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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Heylel

Nebulae

Review by Gary Hill

This outfit is from Portugal and if this set is any indication, they are pretty special. The blend of symphonic, prog and metal that is presented here is powerful. It has moments of really magical proportions. The rest is still pretty great. This album isn’t perfect (there are times when it feels a bit awkward) but it’s pretty close. The female vocals land it near epic metal, but there is a lot more going on here. From world music to classical, space and more, they have it covered. Prog wise they range from King Crimson to Pink Floyd and Giant Squid. All in all, I like this set a lot.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
An Interstellar Cloud
Hope – This comes in gradually as pretty waves of spacey keys create the melodies that bring it to life. Guitar rises up as this continues. This feels a bit like Pink Floyd. This instrumental is less than two minutes in length, so it doesn’t go very far.
The Prophet
A tolling bell and wind start this. Then some metallic symphonic music rises to take it forward. They drop back to some tastefully odd progressive rock for the vocals. The cut gets more juice infused as it moves forward, at times turning pretty crunchy, really. Still, it has a lot of symphonic progressive rock in the mix. There is a really metallic section late in the number.
Watcher of the Light
They bring this in with a full on metal approach. It’s ultra heavy and slow moving. Then it drops to a keyboard based section for the verse. The chorus gets a return to that metal approach. As this piece continues it’s a contrast between those two things, but at times they seem to merge. This is a powerful number.
A Newborn Star

 

Alter Ego

As cool as the first three songs were, they didn’t prepare us for this. The opening section is keyboard based and in many ways this song has an almost classical music construction. After the verse more rock oriented sounds, with some crunch, enter. The piece is powerful, dramatic and unusual. It’s such a masterpiece. I love the way the song builds through different movements at times getting heavier and at times turning mellower. I love the vocal performance. This is just such an incredible piece.

The Sage
Acoustic guitar serves as the only backdrop for the vocals on this one. It has a rather classical approach early on with that sound serving as the backdrop for the first vocals. That guitar continues well beyond those vocals weaving lots of lines of melody on its own. It seems to include a little bit of King Crimson as it works toward the next vocal section. That second vocal section winds up taking the piece to its close.
Red Giant
  
Deeper
The sounds of a storm begin this and guitar rises up after a time. As this builds it remains mellow and melodic, but not simple by any means, for a long time. The first vocal sections are all delivered over that kind of motif. Only near the end does it start to get heavier with more crunch infused into the sound. Even then, this is more like Giant Squid than it is like Metallica.
Wings of Eternity
Acoustic guitar teams with the voice for the first minute and a half or so to weave this tale. Other instruments come in after that, but the tune remains fairly acoustically driven and very melodic. It’s also incredibly effective. It’s not until around the three and a half minute mark that it gets metallic at all with some crunchy guitar painting melody on the walls. That section doesn’t last long, though, taking the piece to its close. This is another highlight of the set.
I Talk to the Wind
This is a reworking of the King Crimson piece. At times they seem to give an almost symphonic take. At other times they turn it toward the metallic modern prog of acts like Giant Squid. All in all, though, I like this version a lot. I don’t like it as much as the original, but come on, that’s a classic. This comes close.
White Dwarf / Black Dwarf

  

The Great Abstinence

This piece really has a lot of contrast. There are mellow segments. There are movements that land near jazz. Yet there are also some seriously crunchy sections. It’s a real screamer of a tune. I love this number. It’s left of center, but it’s also powerful and accessible. The vocals really shine, but the music is strong enough to stand up to that. It is complex, but yet it manages to flow and groove.

Sometimes
Acoustic guitar and voice are the driving elements here, but I’m not sure I’d call it a ballad, really.
Embrace the Darkness
Although there are non-lyrical vocals, this is really an instrumental. It’s got a slow pace to it. The first half of this has a really weird soundtrack vibe to it. After that, though, they take it to a heavy progressive rock style, again calling to mind Giant Squid and acts like that. This is a powerful piece and a great closer.
 
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