In this special Prog edition of Rock Pile, Kevin Wierzbicki tells about Minutian's Inwards, Odin's Court's Turtles All the Way Down and THEO's The Game of Ouroboros.
Inwards is the second release from this Finnish prog band, an effort informed by the cathartic process the band went through after the 2012 death of guitarist Jaakko Jernberg. Even if the listener is unaware of the loss of Jernberg, a sense of searching is palpable here on cuts like "Hollow Heroics" and "On Derelict Sidings." Minutian is not given to bombast as some prog bands are and they don't use synths; it's just two guitars and a rhythm section backing up vocalist Mikko Heino, and every note rings clearly on cuts like "The Crust of the Earth," a song that recalls the non-noodling side of Yes. "Onus" begins with a brief, classically-influenced piano intro that gives way to a subtle world beat rhythm and understated vocals from Heino, but the guitars are turned back up for the slightly thrashy "Manifest." A good headphones album, Inwards closes with the haunting Jernberg-penned "Redeemer."
Turtles All the Way Down
Title song "Turtles All the Way Down" opens this album and as a dreamy instrumental showcasing the guitar work of band front man Matt Brookins it will definitely be a pleaser to fans of Pink Floyd. Turtles All the Way Down is a concept album broken into segments titled Universe, Life and Everything and each of the three segment begins with a variation of the Floydian title song. Most of the album is performed in a modern prog style with lots of instrumentation but "(A Song for) Dragons," coming mid-album in the Life segment, is toned down to allow harmony vocals to crank up the emotional level of a song that's about the loss of innocence. A brief a cappella intro begins the following number "The Death of a Sun;" the song eventually rocks it up and ends up sounding a lot like Queensryche. The album ends with "Box of Dice (Does God Play?)," a King Crimson-esque showcase for Brookins.
The Game of Ouroboros
Big O Records
Prog fans who miss the Alan Parsons Project will get a pleasant surprise with The Game of Ouroboros as here THEO tell a story of an intrusive futuristic government set to long jams filled with lush keyboard-driven melodies, ominous bass patterns, understated guitar and cool vocals from front man Jim Afredson, who on the jazzy "Creatures of Our Comfort" recalls the work of Donald Fagen. Alfedson also plays all the keyboards here, occasionally breaking out the Hammond organ for a hot solo.