Most of the progressive rock releases that I hear don't really impress me. Let say I give 20% 8 out of 10 up to 10 out of 10. Luckily there are exceptions which are really nice to listen to. A couple of times a year there's a release that makes me really flabbergasted.
I think that the big tidal wave of releases is the main reason for my rather cynical approach. Nowadays almost everyone can make an album. Nothing wrong with that. But due to the big amount of releases the chance of getting a great album is less than say 20 years ago. Whatever, I've made my point.
The first time I listened to the album Petrichor by Keor I was completely blown away. This is one of the few musical diamonds of the last few years! I listened to the album on Bandcamp, by the way. Keor sold the album on this platform. But unfortunately for me, it was already sold out. The first pressing was sold out in approximately a month or so. When I send an email, I got back the answer that the second pressing was on its way. At the end of January, I got my copy. My personal party could start at the Bannink's Residence. I really like to listen music the old-fashioned way, so CD player, tube amplifier and speakers.
Keor is a solo project of the young and very talented Frenchman Victor Miranda Martin (vocals, guitars, Mellotron, Hammond organ, soundscapes, sampled instruments and additional keyboards). Additional musicians are Reid Blackmore Noble (mandolin and orchestral percussions on track 3), AnaÏde Apelian (clarinet on tracks 3 and 4), Lucas de la Rosa (piano on tracks 4 and 5).
Petrichor is his second album. The first album I don't know, I must confess. So, I can't judge if there is any progression. My feelings say that there must be certain progression.
The album starts with the title track Petrichor. A track lasting approximately 11 minutes. It has a long acoustic- and classical intro with more or less tragic- and “dark” atmospheres. The intro touched me immediately, because it's played very tastefully and mature. The tension is built up at the end with Mellotron. The track dissolves into very heavy atmospheres. I think personally that dark atmospheres are a better designation. This part of the song has very tight phrases. Especially the staccato guitar riffs that are really freaky. Although there is a heavy character of these parts there is always some melody in the song. The vocals are modest, which gives a nice contrast with the instruments. The vocals remind me a little of Tom Yorke (Radiohead).
The guitar solo at the end of the song, which is very melodic, moves the song up into a “cacophony”. During this part I had to think of Devon Townsend. It has the same sort of atmosphere. Conclusion is that the opening of the album is incredible, incredibly good. I am really blown away by this track. Luckily, we have four tracks to go.
The second track The Nest Of Evil starts with a heavy and dark atmosphere. The song transitions fast in rustic atmospheres. Rustic atmospheres that breath darkness. But the original thing about the darkness is that it is filled in with very tuneful melodies. These melody parts even contain sounds of high bells. I personally find it amazing how the chord progressions are composed. Music sometimes is art; this is art for sure. The Nest Of Evil also has a very heavy theatrical part towards the end of the song. Snivel By The Pond has a intro that reminds me of Mediterranean soundscapes. I think the chord progression is more or less Greek style. The mandolin is prominent in this song. Nevertheless, it's very melodic and I felt like I am on a merry-go-round. The first part of the song is very tragic. The vocals are the most tragic and gives this part it's atmospheres, in my opinion. This song ends with an orchestral part.
Victor Miranda Martin has the gift of combining several musical styles into one song. I think that is original. Originality is something that is lacking in a lot of music nowadays.
The fourth track is Terrence. And it's obvious that the album continues in the same way as it began. Rustic parts, heavy parts, strong melodies, tragic vocals follow each other in a pleasant tempo.
The album ends with Abyssal Bloom. In my opinion it's the most experimental track on the album. The chord progression has a psychedelic character and is rather dark. The song has a lot of samples. Thunderstorms and bells creating theatrical atmospheres.
During writing this review the term “Prince Of Darkness” was floating through my head. But it's obvious that Ozzy Osbourne is the one and only prince of darkness. So, this is not a good comparison. The songs on Petrichor are dark colored. But I must confess that's not an evil darkness. On the contrary! They've got so much melody and so much positive tension, that the word darkness is not really the best way to define Keor.
Normally it is not my style to reflect other reviews. But this time I must. I read and listened to some reviews in which Keor was compared to Steven Wilson. Especially the album Grace For Drowning was named a several times. Some saw parallels between the two albums.
I am a huge fan of Steven Wilson, and when I say huge, I mean huge. But do I hear influences of Steven Wilson? The answer is a little “yes”. I think that Victor Miranda Martin certainly did listen to Steven Wilson. But for sure he did not copy Wilson. Of course, I hear some parallels, but no more than that. I think that the level of music on which Wilson is operating, is different than the level on which Martin operates at this moment. I think he had no intension to deliver a Wilson-like album.
I think I've said enough. It's no surprise that this album becomes 5 points out of 5 from me. It's one of the best albums in the last few years, in my opinion.
It would be a blessing that Victor Miranda Martin, after he finishes his studies (guitar and physics I believe), would create his own band and go touring. Keor is one of those “bands” that I would gladly see live on stage!
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Dave Smith)
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