Einsturzende Neubauten - Halber Mensch (85)
This German band is (or, rather, was) something completely out of the ordinary. They are definitely not progressive in terms of sounding like Genesis or Yes, but rather because their music is highly original (at least, I have heard nothing like it). There is a strong vocal presence in Einsturzende Neubauten's music. The spoken or chanted vocals are furiously angry, aggressive and evil-sounding. The vocalists whisper, hiss and yell in manners which vaguely resemble Devil Doll, but with an even more sinister touch. The lyrics are occasionally in English, but mostly in their native tongue, and contain as few cliches as the music. Most of the time the vocals are only accompanied by percussion, and frequently also by noises of all kinds - sometimes melodious, most of the time not. Exceptions are the title-track, which is completely vocal (and excellent!), and two other tracks totalling 16 minutes. These two tracks are filled with nothing but noise, excepting a little vocals (if they are not categorised as such)! There seems to be plenty of metal-to-metal sounds, like hammering and sawing, and this can also be heard (but to a much lesser extent) on some of the other tracks. Loads of things happen at a time in the two "industrial noise" tracks - they are powerful as hell! One can safely say that they are at the very border of progressive rock - as well as at the border of music in general. Still, it is sometimes possible to distinguish conventional instruments inbetween the noise, amongst others a digeridoo. In addition, the sound evolves over time, and I don't think that there is one boring moment in these two tracks! On the contrary, I find the mix of terrible noises inexplicably relaxing and pleasant in all its ugliness. The entire record is shockingly dark, negative and angry, and should be tremendously unpleasant to most people. I am not going to give this a rating, since it is the only record I have from the so-called "industrial progressive" genre. However, I consider it absolutely essential to those who are eager to try something different and who are not scared off by my description. Strangely, after I started listening to Halber Mensch, I have started to really appreciate certain noises in the traffic, at work etc. The only "aber" is that some of the vocal/percussion parts are not always dead-on, and that I could have lived without one of the two versions of "Yu-Gung". Two warnings can serve as a summary: 1) Missing out on this record could be a horrible mistake. 2) Buying this record could be a horrible mistake.
Errata Corrige - Siegfried, il Drago e Altre Storie - 8/10
I remember that I hated this record when I first bought it. However, it has grown on me, and now I find it really good. As the title suggests, the music is inspired by medieval folk music. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant - a cross between PFM and Camel describes it close to accurately. More remote similarities are Nick Drake, Celeste and Jethro Tull. The vocals could be a problem for some (at least, they were for me before I got used to them). The male vocalists do not sing in tune, but now I just consider it charming. One of the vocalists sounds very much like Galadriel's vocalist (who again sounds a lot like Jon Anderson of Yes). The vocals are in Italian and sometimes English. The English isn't pronounced well, but again, luckily, it just sounds charming. The most impatient listeners may grow tired of all the pleasantness as the album progresses, and for them the last track should be a refreshment. Abruptly, the music becomes very dramatic and even disharmonious - but somehow still with the characteristic Errata Corrige sound. The most important instruments - beside the vocals - are guitar and flute. Cello is also used, and sounds wonderful as always, and they have found room for some piano too. As you can guess from the description, this band won't make your head explode by means of raw energy, but rather by just being lovely. Time signature changes are used effectively here and there too. Gets better with every listen even after several years. Highly recommended!
Eskaton - 4 Visions (79) - 6/10
After Magma released the groundbreaking Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh in 1973, a number of zeuhl bands appeared in France. Eskaton were one of them, and 4 Visions is generally regarded as their best album. The similarities to MDK are obvious. It's enough to mention the gloomy zeuhl atmosphere, chanting by two female vocalists, use of electric piano and mind-ruining bass playing very much like Magma's. As one might expect from a Magma influenced band, the compositions are good, but also differ enough from Magma's to make them stand solidly on their own. Adding to the uniqueness of the sound, there are some nice, high-pitched synth sounds. And zeuhl is groovy as always. However, the production on the CD is far too sterile. It's all too clean; it doesn't bite. In addition (or perhaps: because of this), the musical power is a bit too uniform, so 4 Visions has difficulties keeping my concentration all the way through. It's never boring, but a little more variation would be appreciated - both towards calm and towards climax. Still, I can imagine that other zeuhlheads can disagree with me on this - there is more "musical information" here than on one hundred pop records. And the nine minutes of the track "Pitie", with some dual vocals that I like a lot, are no less than something very positive. To summarise: Good... but I almost never put it on, so it only gets 6/10.
Exploit - Crisi (72) - 3.5/10
No. At times, the three members of Exploit play some mediocre Italian prog, similar to ELP and The Nice. As you can imagine, it can't get all that good with only three members playing drums, bass and keyboards, respectively - but it has its OK moments. However, it also has some absolutely dreadful parts. The vocalist has a nice enough voice, but a very limited range, and it sounds horrible when he tries to push it. Some of the banal lyrics are in English, and the vocalist pronouces it about as well as I did when I was eight years old. But The Nice/ELP fans who manage to disregard this could enjoy the first fifteen minutes. Then the misery starts: The five-minute "Pazzia" begins with a drum solo lasting for a minute and a half. The rest of the track is mediocre jazz. Then follows what must have been Side B on the LP. It is not even "proggish", and by far the worst music I have in my collection. "Anche Se Ho Spagliato" sounds like something made by Beatles in 1963, only not as good. "Un Bambino... Un Re..." is a super-horrible, pretentious, over-shitty soul-pop song sounding a little like Julio Iglesias, only not as good. "Il Campanile Della Catedrale" is a little better; pretentious pop with bad vocals. "L'Anima Nuda" is more psychedelic and not that outrageously bad. And then! "Giochiamo Insieme" has got to be the worst three prog-related minutes of music EVER! It's waltz music, complete with a ridiculous bass line and a cheesy refrain. And they didn't even make it as a joke, it seems. The commercial, hard-rocking "La Tua Pelle Scotta" concludes the miserable side B, leaving any prog-rock fan wondering why he didn't buy a Britney Spears album instead.