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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Patrik Skantze and the Free Souls Society

Fiction At First View

Review by Gary Hill

Those who prefer their progressive rock more melodic and sedate will really enjoy this disc. There are only a few crunchy moments here, but there are a lot of great melodies and musical concepts. These guys never miss the mark, instead producing an album that is true to itself, but yet varied enough to avoid getting boring. For more info (or to order this disc), check out the site of the label.

Track by Track Review
Fiction At First View (Radio Edit)
When this comes in with a bouncy, playful air, you might think that the group is not actually progressive rock at all. It moves through for a time like that, though, then moves out into a stripped down, almost space rock arrangement with whispered vocals layered over the others. As a martial beat enters the song takes on even more space rock tendencies, then a short (rather dark) dramatic prog segue takes it back to the chorus segment that opened the cut. After this they pull out to a more potent, albeit mellow movement which is definitely prog, and them move it forward from there. A short false ending gives way to a George Harrison like guitar solo that is overlaid with vocals. Then it goes into a more inspired rendition of the chorus.
Life Provider
A bouncing, jingle jangle guitar line gives way to a harder rocking prog movement. They pull this through for a time, then drop it back to more balladic elements to move forward. This resolves out into a folky sort of progressive rock meets psychedelia approach. When this soars out from there it turns into an Alan Parsons type segment that is just plain awesome. Multiple layered vocals wander over the top of this. They pull it into a more expansive connecting segment later. They work through these varying segments then pull it out into an intriguing space rock meets folk prog jam that’s quite cool. This takes the track to a crescendo and keys finally end it.
A New Morning In-Sight
Starting with the sounds of an audience laughing, a folk rock oriented progressive rock texture takes the cut. This faster paced section, with keyboard solo, doesn’t last long. Instead it drops back to an acoustic segment over which instruments float in a pretty and rather relaxing pattern. They work this through for a time, then drop it back to an even more sedate, but quite dramatic, section that has elements of jazz in its arrangement. This is quite beautiful. Some world music sounds creep into this instrumental at points. They don’t remain purely sedate the whole time, though. Instead they put in a short punctuation of harder rocking prog, then drop back to the segment that preceded it. From there varying movements of more energized music come and go, always returning to the pretty and mellow movement for a respite.
Strange Days
This short balladic cut reminds me of a four-pronged mix of King Crimson, The Flower Kings, the Beatles and old Genesis. It’s another exceptionally pretty piece of music.
Gleam Of Hope
At just over 11 minutes this is the second longest song on the album. Acoustic guitar rises from atmospheric sounds and begins a gradual growing process of the track. Other instruments join in the pursuit of this rather bluesy progression. The vocals also come over the top here. I hear sort of a Neil Young (in his folky moods) goes progressive rock on this tune. This moves slowly in terms of alteration, but it’s extremely beautiful and poignant. At about three and a half minutes in they drop it to a dramatic segment that is punctuated by harder rocking moments. Then about a minute later they launch out into a keyboard solo-dominated instrumental break. This moves through several alterations in a mode that has touches of both Genesis and Pink Floyd. It eventually ends to give way to a new harder rocking jam. Eventually, they drop back to a new mellower jam that’s one part fusion and one part Pink Floyd in nature. This is one of the most effective passages on the disc and it serves as the backdrop for the next set of vocals. It also is reworked and energized into a new iteration that leads back to the early modes of the tune before they end it.
My Dreams of Late
This is a beautiful and poignant prog rock ballad that includes inspirational instrumental work and both male and female vocals. I hear some Neil Young on this mix, too – think of the After The Gold Rush album. The expansive penultimate segment is quite powerful. A short acoustic guitar and vocal passage ends it.
The Plunge
Just a little longer than “Gleam of Hope,” this instrumental is the longest track on the disc. The hardest rocking segment of the disc, a distorted guitar romping movement, starts this one off. They bring other instruments over the top to establish the progressive rock texture, particularly keys as it carries on. This gives way to a full on drum solo. Eventually it bursts back out into a more traditional prog treatment of the opening themes, then bursts out into a soaring sort of jam from there. They drop it back to Yesish balladic modes. Staying in the same general motif they work through several variants on this, then launch into a rocking exploration that feels a lot like Flash. This turns heavier later in a rather cacophonous segment. Even, then, though it still reminds me a bit of Peter Banks’ post Yes grouping. This gives way to a killer fusion like segment with keys creating some awesome textures in the soundscape. Even through this, and particularly on the resolution segment, those Flash sounds still remain. They drop the cut back to balladic stylings to carry forward and work this out into something that feels like a cross between ELP and Jethro Tull. Then it morphs into a more straightforward hard rocker. An explosion type sound ends the cut abruptly from there.
Craving For Knowledge
Acoustic guitar begins this one as another pretty progressive rock ballad. The Neil Young textures appear on this one, too. This one doesn’t move far away from its central themes, instead taking its changes in the form of intensification of those sounds.
Appease
Another acoustic ballad approach, this time feeling more like the more country type of music that Steve Howe creates mixed with a bit of Jimmy Page’s acoustic ideas starts off this guitar solo. It moves through a number of changes throughout its courses and is quite an intriguing number.
Fiction At First View
The full-length version of the tune that opened this disc, this one is just a little less than double the length of that one. The main difference on this comes in the early modes of the track. It starts with nature sounds and then the tolling of bells. Piano enters to serves as the backdrop for the first verse – which is another Neil Young like one, this time the vocals far down in the mix and just a little distorted. As this ends they move it out into a balladish structure to serve as the next verse. The cut is much more effective in this treatment. I’d say that they should have opened the disc with this and kept the shorter version as a bonus piece at the close of the CD - if they included it at all.
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