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Samurai of Prog, The: The Imperial Hotel

The Samurai of Prog is a project that was put together by Italian bassist Marco Bernard (the man behind The Colossus Projects) and Finnish drummer Kimmo Pörsti in 2009. Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar) rounds out the core of the group. Their first two albums Undercover (2011) and Secrets of Disguise (2013) mostly consisted of cover songs. Their brand new release The Imperial Hotel contains all original compositions and is my first foray into the band's music.

Also helping out the band are notable musicians Robert Webb (keyboards, vocals), Linus Kase (keyboards, saxophone, vocals), Octavio Stampalia (keyboards, vocals) and David Myers (piano) as well as many special guests.

The first track "After the Echoes", written by Stampalia, features twists and turns through various themes and tempos in the tradition of classic '70s prog. The Yes influence is pretty obvious but by no means does that diminish the track. Swirling piano amidst fast staccato-like rhythms, lush vocal harmonies in the vein of Jon Anderson, thick bass tones and melodic motifs will have fans of classic prog yearning for more.

"Limoncello" is a Robert Webb composition featuring rollicking keyboard lines and biting guitar licks sometimes having an Eastern theme. There is plenty of guitar and keyboard interaction taking the tune in different directions but always holding the main melody close at hand. I think fans of The Flower Kings and Kaipa will like this track.

The pretty "Victoria Summer Home" is a short interlude played on the grand piano by David Myers and leads us into the epic title track, which was originally written by Robert Webb's old band England in 1975. This updated and extended version is a fantastic slice of retro prog slipping and sliding through various themes and segments meticulously played and well thought out. The music is both adventurous and melodic with fantastic interplay between guitar, flute, violin and keyboards.

The last track "Into the Lake" is another impressive display of musicianship with a Gentle Giant-like vocal arrangement, virtuosic keyboard/violin work and tasty guitar, both acoustic and electric

Just as impressive is the lavish forty page booklet and trifold digipack with artwork by Ed Unitsky. It is absolutely stunning.

The Samurai of Prog have outdone themselves with The Imperial Hotel and I can safely say this is one of the best prog releases of 2014. If you enjoy the likes of Genesis, Yes, Kansas, et all, I cannot recommend this album enough.

Track Listing:
1. After the Echoes (8:43)
2. Limoncello (7:57)
3. Victoria's Summer Home (2:53)
4. The Imperial Hotel (28:09)
5. Into the Lake (8:43)

Added: November 26th 2014
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 3138
Language: english

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