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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Herd of Instinct

Conjure

Review by Gary Hill

This latest disc from Herd of Instinct is diverse and strong. Since the group is a spin off of Djam Karet, one might expect them to sound like that outfit. In some ways this lives up to that expectation. In other ways, it stretches beyond that territory. It’s compelling music that covers a lot of musical landscape. At times it’s more pure prog. Other points are closer to RIO. There are even nods to proto-metal in the mix. Space rock, King Crimson, world music and much more seems fair game here. It’s quite a strong album and highly recommended.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Praxis

There is a real electronic music meets prog and jam band sounds vibe to this thing. The bass work at times calls to mind some of the funkier stuff from Tony Levin and the guitar soloing is just plain awesome. This cut feels organic, but also rather alien. It’s also very strong. It drops down to a mellower section mid-track. When it rises up it has a definite space rock vibe and the flute playing across the top makes it feel a bit like Hawkwind to me for a short time. Then it pounds out to something heavier from there. This is a real thrill ride and a great way to start the disc.

Dead Leaf Echo
The mode that opens this is energized and powerful. It works through in that style for a time, and then drops way down to mellow psychedelic sounds for a short time. When it powers back up, it’s even more intense. There are some amazing fast paced jams here and this is just another smoking hot tune. It’s got less of that electronic vibe, feeling a bit more organic. There’s a section later in the tune that’s built on a incredibly tasty riff that feels almost like Black Sabbath.
Brutality of Fact

As this comes in, it really feels like modern King Crimson. While it doesn’t stay there for long, this still keeps some of that element in place. There are also hints of things as far from that as Tool. Yet, there is a bit of a weird RIO vibe that just works so well here, too. This piece is definitely the most diverse thing we’ve heard to this point. It gets mellow, it gets heavy, it gets weird, it gets catchy. Yet it’s always compelling.

Alice Krige pt.1

Starting extremely mellow, this comes up very gradually. Eventually a cool percussive jam ensues as the rest of the music remains ethereal and atmospheric. As melody emerges, there is a bit of a jazz vibe to this at times. While this is clearly more of a stripped back arrangement and it changes slower than a lot of the other stuff, it’s still very powerful and poignant. There are bits here that call to mind King Crimson, but there aren’t that many. Although this isn’t the strongest piece here, it provides a much needed respite.

Solitude One

As this comes in, the mellow tones make it feel almost like an extension of the previous number. The percussion takes center stage again, adding to the perception. Then, a little before the minute and a half mark, a bass line rises up bringing more comparisons to Crimson. World music elements dance across the top and the cut starts evolving from there. It gets mellower and harder rocking in alternating sections as it works through. It’s great transition from the more sparse arrangement of the previous cut to something closer to the music heard previously on the set. It gets pretty heavy later in the number, too.

Ravenwood

Another with alternating heavy and sedate parts, this number is another killer tune. It feels in a lot of ways like it belongs with the rest of the music here, but it also has its own unique identity. The bass line again brings the King Crimson comparisons, as does some of the guitar work, but overall this has a mellower vibe and seems to lean more towards fusion.

Mother Night

Coming in slow and mellow, there is almost a progressive rock meets psychedelic and classical vibe early on in the number. It works out from there into something that has less of that symphonic feeling to it. Then a little after the one minute mark it really fires out into some harder rocking territory. This beast just keeps evolving and is a killer instrumental prog tune with a lot of flavors and twists and turns to it.

Vargtimmen

There is a bit of a spoken loop, run through a processor that opens this. Then mellow prog atmosphere comes in and percussion joins. The riffing that starts to run through is quite Crimson-like. They take this through some killer changes and movements. It’s got a real groove that runs through it.

Malise

This rocker is quite King Crimson oriented a lot of times. It’s also got a lot of groove built into it. The percussion is pretty intense and everything here just gels well as it moves from one thing to another.

New Lands

Starting mellow, this powers out to one of the most straightforward rockers of the set. It feels a lot like some of the late 1960s guitar based rock music at times. This is really quite a cool tune, and while straightforward in context, still has plenty of twists and turns.

A Sense of an Ending

This is closer to the first part of the album than anything we’ve heard recently. There is definitely a jazz vibe to it, but merged with that King Crimson kind of aesthetic.

The Secret of Fire

The guitar sounds at the start of this are the most rocking of the set. The tune has a great progressive rock vibe, but there are bits of other sounds here. This thing has a driving bass line and is just exceptionally tasty. There are bits here and there on this cut that make me think of Rush, but there is also a lot of world music and plenty of other sound here. It’s a very triumphant sounding piece and a great way to end the set in style. It’s got mellower sections and more rocking ones, but really is just one of the most satisfying pieces here.

 
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