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Agents of Mercy

Dramarama

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve been amazed by the quality of music being released in 2010. This is another to add to the list of amazing CDs put out in 2010. I’d say it will likely make my list of ten best for the year, but there is some stiff competition. The most obvious comparison here is early Genesis, but that’s due to a large degree by the Gabriel-like vocals. Comparisons to The Flower Kings are obvious because Roine Stolt, Zoltan Csörsz and Jonas Reingold are all featured here. There are a few musical links to that band, but in general this feels quite different. Nad Sylvan provides the vocals. Other musicians appearing here include Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard Live). Fans of melodic progressive rock will find this one great, as will anyone who enjoys vintage Genesis. It’s an excellent disc that is certainly one of the best releases of a year that has seen some stellar music come out. 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Duke of Sadness

The intro to this is rather symphonic and quite sedate. They launch out into a killer jam from there, though, that seems to combine Genesis and Yes. As it shifts out to the harder rocking verse section this is closer to something from Spock’s Beard. Don’t get complacent, though because it shifts and changes throughout. There’s a cool keyboard solo segment later. They drop it way down later to a segment that feels a lot like old Genesis, right down to the vocals. As the cut continues to develop that sort of Gabriel era Genesis element continues to dominate. There is an instrumental segment later, though, that’s closer to an ELP kind of sound. They continue changing and altering the scope and sound of the piece, touching on various elements before it returns to the mellow Genesis-like delivery. A later hard rocking section is more like Fish era Marillion. Yet, echoes of Yes and other acts also show up here and there. There’s even a short Eastern toned movement that gives way to the mellow outro. This is an incredibly dynamic and powerful piece of music.

Last Few Grains Of Hope
The section that opens this again calls to mind both early Genesis and Fish era Marillion. It builds out into a powerfully evocative prog ballad type piece with a great groove. It drops back to a sedate keyboard based movement that calls to mind RPWL. This one isn’t as diverse or dynamic as the opener, but it still has plenty of changes.
Peace United
The section that opens this makes me think of a proggier Elton John. Then it turns out to more early Genesis/Fish era Marillion type music. The vocal section changes it out to a more modern progressive rock sound. It’s got a cool rock groove. It alternates to a mellower section that has more of those Genesis-like elements. Then it drops way down to a dramatic mellow movement and builds organically (and quite Genesis-like) from there. There’s a hard-edged jam later that also has a lot of old Genesis built in. They take it through some more changes and alterations and I can even make out some Lake in this, despite the overall Genesis-like sound.
Journey
A slower moving number, this has some of those Genesis elements, but basically just from the vocals. Some of the keyboard sections call to mind ELP and all in all, this is another killer progressive rock jam. It’s a bit more cohesive than some of the other music, but that doesn’t mean it’s any weaker. It just tends to be more tightly focused. There is an awesome instrumental section later in the track.
Gratitude
The first sounds of this call to mind Hawkwind a bit, but then it shifts to a gently gliding progressive rock balladic motif that has some serious jazz and perhaps some hints of David Gilmour built into it. The vocals bring in those Genesis leanings. It works out to a jam that’s perhaps a bit like Porcupine Tree or RPWL with some Genesis built into it. As it works out to a more full-blown version of itself it’s the first point on the disc that actually feels like The Flower Kings. They eventually drop it back to the mellower section and somehow a soulful element is introduced.
Meet Johnnie Walker
A different sort of sound, this is tied to the rest of the album, but feels more like a combination of The Beatles and The Flower Kings. I can make out healthy dosages of Klaatu on this, too. It’s a cool piece of music. While there’s a definite pop element here, it’s still a prog tune. There is a killer instrumental segment in the track later. It’s not long, but it’s especially tasty.
Cinnamon Tree
The opening section here is based on a pop meets folk rock approach. It builds out to something closer to old school Genesis as it continues. This is a short and fairly straightforward cut. It’s catchy and accessible, but also definitely progressive rock.
The Ballad Of Mary Chilton
This comes in very mellow, with an almost new age approach. As it builds out it takes on a folk rock sound. The vocals again call to mind Genesis, but the music is arguably closer to The Strawbs. The guitar solo section brings it into a bluesy roots rock territory.
Roger The Tailor
Starting off with banjo, it builds on that. Again Genesis comes to mind, but so do The Beatles. Lake can also be heard on this mix. It becomes a bouncy little dittie. They take it out to a little jazz romp to end it.
Conspiracy
A more powered up number, the comparisons to Genesis are again appropriate, but there are also Beatles-like sounds and Emerson-like keyboards to be found here.
We Have Been Freed
The comparisons to Genesis are once again appropriate on this track. It works through quite a few changes and alterations and has a lot of energy. It’s a great piece of music that works very well. When it powers up later it’s just plain awesome.
Time
A classic piano based balladic sound makes up the main premise of this pretty and rather melancholy number. They power it up as it continues, but never really wander from the main musical motif.
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