Zen Carnival - Bardo

Year of Release: 2006
Label: ProgRock Records
Catalog Number:
Format: CD
Total Time: 67:16:00

The American quartet Zen Carnival has been working on this album on and off since 1999. In fact, several of the tracks on the new Bardo album were written long before the band's debut album Inheritance was released, yet they didn't feel right to fit on the band's first album. Contrary to a lot of upcoming bands in this genre of music, the band has a very strong and competent singer, whilst the music contains a fair amount of strong melodies and accessible hooks. On the other hand certain passages and solos do remind me of the skills of Happy The Man and some of the originality of the Canterbury scene as championed by the likes of Hatfield And The North. Each single composition and arrangement is brilliantly composed. The acoustic opening of "Blindness" simply is stunning with piano and voice guiding each other towards a fragile result which near the end gets close to the power of Yes during "Yours Is No Disgrace," not in the least because of the strong Steve Howe sound on guitar whilst also incorporating a great choir. Meanwhile the vocal melody also reminds me of New Musik and their "Painting By Numbers."

With "Coax" the band delivers the kind of atmosphere one would associate with bands such as Blackfield and No Man, with Ken Pfeifer settling for a comfortable vocal range. In fact Ken's voice can be seen in the same league as Peter Nicholls, Tim Bowness and Steve Hogarth; in other words: a dying breed of originality and quality! I also hear echoes of the seventies band Khan and their Space Shanty album. Also from a production point of view, these twelve tracks sound ace, as if they were recorded with one of the genre's top producers behind the mixing desk. It's a pleasure to read that the album has been produced by the band's main man Bill Denison as he has done an excellent job. A song like "Shadows Speak" simply sounds stunning and is a great example of how contemporary prog rock should sound like. This fresh approach is the kind of music that helps the genre out of its negative label, which it received by the media ever since it's heydays in the seventies.

The material still lacks that extra push, that extra dimension of instant recognizable melodies, which puts Zen Carnival in the same league as Liquid Scarlet and Brother Ape. That's if these guys can pull it off live like they do on record. Maybe this is their next challenge apart from recording that all important third album for which they can't wait another seven years. Meanwhile Bardo surely can be rated as one of the top ten best albums of 2006. I'm a fan!

Solar Circles / In This World / Blindness / Coax / Half Awake / Shadows Speak / The Gate / Pins And Needles / Beneath White / Zeitgeist / Evening Of Our Days / Coda

Bill Denison - acoustic and electric stringed instruments, keyboards, vocals, flute
Michael James - piano, keyboards
Ken Pfeifer - vocals, keyboards
Carl Puglisi - drums, percussion

Inheritance Bardo (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: February 20th 2007
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg
Artist website: www.zencarnival.com
Hits: 1611
Language: english


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