Destrier

SKU: 267612
Label:
Long Branch Records
Category:
Art Rock
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"There’s a certain irony to a band naming its debut album A Long Time Listening and then waiting five years to release its follow-up – but whether by accident or design, this is exactly what Agent Fresco have done. In the interim, however, with only occasional ventures outside of their native Iceland, the quartet have managed to build something of a cult following with music that is both electrifying and emotional in equal measure. Amongst their fanbase, anticipation levels for second album Destrier are several orders of magnitude beyond stratospheric. So how can they possibly be met?

So let’s put everyone who may have clicked on this review with a sense of trepidation at ease as soon as possible, because not only have Agent Fresco met those expectations, they have surpassed them with almost astonishing ease. Destrier is, bluntly, a fucking masterpiece. Whether you read what follows this paragraph or not, you need to hear Destrier as soon as you can. You have been told.

For those of you that are still with us, let’s delve a bit deeper into exactly what makes Destrier (pronounced DE-streer, linguistics fans) so very special. Like its predecessor, the contextual nucleus of the album is an extensive exploration of the complex web of emotions surrounding a pivotal event in the life of singer Arnor Dan Arnarson. Whereas the theme of A Long Time Listening was the grief following the death of his father, Destrier deals with the aftermath of a particularly violent attack that left some significant physical and mental injuries. As one might expect, Destrier is a considerably more burly – at times even angry – affair.

A significant proportion of what makes Agent Fresco’s music so special is how cohesively the band operate together. Throughout Destrier, they pulse, flex, twitch and turn together like the sinews of a single, well-honed muscle. There is layer upon layer of complexity in the sound they create, yet it coalesces into something so immediately accessible that it reaches out to hug the listener like a long-lost friend even during that first, glorious, play through the record.

What’s more, whilst each individual track stands firmly on its own two feet, they are given an extra lease of life in the context of the album as a whole. This is particularly apparent with lead single “Dark Water“, whose eruption out of the ominous, brooding, Massive Attack-esque tones of opening track “Let Them See Us” pushes it into a practically euphoric release. The album ebbs and flows as a single, continuous work of art that makes pushing the stop button tremendously difficult, so it’s best to make sure you have a free hour for that first listen. What’s more, as my colleague and our resident Icelander Jon Þor pointed out to me, final track “Mono No Aware” fades down to the same delicate note that opens the album after reprising the title track. This effectively means that the album loops almost seamlessly, which is a magical thing.

The titular Destrier itself is a type of medieval war horse, whose use was reserved for battle alone. It is metaphorically deployed here by Arnor as a kind of spirit animal, giving him the fortitude to confront the anger and vulnerability he felt in the aftermath of the attack. This shows neatly the cryptic yet vivid imagery that Arnor is capable of conjuring through his lyrics, placing him in the same league as Maynard James Keenan, perhaps coupled with Muse‘s Matt Bellamy in both his sense of theatre and his achingly beautiful falsetto. However, without access to a full lyric sheet as I write, I’ll refrain from any hamfisted analysis of half-heard lines; I think it deserves more than that.

Destrier also shows that whilst their music is almost immediately identifiable as Agent Fresco, they are not bound by any restrictions of genre, making the album as much of a musical voyage of adventure and exploration as a lyrical one. Perhaps the most surprising moment lies in the title track itself, which suddenly drops into dense, practically atonal shards of syncopated noise. Elsewhere, elements of greasy garage rock, slinky lounge music and soft, bubbling electronica can be found alongside more familiar choruses (which are often big enough to be visible from space), delicate piano-led sections and ebullient math-rock riffing.

With more dynamic surprises like the vulnerability of “Bemoan” dropping into the brash savagery of “Angst” to be discovered, Destrier is a near-perfect artistic expression that stimulates mind, body and spirit in equal measure. Listeners may well find themselves immediately besotted, then even more deeply gratified through repeated listens.

As you can probably tell, Destrier is a most uncommon delight. It will almost certainly prove to be one of the most essential listens of 2015, and maybe an even longer timescale than that. We can only hope that it won’t take another five years for Agent Fresco to release their next album, but even if that does happen, we will probably not have tired of this one by then. Destrier is a masterpiece; a glorious, life-affirming masterpiece that, once heard, will make you wonder how you managed without it. Go seek." - The Monolith

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Mark Kaye brings a guitar performance to the band that fits their mission statement like a glove, fusing technicality with the sort of frantic atmosphere Mekong Delta had been capitalizing on with prior records. As far as Mekong Delta's metal edge is concerned, Douglas Lee's vocals may be the most controversial aspect of the sound. Although the complex vocalizations at the end of 'Them' declare that he is definitely has the ear for singing, his vocals have a tone to them that would fit much more comfortably in prog rock rather than thrash. Fortunately, Mekong Delta's metal side is never far ahead of the 'prog', and his performance here works just as well for the context as Wolfgang Borgmann's did on their debut.The classical aspect of 'Visions Fugitives' is without a doubt the most important part of the album. 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The soothing acoustic 'Introduction' leads into an eerie 'Preludium', complete with low horns and eerie bells to make it sound like something out of the haunted mansion in Super Mario Brothers. 'Dance' and 'Fugue' bring the piece into less frightening and more proggy, technical realms, often letting the band play powerfully without getting in the way of the orchestration. As far as the composition itself goes, it's remarkable to hear how many places both emotionally and sonically Mekong Delta can take a listener within a twenty minute period.In terms of flaws, the use of a computerized, or 'fake' orchestra may not hurt the compositions or music, but there is always the feeling throughout listening to 'Visions Fugitives' that things could be even more impressive, had the band had the resources to make a full orchestral rendition of their music a reality. A less-than-excellent production quality carries over to the prog metal songs as well, with the vocals sounding somewhat muffled and less mixed than they rightfully should have been. None of these studio issues are ever enough to take away from the excellence of the band's 'vision' however; it might even be said that the muffled sound and artificial instruments even add to the atmosphere. Mekong Delta have long been one of the most engaging acts to come out of German thrash metal, and 'Visions Fugitives' sees them finally realize their dream of bringing classical music to the thrash realm. Even still, it feels as if this project left open room for improvement, but if Mekong Delta never tops the majesty they have created here, I won't be one to complain." - Metal Archives
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  • "I have often likened being an author for an online music webzine as similar to being a treasure hunter, we sift through hours of detritus trying to find that gem of music composition that strikes a chord and has meaning, unlike the bubblegum pop of the mainstream world where it is all about money and marketing. True, the music that we champion and review may have little commercial success but, for the artist, this is the culmination of many hours of soul searching and downright hard work.These little gems of music are what I live for as a reviewer and, when you get a surprise release from out of the blue that simply knocks your socks clean off then, it makes it all worthwhile and puts a huge smile on my face.  That sensation of the hairs standing on the nape of my neck started again when I first heard Anton Roolaart’s new release ‘The Plight of Lady Oona’. This time, it wasn’t my discovery, this record was sent my way by Lady Obscure herself and, upon seeing the album cover, I was immediately hooked, as you should know by now, I’m always a sucker for an impressive album sleeve (showing my age there). As I worked my way through multiple listens, it wasn’t just the cover that impressed me.Anton Roolaart is a Dutch artist who lives in America, he has one previous album release, ‘Dreamer’ in 2007. Anton’s music is said to portray the quintessence of melodic progressive rock accompanied with lush orchestration, and this new release is certain to capture the listener’s attention once again. He does this with the help of some talented friends and musicians including Vinnie Puryear, Kendall Scott, Pieter van Hoorn, Rave Tesar and Michael Frasche. Renaissance’s Annie Haslam provides additional vocals on the title track. All songs were composed and produced by Anton with the help of co-producer Rave.You are immediately drawn into Anton’s lush cinemascapes and soundscapes with the brilliant Gravity, gentle, lush instrumentation accompanied by a plaintive vocal infuses the music with a sci-fi feeling, future music if you like. The relaxed yet uplifting tempo is central to the pathos of the track, it is atmospheric with the textured keyboards central to everything. There are hints of 70’s progressive rock in the slow, measured moog solo but, to these ears, it is a song that is set in the stars and the emptiness of space.Stars Fall Down is introduced by a lilting piano and breaking vocal, when the keyboards and laid back drums slip into place it has a real synth pop ethos. That 80’s feel is emphasised by the organ and catching vocal that increases in power as the track runs on. Another song that is food for a healthy intellect, another nice touch is the pared back, distorted solo that gives a smooth, ambient haze to the proceedings. This guy has more than one string to his impressive bow.If you are after an atmospheric, multi-faceted prog epic full of wonderful melodies, plot turns and structures then, look no further than title track The Plight of Lady Oona. Flute and acoustic guitar drift in with the mist at the beginning of the song, a folk influenced vocal and piano carry on the ambience as the tale begins. There are multiple influences at play here that Anton moulds into his own unique sound around which, the addition of Annie Haslam’s dulcet tones is a clever touch. The mood take son a definitive 70’s Yes edge with the catchy guitar and expressive bass underscoring an urgent keyboard that ramps up the pace, a spiralling, complex guitar adds another layer of sophistication along with a fulsome organ and minstrel-like guitar. The interlude that follows, full of mystery and opaqueness, is leading the way for Annie’s refined and exquisite vocal. This part of the song is poignant and full of feeling as, eventually, Annie and Anton join forces to deliver an uplifting vocal experience followed by some delightful piano and exquisite guitar work which blossoms into an impressive instrumental section where church organ, soaring keyboards and chiming guitar all contribute to a smorgasbord of musical delight. That mediaeval minstrel effect returns at the end of the song with a short vocal and extended acoustic guitar section that John Williams would be proud of, this is a precise and complicated track that is delivered with verve and aplomb, sublime.There is a darker intensity to Standing in the Rain, it is ominous, evoking a dystopian spirit. The vocal delivery is heightened and impassioned, the guitar riffs are momentous and deep lying and the percussion is moody and profound. The violin touches are vivid and the song cuts through you like a knife, holding you in its hypnotic stare, unable to break free as the mesmerising guitar solo slowly works its way into your psyche.After the potent tension of the previous track, instrumental Memoires is a musical breath of fresh air, dainty and enchanting. The acoustic guitar dances around your mind before a luscious piano makes your heart sing. The heavenly keyboards and ululating guitar join forces to bring a lustre of hope to all around, a real ‘feel good track’ to my ears.This piquant treat for aural receptors comes to a close with The Revealing Light and, at the beginning it is rather enigmatic and secretive and a very slow burner. The flute sound signals the start of something as the cryptic vocals begin, ardent and fervid, backed by a distorted, acid guitar. Lush, electronic keyboard notes envelop you in their embrace as the song takes a psychedelic turn, all Sgt Pepper in its tone. Things change with a twisting, coruscating note delivered by a melancholic guitar  and the solemn drum beat giving a sober feel to the track as a sombre voice over closes out the album with just about the right feel.‘The Plight of Lady Oona’ is an album that gives up its delights bit by bit, there is no instant gratification on offer here, if you are prepared to invest time in the music it will deliver a cornucopia of musical delights. Anton Roolaart is a name to look out for, my first introduction to his music has been an intensive and incredibly impressive one and, it won’t be my last." - Lady Obscure
    $12.00
  • 2 CD edition comes with a bonus disc featuring acoustic versions of material from the core album."Recently Dutch symphonic metal outfit Epica celebrated their first decade as a band with a massive show and a release of a DVD and now they’re back with a brand new studio album, which may very well be their finest moment to date…On “The Quantum Enigma” Epica has grown far beyond their humble musical beginnings. The symphonic elements and the massive choirs are still very much in place, but the band has found a new sense of renewed vigour and focus. High paced scorchers like ‘The Second Stone’, ‘The Essence Of Silence’ and ‘Reverence – Living In The Heart’ are poignant examples of the aforementioned refound sense of urgency. The band isn’t afraid to incorporate elements from thrash, death and progressive metal in their musical fabric, which makes this album a tempting listening adventure for people who aren’t necessarily into female fronted/symphonic metal.Vocalist Simone Simons shines on tracks like ‘Omen – The Ghoulish Malady’ and ‘Canvas Of Life’, while Arien van Weesenbeek shows his drumming prowess in the aforementioned ‘The Second Stone’ and ‘Essence Of Silence’. A special mention should go to guitarist Isaac Delahaye. His tasteful leads and solos are the proverbial icing on the cake. Particularly the main guitar solo in ‘The Quantum Enigma – Kingdom Of Heaven part 2’ is simply mindboggling.Production-wise “The Quantum Enigma” is a true gem, thanks to the considerable talents of Joost van den Broek (ReVamp, MaYan) and Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Pestilence). The direct and in-your-face production sound gives the album a definitive edge which is somewhat lacking on some of Epica’s earlier works.“The Quantum Enigma” is the sort of record where everything comes together. Great songs, great atmosphere and the band has finally managed to capture the energy of their live shows on a studio album. It’s still early in the year, but “The Quantum Enigma” is destined to become one of the musical highlights of 2014." - This Is Not A Scene
    $14.00
  • "2 CD ANTHOLOGY BY THE LEGENDARY PROGRESSIVE ROCK GROUP CRESSIDA24 TRACKS REMASTERED FROM THE ORIGINAL TAPES FEATURING EVERY TRACK FROM THE BAND’S TWO ALBUMS RECORDED FOR THE LEGENDARY VERTIGO LABEL BETWEEN 1970 & 1971WITH FIVE PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED TRACKS – INCLUDING TWO FROM A 1970 BBC SESSION, TWO UNRELEASED DEMOS AND AN UNRELEASED SINGLE TRACK BOOKLET WITH FULLY RESTORED ARTWORK, RARE PHOTOGRAPHS & ESSAY. Esoteric Recordings are pleased to announce a 2CD ANTHOLOGY by the legendary Progressive Rock group CRESSIDA. One of the finest groups to sign to the legendary VERTIGO label in 1969, CRESSIDA’s unique Progressive Rock style earned them a loyal fan base in the early 1970s, with their legend growing over the ensuing decades and their followers growing, with notable aficionados including MICHEAL AKERFELDT of the band OPETH. The roots of Cressida were sown in March 1968, when guitarist John Heyworth answered an advertisement in Melody Maker, and later travelled to London to join The Dominators. With vocalist Angus Cullen he settled down to some serious writing, eventually welcoming bassist Kevin McCarthy and drummer Iain Clark to the fold and now calling themselves Charge. In 1969, shortly after returning from a German tour, the band's organist Lol Coker decided to leave, and moved back to Liverpool to marry his Swiss girlfriend and take over his father's business. He had stayed just long enough to play on the band's first demo, which got them a recording contract with Vertigo Records. Peter Jennings then joined. At this point the band settled on the name Cressida. Their first gigs as Cressida were in Germany, including the Star-Club in Hamburg sharing the bill with Colosseum and East Of Eden, in the Autumn of 1969.The band’s self-titled debut album was recorded at Wessex Studios with Ossie Byrne producing, and was one of the earliest releases on Vertigo. Cressida went through a difficult phase when Heyworth was forced to leave in early 1970. He was replaced by John Culley. The new line-up recorded Cressida's second LP, Asylum, later in 1970 (again with Byrne producing, and with orchestral arrangements by Graeme Hall), but it was released pos-thumously in 1971, the band having broken up in September 1970. Noted jazz flautist Harold McNair guested on the song "Lisa" from the album. Heyworth sadly died in January 2010, but in 2011, three of the four surviving original members of the band, Angus Cullen, Iain Clark, and Kevin McCarthy got together again with Peter Jennings. This anthology has been compiled by the group themselves and is a fine tribute to an inspiring band and has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes, and features a booklet with new essay."
    $21.00
  • For reasons beyond my comprehension this German six piece band is being lumped in with Graveyard and Witchcraft.  Yes this is a retro sounding band and hard rock is one of their primary influences and yes there is an occult theme running through the album.  I hear much more of a 70s hard rock sound.  Think in terms of Uriah Heep, Lucifer's Friend and Deep Purple but also some undercurrents of bands like The Devil's Blood.  There is Iommi-type riffing that turns up so I guess that's the Sabs influence and the connection to those Swedish bands.  I'm digging the swirling organ sounds. "Orcus Chylde are a band with a sound that is very hard to categorize. Parts Doom, Pysch, Prog Rock, Proto-Metal mixed in with a delicious 70's Occult Rock feel.They are part of the new breed of Doom Rock/Metal that is starting to make waves through the rock world. They have just released their astonishing debut S/T Debut album. An 8 song and 48 minute blast of out of this world psychedelic riffs.The album is expertly produced and played by everyone involved.If your a fan of 70's Hard Rock Bands such as Led Zep, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple then your going to love this. It takes the music from that era but adds some cool modern Doom Rock riffs to truly stand out from the crowd.This album feels like a greatest hits collection of this great band rather than their debut album. All of the songs  are great especially - The Day The Seventh Angel Came, Valley Of Thorns, Over The Frozen Rivers.All showing what this great band does so well. Paying homage to great bands past and present but putting their own spin on things. Such as the sublime vocals of vocalist Tobias and the Organs. The organs add a dream like quality to their music. Some times unsettling but altogether original and fucking superb.This album is receiving a whole lot of praise all over the place. And rightly it should. As it's Orcus Chylde's callling card to the world of Hard Rock/Doom Metal that a truly important band has arrived on the scene. And that they are here to stay for a long, long time.Long May It Continue. An outstanding album by a great band from our German Brothers.If you want a truly operatic theatrical doom rock/metal album full of original ideas and riffs then I recommend you check this excellent band now. You would be mad to miss out this excellent album." - The Sludgelord Blog
    $15.00
  • Hidden Masters is the latest retro discovery from Rise Above Records.  Typical of most of their signings, Hidden Masters are British - specifically Glasgow, Scotland.  These guys set their sights a bit earlier than Diagonal and their ilk.  This music is psychedelic tinged rock that has an affinity for Freakbeat London circa 1968.  I'm reminded of bands like The Kinks, Pretty Things, The Yardbirds.  I'm even hearing strains of US west coast psychedelia like Quicksilver Messenger Service.  Vocal harmonies are quite prominent but never reach Beach Boys levels.  If you are looking for prog moves here you will be wasting your time.  This one is a trip in the Wayback Machine but the controls are set for an earlier time.  Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing and I do."With the toybox psychedelia of Tame Impala hitting the mainstream and all things “out there” becoming the sound of summer 2013, Hidden Masters have landed at just the right time with an album which is absolutely smothered with heavy psyche. It is so psychedelic in fact, that you could be forgiven for thinking you had woken up in the late '60s and the acid had never worn off. Prepare for the trip of your life!Blasting off with ‘She Broke The Clock Of The Long Now’, sub-Sabbath riffs are interspersed with frenetic piano and melodic vocals. On top of this harmonies swoop and swoon and guitars make thrilling runs. Forget all music that has happened in the last fifty years as you are placed right in the heart of Carnaby Street once again.‘Into The Night Sky’ is held up by the piano as everything else clatters around it, Almost telekinetic, there is understanding of how this music should work and the trap off falling into too much going on is tempered by the space between. Music should be able to breathe and Hidden Masters know how to do this perfectly.‘Perfume’ could have come straight off Nuggets with its urgent vocals and swirling Hammond. It's the closest you get to a possible single but you doubt this is even considered. No, Hidden Masters are more interested in that old fashioned statement...the album. Every song is a trip in itself which as a whole satisfying whole show a relentless talent at work.Nothing sounds quite the same and by the time you get to ‘Like Candy’, which is possibly one of the greatest songs ever written with its insane sing along section followed by the funky work out on organ, you have lost all grip on reality. ‘Last Days of The Sun’ does this too only this time it transports you with its Arabian flavour. If only The Kinks were this good!There is nothing like Hidden Masters at the moment, the closest comparison in contemporary circles is Howl Griff who take a much more elegiac road. Hidden Masters are the sound of the best acid trip ever and then some. Lysergic and blistering, the sun will never be the same again." - Echoes And Dust
    $11.00
  • "At first glance I was not entirely convinced there was a genuine reason for this release, after all the guitar legend scooped Prog Magazine’s 2013 Progressive Music Award for “Event Of The Year” following another Genesis Revisited sell out performance at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. So why the release of a second CD/DVD box set inside of 12 months capturing his Genesis Revisited tour only this time filmed at the Royal Albert Hall?Any artist/group would choose the Royal Albert Hall over the Hammersmith Odeon just on prestige alone, and maybe Steve choose to record this event for posterity, after all the reaction to the tour – worldwide – has been unprecedented, with more UK dates added in October / November 2014 to satisfy demand.But there must be more to it than that, and there is, a change in the setlist.But this does present something of a quandary for fans. Is it worth buying ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ in addition to ‘Hammersmith’? And if you have neither, which one then is the better buy?The set list was altered for the second leg of the tour, with the ‘Albert Hall’ gig gaining ‘Carpet Crawlers’, ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’, ‘Horizons’, ‘Ripples’ and ‘The Fountain Of Salmacis’ at the expense of Hammersmith’s ‘The Chamber Of 32 Doors’, ‘The Lamia’, ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, ‘Blood On The Rooftops’, ‘Entangled’ and ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’.In order to re-live such a seminal chapter of prog rock history live on stage for Genesis Revisited, Hackett surrounded himself with a team of exceptional musicians including keyboardist Roger King (Gary Moore, Snoop Dog, Jamelia), Gary O’Toole (Chrissie Hynde, Kylie Minogue) on drums, percussion and vocals, Rob Townsend (Eddie Henderson, Bill Bruford, Django Bates) on sax, flute and percussion, Lee Pomeroy (Rick Wakeman, Take That) on bass, and Nad Sylvan (Abbas’s Michael B Tretow) on vocals.Special guests are Roine Stolt and Amanda Lehmann reprising their respective album contributions on ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ and ‘Ripples’, Ray Wilson does exceptionally well with lead vocal on ‘Carpet Crawlers’ plus ‘I Know What I Like’, and not to be outdone, a certain John Wetton sings on ‘Firth Of Fifth’.Deconstruct this, analyze it, and then put it all back together again, and then you really have a choice to make, Visually and audibly, there’s little to pick between these stunningly masterful performances, the only choice you have to make, is which songs you want to hear, and being Genesis fans we want to hear them all, so if you have one, buy the other, and if you have none, buy them both, as you will regret it if you don’t." - Planet MoshFull track listing:1. Dance On A Volcano2. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight3. Fly On A Windshield4. Broadway Melody of 19745. Carpet Crawlers (w/ Ray Wilson)6. The Return Of The Giant Hogweed (w/ Roine Stolt)7. The Musical Box8. Horizons9. UnquietSlumbersForTheSleeprs10. In That Quiet Earth11. Afterglow12. I Know What I Like (w/ Ray Wilson)13. Firth of Fifth (w/ John Wetton)14. Ripples (w/ Amanda Lehmann)15. The Fountain of Salmacis16. Supper’s Ready17. Watcher of the Skies18. Los Endos
    $15.00