The Progressive Aspect

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“Beauty always comes with dark thoughts”, warns Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish). When the liner notes of an album have a final page dedicated to an impressive bibliography of further reading, containing titles with phrases which include ‘Narcissistic Abuse’, ‘Chronic Shame’, ‘Covert Narcissism’ and ‘the Malevolent Dark Triad’, you would do well to pay close heed to his observation.

Make no mistake about it. The Science of Goodbye is a gorgeous album. The sheer opulence of the music is utterly enchanting; layers of gently rippling, sumptuous keyboards fashion a seductive soundscape which is enticingly beautiful in the way they cascade and overlap with delightfully exquisite vocals to form alluring harmonies and ravishing melodies. Fabulous bass work provides an inky depth whilst unassuming guitars weave delicate textures.

The musical experience is, quite simply, breathtaking. Yet it’s not long before your attention becomes worryingly snagged on lyrical intrusions which slowly begin to disrupt the seeming elegance of the musical façade. Know You Now is arrestingly brutal in the deceptive discord it sows between a delicious melodic finesse and a horrendously damaging lyrical portrait of psychological and emotional abuse.

“No enigma here: a fairy-tale of fear / Hollow to the core, my torture your reward”. As is so often the way in manipulative relationships, “Nobody sees your rage, your misery / Just an ordinary guy”. From the outside, no one knows. No one sees the hurt, the pain, the fear, the intimidation, the continually cruel and heartless onslaught creating devastating feelings of worthlessness.

“Heartless words that cut so deep / Pray my broken soul to keep / I know you now”. When the penny finally drops, when realisation dawns, it inevitably feels too late. “Too much ventured, nothing gained / Love left rusting in the rain / I know you now”. But from the sorry wistfulness of acceptance and self-blame, defiance can arise: “No more tears, no more the fool / Damn your cruelty, fuck your rules / I know you know”. The trumpet solo which follows captures with absolute perfection the smoky, film-noir sentiment of the song.

Unfortunately, however, where manipulation has taken its emotional toll and abuse has carved psychological scars, defiance wavers and the hooks that keep us in place remain. The songs which follow are wrenching in their painting of wavering uncertainty and crippling self-doubt. The title track is forlorn in lamenting “twelve years wasted and one woman down”. Yet the struggle remains: “Put on the gaslight, take me apart”. Despite faux concern and blinding tears, there is no hiding from the truth that “he tasted like Kryptonite” (Tasted Like Kryptonite, Track 6).

Still doubts remain: “Should I, could I and will I make the move this time?” (Rainbow’s End). One final trick in the armoury is yet to be played and the magnificent Blood Moon Rising is uncompromising: “It’s a little late to tell me if that’s how you feel” but nevertheless “oh, here we go”. One last chance? “Kiss me under the North Star” A last flicker of hope; “There’s a look in your eyes.” Fondness rekindled: “when you kiss me it’s like coming home”.

But no. “It’s too late to tell me and you’ll always be empty inside”. There is only so much we can take. The startling end track The Science of Goodbye is an anthem of hope for the hopeless, for those who doubt they have the strength or the stamina to survive. “I’ll take back my life now that I’m awake inside / Heart opened wide / I’ll take back what’s mine in a future redesigned / That’s the science of goodbye”.

When I first listened to this release, I anticipated that much of what I would draw your attention to would be the music. Yet I find that in the end, this is not so much a review as more a love note of appreciation to what is a thoroughly remarkable album. It does so many things right. Thrilling musical artistry, dramatic creative virtuosity which serves to heighten and intensify a profound set of incredibly sensitive reflections on distress and desolation which often goes unspoken and unseen.

Prog often deals with personal experiences that are deeply poignant and painfully existential. That The Science of Goodbye finishes with an informative and supportive reading list is exemplary – and certainly a practice which is to be welcomed and heartily encouraged. I can’t help feel that Holopainen is right. But when such painfully dark thoughts can be shared so passionately in music that is indeed astonishingly beautiful, it stands as a beacon of hope for the true power of prog to touch our lives and allow us to be with each other in ways nothing else can.

01. Enter, Soubrette (4:58)
02. Wonderland (How Can This Be Love?) (5:22)
03. Know You Now (4:27)
04. Ghosts in the Wind (5:46)
05. Three Colours Dark (4:34)
06. Tasted Like Kryptonite (4:22)
07. Rainbow’s End (3:51)
08. Blood Moon Rising (6:04)
09. Monster (5:34)
10. The Science of Goodbye (6:18)

Total Time – 51:00

Rachel Cohen – Vocals
Jonathan Edwards – Grand & Rhodes Pianos, Synths & Electric Guitar
Tim Hamill – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass Guitar & Drum Programming
– with:
Dave Gregory – Electric Guitar
Steve Balsamo – Vocals
Chantel McGregor – Electric Guitar & Ebow
Nathan Bray – Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Kate Ronconi – Violin

Record Label: Firefly Music
Catalogue: FFMCD011
Date of Release: 27th March 2020

Three Colours Dark – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter

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Argentine band Akenathon do not appear to be particularly prolific. Their second album, Como Hormigas, released this year, comes some ten years after their debut. The band has apparently continued throughout, with many line-up changes. The one constant has been founder and guitar player Aníbal Acuaro. The latest line-up has been reduced to a power trio, with the other participants being Pablo Olio on bass and Guillermo Rocca on drums. And one of the first comparisons I involuntarily made when I first listened to Como Hormigas was to another band which has had many line-up changes, and in particular to a time when that band, too, had been reduced to a power trio. Como Hormigas reminds me a lot of King Crimson’s Red, albeit with a far more contemporary sound, and one which has been tangoed and fandangoed across the world.

If not the fandango, then certainly comparisons can be made with the tango. That is, the Argentine tango. When most people think of the tango, they think of the standardised ballroom variant – but Argentine tango is much more varied, and largely improvised. Sure, there may be certain basics that exist, but Argentine tango relies heavily on improvisation and spontaneity. So it seems entirely appropriate to incorporate tango into the blender, along with a good dollop of Argentine folk. Incorporating traditional and folk music into a rock setting is always a dangerous path to follow. Many bands have tried and failed. I remember once playing such an attempt to a friend, who commented it was more cheesy than Eurovision. Akenathon never come close to that, and carry it off with aplomb.

What impresses most is another aspect which draws comparison with both King Crimson’s Red and Argentine tango: the communication between the trio. With so much improvisation going on, there needs to be clear and constant communication, and from the first track it is clear that this is a band that knows each other inside out. Akenathon are tight. Through every twist and turn and tempo change, they lead and follow each other. No matter how complex or challenging the music might be, Akenathon make it sound easy and graceful. Whether it’s a calm passage, or one of raging fury, it’s a pleasure to listen to.

The second song, Irresistible Tic, really hammers home the feel of the South American injection into King Crimson, with some lovely dissonant jazz and distorted tango. Far less melodic than the opening track, but it’s hard not to be swept away by this crazy, swirling tempest. The following Punta del Diablo sounds as if it is the antithesis to Irresistible Tic, but don’t be fooled by its calm beginnings, as there are plenty more squalls of delectable guitar here. Quite possibly my favourite on the album, in fact. Acuaro is fast becoming one of my new favourite guitarists, and I love the incredible amount of nuance he can draw from his instrument.

Vuelos is the second track to have vocals (the first being the title track which opened the album), and like King Crimson’s Red, I can take them or leave them. I don’t dislike the vocals by any stretch of the imagination, and they work perfectly within the frame of the song – but I could just as happily enjoy a fully instrumental piece. That said, the vocals which end the track are particularly effective. The rhythm section really shines in Vuelos for me, even as Acuaro performs more guitar histrionics wildly and loudly over them. I love that Olio and Rocca are not hidden away in the mix. In fact, throughout the album, every instrument is perfectly placed in the mix. Matías González Acuña has done a great job.

Vanka begins full of melancholy and notes that seem almost a caricature of Russian folk. Upon investigation, the song is inspired by Chekov, so that would make sense. However, the sound soon changes from the Iron Curtain to Iron Maiden. (It’s not the first time on the album that I’ve heard a passage that reminds me of that band, but it’s the most overt.) Throw some Floydian psychedelia into the mix, and you have a quite intriguing track – and the one most different to every other on the album. However, as much as I enjoy this track, and the constant changes within it, it is my least favourite. It loses too much of what makes Akenathon unique and original, and is the only track that seems a little, well, sloppy.

Sopa de Hueso is all that Venka strives to be, but fails. And thank goodness, because it’s the lengthiest track on the album, and it would be a shame if it were another disappointment. It starts with a bang, and continues to impress throughout. Sophisticated and eloquent, it succeeds where Vanka failed (for me), with a great sense of fluidity. This soup has a consistent flow, with no lumps, and plenty of flavour. I love the point, just over halfway through, where it appears the song is coming to a close, before being brought back by some absolutely gorgeous bass work from Olio. This second half of Sopa de Hueso is pretty damn cool, and its languid and laid-back vibe is continued with the following introspective Enigmas. Zumac initially keeps this vibe going, almost Sabbath like, before picking up pace. Even so, it’s a surprisingly gentle end piece to the album, but it works – as almost the whole album does (Vanka being the only misstep for me).

Generally speaking, it is clear that Akenathon is Acuaro’s baby, with his guitar often most prominent, but the rhythm section of Olio and Rocco are always there, and absolutely as important. Together this trio has created an extremely enjoyable album which deserves greater recognition. Although released early this year, I have only recently become acquainted with the band. My advice – add this Akenathon to your playlist. And let’s hope it’s not another ten years before the next album…

01. Como Hormigas (8:58)
02. Irresistible Tic (5:06)
03. Punta del Diablo (5:12)
04. Vuelos (6:53)
05. Vanka (6:30)
06. Sopa de Hueso (9:13)
07. Enigmas (6:19)
08. Zumac (6:28)

Total Time – 54:39

Aníbal Acuaro – Guitar, Vocals
Pablo Olio – Bass, Vocals
Guillermo Rocca – Drums, Vocals

Record Label: Viajero Inmóvil
Country of Origin: Argentina
Date of Release: 17th January 2020

Akenathon – Website | Facebook | YouTube | Bandcamp

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There are times when an album drops into your review list and on first listen it makes you want to start writing straight away, this is one of those albums. Motorpsycho have done it again for me with this release. The Crucible was my album of the year in 2019, and I believe they may have done it again this year.

The All is One is the band’s third album, following 2017’s The Tower and The Crucible, forming the loosely-connected and informally titled ‘Gullvåg Trilogy’, but that said, this album stands on its own merit with the listener not needing to have heard the others, although I do recommend it. The album was recorded between September and November 2019 in two sessions; the first at Black Box Studio France with Reine Fiske and the second at OceanSound Studio Norway with Lars Horntveth and Ola Kvernberg, this second session giving birth to the forty-two minute epic N.O.X.. The band teased that this five-part piece was written for a ballet and it forms the centre piece of this album. Produced by Bent Sæther, mixed by Andrew Scheps and mastered by Helge Sten with the vinyl master cut by Chris bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering.

The album clocks in at an hour and twenty-four minutes long, needing the listener to invest time, but it is so worth it. It’s constructed in such a way that it draws you towards the centre piece track N.O.X., starting with four tracks which set the template, changing, evolving and developing in an interesting way, continued throughout the forty-two minute piece and the closing four tracks. The band have achieved an album that is accessible but also challenging at times, brimming with ideas, it has hidden depths which are revealed on repeated plays.

The title track opens the album with what appears to be an almost straight ahead rock feel, but there is much more to this song on repeated plays, with lyrics dealing, it appears, with the changes that digitalisation, social media, fake news, etc., has had on the state of the world, this is a great start. Second track The Same Old Rock (one must imagine Sisyphus happy) was the lead track released from the album, with a gentle start, slowly developing, it then kicks up a gear or two in a wonderfully paced song which demonstrates what Motorpsycho do so well. They follow this opening pair up with two more interesting tracks before moving effortlessly into the centrepiece track, N.O.X.

Here we move into what may be, for some, more challenging territory, but it is so worth it as the interest level goes up a notch again. The opening piece of N.O.X., subtitled Circles Around the Sun, part 1, adds violin which gives another dimension to the sound. Midway through, the bass becomes more prominent, sounding like it’s just holding together as the violin takes on a more frenzied solo. Things move seamlessly into the second piece, Ouroboros (Strange Loop). It’s an instrumental, full of ideas, which turns up the momentum again, moving into Ascension, which slows things down again as we move towards Night of Pan. This fifteen minute section is one of my favourites. It develops an almost palpable tension, almost like winding a rubber band and waiting for it to suddenly snap, but the whole track remains tight and controlled, the expected release coming as we segue into the final part, Circles Around the Sun, part 2. Here things take off with the band firing on all cylinders towards the conclusion. An amazing collection of five pieces go into making this track, leaving you wanting to hit replay. But they are not finished yet, and we get a further four high standard and varied songs.

A Little Light follows, a delicate piece that allows you to catch your breath after the epic N.O.X., the track ending with some atmospheric keyboards which segue into the next track. Dreams of Fancy is another perfectly paced track over nine minutes, while The Dowser is another short and quiet piece leading to the final track, Like Chrome.

Motorpsycho are creative and forward-thinking, combining a powerful but precise presentation to make them a band that continually develops their ideas into the great sounds contained here. This is an album well worth hearing. For me, while listening to the download, I was so encouraged by what I heard that I had to purchase the vinyl version, which is excellently mastered and cut and my preferred listening choice.

01. The All is One (8:50)
02. The Same Old Rock (one must imagine Sisyphus happy) (5:17)
03. The Magpie (5:35)
04. Delusion (The Reign of Humbug) (2:44)
05. N.O.X. I – Circles Around the Sun, Pt.1 (9:10)
06. N.O.X. II – Ouroboros (Strange Loop) (8:22)
07. N.O.X. III – Ascension (3:37)
08. N.O.X. IV – Night of Pan (15:31)
09. N.O.X. V – Circles Around the Sun, Pt.2 (5:34)
10. A Little Light (2:18)
11. Dreams of Fancy (9:36)
12. The Dowser (2:45)
13. Like Chrome (5:03)

Total Time – 84:49

Bent Sæther – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Drums
Hans Magnus Ryan – Lead Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Mandolin, Violin, Bass
Tomas Järmyr – Drums, Vocals
~ With:
Reine Fiske – Guitar
Lars Horntveth – Saxophones, Clarinet
Ola Kvernberg – Violin

Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 28th August 2020

Motorpsycho – Website | Facebook | Twitter

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The Red Planet is Rick Wakeman’s first proper instrumental prog offering of completely original material for quite a number of years. Consciously a return to the styles of his Seventies heyday, the album is also the first collaboration with the current version of The English Rock Ensemble since 2003’s Out There. An avid Wakeman fan in the late Eighties and early Nineties, I must confess to having lost sight of his solo work (with the exception of the highly publicised Return to the Centre of the Earth in 1999) up until the 2012 re-recording of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. A saturation of releases across the Nineties, and forays into wide-ranging styles, put me off somewhat.

The re-recordings (with additional material) of both Journey… and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur in recent years piqued my interest once more in Wakeman’s solo work. If you haven’t yet heard them, I urge you to do so. They improve significantly on the originals and I would regard them as essential additions to a collection; the production is exquisite, and the additional material is amongst Wakeman’s finest works.

So on to The Red Planet. Wakeman’s fascination with space can readily be found in his back catalogue. No Earthly Connection, the impressive 2000AD: Into the Future and the aforementioned Out There. He recently commented that he has a keen interest in our nearest neighbour in the solar system, and let’s not forget his celebrated sojourn to the sun’s fourth rock on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.

This latest recording is a feast for prog lovers, especially those who long to hear the pianos, Moogs and synths of the classic Seventies era. The canvas is awash with Fragile-era Yes, and there are broad brush strokes from the various styles which graced Wakeman’s earliest solo albums. The work features other details too, from Bardens-era Camel, through Keith Emerson bombast, to the gentler moments which graced Wakeman’s later Airs trilogy.

All eight of the album’s pieces refer to aspects of the geography of Mars, and we kick off with Ascraeus Mons. Bold church organ chords instantly create a sense of drama as they march along to the standard time beat. Soon drummer Ash Soan joins in and choral voices follow. There’s a delightful medievalism to this, which calls to mind …King Arthur….

Tharsis Tholus opens with a mellow early Camel vibe that could easily have graced The Snow Goose, juxtaposed with a rhythmic breakdown that receives the full weight of the English Rock Ensemble and builds into the first of many classic Wakeman solos. This is then followed – with another Wakeman solo, this time with a Journey… feel to it. Lee Pomeroy’s bass complements the proceedings perfectly and rounds out what, I think, is one of the finest pieces Wakeman has ever recorded.

Arsia Mons, is a track of real contrasts. The crunchy, spiky synth builds into a frenetic crescendo in the drums before plateauing into a softer acoustic guitar part which is backed with Moog washes. After the return of the frantic synth, Dave Colquhoun gets to delight the listener with a Spanish-style acoustic guitar solo and more of those washes. It’s a haunting conclusion and one that certainly feels other-worldly. Olympus Mons relies on a repeated figure through much of its duration and would certainly not have been out of place on one of the Seventies Yes albums, Wakeman sparring with Pomeroy in much the same way he did with Chris Squire. There are lots of flourishes and changes across this piece, but it really lights up with Wakeman’s solo in the track’s second half. This one is likely to be the one which pleases fans most of all, with Wakeman’s workout testing the impressive support provided by the Ensemble.

The North Plain opens like the soundtrack to an eerie sci-fi horror before the really grungy main theme is set out. Again, this is classic Yes fare served up with Wakeman’s soloing over Pomeroy’s basslines. Colquhoun closes this one out on electric guitar. The last of the Martian mountains to be honoured is Pavonis Mons and happens to be the album’s finest track. There is a repeated theme backed by a marching standard time beat which I simply can’t get out of my head. There are so many variations to the main theme across the seven minutes duration here, with that steady rhythm section in the background, that this is a Wakeman tour de force that quite leaves one breathless by the end. Classic Wakeman from start to finish.

South Pole contrasts brass and flute voicings for its opening couple of minutes. The flute takes over for another haunting passage which segues into a piano passage very similar to the piece from Country Airs which Wakeman revisited on ABWH’s The Meeting. It serves this track very well and leads us back to a repetition of the album’s first and second themes. The album’s only slightly weak moment is the overly long Valles Marineris, a bolero-like outing originally intended for the ARW recording which never happened. Though certainly not inferior to the album’s other efforts, it never really seems to know where it’s going. Pomeroy’s bass playing in the introduction is mesmerising, though, and warrants a mention.

All in all, this is a superb solo effort from Wakeman and deserves its place alongside the best of his works. For those of us disappointed that Yes finds itself so divided in its closing years, what a delight to have Rick Wakeman release this fine effort which casts a fond eye upon the celebrated albums of his early career whilst serving up engaging scores which entice the listener to repeated plays.

01. Ascraeus Mons (5:53)
02. Tharsis Tholus (6:17)
03. Arsia Mons (6:11)
04. Olympus Mons (5:21)
05. The North Plain (6:54)
06. Pavonis Mons (7:14)
07. South Pole (7:36)
08. Valles Marineris (10:03)

Total Time – 55:29

Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Dave Colquhoun – Guitars
Lee Pomeroy – Bass
Ash Soan – Drums

Record Label: Frontiers
Catalogue#: SMACD1189 (CD) | SMALP1189 (2LP) | Digital
Date of Release: 22nd May 2020

Rick Wakeman: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Madfish

This news story was originally published here:

In this update we feature:

• Coma Wall – Ursa Minor [EP]
• An Apparition – An Apparition [EP]
• Anthroprophh – Toilet Circuit [EP]
• SEIMS – 3 + 3.1
• Tangents – Risk Reaps Rewards
• Woomera – Caustics Of A Tidal Spirit
• Lucynine – Tribute To Titor [EP]

Coma Wall – Ursa Minor
Nick Hudson
Coma Wall – Ursa Minor

As their Bandcamp page states, Coma Wall are the acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile. I was very late to the party when it came to Undersmile, being unaware of them until their reformation gig at 10 Years of Chaos earlier this year (which feels now like a lifetime ago). Undersmile so impressed me that I sought them out on Bandcamp. One of their previous releases, Wood & Wire was my first experience with this other side of Undersmile, known as Coma Wall. I was keen to hear more, though I was unsure whether I would. But here is more – though admittedly while released this year, it is material from years ago. However, now that Coma Wall has their own Bandcamp page, I am hopeful this means there will be new music soon!

As for this new, old, music – it’s fabulous. It’s raw, and basic, but that just makes it sound pure and honest. There’s a striking potency and power to music which is so delicate in comparison to the music of Undersmile. It’s not as polished as the Coma Wall material on Wood & Wire, but it’s no less beautiful. After all, despite the rhythm section of Olly and Tom in both bands, what is always most in your face is the twin vocal and guitar attack of Taz and Hel. Their harmonies are deliciously dark and doomy. This acoustic side of Undersmile may seem less abrasive, but appearances can deceive. The music may not be so loud, but it’s just as heavy.

An Apparition – An Apparition
Nick Hudson
An Apparition – An Apparition

I admit I was drawn to this release more by the cover art than anything else. I’d never heard of this band before, though I am familiar with some of the other artists on this label. The tags intrigued and concerned me, as I was not convinced how the combination was going to work for me. I can definitely confirm that my suspicions were correct, and if this band were instrumental I’d probably love them, but the vocals just spoil it for me. However, I’m well aware this is a personal thing, and purely down to subjective preference. I am absolutely sure that among those who enjoy hardcore vocals, this will go down a treat. Centrifugal is by far my favourite track on the EP, as it’s length means there are long passages without vocals, as well as plenty of time and space to make this an expansive piece full of changes that surprise and occasionally delight.

Centrifugal really makes me wish the band would try and expand more of their songs. The following Deception Island, for example, I actually quite like (in spite of the vocals), and if it were of a greater length, I can imagine all sorts of places the band could take it. There is a huge amount of potential in that track, and I guess, in all three of the shorter tracks, that seems to pass by without being fully utilised. Ultimately, this makes it a frustrating release for me, as I like all the music, and am left wanting more – yet the vocals remain a fairly large stumbling block. However, as aforementioned, I’m well aware that there are plenty of people out there who enjoy this style of vocals, which means this EP should go down a treat with them!

Anthroprophh – Toilet Circuit [EP]
Nick Hudson
Anthroprophh – Toilet Circuit [EP]

For a band tagged post-punk on Bandcamp, the initial impression is that there’s an awful lot of punk, and not a lot of post. But that question is soon answered, and I really should have known better. This is, after all, released on Rocket, who have a proven record for releasing glorious and eclectic squalls of noise – and that is exactly what this turns out to be. There’s no denying the Krautrock tag that appears on Bandcamp either. I bet these guys are incredible to see play live! And though the playing of all is electric, eclectic, enveloping, and engaging, Paul Allen’s guitar playing is absolutely the star for me – reminding me of a strange and wonderful mix of Robert Fripp and David Mitchell, with perhaps a soupçon of Jimi Hendrix. (Given there is a good chance Allen has not heard of Mitchell, any resemblance there is probably down to shared influences – but damn, I’m reminded a lot more David Mitchell than any other guitar player.)

This is definitely post-punk, and not punk. It’s a heavy and heady psych delight and it’s simply bloody awesome. Even the coda to the title track – which I won’t spoil for you by describing. It all ends too soon, and that is the only criticism I can give. I want more! Luckily for me, I’d not discovered this band until now, so I have Omegaville to take the strain off my desire. But, to be honest, even if only this EP existed, I could listen to it on repeat for quite some time without getting bored. There is an awful lot going on in the music of Anthroprophh, and it’s definitely worthy of repeat listens!

SEIMS – 3 + 3.1
Nick Hudson
SEIMS – 3 + 3.1

3 was one of my favourite releases from 2017, and 3.1 was one of my favourite releases from last year. The two have been packaged and released together this year, with the just added attraction of a new version of Translucence. (While 3 + 3.1 was released in April this year, the new version of Translucence was added to the release only towards the end of August.) Translucence (arranged for two basses) is a sumptuous and symphonic take on the original track, and hopefully will be available to purchase in its own right, as I feel it may unfortunately be overlooked otherwise, by those who already own 3 and 3.1 (or, indeed, 3 + 3.1).

For those unaware of the concept of 3 and 3.1, it’s an interesting one, indeed. The first release sets out to create pieces to express musically the three colours of the CYMK colour model, and then to take from each of these three to create the Imperfect Black. The result is one of my favourite math rock albums of all time, augmented with some fabulous brass and strings, and (on the final track) the vocals of Wartime Sweethearts’ Louise Nutting. The follow-up EP takes on Absolute Black. Simeon Bartholomew “thought it’d be fun to do an acoustic version of Translucence. Live, this song gets really heavy, but playing it at home on my own, it becomes quite pretty and beautiful. As a bassist, I thought let’s keep it non-traditional (much like the rest of our music) and rearrange the song for my Bass VI, and a cello.”

Tangents – Risk Reaps Rewards
Nick Hudson
Tangents – Risk Reaps Rewards

The cello which features on the new interpretation of SEIMS’ Translucence is played by Peter Hollo, of Tangents. I’d not heard of this band previously, and with a new release coming out in September this year, I thought I’d check out their previous release (from July). My first impression is that this is a slightly avant-garde GoGo Penguin. I love GoGo Penguin, but I now love Tangents even more! They take the Nu Jazz format and tear it up, with the non-standard percussion and strings. At times it’s closer to Broken Beat than Nu Jazz, but it really is neither, cherry picking the elements it wants from each, and adding them to its own (bitches) brew. This is my favourite find from this latest batch array of different aspects. Brilliant. Magnificent. Any other superlative you can come up with, I’m happy to bestow upon this beauty.

I was going to write my own description, but nothing expresses the spontaneity and chaos of this recording better than the band’s own description on Bandcamp: “With the radio live room unavailable that day, the quintet jammed themselves into the studio room and sprawled their kit across the limited desk space: Peter Hollo’s cello bow poking Adrian Lim-Klumpes in the eye, who in turn bashed at a MIDI piano while pinned against Sia Ahmad and her guitar. A mono mic was loosely poised over Evan Dorrian’s cut-down tabletop kit, cymbals and a snare strewn over available desk space, as Ollie Bown lurked in the only remaining corner of the room, hunched over a laptop with lid half open, trying his best to control the headphone mix whilst triggering clips. Presenter John Bailey cued the band and ducked for cover.”

Woomera – Caustics Of A Tidal Spirit
Nick Hudson
Woomera – Caustics Of A Tidal Spirit

With a band name like that, I assumed this was another Australian band. But no, they’re from Germany, and a quite lovely racket they make. They claim to take elements from post rock and progressive metal, and I wasn’t sure what that meant. I guess, if anything they remind me of a fair few Aussie prog bands (perhaps that is why they took their name, if these were their influences?), with their mix of djenty TesseracT sounds, and more Tool-like metal aspects. I’m sure I won’t be the first, for example, to make a comparison with Karnivool. The band seem more math rock than post rock to me, but I guess I can see where they are coming from when they use that descriptor.

The rhythm section is suitably impressive, and often steal the show. I really quite enjoy the clean vocals, though am not such of a fan of the harsh vocals (which thankfully are few and far between). Much of the time, the guitar seems to serve as ornamentation and decoration, rather than providing any great substance, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, when it’s done well, it’s a very good thing. Think Adam Jones of Tool, for example. The guitar may not be flashy, nor seem to be incorporating as much to the sound as the rhythm section, but it’s clearly just as important. The whole of Woomera is very much definitely greater than the sum of their parts (cliché, but true), and this is a mightily impressive whole. Only my new found love for Tangents stops this from being top of the pops from this assortment. And Woomera definitely come a very close second!

Lucynine – Tribute To Titor [EP]
Nick Hudson
Lucynine – Tribute To Titor [EP]

Lucynine’s album, Amor Venenat, really impressed me this year. It was a release I was not really expecting to even like, and yet it has become a contender for my favourite release of the year. Definitely a perfect example of why one should sometimes take on for review releases that might be out of one’s comfort zone. I decided to go back and check out the two previous EPs released under the Lucynine name: 2013’s Chronicles From Leri, and this year’s Tribute to Titor. The 2013 release is super, but Tribute to Titor reveals only to me that Titor may be one of Sergio Bertani’s favourite local bands, but I’m unlikely to share that affection.

The second cover of the two presented on this release, 999, was easier on my ears, and there’s even a chance with repeated listens I would like it more. Maybe. The thing is, I’m not sure I want to, or even need to. I like Lucynine for its own music, rather than its interpretation of others. Even though I enjoy the Type O Negative cover on Amor Venenat, if I were to rank the tracks on that album from my most to least favourite, Everyone I Love Is Dead would come near the bottom. As I said in my review of that album, that cover was a little too consistent – when what I’ve found I love about Lucynine is the surprisingly natural flow of inconsistency. These tributes to Titor, too, are just a little too consistent for me. Not unenjoyable, but rather uninspiring.

This news story was originally published here:

After 20 years working as Karda Estra in a largely instrumental zone, Richard Wileman stepped out under his own name in 2018 to follow a more acoustic singer/songwriter path, firstly with his Veil album, followed last year by Cabal of Souls. This third album is the second (after Veil) to be released on Kavus Torabi’s Believer’s Roast label.

With his Gothic take on folk, Richard has established himself in his new role as a singer and developed himself further as an always interesting eclectic artist. His songs are imbued with haunting textural layers and spooky atmospherics that cram a lot into their generally compact three-to-four minute durations, producing miniature art works that stand tall in their own right. This album was inspired by the Tarot, from where the name ‘Arcana’ comes, referring to the trump cards, including The Star, The Fool, The Hanged Man, The Wheel of Fortune, The Sun, The Moon and The Devil, which all appear among the tracks here.

As usual, Richard is joined by collaborator Amy Fry, providing woodwind, brass and vocals, with his daughter Sienna singing parts of Crafted From Wood, a song from Earth Born by Spirits Burning, a collective featuring Daevid Allen and various Hawkwind alumni, which is rearranged here to make a very different – and in my opinion far superior – reading, Richard taking the first verse, Amy then joining and Sienna taking a verse and the end duet, singing very well.

But that’s the last piece – back to the beginning… Arcana opens with a deliciously dark sense of Gothic foreboding in Seed Sown, Mind Blown, Wileman’s voice aching against the baritone sax and archaic keyboards, bass out in front, cutting with an almost ’60s edge. Guitar lines slice through in the chorus and it’s a smoulderingly intense starter, modulating midway through with lilting, wordless tones easing the impending horror, which will soon return… The picked guitar of The Star is brighter and soothing, akin to Steve Hackett’s acoustic works, with Amy’s spellbinding vocal melody sailing above. Keyboard washes fill out the sound and, with twinkling percussion, it’s as idyllic and mysteriously distant as the heavenly body it references.

A variety of textural keyboards are deployed throughout, helping to provide a feel often more in line with Karda Estra than Richard’s previous solo outings, as evidenced in the instrumental The Fool, lightness in the delicate melody weighed down with brooding electronics and guitars – danger is at hand. The ’60s hints persist with Bacharach brightness, often obscured by the spreading cloudscape. It’s an intriguing piece, the longest on the album, allowing itself the space it needs to develop and find its own course.

Despite the essence of Karda Estra, Richard’s new identity prevails to fine effect, and there’s weeping sadness in the electric guitars of After London as he conjures more spooky mysticism as “white spectres haunt the margins of the marsh”. Yikes! He certainly seems more confident as a vocalist now, which comes through in all the performances here, as in the marvellously titled Night of the Living Doll, which opens with thumping bass and parping tones before settling into a swingin’ horror nightmare shaggy dog story of a return “back from the dead”. Amy’s wonderful supporting vocal is abetted by lugubrious sax and twinkly percussion, Gothic horror again sliding in to provide an unsettling edge which builds to a spooky crescendo.

The atmospherics that Richard is so adept at delivering thrive during The Hanged Man, horn effects and the various keyboards delivering a beautiful soundscape on which the melody can bask. This one is all about the haunting harmonies of Amy’s wordless sighing chorus. From piano beginnings, Richard and his guitar pick up in classic singer/songwriting troubadour mode for You Are My Song, but with the fog of mystery swirling around his feet. Amy’s clarinet makes a key appearance and her vocals again lift the song to new heights. Different directions for Pilot, jazzy and rolling, driven by acoustic guitar rhythms, and the dulcimer of Wheel of Fortune, which adds another highly atmospheric diversion, accentuated by the delicate percussion.

The Sun and the Moon and How I Ended It All are more straight-ahead, songs that were made for the sweet harmony of the voices alongside guitar and sax. Within the ornamentation, these are fine songs, intricate and arresting, interesting and worthy, delivered with the skill of a practitioner with decades of experience and who knows what they’re about. As you might expect, The Devil is a return to spooky, the eerie and genuinely unsettling opening seeing piano notes hang in frozen air. Pulsing bass suggests imminent disaster, which manifests with the introduction of metallic keyboards. It goes quiet before the epic finale – He’s behind you! Fade to black…

Wrapped up in Richard’s own artwork, Arcana is a stylish and engaging album that easily reveals its detail and depths, both warm and sinister, all at the same time. It’s a highly recommended investment, the aura of Gothic spookiness is so prevalent that it would be a shame if Wileman’s Swindon abode were not suitably adorned with imposing rusty iron gates, bat-riddled belfry and dungeon. That would be just perfect.

01. Seed Sown, Mind Blown (4:06)
02. The Star (2:39)
03. The Fool (5:43)
04. After London (2:53)
05. Night of the Living Doll (3:57)
06. The Hanged Man (4:10)
07. You Are My Song (3:04)
08. Pilot (4:27)
09. Wheel of Fortune (2:07)
10. The Sun and the Moon (3:56)
11. The Devil (4:21)
12. How I Ended It All (3:55)
13. Crafted From Wood (3:38)

Total Time – 48:56

Richard Wileman – Guitars, Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Bouzouki, Appalachian Dulcimer, Wine Glasses
Amy Fry – Clarinet, Alto & Baritone Saxophones, Vocals
Sienna Wileman – Vocals (on ‘Crafted From Wood’)

Record Label: Believer’s Roast
Catalogue#: BR025
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 21st September 2020

Richard Wileman – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here:

The last time I heard anything from Norwegian band Fatal Fusion was 2013’s The Ancient Tale. It was sold to me as Dream Theater with Mellotron. It sounded to me, more like Rush with Alex choosing to play vintage keyboards. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, by the way. However, what put me off the album, and why I guess I never really returned were the vocals, which were full of horribly cheesy affectations to my ears. Fatal Fusion began as a blues band, and that origin remained a part of the music of The Ancient Tale, with hints of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. I guess this is why I tended to compare the music more to Rush than to Dream Theater. This year’s album, Dissonant Minds, is far closer to Dream Theater than Rush, though. Well, perhaps a jazzy and psychedelic Dream Theater/Genesis hybrid, where Steve Hackett is on guitar, rather than John Petrucci.

The opening of the first track, Coming Forth by Day, attracted me more than anything on the whole of the previous album I had heard from the band (they have released another album in the interim, in 2016, but I’ve not listened to that). It’s a strong opening, that bodes well, as I admit I took this album on for review with a little reluctance, knowing my previous experience with the band had not been entirely positive. As ever, the keyboards of Erlend Engebretsen are lush, and full of expression and emotion. I’m loving it. Some beautiful acoustic guitar from Stig Selnesin in the third minute, over a malevolent background hum. It’s the threat within the music that has held my attention, and yet when all threat seems to evaporate in the fourth minute, I’m still with the song. And then the singing begins. But, you know, it’s not as bad as I remember. In fact, I have no problem at all, until the chorus. The strained, rough sung chorus just doesn’t work for me. The verses sound natural, and the chorus just sounds forced and fake, and as a result, cheesy to me. I wish Knut Erik Grøntvedt would stick to the singing style he uses for the verses, but that’s just me. I’m sure there a legion of Fatal Fusion fans who love his way of singing.

Still in song one, but it’s a long one, which gives plenty of opportunity for some changes – and I love the change around the ninth minute. It’s the first time the drums of Audun Engebretsen have a chance to stand out and impress – and impress they do, as the threatening tone returns for the first time, since the song began. Lasse Lie’s bass joins in, and the rhythm section shine – even as the other instruments soar over them. The vocals return, and again it sounds to me like Grøntvedt is attempting to sing in a voice that doesn’t come naturally to him. But I have to reiterate, that as much as I have some difficulty with the vocals, it is nowhere as much of a problem for me as it was with a The Ancient Tale. The vocals are relatively sparse, and the music is strong. As the song begins to fade out, I am aware that I’m not really ready for it to end.

Lie and Engebretsen lead us into Quo Vadimus with some very nifty playing. I hate to say it, but again I’m loving the track, right up until the point where Grøntvedt starts singing. It’s not bad, but I just wish he wouldn’t use the gruff tone, when he sounds so good singing without it. With or without his singing, this song has a bit of a jazzy vibe that I really like, thanks largely to the rhythm section. Even when there’s some bluesy guitar flying over the top, the beat keeps things from turning too blues. And, it’s at this point that I realise – of course, Grøntvedt is a blues singer. It’s not that his vocals are forced, so much as they’re forced into music they don’t really fit into. Would I enjoy his gruffer vocals if they were in a different musical setting? I honestly don’t know, but I suspect I might. This new appreciation, however, doesn’t help me with enjoying them in this track. (Sorry.)

There’s a dramatic change of pace with Beneath the Skydome, which works as short, transitional piece. Quiet, atmospheric and reflective, it becomes more minimalist as it goes on, until returning with an insistent marching beat. The last note fades, and there is nothing until a bell starts tolling the start of Broken Man, Pt.2. (The first part of the song, after some investigation, appears to feature on Fatal Fusion’s debut album. I’ve not yet listened to it.) Unfortunately for me, this return to a theme from an earlier album also seems to herald a return in sound to the earlier album I have heard (The Ancient Tale), and the first five minutes don’t do a lot for me. Grøntvedt’s vocals do soften at this point, and the song begins to become more enjoyable, but it’s another minute before I get to the point where I can actually say I like it, I guess that it the good thing about a song of this length, as it does have a chance to redeem itself. Apart from the first five minutes, this is actually a good song, with Grøntvedt’s best singing.

This isn’t an album I’m going to rave over, but it’s considerably better than I anticipated. I’m going to assume any fans of the band will lap it up, and those who may have passed the band over in the past might want to give them another go. There’s enough of interest here that I will be checking out whatever comes next from Fatal Fusion, as well as their previous album. Heck, I might even revisit The Ancient Tale.

01. Coming Forth By Day (14:23)
02. Quo Vadimus (7:41)
03. Beneath The Skydome (4:22)
04. Broken Man Pt.2 (16:43)

Total Time – 43:09

Knut Erik Grøntvedt – Vocals
Stig Selnes – Guitars
Erlend Engebretsen – Keyboards
Lasse Lie – Bass
Audun Engebretsen – Drums, Percussion

Record Label: Apollon Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 10th July 2020

Fatal Fusion – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | YouTube

This news story was originally published here:

Lee Abraham is clearly on some sort of creative kick right now with a new solo album hot on the heels of his Echo Rain instrumental project EP, Western Skies, and not long after his release of one of the outstanding progressive rock albums of 2019, Comatose. Whilst that was an extended, ambitious and flowing song cycle imagining the experience of someone in a coma following an accident, Harmony/Synchronicity is a collection of much more accessible songs in a more AOR style with progressive elements, similar in nature to his fine 2017 album Colours. It seems each album is a reaction to the previous one for the now rather prolific Abraham. That’s putting aside his input into Galahad who are currently re-releasing 1998’s Following Ghosts in an expanded edition with an Alternative Ghosts disc of new versions, also featuring Abraham on guitars. Lee certainly keeps himself busy!

Harmony/Synchronicity is a collection of seven melodic rock songs of his usual smooth style and  crafted quality. Lee Abraham has now firmly established himself as an excellent lead guitarist, and ‘guest guitarists’ on his solo albums are now a distant memory. Additionally, Lee is also proving himself to be pretty adept on keyboards, handling that whole department on this album. Lee’s trusty drummer Gerald Mulligan is the only other additional musician, and he plays with his usual aplomb, particularly on the atmospheric instrumental Misguided, Pt.2, in which he performs with subtlety or power as required.

Lee has yet again recruited a set of excellent guest vocalists, and shows his usual skill in providing different songs perfectly suited to their respective vocal talents. Previous eminent guest singers have included Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train), Steve Thorne, Gary Chandler (Jadis), Steve Overland (FM), Dec Burke (ex-Frost* & Dust) and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf). Two vocalists he seems to consistently turn to are Simon Godfrey (ex-Tinyfish, Shineback & Valdez/Tribe of Names) and Marc Atkinson (Riversea & Moon Halo), and they return once again to perform Lee’s songs with their usual vocal skills and feel. To his roster of guest vocalists (which is increasingly becoming a ‘Who’s Who of Modern Progressive Rock’) Lee has added Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales/Red Bazar & Camel) and from his Galahad bandmates, Stuart Nicholson and Mark Spencer. (Apparently Stuart did wonder when Lee would ever ask him!) This is an impressive cast list and Lee gives them all well written accessible rock songs to express themselves, ranging from the hard rocking opening song The World is Falling Down, which seems to refer to this year’s pandemic (?),handled with his usual vocal excellence by Nicholson, to the anthemic closing number Harmony/Synchronicity, sung with characteristic assurance by Godfrey. Lee’s guitar riffs and keyboards sound very ’80s (in a good way!) on this impressive final song, and it reaches a crescendo with a trademark rippling and rising guitar solo from Abraham as Mulligan belts the skins off his drums. Stay is a much gentler melodic soft rock piece, sung smoothly by the wonderful voice of Peter Jones.

The silken voice of Marc Atkinson is entrusted with two songs on this album, after singing the whole of the excellent Comatose last year. Never Say Never features Abraham on piano on an opening with echoes of The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby, before an undulating U2-like guitar riff takes over, whilst Atkinson’s warm voice sings of hope… and we all need some more of that these days, don’t we? It’s a straightforward melodic song and sometimes just keeping it uncomplicated is what is needed… Atkinson could sing the phone book and it would sound just fine! Rise Again has a slower tempo with a beguiling undulating Mellotron-like backing and acoustic guitars from Lee. Towards the end, Lee embellishes the song with a restrained electric guitar solo, but part of me just wanted it kept simpler and more acoustic – sometimes less is more, especially with the song floating on the lush Mellotron base.

The highlight of the album and it’s most ambitious piece is Hearing the Call which features Lee’s bass playing Galahad bandmate Mark Spencer on vocals, although Spencer has previously demonstrated his vocal excellence singing with Twelfth Night, particularly one of the best albums of 2018, the outstanding Sequences. Hearing the Call is the most extended (and dare I say it ‘proggiest’?) song on Harmony/Synchronicity and shows that Abraham is developing his keyboard skills in a rather epic sounding piece. Spencer’s impressive vocals are perfect for the feel of this dramatic song. Halfway through, Abraham launches into a fuel injected guitar line with Mulligan providing plenty of percussive artillery. After a brief organ passage the tempo and intensity further increases before the acoustic guitar ‘come down’ sweeps us into a more stately and altogether more heroic conclusion, which is intoned beautifully by Spencer.

Harmony/Synchronicity is an excellent collection of songs, framed in appealing musical settings and topped off with Lee’s scintillating guitar work, which shines right across the album. It does not possess the breadth or ambition of something like Comatose but perhaps wisely Abraham does not try to repeat what he did last time. Previous albums such as The Seasons Turn and Comatose amply demonstrate his ability to be more ambitious in his concepts and song writing.

Part of me when listening to this album did wonder whether Lee could ‘stretch the envelope’ a little more at times as he does seem to following a familiar and possibly predictable pattern set by previous albums Colours and Distant Days.  However, another part of me just said ‘Shut up being so pretentious, and enjoy the music!’ Perhaps in a year which has cast a dark shadow over us all, Lee Abraham just felt he needed to use his musical expression to be accessible, positive and optimistic… and he succeeds with a fine album full of high-quality rock songs – just shut up and enjoy it!

01. The World Is Falling Down (7:09)
02. Stay (5:44)
03. Hearing The Call (11:51)
04. Misguided, Pt.2 (Instrumental) (7:14)
05. Never Say Never (5:26)
06. Rise Again (3:40)
07. Harmony/Synchronicity (6:58)

Total Time – 48:02

Lee Abraham – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass Guitar
Gerald Mulligan – Drums
~ with:
Marc Atkinson – Lead & Backing Vocals (tracks 5 & 6)
Simon Godfrey – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 7)
Mark Spencer – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 3), Backing Vocals (tracks 1,2 & 7)
Stuart Nicholson – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 1)
Peter Jones – Lead Vocals (track 2)

Record Label: F2 Music Ltd
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th September 2020

Pictures in the Hall (2004) – (CD-R – now only digital)
A View From the Bridge (2005)
Black and White (2009)
Distant Days (2014)
The Seasons Turn (2016)
Colours (2017)
Comatose (2019)
Western Skies [EP] (2020) (as Echo Rain)
Harmony/Synchronicity (2020)

Lee Abraham – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here:

Alongside his review of Lucynine‘s Amor Venenat album, TPA’s Nick Hudson spoke to the man behind it all, Sergio Bertani, about the album, his thoughts behind it and how it was put together…

I want to start off by finding out how far from the mark I might be in assuming Amor Venenat might be your version of Type O Negative’s World Coming Down. That album was written after the death of loved ones, and was a cathartic process for Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele. Without resorting to googling, my assumption about the title of your new album is that it translates as “Love Poisons”. The idea that love hurts, or poisons, often accompanies the feelings of the bereaved after a great loss. Amor Venenat seems an intensely intimate and personal album. Without getting too personal, was there a death of someone special to you that prompted this album, which seems as much an exercise in catharsis as World Coming Down was?

You hit the point. Nothing too personal: it’s part of the whole concept of the album. In 2018 I lost my husband to cancer, after an 11 year relationship, and I fell into a deep depression. I was very furious against the feeling of love in its substance. As “love” had been the main reason for all my suffering through the years. Amor Venenat is a musical journey through this pain, a sort of 67-minute long curse against love, starting with my family and the difficult acceptance of my homosexuality, to all my failures, my losses, my disappointments, etc. It was like throwing out all the shit I had been keeping inside me, and this turned out to be my best therapy.

It definitely comes across as a therapeutic release, just as World Coming Down was so clearly cathartic for Peter Steele. The link to World Coming Down is made more overt by the inclusion of a cover of Everyone I Love is Dead. However, I have to ask, is the Day Tripper riff that cheekily appears in Nine Eleven also a tribute to Type O Negative? To anyone not familiar with that band, I would guess most people assume you are making a reference to the Beatles, rather than the Day Tripper Medley which concludes World Coming Down, but given the other similarities to that album, it seems to me this is one more deliberate Type O Negative reference?

Well, do you know that I never linked my Day Tripper quote to the Type 0 Negative medley until now? And it’s… it’s really funny! Because it works!! [Laughs] No, I must confess that I compose most of my music by improvising with guitar, bass or piano, and stopping to write down a phrase or a rhythm when I happen to like something coming out of my hands. And I just was with my guitar on the chorus riff of Nine Eleven and, BANG, Day Tripper came out by chance. I laughed loudly and decided it should be the bridge. But now I promise that, next time someone asks me about that quote, I’ll use your explanation because it’s far cooler than mine! [Laughs]


That is funny! That makes it an incredibly serendipitous riff. Perhaps subconsciously, you knew what you were doing. It works incredibly well as a bridge, regardless. The whole album just seems to flow naturally this way. And, in fact, that flow is almost like a soundtrack to a film, or even a play. There is a peculiarly theatrical vibe that I get, when listening, as if I should be seeing the music accompanying a performance on a stage, or a screen. The music alone gives a sense of narrative, but the use of voice actors really helps give the impression the album tells a story. Was that the reason behind using them?

I do write music for soundtracks, and also work as a photographer and image designer for theatre and actors. I’ve never seen walls between the different ways of expression: music, theatre, art, words. I had written those verses to be spoken, and I simply and naturally chose the best who do that kind of stuff. Gianna, Dario, Grazia and Claudia are among the best actors in Italy, but they are also good friends of mine. It was a pleasure and an honour to have them on the album. Plus, Dario Penne is the official Italian voice of Anthony Hopkins, so it was automatic to link that track to his voice for me.

I love that track, and as I say in my review, there’s so much going on in it. But that’s really what the whole album is like anyway. There are so many moods and styles throughout the album, and even within the individual tracks. Sometimes the changes can be quite sudden, and almost jarring. But again, this seems to me deliberate, in the same way moods can change abruptly during grief. People talk about the stages of grief, but that implies that they are linear, when really one can jump back and forth between them. So there are pieces and passages which evoke feelings of great sadness or anger, or of acceptance – yet, true to life, none really stand out or stick around. The loss remains real, and can catch you unaware at any time. The whole album comes across as a raw and sincere description of the passage of grief. Am I over-thinking this, or was the album meant to portray the stages of grief in this realistic manner?

It works exactly that way. For example, the opener, Family, talks about the relationship between my love and sexual nature, and the religious dogmas I’ve always been facing in my family, and so black metal is the perfect sound to describe this kind of anti-religious point of view. Just as, for example, the hardcore ending of Heartectomy, is so raw and dirty (there aren’t guitars anymore, what you hear is three bass guitars). And the use of my mother language at that point was the best way for me to express that ferocious and bloody anger. Yes, every choice is directly linked to the mood I’m trying to convey to the listener. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I’m quite used to making music for images (soundtracks, media, etc.) and so for me it’s very essential to drive the listener in my world using all the weapons I have: soundscapes, words, rhythms, changes, impressions.

You mention religious dogma, and obviously religion can be very affective. Apostasia, by its title, infers an abandonment of faith – again something that can be common after the death of someone important to an individual. Italy is known for being a greatly religious country. What relationship do you have with religion? I presume at some stage you will have been Catholic, and that you are no longer? Has faith, or lack thereof, ever affected how you write your music? Is Apostasia even about your personal lack of faith, or is it more general?

I’m an atheist, but I come from a greatly religious country and, most of all, from a greatly religious family (my father was a Catholic deacon). Moreover, I had an awesome teacher of History of Philosophy in high school, and all this contributed to my strongly anti-religious sentiment. And yes, this inevitably results in my music. But Apostasia has not to do with my own faith or loss of it, but rather is about the great limitations religion can put on a relationship between a religious person and an atheist. It’s like if I said: “I hate the concept of god, since it doesn’t allow you to love and live as you are, as you should”.

Do you draw parallels with others who make avant-garde music that tends towards the heavier end of the spectrum, such as Igorrr? Igorrr seems to feel like the most obvious comparison (even though you don’t really sound alike), but although there isn’t really any similarity in sound at all, in my mind I sort of equate you with Ulver. Who would you compare Lucynine with?

I love Ulver! (Not so much Igorrr, even if I find him quite ingenious). I love many avant-garde bands and projects, but in my case it’s just a label I had to choose as it’s unavoidable when you want to put your product on the market. Let’s say that I am really attracted to all those musical situations that do not set limits and range a lot between different influences and sounds, like Mike Patton, Devin Townsend, Trent Reznor, John Zorn, etc. and then surely the fact that I really listen to very different genres of music plays a fundamental role, from jazz to electronics, from classic to industrial, from Brit pop to punk. Just, please, keep the reggaeton away from me. I just can’t stand that. And very little other stuff.

I listen to a wide variety of genres, too, and I never really like to dismiss a genre, as within almost any genre, I can find something I like. Well, as with you, maybe not the reggaeton. But actually, that’s probably what I love most about Amor Venenat – how so many disparate genres are packed into the album. There’s some glorious trip hop that wouldn’t be out of place on a Portishead or Massive Attack album, along with some extremes from black metal and industrial worlds. As someone who devours music, regardless of genre, this is great for me – but it possibly limits the reach of the album. Too experimental and eclectic for many of those who like their music brutal and extreme, and vice versa. Is this something you even care about? Again, it seems such a personal album, that maybe it doesn’t really matter what others think, or how many people show interest?

I’m aware of this “limit”. And some reviews I read pointed out this aspect as a negative aspect. What can I say? I’m a bit sorry about it, but on the other hand I can’t do my thing in another way. I don’t have the presumption to say “I don’t give a fuck, I’m the artist, I do what I want”. No, I would be highly hypocritical to say that I don’t care about people’s judgement, so I just hope people sit down and try to understand my language with no prejudices. It’s a sincere record, with sincere feelings.

You mentioned Portishead and Massive Attack: I love them both, they are among my favourite bands ever (I can imagine you noticed it). On my first EP, John Baggott, who played keyboards for both those bands, was a guest musician on one track.

There’s a huge length of time between that first Lucynine EP and this album. Is there any particular reason for that? The only release in between was your Tribute to Titor, is that right?

Yes, and it started as a “quarantine joke” during the first Covid period, then it turned out as a real EP. Well, I did many things in these years, as some music for short documentaries, two short movies (I did everything for the first one and only music and voice direction for the second) and other little things, but with my name, not under the moniker of Lucynine. There’s another sadder reason for this long “silence”: some years ago I had to sell big part of my studio to survive a difficult economic situation and so I had no chance of working on music for a long time. But now I’m on my way again and great things are next to come!

That’s great news indeed. Based upon my enjoyment of Amor Venenat, I can’t wait to hear what comes next! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you for your questions, sincerely!


[You can read Nick’s review of Amor Venenat HERE.]

Lucynine – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

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Sergio Bertani, in his guise of Lucynine, has created what will easily be among my favourite albums of this year. Amor Venenat came from nowhere, for me. I’d never heard of Lucynine before, though this is not the first release under that name. I’ve been listening to it probably more than any other album recently, and struggling to write a review throughout that time. It’s an amazing album, but so unique and eclectic that it’s hard to put into words just how good it is. As clichéd as it sounds, this really is an album you need to hear, to truly understand.

The album starts with the speech of one of several famous Italian voice actors that Bertani has used incredibly effectively throughout the album, before a punishing pummelling from the most extreme music and vocals of the album. The sheer brutality of the wall of sound presented by Family almost put me off, as it’s well out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I persisted. My recommendation, if you’re not one for extreme metal is to ignore this first track, and begin with the second, Nine Eleven. If you manage to get through the rest of the album, you’ll be able to return to Family and appreciate it more. Possibly. It’s probably still my least favourite track on the album, but I do like it now, and it is a tremendously powerful opening number!

Nine Eleven is reminiscent of the more melodic industrial style of Nine Inch Nails, and maybe a little Portishead, too. Yes, that’s right, after the blast beats and harsh vocals of extreme metal, there are hints of trip hop, and they only become more overt the further through the album one gets. There are moments that really wouldn’t feel out of place on a Portishead or Massive Attack album. And after a quick Beatles riff, Nine Eleven shows it can heap on the brutality, too. Vetyver 717 is six splendid minutes of music, hopping effortlessly between trip hop and sludgy doom, and augmented by another great guest spot from an Italian voice actor. A squall of dissonant guitars raises the intensity beautifully. This is a perfect example of Lucynine’s ability to show a range of emotions through music alone. This track needs no vocals, and is one of the highlights of the album.

Charlie’s Got Blue Eyes changes things up once again. It’s an upbeat punky number that provided a real surprise on the first listening of the album. Just as surprising was the nu-metal breakdown towards the end. And yet, it all works, and all fits together. No matter how different the styles or moods of the various songs (or even passages within songs) are, they still flow quite naturally. They might be surprising, jarring even, when first heard – but it’s only because they are unexpected. Subsequent listens really show how well everything works together – no matter how disparate and contrasting they might have seemed on first listen.

For the most part, Things I’ll Never Know is a gentle song that has a music-box, or even lullaby quality to it. I really love this song, which again never sticks to just one mood or style. Apostasia is another favourite of mine, which reminds me a huge deal of Phil Lively’s album, The Fall. As the likelihood is that Bertani has never heard of Lively, I think this really only shows that the two have shared influences. White Roses on the other hand, is beautifully bluesy with a vocal performance caught between Marilyn Manson and Peter Hammill.

It’s back for another instrumental, with Anthony Hopkins, and there’s so much to this one, culminating with a fabulous performance from another Italian voice actor. The following Roma Blue offers some more extreme sounds, but this time more death metal than the black of Family. Like that opening track, it’s thankfully short for those of us who aren’t the greatest fans of these styles of music. But actually, I find this one far more listenable, and the breakdown in the middle is almost jazzy. The following Tutto il Male Del Mondo is more to my liking, even when the violently brutal metal takes over from the quieter introduction to the song, which is bookended by another awesome voice actor performance. I can’t overstate how much these performances add to the album!

Everyone I Love Is Dead is a cover of a Type O Negative song which fits so perfectly with the rest of the album, if one was unaware it was a cover, it might never be guessed. This is one of those rare occasions, where the cover is better than the original. And it belongs on this album, as much as it did on World Coming Down. The only thing that lets it slightly down, and gives it slightly away, is that there is not so much variation in mood and style within this song as there is in the remainder of the album. It’s just a little too consistent. (Which is probably the oddest criticism I’ve ever given.)

Some more black metal follows, which I guess makes it perhaps the closest there comes to a predominate style for the album. But Heartectomy offers enough variety and relief that, even though it is the lengthiest track of this extreme nature, it’s actually thoroughly enjoyable. Indeed, it sort of segues from black metal to nu-metal at one point, reminding me of bands like SikTh. It’s just another example of the ease with which Lucynine play with genres. There are so many artists I am reminded of throughout the album (Aphex Twin, Autechre, Autolux, Enemy (US), Failure, Gojira, Ig-orrr, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Massive Attack, Me and That Man, Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, Portishead, SikTh, and Wire – to name just a few!), and yet never quite sounding like any of them.

The album ends with the beautifully dark, and almost ambient instrumental, 200335310818, which seems infested with violence and malice. The narrative of the album concludes without a happy ending, although it does feel like resolution of sorts. This doesn’t come as a surprise, of course, as Bertani has already warned us that this album is “a journey through love, lust, suffering, anger and death; a fairy tale with no happy ending”. When the final words from one final voice actor fade away, so does the album. Even if not happy, it does feel like an ending. And it’s a satisfying one, even if questions remain unanswered. The album takes us through cries of pain, suffering and anger, and rare moments of hope and acceptance. It sounds like a raw and graphic, intimate and personal portrayal of grief, and all the conflicting moods and emotions that accompany it, and it’s incredibly successful in doing so. This may not be an album many will enjoy, and I’m not even sure how enjoyable it is meant to be (it sometimes seems perverse how much I do enjoy it), but it is one worth listening to. Much of it may be out of your comfort zone, as it was for me, but give it a go anyway. You may be surprised.

[You can read Nick’s interview with Lucynine’s Sergio Bertani HERE.]

01. Family (2:37)
02. Nine Eleven (3:57)
03. Vetyver 717 (6:51)
04. Charlie’s Got Blue Eyes (3:17)
05. Things I’ll Never Know (5:26)
06. Apostasia (3:31)
07. White Roses (4:14)
08. Anthony Hopkins (3:48)
09. Roma Blue (4:17)
10. Tutto il Male del Mondo (4:15)
11. Everyone I Love Is Dead (6:07)
12. Heartectomy (6:26)
13. 200335310818 (12:11)

Total Time – 64:57

Sergio Bertani – All Instruments, Vocals & Music
~ with:
Grazia Migneco – Spoken Word (track 1)
Gianna Coletti – Spoken Word (tracks 3 & 10)
Dario Penne – Spoken Word (track 8)
Claudia Lawrence – Spoken Word (track 13)

Record Label – Inverse Records
Country of Origin – Italy
Date of Release – 31st July 2020

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