The last few weeks here at Eurorock has been very much like the old saying “so many albums, yet so little time.” So let me try and put that right starting today with a series of reviews from across Europe ending with a special visit to Sweden later in the week to catch up on what is going on there.
Today our trip takes from Portugal through Switzerland and Germany, before dropping down to Italy. It ranges from progressive metal, through symphonic prog, and on into the beautifully crafted world of Elisa Lua’s electronica. It is just what you expect from such a journey: eclectic, dramatic, fascinating and most of all eye opening.
AtmOsfear – Zenith (ProgRock Records)
First stop on the Eurorock tour is Germany to review the latest release from the five piece progressive metal band AtmOsfear. Formed in 1996 Zenith is their third studio album. This is a band that has already supported the likes of Pain Of Salvation, Evergrey, and Vanden Plas and is steadily building up a large following in the process.
AtmOsfear’s sound continues to evolve with Zenith but their trademark scorching guitar breaks, progressive keys, built upon their familiar solid rhythm section, are all still very much in evidence.
The band is perfectly named as they are able to create dark brooding atmospherics within seconds of the opening track “Beginning.” Moving seamlessly into the near eight minute “Loss Of Hope” you are plunged deeper into the dark world of AtmOsfear.
With melodic hooks, powerfully driving riffs and clear vocals Zenith hits just about every progressive metal target. There are several hugely ambitious epics on the album to really lose yourself within.
Firstly, there is the switching drama created within “Generation” (12.10). Then “Scum Of Society” (12.58) takes many an unexpected twist before handing over to the four-part “Spiral Of Pain” which clocks in at a massive 23 minutes.
Almost hidden away is “Reawakening” which is, for me, another highlight and underlines the level of quality that this band consistently delivers.
Having said that they keep the best for last and the massive “Spiral Of Pain” confirms that this is top drawer progressive metal from one of Germany’s best.
Catch up by calling in on the bands website.
Elisa Luu – Chromatic Sigh (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
Chromatic Sigh is the highly impressive debut album from Rome based composer Elisa Luu. During this mesmerizing CD she takes us by the hand and gently introduces us into the richly kaleidoscopic labyrinth of musical atmospheres and textures that she somehow creates.
Her music moves through a sometimes brittle, often intensely refreshing landscape of sounds that activate sweeping and powerful images. This is to music what those wonderful Roger Dean designs were to 70s prog rock covers successfully opening doors in the imagination that had so far remained boringly shut.
The opening title track sparkles and shines whilst “Pixie Space Rock” transports us off into the misty distance of some undiscovered land. “Arteline” is delicately poised in between fragility and confident elegance. Elisa has the ability to continually lure you, like a siren, to the rocks by introducing recurring melody whilst pushing back the boundaries of exploration.
“Slow Bass Flute” sits aloft with its hazy melancholy dreamily creating an almost spiritual emotion. Her single “The Garden” is deceptively complex as she takes us ever deeper into the maze. By the time the last track “Warn Plate” arrives you awake refreshed and ready to return again.
This is a talent well worth keeping your ears and mind open for. Please have a look at her MySpace page where you can listen to her work.
Factory Of Dreams – A Strange Utopia (ProgRock Records)
Portugal’s symphonic metal gothic band Factory Of Dreams made their debut in 2008 with the album Poles. For the second album, the multi instrumentalist Hugo Flores again covers guitar, bass, keys and programming whilst Jessica Lehto adds her impressive and often operatic, goth vocals. For the album they also add some impressive guests.
A Strange Utopia is rich with sweeping drama that ranges from the spine chillingly atmospheric through to the warmth of lusciously written melody. Huge orchestral effects ensure that this album will grab your attention from the moment “Voyage To Utopia” launches the whole operatic trip.
Jessica can deliver soaring operatics one moment and then as with “Sonic Sensations” soothe us down just as effectively. Tracks such as the constantly shifting “The Road Around Saturn” and the seductive eastern undercurrent of “Dark Utopia” successfully spark the imagination.
The twelve track album ends with the near ten minute “E-Motions” which brings together Hugo’s vast range of elements in dramatic style whilst expertly showcasing Jessica’s vocals.
The album comes with two bonus tracks “Broken” and the radio edit of “The Weight Of The World”. For fans of the likes of Nightwish. Further details can be found on the website.
This Misery Garden – Another Great Day On Earth (ProgRock Records)
I love the title of this album and my admiration doesn’t stop there. Formed in 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland, This Misery Garden made their debut the following year with a demo release that attracted a lot of enthusiastic attention. Best described as a dark rock/metal band their influences seem to lie in the Tool, Perfect Circle, and Katatonia field.
The contrast in the band and album name confirms that The Misery Garden succeed in producing a wide range of emotions from both ends of the spectrum. There is light and dark, sadness and joy, triumph and defeat, anger and peace, life and death, hope and despair, and it all comes at you with a vibrancy that is totally compelling. As if to prove the point it also boasts a well balanced intensity.
Built upon a solid base of well constructed and memorable melodies the album, of fourteen tracks, is both assured and confident. This confidence is not at all misplaced and as they launch into the title track that opens the album. Its spiky driving riffs ignite the speakers and grab you in a powerful headlock.
The powerhouse guitars of Laurent and Atoine, sit astride a solid wall of rhythm created by Jay’s bass and drummer Stephan. Benjamin’s impressive and never over played vocals completes the scene and as the power of “Vermilion River” opens out you quickly realize that this is a band who know their own direction.
Early highlight “Instant Recoil” underlines their ability to keep it balanced in this case with an impressively atmospheric track. “Force Feed” powers in like a train in a tunnel whilst an impressive “Pantomimes” and the excellent “Bittersweet” ease it back down providing their now familiar counterbalance.
The mid-set maintains the interest with the well named “On The Edge”, the switching gears of “Swan Song”, and “Dirty Playgrounds”. Other highlights include “A Tasteless Poison” before the album comes to an appropriate close with “Everything Comes To An End”.
One to watch. Don't forget to call in on the band at their website.
Eurorock is off to Sweden next for another varied trip through the best of recent releases.