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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Alex Carpani

The Sanctuary

Review by Gary Hill

2010 has seen the release of some of the best music in recent memory. That makes it very hard to come with a ten best list for the year. This album is certainly a contender, though. It has a modern sound, but is so firmly rooted in classic progressive rock that it wouldn’t be a big shock to find out it had been released in the 1970s and was a reissue. Of course, that’s not true. This should appeal to the fans of the original run of progressive rock. There is plenty here that feels like bands like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Kansas and Genesis. Of course, no matter which influences stand out to a given listener, it’s an amazing album however it’s sliced.

Track by Track Review
Burning Braziers

Keyboards lead off and the track builds very gradually from there. Then it threatens to move to a metallic texture, but instead keyboards come over the top and the motif is closer to a harder rocking Emerson Lake and Palmer. It moves through a series of changes and alterations and at points comes close to metal, but the keyboards keep it more firmly grounded in progressive rock. This extensive instrumental covers a lot of musical ground, and while the closest comparison is ELP, hints of Yes and Genesis also appear. Some circus styled music and more classical progressions are also incorporated at times.

Spirit Of Decadence
This rises up gradually with ambience serving as the introduction. Then keyboards join and create wonderful worlds of instrumental sound. It builds in a powerful way from there. It modulates out to a progression that brings in lots of Yes and Genesis and the first vocals of the disc join amidst that progression. Once more the keyboards really dominate this thing, but while they sounded rather like Keith Emerson’s work in the opener, they are closer to Rick Wakeman’s style here. They take this into a very melodic movement later that’s closer to Genesis. It’s another powerful and dynamic piece that even seems a bit like Kansas at times. It changes often and in very great ways. A mellower movement later and the build up that follows are very much in keeping with the type of music that typified early Genesis. While the opener had a lot of changes and variety, this piece makes that one seem staid by comparison. In fact, it’s amazing how much is packed into a five and a half minute song. They even take it out to a mellow symphonic bit late.
The Dance Of The Sacred Elves
The retro keyboard sound that opens this is incredibly tasty. It has a sort of dancing nature to it, feeling like some kind of an elf dance. Other instruments join after a time and this is another piece that is likely to make a listener think about ELP at times and Yes at others. Still, another jam is more like the more proggy side of Kansas. It’s another dynamic and powerful cut that is full on prog and definitely dominated by the keyboards. It has a lot of symphonic elements built into its tapestry. It’s another instrumental piece.
Entering The Sanctuary
Keys once more start this off and hold it for a time. As it builds up there is some crunchy guitar, but the track still retains a progressive rock, rather than metal, nature. Emerson Lake and Palmer is again on the menu, but there are plenty of other sounds here, too – Yes being one of them. It gets quite symphonic at times and is very dynamic and full of changes and alterations.
Knights And Clergymen
A retro keyboard sound akin to early Genesis leads off and they build it from there. It turns out into a smoking hot progressive rock jam that’s got a lot of Emerson Lake and Palmer and a lot of Yes built into it. The closing segment of this instrumental calls to mind Kansas’ “Magnum Opus” again.
Templars Dream
While all the familiar players are back on this progressive rock jam in terms of influence, it definitely doesn’t risk seeming like the rest of the album. They take it through a number of intriguing and powerful changes and movements. There’s a great Wakeman-like piano solo that heralds the entrance of the vocals. This is another powerful piece of music with a lot of diversity and variety built into it. It’s one of those pieces that just keeps getting rearranged and turning corners here and there.
Memories Of A Wedding
The keyboard movement that starts this is quite classical in nature, but the song works out to more of the same killer retro progressive rock that’s been heard throughout. While all the familiar references are here, this one is perhaps more Genesis-like than some of the other material on show. It’s every bit as dynamic and powerful as the rest of the set, though.
Master Of Ceremonies
If the last piece was more Genesis-like, this one doesn’t seem to have a lot of that band in the mix. However, Yes, Kansas and ELP can all be heard at different points in this powerful cut. A mellower movement later calls to mind Klaatu a bit, but they power back out from there. This is a dynamic and very potent instrumental piece that is full of changes and twists. In a bit of a surprise there’s a little bit of flamenco music at the end of the piece.
Moonlight Through The Ruins
There’s a fairly long balladic movement that calls to mind Genesis, but it also moves out to some of the more modern and crunchy instrumental work of the whole set. In many ways this is the most complex and diverse cut on show. There is a lot of Genesis in the harder rocking movements, too, though. And that extensive instrumental movement gives a return to the Genesis-like balladic section. This is arguably the strongest piece on show. Of course, when everything is this good, it’s really hard to pick one standout.
Leaving The Sanctuary
This killer instrumental at times calls to mind Pentwater. At other points Emerson Lake and Palmer are on the bill. Still other sections make one think of Yes and others point to Genesis. All in all, though, it’s a smoking hot progressive rock jam and a great way to end the proceedings in style.
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