Quadruple Feature: Circadian Pulse, Starfish64, Dream Troll, and Stratospheerius


The Prog Mind

This month, we offer our very first Quadruple Feature where all four of us present shorter reviews of great albums.  These albums are solid offerings, but they may not evoke many words for us.  Read on to find out more about Circadian Pulse, Starfish64, Dream Troll, and Stratospheerius.

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Luke

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Circadian Pulse is a progressive metal band from Melbourne, Australia. Their latest album kicks off with an awesome hard-rock track, “Suspended”! The riff is insanely catchy and the bass tone is mind-blowing. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty significant drop-off in quality after that.

I guess my biggest problem with the album is that it sounds just like every other progressive metal band, and that the songs don’t stand out to me. Also, I think they need a heavier-sounding vocalist. Their current singer sounds too, well, “pretty”, for lack of a better word. It’s metal, not Britpop.

The good news? It’s really well done. The musicians are all insanely talented. The bass player has an epic tone that sounds like something between Chris Squire and Geezer Butler. The guitar player is a lot like John Petrucci tonally, but he’s extremely technical and has the chops to pull it off, so it’s fine. This band has a great album in them, but Elements Of Existence is not that album. It’s solid, if a bit bland, prog-metal to do your homework by, but not much else.

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Jason

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“The Future in Reverse” is one of those albums that got away from me as the autumn releases began pouring in suddenly.  This is certainly a solid album for several reasons.  The band consists of Dieter Hoffmann, Henrik Kropp, Martin Pownall, and Dominik Suhl; and it seems that they all have a hand in playing a variety of instruments including: guitar, bass, mandolin, glockenspiel, keyboards, and drums.

The musical style is straightforward progressive rock, leaning towards the “neo-prog” style that I really like.  We’ve all heard something like this many times.  You’ll hear the likes of Marillion, Pendragon, IQ, and other classic bands all over this album.  Starfish64 adds a certain personality to it, though, that I think is unique, and they tend more towards spacious soundscapes than driving, guitar-heavy rhythms. 

In other words, the music is more “chill” than most rock out there, and you will often feel like you are underwater.  On top of that, the band is excellent at constructing beautiful vocal melodies that will draw you into the experience.  This album can be a bit strange because, just when you think nothing interesting is going to happen, the band brings something attention-grabbing to the table.  It feels different in that way.

I have a couple of favorite tracks here.  “Yesterday’s Favorite Smile” is a beautiful opener with a luscious chorus, though it does feel like it should be a threshold to something more.  “Determination” is a lengthy track that feels very much like what you’d expect, but then transitions into a purely electronic/synth experience in the second half.  It’s beautiful and definitely my favorite moment here.

All in all, “The Future in Reverse” is a beautiful, ambient experience with some highlights that are worth your time.  No, I don’t think it will make year-end lists, but that’s not really the point here.  The band seems keen on offering their personality and lush melodies for our ears to hear.  That’s really what it’s all about sometimes.

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Stephen

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British rockers Dream Troll’s The Witch’s Curse is an exposition heavy fantasy, heavy metal concept album. Stylistically, it’s a bit of NWOBHM with a dash of glam, and some shades of more modern bands like Coheed and Cambria. While the music tows the line between metal and rock, lyrics like “The generals send the men to their deaths/The sound of crushing skull and ripping flesh/The blood flows like a waterfall/The stench of death is unmistakable; horrors of war!” push the mood of the album pretty far over into the “metal” camp.

While the band’s roster is filled with clearly skilled musicians, instrumental prowess takes a back seat to the lyrics and the story. For a three song EP that clocks in at 22 minutes, the lyrics for each song seem pages long. This is my only real gripe with the album: I’m a prog fan. I like extended instrumental sections and guitar solos – or even [gasp!] keyboard solos. Dream Troll seems almost afraid to play for too long without singing. That being said, the vocal delivery perfectly fits the style, and the album makes frequent use of gang vocals to great effect.

The short length of the album, as well as the focus on lyrics, make it a great one to sit down with the lyrics and be immersed in the story and music. Spoiler warning – there’s lots of violence and no happy ending, but it’s definitely a fun little old school romp.

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Justin

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A good friend of mine put this 2017 release into my hands for a listen.  Released via MRR last September, Guilty of Innocence is the fifth studio release from this band, an act that grew out of Joe Deninzon’s solo career circa 2004.  This record features lots of Deninzon’s frenetic electric violin.  His playing style ranges from melodic fiddling to electric guitar modeling, to Tom Morello-esque sound effects.  As a whole, the record boasts the energy and spunk of a Dixie Dregs release, but maintains a headspace more akin to classic prog – Kansas, Zappa, and Steve Vai compositions all come to mind.  There is also a strong undercurrent of funk and jazz fusion that unifies the varied pieces of this record, grounding a number of musical ideas and influences together.

In addition to the band themselves – Joe Deninzon (electric violin, lead vox, mandolin, guitar), Aurelien Budynek (guitar, vox), Jamie Bishop (bass, vox), and Lucianna Padmore (drums) – Guilty of Innocence credits a large number of guests: Rave Tesar of Renaissance (keys), Alex Skolnick of Testament and TSO (guitar), Randy McStine of The Fringe and Stu Hamm (guitar, background vox), Melanie Mitrano (vox), Eddie Venegas (violin), Earl Maneein (viola), Leo Grinhauz and Patrice Jackson (cellos), and Benny Koonyevsky (drums).

There are a few tracks that particularly stand out to me.  The album pop-length album opener, “Behind the Curtain,” begins the record with a plodding guitar grind.  “Face” has a southern rock flavor, moving in a steady pentatonic pattern.  “Game of Chicken” is probably my favorite piece on the album, blending razzmatazz instrumental with melodic refrains.  The Stravinksy-esque instrumental, “Dream Diary Cadenza,” is essentially an eclectic collection of Deninzon’s violin sound effects.  Lastly, the epic-length “Soul Food” modulates between double-time Kansas romp and pastoral-to-folksy strings and mandolin, and concludes the album with a bang.  Guilty of Innocence also includes a reimagined cover of Muse’s “Hysteria,” which served as the record’s single at launch.

Guilty of Innocence has inventiveness, a unique sound, and is a lot of fun to listen to.  There’s a little bit of everything in the sound and the content.  I’d recommend this one to anyone with a love for high-energy prog that draws from numerous wells of influence and doesn’t rest ‘til it’s spent.

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Find Circadian Pulse online:

Facebook

Website

Bandcamp

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Find Starfish64 online:

Facebook

Bandcamp

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Find Dream Troll online:

Facebook

Bandcamp

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Find Stratospheerius online:

Facebook

Website

Bandcamp

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The Prog Mind

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