Stick Men - Prog Noir

(CD, 2016, 48:82, Private Release SMN1611)

The tracks:
  1- Prog Noir(5:37)
  2- Mantra(5:46)
  3- Plutonium(4:48)
  4- The Tempest(5:42)
  5- Schattenhaft(4:31)
  6- A Rose In The Sand/Requiem(4:36)
  7- Leonardo(4:56)
  8- Trey's Continuum(4:03)
  9- Embracing The Sun(4:54)
10- Never The Same(6:29)

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Stick Men are a band that can't do anything wrong according to me. They are even more brilliant to watch live, and I always enjoyed the gigs I've seen from them but what can you ask for from three amazing gentlemen, all a master on the instruments they play? Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson) on Chapman Stick and vocals, Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) on drums and percussion, and Markus Reuter (Centrozoon) on Touch guitar and vocals.

What kind of music can you expect on this album Prog Noir? This is progressive rock with experimental and surprising twists, and with extraordinary instrumentalists. Don't expect long stretched prog songs with certain themes, but awesome tracks that carry a lot of diversity. It presents a bit of a dark atmosphere as it's more gloomy then the previous albums. The overall production sounds good, and the album sleeve looks very cool.

The album starts with the title track Prog Noir. It features a heavy rhythm and vibe, dark but somehow quite catchy. Mantra is an instrumental track that carries several inimitable twists and turns, a typical Stick Men track, which is good! Plutonium contains a lot of musical surprises, and is something you shouldn't take too seriously. I don't want to spoil the beans, so it's up to you, dear reader of this review, to find it out for yourself. The intro of The Tempest is just amazing. It is super catchy and well fabricated. It puts a smile on my face, so this is my favourite track on the album. Schattenhaft is a very up-tempo instrumental track, and Pat shows that he's a diversified drummer. A Rose In The Sand/ Requiem is very atmospheric and beautiful, thanks to the soundscapes in the background. Leonardo goes back to the more experimental and heavier stuff again, with several theme changes. Trey's Continuum is more laid-back but still carries a steady base when it comes to rhythm. Embracing The Sun has weird rhythm changes, but is still a consistent song. Last track Never The Same is also the longest track on the album. It could be categorized as a real progressive rock track because of the way it has been composed.

It's a great, tight, wonderful Stick Men album. Still, I miss a bit of energy on the album sometimes. Some passages and bits could have been more spicy in my opinion, but I'm sure they will make it up when they play live! This is a must have for the Stick Men fans, a recommendation for the people who want to be aware of accessible progressive/ experimental rock.

****+ Iris Hidding (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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