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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Alientar

Alientar

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit it; I'm a sucker for Hawkwind styled space rock. For that reason, this disc appeals to me, but not only for that reason. These guys manage to take a heavy dose of space rock and pull in a lot of other influences to create an interesting, and more often than not, very effective concoction. In addition to the Hawkwind leanings, these guys touch on all kinds of prog, psychedelia and even The Animals. While not all the songs are major winners, they end it in fine fashion by putting three very strong cuts right together as the final three here. This might not be a perfect CD, but there is enough good material here to make it a worthwhile adventure, and it also shows lots of promise for great things from Alientar.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sonic Wave
Space tones start this, then the group jumps into a fast paced excursion that is part '50's music and part jazz all thrown together into a progressive rock series of changes. As the extended hypnotic vocal segment comes in, it's like Hawkwind goes surf. The guitar solo that follows is an awesome one that carries on that tradition over top of a full on Hawk arrangement. This turns back to its original modes after this extended segment to carry it forward. The instrumental segment that forms the outro is very prog, while still maintaining plenty of Hawk elements. This is a cool track and a strong opener.
Music Box
Mysterious Indian Eastern tinged tones start this one and run through in an inspired arrangement, gradually building. Then a slow groove twist on this structure with waves of sound layered over the top of one another takes over to move this one forward. This crescendos, then noisy space sounds in a King Crimson meets Hawkwind motif take over. They move gradually through this, then percussion takes it for a moment. Next a noisy, almost metal guitar starts the new jam, a cacophonous take on Hawkwindlike sounds. This shifts into one of the coolest jams on the disc, Levitation era Hawkwind like segment. The vocals don't even enter until about four and a half minutes in. This eventually alters, after the vocals, to a "Assassins of Allah" type fast paced jam, then it crescendos and the Eastern tones come back to herald the return to the earlier sections of the number. This crescendos to end the piece and about the seven and a half minute mark.
Kraz-E Naybr
A slightly creepy noisy heavy groove starts this, then it drops to something that reminds me of a more modern take on the Doors' "People Are Strange". They move it into a heavy psychedelic chorus that calls to mind "House of the Rising Sun" just a little. They move back to the central groove to carry forward. This drops to a stripped down arrangement that serves as the backdrop for the guitar solo. This then resolves into a spacey prog take on psychedelic rock for a measure or two before dropping back to the verse. This is a dynamic and fun number.
Good Luck
This one feels a lot like The Grateful Dead at first. It drops later to a reggae like segment that is pretty cool. Otherwise a more hard-edged GD type sound makes up the majority of this track. It's not bad, just not great. Still, it wanders into a jazzy prog excursion late that's a nice change up. This eventually runs through several of the song's themes and cranks out into a new super powerful instrumental segment. The smoking vocal section after that feels a lot like Cracker. At almost nine minutes, it just too bad that it takes it nearly half of the song to finally hit its stride.
Letting It Ride
A sci-fi like space prog ballad structure begins this and the band run through several movements as they carry this unusual cut through. They turn this into a fast paced, slightly crunchy prog rock journey after a time, first as an instrumental section and later with vocals. They return to the original section, then a new hard-edged slower jam takes it for the guitar solo. This later turns into an expansive ascending progression that works very well.
Stuck To Earth
Keys start this one and the vocals come in over this with a pretty yet dark approach. This ballad starts to intensify by the addition of other instruments, but overall it's still a dark bluesy balladic groove. They turn it later to something that feels akin to a prog approach to The Animals. This is not the most space rock or prog tune on the CD, but it is my second favorite. They turn it to a more quirky prog jam later, then drop it back still alter to acoustic guitar for a couple balladic verses. This then shifts to a noisy psychedelic prog exploration.
Bizarre
Coming straight out of the previous piece, this is a crunchy prog grind with a killer groove. The lyrics and the vocals here are appropriately bizarre, but also quite cool. It resolves to a more traditional prog chorus. This moves into a very tasty fast paced journey that is part Hawkwind and part more traditional prog. They weave this into one of the strongest instrumental progressions on the CD, moving through a lot of cool interactions. Eventually a noisy, somewhat disjointed crescendo takes the cut back to it main themes. They rearrange this into a super powerful energized instrumental extravaganza. This cut is almost 8 minutes long, and is my choice for best song on show here.
Hypnosis
This comes in with a more standard neo prog texture, this one based on slightly off kilter rhythmic structure. It features some highly inspired playing and a cool vocal line. This is part space rock, but for more of the piece is traditional progressive rock. This moves through a number of changes including a heavy guitar dominated solo segment and a more sedate keyboard oriented piece of weirdness that includes sampled and slowed spoken loops. This intense number another definite winner on the CD and one of the most dramatic on show here. This makes for a very strong closer.
 
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