Live At R.I.O. Festival 2014

October Equus are one of the more interesting bands on the so-called "avant-prog" scene.  Their music has a dark energy that often evokes the spirit of Present and King Crimson.  A lot of this is due to the angular stylings of guitarist/leader Angel Ontalva.  The clarinet, sax and keys infuse jazz rock elements.  This is their complete live performance at the R.I.O. Festival 2014.  Apparently this was a controversial performance among the attendees.  Not sure why.  Listening to this I hear a band burning with fire.

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  • Third album from this excellent Belgian band. The Intrigue Of Perception finds them making the transition from a stoner/space band to a progressive rock outfit. While later albums are a touch more refined, this album still has that raw energy from their stoner rock days. The addition of sax player Steven Marx reminds of Mel Collins in "Islands"-period King Crimson. More than enough Mellotron for those (like myself) that can never have enough. Highly recommended.
    $16.00
  • Lucifer Was is a Norwegian hard rock band that has its roots in the early 70s although they never got around to recording anything until they reunited in the '90s. They have produced a number of solid progressive hard rock albums that never really stood out...until now. The band has collaborated with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra on a conceptual work that spotlights noted soloists Michala Perri (recorder) and Jan Stigmer (violin). This is somewhat of an updating of what Deep Purple tried to accomplish with their Concerto For Group And Orchestra. The band and orchestra mesh quite well which it should since this was composed with an orchestra in mind - they don't sound like they are simply grafted on. Big, bombastic and beautiful - just like a work of this scale should be. Lucifer Was has pulled off something really special here. Highly recommended.
    $17.00
  • CD/DVD digibook.  The DVD includes a 5.1 and DTS surround mix."Prog is, at times, a strangely divided world. On one side are the true progressives, fiercely determined to push music forward into the future. On the other side stand the stuck-in-the-mud individuals whose primary objective is to cling tenaciously to the ways of the past.Cheating the Polygraph is guaranteed to ruffle the latter camp’s feathers. A collection of Porcupine Tree songs reworked using big-band instrumentation and a modern-minded approach to arrangement, calling this album quirky would be something of an understatement.Some are likely to struggle to get past the superficial level of instrumentation, timbre, and tone – but beneath it can be felt the pounding pulse of pure creativity. On Cheating the Polygraph, timeless prog-rock tunes such as The Sound of Muzak, Heartattack in a Layby, Futile, and this long-player’s title track are all given superficially jazzy makeovers that actually owe as much to the influence of Frank Zappa as they do to less batshit-crazy genius bandleaders of decades past.For me, the band-falling-down-a-spiral-staircase groove of The Pills I’m Taking is a definite highlight – but that does nothing to take away from the masterful musicianship on display throughout every last microsecond of Cheating the Polygraph‘s running time. This eight-track album took five years to make, and the labours and love that have been poured into its creation are as tangible as they could possibly be when communicated through ones, zeroes, and soundwaves. Unsurprisingly flawless, but also unexpectedly addictive and moreish." - The Musical Melting Pot
    $20.00
  • "Marbles was originally released on the band's own Racket Records label and attracted a lot of attention when it was released as the album had been funded by donations from fans who had pre-ordered the album before they started recording in return for having their name printed within the album artwork (over 18,000 names). This new 2CD Madfish edition of the album is packed in a deluxe 36 page digibook re-worked by original designer Carl Glover. The book features unseen pictures not used in the original artwork. The tracks on the second disc have previously only been available through the band's own website."
    $13.00
  • "As suggested by its title, 'II' is the second album by multi-national band Corvus Stone. They continue with their merry blend of various musical influences, for an explosive cocktail of colours and sounds. Drummer Robert Wolff is now an official member of the band, while vocal duties were shared between several recording artists of Nick Katona's label, Melodic Revolution Records (later shortened in MRR). Sonia Mota, the biggest David Bowie fan on earth, was involved again for the artwork, as enchanting as on the first album.As announced in preamble of this review, this album is a festival of musical sounds, as diverse as the origin of the musicians involved. While music in general is in the field of progressive rock, it's easy to notice that the band doesn't care about labels. Progressive rock is a means to sublimate their influences rather than an end in itself. Therefore, you will hear pop (the baroque echoes of the harpsicord in the opener with beatlesque vocal harmonies, the pastoral accents of "Eternal universe"). Other popular forms of music are also represented. Let's start with blues-rock. First with the cover of Murky Red's "Boots for hire", where the virile voice is provided by none other than Murky Red's frontman, Stef Flaming, yet in a context slightly different from the original version, through its spacey keys and arabesques. Then, the blues influence is also obvious in the languid "Mystery man", with its eerie keys and reminiscences of The Beatles' "I want you (she's so heavy)" in the closing section. Rock'n'roll is there as well with the hellish "Purple stone" and a short wink to Deep Purple's "Highway star". Folk music, highlighted by the use of finnish in the lyrics ("Campfire"), has also its place in this monumental album. On the other hand, "Uncle Schunkle" with its groovy rhythms and its vintage hammond, recalls the golden age of jazz-funk. And obviously, since Corvus Stone are regarded as a progressive rock act, the instrumental "A stoned crow meets the rusty Wolff" is a piece that goes in this direction, with many rhythm changes and colourful keys. The title of the song is a pun on the drummer's name but might also be a reference to Happy The Man's humorous piece "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest". Besides those influences, some dances are honoured throughout the record: salsa ("Scandinavians in Mexico"), cha cha cha ("Mr Cha Cha"), waltz ("Early morning call" with echoes of Stranglers' "Golden Brown"), bolero ("Camelus bactrianus"), flamenco (Colin's guitar opening to some tracks). Moreover, some neo-classical interludes intersperse the album, be it in a mozartian way ("Lisa has a cigar"), or romantic fashion ("Dark Tower"). More surprising is the pastoral symphony in four movements "Moaning Lisa" (two movements in the tradition of british songs of the elisabethan era, separated by a mouth organ-lead boiling instrumental movement, and a final waltz closing the symphony).Besides the lack of interest for any specific label, the band deals with a lot of humour, never grotesque, always delivered with profesionalism. This is made possible thanks to a wide range of keyboard sounds and versatile guitar soloing, among other factors. In fact, keyboard sounds are very diverse, ubiquitous and tasty. While guitar gently weeps with touching short spastic licks, it can also turn aerial, fiery or even delve in a classical spanish realm as seen before. The presence of drummer Robert Wolff on all tracks is an improvement over the previous album. In fact, his play blends the elegance of Barriemore Barlow and the punch of John Bonham, and is instrumental in the support of the music's humorous and eclectic flavours. Vocals are diverse this time, as singers from several MRR acts were invited for the project. Blake Carpenter's high-pitch and sense of derision is tempered by more seriously delivered vocals from his mates of MRR, the whole adding to the versatility of the work.Corvus Stone are a band that don't take themselves seriously, and this aspect should be taken into account when reviewing their works. Thanks to their experience in music, a great musicianship and a sense of humour, they deliver a music that is heartfelt, not dictated by any trend of the moment, and that will put a smile on your face and certainly make your day." - ProgArchives
    $12.00
  • The Japanese jazz scene is finally getting the attention it deserves.  Long written off as just a scene filled with copycats of American and European artists, jazz fans around the world are now discovering that there was some amazing music being created there.  Some of the musicians like Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi crossed over into the world jazz scene but for the most part many of the musicians there only gained popularity in Japan.  One of the most important Japanese jazz labels from the 70s was Three Blind Mice.  It was started in 1970 by producer Takeshi "Tee" Fuji.  The label adhered to strict audiophile standards and all of the releases on the label featured exemplary sonics.  The music of Three Blind Mice tended to fall into three facets of jazz (they would crossover from time to time).  Some of the artists play very traditional straight ahead jazz.  Frankly while this stuff appeals to audiophiles its not that appealing beyond the sonics.  There was also an experimental side to the label featuring a lot of free jazz blowing.  The third aspect, which to my ears is the most interesting, is the area where the label explored modal jazz, often with an electric element.  Very little of it would be hardly be called fusion, but a rock element would sometimes be present.  This falls into the realm that has been broadly tagged as "kosmigroov".The label only existed in the 70s and the rights to the catalog has now passed over to Sony Music.  Think Records in Japan has started a limited ediiton reissue campaign of the Three Blind Mice label.  They arrive in mini-LP sleeves and are manufactured using Sony's proprietary Blu-Spec process.  We are cherry picking titles we think should have your attention.  More will follow in the near future.White hot set from this quartet led by flautist/saxophonist Kenji Mori.  Kazumi Watanabe stars on guitar, and the rhythm section consists of Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and Steve Jackson on drums.  The album consists of 3 blazing tracks including the sidelong, two part "Firebird".  Mori and Watanabe trade furious solos back and forth.  While firmly entrenched in jazz, this set takes on a rock energy level.  When you see the cover of "A Time For Us" (Theme from "Romeo And Juliet") you might wince, but it turns out to be a killer interpretation with gorgeous flute/guitar interplay.  A total smoker of an album - one of my favorites from Three Blind Mice.  Highly recommended.
    $29.00
  • Larval is an avant/progressive rock ensemble led by composer Bill Brovold. Defined by driving guitars, saxes, multiple strings (violin, bass, cello, harp) and percussion, Larvals sound is intense, relentless and savagely hypnotic. The music brings to mind a blending of aspects of Glenn Branca, Godspeed You Black Emperor! King Crimson and more, but all put together in a completely Larval" fashion. This is Larval's fourth album and their first on Cuneiform. Larvals three previous CDs were all given 4 star reviews by the All Music Guide. Brovold formed the Detroit-based Larval in 1996, selecting that citys best musicians to help realize his musical visions. The band caught the attention of John Zorn, who proclaimed: Bill Brovolds music blows me away Larval is the shit. Blistering in its intesity, relentless in its propulsive rhythms, the music on Obedience is nevertheless disciplined at its core. Brovolds compositions here encompass a wide spectrum of mood, traveling from quiet, contemplative passages tinged with ominous expectations to driving, aggressive onslaughts of screaming guitars and assorted strings that threaten chaos. Bill Brovold crafts quiet think-hums that transform into bold, dense, almost assaulting compositions in his instrumental rock band, Larval.-Detroit Metro Times. "When they begin to play, several things are immediately apparent. First, the music that the group plays is fairly rigorous in its construction - even its simplest pieces pit strings against guitars in sectional call-and-response punctuated by the horns. Second, the drummer is essentially playing straightforward rock rhythms, infused with that most indefinable of elements. And third, they're loud. Real loud.-Music Box
    $15.00
  • New 2CD mediabook edition features a remixed and remastered version of the album.  The bonus disc includes the Dawn Raids EPs plus a previously unreleased track.Tightly Unwound marks Pineapple Thief's departure from Cyclops, their label of many years. The band's visionary is Bruce Soord. His music is filled with melancholy - there is as much drama and passion as you would find from a Peter Hammill or Roger Waters album. Musically speaking this is modern progressive rock heavily derived from Porcupine Tree with some traces of Pink Floyd. Keyboards pretty much are in the background just providing texture and pads - this is guitar driven music...and it's angry!
    $15.00
  • "A collection of Cardiacs’ earliest works recorded between the years 1977-1979. Spitefully compiled and released on the black market without the band’s knowledge by an embittered associate for personal gain. Now available legitimately on compact disc. Simply a ‘must have’ for the collector of toneless drivel."
    $18.00
  • "A 5-track mini-album ‘little brother’ to the splendid Not The Weapon But The Hand, Arc Light features 4 new tracks and a new version of Intergalactic featuring Aziz Ibrahim (Stone Roses, Ian Brown) on guitar.Not The Weapon But The Hand was the 2012 debut album from the cult hero collaborative. It featured appearances from Danny Thompson on double bass, Chris Maitland (ex Porcupine Tree) on drums and Dave Gregory (XTC) on guitar, bass and string arrangementSteve Hogarth is best known as the frontman of Marillion, the progressive rock legends that he joined in 1989, following spells in The Europeans and How We Live. In addition to the 12 albums Marillion have released in this time he has also recorded and toured as a solo artist, under the name ‘h’.In recent years Richard Barbieri has been a core member of Porcupine Tree playing keyboards on all the band’s albums since 1993 as well as releasing two solo albums, Things Buried and Stranger Inside. Prior to this, it was in the new-wave pioneers Japan that he originally came to prominence, helping to create the ground-breaking synthesiser sound that defined the band and influenced the likes of The Human League, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Talk Talk and a whole raft of artists to follow."
    $14.00
  • "A tremendously popular act at home in the UK, their last album, Sensible Shoes (their first with Cuneiform) was a 2009 'Album of the Year' winner with the prestigious Mercury Prize. Led Bib regularly play large-scale festivals and concert halls in the UK as well as festivals and shows elsewhere in Europe. So, in the wake of the huge press attention lavished on them due to the Mercury, and having appeared on UK's Channel 4 News, performing their version of the theme music to literally millions in front of the telly, did the mighty Bib decide to tone it down? Turn it back a notch? Definitely not. If anything, Bring Your Own contains some of their hardest rocking material to date, mixing the full throated cry of the dual saxes over loudly amplified Fender Rhodes and heavy bass and drums. Those familiar with the Led Bib sound will recognize the trademark hooky melodies and idiosyncratic improvisation on this album. The raw energy and style remains, but it has never sounded so confident or accomplished, so genre-crossing and definition-defying. Here eastern melodies tumble into rock and roll grooves, there jazz phrases open up pastoral overtures, and elsewhere crescendos rise and disappear into whirring kraut-rock wormholes. I don't want to play up the association too much because Led Bib absolutely have their own sound, but their alto sax/Fender Rhodes/bass/drums sound will bring to mind the classic Soft Machine sound updated 40 years and with a big dollop of punk/jazz. The group has been playing together for over 7 years – and it shows. There’s an electricity here, a ‘group mind’ built out of a confidence in each of the member’s playing that means risks can be taken and their unique sound world cracked open and reassembled time and time again. The band has come a long way from their humble beginnings as Holub’s college music project! Led Bib were formed in 2003 and have had the same formation since their beginnings; Mark Holub, drums; Liran Donin, bass; Toby McLaren, Rhodes and Chris Williams and Pete Grogan, alto sax. "
    $15.00
  • Outside of the UK, Gordon Giltrap isn't all that well known but the Brits are smart.  They recognized a national treasure.  Mr. Giltrap is one of the finest acoustic guitarists on the planet.  In the 70s and early 80s he made some extraordinary progressive rock albums that demonstrated his talents on acoustic and electric guitar.  The results were somewhat similar to Steve Hackett's solo albums.  Since then he has focused solely on acoustic guitar and became somewhat entrenched in the folk scene.Ravens & Lullabies finds Gordon Giltrap returning to the progressive rock scene.  This album is a collaboration with keyboardist Oliver Wakeman.  Fronting the band is Arena vocalist Paul Manzi (former Yes vocalist Benoit David sings lead on one track).  The rhythm section consists of Steve Amadeo and Threshold's drummer Johanne James.  Its a beautiful album demonstrating Giltrap's amazing technical ability on acoustic guitar, while Oliver Wakeman contributes the symphonic element.  Highly recommended.
    $9.00
  • "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
  • "The debut recording from the Dixie Dregs (The Great Spectacular is considered a demo) stands as one fusion's high-water marks. This music is wholly original and played with a freshness and vigor that had begun to wane in a genre that was becoming a model in self-parody. The influences here are plentiful, but it is the country roots that provide the music with its vitality. Founder/guitarist Steve Morse proved to be an important new guitarist, offering an inimitable style with the technique the music demands. The music is complex and challenging, but that's easy to overlook due to the band's sunny approach. While they would go on to create more fully realized recordings, this one proved that fusion had a soul." - Allmusic Guide
    $5.00