- NEAL MORSE
- Neal Morse
- ( ©EAR CANDY Records - A division of INSIDEOUT Music '99 )
- Better known in recent years as the principal writer, vocalist and
leader of California based prog meisters SPOCK'S BEARD, Neal has finally
stepped out on his own to realise a life long ambition in releasing his first solo album.
Displaying a vast array of talents, Neal not only wrote all the material and played the
majority of instruments on the album but he also produced and arranged all of the tracks.
As I am not competent to write about SPOCK'S BEARD because I haven't
really had the opportunity to hear the band or its work, I will say one thing: Neal's
self-titled debut is something worth listening to. It is modern rock crafted in the
progressive manner. Obviously, Neal has no problem handling all the matters concerning the
making of a solo album such as playing all the instruments, writing all the tracks and
then producing all this to be released on the CD format. Wow! This man is genius.
- Right from the start, the opener Living Out Loud,
portrays a nice picture of the entire album. All the emotions, all the positive energy and
skilful mastery of the instruments are pressed into one well-produced rock song that has
nothing to be ashamed of. It could easily enter major pop-charts, hit mainstream radio or
be turned real loud on big arena concert. And, what follows is pure musical enjoyment. In Lost
Cause Neal really heats things up. The song has this really great melody backed by
the keys-sounding-as-flute reminiscent of JETHRO TULL, followed by the
acoustic interlude which in turn changes into dramatic heavy pop-rock. Positivity just
pours out of this one. Extra recommended! Next is a balladesque Landslide that
has convinced me unconditionally of the fact that perfect pop-ballads need not to be
written under the hands of English lads, namely THE BEATLES or OASIS.
Honest and intelligent! For the ones searching groove and the fulfilment of all prog-rock
desires, check out That which doesn't Kill Me where the really spaced-out bridge
easily transforms in yet another classic rock chorus. Now we come to the point where I
openly confess I am sucker for pop-ballads, and have always been one. This is where I bow
down to Neal. Expertly crafted and written with passion and inherit beauty, Everything
is Wrong could easily be the best song on the album. ELTON JOHN, eat
your heart out! Neal has the voice, handles the piano in great manner...extra cool! Then
follow the easy-rocking Nowhere Fast, and an acoustic ballad Emma with
this really great strings arrangement.
- Right. Now it is time for some real power, class and progressive
behaviour. A Whole Nother Trip is a 24-minute escapade sub-divided into four
parts, four individual songs. The common link is classic heavy progressive rock with all
the goodies we all adore. Abrupt tempo changes, odd time signatures, quotes from classical
music, blues, heavy metal, energetic display of instrument mastery, mood changes. It is
all choreographed in such a fashion one never knows what to expect next. Take your time
and really sink your teeth into this one. It is a trip worth taking. Highly recommended!
- VANDEN PLAS
- Far Off Grace
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '99 )
- After having been together in the same consistent line up now for
almost a decade and after two successful studio albums, Colour Temple
(1995) and The God Thing (1997), VANDEN PLAS
have found themselves at the forefront of the German progressive metal scene. Acknowledged
as having achieved their own identity and style and not merely following in the footsteps
of others, VANDEN PLAS have returned to the fore with their new album Far
- The first thing I have noticed is this really bombastic,
in-your-face production putting in the front heavy, metallic guitars and strong rhythm
section. Vocals, lead and back-ups, are just right there in the middle of all the
commotion. The band builds on the classic foundations, heavy intro plus heavy melody,
twice the refrain, chorus, solo on the guitar, repeat once and end the song with a few
progressive lines. It is the case with the opener I can See. Nothing new, nothing
shocking. The semi-acoustic Far Off Grace is already getting somewhere with slick
guitars, playful keyboard work and easy progressive temper. Into the Sun really
burns the ears but it never gets beyond the point of reckless abandon. It is still all to
familiar, the format one has heard at least a thousand times before. And this is present
throughout the whole album. The band reminds me of CONCEPTION but with
less convincing vocals and weaker guitars. I don't Miss You is a typical
heart-throb that needs a complete make-over. Guys, ballads require the proper care and
definite expertise unless you want them to sound like yours. What you will hear in this
song is just a few piano lines and absence of real emotions!
- All in all, I must say that this album is definitely worth paying
attention to. If not for anything else but for the excellent cover of DOKKEN's
classic Kiss of Death. This cover song portrays VANDEN PLAS as a
band capable of achieving far more than Far Off Grace. Well, there's still the
next time, right?
- DIGITAL RUIN
- Dwelling in the Out
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music 2000 )
- A brand new signing to INSIDEOUT Music, the band hails from New
Jersey, USA. Already having received rave reviews in the underground and metal press for
their debut album Listen, DIGITAL RUIN has
further honed its talent and has produced an outstanding display of progressive metal
laced with dark atmosphere on their latest offering, Dwelling in the Out. The
first two songs, Living for Yesterday and Darkest Day, represent DIGITAL
RUIN in its entirety. The band is really into this interesting mixture of
slow-paced heavy metal slightly leaning into serious progressive waters. The atmosphere
and the feel to the album is really dark, pensive and introspective, all of this
beautifully punctuated by smart keyboard work. The title song has a very interesting
passage and great solo. Also, I couldn't help but notice the very unique vocal harmonies
that are present throughout the album. Great work, guys! The Forgotten starts
with nice keyboard line and is a shining example where many various short themes are
interwoven nicely around each other; easy intro evolves into frantic heavy metal and this
turns into progressive display of highest quality. Night Falls Forever also has a
classic progressive intermezzo that is adorned in the sound of playful keyboards and vivid
- All in all, a fine album worthy of your attention, if you are into
serious heavy progressive metal that rather shows it all in a very thorough and clear-cut
manner than lose its identity in mere dabbling on the instruments. Too bad I haven't heard
the first album from this cool band so that I could hear how far have they have gone with
- Angels of Apocalypse
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music 2000 )
- This album is a follow-up to last year's successful debut on the
label, Excelsior! This particular debut album saw the band
embracing their love of jazz fusion whilst maintaining their heavier direction they had
become known for. Before that the band's leaders, brothers Berends (Bill on guitars and
Rich on drums), released their actual debut album back in 1990 on ZNR Records entitled Volume
One. The second album on the same label was released in 1992 entitled Brainstorm.
In 1994 the third album, Tragic Symphony, was released in Japan
and in 1996, the fourth album entitled Until Eternity was
released and followed by a limited edition live album in 1997, Live in Tokyo. MASTERMIND
are back with a more rounded and accomplished effort that again sees the addition of
keyboard wizard Jens Johansson (of STRATOVARIUS, MALMSTEEN, HEAVY MACHINERY
fame) and also the introduction of female vocal sensation Lisa Bouchelle. The addition of
vocals to the band's complex arrangements adds another dimension altogether that will be
sure to please. The first thing I have noticed is that the promo CD is extra long, around
70 minutes of music! This is due to the addition of two special bonus tracks, one a 12
minute epic cover of classic ELP composition, The Endless Enigma.
The other one is Only in My Dreams. But this is not so relevant. The fact is MASTERMIND
is a tough nut to crack. I cannot find any comparisons that would help me in writing a
thorough and objective review. There is a whole lot of music in this band. Ranging from
hard rock fusion with jazz, classic heavy metal guitar chops, progressive madness in the
vein of old masters like ELP or YES...All the songs are
relatively long, each is approximately 6 minutes long and the opener, The End of the
World is more than 10 minutes long! MASTERMIND is on a musical
journey that has been unexplored so far. You've got to hear this for yourself.
- PATRICK RONDAT
- On the Edge
- ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- A special occasion in heavy metal: European guitar hero who is the
ultimate answer to all the six-stringers and chord shredders from USA! Patrick has the
essential ingredient, a soul and passion for music. Of course, Patrick is a highly skilled
musician with enormous technical knowledge and a touch for compositions so it's no wonder
he has worked with Jean Michel Jarre and appeared as a guest star on the G3 France Tour
with Joe Satriani. On the Edge is a very good album with superb
heavy sound and clear-cut production. Patrick succeeded in creating a more natural and
less sophisticated album thus not using a vast array of different effects and in-studio
enhancements. Also, two very special guests appear on the album. The unique violin genius
Didier Lockwood and the late world-renowned jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani ( his last
official studio recording session ) both add an unheard colour to music and stretch the
dimension. The song Why You Do Things like that? which features both guests is a
remarkable piece of music and it really comes out as a great performance of professional
artists who are dedicated to music. With this release Patrick's integrity remains intact
proving that refreshing and original material can still create a greater stir than all the
less talented releases. For all serious fans of heavy-rock guitar music and for
progressive fans, too. Cause it's not just your regular heavy chops music. Highly
- ( ©GIANT ELECTRIC PEA/INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- THRESHOLD needs no introduction, no review.
Pioneers and legends. This band has done so much in the past few years plus it has
revitalised the stale metal scene with huge dosage of fresh energy. Clone
is their latest album and is going back to the roots of heavy metal. If I remember well, THRESHOLD
has never sounded so heavy. The new vocalist is no match for Mr. Wilson, however, he
offers an impressive performance of a rare perception. Nine songs on Clone
incorporate very heavy and metallic sound with classic antiques of the band: perfect
guitar melodies over a pumping bass line, majestic keyboards invoke familiar moods, and
vocal is rich in soul and power.
- The album is a recommended buy! Do not miss out on one of the
better progressive bands of the decade.
- WITHOUT WARNING
- Step Beyond
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- An experienced US progressive metal band with its sophomore
release. Step Beyond is a classic example of how progressive
music should sound. A collection of listenable tunes with all the usual trimmings:
energetic rhythm section, synchronised keyboards and guitars, complex song structures,
convincing vocals. WITHOUT WARNING easily maintains the delicate balance
between more heavy outbursts of powerful metal and intricate melodic passages.
- There are nine songs on Step Beyond and
some are really remarkable. More is a great; the heavy beat is wrapped in a
haunting yet powerful melody. Prophet is a furious heavy metal attack with superb
bass line. Turning Pages is a nice example of odd rhythms, and the explosive
passage at the end proves this band is a crazy bunch of professionals.
- Highly recommended and a must for all serious progressive fans.
- MAGNITUDE 9
- Chaos to Control
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- Perfect! MAGNITUDE 9, a project of guitarist Rob
Johnson, bass maestro Kevin Chown of ARTENSION fame, vocal genius Corey
Brown of PSYCO DRAMA and some other fanatics shows the true side of
progressive metal. A perfectly balanced set of songs with gentle, melodic passages
intertwined with explosive cocktail of powerful and heavy metal. All the musicians display
their enormous knowledge, experience, talent and vigour in a way you haven't heard before.
Everything is in its place. Vocals, hmm, the richness and beauty of this particular
instrument is above regular. Guitars are sharp, punctual and always there, keyboards are
mad - mad! - and the rhythm section must be high on something. How else can I describe MAGNITUDE
9? Mad, unique, heavy...The heaviest progressive metal in years. The future of
progressive metal. You simply must hear the song number ten, Writings, where the
maniacal Kevin Chown actually spices the chorus with this huge slap-bass. MAD and
original. A must!!!
- Ice cycles ( ©INSIDEOUT Music 2000 )
- After the debut album When Pus Comes to Shove from 1998, the
all-star project seems to have become a band of its own. The debut was a collection of
many varied songs ranging from frenzied instrumental progressive metal to DEEP
PURPLE clones. Also, the overall feel to the album was that of an straight ahead
rock and roll with a touch of blues, metal, and fusion. This chemistry worked in a couple
of songs, on others it came out like a perfect copy of past influences or former bands of
the involved musicians. Quite the opposite is Ice Cycles, the
follow-up album which is much more homogeneous mixture and shows a rather subtle side of
the band. Production-wise, the band has a well balanced sound where every note does full
justice to each musician's virtuosity. Quantity has turned quality. PLATYPUS
is now much more song-structure oriented, with greater emphasis put on lyrical concept.
There are no unnecessary instrumental escapades which suggests that the band has matured
in many a way.
- When Pus Comes to Shove ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- There is not much I can say about this obvious money-making
project featuring four renowned musicians from the States: Ty Tabor of KING'S X
on vocals and guitars, John Myung of DREAM THEATER on bass guitar, Derek
Sherinian on keyboards and Rod Morgenstein. of DIXIE DREGS/WINGER on
drums. Half instrumental, half vocals, it is all pretty much the same stuff you have
already heard in the music of KING'S X, DREAM THEATER and DEEP
- The latter is the strongest reference point on When
Pus Comes to Shove. Of the ten songs on the album only Platt Opus
is worth mentioning because of its sheer power and interesting passages. PLATYPUS
offers little and nothing you haven't already heard. Otherwise, it is well produced,
musical performance is on a very high level but the whole idea just doesn't seem to work.
- El Nino
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- The Italian quintet with its third album leaves no place for
speculations. El Nino is without a doubt a great achievement for
ELDRITCH and a great piece of progressive metal music. The promo kit
states the album as a wonderful gallop through the sound universe of the harder kind. It
is true, so very true. The main focus is heavy and fast-paced progressive metal filled
with excellent melodies. Production is very good and one can really hear all the
instruments. The keyboards are in unison with the rhythm section which allows the guitars
to wiggle around freely in a most beautiful manner.
- Fall from Grace is definitely of a hit-single kind. No
Direction Home opens with a real death metal riff and immediately the band blows you
away with weird rhythmic signature and disturbing melody. Still the band won't let go and
it just explodes in Heretic Beholder. Bleed Mask Bleed is a mainstream,
fit-for-radio hard rocker - the fans will love this! El Nino as the last song on
the album is backed by a playful bass line, orchestral keyboards and superb vocal
harmonies. Great! Don't forget to buy this album. It is one thing you should not miss!
- TIME MACHINE
- Eternity Ends
- ( ©LUCRETIA Records/OMEGA Records/LIMB Music Publishing '98 )
- Italian progressive rockers with a bit heavier sound. The music
throughout the album is very pensive, slow-paced progressive metal.The vocals are quite
Italian, without any real depth and soul. What amazes me is really cheap sound of the
guitar. I guess production could be a lot better. Keyboards are ok, melodic structure of
the songs works in some cases; Desert of Souls and Sphynx, the Witness.
On the whole, Eternity Ends deals with music and ideas that need
far more subtle approach than the band is capable of producing.
- MOB RULES
- Savage Land
- ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- Powerful and melodic heavy metal with a lot of double-bass
drum-work. The guitar licks are a traditional showcase of the 80's legacy and reminiscent
of HELLOWEEN. Production is on a relatively high level. Nowadays, the
real change in German metal is most obvious when it comes to vocal parts. Still
German-accented but to a far lesser degree than some already classic whiners of the 80's
and 90's! Actually, Klaus Dirks offers some impressive vocal folds gymnastics which is
something not every German vocalist can do; Pray for Sunlight, Hold Back the Light
and Coast to Coast.
- Savage Land is a recommended buy because
it incorporates all the traditional metal
- goodies plus some more.
- ( private pressing, distributed by POINT MUSIC/LIMB Music
Publishing '99 )
- A five-piece German power metal band holding tight to the already
set standards. Horrorscope is a classic blend of heavy guitar
riffs, fast-driven rhythm section and pompous arrangements. The pathos you just cannot
avoid lies within How the Children Dance, She's so Evil while the focused concept
of slow, mid-tempo metal beat is prevalent in most of the songs. However, the band easily
warms up for such head-bangers as Reborn of God, Crack in the Mirror, Hill of
Secret. CHINCHILLA has potential and it is no wonder why Japanese
fans are going crazy. Horrorscope has no gimmicks and is heavy
to the bone.
- The Prophecies ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- After the 1998 release of their first album Timescape,
the US/Finnish symphonic progressive metal-heads KENZINER continue their
musical journey on the already charted route. Ten new songs, a well-balanced mixture of
technical brilliance and catchy arrangements with legendary David Chastain again handling
the production. Well, what's new then? Mikko Harkin, a 19-year old keyboard wizard spicing
up the already hot and steaming rhythm section. Mikko's input is of great importance
because it makes The Prophecies even more classic; in the sense
of grand symphonic arrangements and virtuosi keyboard solos. And, there's the new drummer,
Brian Harris, who formerly played with MY OWN VICTIM.
- The lyrical themes the album covers range from unrequited love and
dreams to war, senseless murder and greed. Rather serious matter, don't you agree? It
seems like KENZINER is facing reality and trying to abandon the sterile
cliché of knighthood and fantasy. Good for them. Serious music for serious people.
Note: Check out the 10 minute musical voyage, track number ten, The Prophecies.
- Timescape ( ©LIMB Music Products '98 )
- A David Chastain production. Thus, you might expect a symphonic
progressive metal with speed references. Stephen Fredrick ( ex- BILLY THE KID
) on vocals, Dennis Lesh ( ex- TROUBLE ) on drums, and Jarno Keskinen, a
new guitar maestro from Finland. Timescape is actually the
brainchild of Jarno who composed all the music, played all guitars, bass, and keyboards.
Nothing you haven't already heard in the music of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN
although it is much more fresh and has real balls! Fine production and great sound,
- ( ©TNT/MODERN Music/LIMB Music Publishing '98 )
- The band is jumping the band-wagon and searching for that modern,
unique sound. Yeah, right! Younique is anything but that. Ok,
heavy based metal with percussive interludes, grunge chops, electronic arrangements,
spacey funk(?) and jungle distortion. Everything and nothing at the same time. Not
with Me opens the album. And the rest of the songs are done in exactly the same
manner. Every song starts gently and soon goes off in a blast of sonic mixture of technic
- Younique should be a single entitled Not
with Me because the rest of the album is a waste of time and space.
- TY TABOR
- Moonflower Lane
- ( ©INSIDEOUT Music '98 )
- Member of KING'S X. Enough said. Moonflower
Lane is a fine mixture of catchy and memorable psychedelic rock with just
enough hard edge. Heavy in I Do, The Island Sea, and really psychedelic
in Live in Your House. Ty is a great musician, a fine guitarist and composer; and
a solo flight away from his home-band into a more relaxed and joyous music is quite
- A nice piece of work. For that optimal feel listen to Hollow
- Edge of Time
- ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- This German quintet is more into melodic rock than in metal. Very
retro, very eighties rock with balls! The music of SHARON incorporates
nice backing vocals, fine guitar licks, all backed by a strong and confident rhythm
section. It is great to hear a retro band that really has it all figured out and is not
just reviving the old clichés. Tony Pinto, the vocalist, also does not suffer from that
dreaded German accent. Whew, what a relief.
- Edge of Time really isn't very original but it is
done with passion and soul. Listen to Love Don't Bother Me and you won't have to
miss the eighties anymore.
- Vision Eden
- ( ©OMEGA Records/LIMB Music Publishing '98 )
- A heavy, so called progressive metal. Well, musically speaking
this band could(?) pass as a progressive one but there are other matters which make it
quite the opposite. Mainly, the vocalist Chitral Somapala sucks big time! Not so much the
German accent but his performance is really weak. Also, the production is really bad.
Drums are everywhere, guitars can be heard only when they really burn. It is like the band
doesn't know what it is doing.
- I recommend that AVALON take some musical lessons
in progressive metal and leave this genre to other bands that make most of it.
- Symphony of Enchanted Lands ( ©LIMB Music Products '98 )
- Emerald Sword ( ©LIMB Music Products '98 )
- A huge boom, a massive following, an unprecedented revival of the
eighties. All this and much more! I guess RHAPSODY is for the younger
generations what MALMSTEEN and HELLOWEEN were for our
generation. Ultra-fast heavy metal, pompous arrangements, great walls of thick metal and
majestic orchestral sounds, fantastic imagery, heroic adventures and lyrical symbolism.
- I stay unimpressed but according to the European underground metal
press, this revival is gaining enormous following of the fans. Fine with me. Been there,
heard that. Everyone else who thinks otherwise MUST buy this album.
- LUCA TURILLI
- King of the Nordic Twilight ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- The Ancient Forest of Elves ( ©LIMB Music Products '99 )
- The solo project of the RHAPSODY guitarist and
composer. Again, the same as above but this time with a different vocalist, Olaf Hayer.
The legend continues..