm Of Time being his second solo album on the Magna Carta label. Much like Derek Sherinian (whom he replaced in DT) Rudess has decided to call in some of the hottest guitar players to guest on the album. Lending their six string talents to the album reads like a “who’s who” of modern rock guitar with solo spots from Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore, Steve Morse and Greg Howe.

The bass guitar is courtesy of Steve Morse sidekick Dave LaRue, with drums coming from ex Winger drummer Rod Morgenstein whom Rudess has collaborated on numerous occassions.

Stylistically Rhythm Of Time is sure to please any fan of Dream Theater. This is predominantly progressive instrumental music, yet although being keyboard driven has its fair share of guitar work. The keyboards as such take the place of vocals and in all honesty this material would work rather well were James LaBrie to provide vocals over. However, Kip Winger does crop up on vocals for 2 tracks.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of Rhythm Of Time is that it was made a reality in 14 days before Jordan left to start Dream Theater’s Train Of Thought world tour. The making of the album may well see the light of day on a ‘making of’ DVD; in the meantime on the CD there is an interview with Jordan about the making of the album.

Modern technology played a big part in this album being completed, with guest musicians adding their solos at their home studios and then either emailing or snail mailing their parts back to Jordan. That the album sounds such a cohesive unit only goes to show the high caliber of all involved.

Opener Time Crunch is begins with a fast tempo before settling into a more mid paced groove. Over the basic riff Jordan lays down numerous keyboard motifs before taking us through instrumental pastures that go from ambient to pure metal. Dream Theater fans will feel instantly at home here with the track being the closest on offer to the prog metal sound of Jordan’s main gig. Vinnie Moore (UFO) provides guitar here and his first main solo sees restraint that mixes blues with jazz fusion licks before heading into some complex string skipping. A great opener that will make you want to explore the album further.

Screaming Head is less metal and more rocked up jazz fusion with a slight funk feel. A basic riff lays the foundation for Rudess’s keboard experimentations which see good use of the pitch wheel. The track does take a complete u turn for a dark gothic vibe before launching into the main melody once again. Guitar here comes courtesy of Joe Satriani and it has to be said his style of space age lead work is the perfect compliment to the track.

Track 3 Insectamongous initially has a big Frank Zappa vibe to it. A quirky motif lays the foundation for a myriad of odd time signatures and bizarre musical twists. Zappa’s own ‘G spot Tornado’ could be seen as similar turf to Insectamongous, but this is a little more accessible than Zappa’s piece. Once you think you have the track summed up it launches into a big riff over which Joe Satriani throws done one of his most aggressive leads in several years. This fires Jordan up who lays down another impressive workout.

Beyond Tomorrow sees the tempo and ambience drop considerably for the first vocal number on the album. Initially piano led this is soon enriched by some acoustic guitars (by newcomer Daniel J) and the warm vocal timbres of Kip Winger. This is just a great song – period. The track has a timeless quality about it and is as good as any of the slower numbers Dream Theater have produced; lead guitar here comes courtesy of Greg Howe.

Track 5, Bar Hopping With Mr Picky has a futuristic vibe, thanks to lots of complex synth samples; many in the lowest bass registers which add an eerie space age quality to the track. The unmistakeable guitar work of Steve Morse (Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs) works well here with Morse’s chromatic heavy style blending in well within Jordan’s frameworks.

What Four is home to another groovy vibe, partly due to the slap bass inflections. Yet again this is mixed with a darker vibe and the piano led motif at around the 1:10 mark is a nice contrast to what came before. Greg Howe contributes a pretty gonzo solo here, that is mixed a little lower than the other guitar solo breaks for some reason. This does not make for any production faux pas’ as its still audible but I would have liked to have heard it a litte louder in the mix. Jordan compensates for this by laying down a short but great singing solo on his keyboard.

Ra sees the Dream Theater “feel” come back into play with a good rocking riff that leads into an eastern tinged section, that then flys to Europe for some French sounding accordian work, before jetting back to Asia. Vinnie Moore throws down more solos full of string skipping and legato delights, and trades back and forth with Jordan – cool stuff. The rocking nature of this track takes a few spins to fully digest, but once digested tastes totally satisfying.

The final track Tear Before The Rain (cool title) goes back to the vibe of Beyond Tomorrow and has a definite Pink Floyd feel to it; maybe due to Kip Winger sounding a little like Roger Waters. Regardless this is a sublime song with great structure, great melody, and great peformances from all involved (Kip Winger is a seriously underrated vocalist) and closes the album in fine style.

What Jordan Rudess has served up with Rhythm Of Time is similar to what Derek Sherinian achieved with Black Utopia – that is a predominantly instrumental album that manages to hit all the right notes. However, the presence of two superb vocal tracks adds an additional element to Rhythm Of Time that gives it further strength.

As mentioned in the track by track details there is a lot of variety here, although it never strays too far from what you are likely to hear in Dream Theater. Rudess doesn’t get an awful lot of songwriting credits in DT, but Rhythm Of Time proves that he is now an integral part of the band, and I hope that he is able to get a few more of his ideas in on the next record.

In summary, Rhythm Of Time is a worthy addition to any Progressive music fans collection.

Hot Spots:Time Crunch, Screaming Head, Beyond Tomorrow, Ra, Tear Before The Rain.
Rating: 92%

HAKEN – AQUARIUS (ARCHIVE)

 

Out now on Sensory Records

Haken are a rarity in that that are a virtuosic progressive rock/ metal band from England, normally us Brits go for stuff much more obvious and trend driven so its nice to be able to assess something from my homeland in one of my favourite genres.  Aquarius is the bands debut release –and as you might expect for a prog band its a 7 track 72 minute, larger than life conceptual sci-fi/fantasy work brought to us by the Sensory label.

Led by the enigmatic vocals of Ross Jennings, the music is heavy coming across as a mix of Vanden Plas and Symphony X in the heavier segments, with the more esoteric instrumental stylings of Transatlantic.  No doubt some critics will want to market the band as a UK Dream Theater but these would be quite wide of the mark to these ears as this features a much more diverse sound, one might say all encompassing with its jazz and fusion leanings in places. 

The opening trio of tracks all clock in over the 10 minute mark each so the band make their prog credententials known right from the off, luckily the music is enjoyable but quite often falls into the ‘where’s the song?’ category.  That said ‘Eternal Rain’ does come close with its more traditional song structure.   A little fine tuning, or perhaps critical appraisal from within the bands ranks of what is really needed in the songs overall would pay dividends if they wish to draw in the more casual listener, but prog fans as a whole should enjoy the barrage of musicality – if not the occasional grunted vocals. ‘Drowning In The Flood’ reminded me somewhat of the music on the Sphere Of Souls debut which is no bad thing either.

Sonically the album is one of the better efforts from the Sensory label of late, being mostly clear and mud free in the mix department – which is essential for maximum enjoyment in this genre.

Overall Haken have come up with a solid debut in ‘Aquarius’ and may just kick start a renaissance of original progressive music in the UK.  A nice start.

Rating -80%

DAY SIX – THE GRAND DESIGN (ARCHIVE)

Out Now on Lion Music

Lion Music continues their recent trend of picking up original sounding new progressive talent in fine style with Day Six. Hailing from the Netherlands, the four piece play a dark brand of prog meets metal and classic rock which is equally at home with its crushing riffs or Pink Floyd-esque moments of tranquil calm.

Lyrically ‘The Grand Design’ is a concept album which focuses on an extraterrestrial spaceship that has been found in Lake Vostok – Antarctica and subsequent government conspiracies. Each track is home to a wealth of musical goodies and Robbie van Stiphout’s melodic vocals allow the band to avoid the usual prog metal vocal clichés and his guitar work shows a man with a dossier at his disposal of crushing riffs.

The sound of the album reminded me a little of a heavier Everon but there are traces here of heavier metal acts such as Dream Theater (in their basic riff form), Porcupine Tree and some of the heaviest riffing wouldn’t be out of place on a Metallica album. The band see fit to create musical landscapes out of synths and riffs as opposed to blazing lead work instrumental sections, and this makes a welcome change. Simply said there is an awful lot to enjoy here.

As debuts go this is very strong indeed. Home to a very powerful production and great performances all round this is a fine debut and worthwhile for all prog fans past to present to check out.

Rating – 90%

CHARLY SAHONA – NAKED THOUGHTS FROM A SILENT CHAOS (ARCHIVE)

Released Feb 2010 on Lion Music

Dedicated followers of Virtuosity One may well be familiar with the name Charly Sahona from his work in progressive metallers Venturia who have released 2 excellent albums to date.  However, the French guitarist has seen fit to use songs not geared towards the Venturia sound for a debut solo album “Naked Thoughts From A Silent Chaos” which is a much more streamlined album built around heavy riffs with catchy vocals and Sahona’s trademark solos with the press promo sheet describing this is a fusion of Dream Theater, Muse and 30 Seconds To Mars.  Certainly the musicianship and heaviness of DT is here with the melodies taking on the more modernistic feel of Muse.  Fans of either band should be able to latch on this rather easily, yet at the same time it has its own sound going on.

Sonically the album sounds great with a production that puts many big names to shame with the rhythm section of Sahona’s Venturia band mates Diego Rapacchietti (Drums) and Thomas James-Potrel (Bass) powering the whole 8 track album along with exuberant ease and skill.  Sahona’s guitar is as excellent as anyone who has heard Venturia knows yet here where it’s the main focus you really see that Charly’s style is taking metal guitar to new places.

Highlights come in practically every song from opener and debut single “Relieved”, the stomping “Away From Our Sins” which is full of catchy vocal melodies, “Forgotten Past” is closest in style to the sound heard of Venturia’s “Hybrid” album.  “River Of Lies” is the most straight metal tinged track on the album.  “Living In A Dream Is Not Right” is relatively laid back in comparison to other tracks and allows Sahona to show his vocal skill, something which it could be argued is mixed a little low in places, this could maybe be put down to debut vocal release nerves, however, Sahona has a good voice, melodic, clean and likely to win appeal with the modern day listener so next time push the fader up a little Charly!  “It Will Fly Away” has more commercial possibilities and those that like Muse but would like that heavier may just find their perfect match here.    Closer “All That Can Be Said” sees the album out on another strong note.

With “Naked Thoughts From A Silent Chaos” Charly Sahona has delivered a mightily impressive debut album.  If your penchant for metal is to avoid clichés then this could be right up your street.  Essentially with performances this good, a production this strong and song quality excellent from start to finish then you have to ask the question what’s not to like?
 
Hot Spots : Relieved, Away From Our Sins, It Will Fly Away.
Rating : 95%

DREYELANDS – ROOMS OF REVELATION (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Out Now  – Lion Music

Hungary might not be the first destination to spring to mind if you were to take a world cruise of progressive metal hotbeds, but with their debut ‘Rooms Of Revelation’, Dreyelands will instantly make you add the country on your must check out list and also give the genre’s big boys something serious to be worried about.

Freshly signed to Lion Music the band may just have found their ideal home as the band sound ideal for what the label promote – high quality melodic progressive metal.  Couple that with a stunning album cover and overall presentation from the band and this suggests a band that is concerned about all aspects of their presentation.

‘Rooms Of Revelation’ is home to 9 tracks (1 short intro and 8 “rooms”) the album is a concept piece which depicts a journey in a schizophrenic mind.  The rooms signify points in the mind of the main character as we learn about his past as does he.  However, it’s nothing to get bogged down with as the songs stand individually as well as any non concept album.

Musically the songs are powered by heavy guitar riffs and great lead work from András Ádám Horváth (a guitarist of considerable skill) fused with ultra melodic, memorable vocal themes from Nikola Mijic who possesses a superb strong clear voice with no accent to speak of.  To these ears he is like a more gritty Göran Edman and takes the band away from all the Russell Allen / James Labrie clones that litter the genre. Special mention also needs to go out to bassist Gergely Springer and drummer Omar Gassama who are a quite formidable rhythm section.  Keyboards on the album are handled by Zoltán Kas who has since left the band being replaced in a hired capacity by György Nagy (Age of Nemesis).

Sonically ‘Rooms Of Revelation’ is big, modern and natural with the band boasting of no triggers on the drums and live string arrangements  for which extra kudos must be given. 

Each of the main body of songs are highlights in their own right, whether it be the dark ‘Seek For Salvation’, the groove inflected ‘Can’t Hide Away’ (check promo video on side of review), the commercial and impossible catchy ‘Pretending’ with its glorious chorus and melodic hooks, and the firey riffery of ‘Fragments’ which again has enough hooks on to hang the coats section of H&M all make the first half of the album fly by  despite all clocking in over the 5 minute mark- always a good sign of quality

Things get darker hereon in with ‘Way To You’ being quite complex musically yet accessible vocally, the gentle piano led ballad ‘Blossoms Of Decay’ is a nice breather before the numerous facets of ‘Vain’ takes hold (some great riffs are contained within) and the glorious final track ‘Closing Grace’ which again which is sure to find favour with fans of Dream Theater, Seventh Wonder and the like plus I detect a little of the darkness of label mates Tomorrow’s Eve on the chorus.  A fine closer.

With ‘Rooms Of Revelation’ Dreyelands may well have delivered the prog metal album of 2010 and a serious contender for album of the year overall.  Given this is a debut offering suggests the band have a great future ahead and I sincerely hope all prog metal fans take a chance on this unknown band as they will be richly rewarded on all levels – simply awesome.
 
Hot Spots : Everything.
Rating : 98%

www.dreyelands.com


SPOCK’S BEARD – X (REVIEW)

Out Now – Mascot
 
Shamefully I must confess to this being my first airing of Spock’s Beard. This is a band that has always been on my “check out” list but never made it into a shopping cart. So fortunately or not I am approaching the bands tenth album, the imaginatively titled “X”, with virgin fresh ears. Their label Mascot proclaim this as one of the bands best albums to date and I’ll take their word on it and amongst their admirers is none other than former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy.

First of this looks and smells like prog, classy artwork, inventive band name and the sound backs this up. Yet Spock’s Beard come across as the new breed of melodic prog rock with a few heavier moments this is all rather easily digestible and enjoyable – none of your bloated stodgy 70’s prog-isms here. The musicians sure know their way around their instruments yet don’t ram it down our throats at every opportunity. With just 7 songs and running time of over an hour the epic track length is here on the likes of 10 minute opener “Edge Of The Inbetween”, 17 minute “From The Darkness” and 16 minute closer “Jaws Of Heaven” yet there is also more palatable track lengths elsewhere. That said the epics do not have lag and are lovely compositions full stop with lush vocal melodies, strong guitar work and a nice rhythmic interplay all rounded out by a crisp and clear modern production.

With “X” Spock’s Beard appear to be in a very healthy state and I am eager to check out the back catalogue. Recommended for prog rock fans.

Rating – 87%