Aardvark

SKU: ECLEC2286
Label:
Esoteric Recordings
Category:
Progressive Rock
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Aardvark was a one and done band that recorded for Deram/Nova in 1970. Originally a vehicle for Simon Kirk and Paul Kossoff before they split to form Free, Aardvark evolved into a guitarless quartet. Led by the organ led keyboards of Steve Milliner, the band bore similarities to Egg and The Nice. Milliner owed a bit more to Jon Lord than say Keith Emerson but when he put his organ through a fuzz box it definitely will remind you of Dave Stewart. This reissue has been given the usual gold standard treatment from Esoteric.

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  • Trillium is the new project from Amanda Somerville. You may not be overtly familiar with her but you've heard her work. In addition to the Aina album, she has collaborated with Avantasia, Kamelot, and Epica among others. In fact she filled in for Simone Simons on one of Epica's US tours. In addition to being a songwriter she is a prominent vocal coach.Trillium is a collaboration with Sander Gommans (ex-After Forever) and noted metal producer/musician Sascha Paeth. Musicians from the Paeth universe are featured through out. Most notable are duets with Jorn Lande (!) and Matt Sinner. The music is an amalgam of hard rock, symphonic metal, and perhaps even a smidgen of gothic metal. Ms. Somerville is a great singer and is adaptable to all the styles she presents. Shockingly good!
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  • How many of you remember Tritonus?  Back in 1995, there was a Norwegian sampler CD called simply "A Gathering of 8 Norwegian Progressive Metal Bands".  Besides Spiral Architect, Trivial Act, and Manitou there were other bands that managed to score record deals.  Most of them disappeared.  Tritonus was on the sampler.  Despite having some of the strongest material on the CD the band never signed with a label, and despite years of trying, never released any material.  Band leader/virtuoso guitarist Carl August Tidemann would time to time mention that Tritonus was working on its debut, but after almost 2 decades everyone pretty much took it with a grain of salt.  Well...better late than never!If you've been listening to prog metal for a long time you know that the sound has changed a bit over the years.  Tritonus' debut turns back the hands of time.  This is a stunning example of prog metal the way we used to know it.  Stunning musicianship with plenty of jolts of technicality.  At this point, the lineup has changed over the years.  In addition to Tidemann, Tritonus now consists of Rolf Kristensen (vocals), Ole Devold (drums) and Thor-Axel Eriksen (guitars).  Lots of guests contribute (my guess is many of these were past members).  Keyboards (courtesy of Circus Maximus' Lasse Finbraten) tend to be put to good use - you hear the occasional solo but mostly its there for texture - the twin guitars weave together with incredible proficiency and dominate.  I have to point out the vocals of Rolf Kristensen.  This guy is amazing!Its a shame that its taken so many years for Tritonus to release this.  Its quite a great album and in a way it makes me a bit sad.  Had it come out 15 years ago, they could have easily risen through the scene.  We are lucky we have it.  Is it closure for Tritonus or the opening of a new era?  Let's hope for the later.  They deserve a better fate and damn I'd want to hear more music from them.  BUY OR DIE!
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  • 180g vinyl edition of the 2014 Steven Wilson remix.  Includes a 24 page 12x12 booklet with an article on the prepartion oand recording of the album, lyrics, the original album program and rare live photos."In 1972 Jethro Tull were riding high on the crest of a popularity wave. They sold out huge arenas on the back of their critically acclaimed fifth album Thick As A Brick. The question was, how do you follow a concept album comprising a single 44-minute piece of music? The answer was, with a double album of separate songs of course.For the first time in their five year career Tull went into the studio with an unchanged line-up. Founder member and undisputed leader Ian Anderson was still writing songs on flute, acoustic guitar and now saxophone, and he was again joined by guitarist Martin Barre, bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, drummer Barriemore Barlow and keyboard player John Evans. But which studio to use?The first criterion was that it had to be abroad. The second criterion was that the studio of choice had to have a good reputation. The 18th century Château d'Hérouville near Paris had previously been used by Elton John to record Honky Château and by Pink Floyd for Obscured By Clouds. It contained living accommodation as well as studio facilities, and so seemed the ideal choice. What could possibly go wrong?The choice was a disaster. First up, there were technical problems with the studio itself. Then there was the accommodation... the band all slept in a dormitory, it was very basic which might have been tolerable, had they been the sole occupants of the rooms. Unfortunately, they had unwelcome company, of a bed-bug variety. And then to make matters infinitely worse everybody got food poisoning from the in-house catering.Unsurprisingly the band decided to go home and the decision was made to ditch the hour or so s worth of music recorded in France. They decided to start from scratch and write a whole new album, instead of trying to somehow regenerate everybody s interest and commitment to something that had already struggled.And so to A Passion Play, an album that evolved into a 45-minute piece of quasi-prog rock, with complex time-signatures, complex lyrics and, well, complex everything, really. With a mere nine days left in the studio before the next tour, the pressure was on to produce something quickly. The concept explored the notion that choices might still be faced in the afterlife. It recognizes that age-old conflict between good and bad, God and the Devil."
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  • "The successor to "Obsessions" (2011) was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen at Hansen studio in Denmark (Volbeat, Pretty Maids, Amaranthe a.m.m.)Beside band leader Samuel Arkan, the following vocalists and musicians contribute to"Fantasmagoria": Tom S. Englund (Evergrey) Henning Basse (ex-Metalium, ex-Sons Of Seasons, Mayan) Ida Haukland (Triosphere) Matt Marinelli (Borealis) Tezzi Persson (Between The Silence) Mike LePond (Symphony X) Léo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation) Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) Simone Mularoni (DGM)The quite unusual thing is that all these guests came to the Noise Factory studio (Belgium) to track down their parts. Nobody recorded his/her parts at home, like with some many other projects."I wanted the whole thing to get a real "band" feeling", Arkan says. "Therefore having all vocalists and musicians here was very important to me. We got to know each other better and better while spending time together. The new material sounds very fresh, dark, heavy, modern and "true" with "straight in the face" guitar riffs, intense voices and melodies, massive work on progressive atmospheres and orchestral parts. All the artists who participated in this album gave their soul to it, gave their best, they travelled deeper into sensitivity and sincerity. That's probably the best words which define this next album... sincerity & spontaneity! This album comes from the heart of each musician and vocalist who worked on it, and you can feel it when you listen to this new EPYSODE album."Compared to the debut "Obessions" the new material is a step forward in every way, with even better songwriting, a massive sound, powerful production and an intensity you rarely find these days.With the top notch vocalists that are gathered here (a.o. Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund, who is contributing to 5 songs) the "Fantasmagoria" concept story comes to life in a very intense and thrilling way, with lots of facets, expressive singing, deep & dark emotions. Englund’s duet with Ida Haukland (Triosphere) on the album’s title track especially gives goosebumps to the listener. There is also a plot to the "Obsessions" album and many fans of concepts will have their pure delight in discovering the story behind the story.The "Fantasmagoria" recordings took place from December 2012 to end of April 2013. Responsible for all keyboards, piano, arrangements was again Julien Spreutels, "my brother in crime, without him Epysode would not be as it is", Samuel says. "He did one more time an outstanding job and gives magic to Epysode, It's always a pleasure and very inspiring to work with him". "
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  • Third collaboration from Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen. Mr. Geffen wrote all of the material except for one track. Musically speaking its a very different animal than Porcupine Tree. Its much more laid back with a heavy emphasis on orchestration. I'm reminded a bit of later Pink Floyd and also Roger Water's solo works. Not a lot of pyrotechnics and really not much in the way of heaviness. Its almost as if Mr. Wilson has taken a supporting role as opposed to equal stature to Mr. Geffen. If you are looking for Porcupine Tree's quasi psychedelic metal look elsewhere. Blackfield presents you with (well recorded) art rock that targets your emotions rather than your thought process.
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  • Second album from this interesting Danish band incorporating elements of thrash, death and even melodic metal in an usual way. Curiously enough this was created as a binaural recording and should be listened to with headphones. Recommended to fans of Meshuggah and Soilwork.
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  • Digipak edition - limited to 5000 for the world."Prophets Cynic are not, yet they did see the writing on the death metal wall around the mid-90’s, so that counts for something. At that particular point in time, the death metal scene was swelling to uncontrollable proportions, with creativity at an all-time low and labels signing anyone who could mimic Cookie Monster and palm-mute some diminished chords. Pair that with the then-burgeoning black metal scene, and death metal circa 1994 to 1997 essentially had no chance. As it stands, Cynic officially broke up in 1994 and formed the short-lived Portal, which is the point of discussion for this review.Comprised of the core members of Cynic’s Focus lineup (drummer Sean Reinert, guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal, guitarist) Jason Gobel, bassist Chris Kringel), Portal added vocalist/keyboardist Aruna Abrams, who was the benefactor of the band’s new-found “trippy” sound. And that’s really the defining term when it comes to Portal – they’re very light, not so metal or technical…just trippy and highly atmospheric.One could see where Cynic wanted to go with Portal for their eventual reformation album, 2008’s Traced In Air. The lush dynamics of “Endless Endeavors,” “Costumed in Grace,” and “Road to You” demonstrate the band’s ability to take prog rock and make it flow like a river, a cerebral river at that. Abrams’ vocals are suitably poised and reserved, blending in seamlessly with supple keyboard strokes and ambient uh, ambience. There’s a dearth of the progressive metal flair the band showed on Focus, as the songwriting mode of “Karma’s Plight” and “Crawl Above” showcase a jazzier, more free-form side to Cynic that was practically itching to come out a few years prior.Cynic’s new-age crowd might find something of value with The Portal Tapes, as it’s a direct reflection of Traced In Air and last year’s Carbon-Based Anatomy EP. The old death metal crowd that helped break the band won’t have anything to do with this, and methinks had they heard something like this in 1995, then they’d be running back to their Broken Hope and Monstrosity albums almost instantly." - Blistering.com
    $15.00
  • "And straight out of left field…One thing you really don’t expect to hear these days is proper gothic/symphonic metal in the classic late 90’s-mid 00’s tradition.While a few bands have recently begun making overtures towards a return to form if not revitalization of a genre that’s been effectively moribund since 2008, many of them are veterans going back to the sound that made them famous in the first place.  Leaves Eyes come immediately to mind, as does a recent surprising move to the operatic frontlines from longstanding (if previously somewhat boring) second stringers Xandria, who proved that sometimes losing a few founding members can be the best thing that ever happened to a band*.*for another glaring example of this principle, see also Theatres des Vampires, who only became a truly notable venture under the ostensible leadership of the lovely Sonya Scarlet…But what happens when we’re not talking classic acts undergoing some measure of renewal?  Moreover, when we’re not only talking a brand spanking new outfit, but one that (get this) doesn’t even hail from European climes.  Say what the hell?But here you go, a self-released gem right out of that busy musical hotspot of Minnesota (of all places…and we’re not even talking a Prince related project here!).  While not as bombastic as, say, Phantom Agony/Consign to Oblivion era Epica, Leaves Eyes or Mother Earth/Silent Force era Within Temptation, keyboardist/guitarist Damien Villarreal and vocalist Chelsea Knaack have come together to make what may be the first actual gothic/symphonic metal offering to come out of the United States.Sure, we’ve had a gothic/death metal crossover act (Echoes of Eternity, though they’re at least part Canadian) and a few lower rung gothic cum pop radio acts (remember that lone album where anyone cared about Evanescence?  Good move breaking up with Ben Moody, there, Amy…), but actual symphonic metal with operatic vocals?  This is total bizarro world stuff over here, in a nation still (sadly) dominated by aggro acts, hip hop and tuneless, emotionless math metal and prog wannabes.So once you manage to get over the shock factor engendered by their domestic origin, how does the music rate?  Well, for one thing, Knaack taps into similar vocal range and dynamics to earlier Simone Simons, albeit with a bit more stiffness that calls Carmen Schaeffer of Coronatus to mind (though I’m betting she was aiming more for earlier Floor Janssen if not Tarja Turunen stylistically).The guitars are somewhere in the middle, managing to keep Villarreal’s fingers a whole hell of a lot busier than the standard chunka-chunka single note stutter rhythms that tend to be a genre standby.  This is a good thing, as is his ability to hold down a reasonably melodic solo or harmony lead fill on occasion; these certainly enhance the sound to an unusual degree and keep the listener more on their toes than fans of the genre are accustomed to.But is he a virtuoso guitar hero on any level?  Not in the least.  Consider him a rather competent, melodically oriented craftsman with light prog leanings (you can pick out the Fates Warning by way of Dream Theater aspirations in a few of the rhythmic choices and modulations, not to mention the mostly inobtrusive but omnipresent keyboards which he also provides).Rounding out the trio is drummer Jordan Ames, who offers equally competent drumming, which appropriately for the style is never very flashy or notable, but filled with enough stuttering polyrhythms, cymbal work and a dash of double bass-inflected kit runs to show the guy to be quietly accomplished (much like what I’m trying to get across about Villarreal).  Coming from the Shrapnel school back in the day, I prefer a lot more flash in my players, but there’s nobody here who’s less than superlative in their musical competencies.The one major failing, and one I find with far too many acts these days, irrespective of genre, age or nation of origin is a noticeable lack of soul.  Like comparing Jimmy Page to Carlos Santana or the guys in Queensryche to Randy Rhoads, while in the right general ballpark, there’s something central and essential that just isn’t there.While more effusive and warm than several likeminded European acts (as befits a trio of blustery, heart on the sleeve wearing Americans), there’s a certain unexpected coldness to the sound and lack of bombast that baffles somewhat.  More of a note of constructive criticism, much akin to chiding a favored student for the mistakes that kept him from getting an A+ instead of a B, but worth noting nonetheless.All told, if you’re a fan of gothic symphonic metal in the days before that scene became overcrowded with no-talents and pop radio leanings and have some measure of respect for progressive leanings in your metal (think Ray Alder-era Fates Warning far more than Jason McMaster-era Watchtower and you’ll get a clearer picture), you really don’t want to miss out on this one.The first US overture into the gothic symphonic revival delivers a very credible and respectable showing, and gets themselves some high marks in the bargain.  Good stuff." - Third Eye Cinema
    $12.00
  • Fireballet's much maligned second album Two, Too finally receives an authorized release.  Much of the criticism of the 1976 album stems from the awful cover art.  Its definitely something those guys wish they could take back and in a sense they did since they used something different for this CD.  All the prog rock elements of the first album are still in place but the tunes are a little bit shorter and the production is definitely slicker.  Its also clear that Yes became a big influence on the band - check out "It's About Time".  Frankly if you listen to the album objectively it has a lot of merits.  Does it stand up to their first?  No...but it definitely offers something solid for prog fans with open ears.  Definitely worth revisiting.  Comes with one previously unreleased bonus track.
    $14.00
  • I can't remember a buzz on a band's debut since Circus Maximus.  Perhaps due to the album being released in Japan a year ago and its unavailability elsewhere, maybe because they are lined up to play ProgPowerUSA.  Whatever the reason the album finally gets a wide debut and it was worth the wait.  Damnation Angels is a British symphonic metal band fronted by a Norwegian singer.  He goes by the name PelleK and was a contestant on Norway's version of X Factor.  The band's stock in trade is epic sounding metal that pays a huge debt to Kamelot.  The instrumental passages take on the grandeur and scope of Nightwish.  PelleK does a sold job out front - he's obviously listened to a Khan quite a bit.  Highly recommended.
    $14.00