This new album from the stunning Finnish prog project The Samurai of Prog is inspired by the movies of Japanese animator and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki. Along the usual trio Marco Bernard (Rickenbacker bass), drummer Kimmo P÷rsti (Mist Season) and Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute and guitars) The Samurai Of Prog features a wide range of guest musicians, known names are Octavio Stampalýa (Jinetes Negros) on keyboards, Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre) on keyboards and vocals, Oliviero Lacagnina (Latte e Miele) on keyboards, Luca Scherani (La Coscienza di Zeno) on keyboards, Alan Kamran Shikoh (ex-Glass Hammer) on guitars and Michele Mutti (La Torre dell'Alchimista) on keyboards, a real international prog family! The amazing artwork is again from Ed Unitsky.
A Tear In The Sunset (8:07): It starts mellow with dreamy flute and piano, then bombastic with exciting Hammond, synthesizers and classical orchestrations by Octavio Stampalýa (Jinetes Negros) and fiery electric guitar runs, blended with trumpet and French horn. It sounds like classical meets rock and prog (ELP). The climate returns to mellow with flute, then gradually more bombastic with fiery guitar and a churchy choir sound, and a brass synthesizer sound like the late Keith Emerson. In the final part the sound gradually turns from dreamy to bombastic with awesome classical orchestrations, blended with trumpet, it sounds majestic, like the final part of a heroic movie.
Zero (7:40) : First dreamy flute and classical piano, then a catchy beat with a varied synthesizer sound and classical piano, by Alessandro Di Benedetti from Mad Crayon (one of the most overlooked Italian bands), soon joined by propulsive guitar riff and exciting keyboard sound. Then from dreamy with piano to bombastic with spectacular synthesizer work and propulsive guitar riff, and finally a slow rhythm with tender saxophone, a very alternating and captivating composition.
The Never-Ending Line (4:55) : A beautiful, very mellow piece featuring warm piano and vocals, blended with spacey synthesizers flights.
Au Contraire (5:07) : First a sensational intro with violin and synthesizer (by Oliviero Lacagnina from Latte e Miele), then the music alternates between dreamy, mid-tempo and bombastic, with a very tasteful and varied colouring with instruments: from French horn, Hammond, piano, flute and piano to classical orchestrations, synthesizers and swirling violin, how exciting.
Reality (9:24) : This track features Japanese guest musicians Yuko Tomiyama (piano and vocals) and Alan Kamran Shikoh (on electric guitar). The intro delivers sounds and soft organ, then piano and warm vocals, majestic orchestrations and a sensitive electric guitar solo, this is wonderful and compelling prog. Finally tight drum beats, bass pedals and dreamy vocals, a beautiful conclusion.
The Spirits Around Us (5:59) : First a dreamy violin and piano, then a slow rhythm with moving violin and electric guitar, followed by a catchy beat with vocals, acoustic guitar and mandolin. Halfway bombastic eruption with swirling violin (Eddie Jobson inspired) and powerful electric guitar solo, the song ends with dreamy vocals and piano.
Think Green (6:30) : This is a very dynamic track that that contains fat ELP-like synthesizer runs (by Michele Mutti from La Torre dell'Alchimista) and swirling violin, fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section, along strong interplay and powerful vocals.
La Magia Ŕ la RealtÓ (6:20) : Here we can enjoy varied keyboard work from Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre), blended with emotional, Japanese vocals (also from Elisa Montaldo!) and wonderful violin, piano, classical guitar and flute, in a dreamy atmosphere. Then a slow rhythm and halfway an accelaration, it sounds bombastic with keyboards, guitar and violin, then Hammond and flute joins, and again wonderful Japanese vocals. Finally a sensitive electric guitar solo with tender piano runs, this is one of the best compositions on this CD!
Not every track is my cup of tea on this new The Samurai Of Prog album, but in general I enjoyed listening to it.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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