Please bear with me on this Triple Feature. All three of these reviews are going to be from me, Jason; and part of the reason for this is a slump of mine. I’m having trouble getting into any new music right now, and this has been going on for a couple weeks. Lots of amazing albums have released this year so far, but the list of albums I have right now are completely missing the mark for me. On the other hand, some of them are still solid and so I feel the need to offer some thoughts. There is hope, though, as in the last couple days I’ve been getting some albums with potential, so there may be life yet.
Avantasia is Avantasia. Tobias Sammet is the brains behind the project, and the music sounds basically the same as ever. Tobias handles vocals, bass, and keyboards; and Sascha Paeth offers guitars, keys, and bass, while Michael “Miro” Rodenberg also offers keys and orchestrations. The list of singers here is huge, from Jorn Lande to Candice Night to Geoff Tate.
The album is indeed epic. You can hear that from the singles alone. The guitars are huge and heavy, the keyboards are magic, and the vocal performances are larger than life. Again, this is Avantasia, and that is what this project has always offered.
And that’s just the problem. I heard this album a couple times, and I just didn’t want to hear it again. Specific songs, like “The Raven Child” and especially the evocative “Moonglow” with Candice Night are wonderful and change the formula a little bit, just enough for me to stand up and notice. In the end, though, the album feels like more of the same, and most of the songs could be swapped out with pretty much any other Avantasia album. For me, that just doesn’t hold my interest.
Aside from a couple great songs, “Moonglow” is essentially just a stock Avantasia album. The sound really hasn’t progressed, but the epic feeling is still there. If that is all you want, then you will love this album.
Autumn is a Dutch band that focuses on heavy prog rock. They have been in the business since at least 2002, and so “Stacking Smoke” is one album in a long history for this group. The band currently consists of Marjan Welman on vocals; Jan Munnik on keyboards; Mats van der Valk, Jens van der Valk, and Ronald Landa on guitars; Maurice vd Es on bass; and Jan Grijpstra on drums.
I’m going to come out and just say what I’m thinking here. Autumn sounds like a band that wants to be one of the dark Polish progressive bands, but doesn’t quite have the sound yet. Much of the music reminds me of that Polish scene, but Autumn lacks the personality, melancholy, and atmosphere to bring this album to life. So, while the prog rock here is plenty good, it never really makes it above the “solid” phase, and most of the songs sound the same. The band predates most of the Polish scene, though, so this is just my perspective.
I hope the band can forgive me for that paragraph. Autumn is definitely worth your time, especially “Stacked Smoke” and the four part suite “Forging Tempests”, but I think the band has lots of desire and even ability to make progressive rock, but not a whole lot of inspiration on how to take it to the next level. I really think they have the potential to do that someday, though.
I’m going to have to ask for Tim’s forgiveness on this review, as well. Tim Bowness is well known as a longtime collaborator with Steven Wilson on No-Man. Tim’s solo work is almost always a winning formula, too, and his instantly recognizable voice is something I really like about him. His music is always slower, almost ambient in nature; and he adds lots of lush accents that create a palpable atmosphere. I wouldn’t even really call this “progressive rock”. Tim offers something more akin to post-prog.
I’m going to have to take a few steps back here, though. Tim’s new album “Flowers at the Scene” feels way too forced. It feels like Tim wrote a couple of great tunes, and then wrote several filler tracks. Again, Tim, forgive me for this.
What exactly do I mean? “I Go Deeper” and “The Train That Pulled Away” start the album with gusto. I feel like these two songs might be some of the best he’s ever written, especially the latter, which I consider masterful. “It’s The World” and “Killing to Survive” are also solid tracks, but not nearly on the level of the first two songs, or of any of Tim’s past albums. The rest of the songs? They are muddled, often lacking any character. When I listen to this album, most of the songs mash together and I don’t even realize that we’ve switched tracks at all. The album ends, and you are still waiting for it to begin, in a sense.
All of this feels like a shame because big names, such as Peter Hammill, Steven Wilson, and Jim Matheos, are all present and accounted for, but their contributions don’t really amount to much. It’s almost like they just put the names there to get a marketing boost.
In the end, this album is certainly better than anything I personally could produce, so I suppose some perspective is in order. However, I can definitely say that I don’t enjoy this album nearly as much as the last 3 or 4 from Tim, and the overall results that follow the second track are dull and uninteresting. I really like Tim’s work, but this album is not for me.
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