Crystal Palace – Dawn of Eternity

Even after two years of reviewing and putting stuff on internet radio, I run into bands I don’t know – and it looks like that is not going to change anytime soon. On the table right now is the album Dawn of Eternity by German prog rockers Crystal Palace. A band that’s been active since 1995 as far as album releases are concerned, releasing their debut about a year after their start in 1994. crystal palace

The band required some investigation on my part, as I knew the name but not the music (as often happens to me). Although dubbed Neo-progressive on progressive rock database giant ProgArchives, the band have quite a bit of hard rock and metal influences in their music – probably stemming from their roots as an AOR band in the mid ’90s. This also shows on this album, for example in Confess Your Crime, which starst after the atmosperic brief instrumental opener Dawn. Something in Confess Your Crime, probably the keyboards and vocals vaguely remind me of early Dream Theater work. However, there are also influences of older Pendragon and perhaps even IQ in there. The track changes from metal like to a more heavy psychedelic midsection, and then to a very well sung keyboard and vocal part at around 2/3. Certainly a nice introduction the album as well as the band. [acfw id=2]

Eternal Step starts again with an almost metal guitar intro, and again a vocal part that reminds me of Dream Theater – actually this track has a similar, but softer, feel as Surrounded in places. The build up from the opening to the melodic guitar solo and the heavier ending is great on this track. And building up tracks is something that certainly characterises this album – it works on this track, but also on the very well arranged Fields of Conciousness, which starts with a melancholic guitar tune, then builds up via something close to alternative rock to a metal-like ending. The vocals on this one are emotional and very good.

Word to the drummer also – for example on Heart of Sale, which has a slight echo on the upfront drums, which works well with the electronic sound of the keyboards and the guitar riff. An other great drum track is All of this, which is heavy and dark, but still melodic and contains a very well done guitar solo.

Another track worth mentioning is Sky without Stars, which starts with a pulsating guitar and emotional vocals, until guitar, bass and drums join in to make it more powerful, without speeding up. As the music softens a bit halfway, the vocals beautifully reappear from the echoes, working toward a Porcupine Tree like soundscape at the end.

Crystal Palace are band with many influences, and they deliver a powerful album here. Probably not the biggest hit in the genre this year, but certainly recommended for fans of heavier progressive rock with 80s neo and 90s prog metal influences. The singer and drummer alone are already worth having a thorough listen.

Virus – Memento Collider

Having released four albums in 13 years, Virus is clearly a band that doesn’t focus on quantity of releases. This feeling gets stronger when you take into account that the length of their fourth, 2016, release Memento Collider is only 45 minutes long.

The Norwegian band, headed by Carl-Michael Eide (vocals and guitars) has its roots in the Norwegian black metal scene of the 1990s, but have moved on quite a bit from there. On previous albums, their music was compared to that of for example Voivod and Cynic, but they also claim influences from the likes of Talking Heads and even Miles Davis. The latter is definitely not very present on this album, the others can easily be found when listening carefully.VIRUS-640x640

What is immediately immenent when listening to this album, is that this is not happy party music. Sinister guitar riffs, supported by very melodic, often quite slow bass lines build an atmosphere of eeriness that gets under your skin. I think we have all tried listening to Dark Side of the Moon in the dark with headphones one. This album gives the same feeling, but with far darker music. The first two tracks, Afield, which is very dark and slow, and Rogue Fossil, which shows more rhythmic and melodic variations either pull you into the album or drive you away from it. I let myself be dragged in, and I must say I have no regrets. This is the kind of music I appreciated at the time Voivod let go of their pure metal roots, and some elements of the music also remind me of the Austrian band Il Ballo Dell Castagne, whose album I reviewed end of last year. [acfw id=2]

The remaining four tracks on the album do not all reach the level of the first two, in terms of darkness and variation, but none are bad. The bass is very prominent in all tracks, as are the sometimes frantic drums (Phantom Oil Slick!). Gravity Seeker, which lyrics are the source of the album title, has a slow, almost 80s new wave feel to it – with a heavier basis.

All in all – for those who like the bands mentioned in this review, this is definitely a band to check out. The same holds for metal fans who want to hear what a metal band can do when they leave their core roots behind and start mixing in other things. One thing is for sure, in terms of progressiveness, this is a lot more original than all the Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd derived material that is floating into our collections these days. None of it bad, but some refreshment for the ears is more than welcome.

My first live show on Internet Radio!

The first time live on air was fun, and a bit exciting. I’m off to bed, but enjoy the podcast in case you missed the show.
Including an interview with Marek Arnold, of Seven Steps to the Green Door.

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