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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sontaag

Sontaag

Review by Gary Hill

This is a great album. It’s not the kind of thing that hits you over the head, though. Nor is it the type of thing that will appeal to everyone. Musically, it runs the gamut from things like Tangerine Dream to Hawkwind with some Rick Wakeman thrown in for good measure. It’s a concept album, telling a vast and epic science fiction story. Most of the vocals are spoken, but there are some sung ones and several full instrumental pieces. Cinematic, theatrical and lush, this is sure to please prog purists and should appeal to modern progressive rock fans, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Empyrean

Atmospheric sounds open this and then a wailing, crying guitar comes over the top, screaming out in passion and desire.         It’s past the one minute mark before they start getting harder rocking. There is a real driving space rock sound that takes it Still, it’s tempered with more pure keyboard based music at times. They work through a number of shifts and changes in this instrumental introductory piece. It’s got a lot of Rick Wakeman and Tangerine Dream built into to my ears.

The Great Harmodulator
Although this comes in fairly atmospheric, noisy stabs of guitar are heard. Keyboard elements create the backdrop and then a spoken voice comes in to explain the background of the story. Tangerine Dream is again a valid reference.
Spaceshifter
This driving hard rock jam is very much like Hawkwind or Robert Calvert solo. It’s a real powerhouse with space rock, psychedelia and more merging.
Harmodulation
Atmospheric music with a short narration is the concept to this brief number.
Minor Keys of Anguished Weeping
Melodic, yet mellow, there is almost a classical element to this. The Rick Wakeman and Tangerine Dream references are not out of the question. The spoken vocals continue the story here.        
Serena Serenarum
The same concept of pretty, mostly atmospheric sound with spoken narration is the premise here. The non-lyrical female vocals really add a lot, though. This gets some groove built into it at times, too.          
Sorush
This one is almost more electronic than some of the rest. Otherwise, the general concept isn’t all that different. Still, this is somewhat dark and sad in many ways.
Interstellar Genocide
Now, here we get more Hawkwind like hard rock. This is even more raw than “Spaceshifter” was. It’s got a punk meets Hawkwind kind of sound to it. It’s a great rocker. The hook is a catchy one.    
Chokuto
The story continues here. This is more along the lines of a rocking kind of jam, but with plenty of that Tangerine Dream element.
Glissandor
The melodies on this deliver some hints of jazz and more. It’s a rocking number with some scorching guitar soloing. This is another spoken narrative number.
The Skull-Scraping Caterwaul
This is a weird, but very cool one. The story continues moving as the noise level and chaos and destruction are unveiled. The music reflects that.  
Aftershock
This is a powerful piece of music that’s more mainstream progressive rock in a lot of ways. It has both spoken and sung vocals at different points.
Memoria Tenere
Seeming to come out of the previous one, this is the most vast and powerful number of the whole set in many ways. The story gets a resolution (or more a mission statement for a new beginning) as the music wraps up the themes in a very satisfying way. This is arguably the real stunner of the set. It manages to combine the more rocking edge with the more atmospheric sounds in great ways. It does seem to end around the six and a half minute mark and then build back out into serious space music from there. It works through some variants on that, but never rises beyond it from there to the end. It seems the most appropriate way to take this to its end.
 
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