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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ensoph

Project X Katon

Review by Gary Hill

Italy's Ensoph has produced one heck of an ambitious disc with Project X Katon. It is so creative and unusual that I really didn't know where to put it. In the end, although a lot of this would fit into metal and some into techno, the adventurous (and this is one of the most adventurous pieces of music you will ever experience) led me to put it into prog. The sounds are all over the landscape here. At times I hear Dream Theater, other times Queensryche, sometimes Cradle of Filth and I've even heard bits of ELP and Jethro Tull interspersed. I can't say enough how this CD is not for everyone. You really have to be a fan of people making music with no boundaries to enjoy this. Personally I can appreciate the artistry of the whole album, but there were parts of this that were too strange for me. You have to be open to metal in your musical diet, too, because there is plenty of it here. The truth is, though, you really won't find much music that is this unique and creative out there. For more information, be sure to pop by the band's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In the Name of Freedom
Somewhat Celtic textured acoustic sounds with a dark texture start this off. As it carries forward sounds and layers come over this backdrop in a mysterious sort of motif. Whispered/spoken vocals appear in the mix later. This is a bit weird, but also quite tasty. It's a roughly minute and a half introductory piece.
Condemned (In the Penal Colony)
This one starts gradually with sound effects, then an odd sort of bouncing prog rock oriented texture takes it. It pounds out after this to a metallic crunch jam that is quite effective. The chorus is more in a metallic prog style with lines of keys bringing in the prog rock textures. They turn back to the opening segment for a moment, then jump into the most metallic segment on show thus far, a section that feels a lot like King Diamond. They move the song along by alternating between these varying segments. The overall approach is that of a more prog-like prog metal. After a while, though, it drops to a very odd sort of mellow instrumental segment that serves as a bridge. Afterward it pumps back up to where it came from. In the final moments keys take the track to its conclusion.
Kirillow's Bullet (Alelkjej Nilyc: A Russian Trilogy Part 1)
More odd textures give way to an exceptionally metallic jam. This one (except for the weird bits of prog stylings interspersed) is nearly all metal, perhaps a little bit like Fates Warning or early Queensryche. It's quite effective, but dark and rather noisy. They drop it to an odd processed vocal segment with just keys as the backdrop later, but power it back up from there. Some death metal scream/growls late in the track seriously bring the metal on in.
D-Generation
A dark, techno sort of rhythmic keyboard structure starts this one off. They group build this up into a heavy, but still not really metal approach that has a goth nature. It turns heavier as it carries on. Neoclassical elements come over it, and then it drops down to an odd jazzy sort of approach with the same distorted, weird whispered vocals over the top. Then it jumps up to a more typical prog metal sort of approach with sung vocals, and even female operatic vocals doubling the lines. This part reminds me a lot of Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime. Then it cuts back to keyboard textures with piano soloing over the top. This then shifts gears to an almost funky sort of hard edged prog jam that is quite dramatic. Drops down to rhythmic strangeness punctuate the structure here, then it bursts up to something that again feels like a fast paced King Diamond sound. Then they move into a new staccato pattern for a time before they take it back to the King Diamond territory. This then gives way to a more prog rock (but still quite metal influenced) jam. One more turn of the King Diamond segment gives way to a reprise of the Mindcrime like section, then they turn in another pretty keyboard based section. Piano eventually remains as the only instrument to end it.
Icons in the Dust
Techno like effects based sounds start this, and then a crunchy, fast paced staccato pattern creates a rather DT-like sound, but as the death metal screams come in this one turns more metallic. It moves into more King Diamond like sounds later, but resolves out to something more melodic. This is again more in the vein of Dream Theater, with keyboard layers bringing in the prog textures. From there they launch into a series of fast paced changes, eventually dropping back to atmosphere to carry it forward. This then turns into a more traditional prog jam (still metallic) and they move through variations on the theme, then cut into a neo-prog keyboard laden section. A staccato jam later brings in more of those Dream Theater influenced sound, but with death metal like vocals. Then the King Diamond sounds come back. These varying modes recurring in differing patterns to create the overall tapestry of the song. This one is extremely dynamic and very potent. It's one of my favorite tracks on the disc.
Un Petalo di Pieta'
They go back to the textural sounds to start this one off. The lyrics come over top of this as it gets noisier. This one is cacophonic and disquieting here as the vocals alternate in rather creepy patterns. It drops back to the noisy sounds that started it off, then turns a bit more techno/goth to move it onward. Then it shifts for a short time to pretty keyboard related music before pounding up into a louder more freaky take on the earlier themes. This is just plain too weird for me, really. While I can appreciate the creativity involved, I was glad when it was over.
Getsemani
This one is heavy and dark with a prog metal texture. It drops back to sections of instrumental music that are more techno meets prog. The later vocal segments bring in more of those Queensryche Mindcrime sounds. It even turns a little Jethro Tull like later, but then the Dream Theater sounds show up again. This gets more and more powerful as it turns more towards the Mindcrime type sound. This moves later into a frantic hard edged jam that resembles a metallic ELP and serves to end the piece.
The Source Becomes Desert
A bit of a break, this comes in with an almost cheery sounding keyboard based electronic music section. Then it bursts up into something that seems to combine King Diamond with Queensryche and Dream Theater. This one is heavy, but also pretty catchy. It breaks out later into something that feels a bit more mainstream, but this evolves into more Queensryche/DT like territory. A killer instrumental progression ends it. This is another of the winners here.
Holy Bleeds (Rodian Rományc: A Russian Trilogy Part 2)
More weird sounds lead this one off, but then it bursts into a hard edged jam that is pretty firmly in the prog rock vein. This then gives way to a short techno-like stripped down segment, and then they jump back up with more metal infused. It drops later to an almost cheery keyboard section with the vocals over the top. This one moves between these varying elements as it carries on. Eventually keys end it.
Pain, Pride and Regret
Beginning with a techno rhythm, this one eventually bursts out into a metallic fast paced jam with a meaty main riff. Sections of the techno sounds come and go throughout and there is more Cradle of Filth-like music here. More of those Mindcrime sounds show up later, too. It drops back in the end to a techno like rhythm for the outro.
Leaving No Trace Behind (Ivan Karamazov: A Russian Trilogy Part 3)
This one comes in with a sound that combines the Cradle of Filth leanings of the band with that Queensryche related sound that they do. They drop it back after a time to a very pretty and sedate progressive rock section with only the techno rhythm remaining from the earlier parts of the cut. Then they launch out into a new progression that has a lot of both the Dream Theater type sounds of the group and the Queensryche ones. An extended techno break down comes in later. Then they launch out into a revamped version of the earlier structures with more of a neo-classical texture to it. Then they alternate between this heavy prog sound and the techno breaks. Eventually pretty keys with the techno rhythm behind them serve to end the track.
In the Name of Freedom (Reprise)
This as the title suggests, a revisit of the opening track. The words here are strong and a bit too close to the truth.
Condemned (Radio Edit)
The first bonus track, the title pretty much sums up what this is, a shorter more concise version of the earlier song.
Icons in the Dust (Radio Edit)
Once again, one has to look no further than the name to know what they get on this bonus.
Leaving No Trace Behind (Radio Edit)
The final bonus cut is another radio edit of a previous track.
 
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