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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kinetic Element

Travelog

Review by Gary Hill

I think this new album from Kinetic Element might very well surpass their previous work. The song scale is of epic proportions. The mix of classic prog sounds is great, too. The lineup of the band itself is Mike Visaggio (keyboards), Todd Russel (guitars, triangle), Michael Murray (drums, percussion and whistling) and Mark Tupko (bass). They are joined on three tracks (“War Song,” the title track and “Vision of a New Dawn” by Dimetrius LaFavors of Odin’s Court.   Michelle Schrotz (from Brave) is the singer for “Into the Lair.” Mike Florio provides the vocals for “Her.”

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
War Song

The opener is one of two pieces that land around the twenty minute mark in terms of length. It should be noted, that, the shortest song here is almost ten minutes long. A percussive section starts this. Then it fires out into a jam that feels part Yes and part ELP. We’re taken through a number of shifts and changes in the course of the nearly five minute instrumental introduction. There is a bit of a Celtic element at one point. The vocals come in over a more straight-line section. For some reason the verse segments actually make me think of the proggier side of Triumph just a little. There is a great instrumental movement around the eight and a half minute mark. It creates some prog tension and melody. The next vocal section is faster paced. It reminds me quite a bit of Yes. There is a burst of guitar at the beginning of the next instrumental break that seems a bit like Steve Howe. In fact, this goes through quite a few sections that seem to careen between ELP and Yes to me. During this instrumental section the bass also gets a chance to shine. We’re brought back into the faster verse section and that gives way again to more instrumental work. Around the thirteen minute mark, it drops to a mellower jam. The vocal section from the earlier part of the piece is revisited here. Another mellower jam, again quite Yes-like, emerges beyond that vocal movement. Organ leads the way out from there, taking a solo. Then around the 16 minute mark, piano gives birth to a new section of the cut. It’s mostly unaccompanied at first, with some bass gradually rising upward. As this extended instrumental section builds and grows, it makes me think of some kind of cross between Yes and Renaissance. As this grows to the dramatic conclusion, one small section of vocals emerges over the top near the end.

Travelog
Although weighing in at almost ten minutes, the title track is the shortest piece here. Acoustic guitar that makes me think of Steve Howe starts this in a way that’s really reminiscent of Yes. That comparison remains as it continues exploring as the sole instrument. The ends around the minute and a half mark. The cut grows forward from there with a still mellow, rather Yes-like arrangement. The vocals join, carrying the lyrics of “America the Beautiful.” This continues to evolve, with the lyrics moving in original directions. It’s kind of a freeform, growing piece. It doesn’t change fast, but it changes steadily. I love the bass work on this, but the vocals are a bit too repetitive and the song could use a little more compartmentalization to be effective to me. I’m sure some people will find this to be one of the most creative (in some ways it is) and “prog” pieces here. To me, it just sort of seems a bit like a pointless jam. Still, it has its moments. There is a crescendo around the six and a half mark and then acoustic guitar returns to take over again. Basically the rest of the song is an acoustic guitar solo, although it does get some accompaniment for a while.
Into the Lair
Dramatic space music starts things here. It grows out in great fashion from there. It’s a pretty straight line growing process for about the first minute and a half. Then it works out to a rather Yes-like movement. The female vocals that come across make this feel more like Renaissance. The cut grows outward. An instrumental section around the four and a half mark features some killer organ work. The bass line behind this segment is particularly noteworthy, too. Other keyboards get a turn as this continues from synthesizer to piano, harpsichord and more. It drops at one point to just keys. Then the bass returns to the fray. Other instruments join and we eventually make our way back to the vocal segment. The piece continues evolving from there.
Her
Piano starts this off and the cut grows within that framework for a time. Other instruments join around the one minute mark and the cut has some great prog interplay. After this introduction winds through we get a new movement that reminds me quite a bit of Peter Banks’ post Yes band Flash. The vocals come in over the top of this arrangement. This piece evolves pretty naturally from there until around the four and a half minute mark. A melodic movement that makes me think of Yes a bit takes over from there. The song continues to shift and grow from there. I really love an instrumental section, and particularly the guitar soloing, around the seven minute mark. The instrumental movement continues to drive it from there. Some organ solos over the top further along the road. Eventually it works out to a return to the song proper.
Vision of a New Dawn
The piano solo that starts this makes me think of Rick Wakeman. As it gets into the pounding section that heralds the entry of the band, I think more of Keith Emerson. Once the band join, though, it feels more like Flash to me. The jamming continues until around the two minute mark, getting a bit fusion-like. Then some Spanish guitar takes over and they build it into an ELP like section from there. It continues moving forward with energy and drive, evolving as it does from that point. A crescendo after the four minute mark gives way to a piano solo section. The vocals come in over the top of that. It builds forward from there with a more full band treatment emerging. It eventually crescendos and turns mollower. Then a new instrumental movement emerges. That movement gets into some pretty dramatic territory, with the jamming, particularly the keyboards, getting quite intense. It’s almost like a fusion version of old Genesis to me. It drops to piano near the fourteen and a half minute mark. Some vocals come over the top before a false ending. Next comes some mellow guitar out of the vacuum. Whistling comes over that. The vocals return over the top of the new arrangement. This works forward in fine prog fashion from there, building up quite nicely. It continues to evolve and eventually takes the piece out near the 18 and a half minute mark.

 

 
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