English Electric Part Two

Second part of the English Electric concept dealing with life across the UK landscape.  What a beautiful album.  First off lets make it clear - Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford made a huge mistake.  Vocalist David Longdon should have been Phil Collins replacement in Genesis.  He would have fit like hand in glove.  The album features the band augmented by a variety of guest musicians including Andy Tillison of The Tangent who contributes organ, Moog, and Mellotron parts.  Its all very British sounding and once again a wonderful mix of old school prog and a more contemporary neoprog sound.  Highly recommended.

Product Review

garyrodgers
Fri, 2013-03-08 19:15
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0
This album is brilliant. BBT continue to produce the highest quality prog. Great use of brass sections. Soaring harmonies and solemn sections. Production is superb. A great continuation of English Electric Part One. Highest recommendation.
garyrodgers
Mon, 2013-03-11 21:25
Rate: 
0
If you wear a white collar and tie to work, pass this one up. If you wear tshirts nad sweatshirts, and $12 dungerees; if you dont matter the filth you work in; if the women you work with can pull their own weight, and thru the grease and the grime , there's still a smile and a twinkle in their eye; and when you get to retired\fired, you count the friends who have died, then this cd is for you. Much of the music shows the different areas of England(its not a Genesis cd); its a working till youre in the grave lament. And if you have worked that life, you cherish the songs, Not sine Hudson and Fords' Part of the Union, has there been a sirenof working class life. and you don't need Genesis to prove it. mw
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Product Review

garyrodgers
Fri, 2013-03-08 19:15
Rate: 
0
This album is brilliant. BBT continue to produce the highest quality prog. Great use of brass sections. Soaring harmonies and solemn sections. Production is superb. A great continuation of English Electric Part One. Highest recommendation.
garyrodgers
Mon, 2013-03-11 21:25
Rate: 
0
If you wear a white collar and tie to work, pass this one up. If you wear tshirts nad sweatshirts, and $12 dungerees; if you dont matter the filth you work in; if the women you work with can pull their own weight, and thru the grease and the grime , there's still a smile and a twinkle in their eye; and when you get to retired\fired, you count the friends who have died, then this cd is for you. Much of the music shows the different areas of England(its not a Genesis cd); its a working till youre in the grave lament. And if you have worked that life, you cherish the songs, Not sine Hudson and Fords' Part of the Union, has there been a sirenof working class life. and you don't need Genesis to prove it. mw
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  • Here's a prog rock band from New Jersey that frankly was completely unknown to me until I stumbled on them recently.  Good thing too!No More Pain is a quartet that blends contemporary sounds with classic old school prog.  My initial thoughts when I first heard the band was going to lead me to comparisons to Spock's Beard and Echolyn but the deeper I dug into it the whole thing clicked - BEARDFISH!  Lots of similarities to that great Swedish band in the way they take elements of the 70s and wipe the schmutz off it and make it sound fresh and new.  Some nice flashy keyboard solos will make you flashback to 1973 Tony Banks.  Scrub the comparisons you might read referencing Dream Theater - none of that is going on here.  This is pure prog rock.  If you are looking for metal move on - you'll be disappointed.  Lots of music packed into this disc, capping off with the 17 minute epic "The Network".  These guys need a publicist and maybe get out and play some festivals.  Highly recommended.
    $10.00
  • From beginning to end their best (and probably proggiest) album. Masterpiece.
    $15.00
  • "Sometimes I like a little power in my heavy. Swiss band CRYSTAL BALL is a powerhouse that performs metal with a force to be reckoned with. Following a 6 year hiatus, a new album "Dawnbreaker" was finally released this year, and they bring with them a new energy. What makes this band especially interesting is their blend of classic Heavy Metal, euro-Rock and melodic Power Metal; some of the tracks sound like something off a EUROPE album; other times I am recalled back to IRON MAIDEN; and other times I hear RHAPSODY OF FIRE. Naturally, the musicianship is excellent, but keeping things from growing bland are the vocals; gruff and aggressive, not normally found on a melodic Power Metal album, and almost add a Lemmy-like atmosphere.The opener "Break of Dawn" is a through-and-through Heavy Metal track, with heavy and aggressive guitar-driven passages; even the vocals are percussive, putting particular emphasis on adding an extra axe blade to those of the chugging guitars. Immediately following is a strongly Euro-flavored track, "Anyone can be a Hero", with wailing guitar and vocal melodies and very, very 80's melodic progressions. A nice touch, I think; albums like this simply do not feel complete without the odd blast from the past. A song that stuck out like a sore thumb, for me, is "Skin to Skin"; at first, I thought it was an EDGUY piece, because it sounds like it could have come directly out of "Mandrake" or "Rocket Ride". A copy? Nay; a nice remembrance piece; mid-tempo but catchy, groovy, heavy and melodic.I hope this band is "Back for Good", or at least for a while. Another EDGUY-like track, complete with atmospheric synths, this is another rocking mid-tempo track that even, in terms of arrangement, reminds me a lot of STRATOVARIUS' "Kiss of Judas". Allow me to go on and on about the guitar solo; it is a damned fine work of art, and the twin harmonized solo is at a Scandinavian level. Next up, the band returns in a blaze of glory to the roots of melodic Heavy Metal in "Power Pack", which combines the aggressive grooves of METALLICA's peak era, and some additional Euro-style melodies. Lyrics are cliché as hell, but I do not care; essentially my favorite song on the album. The end track, "Bond of Love" proves that a Metal album does not need an over-abundance of guitar-shredding, blast beats and double kicks (of which this album has none) to be brimming with molten steel. Hell, I'm even noticing a few slight progressive touches here.I admire CRYSTAL BALL for not trying too hard to be Metal, for not being too cliché, and for effectively bring back to full force the essence of Heavy Metal into modern times." - Metal Temple
    $9.00
  • 24 bit remaster. Pohjola's third solo album is probably his best known as well. Now signed to Virgin Records, owner Richard Branson put Pohjola in the studio with Mike Oldfield. Although all the music was composed by Pohjola it bears the unmistakable imprint of Oldfield, who is credited as co-producer. None of this is really a bad thing - the playing is stunning as you would expect when you inject Pierre Moerlen, Wlodek Gulkowski ao into the mix. Simply a gorgeous fusion album.
    $17.00
  • "You like In Flames, Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, but also the mighty Machine Head or Metallica? Then check out DARK AGE. Based in THE Metal capital of the world, Hamburg / Germany, since 1995, DARK AGE have gained a lot of respect and played single shows and festivals with a lot of bands like Slayer, In Flames, Sodom, Soilwork, Hypocrisy, Mnemic, Primal Fear, Dismember, Heaven Shall Burn...just to name a few. DARK AGE played the famous Wacken Open Air, the biggest Metal festival in the world, twice: In 2000 and 2003, played the German Summer Breeze in 2008 and did 2 European Tours, one time with Primal Fear." 
    $15.00
  • This superb Swedish band follow up their white hot performance at Nearfest with the release of their fifth album and its their best. The band really has developed their own identity. There is an underpinning of humor but at the same time the lyrics don't deal with unicorns and magical forests - in fact there is plenty of heavy duty swear words through out so if that is offensive to you stay clear. Its a musical monster with devastating organ work - check out the closer "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" (my dreams ARE made of this stuff!). In general the musical talent is mega-high and full on display here. Oh yeah - for about 10 seconds the Cookie Monster rears his head so watch out!!One of the finest (if not THE finest) example of contemporary progressive rock. Beardfish give a wink and a nod to the old timers but clearly have carved out a path of their own that ANY fan (with a strong heart) should endorse. This will make everyone's top 10 list at year end. BUY OR DIE!!
    $11.00
  • Limited mini-LP sleeve edition."Paul Chain is, apparently, a weirdo who came from the band Death SS, who I know nothing about and thus won’t bother trying to summarize. No, I think I have enough material here just talking about Paul Chain’s oddball solo debut Life and Death. It is an esoteric and individual beast without anything resembling trendiness or modernization, reaching back from its late 80s standing into the dark murkiness of the 70s at some parts, and at others into an entirely new dimension, unexplored by man before and since. People, I can’t come up with any more ways to say this is strange, so let’s just cut the middle man and start reviewing this sucker.Life and Death isn’t exactly a title that sends any warning signals to your brain, and neither the track names or the cover art does either, so I really had nothing to go on. I guess I was expecting some sort of dirty, minimalistic doomy affair with deep, grunted vocals and dirgey bass and occult themes, or something, but really I was completely unprepared for the airy strings, the clean, sluggish guitars that sometimes broke into melodious leads and the high-pitched warbling from the vocals that followed.Yes, Paul Chain as a vocalist is quite literally out of this world, as I can’t think of even one other singer I know to compare him to. His voice alone sounds a tiny bit like Jon Arch if he ever got a super-clean production job, but it’s the way he sings that is so different from anyone else. For one, a lot of the time he apparently isn’t even singing real words – he’s completely made up his own language. How fucked up is that? It’s actually really cool and lends to the alien mystical air this album was obviously trying to set up. And two, his vocal lines are just so idiosyncratic and so stylized that I doubt anyone could cover and not sound totally ridiculous even attempting. His voice dives and soars and croons and emotes a million different ways over the course of this album, and not once does he sound like he’s straining. His high, slightly breathy whine is layered over the music like a light morning mist.The music isn’t quite as weird, but it’s still pretty damned distinctive. The first track is a pretty useless intro without much to really make it worth hearing, but then “Antichrist” kicks in, with its crawling tempo and strange nuanced vocal lines, and this is a song that had to grow on me a little – it’s not one of the best on here, but it’s certainly good enough to introduce the listener to what’s going to come. This is music that succeeds when you just sit back and let it roll over you in waves – like on “Kill Me,” which rides a really simple, driving riff for the entire seven minute run-time, along with Chain’s moaning of the titular words for the chorus. But it works; it really works. It engulfs the listener in a chasm of melody so tight they might never be able to get out, and it’s probably the album standout at the end of the day. “Ancient Caravans” is a short, soft piece with some really delicate vocals and an atmosphere like the Middle East at nighttime, and then we kick into the other album highlight with “My Hills,” which explodes like a shooting star with happy island-style acoustics layered over colorful, blazing leads in what ends up being a mouthwatering affair. It’s not terribly metallic but it is a wonderful, engaging piece of music.The rest of the album remains curious, with the sliding guitar melodies of “Alleuia Song” and the muttered vocals and more traditional metal riff of “Spirits,” even though there are no songs as good as “My Hills.” “Cemetery” is 8 minutes of thumping bass-lines, grunted vocals and loopy, obscure guitar leads, and it comes together pretty well, never failing to entertain even if it isn’t really something that will blow you away. The album closes with “Oblivious,” which is an organ piece that leaves the listener feeling uncertain, staring at the night sky wondering what he or she has just experienced…I like it myself; it’s a good way to leave an impression. It’s like, what happened? I’d better listen to that again and inspect it more closely. And that’s always good.Life and Death is pretty much like that as a whole, really – it’s a curious affair, and no doubt inspired. With only seven tracks being actual songs it runs under 40 minutes of real music, and I think that hurts it a bit, as it really does fly by. And I don’t want to be mean to this album or anything, but a lot of these songs just don’t really catch fire. “Kill Me” and “My Hills” are about the only ones that do. Nothing else really comes up to that level, and it’s a little disappointing, as I know he has it in him to do a whole album like that. These songs are good, but most of them end up being just…curious, rather than spellbinding and arresting as those two mentioned songs can be. This feels like a warm-up album at the end of the day. Nothing wrong with that, and I can really dig this when it’s on, but I think the stars are telling me with this to go seek out Chain’s future exploits and find gold…" - Metal Archives 
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  • "On their last album to date, these erstwhile proggy hard rockers metallized their sound even more. An attempt to appeal to a wider audience, maybe. It's not THAT heavy. The vocalist is too pleasant and music too rooted in classic rock for that. I could call it dark power metal maybe. Another example could be Evergrey.Songs here are more or less evenly divided between these dark power moments (eg, open your eyes, end in sight) and more proggy numbers (from a distance, in the wait loop, break the spell). Also a ballad and an instrumental are thrown in for good measure, but they are, in my opinion, inferior to their analogues on the previous album Chemical chaos (acoustic Access denied and Terminal Trip).Still, the genius of this excellent but underrated band is that every song contains a memorable hook from guitars, keyboards or vocals." - ProgArchives
    $8.00
  • Import hardbound "mediabook" edition with the Iron Man bonus track.So here's my personal confession...after Neal left I felt that Spock's Beard lost their way.  Nick is a fine vocalist but there was something quirky about Neal's writing that had a reverential old school quality that I found lacking.  The albums didn't grab me.  Nick left and Ted Leonard took over on vocals.  Whether it was Enchant or Thought Chamber, he's always stood out and he fits Spock's Beard quite well.  The new drummer Jimmy Keegan slipped into the blend with no dificulty.  The result is (to my mind) a resurgence from this band.  Ryo Okumoto always puts on a show - in particular his heavy reliance on Hammond organ reminds me quite a bit of Steve Walsh.  In fact the sound of the whole album has a Kansas vibe. Coincidentally David Ragsdale guests on one track.  I'm not sure I can remember the last time I said this about a Spock's Beard album - Highly recommended."Very few bands are so recognizable that you know who you are listening to within 2 seconds.  That is all it takes at the beginning of the first track on The Oblivion Particle to know you are listening to Spock’s Beard.  There is no slow buildup or keyboard swells, just straight BAMM!, here we go.  And if the opening notes don’t get you, the organ 5 seconds in will.  The band’s 12th studio album, this one the second with singer Ted Leonard and drummer Jimmy Keegan, is a culmination of years of perfecting a sound and identity, one that not even 2 major lineup changes could fracture. With this new album, Spock’s Beard up their game again and show that this lineup is here to stay.If there was a track that defined what Spock’s Beard are, it might be the opening track, “Tides of Time.”  There are certain checklist items that mark their sound and they are all in this track.  The organ, the harmonies, the acoustic breakdown, the rocking middle and the epic ending.  Each member finds their moments to shine on this one and it provides a jaw-dropping sound overload that could leave one satisfied at that moment; only there is another 60 minutes to go.The album zigs and zags through a few more experimental moments, mixing in some surprises with more traditional Prog elements.  The album’s second track and first single is “Minion”, is a perfect example.  The opening a cappella harmonies provide the sort of memorable chorus and harmonies we’ve come to expect from the group.  While, the following distorted keyboard section is also standard Spock’s Beard.  But the verse and middle of the song is much darker and takes us on a surprising journey.The most unique song the album is the brilliantly titled “Bennett Built a Time Machine”, which the album’s cover is based on.  Drummer Jimmy Keegan takes lead on the vocals here and sounds incredible.  His voice actually fits the track better than Leonard’s probably would have.  The song is one of the album highlights and helps keep the record from sounding redundant.  It is almost a pop song most of the way through until turning on the jets and shifting into Prog mode.There are some heavier moments such as “Hell’s Not Enough” and “Get Out While You Can”. “The Center Line”, however, might be the most similar to something you might have found on their group’s previous album “Brief Nocturnes…”  The track opens with an expansive piano recital piece, before turning into a combo Prog-Western bounce with acoustic guitars carrying the groove. Ted’s voice lifts the choruses flawlessly and creates an almost cinematic soundscape.Even with all of these great moments, it is the album’s closing track that is the best song on the album.  “Disappear” might be one of the best songs the band has recorded since Neal left the group.  “We could disappear, you and me, we could be, anyplace else not here” sings Ted in the chorus as he wonders what might be if we left with no one knowing what happened.  The song is really the closest thing to a ballad on the album, but it doesn’t stay that way for long.  2 minutes in, the song stirs into a frenzy just before a brief cameo by Kansas’ David Ragsdale, appearing with his violin.  Of course, the big epic orchestral ending takes us home as Alan Morse provides the finishing touches with his unique finger picking soloing excellence.Spock’s Beard are Prog rock’s most reliable unit.  They have yet to disappoint and always provide comfort to their faithful fans with music that is both inspiring and breathtaking.  And while The Oblivion Particle shows a harder edged Spock’s Beard, it also displays a group that shows no signs of slowing down and is ready to take on all comers." - The Prog Report 
    $18.00
  • "Germany's Mob Rules hit an absolute home run in 2010 with their album Radical Peace, and the band is back with the equally stellar Cannibal Nation. Don't let the title fool you into thinking that the veteran power/prog metal act has gone all horror on us, as Cannibal Nation is another sizzling collection of melodic, heavy, power & progressive metal songs. With a singer as good as Klaus Dirks, Mob Rules already has a step up on the competition, and he once again delivers a stunning performance here. "Tele Box Fool", "Lost", and the brilliant opener "Close My Eyes" all feature his confident, powerful vocals amidst plenty of catchy melodies and challenging metal arrangements. "Ice and Fire" has been picked as the first single from the CD, and it's a hook laden slice of melodic power metal with Dirks' soaring vocals over tasty guitar riffs & solos from Matthias Mineur & Sven Lüdke with just the right amount of keyboards courtesy of Jan Christian Halfbrodt. The CD has its share of heavy thumpers too, like the headbanging "Soldiers of Fortune" and the crunchy, harmony guitar laden title track. For those that like the more proggy side of Mob Rules, there's the atmospheric "Scream for the Sun (May 29th 1953)" and the textured "Sunrise", both heavily melodic and dripping with emotion.Cannibal Nation is another fine, classy release from Mob Rules, a band that consistently delivers one winner after another without relying on traditional European power metal or progressive metal characteristics." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $15.00
  • First time on CD - reissued in a gorgeous gatefold mini-lp sleeve. "Live In Montreux" is actually their first album, released in 1975, consisting of just four long tracks. This is great jazz rock that will appeal to fans of Weather Report and Perigeo.
    $18.00
  • "Formed in 1979, Sky brought together the worlds of rock and classical music in a highly successful and inspiring way. Featuring the gifted talents of guitarist JOHN WILLIAMS, percussionist TRISTAN FRY, legendary bass player HERBIE FLOWERS, former Curved Air keyboard player FRANCIS MONKMAN and guitarist KEVIN PEEK, Sky recorded their debut album at Abbey Road studios in the early months of 1979. Featuring the lengthy suite "Where Opposite’s Meet”, "Westway” and "Cannonball” (also released as a single), the band’s self-titled debut reached the UK top ten in May 1979 and went on to achieve Platinum status in the UK and was also a major hit in Europe and Australia.This Esoteric Recordings edition has been newly re-mastered and includes the bonus tracks ‘Dies Irae’, the single version of ‘March to the Scaffold’ (Previously unreleased on CD), and a live version of ‘Where Opposites Meet’ recorded by BBC Radio One at a charity concert at Wembley Arena in November 1979. This deluxe edition also includes a DVD (NTSC / Region Free) featuring all of Sky’s surviving BBC TV appearances in 1979, all previously unreleased on video or DVD.  The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay."
    $19.00
  • First time on LP!  Gulaab is a German guitarist with connections to Peter Frohmader.  He's a bit of an enigmatic figure spending a number of years in Nepal.  Ritt Durch Den Hades was originally released on cassette back in 1979 and has built up a cult following over the years.Gulaab plays a variety of acoustic string instruments and percussion(he makes an emphatic point that there are no synthesizers involved).  The music has an obvious dark, mystical krautrock/folk vibe.  If you are a fan of Deuter and Popol Vuh you are going to burst a vein over this.  Had this been released on vinyl in 1973 you'd be paying $1000 for it.  Late night hookah music.  Highly recommended."Ultra-rare lost psychedelic Kraut-Folk from 1979. Taken from the original mastertapes! Gulaab means “rose” in Nepalese language. Gulaab is a German virtuoso on the acoustic guitar who has served three years as an after dinner musician in a luxury restaurant in Nepal to play for an amazing number of well known personalities of the 20th century during the early 70s. A strongly influential experience that shaped his musical expression big time but also let him become an open minded spirit. “Ritt durch den Hades” is the result of his experimentation with sounds, atmospheres and a multitude of styles in traditional music from Latin to Eastern Asian elements. It was first released in 1979, vanishing into obscurity soon after, waiting to be rediscovered by a more open minded generation of music lovers now. Traditionalists be forewarned : This mystic grail of 70s “kraut folk” stands far out from the average folk and singer / songwriter stuff combining guitar harmonies of the highest order with a cosmic drone that backs up the hypnotizing picking and trippy swirls of sounds. This album is in fact more like a musical journey than just a piece of music taking you from secret sacrificial altars in the Andes to the ceremonial places of the ancient Himalayan population with a short stopover for a little “joint venture” in the musical space centers of highly flown out German originators like ASH RA TEMPEL / Manuel Göttsching, POPUL VUH / Florian Fricke, WITTHÜSSER & WESTRUPP, BRÖSELMASCHINE, DOM or DEUTER. Now take a ride through Hades with GULAAB!"
    $29.00
  • Deluxe digipak contains a bonus DVD featuring a "making of" documentary and the vaguely worded "bonus materials"."Karnataka are survivors. Since their inception at the tail end of the 1990s, they have most definitely had their ups and downs: they found some success fairly rapidly, helped in no small part by a scorched earth gigging mentality and some fairly prestigious support slots with the likes of progressive rock favourites Porcupine Tree and the much-loved, oft-lamented All About Eve. By 2004, it seemed nothing could prevent the band’s ascent to progressive rock favourites, and larger venues started to beckon.Sadly, their upward trajectory ran abruptly aground when internal relationships fractured and the band went their separate ways. One of the chief songwriters, founder member Ian Jones, decided to keep the Karnataka flame burning, however, and assembled a new-look band. Critics and fans were divided about the reborn band, but Karnataka forged ahead, delivering several well-received tours and their most successful album to date, 2010’s The Gathering Light – but just as the album finally appeared, the band found itself short-staffed once more as various members elected to pursue other interests.The Gathering Light possessed more of a progressive rock influence than any of the band’s previous albums: opening with two instrumentals, and possessed of three further tracks that all clocked in at over ten minutes in length, its sprawling atmospherics housed a haunting, soulful but introspective record which felt like a side-step from the Karnataka of old. Life had thrown many obstacles at chief writer Jones, and the album reflected them all, as Jones and the band overcame adversity to deliver a bruised but unbowed album of survivor anthems. The band’s new album, Secrets Of Angels, however, overflows with confidence: it’s not so much bruised as bruising. Here the band sound truly re-energised, thrumming with barely suppressed vitality. The progressive rock influence has for the most part been dialled back substantially, only really surfacing significantly on the epic, closing title track; the result is a much more immediate and focused album with more immediately hooky and memorable songs.Secrets Of Angels is the band’s first studio album with a new line-up, and it’s a testament to Jones’ deep understanding of the music he’s making that the new look Karnataka are so evidently a force to be reckoned with. The renewed emergy and sense of purposes within the band is exemplified by opener ‘Road To Cairo’, which fuses Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ with Jones’ fine ear for an anthemic chorus. Powered along by a relentless, powerful rhythm, it fair leaps out of the speakers, a sharp contrast with previous albums that tended to open far more gently. Incredibly, this energy level is maintained throughout the next four tracks with barely any let-up: ‘Because Of You’ opens as if it will be a gothic ballad, but soon delivers huge power chords, a dynamite vocal from vocalist Hayley Griffiths, making her first appearance – hopefully the first of many – on one of the band’s studio albums, and one of guitarist Enrico Pinna’s most outré solos to date, a cascading wail of rage and frustration that will pin you to the nearest wall. ‘Poison Ivy’ goes straight for the jugular, its chanted verses and soaring chorus underpinned by a crunching riff and elaborate orchestrations, a pattern followed by the instantly addictive ‘Forbidden Dreams’, a sprightly rocker with a hugely memorable chorus that is certain to become a sing-along favourite for fans.The album continues with ‘Borderline’, a track with two faces: after opening with another suitably gothic flourish, all wind and a tolling church bell, it reveals itself as a chugging riff-based rocker, with a grimly accusatory lyric; however, the mood is utterly transformed by the distinctly pop chorus. Catharsis and hope in the face of adversity is perhaps Karnataka’s bread and butter, and ‘Borderline’ is an almost perfect distillation of that duality. It’s followed by the highly dramatic ‘Fairytale Lies’, which is reminiscent of Within Temptation at their most balefully reflective, a glorious concoction of tumbling keys and a striking string arrangement, topped off by a lyric that is superb in its cynical acceptance of reality and Griffiths’ astonishing vocal, a masterclass in mood and atmosphere. Yet the mood lifts once again with the penultimate track, ‘Feels Like Home’, a pretty, touching ballad about discovering “the one” that happily avoids the trap many ballads fall into – the cardinal sin of over-sentimentality. The way it develops is compellingly cinematic: as the song goes on, more and more layers are added to the music and the vocal, as if the virtual camera is pulling slowly back to reveal more and more of the stage. It ends in a cascade of harmony vocals, like embers from a firework display drifting back down to earth, and is possibly one of the best ballads the band have ever delivered.After all this drama, it would take something very special indeed not to be anticlimactic, but the title track itself – all twenty minutes of it – is certainly not that. Karnataka have shown themselves to be masters of longer pieces before, never falling into the self-conscious prog trap of simply pasting together a bunch of disparate pieces of music and hoping for the best. Although this magnum opus is comprised of seven separately numbered and titled parts – count ‘em! – it somehow manages to feel organically grown rather than stitched together in a lab. In many ways, it’s the ultimate distillation of what the new-look Karnataka are all about: we have folky, Celtic sections featuring guest appearances from Nightwish’s Troy Donockley; delicate balladry; a pounding symphonic metal interlude, and some outright prog courtesy of penultimate section ‘In The Name Of God’, which opens like Marillion in their pomp and steadily dials up the intensity. The effect is almost total sensory overload, and it will likely take many listens to unlock all the detail, musically and lyrically. Any piece of this length has to end strongly, and happily Karnataka have saved their ace in the hole for the dying moments of the album, as everyone pulls out all the stops for the grand finale. Pinna delivers one of his most devastating solos; Donockley serves up a Uillean pipe solo to die for, and the rhythm section get stuck in as Cagri and the assembled string section provide a backdrop of dizzying beauty for Griffiths to deliver possibly her finest vocal to date. It’s unspeakably moving, a beautiful lament for the losers on the battlefields of life and love that will quite likely require more than one handkerchief.It feels wrong to call current vocalist Hayley Griffiths the “new vocalist”, since she’s been touring with the band since very early in 2012. With a background in large musical productions (Irish dance spectaculars Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance both feature in her quite extensive CV), fronting a rock band was something completely new for Griffiths, and it isn’t perhaps surprising that the first batch of dates she undertook with the band – where the live release New Light was recorded – saw her nailing the demanding vocal parts without breaking a sweat, but looking slightly self-conscious on stage. As anyone who has seen the band recently will attest, any inhibitions that Griffiths may once have had on stage are long since gone, and that confidence has found its way onto the album, where she delivers a flawless, powerful performance. From fiery rock vocals to the lofty, operatic extreme of her range, Griffiths is perfectly on point throughout, as at home with riff-based rockers like ‘Road to Cairo’ and ‘Poison Ivy’ as she is with the gothic balladry of ‘Fairytale Lies’. It’s a bravura showcase for a highly gifted performer, and it’s practically impossible to come away from hearing her in action here not having reached the conclusion that she is the perfect foil for the band. Powerfully charismatic, hugely versatile and technically magnificent, her vocals on the closing title track in particular shame many better known female rock vocalists.Çağrı Tozluoğlu, on keys, is a similarly impressive recruit. Eschewing the more traditional progressive rock influences of previous keysman Gonzalo Carrera, Tozluoğlu brings a welcome modernity to the band. His soloing is sparsely used, but when it does appear (as on ‘Poison Ivy’), it’s wonderfully fluid. Where Tozluoğlu excels is in his shaping of mood and his orchestrations: his epic approach to arrangement means that this is the biggest-sounding Karnataka album to date. The danger of dialling up the drama is that sonically the music is weighed down until it sounds overwrought, but Tozluoğlu knows exactly when a bit more is too much. Nowhere is this more evident than in the expansive title track, where the gradual crescendoes and sudden juddering launches into explosive instrumental sections are handled with a very fine hand. Even as the song builds more and more layers upon Tozluoğlu’s musical architecture, it never feels like drama for the sake of drama; it all feels natural, logical.Last of the new arrivals is the most recent one, French drummer Jimmy Pallagrosi, whose performance here is frankly the stuff of future legend. With all the energy of progressive legends like Mike Portnoy, Pallagrosi’s explosive playing lends the material added potency and urgency whilst anchoring it to earth, playing a key role in giving it real weight and momentum. His Bonham-esque voyages around his kit during ‘Road to Cairo’ are a joy to hear; at the same time, his restraint on some of the quieter pieces – such as ‘Fairytale Lies’ – demonstrates a keen musicality and a knowledge of where to leave space for the music to breathe. In a world seemingly filled with drummers who appear to treat every song as a drum solo, Pallagrosi’s keen sense of dynamics is both refreshing and exactly what the material needs. He is, in short, the right drummer at the right time.Secrets Of Angels is a triumph. Wonderfully melodic, hugely dramatic without being in any way corny, varied in feel yet somehow effortlessly cohesive, beautifully recorded and mixed, and very sympathetically mastered, it is fairly easily the best-sounding album the band have made. The material is fabulously strong, and managed to both tread new ground and sound like ‘classic’ Karnataka at the same time – no mean feat, especially with all the new blood involved in its writing. As the epic title track draws to a breathless close, the listener may find themselves exhausted – drained by an album that runs the full gamut of emotions and leaves no stone unturned in its quest to powerfully move anyone who takes the time to sit down with it and listen. Hands down, the band’s finest hour, and a validation of the belief and skills of the new-look band. The only difficulty Karnataka now face is how to top it." = Echoes And Dust
    $21.00