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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Analog Missionary

Voyage of the Demeter

Review by Gary Hill

For those who might have questioned the inclusion of Analog Missionary in the progressive rock section of Music Street Journal based on the Transmitter album, this release should remove all arguments. This one was written as a soundtrack to the old silent film Nosferatu. Just that sort of premise would do a lot to get the disc put into the category, but the music here certainly qualifies. Well, I'll admit, I probably should have dug my copy of the film on and watched with this as the backdrop, but I didn't. I probably will someday, but I just didn't feel like going through all involved to arrange that - only CD player were the TV is set up is actually the DVD player. Since it would be tied up with the movie, I'd have to lug another player in there - eh, you get the picture. Besides, it probably was better just to focus on the music. By the way, if you want to try that, though, and have high speed Internet you are in luck. There is a site out there that has a lot of old films (including that one) that have fallen into the public domain for free legal downloads. Since the music here is intended for a soundtrack it is basically instrumental. At times it is very symphonic, but other parts of the music rock out pretty well. Overall this is much more traditional prog than that other disc. It's also not as easy to find, so you might want to stop by their site for ordering information.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Oceans of Sorrow
The disc opens with a very dramatic, but quite sedate and pretty, musical theme. This is worked through and turned somewhat operatic by the gentle vocal that glides over the top. This is a very beautiful piece of music with a lot of symphonic elements. While the track does have vocals, I'd consider it an instrumental because they are used more as an instrument than anything.
Belltower
This one is essentially all about the atmosphere with its very orchestral mellow arrangement.
Books and Angels
This starts with very atmospheric tones, but builds up ever so slowly to a rather rock ballad like approach. It's another pretty, if brief composition. Dramatic symphonic elements over the top later on bring some dissonance with them.
The Black Carriage
With the sounds of wind a piano starts this. I could swear when it first comes up I feel like they are about ready to launch into the theme song from the Charlie Brown movies. Sorry, but it's what I hear. It's apparent very quickly, though, that the tone of the day here is much darker than that. Waves of keyboards bring a drama and shadow of foreboding to the piece. This is not light fun here. While this is sinister in texture it is also pretty. A false ending gives way to a driving rock arrangement that feels a lot like something Erik Norlander might compose. As this moves forward it takes a twist into neo-symphonic music with waves of weird operatic vocals joining the fray. This one is one of the most intriguing pieces on the disc. It moves into sheer weirdness - is that a theremin I hear? - yep. I love theremin.
Arrival
Dramatic symphonic sounds bring this one in with lots of drama. Piano emerges on top to sing a pretty, but rather melancholy song. This one is full of mystery and power, while still remaining quite sedate. It's definitely suited to be soundtrack music.
Mina's Letter
Arabic sounding vocals (accompanied only by more layers of those vocals) starts this off in non-lyrical ways. Then the cut drops to keyboards for a short instrumental introduction. It turns to a slow moving prog rock approach that is neither hard-edged nor overly mellow. Those vocals come back over the top as it drops back to just the keys. Then when it bounces back up for a guitar solo they remain for a time. This one is quite a dynamic and powerful prog rock piece with a very traditional approach.
Harpoon
This hard rocker feels a bit like Hawkwind and Rush with a strong infusion of science fiction music sounds. There are also elements of Erik Norlander and other sounds. It does a good job of changing up the texture and keeping it interesting. It turns to a neo-symphonic arrangement later, but in the course of that it also includes some of the most metallic sounds that are present here. This one has a lot of interesting changes and will probably be one that endears itself to neo-prog fans very quickly. The theremin shows back up here over the top of a riff that feels a lot like Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures era Rush.
River Pass
While extremely pretty, this classically based accompanied piano solo also has a dark texture to it.
The Secret Race
After a short effects oriented keyboard segment, this one breaks out into some of the most dramatic hard rock on the whole disc. As it settles into this with a mellower take on it, it feels a bit like Erik Norlander meets Pink Floyd. The cut doesn't stay there long, though, instead dropping back to more odd musical textures over which the vocals (which had shown up earlier here) return. After running through on this motif for a time, though, they crank it back out to the hard edged to carry forward. This thing really rocks out quite well.
Passage to Bremen
This one has more of that neo-classical texture to it, with basically just symphonic sounding instrumentation. It is dark and very dramatic in its execution.
The Plague
While the same dark atmosphere that was present in the last one, this is based more on piano. It is a bit hesitant, very textural and while dark and melancholy, also pretty. Other instruments add waves of emotion to this, but the piano drives this extended introduction. As it carries forward, though this begins to resemble sort of an exotic world music arrangement that has a rhythmic pattern befitting a dirge. This one is a very creative and artistic piece of music that should appeal to classical music fans as much as those who enjoy prog. It turns more powerful in its arrangement later as the symphony adds waves of sound in a pounding sort of rhythm. This turns quite strange later, but quickly resolves back to its earlier patterns. The building process begins again from there until the track ends.
From Flight To Capture
This fast paced hard rocking progger is another that feels a bit like the music of Erik Norlander and Lana Lane. There are definitely metallic tendencies on this one, but the soaring operatic vocals and oft-changing patterns of sound certainly elevate this beyond sheer metal.
Son of the Dragon
A tentative hard rocking metallic section turns into waves of spacey textures. After a time, though, this gives way more of an epic metal type of approach. That doesn't last long, though, instead dropping back down into space. The cut continues an alteration pattern of this type, but gets a lot more noisy and stranger as it carries on.
 
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