Reviews roundup ~ The Flying Caravan ~ Messenger ~ Magic Bullet ~Dwiki Dharmawan ~ Victor Sierra
THE FLYING CARAVAN
I Just Wanna Break Even
To Spain and a progressive rock debut from The Flying Caravan. And there is no question that they are progressive rock. It’s straight down the middle second generation prog so lots of eighties neo-prog influences alongside the roots in the seventies.
They’re made up of Izaga Plata, on lead and backing vocals; Pedro Pablo Molina, on bass; Antonio Valiente, on lead guitars; Juan José Sánchez, on keyboards; Lluís Mas,on drums and percussion and guests Manuel Salido, on sax; Juan Carlos Aracil, on flute; and Jorge Aniorte, on vocals and backing vocals. And, musically, it is largely exquisite. Some of the guitar solos are as good as you’re likely to hear anywhere in the world of prog.
They’ve been working together for quite some time now and this was recorded in 2017 but, shamefully, wasn’t released until recently, and they certainly gel as a band. It’s very melodic, quite Yes like in places and captures your attention straight away. It’s a double album and the first disc has some really good songs with ‘Love’s Labour Mislaid’ and their self title ‘Flying Caravan’ real highlights. But if any prog fans were hesitating about this I would refer them to the second disc containing ‘A Fairy Tale for Grown – Ups’. It’s 36 minutes long, people! I t’s a seven part concept piece! This is not a drill. And, damn, but it’s good. It travels just about anywhere you can imagine in old school prog, even touching on Styx/Starcastle type pomp in places. This is what we want.
There are also some remarkably good lyrics in there although I think my favourite words are back on the first disc on the bittersweet ‘Upstream to Manonash’. Prog fans would be fools, fools I say, not to give this a go.
In To Win
Some Christian heavy metal now from over there in the American colonies. And when I say heavy metal I mean heavy metal. Because regardless of your beliefs the music here is really strong.
Christian metal gets a bad press which is rather unfair as there is a very high percentage of shite in the world of secular metal as well. Granted, I doubt anyone in the field will write as good a tune as ‘Golgotha’ by W.A.S.P but there’s no harm in trying. Messenger are the brainchild of bassist/vocalist Frank Clifton Herring and guitarist Vlad Gurin and this is their third album since 2009. Quality over quantity. Their stated influences are Five Finger Death Punch, Alter Bridge and John Petrucci but I don’t really hear it. Their riffs, which are uniformly good seem more entrenched in eighties metal than anything else. I’m glad of that because I, literally, have no time for FFDP.
The lyrics aren’t just Praise The Lord, rather asking questions of the world we live in and what happens when we leave. Melodically, it’s strong and bearing in mind that I was once a student at theological college, the words are well worth hearing. Herring has a really strong hard rock voice which really suits the more mellow tunes. ‘Take Flight’ is probably their most Alter Bridge influenced moment and it’s just a really, really good song. Not every song is an A+ but ‘Satan’s Nightmare’ is the only real clunker. The guitar work is never less than excellent and even if it’s a couple of songs too long it’s definitely worth a listen for fans of eighties metal.
Music & Elsewhere
Full disclosure. I’ve been fed and watered by Mrs Magic at Magic HQ and played a lengthy game of squidgies with Ms Twizz. Oh, and there’s Mick as well, who to all intents and purposes is Magic Bullet.
And if you’ve ever wondered what that scrabbling noise is inside your head when you’ve been awake for three days and it’s at the darkest point of the night then you can now replay it to your hearts content by popping on ‘Small Gods’. Then there is the industrial sturm und drang of Single Diminutive Impression’, underpinned by a welter of drone.
It’s actually got very little in common with Magic Moments at Twilight Time from back in the dark ages. Back then things were very psychedelic and still rooted in rock but as time has passed Mr Magic has moved wholesale into the worlds of grinding electronica. I’m not complaining. Age of the Micro Man and all that. And if anyone were looking for a soundtrack to an updated print of Metropolis then they could to a lot worse than grab Mick in the beer garden down the Bourne and offer him money. He’d like that. I’m especially fond of ‘Chaotic Vector Correction’ which, as the name suggests, teeters on the edge of chaos.
Although it’s an instrumental album, each track comes with a story. Which Mr M has carefully compiled on to a PDF I’m currently perusing. I don’t know if you’ll get that with your purchase. I’m sure it will be on the Magic Net somewhere. Let’s just say, as befits the music, it’s not cheery. Which considering the state we’re currently living in, isn’t a great surprise. So it’s cybertronic, electronic, End of Days musical stylings and rumblings. And, in a strange twist which really shouldn’t be happening a quarter of a century after our paths first crossed, I reckon it’s his finest release to date.
Granted, you won’t be playing at your wedding reception unless you’re aiming for the shortest marriage in history, but with the lamps dimmed, the headphones on and a death wish to, um , die for, this will do nicely.
No video so here’s some Magic Moments at Twilight Time;
A couple of years on from “Rumah Batu” and it’s time for some more jazz fusion from Indonesian keyboard player Dwiki Dharmawan.
It’s a double album, making up an improvopera in nine acts. Yes, you read that right. So if you believe that no song should last longer than 2:57 then probably best to move along. Nothing to see here. I should probably also mention that the concept covers the labyrinths of alien terrain protagonists who have documented their sonic and philosophical expedition in a logbook. Which is probably the proggiest thing you’ll read this year.
In this endeavour he’s joined by some well known names in his field with Asaf Sirkis on percussion, Markus Reuter on guitars and Boris Savoldelli on vocals. I say vocals but much like Michael Mills he treats the voice as another instrument to be experimented with. They are responsible for the music while the story and lyrics come from Alessandro Ducoli.
‘Act 1: The Earth’ is an absolutely stunning opener. At times it almost wanders into the world of spacerock but it’s incredibly melodic, quite electronic in places while Savoldelli does his thing over, under and sideways. Clocking in at a mere 28 minutes it showcases the abilities of the musicians to tremendous effect. Then ‘Act 2: The Man’ arrives and I think it’s safe to say that the band may not be fans of mankinds impact on the planet. Not if the dense, angry noises are anything to go by. Feedback and distortion are the order of the day. Strap yourself in for the 34 minute ride as there are a lot of twists and turns on the way.
Elsewhere, Dharmawan probably does his best work on ‘Act IV: The Loneliness of the Universe’ which is also quite avante-garde, even by his standards. If you’ve got 2 hours plus to settle down with your headphones then I can guarantee this is going to be an extremely enjoyable and adventurous listen. An excellent album.
Just when you thought that you’d heard every possible sub genre of the rock along comes a band proclaiming themselves as SteamGoth. Yup. Apparently they used to be a SteamPunk band but now have added more gothic influences. Hence SteamPunk.
To be fair I was once in a steampunk cafe so am not unfamiliar with the industrial revolution / Victoriana influences behind the concept. Granted, I walked out when I realised they didn’t do proper breakfasts but I could have a bowl of organic granola for £6. And this was a decade ago when £6 was still proper money. Thieving bandits.
Anyway, back to Commander Bob, The Legendary Converted Princess and Big Machine who are the current incarnation of the Paris based band (not a bloke) Victor Sierra. Or as they are more conventionally known, Bob Eisenstein, Anouk Adrien and Pierre Papa. Now, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed this. I’m just struggling to work out what makes it different from industrial goth. Which has been going on a long time. Hell, as far back as when I was flinging goths out of Scottish clubs there were bands very much in love with primitive drum machines, long black overcoats and eyeliner.
However, I do enjoy the mythology they’ve created around themselves what with Commander Bob being the Hydrogen Queen airship commander, The Legendary Converted Princess who enjoys rum, sews clothes with the stuff steam is made of and who wears Chinese red lipstick. Meanwhile Big Machine is a self made cyborg who enjoys analogical lullabies, coffee and is highly unsociable. Say it as if you mean it. The songs, meanwhile, are really enjoyable, full of all the drama and clanking you could wish for. However, they’re also very good with a melody, something that is often lacking in this style of music. Add in a strong sense of dynamics and how to build a song up and this was a real treat. ‘H (Is For Hydrogen)’ was probably my favourite although as this has been my most played record of the last week that’s changed almost on a daily basis.
A band that’s really made the effort to stand out from the crowd and one that is well worth your attention. A real good one.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton