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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ritual

The Hemulic Voluntary Band

Review by Gary Hill

Wondering at the title to this disc, I did a search for the word “hemulic” and came up empty handed. So, while once can certainly imagine conceptual links to Sgt. Peppers, I can’t tell you what the meaning of the title is. Whatever the meaning is, Ritual has produced a great disc in this, their fourth, release. Featuring Kaipa’s Patrik Lundström, this disc has a few leanings towards neo-prog, but is much more firmly rooted in classic progressive rock than anything else. You might hear early Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and others in the mix here. This is the first disc from the group that I’ve had the chance to check out. I can firmly say that, while I have no idea what “Hemulic” means, I’ll be looking out for Ritual in the future.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
The Hemulic Voluntary Band
Starting in a mode that reminds me a lot of very early (think the self-titled debut disc) Yes, they shift out into a sort of fusion approach. Then it works its way into a more neo-prog based song structure for the verse chorus pattern. We get some seriously Peter Banks like guitar lines as punctuation and in the form of a full instrumental section mid-song. This moves through with some varying patterns and then gives way to a reprise of the song proper. A killer fast paced jam later has both some driving bass and more of those Banks inspired, angular guitar solos. They also included a drop down to some odd little instrumental play in a more stripped down approach for a partial re-reading of the chorus. Then they move it back up to the main song from there.
In The Wild
This comes in with a killer dramatic prog motif that’s all classic sounds. When they move out into the verse here they strip it down a bit, but piano continues to weave lines of drama across the soundscape. This is very slightly Genesis-like at times. This moves out into a killer jam that’s a bit like some of the more melodic music from early King Crimson. This instrumental movement drops down to piano to carry it onward. They throw in a reprise of the main theme of the number before launching into a killer fusion oriented jam with vintage King Crimson tendencies. This gets quite noisy as it carries forward. It’s also extremely dramatic.
Late In November
This is a Beatlesesque balladic number. They augment the arrangement through the use of strings and other elements. It is a pretty and evocative piece of music. Traces of gentle world music show up later in the cut. They also throw some killer vocal arrangements in to this.
The Groke
This comes in with a hard edge, feeling even more so due to the contrast with the gentle nature of the last piece. It’s no where near metal, but more like harder rocking vintage prog rock. They work through a number of changes in a creative and enchanting progression that works quite well. More world music sounds show up at times here. This is one of my favorite pieces on the disc. They take it into a number of intriguing patterns, but never really eschew the central song elements. They simply intensify and work through the patterns in varying ways. It gets quite dramatic and powerful.
Waiting by the Bridge
After a quick, strictly vocal opening, they launch out into a bouncy prog arrangement that’s open and very uplifting. They work through using this pattern to good effect. It has a poppy punch based inside of a challenging, jazz-like progressive rock motif. I hear bits of Yes on this, but also Jellyfish and It Bites. It’s up-tempo and fun. It turns funky for a brief moment or two, but then transforms out into something that feels a lot like 1980’s King Crimson. This shifts back towards more funky grooves as they carry on, but again, only for brief snippets. They drop it way down to the balladic for a short time, too, but then launch back out into the song proper.
A Dangerous Journey
After a series of tracks that weigh in at around the 5-6 minute range they shift things up with a twenty six and a half minute epic to close the CD. The early modes of this are in a guitar based ballad approach that, while having a bit of that world music feel we’ve heard on other tracks, is very much in line with early Genesis. It grows very gradually. This eventually becomes quite powerful both in terms of the vocal performance and the guitar intricacies. It shifts out to more melodic take on this general theme – this reminding me even more of Genesis. At about three and a half minutes in a dramatic, rather menacing sound (still on acoustic guitar) enters. This has traces of an Eastern sound. They work on adapting and recreating this motif for a while, with waves of world music again creeping across from time to time. This shifts back seamlessly into the earlier motifs and then seems to combine the two into a new, composite melody. They continue onward by revitalizing and rethinking these various patterns, running from one to another in succession and melding them at different points. A false ending shows up at around the eight and a half minute and then an echoey, dramatic, but very sparse pattern that I think is keyboards take over. With bits of other keyboards flirting around it, the vocals come over this motif. They start building up on this, with more fusion-like sounds appearing in the arrangement. Still, this is quite stripped down and bouncy for quite some time. Just past the ten and a half minute mark they power out into a fast paced, electrified prog jam that’s quite cool. This doesn’t stay around for long, though. Instead it gives way to a more melodic electric prog jam. The next vocals come in over this backdrop. Moving through another series of alterations on a theme, they work their way across verse and chorus segments and more variants on the frantic prog instrumental breaks. A killer jam takes it to a false stop. Then they launch into a bouncing jam that has elements of ‘80’s Crimson in the mix. This gives way of a reprise of the last verse chorus/pattern – this time coming through with variations on the themes. We get another off-kilter bass jam with some smoking guitar over the top. Eventually this moves out into more melodic, territory based on chiming harmonics. The fast paced rhythm section and guitar soloing here brings more references to early Yes, though. We get another frantic instrumental section. In this one instruments dance around each other in a reckless abandon that’s hard to pin down – but incredibly potent. Another burst of KC-like stuff gives us a drop to pure European café music. A guitar comes in to weave a pretty melody line amidst this. Eventually some vocals (quite distant) enter here and I’m reminded of Pentwater a bit. Eventually this works through to near acapella music – and in fact the segment ends with pure acapella. Coming from another brief stop, this is a bouncy, jazzy texture with clean guitar lines working over the top. This shifts out into a faster paced variant on the general music elements. It’s bouncy and a bit odd in terms of rhythmic structures. They use these two modes as the new verse/chorus pattern. Another false ending at past the 21 minute mark is interrupted by a frantic pattern with a lot of hard edge. In fact, as furious as this is, with different vocals and more metallic instrumentation it might be thrash metal. As it is, it reminds me of the extremely hard rocking end of early Queen. This moves out into a melodic, pretty and powerful section as its resolution, though. A powerful prog mode takes it onward. Then it’s dropped to balladic elements, calling back to the opening segments of this massive musical journey. It makes for a great way to ground the piece, bringing it home and ending it in a satisfying and very effective way.
 
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