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July 29 2012 – On September 26th 2011 a band called Druckfarben released a self titled debut record. This one eluded our radar for a while but when we finally got a hold of it we were blown away by this progressive rock standard. Before we get ahead of ourselves let’s start at the beginning. The primarily Toronto based band consists of:
Phil Naro – voice
Ed Bernard– guitars, voice, violin, mandolin
William Hare– keyboards
Peter Murray– bass, voice
Troy Feener– drums, percussion
Druckfarben started off performing covers of prog classics by Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Rush and others, and the band’s first set (March 1, 2008 at Roc ’’n Doc’’s in Port Credit, Ontario) kicked off with the tour-de-force “”Close to the Edge.”” The band solidified their chemistry with a monthly gig at Toronto’’s Orbit Room (co-owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush) and a monthly prog jam (perhaps the world’s one and only!) at Roc ’’n Doc’’s. Area prog fans had much to celebrate, as a new community of musicians and fans was born, with Druckfarben at the center. As the band’’s reputation grew, audiences included Kim Mitchell, Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), Terry Brown (Rush producer) and other prog luminaries.
Although Druckfarben built up their collective performance chops on prog classics, the band always intended to apply the fruits of those labours to their own music. Work on original material soon started, with Ed leading the songwriting and production charge, and in October, 2011, the band’s debut self-titled CD emerged in all its glory. It’’s a tribute to the enduring love that all members of this quintet have had for progressive rock since their high school days.
Cool back story but lets set our sights on their debut CD. From the first notes of the synthesizer solo on opener ELPO to the 7:30 minutes of closing song Nonchalant this album is undeniably Progressive Rock. Tempo changes abound and come at spellbinding paces. One minute you are in a certain beat and a split second later you are in a totally different vibe. Pour on some massive Harmond late 60’s – early 70’s era reminiscent of Deep Purple or Pink Floyd and you begin to understand how great this record is. Lead off song ELPO is an instrumental classic that surely is influenced by Genesis’s masterpiece Selling England By The Pound. Keyboardist Hare is classically trained and his musicianship is on display loud and clear on ELPO.
Part Genesis, part Yes, the second song Influenza benefits from Phil Naro’s powerful vocals and the spotlight transports from the synthesizers to the vocals. Naro has been on our radar a lot lately as we recently reviewed 3D from one of his many other projects D Drive here. Naro’s vocals are forceful, full of range, and in a sense the perfect rock voice. We were impressed blown away with Naro’s rendition of both Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury during his Classic Albums Live shows (reviewed here and here respectively). It would be easy for Naro to stick to the confines of classic 70’s rock but the man is a chameleon and he shines as a prog rock vocalist. Many of the songs stay true to the prog rock fascination with fantasy and sci-fi, not only does the album cover portray what appears to be a pagan or alchemist image (you can read about the image here), but the song titles border on the realm of another dimension: Smaller Wooden Frog, Nat Nayah, and Sons of Anakim are perfect examples of this. Throughout the album we hear a perfect drum and bass combo from Murray and Feener that continue the great musicianship found on this album. Pure progressive rock glory.
Nonchalant borders on ballad territory but this is where Bernard shines. For the whole album Bernard’s guitars approach Howe/Lifeson territory and there should be no doubt that the man can play a mean guitar (and violin and mandolin as is the case on this song). Truly a master of his trade Bernard not only dazzles with his skill but blew us away with his sophisticated playing on this record. I can’t imagine how many countless hours he has dedicated to his musical passion but the results are very evident.
Verdict: 4 out of 5. Solid record that fans of progressive rock will love. The musicianship is of the highest level and with its top notch production is one of the greatest albums you have never heard of. I wish this album was released in the 70’s so I can stare at the album cover for hours and read along to the lyrics on the inner sleeve. Highly recommended!
Druckfarben track listing:
- Smaller Wooden Frog
- Dead Play Awake
- Walk Away
- Seems So Real
- Nat Nayah
- Sons of Anakim