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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Bridin Brennan
Rachael Sage
Cathy Vard
Martine McCutcheon
Mostly Autumn
Claire Hamill

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Instrumental Digest
Sunrise In Eden
Image © 2001 Massacre Records

Edenbridge-Click To Visit Website
Image © 2001 Massacre Records

More Edenbridge
Reviews and Interview
Sunrise In Eden

More Sabine Edelsbacher
Beto Vaszuez Infinity Feature

(10 April 2001) The debut album from Edenbridge is entitled Sunrise in Eden (Massacre Records (Germany) MAS CD0248, 2000). Categorised by the label as 'angelic bombast metal,' the album features nine metal-edged progressive tracks featuring the stunning vocal work of Sabine Edelsbacher. The band were founded in 1998 by guitarist and songwriter Lanvall in Linz, Austria. Kurt Bednarsky (bass) and Roland Navratil (drums) round out the lineup. Astrid Stockhammer provides additional backing vocals. Superbly produced in every respect, the album was recorded at Segull Music Studio in Austria by Gandalf; he also contributes sitar parts to the recording. While Lanvall also plays keyboards on the album, the band is actively searching for a full time keyboard player to support their forthcoming live performances.

Sunrise in Eden has already captured significant critical acclaim throughout the European rock press. Impressed by the band from the first listen of mp3s on their website their album quickly became one of the year's favourites at Musical Discoveries headquarters. You'll find super-catchy hooklines, melodic and brilliant guitar solos, fast double-bass smashers and emotional ballads. The album opens with the "Cheyenne Spirit," a symphonic rocker that serves as a perfect introduction to the prowess of Edenbridge and the Sabine's crystalline vocal textures. The epic title track "Sunrise In Eden" is a classic rock track that blends gentle and agressive guitar styles with Sabine's powerful lead vocal line. After several verses, the late arriving chorus--demonstrating the range and power of the lead singer's voice--will hook the most critical listeners.

"Forever Shine On" is the first of the album's ballads. Sabine sings gently over light keyboard and melodic guitar which builds as the track develops. Her vocal part soars over the instrumentals in the chorus, delicately hitting the highest notes on the album illustrating her virtuousity. An upbeat rock track with rythmic variety and multiple tempo changes, "Holy Fire" blends metal-edged lead and bass guitars with orchestral keyboard arrangements, soaring vocal part and lovely choir-style backing vocals. Lanvall's guitar solos are tremendous. The first half of the album is summarised perfectly by the lead guitar in the highly varied textures of the Nightwish-style "Wings Of The Wind." In addition to the Sabine's tremendous lead vocal, the depth and quality of the backing vocal parts are as impressive as the dynamic guitar solos and symphonic keyboard textures.

The album's remaining ballads, "In The Rain" and "Take Me Back," are lovely tributes to the lead singer's range, supported by symphonic keyboards, featuring melodic and dynamic lead electric or acoustic guitar solos respectively. "Midnight at Noon" is a fast-paced, heavily percussive, metal-edged rocker where Sabine's vocal energy once again delivers the goods. The album concludes with an epic length bombastic metal rocker entitled "My Last Step Beyond" that effectively summarises the content of the album that precedes it. Driving melodic guitars and symphonic keyboard textures provide a foundation for the final stunning lead vocal part. Listen for Gandalf's gentle sitar part during the dramatic instrumental bridge and Sabine's soaring lead and the backing vocal lines as the track concludes.

With an extensive variety of musical textures and Sabine's stunning crystalline vocal work, the debut album from Edenbridge is certain to delight a wide range of female vocal enthusiasts. Listeners will immediately be drawn by rich sound and superb production quality, evident in the depth of the instrumental arrangements as well as the clarity of the vocal mix. Read more about the band and listen to soundbites at their website. Now available from a variety of sources, Sunrise In Eden is worth a trans-Atlantic Journey and is by all means a must listen!

Hang On-Click To Visit Website
Image © MDM Records 2001 

(8 April 2001) The first single from Bridin Brennan is entitled "Hang On" (Grapevine (Ireland) CDGPS 300, 2001). Released in anticipation of her full length album, the single includes the title track and a second vocal number entitled "Deep Deep Sleep." An instrumental version of "Hang On" is also included on the CD. Bridin is the youngest of the Brennan clan from Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland. Produced in Dublin by Chris O'Brien and Graham Murphy, Bridin is backed by Ray Harman (guitars), Wayne Sheehy (drums) and Karen Hamill (backing vocals).

In contrast to the melancholy music of her sisters Enya and Máire, Bridin's music is evidently more accessible and pop-oriented. "Hang On" is a medium tempo track; Bridin's soft vocal textures are similar to her sisters'. The accomplished vocal delivery is obviously the result of years of backing the family band Clannad. From her management, musically very different from her siblings, she still has the unmistakable haunting voice that is peculiar to her family. This quality blended with outstanding contemporary songs looks like bringing another generation of this family to the forefront of chart music once again."

The everso gentle ballad "Deep Deep Sleep" is evocatively and sensually sung over light guitar, keyboard and percussion, and provides an enlightening contrast to the title track. Its lovely instrumental bridge and the instrumental version of "Hang On" both illustrate the superb contemporary arrangements we can expect on Bridin's forthcoming album. At this time the single is available only in Ireland yet we fully expect the album to be released worldwide. Corrs and Naimee Coleman fans alike will be keen to hear it; worth a journey, like this debut single, we anticipate the album will be a must listen!

Dreams and Feelings
Image © 2001 Black Flames Productions 

(11 April 2001) The debut album by Poland's melodic heavenly vocals band Centuria is entitled Dreams and Feelings (Dion Fortune Records (Germany) BN 564 / Black Flames (Poland) BFCD 004 / SPV 085-58312, 2000). Lead vocalist Anna Wojtkowiak provides the central texture to the album with solo and layered English lyrics and vocalise soaring above the richly arranged keyboard instrumentals. The band is also comprised of D.a.n.y (drums, percussion, samples) and Jaroslaw Baran (keyboards, guitar, samples). The album is distributed in America by Projekt and drew our immediate attention from first listen.

From the news release, "Centuria is a new and extremely interesting band that breavely explores dimensions of music and sound that were relatively unknown before. A sense of taste, that you have never met before, inspired by many kinds of music, let the young beginners compose an unusual record, unique in sounds, deeply emotional, sensual and original. [Taken from the lyrics of the second track "Tristia",] Dreams and Feelings is a well chosen title. Centuria means the music of your soul; there is no room for metal agressiveness here, although some associations with Fula, The Gathering or Liv Kristine occur to the listener immediately. You can find here, a feeling flawless beauty, fragility, sweetness and inspiration. This is truly unusual music--Heavenly Goth--which has a certain something. The band has existed merely for a year and a half and this debut album was recorded in their own studio and produce by themselves."

The album opens with the upbeat and higly melodic track "Bewitched," in wich Anna's vocals draw the listener into the rest of the recording. The rhythmic keyboard introduction of "Tristia" immedately reminded us of Fula (review), however, this track opens into a lushly arranged vocal masterpiece. Crisp percussion underscores arrangement of the solo verses and multi-tracked choruses while rhythmic keyboard scales, reminiscent of the introduction compliment the metal-edged instrumental bridges. Evocatively sung, the lyricless "Forgetfulness," rich with soaring vocalise, demonstrates Anna's range, power and virtuosity as well as the instrumentalists' skills across a broader range of genres from new age to heavy metal. In contrast, the sweetly sung track "Fabella" is a well arranged upbeat and highly accessible pop-oriented tune. Lush with layers of harmony vocals, Anna's stunning solos break through now and again further enticing the listener.

Unlike the tracks that precede it, "Omen" is an agressive metal-edged, but highly rhythmic track, with contrasting layers of sweet vocalise alternating with an almost-spoken lyric. Tender keyboard textures add to gentle lead vocal line of the atmospheric track "Apocalypse" before the agressive second part of the track develops into its full splendour illustrating Centuria's musical virtuosity. "The Awakening" is the album's one gentle--almost lullaby--ballad. Sung sweetly over a symponic keyboard-based arrangement, it illustrates the softest side of Anna's vocal range.

We especially enjoyed the way that Anna's lead vocal broke through the instrumentals of the lush symphonic arrangements of "Heaven and ..." Listeners will fully appreciate her talent as Anna's lead soars to the highest notes--reminscent of Annie Haslam--on the album. The album draws to a close with the short but progressively-arranged "Dytyramb." A blend of orchestral rock and classical keyboard-based arrangements are complimented by Anna's stunning vocalise.

Centuria's album Dreams and Feelings is indeed a tremendous band with enormous international potential. The album is readily available from Projekt and we fully expect broader availablility as critical acclaim continues to build. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Centuria's debut album is a must listen!

Image © 2001 Massacre Records 

(13 April 2001) The debut album from German Rock/Metal band Charisma, entitled Karma (Massacre Records (Germany) MAS CD01777, 1999), was sent to Musical Discoveries by the label following our enquiry on Edenbridge's Sunrise in Eden reviewed above. Both caught our editors' attention and went into frequent rotation at our headquarters. Charisma's album--a must listen--has been a dramatic surprise and we're pleased to review it and draw our readers' attention to it here. An interview with the band is also planned.

Charisma features the stunning emtional vocal work of former jazz singer Annette Kienzle. The is also comprised of former Ivanhoe members Achim Welsch (guitars, vocals) and Giovanni Soulas (bass) as well as Richard Siebel (keyboards) and Markus Blind (drums). Three additional guest drummers contribute to the album. Comprised of nine tracks, the recordings' textures vary between agressive, heavy-metal arrangements to heartfelt ballads, progressive rockers and an alternative arrangement of an Abba pop tune.

The album opens with the straight metal track "State Design" which provides an excellent introduction to the band's energy and Annette's vocal prowess. "Open Eye," later in the album is similarly constructed. Technically challenging, the brilliant progressive title track "Karma" balances powerful percussion with delicate keyboard work and driving guitars. Evocatively soaring vocals rise above the rythmic arrangements and demonstrate the power and range of Charisma's lead vocalist. Guitar solos during the instrumental bridges and additional vocal layers during the choruses are wonderful.

"The Prophets" is somewhat reminscent of Ambrosia, especially with Achim's lead vocal part. The track begins as a ballad and develops with Annette's vocal layers into a driving progressive rock tune. "Serpent" is similarly arranged; we especially enjoyed Annette's sweet vocal part. Charisma's stunning cover and alternative metal-edged arrangement of the Abba pop tune "Rich Man's World" ("Money Money Money") follows. Vocal layers and guitar solos contribute to the major improvements made over the original version of the track.

The rocking "Warm My Soul" and "Find Me In Space" are especially illustrative of Charisma's stylistic variation and are tracks where Annette's crystalline vocals--solo and multi-tracked--soar well above the lush and powerful instrumental arrangements. The band must be spectacular on stage. We especially enjoyed ethnic keyboard part, melodic guitar and the brilliantly arranged, yet almost spoken, lead vocal in the verses of "Find Me In Space." Harmony vocals take over as the song develops to its full splendour. The album closes with a new version of the Ivanhoe metal classic "Deeper Ground." Annette's lead and backing vocals soar above the agressive guitar-based arrangements and varying styles--including one like Julee Cruise--carry several of the track's quieter passages.

Clearly Charisma's debut album Karma has captivated the Musical Discoveries review team. While itt is the third of the more metal-edged albums reviewed in our Digest this month, like the other two reviewed above, it offers something for every type of Musical Discoveries visitor. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, and lots of further exploration (samples from each track are in the releases page at the band's website), this album is a must listen!

Painting Of A Painting
Image © 2001 MPress Records

More Rachael Sage
Interview and Reviews
Painting Of A Painting
Illusion's Carnival
Public Record

(13 April 2001) The latest album from Rachael Sage, entitled Painting Of A Painting (Mpress Records (USA) mp5454-2, 2001), is a stunning addition to her catalog (feature). Rachael is supported by a variety of musicians on the new album, comprised of thirteen adult alternative female vocal tracks. Allusions to Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Ani DiFranco may still be made, but Rachael charts her own territory on this stunning new album. After a wonderful launch concert in NYC, Rachael has just begun her 2001 European Tour.

Lush instrumentation provides a solid foundation for the evocatively delivered lead vocals, with harmonies multi-tracked at times. The heartfelt and warmly sung ballad "Cyanide & Cinnamon" opens the album--a dynamic instrumental bridge is especially noteworthy. "Satellite" is a moving sensually sung upbeat track. We were especially stricken by the contrast between the almost spoken jazzy style verses and the highly melodic and accessible--soaring in spots--choruses of "Better From Mars" and "Seraphim Smile." It is typical for Rachael to sing with tremendous emotion and the verses of "Pictures They Took" and "Among All Of God's Creatures" are no exception. Instrumentals in the choruses are rich while the vocals are heavily layered and stunning.

A bit jazzier and more upbeat, the catchy title track "Painting Of A Painting" is performed dramatically with crisp percussion, lush instrumentation and heartfelt vocal splendour. "Footsteps" is similarly constructed while "Underflow," "Apology" and almost spoken "Grace" are evocatively sung ballads with richly arranged choruses. The dramatic "Precious" is arranged similar to "Better From Mars" and "Seraphim Smile." The album concludes with "I Guess" a moderate tempo track wrenched with emotion and a lovely soaring vocal chorus, recognisable from an earlier release by someone else. The fourteenth bonus track is a final heartfelt ballad sung over the lightest piano accompaniment.

The latest album from Rachael Sage is a blend of hearfelt ballads and uptempo adult alternative rock tracks. Artwork accompanying the compact disc is equally enjoyable. Read further reviews and hear soundbites at her website or visit amazon.com to order a copy The latest album by Rachael Sage further charts her artistic development and stunning vocal talent. Like her earlier albums (feature) her new album Painting Of A Painting is a very nice listen!

Follow Your Heart
Image © 2001 Sony Music 

(13 April 2001) Cathy Vard was the first to break away from the Irish trio called The Vard Sisters who released an album of seventeen classical and secular arias entitled Heavenly in the mid-1990s. Her debut solo album is entitled Follow Your Heart (Sony Music Entertainment / Columbia (UK) 492792.2, 1998). Heavenly has subsequently been reissued in the Sony mid-price range and continues to be available from retail and online sources. The other two sisters--Wendy and Lisa--released their album A Time Of Change in 2000 (review). Featuring these attractive sisters' stunningly crystalline vocals, all three albums have had widespread critical acclaim. Wendy and Lisa--The Vards--are represented by the well known Dublin agency run by Pat Egan.

Cathy Vard's album is comprised of thirteen relatively well-known tracks. Produced by Bill Somerville-Large, arrangements almost exclusively by John Drummond have been carefully constructed to provide a quiet foundation for Cathy's lovely voice. Celtic roots come through in the opening "Lullaby" sweetly sung over a light instrumental. Also appearing on The Vards' album, Cathy's version of "The Second Time" is more delicately sung, as one would expect from a solo project.

The West End sounding arrangements of Paul Simon's 1968 tunes "Old Friends" and "Bookends" perfectly suit Cathy's voice. Cathy's version of the timeless Dvorak hymn "Going Home" was arranged by Michael Casey. With the orchestra in the background throughout, Cathy's soaring vocals, backed by Catriona Walsh and Cathy Corcoran, carry the melody.

The second half of the album blends classical arrangements with Irish themes. Des Cave's narration perfectly compliments Cathy's vocal part in "The Stolen Child" a tune written by Mike Scott with words by W. B. Yeats. Liam Lawton provides a Celtic edge to the album in "The Clouds Veil," "Seol" apparently adapted from the Riverdance tune, "Paidir na Trinoide" and "A World Within." Cathy's classical vocal training rings through in every note, especially during the sustains in the slower pieces.

Layers of crystalline vocals--Cathy's lead and the backing singers' harmonies--dominate the classical ballad "The Source" written by Brendan Graham. Cathy's version of a traditional air entitled "Raglan Road," arranged by John Drummond is delicately and sensually sung over a very light piano and string backdrop. Orchestrally richer than many of the tracks that precede it, the tender track, "A World Within" closes the album

Follow Your Heart is a definitive female vocals album. Cathy Vard's crystalline voice perfectly suits the selection of tracks included while instrumentals have been suitably arranged never to overshadow the vocal work but effectively backing the lead and harmony parts. Certainly worth a journey, this album--like the one by her sisters--is clearly a must listen!

The Dawn Of A New Millenium
Image © 2001 Unicorn Records 

(13 April 2001) The latest album by the Canadian progressive rock band Mystery, At The Dawn Of A New Millennium (Unicorn Records (Canada) UNCR 2040, 2000) is actually a compilation of 'best of' tracks from the band's earlier albums spanning the period from 1992 through 1999. Produced by Michel St-Père, the album lacks female vocals but blends orchestral textures of Rush and Yes incorporating Jon Anderson-like heavenly vocals by male singer Gary Savoie and is therefore not out of place at Musical Discoveries. The album struck us from first play and rated a must listen not long after being placed in heavy rotation at our headquarters. The band's albums Theatre Of The Mind (UNCR 2020) and Destiny (UNCR 2030) are now in hand; our reviews will be integrated with a band interview in a forthcoming feature.

Mystery's lineup on the album includes one of the best progressive rock singers, Gary Savoie (vocals), Michel St-Père (electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards), Patrick Bourque (fretted and fretless bass) and Stéphane Perreault (drums, synthesizers). This compilation is meant to conclude the chapter of the band's history with Gary Savoie. Mystery is reported to be hard at work on their next album with their new vocalist, Benoît David.

The title track from the band's latest album "Destiny?" opens the compilation and is followed by the the title track of their second album "Theatre Of The Mind" is a moderate-paced progressive rocker blending dynamic, almost metal-edged, guitars with orchestral keyboards and soaring vocal layers. Somewhat more delicate in its construction, "Before The Dawn" begins with ballad-like verses but develops into a more robust and dynamic piece. "In My Dreams," a mainly acoustic ballad, illustrates Savoie's vocal virtuousity; orchestral keyboards provide additional texture as the track comes to its climax.

Faster paced with woodwinds provididing orchestral textures underly the highly accessible Rush-like rocker "Black Roses." The flute parts are absolutely outstanding. "The Inner Journey-Part II" is a dramatic progressive ballads; Savoie's vocals are evocatively sung soaring above the lovelyorchestral arrangements. Driving guitars, lush keyboards dominate the arrangements of the highly accessible epic "Cinderella" with its lush layers of Savoie's vocals. "The Mourning Man" blends ballad like textures with more agressive progressive variations, soaring vocals and crisp percussion.

Two epic progressive tracks bring the album to a conclusion. "Submerged," from Destiny?, begins slowly with an acoustic arrangement but builds vocal intensity and adds further instrumentals--including flute--as the song develops. A highly dynamic fourteen+ minute track entitled "Shadow of the Lake," also taken from Destiny? wraps up the compilation. A high degree of variation between the different movements; symphonic keyboard textures and agressive metal-edged guitar parts contribute to a tremendous arrangement.

Mystery immediately caught our attention and piqued our interest in exploring their earlier albums in total. Enthusiasts of Yes and/or Rush will most likely find the band's music interesting and worthy of further exploration. Dramatic song construction, excellent musicianship and arrangements and well sung vocals characterise their sound. Certainly worth a journey, and available from progressive rock dealers this compilation--At the Dawn of a New Millennium--is a very nice listen!

Image © 2001 Virgin Records Ltd 

(13 April 2001) Former Eastenders star Martine McCutcheon's second album is entitled Wishing (Virgin (UK)7243 8 50527 29, 2000). The stunning young woman's first album You, Me and Us featured the hit single "Perfect Moment," which, heavily publicised by the label, took the UK by storm. McCutcheon is currently receiving widespread critical acclaim for her lead role in My Fair Lady in a West End revival of the classic musical. An album of original and cover pop music, Wishing has something for everyone, and Martine's vocals are mixed way up throughout.

Upbeat, highly accessible pop-oriented tracks, including "I'm Over You," "Every Time," "Love Changes Nothing" and the title track "Wishing" are lushly arranged with stunning lead vocals and lovely harmony backing vocals. "Tonight" and "Everybody" are dance club style numbers that features brilliant keyboards, layers of strings, thick bass, percussion and other effects.

Martine's cover of Donna Summer's "On The Radio" is stunning in every respect; lush arrangements perfectly support an evocatively sung vocal line without the loss of the song's original disco flavour. The orchestral arrangements behind "Together We Are So Beautiful" blend with a lovely vocal in a similarly styled track.

The album's ballads are "You Mean The World To Me" and "Cried So Many Nights"; Martine's lead is sensually sung over light contemporary arrangements. "Teardrops" is a gentler adult contemporary track featuring a sweeter vocal line "What You Get" is a lushly arranged upbeat pop number with a lovely hook. Martine's lead vocal is stunning.

Martine McCutcheon's second album Wishing is a comprehensive collection of highly accessible contemporary pop tunes certain to please a wide range of audiences. It shows further artistic development in the pop direction since her debut album and with stunning production quality afforded by significant investment from the record company is certainly worth a journey. A very nice listen indeed.

The Last Bright Light
Image © 2001 Cyclops 

(updated 15 July 2001) The third album from the York-based Celtic-progressive crossover band Mostly Autumn is entitled The Last Bright Light (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 100, 2001). The album significantly develops the band's progressive sound especially when compared to the Celtic flavours of their first two ablums (review). Although once again the vocals are dominated by Bryan Josh, Heather Findlay--winner of the 1999 Classic Rock Society coveted Best Female Vocalist Award--sings lead on two of the album's tracks. Mostly Autumn and Karnataka (review) will headline together at the HLC Rotherham in a CRS gig on 12 May 2001 (review.

Mostly Autumn is Bryan Josh (guitars, vocals), Heather Findlay (lead and background vocals, bodhran, tambourine, bells), Iain Jennings (keyboards, synthesizers, hammond organ, backing vocals), Liam Davison (guitars, vocals), Angela Goldthorpe (flute, recorders, backing vocals), Andy Smith (bass) and Jonathan Blackmore (drums). A variety of guest artists, including Troy Donockley (Iona), have contributed to the album. The lineup is currently touring extensively.

Mostly Autumn's development is immediately recognisable in the moody REM-like track "We Come And We Go" sung by Bryan Josh. Lush arrangements with lead guitar supported by Hammond organ in the chorus have tremendous depth. The first standout track of the album is "The Dark Before The Dawn," a dynamic rocker with thick guitar, Hammond organ and Pink Floyd-style vocals blending to create a progressive masterwork. The contrast between the progressive verse and Celtic style chorus--dominated by flute--works extremely well.

The album's ballads are sung alternatively by Bryan Josh and Heather Findlay. The arrangements in "Half The Mountain" develop symphonically with keyboards and flute carrying the instrumental bridge. Heather sings the gentle tune "The Eyes Of The Forest." Light guitars underscore a sweet and sensually sung vocal lines whilst a flute melody dominates the instrumental passages between them on the former. Heather also sings "Hollow," a gentle ballad supported by light guitar and keyboard. Her vocal line soars well above the instrumentals illustrating the range and power that won her the CRS award as their Best Female Vocalist in 1999.

Bryan Josh sings the title track, a lovely ballad--supported primarily by deep orchestral keyboards, a male choir and light guitar--that develops into a progressive rocker backed by Hammond organ and guitar. "Helms Deep" is an Iona-progressive-styled Celtic instrumental featuring Troy Donockley's low whistle melody that, aside from the Hammond organ solo and electric guitar riffs, harkens the listener back to the sound of the band's prior albums. The Celtic flute melody of "Which Wood?" perfectly compliments the instrumental that precedes it.

"Never The Rainbow" is the second standout track of the album. An upbeat progressive rocker written by Iain Jennings and Heather Findlay and featuring her soaring and evocatively sung lead, the track draws the listener in further with every chorus. It must be fantastic to hear performed in a live setting. The low whistle part by Troy Donockley in "Prints In The Stone" is especially enjoyable and compliments Bryan Josh's lead and Heather Findlay's backing vocal quite well. The progressive epic "Shrinking Violet," sweetly sung by Heather builds dramatically in its conclusion. The concluding progressive epic--"Mother Nature"--begins gently with a light acoustic-oriented ballad sung by Bryan and Heather as a duet. Thickening instrumental and vocal arrangements and lovely instrumental solos highlight the members' virtuousity as the track to a close.

Whilst the soundbites on the band's website have not been updated to include excerpts from the new album, you'll find a suitable introduction to the band, biography and tour information online. Mostly Autumn's latest album is available from many retail and online outlets and is certainly one to be explored further. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey we're certain that you'll agree The Last Bright Light is a must listen!

The Dream Sequencer
Image © 2001 InsideOut Music

The Story

On Universal Migrator, Arjen picks up the thread in the 22nd century. More than a hundred years have passed since the last world war destroyed all live on the planet earth, in precisely the same manner as foretold by the leading character Ayreon in the sixth century (from The Final Experiment, the first Ayreon album). Colonists were on Mars during that struggle, from where they observed the annihilation of earth from a remote distance. For years they were able to survive with the supplies they had brought with them. But the stocks, now depleted and none of the colonists have survived except the main figure of the Dream Sequencer. The sole survivor, a child of one of the original Mars colonists, he has never set foot on earth.

To make the tedious life at Mars a little more bearable, clever technicians designed the Dream Sequencer, a machine that enables them to travel back under hypnosis to their own childhood, and to lives before that; their pre-incarnations. In this way the main figure witnesses the first landing on the moon in 1969. he was a standard-bearer in the famous Rembrandt picture The Night Watch (17th century), he appears to be a reincarnation of Ayreon (6th century), he was present when Stonehenge was built (2,300 BC) and once, in the mists of time, he wsa the first (erect) human being on earth (50,000 BC). His wanderings are musically accompanied by mellow and atmospheric sounds.

On the previous Ayreon album, Into the Electric Castle there's a distinct opera-like structure in which the main figures react to one another within the same song. This time Arjen opted for a different approach. Each and every male and female singer has his or own song. As a result of this each new figure has its own distinct character.

More Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Live On Earth
Space Metal
Ayreonauts Only
Flight Of The Migrator
The Dream Sequencer
Fate Of A Dreamer

(14 April 2001) The latest project from Arjen Anthony Lucassen is a two album Ayreon set entitled Universal Migrator. The first album, entitled The Dream Sequencer (Transmission Records (Holland) TM-019, 2000 and InsideOut Music America (USA) IOMACD 2015, 2000), for the greater part contains subdued, atmospheric progressive songs with female vocal contributions by a broad variety of artists familiar to Musical Discoveries' readers. The second, Flight of the Migrator (Transmission TM-020 and InsideOut IOMA2016) is filled with pulverizing metal songs.

Each album has its own concept and individual character and are natural follow-ons to the two-CD Ayreon rock opera Into The Electric Castle (Transmission TM-014, 1998). Further details on the albums' concepts, characters and artist contributions are readily available at Ayreon's website.

An album of rare alternative mixes and bonus tracks emerged after the Universal Migrator set was released. Entitled Ayreonauts Only (Transmission TM-027, 2001), the eleven-track compact disc includes two tracks by Arjen with Astrid van der Veen, a new and amazing female vocalist, with the track "Cold Metal" being from his forthcoming Ambeon project. A review of Ayreonauts Only and this new compact disc will be posted here soon.

A spacy narration by the machine opens The Dream Sequencer album. With a running time exceeding 70 minutes, richly produced with lush progressive arrangements, the album also features stunning female vocal contributions. Floor Jansen (After Forever [feature]) provides a lovely backing vocal supporting Johan Edlund in "My House On Mars." Lana Lane (feature) sings the stunning progressive ballad "2084." The lovely and highly memorable track "One Small Step" tells the story of the first lunar landing; lead vocals are by Edward Reekers and backing harmonies are by a choir comprised of the album's female vocalists.

The instrumental melody in "The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Coco" is balanced between guitar and keyboard parts. Beatlesque-style vocals by Mouse add a lovely texture to the spacy texture of the track. Written by Erik Norlander, the symphonic "Dragon On The Sea," with its lush keyboard arrangement and stunning acoustic guitar part, is a 'classic' Lana Lane ballad. Powerful vocals lead vocals soar well above the instrumentals in the verses; the choruses are full of lush vocal harmonies.

"Temple Of The Cat" is very clearly one of the standout tracks on the album. Sweetly sung by Jacqueline Govaert (from the Dutch punk band Krezip) over an acoustically light keyboard orchestral arrangement, vocal harmonies provide a lovely texture to the everso sweet ballad. Arjen sings the lead vocal part on "Carried By The Wind," a short but melodic progressive track featuring complimentary guitar and keyboard work. Damian Wilson's powerful and evocative vocals—typified by his former work with Landmarq, Threshold and Ayreon—soar in the theatrical style ballad "And the Druids Turn To Stone." Arjen's guitar solo mid-track and shimmering Hammond organ parts are tremendous.

"The First Man on Earth" is sung by Neal Morse (Spock's Beard) very much in a Beatlesque style with lush processional style keyboards being complimented by acoustic and electric guitar. Layers of harmony vocals by Rocket Scientist Mark McCrite add texture in the track's choruses. Highly accessible and orchestral, the epic track—complete with dramatic guitar and keyboard solos—is certain to delight a broad range of audiences. The album concludes with a gently dramatic—yet spacy—instrumental entitled "The Dream Sequencer Reprise."

The first collection of this new set from Ayreon is a a superb song-based progressive rock masterwork and certainly is fitting as the next installment from Mr Lucassen. Whilst only four of the eleven tracks feature female vocalists, Arjen's passion for their inclusion remains evident. Check out the soundbites on the web. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is certainly a must listen!

Flight Of The Migrator
Image © 2001 InsideOut Music

The Story

Flight of the Migrator follows a different course. It takes us back to the beginning of time, just before the Big Bang, from which the universe originated. It was a time of utter chaos. During that Big Bang the first sould comes into being, the Universal Migrator. It divides into a great many parts, which all start out on a journey to a planet where they can settle. They bring life to the various planets and initiate various forms of civilization. With the aid of the Dream Sequencer the colonists on Mars follows one of those souls on its long journey to earth. He passes astronomical phhenomena such as quasars, pulsars, super novas, black holes and wormholes. Meanwhile the Dream Sequencer does everything in its power to wake the colonist from his deep hypnosis.

Even though the principle and main figures were developed by Arjen, his descriptions of astronomical phenomena are uncannily accurate. Lucassen buried himself in the studies of Stephen Hawking, a scientist who has studied the source of the human race for many years, and provides insight within the lyrics to Universal Migrator.

More Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Live On Earth
Space Metal
Ayreonauts Only
Flight Of The Migrator
The Dream Sequencer
Fate Of A Dreamer

Flight of the Migrator opens with an exhilirating instrumental romp "Chaos." Metal-edged electric guitar, shimmering Hammond organ and vast progressive-style synthesizer riffs illustrate the virtuosity of Arjen Anthony Lucassen and Erik Norlander. Crisp percussion—and a dramatic solo—by Ed Warby underscores the arrangement. Jubilant ELP-style keyboards, characteristic of Erik Norlander's work, blend with heavy guitar in the first vocal number—underscored by male choir—entitled "Dawn of a Million Souls" with the lead sung by Sir Russel Allen. Symphonically orchestral progressive keyboard work during one bridge is as stunning as the shattering guitar solos in others. Damian Wilson's backing vocals provide additional texture to the track.

One of the standout tracks from the album is "Journey on the Waves of Time" sung by Ralf Scheepers. A hard driving rock tune, it balances heavy metal sounds with lush Hammond organ riffs and a catchy melody, supported by the lead vocal, keyboards and choir textures. Arjen's unique variation of the Beatlesque style re-emerges in "To the Quasar" sung by Andi Deris. Delicate synthesizer and guitar perfectly compliment the processed vocal part. Full of special effects, the symphonic metal-edged keyboard and guitar instrumental passages are especially notable.

The three-movement "Into The Black Hole" blends metal guitar sounds with progressive keyboard work and the soaring vocal work of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickson. Lana Lane's backing harmony vocals compliment perfectly as does the keyboard romp near the track's conclusion. With Rhapsody's Fabio Kotipelto dramatic lead vocal, "Through The Wormhole," is a fast paced, percussive heavy-metal rocker. Lana Lane's harmony backing vocal is subdued beneath the instrumental arrangement. A vast guitar solo and romping keyboard solo, both by Gary Wehrkamp, are quite noteworthy additions to the piece.

"Out of the White Hole," sung by Stratovarious vocalist Timo Kotipelto is performed in a style similar to "Into The Black Hole." Lush majestic symphonic keyboards are contrasted by heavy metal-edged guitars. Keyboard solos are reminscent of ELP's Tarkus. Hard driving guitars and vocal harmonies by Robert Soeterboek dominate the arrangements of "To The Solar System" until lush Hammond organ and further keyboards join the arrangement. Heavily processed vocals in Battlestar Gallactica Sylon-style conlude the track in "System Alert."

The album concludes with "The New Migrator," a striking blend of orchestrally symphonic progressive instrumentals with heavy metal, complete with heavily percussive guitar work and double bass drum. Ian Parry's lead vocal and self-backing harmony parts are dramatically performed. Lana Lane also contributes backing vocal work to the final track. Lucassen's guitar solo is perfectly complimented by Keiko Kumagai's synthesizer and Hammond organ solos.

Much different than the first part of the set, Flight of the Migrator is equally enjoyable, especially for lovers of metal-edged song-based progressive rock. Certainly not a female vocals album by any means, it remains full of well-sung parts by a range of extremely talented musicians. A perfect compliment to the first part of the set, this album is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is also a must listen!

Image © 2001 Blueprint Records 

(13 April 2001) Since seeing Claire Hammill open for Renaissance on 09 March 2001 at the London Astoria and meeting her in the dressing room afterwards, we're pleased to review the reissue of her 1984 album Touchpaper (Blueprint Records (UK) BP306CD, 2000) as the conclusion to this Digest. Claire Hammill was recently featured in the CRS magazine Wondrous Stories and she has also recently performed at HLC Rotherham. Opening for Renaissance she was accompanied by another guitarist; she played for a half hour.

One of the definitive female vocalists of song-based progressive rock, her album Touchpaper illustrates her expansive vocal range and sonic power. "The Moon Is A Powerful Lover" blends soaring vocalise with evocatively sung powerful lyrics reminding us of Sally French (who u nfortunately disappeared after one album on SI Music). The album's title is derived from the lyric of "Denmark" which is sung in a very experimental Kate Bush or Michelle Young (review) style. The track "2 Fools In A Storm" is much more jazz-oriented with instrumentals dominated by saxophone.

Again we were reminded of Sally French's work in the upbeat track "First Night In New York." Symphonic instrumentals provide a lovely texture under the lead and backing vocal layers. Crisp percussion and upbeat rock arrangements compliment Claire's vocal lead in the very 1980s-sounding "Come Along Brave Lads." "Jump" and "Gonna Be The One" are pop-oriented tunes with lush keyboard arrangements rhythmic bass and Renaissance Time-Line style vocal lines. The variety of vocal textures works quite nicely. "In The Palm Of My Hand" is significantly more dance club oriented than the other tracks on the album. Claire's voice soars easily and evocatively above the instrumental arrangements.

"Ultra Violet Light" is substantially more dark and moody with guitars dominating the arrangements behind Claire's punky style vocal part. "Once Is Not Enough" is an upbeat, dance club oriented track, dominated by a funky keyboard part that concludes the album. Certainly very different from the albums reviewed above, this Claire Hammill album is an equally compelling female vocals album.

An extensive portion of Claire Hammill's back catalog is now available on Voiceprint/Blueprint and, with the extensive range of styles she has recorded, should be sought out by female vocalist enthusiasts. We have plans to do an interview and retrospective review of her work at Musical Discoveries in the future. This album certainly serves as a lovely introduction to the artist's work and is a very nice listen!

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