Jury's Verdict #5
On this page we will list a multiple review of a selection of 3 albums out of the (in our humble opinion) most important or interesting recent releases.
The Long Division
King of Number 33
The Ghost Moon Orchestra
Sometimes it's very difficult to pigeon-hole a band's musical style. The Long Division
is a good example, because it's hard to say which bands inspired 3RDegree
writing such excellent pieces of music. I think I heard certain elements that slightly reminded me of
Gentle Giant, but also traces of the music that bands like
Genesis or Yes made in the eighties. It's hard
to say and that just applies to their musical style. Sure it's prog rock, without
doubt, but they also included songs that tend towards a style you might describe
as jazz-rock or fusion. Even the more radio-friendly tracks are present on The Long Division.
However, this mixture of different styles seems to work perfectly; while listening to the entire
album I kept focussed throughout. For that reason I can only be positive about it, so well done indeed.
On their debut Half Way Home (2008) you could hear that
Porcupine Tree had been a big influence to DeeExpus.
The same kind of guitar solos, grooves and riffs could be heard. I expected
their second album to be as strong as their first one. They didn't let me down
and recorded a fantastic new album with fewer influences of PT and a musical
style that can easily be labelled as neo-progressive rock. It could have been that the help of
Mark Kelly (Marillion)
on keyboards caused this shift in musical style. It's mainly the 27-
King Of Number 33 that keeps your focussed on the music.
It contains strong musical parts shifting from mellow to more up-tempo passages
in which you can enjoy excellent synthesizer and guitar solos. I think the band
made a giant step forward with this second album. I hope their next release will even be better!
I think The Ghost Moon Orchestra is a better album than
Go Well Diamond Heart not only because of Olivia Sparnenn's
strong voice, but also thanks to the far better compositions. I couldn't spot
any weak tracks at all on this album. Even the simpler sounding songs they
usually start an album with are much better as far as I'm concerned. It seems
as if they were more inspired this time to come up with such perfect compositions. Therefore
The Ghost Moon Orchestra belongs to the best albums Mostly Autumn
recorded in recent years. This change of lead singers undoubtedly
inspired the band to produce some fantastic music that belongs to one of the better releases of 2012!
Before listening to this album, I wasn't familiar with the American crossover prog band
3RDegree, but this certainly is a good band. They got four singers which means fine harmony
singing. However, lead singer George Dobbs
sometimes finds it necessary to scream, which is detrimental to the
tension of the music and a minor point for this album. But then again his keyboard
playing is just great. I would call this music typical American with its blend
of funk, pop, prog and fusion. Although they really master their instruments,
I'm not fond of this mixture of different styles. It reminded me sometimes of Steely Dan,
but I also heard traces of Gentle Giant, Yes,
their fellow-Americans of Little Atlas and even
Crosby, Stills & Nash due to the perfect harmony vocals. The longest track
Memetic Pandemic is also my favourite one
thanks to the perfect harmonies and the piano and Hammond playing.
King Of Number 33 is the second album of the British prog band DeeExpus
after their debut Half Way Home (2008).
I didn't expect a great successor after this rather mediocre album, but how
wrong can one be! This second effort is really great mainly due to the excellent contributions on keyboards by
Mark Kelly (Marillion). He's
emphatically present on this album which resulted in a blend of symphonic
keyboard-orientated prog and heavy but well-balanced guitar riffs of band leader
Andy Ditchfield and Steve Wright. I played this record
three times, but I couldn't discover any weak track. My absolute highlight is
the title track, an epic piece lasting for almost 27 minutes. In my opinion King Of Number 33
belongs to the finest albums of 2012, provided that you love heavy prog with a lot of keyboards.
After lead singer Heather Findlay had left Mostly Autumn,
they were still looking for renewing their music with the new lead singer Olivia Sparnenn.
As a result the album Go Well Diamond Heart (2010) lacked a bit
of musical direction, although it wasn't a bad album at all. However, this
second album with Sparnenn is much better and more balanced. With all respect,
I think Olivia is a better singer than Findlay which now starts to bear fruit.
But that's not the only reason why this is a better album. The compositions
mainly created by band leader and guitarist Bryan Josh
have more depth, although a couple of tracks slightly tend to pop music. My favourite song is
Wild Eye Skies which starts with the Uillean pipes played by guest musician
Troy Donockley; it contains fine piano playing by
Iain Jennings, sweet singing by Olivia and a fine melody line.
I found The Long Division by 3RDegree
an album of contradictions and one that seemed to be unsure of what genre it wanted to belong to. It's partly
pop music, some progressive rock and a bit of jazz and fusion. As a result, the
album comes across as something experimental as if 3RDegree are unsure of the
musical direction in which they want to go. Despite the experimental feel of
the album and its confusing musical direction, this isn't a bad record at all.
The musicianship is good while the mixing and the dynamic range are well-balanced.
The big question is: would I buy it? Honestly, I really don't know. I've
purchased worse albums and grown to like them over time. I've listened to this
album almost a dozen times so far and while there are some tracks I really
like, the album just doesn't hang tight for me.
King Of Number 33 by DeeExpus
is an album of contradictions, but it's a real improvement compared to Half Way Home
(2008), their first studio album. The musical balance of the album
is good and there is a real polish to the tracks. Both of these show that there's
much more to come from DeeExpus in the future. The partnership of Andy
Ditchfield and Tony
Wright has now been expanded by including Mark Kelly
(Marillion). This marks a rare departure from Marillion for Kelly,
but if these three really come together, we could be looking at a significant
band for the future. On the other hand, it's almost so middle-of-the-road that
it should have come with white lines across the middle of the CD. No matter how
many times I listened to this album, it didn't get to the end and made me press'play' again.
King Of Number 33 is a transitional album hinting a real excitement for the future.
After the mediocrity of Go Well Diamond Heart,
Mostly Autumn needed to re-establish themselves, and that's just what this new album does.
Olivia Sparnenn nails the vocals from the very first note and
delivers a performance that should silence all those who think the band was done after the departure of
Heather Findlay. The entire album contains some outstanding solos from
Bryan Josh, but Sparnenn and Iain Jennings
really own this album. Jennings' keyboard work is sublime especially with King Of The Valley.
I missed some beats with Drops Of The Sun,
a really confusing track that doesn't belong on
an album this good. Musically the album rocks hard and then pulls back onto rock even harder. Apart from
King Of The Valley, the two tracks that really stand out are the ballad
Notice and the finale of the album Top Of The World.
This album belongs in everyone's collection.