Here’s Dante’s Purgatorio, the second part of the Dante story. The purgatory is a mountain where the souls of those who passed away are being ‘purified’. They must show repentance for their sins in order to be allowed to access Paradise. In the huge booklet of eighty pages you can read the full story in 36 ‘canto’s’, embellished with wonderful paintings. The second part of the booklet contains information about the 35 bands, the compositions, the mainly vintage instrumentation and many websites. Listening to this 4CD, I’m pleasantly surprised about the quality of the 36 tracks. After forty years of progressive rock, there’s still so much quality and dedication!
CD 1 starts with the highly acclaimed Swedish band Simon Says. This track only features keyboardist Stefan Renstrom who delivers in the first part beautiful grand piano with mellotron flutes. Unlike his work for Simon Says, we hear in the second part a rather experimental kind of ‘sound collage’. Then Nemo, I saw this French band perform on the annual Progfarm Festival in The Netherlands in 2008. My expectations ran high, their contribution, however, evoked mixed feelings. This piece has exciting guitar playing, a sitar sound with the Fender electric piano. In the end a great part with rock guitar and psychedelic organ, but the ‘lalala’ vocals didn’t please me at all. Next my highlight on this CD: the Italian formation KBridge with a 15-minute epic. I enjoyed lots of shifting moods, breathtaking sounds of the MiniMoog, Hammond-organ, mellotron and a moving electric guitar. The English vocals sound a bit mediocre, but not disturbing. Next time Italian vocals, please! Ozone Player from Finland deliver an alternating piece with majestic mellotron choirs and a flashy MiniMoog solo in the end. Raimundo Rodulfo from Venezuela delivers impressive guitar work with hints of Steve Howe and ending up with a sensational MiniMoog-solo. Ten Midnight from Italy have a strong build-up from dreamy to bombastic with protrusive guitar riffs, ‘Emersonian’ Moog flights and wonderful mellotron choirs. SoulenginE from Italy sounds a bit like ‘ Rush meets neo-prog’ with strong work on Hammond-organ and guitar. This sounds very powerful and exciting. British Willowglass deliver a beautiful blend of 12-string acoustic guitar and vintage keyboards, halfway culminating into a bombastic part with sensitive electric guitar runs and splendid mellotron waves. Finally, Atlantis1001 from Italy are another highlight on this CD. They deliver a compelling and powerful sound with strong English vocals. I love the contrast between the grand piano, the vintage keyboards and the heavy guitar sound. Besides, you can enjoy sensational breaks and guitar solos.
CD 2 opens with a virtuosic solo piece on the grand piano by the Italian Andrea Cavallo of the Contrappunto Project. Again from Italy, Sophy Baccini who delivers a unique blend of wonderful vintage keyboards: fat modular Moog-sounds alongside Hammond-organ, piano and strings. Her singing is rather theatrical and complex for my ears, a bit too extravagant to be more specific. Next in line the Argentinean top-notch formation Nexus playing with the usual bombastic Hammond and synthesizer layers, fiery guitar solos and delicate slide guitar. This time the vocals are in Gibberish, which sounds a bit weird, but thumbs up for this daring experiment. The following artists are the ‘veterans’ of the acclaimed Italian band Nuova Era with a varied track loaded with excellent vintage keyboards. The final part is mind-blowing, featuring a compelling, a bit psychedelic atmosphere with a raw guitar solo. Goose bumps! The other bands on this second CD are Survival from The Netherlands with a church-organ intro, then a tight rhythm-section with lots of Hammond and ‘Emersonian’ synthesizer flights. The sound of Little Tragedies from Russia is ultra-bombastic with splendid interplay between heavy guitar and dazzling keyboards supported by a very powerful rhythm-section. Marmalite from Italy make very pleasant and melodic neo-prog with strong Italian vocals, many musical ideas and wonderful work on guitar and keyboards, especially the unsurpassed mellotron. Phideaux from the USA deliver a warm and compelling composition with wah-wah guitar and subtle contributions of the Hammond, Moog and mellotron. Finally, Tommy Eriksson from Finland has an alternating sound between symphonic rock (Genesis, Camel) and neo-prog (early Marillion, IQ). The instrumentation is varied and beautiful: from fiery electric guitar and majestic mellotron choirs to soaring flute and powerful Hammond-organ waves with in the end a strong synthesizer solo.
The first band on the next CD is the Chilean heavy prog formation Entrance with a swinging rhythm with powerful Spanish vocals, spectacular synthesizer work and hard-edged guitar. The American band Maxwell ’s Demon has a varied and adventurous sound: from a spacey intro and twanging acoustic guitar to lush mellotron choirs and Hammond-organ. RAK from Switzerland have an omnipresent Hammond-organ sound alongside moving guitar, beautiful grand piano and a choir. Next band is one of the highlights on this CD: Colossus Project from Italy. They start mellow with warm vocals and soaring mellotron flutes, then bombastic with strong vocals in the vein of Damian Wilson and mighty mellotron eruptions, followed by a splendid break with powerful guitar and Hammond. They end rather dreamy with acoustic guitar, pleasant vocals and a mellotron. This formation should make an album! Furthermore on this album we hear Matthijs Herder from The Netherlands with delicate interplay between guitar, keyboards and rhythm-section with the focus on the mellotron, including the choir, violin and flute section. Awesome! Mad Crayon from Italy have a warm sound with Italian vocals, violin and a classical and electric guitar duet. The members of Tabula Smaragdina hail from Hungary and Romania. The band delivers an excellent and dynamic song with strong work on guitar and keyboards and in the end a wah-wah guitar and an exciting mellotron choir duet. Blank Manuskript from Austria have fluent rhythms using a wide range of instruments and lots of variety and finally from The Netherlands trio Lady Lake with their pleasant and melodic interplay between guitar, keyboards and drums evoking Camel (guitar) and Focus (Hammond) and in the end beautiful mellotron waves.
The last CD starts with two bands from Finland, both with a mellow atmosphere. Groovector produce atmospheric music with native vocals and Mist Season have soaring female vocals, a jazzy Fender piano solo and in the end a sensitive electric guitar solo. The next band is Flamborough Head from The Netherlands: a strong build-up from dreamy with flute and piano to a slow rhythm with moving guitar and mellotron. Finally, you hear a bombastic atmosphere featuring a fine synthesizer solo and a powerful solo on the electric guitar. A big hand for these fellow Dutchmen! The other bands are Yesterdays from Hungary/Romania with a tight beat and native vocals, sensational keyboard work and strong guitar play ranging from Steve Howe to Robert Fripp. B612 from Venezuela have a warm classical guitar intro leading to fiery guitar solos, embellished with Spanish harmony vocals. My highlight on this CD is Equilibrio Vital, from Venezuela as well. Their sound is drenched in mellotron choirs and a guitar sounding like Andy Latimer. Part of the song is sung in the native language accompanied by strong Hammond and electric guitar solos. Jinetes Negros from Argentina delivers exciting heavy prog with classical orchestrations and heavy work on guitar, powerful Spanish vocals and a swirling Hammond solo. Simon Says appear for the second time with dreamy and majestic mellotron choirs and synthesizer flights reminding me of Rick Wakeman. Finally, Pasini & Ragozza from Italy with a track that sounds a bit experimental in the beginning, but halfway a slow rhythm emerges with a classic Italian prog atmosphere.
What an amazing experience to listen to these four CD’s with 35 inspiring prog rock bands! Although it’s rather time-consuming to review, it’s worth to make these efforts, especially because these albums deliver so many interesting new bands. Let’s give this new Colossus/Musea project a big hand!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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