Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres

perseideBand: Perséide | Album: Parmi les arbres | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Trois Rivières, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: The Moody Blues, Yes, Ange, early Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.

This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash.

“Hier ne saura jamais” (“Yesterday will never know”) opens with a simple but lively guitar line, backed with astral keyboard tones. This song, like much of this album, is brimming with space-age synth tones and lush Mellotron. “Istanbul”, meanwhile, is rooted in a vaguely Asiatic riff and a somewhat sparser arrangement.

A more openly poppy angle is taken on “Enracinés” (“Rooted”). The rhythm is bouncy, and the twin melody of the guitar and the organ are reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s earliest releases, like “Arnold Layne” or “See Emily Play”.

However, most of the tracks on this first half of the album possess detectable weaknesses. Most of the songs are about a minute too long, and “Le tombeaux d’Atuan” (“The Tombs of Atuan”) never really manages to get going and borders on being soporific.

The album’s second half is noticeably stronger than its first. “La nuit des faunes” (“The Night of the Fauns”) has a slow-moving first half that gives way to a fun, energetic extended instrumental period. Guitar and organ prance around in a nearly-folky melody before evolving into a Yes-like series of guitar exercises. “Contreplongée” is a gentle, acoustic piece which only serves to strengthen comparisons to early Pink Floyd. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be, but its placement on the album makes sense.

Parmi les arbres closes on its epic title track. The opening is slow and moody, built upon simple guitar strumming and light percussion. Mellotron flutes eventually are given a brief moment in the spotlight, adding to the dark folk character of this song’s first part. The second half is mostly instrumental and centered around an extended synthesizer solo. In a somewhat rare occurrence, the pitch bend knob is used a great deal, twisting notes in ways usually reserved for guitar solos. This gives way to the song’s finale: a menacing synth line is repeated over a dark, driving rhythm which eventually resolves with a brief return to the song’s folky opening theme.

Perséide’s second full-length album, particularly its second half, is a shining example of how sounds from decades past can be married with modern trends and sensibilities to yield impressive music. Not only do they draw from late ‘60s psych and modern indie rock, but they also channel the unique sounds of Francophone prog, such as fellow Quebeckers Vos Voisins and the French act Ange.

Score: 81/100

Odds & Ends – December 2, 2019

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legendryBand: Legendry | Album: The Wizard and the Tower Keep | Genre: Power metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

For all the hackneyed, cliché, sword-and-sorcery heavy metal imagery Pittsburgh’s Legendry evoke in their artwork and lyrics, the music is ambitious and inventive while remaining surprisingly accessible. They walk a fine line straddling traditional metal, power metal, and progressive rock with their speedy riffs, dramatic vocals, and soaring solos. The Hammond organ adds a distinct character that helps Legendry stand out from other traditional metal acts.

Score: 84/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – December 2, 2019”

Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson

pt deep diveWelcome to the third installment of Deep Dive, where I take an in-depth look at the studio discographies of some of the giants of progressive rock and progressive metal.

For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and this is an element often missed in a ranked list.

My first two entries in this series focused on some of the giants of progressive rock’s 1970s heyday. For this entry, I wanted to focus on something heavier, which means someone more modern. After weighing a few options and starting Deep Dive entries on a couple other artists, I settled on Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson.

Porcupine Tree covered a wide style of music until their disbandment in 2010, ranging from space rock to art pop to progressive metal. Wilson has maintained that experimental spirit in his solo career, covering similar ground across his five solo albums. The early-21st Century progressive rock renaissance we’re currently enjoying may not have happened at all, had it not been for the wide success of Porcupine Tree, which opened the door for many, many other acts.

As a disclaimer, this essay does not cover all of Steven Wilson’s myriad musical projects. The man is too prolific for me to reasonably address all those projects in this one essay. I am solely focusing on Porcupine Tree and his solo material. No-Man and Bass Communion don’t fit this site’s purview; and while Blackfield and Storm Corrosion may fall under the margins of progressive rock, I simply don’t like their output and would not enjoy reviewing them in-depth. I also do not plan to discuss his remastering work on classic prog albums. I do highly recommend his King Crimson remasters, though I’d avoid his work on Too Old to Rock n Roll: Too Young to Die!, as mentioned in my Jethro Tull Deep Dive. Continue reading “Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson”

Album Review: Sonora Sunrise – The Route through the Canyon

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Band: Sonora Sunrise | Album: The Route through the Canyon | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Krautrock | Year: 2019

From: Barnaul, Russia | Label: Trail Records

For fans of: Hawkwind, Can, Ozric Tentacles

Buy: Bandcamp

After running across this band, I’m starting to doubt if the American Southwest puts out any desert rock. I’ve previously discussed acts from Venice, Sydney, and The Netherlands that draw inspiration from the arid lands of California and Arizona, and now I’ve found this band from Siberia. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised; the band name would be a bit too on-the-nose for a group actually from the region. It’s not as if the Altai region is entirely dissimilar to the Southwest. It’s mountainous and semi-arid in places, albeit much, much colder.

Despite the desert imagery in the band’s name, and despite the fact that the music itself on this album evokes desert imagery, Sonora Sunrise don’t rely much on the blues. Instead, they opt for a more expansive, meditative sound full of lush synth pads and cosmic guitar arpeggios. The individual songs are unhurried yet mostly feel to be appropriate lengths. There’s also an impressive amount of sonic diversity. Krautrock, space rock, stoner rock/metal, and ambient music all get their own turn to be in the foreground. Continue reading “Album Review: Sonora Sunrise – The Route through the Canyon”

Album Review: Kayo Dot – Blasphemy

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Band: Kayo Dot | Album: Blasphemy | Genre: Experimental rock, Gothic rock | Year: 2019

From: Brooklyn, USA | Label: Prophecy Productions

For fans of: maudlin of the Well, Leprous, Type O Negative

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Kayo Dot have long been one of the more amorphous acts in the progressive rock and metal scene. There’s often a great deal of variation between their individual albums, with their last couple releases being relatively soft and synth-heavy. Compare that to their vaunted debut, Choirs of the Eye, where the band started off as an avant-garde metal act. Of late, though, they’ve been incorporating more and more influences from the 1980s, particularly post-punk and gothic rock.

This fusion continues on Blasphemy, the band’s ninth studio album. This release also sees Kayo Dot reviving a bit of their metal roots. I would not call this a metal album, but it’s their most aggressive record in a while. Those heavier tones complement the coldness of the goth influences, and bandleader Toby Driver has managed to write another distinct album. Continue reading “Album Review: Kayo Dot – Blasphemy”

Lesser-Known Gem: Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy

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Band: Guruh Gipsy | Album: Guruh Gipsy | Genre: Progressive rock, Gamelan music | Year: 1977

From: Jakarta, Indonesia | Label: Paramaqua

For fans of: Yes, Genesis, ELP

In Lesser-Known Gem entries, I’ve explored acts that combined progressive rock with Orthodox chants, flamenco music, and country and honky-tonk. The act I’m writing about today also blends progressive rock with the music of their homeland. That homeland, though, is Indonesia (specifically Java and Bali), which is quite far from progressive rock’s European homeland.

Guruh Gipsy were a one-off project. All the music was written by artist Guruh Sukarnoputra (a son of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno), and he worked with the band Gipsy to record the material. Unlike the previous acts I’ve written about, Guruh Gipsy’s sole album was a widely-acclaimed and highly-influential success upon its release in Indonesia. However, as of the time of publishing, I’ve had exactly zero Indonesian readers of my blog, according to WordPress’s stats. It’s probably a safe bet that this is a rather unknown album to most of my audience. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy”