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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Univerzals

Ocean of Light

Review by Gary Hill

I originally had this pegged to fit into non-prog. Truth is, I think it’s progressive rock. I’m sure there’s plenty of material here where prog heads won’t disagree with me. Where they do, I’d say that with very few exceptions, the music is either boldly experimental enough – or close enough to the sound of bands like Porcupine Tree that the argument is moot. Whatever you call it, though, there’s some cool music in store for anyone who pops this disc into their player.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Spellbound
Ambient keys start this. Saxophone rises up to create melody. After the one minute mark there are some hints of space music that emerge in the backdrop, but the cut doesn't dramatically change. The cut works out to some world music tinged stuff as it continues. There are some non-lyrical female vocals. It's not until around the half way point (this is over six and a half minutes long) before the lead vocals join. We're into more modern prog merged with world music territory as those are heard. The hard rocking jam later has a lot of world sounds in the melodies. As it approaches the five minute mark, it screams out with a metallic fury and force. It drops way down for another world music inspired bit to take it to its closing.
7th Galaxy
Take ska and merge it with psychedelia and progressive rock. You’ve got a great idea of what this track sounds like. It works through a few alterations and modifications, but is more staid than the disc’s opener.
Princess Of Angels
The ska dominates this track a bit more, but there are still progressive rock and psychedelic leanings to be found here. This is a cool track and I like it more than the previous one, but not as much as the opener. There are some awesome soaring sections.      
Message From Eternity
Most of this is pretty much pure ska, but there’s a killer Latin textured jazz jam in the middle of it. There are also some hints of the usual suspects (prog and psychedelia).
Through The Valley Of Fears
While this is nearly all ska, there are some cool jazzy elements and it’s just plain fun. It’s got a lot of energy and reminds me a little Smashmouth at times – with a lot of Madness.
Spiritual Revolution!
Ska and jazz merge nicely here with some classic rock and science fiction music on this tasty tune. Although there’s not much prog or psychedelia in the mix here, it’s one of the strongest pieces on show.
Glass Skyscraper
More of a straight ahead rock texture opens this and in some ways it feels like modern Rush to me – at least in the intro. Parts of the later portions of the track make me think of The Cure. Space takes it at the end and runs it to its conclusion.
Morning Star
This opens quite proggy with a swirling harmonic and female soaring vocals. That motif holds the piece, with psychedelia through its conclusion.  
Under The Waves
Psychedelic mellow prog, a bit like Hawkwind meets Porcupine Tree makes up this cut. I’d have no problem calling this space rock masterpiece pure progressive rock. I’d also have no problem saying it’s one of the highlights of the set. It gets more hard rocking when the guitar solo joins. But this is really purely space rock.
Ocean Of Light
There some lyrical quotes on this and the track has a Pink Floyd meets Psychedelic Furs texture to it. This track grows and changes, but overall it remains quite constant. It’s quite a tasty one.
East Of The Sun!
This rises very gradually and then explodes out into a powerhouse jam that combines prog rock with 1980’s pop rock. It’s another great piece of music on an album that doesn’t have any weak material. It becomes harder rocking as it continues and this thing really soars.          
Beyond The Tip Of Your Nose
Here’s another cool tune that combines ska with progressive rock into an intriguing mix. There’s an extended period of silence at the end of this – hmmmmm…. Could that herald a hidden track?
Hidden Track
After the nine and a half minute mark on the previous track - quite a while after that ends, this rises up slowly. Mind you, it's still part of that track in terms of the CD order, but it's a separate tune. This has atmospherics with a saxophone over the top, creating a real space music vibe. Before we hit the 11 minute mark, it powers upward to some melodic prog with non-lyrical female vocals over the top. That runs through, and then drums take over. The cut moves outward from there with those voices returning. There are some definite world music elements at play here. The vocals become lyrical, but not in English. The world music thing is expanded upon. Around the 14 and a half minute mark it shifts to seriously crunchy hard rock territory. After a bit it drops to mellower music over which the saxophone again dances. Spacey prog continues the ride from there in rather sedate ways. Then some trippy Hendrix like guitar emerges over the top and we're taken toward shoe-gaze territory. It gets pretty crazed as it continues.
 
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