Theatre – No More Rhymes But Mr. Brainstorm (1993)

Theatre_NoMoreRhymes4.5 out of 5 Stars!

For fans of Marillion, Genesis, and (especially) Twelfth Night, this is one album you may want to investigate. To me, the singer of this Italian band sounds so eerily reminiscent (when it comes to style, tone, and dramatics) of Geoff Mann from Twelfth Night, enough so that I had to do some digging into album credits to make certain it wasn’t actually Geoff doing the singing. Regardless, the vocals, and the overall “feel” of the band is firmly entrenched in the “Twelfth Night realm” of Prog-Rock (and by that, I also mean the same realm as early Marillion, early Genesis, et al).

The album’s opener, “The Lie (A Typical Situation),” clearly shows the bands influences in numerous ways. The bouncy main passages are pure Genesis, whereas the moody midsection is reminiscent of Marillion. The keyboard runs are straight out of the Tony Banks (Genesis) or Mark Kelly (Marillion) playbook, and the guitar leads are laden with Steve Rothery (again, Marillion) tones. And several short spoken parts, with singer Ricky Tonko doing his best “Harold The Barrel” (Genesis) or “We Are Sane” (Twelfth Night) type of voices, only add to the fun and further display the band’s influences.

“Treacherous Money” continues in the same vein, and the addition of Mellotron and odd rhythm patterns in the song’s latter half once again firmly entrench the band in the Twelfth Night, etc. universe.

The mellower “Shades” is one of my favorite tracks, with the keyboard sounds and vocal melody exuding more of a Pallas vibe before another Steve Rothery type of guitar solo graces the song’s midsection. More spoken vocal lines end the song, again bringing to mind Geoff Mann and Fish.

The oddly named “Diddle Riddle (Mr. Brainstorm in the Middle)” is not only the longest track (at thirteen minutes) but is probably the high point of the album, crammed with all the usual influences. The slow-building atmospheric opening finally brings the band into a driving verse backed by off-time rhythms and featuring more Geoff Mann type vocal passages. Afterward, the organ section somehow reminds me of “The Knife” (Genesis) before the bridge section might have comfortably found a home on the Fact and Fiction album (Twelfth Night). Some additional mood changes, along with flute (or flute-sounding synths) in another passage brings us temporarily back to Genesis before the band kicks into a reprise of the opening verse section. The interesting track finally mellows again in the ending section with some more Steve Rothery “dreamy” guitar leads.

“Grannies” starts with nearly a perfect replica of “The Cinema Show” (Genesis) guitar pattern before another pretty vocal melody pops in with the same feel. More Tony Banks styled synth runs lead into a second verse until the entire band kicks in, along with some Steve Rutherford/Steve Hackett (Genesis) guitar sounds until the Genesis-type closing.

At more than eleven minutes, the second lengthy track, “Little Princess,” is also another favorite, with a spoken vocal intro that leads into more Genesis/Marillion/Twelfth Night-inspired passages throughout. A grand treat.

I won’t bother describing the additional tracks since they are certainly in the same vein. Regardless, this album is a complete thrill for a Prog-Rock lover like myself, one who continually yearns for the sound and style of early Genesis. Man, I really liked Theatre. Too bad they had only a single album since I would have loved more from them.

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Seven Steps to the Green Door – Fetish! (2015)

SevenSteps_Fetish5 out of 5 Stars!

Despite their silly name, this is one fantastic band from Germany with a perfect blending of Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal. They have both a male and female vocalist, both excellent, with some terrific background vocalists as well, so expect to hear amazing vocal arrangements, many along the lines of Gentle Giant when it comes to complexity. Indeed, some of the instrumental bits also bring Gentle Giant to mind, although with a more modern/updated sound like some of Spock’s Beard’s earliest work. Some of the other usual influences are included, along with everything from Yes and The Flower Kings, and newer bands such as Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity, and Barock Project. And in many ways, Seven Steps (for short) also reminds me of the bands Introitus and Izz when it comes to the overall merged influences and styles as well as the inclusion of those striking female vocals.

Also note, that apart from the album’s short first track “Possible Delayed” (an a capella opening of both male and female voices, a beautiful introduction to the band’s vocal perfection), all of the following eight tracks are more than seven minutes long, with one even hitting the sixteen minute mark. This gives the band a chance to expand their wings and truly soar! And man, do they ever.

“Possible Delayed” leads into the track called “PORN!” that starts with a Gentle Giant-like riff on electric piano with counterpoint guitar strokes. Right then, I sensed I was in for something truly special. Sure enough, when the male and female vocal parts kicked in with this Gentle Giant-like riff behind them, I turned up the speakers to revel in the track. Time changes abound in different melodic sections of the song, before a sax comes in to liven things up even more. More time changes occur soon afterward, only to have the song end with an instrumental riff that slowly accelerates in speed before the final fade-out. Some fascinating Prog in the span of nearly nine minutes. Wonderful.

The next track, “Still Searching,” opens with more outrageously perfect vocal performances by both male and female. The harmonies are truly spectacular. A beautiful track ensues, softer than the opening track (but only at first) until we are treated once again to numerous rhythm shifts and key changes. Just before the song starts to heat up, the addition of Mellotron was a welcome surprise. And by the time the song gets really cooking, some heavier bits (both on guitar and Hammond) give the band another dimension. And, as if that wasn’t enough goodness already, the midpoint of the song kicks into more a capella vocals, pure Gentle Giant in the fashion of “On Reflection” from the Free Hand album, jaw-droppingly intricate and magnificent. Next up comes a luscious grand piano passage that introduces another bouncy section of the song, and then more vocals are added and more delightful sections keep the song building and building into something truly grand. And then it ends with more a capella grandeur. Good God, by this time (only three songs into the album) I was already in deep, deep love with this fantastic band with the silly name.

I won’t go into the details of every single track—there is so much going on, so many “keeping me on the edge of my seat” moments happening throughout the album—or I would find myself writing for days on end in order to cram everything I enjoyed into a single review. Let’s just say that the remainder of the album continues offering up one great track after another, and what seems like endless surprises galore, way too numerous to count.

The musicians and vocalists are all so damned talented and the band’s songwriting and arrangement skills are beyond commendable. I feel blessed to have heard this release and I look forward to delving into the band’s previous three albums to see what else they’ve created for my listening pleasure.

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Night Sun – Mournin’ (1972)

NightSun_Mournin4 out of 5 Stars!

Back in 1972, this German band released its one and only album.

Because of the thick Hammond organ and Psych guitar, Night Sun reminded me (primarily) of other German acts such as Birth Control or Lucifer’s Friend (its debut album), only heavier. Much heavier, actually. Just listen to the two slamming opening tracks—”Plastic Shotgun” and “Crazy Woman”—and hear what sounds like Birth Control meets Deep Purple in a marriage of fuzz guitar and Hammond, with phased drums and thumping bass in the background along with a vocalist not afraid to belt out the lyrics like his very life depended on it.

One of my favorite tracks, “Got a Bone of My Own,” starts with eerie instrumentation preceding a killer riff, both immediately bringing to mind the debut Black Sabbath album, the album where Ozzy and company clearly displayed Blues inspirations. Is this what Deep Purple may have sounded like had the group had Tony Iommi on guitar delivering his “evil” riffing? One can only guess.

“Slush Pan Man” shows even more of Night Sun’s own Blues-based influences when it comes to the sound, but again, wrapping them up in a catchy, memorable Deep Purple-like riff that would have fit right at home on the In Rock album.

Side B opens with another monster track named “Living With the Dying,” which somehow reminds me of Led Zeppelin, only with more of a Deep Purple feel, due mainly to the organ. And once again, those phased drums pop up in the middle of the song, playing a rather extended solo bit before the guitar and Hammond trade their own heated solos prior to the final verse.

“Come Down” opens with a moody organ background before the singer lays a pretty melody over the top of it, momentarily adding a welcome break from the frantic madness of the previous track. Before long, however, this ballad turns into a mid-paced rocker in the best tradition of early Lucifer’s Friend or Birth Control. This is another of my favorites.

Some additional organ and guitar solos pop up on “Blind,” another blues-based song that conjures up the same style as Deep Purple’s “Lazy.” While “Nightmare” is a fast-paced slammer (similar to Deep Purple’s “Speed King” in pace and style). Here the Hammond organ is given a chance to truly shine and the singer even produces some screams in an attempt to replicate Ian Gillan’s unique vocal delivery.

The album closes with another rocker called “Don’t Start Flying,” which surprisingly brings in a sax, adding yet another dimension to the band’s overall sound. Can you picture a song by Deep Purple with an in-your-face sax wailing throughout? Hard to imagine, I’m sure, but this is probably what it may have sounded like had Deep Purple attempted it.

Anyway, since some of the songs here have a touch of Progressive Rock included, I can’t help wondering what Night Sun might have produced had the band stayed together for at least another few albums. Would the group have gone more Prog-Rock or continued on with the Blues-based Heavy Metal sound, or would Night Sun have continued to perfect an equal blending of the two genres? Who knows. The band had great potential.


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