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NEW AND FEATURED:
It’s possible the title of The Enid’s 13th studio album The Bridge (2015, digipack) alludes to bridging the gap between the old The Enid and the current generation of the band. Or maybe it’s a bridge to the next The Enid album Dust. The band state that on this album, they wanted to further explore the classical elements of their music in finer detail. The orchestral arrangements and vocals are bolstered by symphonic/ambient guitar textures and huge choral arrangements. The majority of the songs are re-imagined arrangements of songs from The Enid’s back catalog, with vocals added to formerly instrumental pieces. “When you listen to The Bridge, the merely good is transformed into the sublime and exalted. The Enid have delivered a set of songs that enable you to take time away from your hectic life and give you a melodic treat of great magnitude, the closest thing to a legal high, an oasis of calm in a world of chaos. Yes, it will not appeal to all with its delicate sensibilities, but for me it is something that, once heard, I cannot ever do without.” Read the full Progradar review. There are lots more The Enid CDs on our British page along with much more info, while our DVDs page should have some The Enid DVDs.
Head (2000) is the debut by British prog band Thieves’ Kitchen, who on this CD sound vocally very much like Jadis. Instrumentally it’s a bit more diverse than that, with lots of proggy things going on throughout five long tracks spanning 63-minutes. The final 20-minute track T.A.N.U.S. is worth the price of admission alone, as they add a National Health or Bruford feel to their otherwise more neo-prog style, foreshadowing the direction they would head (pun unavoidable) in.
On Argot (2001), Thieves’ Kitchen continue with the style established on T.A.N.U.S., with four extremely long tracks totaling 65-minutes. There is little if anything neo-progressive on this CD. Keyboardist Wolfgang Kindl favors organ, often with the sound and style of Dave Stewart/National Health, while guitarist Phil Mercy, like Phil Miller, plays in an angular style. Overall the music is more rock-oriented and less jazz-influenced than National Health (and it almost goes without saying that there is no writer in the band on the level of Dave Stewart). Despite the neo-prog background of some of the members, T.K. de-emphasize melody, as the complexity of the music leaves little room for melodic vocal lines. Echolyn offshoot Finneus Gauge is a good reference point.
Shibboleth (2003) is their third CD and it trumps the previous two. The band now take their cues more from Hatfield and the North and National Health than from the symphonic bands. Since their previous album, Thieves’ Kitchen swapped their male singer for Amy Darby, and her voice fits the music better. While organ is still his main keyboard, Wolfgang Kindl plays some Mellotron on this album, in case you wondered what a Canterbury band would sound like with Mellotron. So here is a modern British prog band carving out their own identity, creating music to satisfy cravings for complex arrangements and instrumental interplay, and finally getting everything right.
For The Water Road (2008, 73-minutes), Thieves’ Kitchen’ have a new keyboardist: Thomas Johnson, formerly of Änglagård. The rest of the lineup remains the same, but there are guest musicians. Änglagård alumnus Anna Holmgren contributes numerous flute passages, original TK bassist Paul Beecham plays sax and oboe, and cello makes an appearance courtesy of Stina Pettersson. Furthermore, vocalist Amy Darby also plays recorders, clarinet, harp, and Theremin. The album was recorded at Rob Aubrey’s studio, with the keyboards recorded at Mattias Olsson’s studio in Stockholm. Johnson was very much involved in the writing, and for the first 25 minutes or so, the Änglagård style is dominant. After that, Thieves’ Kitchen’s Canterbury style reasserts itself, with guitarist Phil Mercy still responsible for much of the writing. This is the best-sounding TK CD so far, and with the blend of the Änglagård and Canterbury styles, the best TK CD to date period.
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (2013, digisleeve, 57-minutes) is well worth the long wait. The core of Thieves’ Kitchen remains singer Amy Darby, guitarist Phil Mercy, and keyboardist Thomas Johnson. Flutist Anna Holmgren returns, while the rhythm section on this album is Sanguine Hum’s: Paul Mallyon (drums) and Brad Waissman (bass). Other guests include cellist Tove Törngren and trumpeter Paul Marks. TK’s well-established jazzy Canterbury style dominates (Bill Bruford’s Feels Good to Me is another good reference), with the Mellotron and secondary instruments adding important extra dimensions. Darby’s vocals remind us of Squonk Opera. The busy Rob Aubrey again engineered. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Clockwork Universe (2015, digisleeve) features new bassist Johan Brand from Änglagård. “Where Phil and Thomas Johnson have really cranked things up a notch or three is in the composition, making this, in this reviewer’s opinion, their strongest album to date without question. I remember when Dave Stewart wrote music like this.” Read the full review by Bill Gillham (Cirrus Bay).
These are the 2015 digipack editions on Sireena Records of Dry (1979) and Sky Racer (1981), both mastered from the original tapes. Streetmark was a German prog band that released four albums on Sky Records, beginning with Nordland in 1976, followed by Eileen in 1977. Keyboardist Dorothea Raukes was a founding member and one of the first female figures of the German prog scene. The band went through constant lineup changes, and by the time of their third album Dry, Raukes had taken control of the band as well as most of the lead vocals. The singer on the first Streetmark album was awful, and the singer on their second had been murdered by this time (not on account of his singing), so Streetmark are at their best in the vocals department on the two albums here. Dry is an underappreciated German prog album. With this album, the band moved toward a more melodic and rock-oriented prog style, while maintaining a good deal of spaciness. There is loads of organ and synths, with melodic guitar leads. The “Neue Deutsche Welle” (NDW), the German version of new wave, ran a few years behind punk and new wave in the UK, so though Dry is from 1979, it feels more like 1976. There is disco influence in one song, but it’s actually not a horrible track. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
After recording their first three albums in Conny Planck’s studio, Streetmark moved to Dieter Dierks’ studio for Sky Racer. Raukes was the only original member on this album, which continues along the same trajectory as Dry, the quality dropping off slightly as the level of commercialism increased a bit, unavoidable at that time. You’d think the short song Stick to Reggae would be one to skip, but it’s an instrumental done almost entirely on synths. The title track is also instrumental and a Genesis/Camel-inspired highlight, as Raukes plays fast and furious lead synth lines like you just don’t hear anymore. Fortunately Streetmark didn’t follow the emerging trend of the NDW, and overall Sky Racer is a decent prog album, certainly for 1981 when prog was at or near a low point. It would be their last.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other projects. The Sula Bassana material consists of long, mostly-instrumental psychedelic space-rock excursions dominated by heavily-fuzzed guitar, with synths and Mellotron strings in support. Schmidt also handles bass and drums, with occasional help from other musicians on drums and vocals. Dark Days is from 2012, The Night from 2009. Both were mastered by Eroc (Grobschnitt). This is the 2015 jewel case edition of The Night.
Dreamer is the first Sula Bassana album, originally released in 2002. This “10 Years Anniversary” edition has been remastered with two bonus tracks added. Read the Aural Innovations reviews of Dark Days and The Night, and many more reviews on the Sula Bassana site.
Live at Roadburn Festival 2014 is the recording of a one-off concert by Sula Bassana, who normally never plays live under this moniker, accompanied by a full band assembled for this event. Of the four (mostly long) songs, only one (Dark Days) appears on a previous Sula Bassana studio album, but the live version is extended and includes some improvised parts. Eroc again mastered.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If the Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet Quantum Fantay’s CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog that take this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Terragaia (2014, digipack) is a 70-minute concept album featuring guest appearances by members of Anima Mundi, Neo Prophet, and others. Despite the passage of nine years since the first Quantum Fantay CD, we’re still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
With four long tracks of almost exactly the same length, Dancing in Limbo (2015, digipack) showcases a new Quantum Fantay lineup, which only adds fresh angles to the band’s trademark style. Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles guests, which makes perfect sense.
Kind of surprising no one combined “progressive” and “fusion” for this band name before, even if there is little real fusion here. Profusion are an Italian heavy prog quintet (vocals in English, keys, guitars, bass, drums), who you might file alongside Subsignal. Profusion’s drummer is a native of Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), which explains the Georgian ethnic elements that appear in some songs. Phersu (2015, digipack) is Profusion’s third album and features well-known guests from outside Italy, including Mamuka Ghaghanidze from Georgian ethnic fusion band The Shin, Polish virtuoso accordionist Jakub Mietła, and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, originally from Georgia. (To see/hear Anita, watch the video for Wrinkled Maiden). A creative band like Profusion expands heavy prog beyond its usual restricted boundaries.
Flor de Loto (Lotus Flower) are at present the biggest prog band in Peru. The band began as an instrumental quartet with their first CD released in 2005. The current lineup is bigger now, with lead and backing vocals (in Spanish) and instrumentation consisting of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, flute, Andean woodwinds, tenor sax, bass, and drums. Initially Flor de Loto were more jam-based and psychedelic. Their music continued to evolve, becoming carefully-composed, more European and less Andean sounding and closer to the prog mainstream, with a slight metal influence eventually creeping in but also some fusion. They added vocals while the psychedelic aspect vanished. There has always been a folk element that is central to the band’s identity, calling to mind an Andean version of Tempest. The flute has always suggested Tull and Solaris, maybe early Camel when the flute playing is more pastoral. The earlier Flor de Loto CDs are more or less sold out. The Mexican Azafran label has released Flor de Loto’s sixth album Nuevo Mesías (2014) in a factory-sealed, 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. The CD contains nine new songs, while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains six videos (two live), the Making of Nuevo Mesías documentary, and a photo gallery. The videos are all songs from previous albums, so no redundancy with the CD content.
Medusa: En Vivo en Buenos Aires is Flor de Loto live in Argentina in November 2014. This two-disc set is housed in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve. Both the CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contain the 12 tracks of the concert. The DVD also includes two song videos, three live videos from other concerts, and a 2015 documentary.
Peruvian band Supay play instrumental flute-led prog, with (initially) two woodwind players in their lineup in addition to keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums. The woodwinds include the quena (a traditional Andean end-blown flute), the quenacho (a bigger quena), the tarca (another traditional Andean wooden flute), the zampoña (double panpipes), and the toyo (another bunch of bundled pipes). The music is symphonic prog enriched by Andean folk music. Not surprisingly, that folk element is generated mostly by the Andean flutes while the rest of the band is playing in a symphonic rock style, though the guitarist and keyboardist occasionally slip in a folk-based melody. Think of Los Jaivas at their most progressive.
Confusión, their debut album, was first released by the band in 2004 (with a different cover), then re-released in this 2006 edition by Mylodon Records. Supay’s second El Viaje was also first released by the band in 2007, again with a different cover, then by Mylodon in this 2009 edition. (The El Viaje album was preceded by an EP of the same name; this is the full-length CD.) There were some line-up changes and only one woodwind player remains, so there is slightly more guitar and less flute, but Supay’s style is largely unchanged.
Señales was first released by the band at the end of 2013, followed by this Mylodon edition in 2014. It sees Supay becoming increasingly symphonic and is their best album, easily accessible to most prog fans. There are some vocals (in Spanish) though the music remains predominantly instrumental. This album deserves far more attention than it has received so far. Watch the videos for the Señales and Señales Parte II. More info at Prog Archives.
John Hackett is of course Steve’s younger brother and longtime sideman. Another Life (2015, digipack) is John’s long-awaited new rock album, the follow-up to 2005’s Checking Out of London, with most of the same people involved. Nick Clabburn again provides lyrics, and John is again joined by brother Steve on lead guitar, while Anthony Phillips guests. The whole project was produced and mixed by Nick Magnus, who again takes care of keyboards, drums, and programming.
Yuka & Chronoship are a Japanese progressive rock band formed in 2009 by female keyboardist/vocalist/composer Yuka Funakoshi along with three leading Japanese studio musicians: bassist Shun Taguchi, guitarist Takashi Miyazawa, and drummer Ikko Tanaka. Water Reincarnation (2011) is mostly instrumental but does have lovely (English-language and wordless) vocals and vocal harmonies. The Japanese symphonic prog scene has been relatively quiet of late, but Yuka & Chronoship are in the same league as Kenso and Mr. Sirius, though distinct from either. Their music is highly reminiscent of late 1970s progressive rock, very European-sounding, but not retro. The key (pun accidental) is that they are led by a keyboardist who can play and who can compose, who is versed in classical as well as jazz. There is technical virtuosity, but it isn’t about technical virtuosity. This is a fantastic album and a necessary one in an era where what passes for progressive rock often lacks the classical foundation, depth, and class of Yuka & Chronoship.
Dino Rocket Oxygen (2013) is Yuka & Chronoship’s outstanding follow-up. “Yuka & Chronoship have really hit one out of the park with Dino Rocket Oxygen. Finely crafted retro-prog for all to enjoy. I hope you dig it as much as I do.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Progressive Rock Central review.
With The 3rd Planetary Chronicles (2015), Yuka & Chronoship are making some of the best symphonic prog on the planet. Newcomers should start with this one and work backwards. “The music is melodic and powerful, with echoes of past progressive rock but with a fresh attitude. Yuka’s keyboards are in the forefront, with piano often at the core, augmented by organs, synthesizers, Mellotrons, and more; but the band is outstanding, whether supporting her or stepping forward to lead for a time. Takashi Miyazawa’s guitar is frequently an integral part of the arrangements, with some outstanding lead lines. Yuka’s vocals are a much more prominent presence than on previous releases, mostly in the form of lush choruses; this is most definitely not a case where vocals detract from great instrumental music. This third album continues the growth seen over the first two – they just keep getting better. The 3rd Planetary Chronicles is one of the highlights of 2015.” Read the full Exposé review. Be sure to listen to the album montages (mp3 icons above).
Vly is a distant collaboration between British-based guitarist Karl Demata (Crippled Black Phoenix) and New York singer Keith Gladysz, Italian keyboardist Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre), bassist Chris Heilmann (Crippled Black Phoenix), and Swedish drummer Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow). The musicians never met face-to-face, instead relying on the now common method of sending files over the Internet. The band says the sound of I / Time (2015, digipack) includes “elements of progressive rock, classic rock, folk, early-Floydian psychedelia, intimate pop melodies, massive walls of epic guitar riffage, post-classical, post-rock, and electronic music.” The music is in the mainstream of the modern prog style that has Steven Wilson as its patron saint, with that slightly psychedelic, dreamy, indie-rock atmosphere. The retro elements include some Beatles references, the aforementioned Floyd influence, and some vintage keys, but otherwise there is little connection to classic prog or Änglagård or Il Tempio delle Clessidre. Just so that’s clear. Watch the album trailer and the video for Circles.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. The seventh Karfagen album 7 (2015, digipack) is centered around the nearly half-hour epic Seven Gates. Kalugin says: “I’ve done my best to create it with the variety of being both dynamic and also allowing the music to breath, to recreate the late 70s prog ‘tone’ that I still enjoy so much today.” The label says that Kalugin stays true to his love of Camel, Focus, and The Alan Parsons Project, to name just a few. Watch the album teaser video. See our East European page for the full Karfagen catalog and more info.
Antony Kalugin has half the musicians in Ukraine on the Sunchild albums, with the vocals in English. Synesthesia (2015, digipack) turns over lead vocals to John Sleeper, who we know little about other than that he is the best singer Sunchild have had. With a true lead singer on board, Synesthesia puts more emphasis on vocals, evolving in a Peter Gabriel direction, with the distinction between Karfagen (more instrumental and more challenging) and Sunchild now clearer. Sunchild have taken the next step toward international stardom (such as it exists in the prog world). See our East European page for the now extensive Sunchild catalog, as well as Kalugin’s other bands.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic, and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and real strings. It is majesty without bombast.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack) is the fourth t album. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic, and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Fragmentropy (2015, digipack) continues an amazing string of albums for Thielen, with t now getting the recognition this music deserves.
Seven Steps to the Green Door consistently produce one of the most intriguing modern takes on progressive rock. In true postmodern fashion, this German band integrate many different styles into a cohesive whole, but there is little doubt that it is symphonic prog at its core. The classically-influenced piano playing of Marek Arnold is a key feature of the music, and he also adds some woodwinds. They have excellent male vocals (and some female vocals) in English. Their albums are sophisticated and very well recorded.
Step in 2 My World (2008, 66-minutes) is their second. Where the band have really taken things to the next level are the vocals. They use one female and two male singers, both in lead and harmony roles, plus a guest spot for Larry B., the singer from the current Stern Combo Meissen and Toxic Smile.
The? Book (2011, digipack) was first released as a hardcover digibook with 52-page booklet, but that edition is gone, replaced by this less expensive and less elaborate digipack. Larry B. again guests, as well as Flaming Row leader Martin Schnella (who would become a full band member). This concept album is the band’s most ambitious to date, more intense than the first two. “The conclusion this time is simple: the best (retro)-progressive album of the year. Melodic but never dull, diverse without being unstructured, both gentle and fierce, sustained by an elaborate story that focuses on what seems for a lot of people to be currently burning in their soul.” [Musikreviews.de, translated from German] “...the album offers everything the proggies’ heart desires: springy melodies, complex rhythms, delicate vocal harmonies, fast-paced keyboard and guitar riffs, and a pinch of metal for seasoning here and there... Certainly one of the best German (prog) rock releases of recent years.” [Babyblaue Seiten, translated from German] “Seven Steps to the Green Door have clearly reached the premier league of the German prog scene... My absolute buy recommendation!” [proggies.ch, translated from German]
Among the guests on Fetish (2015, digipack, 78-minutes) are Arno Menses (Subsignal), Dan Mash (United Progressive Fraternity, The Tangent), and Steve Unruh (Resistor, United Progressive Fraternity). Seven Steps are at their best on this album, which has everything a fan of contemporary prog could want. Fetish is so nimble, melodic, and playful, and yet it is inventive, always pleasantly surprising the listener, compositions full of complexity that still come across as prog ear candy because the band have a knack for making everything flow effortlessly. Watch the album preview video, the video for Porn!, and listen to Inferior on YouTube. “Seven Steps to the Green Door has crafted a magnificent album with Fetish, it’s as easy as that. The sheer diversity of this album will perhaps alienate some, but the generally easy-flowing compositions are easier on the ears than you would imagine from a band incorporating such a great diversity into their material. And a top quality mix and production also ensure that these fairly challenging compositions are easy to enjoy. An eclectic recording well worth inspecting, and on my personal shortlist as a strong contender for album of the year for 2015.” Read the full Prog Archives review. See our German page for the related band Toxic Smile.
Project: Patchwork is the large-scale project of German multi-instrumentalist Gerd Albers, featuring at least 27 other musicians, not counting the choir. The more recognizable names include Martin Schnella (Flaming Row, Seven Steps to the Green Door), Kalle Wallner (RPWL), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile), Yossi Sassi (Orphaned Land), and David M. Scholtz (Orpheo, Eisenhower). There are several female and several male vocalists, with the lyrics in English except for the beautiful song Bau’ Dir ein Schloss. There is some heavier material that may suggest Ayreon and Flaming Row, but Tales from a Hidden Dream (2015) is more colorful than that, covering more stylistic ground while staying within the boundaries of progressive rock. Maybe that’s the ‘patchwork’ in the name, but the producers have blended the contributions from all these musicians into a cohesive whole, and the fact that the album is not overproduced and overblown makes it a very successful debut. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Oblivion and Land of Hope and Honour. “All I can say is this album is as close to perfection as any I have heard this year. It is clearly progressive in nature, but many genres are touched upon such as folk, hard rock, metal, funk, and orchestral music. One would think that the album would sound like a hodgepodge of styles but nothing could be further from the truth. The music is cohesive and brilliantly played with beautifully soaring guitar, lush keyboards, and strong lead vocals.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review.
Edison’s Children is Marillion’s Pete Trewavas and American musician Eric Blackwood. Their 2011 debut In The Last Waking Moments (71-minutes) includes guest appearances by Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley, Steve Rothery, Steve Hogarth, Andy Ditchfield (DeeExpus), and Robin Boult (Fish). The music is closer to Porcupine Tree than Marillion, darker and more psychedelic, with Pink Floyd the dominant influence. Vocals are somewhat low-key but are an important part of the music. This is very much music composed by guitarists, with keyboards/synths used only for texture, but what a difference those textures make. The album builds to the long penultimate track, which is majestic in that Floydian way and is probably the one that remains in memory after the disc has finished spinning; the short final track is an aftermath and wind-down. Pink Floyd’s melancholic and dystopian view seems more in line with the current zeitgeist than the utopian view of Yes or the more positive energy of the other classic prog bands; In The Last Waking Moments is another example of that, and an excellent album in its own right.
A Million Miles Away (2012) is a limited-edition 29-minute, 7-song CD-EP. The title track and one other are from the In The Last Waking Moments album, and there is also a single edit of the title track. The main attraction here is four new songs, all mixed and/or mastered by John Mitchell. The CD comes in a cardboard jacket and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The Final Breath Before November (2013, digisleeve, 79-minutes) is Edison’s Children’s very impressive second full-length album, which no one is able to describe without using the word “haunting”. Henry Rogers (Touchstone, DeeExpus, Final Conflict) is the drummer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Edison’s Children’s third album Somewhere Between Here and There (2015, digisleeve) features seven new tracks, then the 80-minute CD is maxed out with several alternate mixes of other songs plus a live track. The celebrity mixers include Jakko M Jakszyk, John Mitchell, and Robin Boult. Among the guests are Chris Mack (Iluvatar) on drums and the son of Neil Armstrong (yes, that Neil Armstrong) on guitar. Not a giant leap for Edison’s Children, but a sizeable step.
Nemo have probably done more to popularize French-language prog than any other band of their generation. This is the limited 2CD digipack edition of their ninth album Coma (2015). The title is likely a reference to the fact that Nemo had previously announced they would be quitting at least temporarily. Not long after that, Nemo announced they were recording one final album, or at least their last for a long time. The second disc in this edition contains five bonus tracks: a Deep Purple cover, a Led Zeppelin cover, and the three long tracks Nemo contributed to Colossus/Musea’s The Divine Comedy (Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) series. Watch the video for Comaïne and listen to the album sampler on YouTube. See our French page for all the Nemo and related CDs.
This is the same New Jersey-based progressive rock band whose self-titled 1997 CD was released on Mellow Records. Advent’s second release Cantus Firmus (2006, 69-minutes) improves on their debut in just about every way. The band is heavily influenced by Gentle Giant, which is apparent within the first few seconds, even more so on this album than on their debut. But while Advent have some of the medieval feel and similar-sounding vocals, Gentle Giant isn’t the end of the story. There is some Genesis influence present, maybe a little Yes as well, so Advent’s style is often more majestic and regal than Gentle Giant. The album features wonderfully elaborate arrangements, beautiful guitar work (including a substantial amount of classical and acoustic guitar), and tight vocal interplay. The CD also includes previously unreleased 24-track recordings of two songs from the band’s debut CD as bonus tracks. As explained in the liner notes, Advent recorded 24-track versions of five songs in 1992, but due to various constraints, only one received a proper mix and appeared on their debut CD. The other four songs from those sessions ended up on the album in their original four-track cassette versions. So as you can imagine, the improvement in the 24-track versions is immense, and one of the bonus tracks also had new drumming added.
After a long silence, Advent return in 2015 with the remarkable Silent Sentinel (digipack, 78-minutes), picking up right where they left off but with larger arrangements and expanded instrumentation that includes a real choir. Certainly Gentle Giant remains the dominant influence, and maybe However should be added to the reference list, but Advent have used such influences as a springboard to a personal style, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another band today that sounds like this. Just listen to Voices from California on YouTube. “I really can’t exaggerate or overstate how much Silent Sentinel grabs and intrigues me. It’s the kind of release that makes me not only proud to be a prog fan, but it actually makes me proud to be alive, to live at a time that produces such artists. This is the equal of Big Big Train and The Tangent in terms of quality, innovation, and beauty... Silent Sentinel is something truly special.” Read the full Progarchy review.
British saxophonist/flautist and composer Theo Travis has played with a whole lot of people, including Steven Wilson (who mixed and mastered this album), Porcupine Tree, Gong, The Tangent, Soft Machine Legacy, Robert Fripp, Karmakanic, No Man, Bass Communion, Francis Dunnery, Bill Nelson, David Sinclair, Jade Warrior, and many more. Double Talk is Travis’ fusion band, who on Transgression (2015, digipack) play powerful instrumental progressive electric jazz-rock with a strong 1970s influence. Travis says: “I’ve written most of the music and much of it reflects my love of music from the late 1960s and early 1970s when the boundaries between jazz, rock, and experimental music were more fluid, though I think the music we have recorded still sounds contemporary. You might be able to hear the influences of King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as late Talk Talk and ECM artists such as Terje Rypdal and my friend Palle Mikkelborg.” One track is an instrumental version of The Tangent’s A Place in the Queue, another is a cover of Robert Wyatt’s Maryan. Listen to the album trailer part 1 and part 2. Part 2 introduces the other musicians in the band, who have a wealth of experience.
The self-titled Eldberg CD (2011, digipack) is the debut for this retro, early-1970s style prog band from Iceland. Eldberg sing in Icelandic. (Even the language is retro; it resembles 12th century Norse). The music is comparable to Trettioåriga Kriget on TK’s self-titled album and Krigssang, though the Eldberg members are too young to have been around when those albums were made. Pretty incredible to hear younger musicians so successfully capture the spirit of that music, though the Scandinavians are unusually adept at it. Listen to Enginn friður, Hliðarlif vor tíma, and Sunnan við sól, austan við mána on YouTube.
Eldberg’s second Þar Er Heimur Hugans (2015, digipack) continues in a similar style and is even better. Listen to Næturljóð on YouTube.
Taurus is SETI and Subterra keyboardist Claudio Momberg solo, a hybrid of classically-influenced electronic music and progressive rock, sort of Tony Banks meets Synergy meets Vangelis, becoming more rock-oriented on the later albums. Note Momberg is also a member of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy project. Dimensions is from 2010, Impressions from 2011, Research from 2013. Read the Prog Archives review of Research.
Opus IV: Elevations (2014) continues the shift toward the progressive rock side, with more guitar and drums used. In early 2014, Momberg set up a live-in-studio session where he was joined by a drummer, guitarist, and bass player, playing tracks from all four Taurus albums. So while the Elevations album is performed by Momberg on all instruments, the music appears to have been influenced by the full band experience, with more of the SETI energy apparent.
El Color de las Cosas (2014, digipack) is the debut for Chilean prog-fusion band Zeptelar, who should draw comparisons to Congreso, Fulano, and Hatfield and the North. Wordless female vocals are an important facet of their sound. Read the Prog Sphere review.
Aquí y Afuera is the 2009 debut by an symphonic prog band from Chile, instrumental on this first album. Being a young band, the drummer and especially the guitarist play in the metal idiom half the time, but it is keyboardist Alonso Quijada that distinguishes Anachronos from your garden variety prog-metal band. The guitar may be mixed as loud or louder than the keys even when doing nothing more than chugga chugga as metal guitarists are wont to do, but the music is dominated by Quijada’s classically-influenced keyboards, primarily piano. Everything of harmonic interest is in the keyboard parts, and Quijada uses samples for occasional touches of South American folk that add spice. Recommended to fans of modern bombastic prog.
The self-titled Anachronos CD is actually their second, released in 2014. But it does represent a new beginning for the band, as they added female lead singer Ingrid Contreras (singing in Spanish). Now Anachronos’s music has two stellar components: Quijada’s keyboards and Contreras’s vocals. Yes, the guitarist still plays metal half the time, but when he plays sympathetically to the keyboards, Anachronos are at their best.
Albatros are a Catalonian progressive rock band who sing mostly in Spanish, formed in 2000. Their second album Ursus (2011) combines symphonic prog with classic hard and psychedelic rock. The symphonic side of Albatros shows some influence of the Andalucían band Triana, with powerful vocals though not the strong flamenco flavor. One track is close to Hawkwind, another was probably inspired by the instrumental section of The Doors’ Riders on the Storm. Early Pink Floyd should also be mentioned. Read Erik Neuteboom’s review.
Mundo Bosque (2014) is similar, probably more consistent than Ursus. Read Erik Neuteboom’s review.
Misteriosevoci (2007, 60-minutes) is the debut CD for Italian prog band Barock Project, a magnificent album for lovers of Italian 1970s symphonic prog. The music is pure 70s style with vocals here in Italian, dominated by a virtuoso keyboardist schooled in classical music. It is that uniquely Italian blend of English progressive rock (ELP foremost), classical music, and romantic Italian pop melodies. Read the Exposé and DPRP reviews.
Barock Project followed with the CDs Rebus (2009) and Coffee in Neukölln (2012), shifting to English-language lyrics and, at the same time, more Anglo prog styles. Coffee in Neukölln is a fantastic album, and Skyline (2015, digisleeve) picks up where it left off, but Barock Project put it all together here, combining their classical-rock style, Italian melodic sense, infectious vocals, and their more Anglo prog styles into the album that should finally raise their profile to where it belongs. Vittorio De Scalzi of New Trolls sings and plays flute on the title track, while Paul Whitehead provided the artwork. As one Prog Archives reviewer says: “If this is not a classic-to-be, I have pretty much misunderstood prog.” Watch the videos for Overture and The Making of Skyline.
The Winter Tree is the return of Magus under a new name, owing to the fact there are too many other bands with ‘Magus’ in their name, but there is also a shift in style. The name ‘The Winter Tree’ is taken from the Renaissance song. The self-titled CD (2011, digipack) is the debut, and it shows that Andrew Laitres’ songwriting skills have matured a lot in the past nine years. (Andrew Laitres and Andrew Robinson are the same person, all names being subject to change with this band.) The Steve Hillage-like space-rock style that was a major component of the Magus sound is present here in one of the instrumental tracks but is otherwise used more as coloration. This is lush, understated, song-oriented symphonic prog with an affinity for the likes of later Camel and Colin Bass, Ken Baird, Maestoso, Mandalaband, and the Alan Parsons Project. Listen to Guardian Angel and A Twilight in Middle March on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility and ProgressiveWorld reviews.
Guardians (2012, digipack) is proggier than the first CD, but we’ll keep the list of reference bands mostly the same, just throw Genesis and Pink Floyd in there now. The Winter Tree have their own style, but it’s clear that Laitres’ loves are the first-generation British melodic prog bands, tending toward the softer side of the genre. Guardians is a beautiful prog album that doesn’t sound retro, but on the other hand ignores the direction taken by what is usually considered the modern prog movement, a direction that generally runs counter to most of the bands mentioned here. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Watch the video for Beautiful World.
Twilight of the Magicians (2013, digipack) is a mostly-instrumental album performed by Laitres with the assistance of several guests. The nine songs were inspired by the late Rudolf Steiner’s writings about the lost continent of Atlantis. It’s distinct from the first two The Winter Tree CDs, representing a return to the Magus style to some degree. The music varies from semi-relaxed, rhythmic, groove-oriented space rock to more overtly symphonic tracks to synthetic soundscapes, all exceptionally well executed. Watch the video for the title track.
In contrast to the mostly-instrumental Twilight of the Magicians, Earth Below (2015, digipack) contains all vocal songs, returning to the style of the first two The Winter Tree albums, and also sees guitarist/vocalist Mark Bond return to the fold. Earth Below features Mattias Olsson (White Willow, Änglagård) on all the drums, while Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel) mixed the album and added some guitar and keyboards. Latvian Baiba Kranate contributes some backing vocals.
See our U.S. page for the Magus CDs.
Even after so many albums, top Mexican prog band Cast have found a way with Vida (2015, digipack) to take their music to a new level. Roberto Izzo, violinist of GnuQuartet as well as orchestra director and violinist of New Trolls, is now a permanent collaborator both in the studio and live. The full GnuQuartet (violin, viola, cello, flute) plays on much of the album, as does woodwind player Pepe Torres, a longtime collaborator. Now with members from Mexico, Chile, and Italy, vocals in English, and cover art by Paul Whitehead, Vida introduces Cast as an international band who are supporting the album with concerts in England and Germany. Watch the album teaser on YouTube. See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and much more info.
GnuQuartet are Italy’s Acoustic Asturias, a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute, with rock sensibilities. In fact Karma (2014) consists of five prog rock covers plus one original composition. The covers are Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa), Roundabout (Yes), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Hairless Heart (Genesis), and Concerto Grosso 1, Allegro (New Trolls), while the original Stereotaxis might just be the highlight. GnuQuartet are not entirely acoustic as there are occasional effects on the strings, and the percussive playing style is rock, not classical. Read the JustIn Case Prog Radio and Exposé reviews. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
I Heard You Listening (2015, digipack) is the new Echolyn studio CD, their first in three years. We’ve been Echolyn fans from the early days -- seeing them in small clubs at the time of their first CD, attending the release party for Suffocating the Bloom -- so their early material is hard to displace as our favorite. Echolyn say that for I Heard You Listening, they went back to their musical roots and resurrected the original sound that made them famous, now with better production values, writing, vocal melodies, and musicianship. We couldn’t be happier! Listen to Different Days and watch the interview video. See our U.S. page for the rest of the Echolyn catalog. Collect them all!
This is the 2015 second CD (digipack) for Swedish prog band Agusa, following their 2014 debut Högtid. Their sound is straight out of the early 1970s, a mostly-instrumental, organic, psychedelic-flavored style of prog, with Hammond organ as the sole keyboard. For this second album, which consists of just two long tracks, they added a flute player. The music is in the Kebnekajse, Bo Hansson, and Flasket Brinner veins. Read The Obelisk review where you can also listen to the entire 20+ minute first track.
Italian Stefano Panunzi is a key figure in that ambient & jazz inflected prog subgenre that may not yet have a name but can count musicians such as Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison, Tim Bowness (not to mention Henry Fool and No-Man), David Sylvian, and the late Mick Karn among its other leading lights. Panunzi is leader of the band Fjieri, who debuted in 2009 with Endless. All those musicians apart from Sylvian played on that album, alongside quite a few others. Words Are All We Have (2015, digipack) is Fjieri’s second, another Anglo-Italian project, the participants this time including Fjieri core member Nicola Lori, Bowness, Harrison, 05Ric, Jakko M. Jakszyk, Daniele Iacono (Ezra Winston), American expat trumpeter Mike Applebaum, and several others. Lori’s twisting fretless bass is a worthy successor to Mick Karn’s. Most of the songs have vocals, sung by Jakszyk except one by Bowness, and they are quality songs. Imagine the band Japan (at the end of their career) extrapolated into even more progressive realms, merging with King Crimson, No-Man, and the solo work of all these great musicians. Watch the album trailer.
The CDs Stefano Panunzi has released under his own name are quite similar to the Fjieri CDs. A Rose (2010, digipack) is his second and features Mick Karn, Tim Bowness, Giancarlo Erra (Nosound), Theo Travis, Markus Reuter, Robbie Aceto, and many more musicians. It downplays the ambient jazz of Panunzi’s first CD and features more songs: seven songs using seven different singers, plus three instrumentals. The production is immaculate, the music mesmerizing and seductive; this is a masterpiece of ambient progressive rock. Read the Prognaut and DPRP reviews.
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Englishman Peter Jones, who has a background writing and performing adult contemporary music but went full-on prog with Cocoon (2014, 69-minutes), released on Rob Reed’s White Knight label. Well, most of our customers are adults and many of them are contemporary, so maybe this still is adult contemporary music. Jones cites his influences as (from the classic side) Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Queen, and (from the modern side) Frost, Big Big Train, and Haken, also Roine Stolt (who Jones may not have heard until recently, but as Stolt was a founding member of Kaipa, he can straddle both camps). The artist name is itself an allusion to Steve Hackett. If you have the love we do for Genesis and English whimsy, this album will make you drop what you’re doing and just listen and smile. This is the best release so far on White Knight. Read the Progarchy review.
What could be better than the best recent new prog artist turning out a fantastic second CD in a short time? Story Tellers Part One (2015, digisleeve) is just that. That Pete Jones wrote and recorded this new album in 28 days (because there wasn’t much else to do during February) indicates a singular talent at work. Pete lost his sight as an infant to Retinoblastoma, making his story quite amazing and inspiring. “Peter Jones has delivered what is, to my ears, an album that is even better than the delights of Cocoon. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm, and allure of Story Tellers Part One. It takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood. Peter is one of the pre-eminent songwriters out there today and has given us a little piece of wonder to enjoy.” Read the full Progradar review. Watch the videos for Beauty Falls and The Quest for Beauty.
The Singles Complete (2015, digisleeve) is a 2CD set containing 24 tracks and over 120 minutes of Magenta material. Included for the first time on CD are Magenta’s versions of the Yes song Wonderous Stories and the ELP classic Lucky Man. This collection includes some brand new remixes, alternate arrangements, and extended versions of classic Magenta songs. This 2CD replaces and supersedes the out-of-print 2007 single CD entitled The Singles, though that first edition contains a couple tracks that don’t appear on this 2CD. You may still find a copy of the original at a big discount on our British page, along with the rest of the Magenta catalog. The songs on that first edition were drawn from Magenta’s four previous EP/singles, but most of them appeared in new re-recorded versions, and none had previously been available on a full-length CD. So this 2CD adds the songs from Magenta’s two post-2007 EPs plus the aforementioned new mixes and such.
New Jersey prog band 3rdegree first appeared with a 1993 cassette release, followed by their first CD in 1996. They disbanded in 1997 but reformed more recently. Ones and Zeros Volume 1 (2015, digisleeve) is 3rdegree’s first full-fledged concept album, released in time for the band’s first-ever European tour beginning in September 2015, culminating with an appearance at the UK Summer’s End festival. With Ones and Zeros Volume 1, 3rdegree have taken the next step beyond their 2012 album The Long Division (digisleeve), itself a great album that exceeds 3rdegree’s earlier work. The music is drawn from 1970s influences such as City Boy, Genesis, Crack the Sky, Greenslade, and Utopia. It belongs in the same camp as Echolyn and IZZ and is on the same level. There are touches of jazz here and there as was common during the 70s, and 3rdegree really honed their vocal arrangements, which include those high-pitched harmony vocals that were outlawed after the 70s. The recording and arrangements follow the aesthetic of leaving space in the mix such that listening to the music is actually pleasurable rather than fatiguing. 3rdegree have come a long way from their beginnings and are now firmly among the top few U.S. prog bands, and vocally they are doing things that none of the others are. If you haven’t got on board with 3rdegree yet, it is time. Read the Progarchy and Prog Archives reviews of Ones and Zeros Volume 1. Watch the video for The Best & Brightest.
Narrow-Caster (2008, digisleeve) is a contemporary-sounding prog rock record, with some similarities to Echolyn or IZZ. While lead singer George Dobbs has a voice that reminds us of Dave Lawson of Greenslade (though Dobbs is a better singer), 3rdegree’s greatest strength may be their Yes-like harmony vocals. The result is sometimes similar to the band Ring of Myth -- 3rdegree use more keyboards and are more melodic but lack the Howe-like guitar. Read reviews at DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, USA Progressive Music, and Rock Report.
Human Interest Story (1996, 72-minutes) is also an excellent album of Ameri-prog, sounding like a cross between Rush and Echolyn. This is the last of the original jewel case edition.
3rdegree played their first live shows in over ten years at the New Jersey Proghouse in 2007. The Reunion Concerts double DVD (NTSC, all-region, digisleeve) contains 3rdegree’s traditional electric show plus an unplugged show. The show was recorded in 1080i HD (downres’d for the DVD). The discs are DVD-Rs. Included are five songs that do not appear on any other CD or DVD plus covers of Gentle Giant’s Peel the Paint and Sarah McLachlan’s Elsewhere. Bonuses include behind-the-scenes and interview footage.
Hailing from the northeastern U.S., Zen Carnival debuted in 1999 with Inheritance, instantly-likeable 1970s-style prog in a Genesis/Camel direction. Zen Carnival’s second CD Bardo (67-minutes) is a much more mature and original work, and one of the best modern prog albums of 2006. While Inheritance was a more traditional progressive rock album, Bardo took a step in the direction of Porcupine Tree, and sounds quite contemporary. There is a suggestion of later Marillion, which has a lot to do with singer Ken Pfeifer’s voice, but there is also that sensuousness. There is also a jazzy ambience at times, overall a greater breadth than on their debut, with fewer stylistic limits. The constants are the excellent songwriting, the rich sound palette, and the exciting instrumental excursions. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews.
Writing for Lucid Dreamer (2015, digipack) commenced shortly after Bardo was released, and recording began in 2010. So though a long time has passed, Lucid Dreamer picks up where Bardo left off, carving out territory not too far from IZZ. The fusion-y instrumental work that appears in many songs is one of Zen Carnival’s trademarks, as they deftly incorporate it into a set of art-rock songs. A proggier Sting or Steely Dan may come to mind. The great instrumental Medieval Suite could be Dixie Dregs (minus the bluegrass), while Lullaby is the song that comes closest to later Marillion, with Ken Pfeifer sounding similar to Steve Hogarth here. If there is such a thing as adult contemporary prog, Lucid Dreamer should reach the top of that chart.
City Boy were an English progressive pop or art-rock band along the lines of 10cc, Stackridge, Be Bop Deluxe, Quantum Jump, early Queen, Supertramp, and ELO. They released seven LPs between 1975-1981. Like Supertramp, City Boy had two lead vocalists, one high-pitched and the other low-pitched. They added a third lead vocalist (also their new drummer) on their fourth album. Prior to their first LP, they had been a folk band, and this carries over slightly onto their self-titled 1975 debut, where there are some more acoustic-flavored tracks, especially the gorgeous Haymaking Time. This first album was City Boy’s best: it shows the strongest identification with progressive rock, and has a couple longer tracks that are outstanding, 5000 Years / Don’t Know Can’t Tell for one. Dinner at the Ritz (1976) displays a bit of the English music hall influence, as Queen did early on, and also includes excellent hard rocking songs (Queen were pretty good at that too). Peter Hammill and David Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator guest on the title track!
Beginning with Young Men Gone West (1977), the albums became less arty, more a set of quirky and sophisticated rock/pop songs. Like every band operating during the late 1970s, pressure increased every year to produce hit singles and more commercial rock. In City Boy’s case, they were probably also pressured to make music insipid enough to break them in the USA. Book Early (1978) yielded the band’s first hit single, and while we’re sure there are a lot of pop fans who consider this album City Boy’s best, none of those people ever shop at this site. Well-known producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange produced the first five City Boy albums and was an adjunct member of the band.
The City Boy fan site has a good overview of their albums, actually taken from the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock.
The single CDs are the U.S. editions on Renaissance Records. The 2-in-1 double-CDs are the 2015 UK editions, which have been remastered from the original tapes and include new booklets with new sleeve notes. As a bonus, the City Boy / Dinner at the Ritz 2CD adds a 1975 BBC In Concert recording featuring live versions of five great tracks from the first album. The bonus tracks on the Young Men Gone West / Book Early 2CD are two non-LP tracks: Medicine and Turn On to Jesus.
Journey of the Yak (2008) is one of the best British progressive rock albums in recent memory, pure classic prog, instrumental, close to Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Camel. Yak are a keys/bass/drums trio, but their sound is bigger than that -- after hearing this, you’ll swear there is a guitarist in the band, one who has the expressive Hackett/Latimer lead style nailed! In fact, keyboardist Martin Morgan is playing the guitar parts from a keyboard, the best emulation of that sustained electric guitar style we’ve ever heard. Of course a guitarist or two will be required live, as the guitar and keyboard sounds are layered. Just when you’ve despaired of ever hearing a British prog band create the real thing again, you are rescued by a Yak. “Sounds like Dave Greenslade jamming with Genesis.” [Prog magazine] Read reviews at Yak’s site and at Prog Archives. Listen to Entangled in Dreams on YouTube.
Yak return in 2015 with Quest for the Stones, and nothing has changed. The trio remains intact, the album is again instrumental, and the music is still classic British symphonic prog of the highest order. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. “Know that it is traditional prog played at the highest standard, and as a result I cannot recommend it highly enough.” Read the full Progmeister review and the Prog Archives reviews.
The Unquiet Sky (2015) is the latest studio CD for Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell, Paul Manzi, and new bassist Kylan Amos. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Check our British page for more Arena CDs and our DVDs page for Arena’s DVDs.
With their 2009 self-titled double-CD debut, IOEarth became one of the most talked-about new British progressive rock bands. IOEarth are not just another melodic rock band in symphonic clothing. This is an astounding debut: expansive, cinematic, eclectic, and technologically current (which progressive rock originally was but today more often is not). The music is heavily instrumental while featuring two female vocalists on several tracks and Steve Balsamo (ChimpanA) singing on three.
While the IOEarth debut was the work of Dave Cureton & Adam Gough plus several guests, they needed to assemble a band for live performances. Thus Moments (2012, 62-minutes, digipack) sees three of those guests promoted to full members and another musician added such that IOEarth is a sextet here, with guests on trumpet, spoken word, and percussion. Among the promotions is singer Claire Malin, who has a larger presence here. There are somewhat more vocals on Moments, and on the vocal tracks, the album can feel closer to the current progressive rock mainstream. But with the samples, the genre-bending, the expansive arrangements and detailed atmospheres, there is no mistaking IOEarth for another band. “IOEarth have delivered a progressive masterwork, clearly demonstrating significant artistic growth from their debut. Clearly one of the most rapidly emerging progressive bands of this decade, these musicians are sure to broaden their following with Moments. Bravo!” Read the full Musical Discoveries review and the Prog Archives reviews.
Live in the USA (digipack) is the recording of IOEarth’s performance at RoSfest 2012. It contains 11 tracks drawn from both previous studio albums. Read reviews of all the IOEarth CDs.
IOEarth returned in 2015 with another ambitious double-CD studio album: New World (digipack). The supporting cast to Cureton & Gough has been shuffled a bit, with a new singer and drummer and the addition of violin to the arsenal. We think the first album, when IOEarth was purely a studio project, may remain their most unique. Each subsequent album pushes IOEarth closer to the prog mainstream, slightly heavier, more bombastic, and a reflection of their experience as a live act, all the while increasing their popularity. Yet their distinctiveness persists as they manage great variety and stitch it all together into music that no one else is making. “A band which has always impressed and excelled in the live arena, but which for me hasn’t quite captured that spark on record. This new double album, their third, puts all of that to right, and manages to match its ambition with delivery. There is so much variety on this disc, it’s impossible to categorise, but the ethereal cinematic, new age, and mid-eastern influences give it a truly distinctive sound, as do the heavenly vocals of Linda Odinsen and the judicious use of sax, flute, and violin. New World is an album that all fans of progressive music should listen to.” [Something for the Weekend] Watch the official video for the title track. Note IOEarth are booked to play the 2015 Cruise to the Edge with Yes and others.
Kinetic Element is a classic prog band out of Richmond, Virginia, let by keyboardist Mike Visaggio. Their debut Powered by Light (2009, 69-minutes) is pure 1970s-style symphonic prog that sits right alongside the work of Kansas, Lift, Pentwater, Ethos, and various other American 70s prog bands, and is on the same level. Like those bands, Kinetic Element have absorbed the influences of Yes, Genesis, ELP, and other first-tier progressive bands. (Refugee is actually a better reference than ELP here.) Significantly, the music is composed by a keyboardist. Contrast that with the “modern prog” bands whose music is typically written by a guitarist, the band fortunate to have a skilled keyboardist at all. Visaggio is not someone trying to recreate the sound of an era that predates him; he’s old enough that he was there when progressive rock first emerged. Read reviews.
Travelog (2015, 70-minutes) is Kinetic Element’s even better second album, with just five long tracks. Yes is arguably the dominant influence now, and Fred Schendel and Steve Babb of Glass Hammer mixed and mastered, which reminds us to mention Glass Hammer as a good reference point. This is true symphonic prog in all its glory. Read the Prog Archives and Power of Prog reviews.
Starship Universe is Mike Visaggio’s 2006 solo CD, on which he has help from a drummer on three tracks. The style is largely the same, epic prog influenced by ELP, Yes, and Rick Wakeman. Read the Prognaut review.
Arne Schäfer is the leader, along with keyboardist Ekkehard Nahm, of the German band Versus X. Apogee is nominally the solo vehicle for Schäfer, where he handles keyboards, guitars, and vocals, always assisted by a drummer. In practice Apogee and Versus X sound pretty similar, but now with twice as many Apogee albums as Versus X albums, we’d say that the Apogee albums contain the better music. Schäfer’s vocal and lyric style resemble Peter Hammill’s, and while there is a strong Van der Graaf Generator influence, there is just as much Genesis as well as some King Crimson.
The eighth Apogee album The Art of Mind (2015, digipack) sees Apogee move to the Progressive Promotion label, who must be doing something right because a lot of top European prog talent has done the same. Watch the video teaser. “While long suites are a progressive rock trademark, some artists do it better than others. Apogee does a magnificent job with the orchestrations, arrangements, and transitions, delivering a notable work of symphonic progressive rock that takes you back to the classic years of the early and mid-1970s.” Read the full Progressive Rock Central review. See our German page for the full Apogee catalog.
The Receiver is a new signing for the Kscope label, home of Steven Wilson and all things post-prog. The Receiver is an American duo whose music Kscope calls symphonic dream-prog. All Burn (2015, digipack) is the duo’s third album, after two on other labels. The music fits the Kscope aesthetic and is overflowing with tremendous melodies and symphonic/synthetic textures. This is what pop music should sound like in 2015 in an ideal world, though the really proggy bits ensure that that alternate reality will never intersect this one.
In Vaults (2015) is the third studio album for Chicago prog band District 97. Read the Prog Metal Zone review. See our U.S. page for more District 97 CDs and more info on the band.
Norway’s Magic Pie quickly became one of the most talked-about progressive rock bands, especially after performances at both Rosfest 2006 and 2007. In addition to influences of early 1970s progressive rock bands, Magic Pie incorporate influences of early 70s melodic and hard rock bands, in the same manner as Finnish band Five Fifteen, though Magic Pie are much proggier. With Hammond organ as Magic Pie’s weapon of choice, Deep Purple and Atomic Rooster could be two of those influences. And with four vocalists, Magic Pie have those great harmony vocals, something that has largely been lost in modern rock. A lot of what Magic Pie do will appeal to fans of The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic. Ultimately, Magic Pie’s greatest success may be that they capture the spirit of earlier bands without copying the style of any of them, and their albums have a positive vibe that will restore the spirits of those whose hearts are in the 70s.
Their 2004 debut Motions of Desire is temporarily out-of-print, but a reissue is in the works. Circus of Life (2007) is their equally good 64-minute second album. In true progressive fashion, its 46-minute title suite is divided into five parts, of which one part is further subdivided into four parts. Read reviews of Circus of Life and Motions of Desire.
Magic Pie’s third, The Suffering Joy (2011, digipack), is cause to rejoice. As Sea of Tranquility says: “If you can only get one prog-rock CD this year, The Suffering Joy should be that CD.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review, the USA Progressive Music review, and still more reviews.
King for a Day (2015) is Magic Pie’s fourth. “King for a Day manages to pull together all that is modern day progressive rock, with a healthy nod to the ’70s of course, but satisfying fully those who crave musical complexity as well as enchanting, memorable melodies. Fans of Yes, Deep Purple, Genesis, Dream Theater, The Beatles, Spock’s Beard, and The Flower Kings will surely love every minute of this, and no doubt this album has to be considered one of the frontrunners for best prog release of 2015.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the video for Trick of the Trade.
No points for guessing that Belgian band Neo-Prophet are a neo-prog band, but they are an uncommonly good one. They debuted in 2009 with Monsters, and there were Marillion-isms to be sure (the words misplaced childhood even appear in the lyrics), but Neo-Prophet are not simply Marillion/Arena imitators. They add touches of hard rock, while loads of symphonic keyboards maintain the guitars/keys balance.
The major change on T.I.M.E. (2015, digipack) is that the hyphen in the band name is gone. That and the fact that only bandleader/singer/bassist Hans Six remains from the previous lineup. The new guitarist and new keyboardist are both on loan from Quantum Fantay! Otherwise not too much has changed. The music is at times heavier and more bombastic, the album alternating between heavier, slightly metallic prog and more pure melodic/symphonic prog. Which is how it is for most neo-prog circa 2015, and neo-prog fans will likely be thrilled with T.I.M.E. Frank van Bogaert (Fish on Friday) mixed and mastered. Watch the sneak preview video.
Kaipa were the top first-generation Swedish prog band, featuring guitarist Roine Stolt, who would later form The Flower Kings, and keyboardist Hans Lundin, who would reboot Kaipa in 2002. Kaipa sing in Swedish on these albums, while both The Flower Kings and the second incarnation of Kaipa switched to English-language vocals. Relative to The Flower Kings, Kaipa’s music is more purely Swedish, their symphonic rock colored by the centuries-old Swedish choral and folk music traditions. The self-titled first album (1975) and Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976) are for us the best albums to have come out of Sweden (along with Atlas - Blå Vardag). By now a lot of prog fans will have discovered the later bands first and need to work their way backwards to these albums. Prog fans old enough to have listened in chronological order or who simply have a 1970s orientation (and have not limited themselves to albums sung in English) may consider the 1970s Kaipa albums superior.
These are the 2015 editions on the Tempus Fugit label. The audio was remastered in January 2015. The first album has two bonus tracks, while Inget Nytt Under Solen has four. Last we knew, Tempus Fugit intends to also reissue Kaipa’s Solo (1978), Händer (1980), and Nattdjurstid (1982) on CD. Interestingly, three of the four original members (all except Hans Lundin) are touring in 2015 as Kaipa Da Capo, playing the original Kaipa music. Fleshing out the band are Roine’s brother Michael Stolt on lead vocals, and keyboardist Max Lorentz. See our Scandinavian page for the later Kaipa CDs.
The Black Codex is the most ambitious project yet for Dutchman Christiaan Bruin, who has a number of excellent prog CDs under the Chris name (that you ought to hear) and is also a member of the bands Sky Architect, Nine Stones Close, and a couple others. The Black Codex is based on an original story of Bruin’s. The series was first released as downloads by subscription, 52 “episodes” over a period of 52 weeks throughout 2014. The series is now available on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves. You can hear excerpts from each episode at The Black Codex website. The music is a very cinematic, epic, orchestral progressive rock, using vocals on some episodes, not only a unique concept but rather unique musically too, and very impressive. That this music is different from Bruin’s other projects (and that his other albums are all different from each other) and yet still very much progressive rock speaks to the man’s creativity and range. Watch the series trailer and listen to A Dot on the Horizon and Silhouette in the Window on YouTube.
Remembrance (2015, digipack) is the third album for Maiden uniteD, an all-star project whose charter is to rearrange and perform Iron Maiden songs using mainly acoustic instrumentation. (Are they counting Hammond organ as an acoustic instrument? Because there’s a lot of Hammond.) Forget about that, this is symphonic prog. This is not some sort of unplugged, small, mellow music. There are bass and drums, and this is often big, dramatic, bombastic, and symphonic. You absolutely do not need to be an Iron Maiden fan to appreciate this. The 13 musicians include founder Joey Bruers, Damian Wilson as primary vocalist, Ruud Jolie and Mike Coolen (Within Temptation), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), and other established musicians. Watch the album trailer and all will become clear, also listen to Still Life ’15, which features violin from Marcela Bovio, and Aces High.
Obsidian Desert (2015, digipack) is the debut by Dutch prog/prog-metal quintet Armed Cloud. On the metal side, their major influences are Queensryche and Fates Warning, and as they’re Dutch, it’s hard not to think of Ayreon. The mp3 icon above leads to the band’s website and all the info. “With Obsidian Desert, Armed Cloud has released the perfect album that will help them climb the ladder of progressive rock music. As a statement, they show what they are capable of and are ready to participate on the highest level of the Dutch progressive rock scene.” Read the full Background Magazine review.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarq’s comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarq’s career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarq’s Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
The double-CD Origins is an anthology covering 1992-2014. The upper year in that range is because this set contains one new song. Since the four studio and two live Landmarq CDs on the Cyclops label have been out-of-print for years, Origins is not superfluous as most anthologies are. Disc One (73-minutes) is titled The Tracy Years, while Disc Two (74-minutes) is titled The Damian Years. Damian Wilson was Landmarq’s singer on their first three studio albums (1991-1995), after which Tracy Hitchings took over. Landmarq’s 1990s CDs are recommended to fans of Pendragon and Clive Nolan’s various projects of that era.
Roadskill (2015) is a live CD and DVD (NTSC, all-region) recorded during Landmarq’s 2013 tour at De Boerderij in the Netherlands. The DVD features two additional songs that couldn’t fit on the 78-minute CD, plus interviews with the band.
This is the 2015 Esoteric remastered and expanded edition of this oft-issued (occasionally even on legitimate labels) album. Spring’s 1971 album is a classic of British progressive rock, or at least proto-prog. The album owes its status to the heavy use of Mellotron. Strip the Mellotron out of the mix and what remains is about as progressive as The Moody Blues, nonetheless possessing the charm of the place and time in which it was made. Slather on the Mellotron and there you have it. Esoteric have newly remastered the album from the original master tapes, then added a second disc containing 12 bonus tracks from 1971. These tracks were intended for a second, unreleased album, and Esoteric state that these tracks are released officially for the first time. Note many of these tracks appeared on the Second Harvest CD released several years earlier on the Italian Akarma label. You can draw your own conclusion about the legitimacy of that Akarma release and whether it used the original tapes. The booklet features fully-restored artwork, previously unseen photographs, and a new essay. Read the AllMusic review.
Box of Shamans is a new Los Angeles prog band closely related to Heliopolis. Box of Shamans are led by multi-instrumentist Michael Matier (Heliopolis, Ten Jinn), with singer Scott Jones (Heliopolis); the two have been writing together for many years. Drummer Jerry Beller (Heliopolis, Mars Hollow) joins them for their debut Belief and Illusion (2015, digipack). As you might expect from members of Heliopolis and Mars Hollow, the music comes closest to Yes, but with a distinct style. It balances complexity and accessibility, angularity and melody. It is an extrapolation of 1970s progressive rock that does not follow the paths of neo-prog, metal-prog, or other problematic paths prog has since gone down. Or as we wrote about the Blue Shift album that preceded this by a couple months, it sure is good to hear the real thing now and again. We’d file this alongside Perfect Beings, if only to demonstrate how Los Angeles currently leads the Yes division of progressive rock. Read the Progradar review.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998, then nothing until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. This album will get the blood of neo-prog fans pumping. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance. Read reviews at Prog Archives, The Progressive Aspect, and Get Your Rock Out. Note Trip the Life Fantastic apparently first appeared as a CD-R, but this new pressing is a CD.
OVNI is El Salvador’s top (well, only) progressive rock band. Their name is the Spanish acronym equivalent to UFO. Humans But Not Terrestrials (2004), also known as Humanos Pero No Terrestres, featured a new lineup for OVNI and was a huge step forward for the band. This 79-minute sci-fi concept album is sung mostly in English, with a few songs in Spanish. OVNI come closest to Yes on this album, though that’s only an approximation. The songs sung in Spanish tend to have a slightly different feel, sometimes suggesting Italian progressive rock, and some of it could probably be called neo-prog. One might spot ELP, Jethro Tull, or Pink Floyd here and there, but OVNI have their own melodic prog style. There are some epic statements here, the longest track a 23-minute suite. The usual keys/guitar/bass/drums instrumentation is augmented by mandolin, flute, and various South American stringed things. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The True Purposes of God / Los Verdaderos Propósitos de Dios (2006) is a 74-minute concept album which is also sung in both English and Spanish, with the majority in English. The description of Humans But Not Terrestrials also applies here, though this album seems to emphasize the pop side of OVNI’s songwriting a bit more, an aspect of the band that has been present from the beginning. OVNI’s melodies tend to sound more British than those of other Latin American prog bands, from a Beatles influence on some tracks to a 1980s neo-prog influence on others. Another very good album. Watch the videos for Friendship?, Against Nada, and ElectroElle y RockyKate.
Salvadoreño / Alien is OVNI’s ambitious 2011 studio double-CD. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for the title track, The Monseigneur, Himno Nacional de El Salvador, Traffic in San Sivar, and Un Niño Tenaz.
Simple (2015) sees OVNI putting more emphasis on songs, which is something they’ve gotten very good at. The progressive elements, the excellent work on both guitar and keyboards, is obvious during the instrumental breaks and merely shifted out of the foreground during the verses and choruses. The songs are retro in the sense that they are upbeat, with none of the modern darkness, melancholy, and moaning about life. There is one instrumental, three songs sung in Spanish, and five in English. The Spanish-language songs bring to mind South American bands such as Os Mutantes and 14 Bis (even if those bands sing in Portuguese), or even some of the Italian pop-prog bands.
La Experiencia (2001) is a 72-minute live CD that includes concerts from 1987, 1989, and 2000. This is the first lineup of OVNI playing melodic symphonic prog with a standard guitar, keys, bass & drums lineup, plus vocals in Spanish. It’s prog all right, though there’s also a bit of an AOR feel, like a Spanish-language Asia. There are songs, the vocals are prominent, but there are also long tracks with plenty of instrumental work.
Samsara (1998, 60-minutes) is the debut for Numen, a five-piece Spanish band that present an effective amalgam of the Camel and Marillion styles, the latter felt particularly in the ringing, bell-like clean guitar tone that is one of Steve Rothery’s trademarks. Singer César Alcaraz delivers the English lyrics in a clear voice with only a slight accent. The occasional appearance of flute is most welcome. The tracks are generally long with a good balance of instrumental sections and vocals, and though this will be called neo-prog by most, it avoids those tendencies that can give neo a bad name. The only ethnic Spanish element is the use of some Spanish guitar, otherwise they sound British. Read this Prog Archives review. This is the remastered 2015 digipack edition on the MALS label.
Numenclature (2014, digipack, 62-minutes) is their second, and despite the passage of 16 years, the lineup remains the same. Watch the official video for The Camel’s Back and listen to Out of the Earth on YouTube.
Sweden’s Anekdoten emerged in the early 1990s, displaying a great deal of King Crimson influence (circa Red) and relying heavily on Mellotron strings, their trademark style featuring dynamics shifts between somber and violent passages, between fragile beauty and harsh dissonance. They have been one of the most respected progressive rock bands of their era. Anekdoten returned after an eight year hiatus with their sixth album Until All the Ghosts Are Gone (2015, digipack), and they are as good as ever. Read the Echoes and Dust and Sputnik Music reviews. Listen to Get Out Alive and If It All Comes Down to You on YouTube.
Sky were an instrumental classical-rock band whose members included John Williams, often considered the best classical guitarist in the world at that time, keyboardist Francis Monkman (Curved Air), Australian guitarist Kevin Peek, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummer/percussionist Tristan Fry. Sky 1 (1979) reached #2 in the UK charts, rather unbelievable for a classical-rock album during the punk and new wave era. But then Sky 2 (1980) trumped that and reached #1. Sky 2 was originally a double-LP and is their best, with Sky 1 second. Read reviews of Sky 1 and Sky 2 at Prog Archives, where you’ll also find some mp3s.
These 2014 editions of Sky 1 and Sky 2 on Esoteric have been newly remastered, with original album artwork fully restored and a new essay. And they each add a DVD (NTSC, all-region). The Sky 1 CD includes the bonus tracks Dies Irae, the single version of March to the Scaffold (previously unreleased on CD), and a previously unreleased live version of Where Opposites Meet recorded by BBC Radio One at a charity concert at Wembley Arena in November 1979. The Sky 1 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1979 BBC TV appearances, seven tracks from five different shows, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. The Sky 2 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1980 BBC TV appearances, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. These include 12 tracks from Sky’s concert at Hammersmith Odeon in 1980 plus Sky’s performance of Toccata on Top of the Pops in April 1980. Note some earlier CD editions of Sky 2 omitted two tracks, but this Esoteric edition omits nothing.
Francis Monkman then departed, replaced by Steve Gray. Monkman was the best composer the band had though, and no subsequent album reached the quality of the first two. Still, the band had a lot of momentum, and Sky 3 (1981) reached #8 on the UK charts, while Sky 4: Forthcoming (1982) reached #7. That would be the last studio album to chart in the UK, though the double-LP Sky Five Live (1983) would reach #24. Successful tours of the UK, Europe, Australia, and Japan followed the release of Sky 3 and Sky 4.
As with Esoteric’s reissues of Sky 1 and Sky 2, these 2015 editions of Sky 3 and Sky 4 on Esoteric feature the original albums newly remastered on the CD, and each includes a DVD (NTSC, all-region). Sky 3’s DVD features Sky’s memorable concert at Westminster Abbey in London from February 1981, which was recorded and broadcast by BBC Television and later released on VHS and Laserdisc. This is its first time on DVD. Sky 4’s DVD features Sky’s live set for the BBC TV program Night Music, broadcast in July 1982. This is its first ever release in any format.
In 1982, this lineup embarked on an extensive tour of Australia. A mobile recording unit captured concerts in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, which were mixed at Abbey Road studios and released as Sky Five Live in January 1983. Unavailable for nearly twenty years, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered and adds the 20-minute piece The Animals, originally featured on the vinyl double-LP but omitted from the 1996 CD release. The Animals does not appear on any studio album, and there are more tracks that are exclusive to this album, so though it is recorded live, it really does qualify as the fifth Sky album. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay.
Sky’s sixth album Cadmium was released in 1983. Unavailable on CD for over two decades, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered, adds three bonus tracks to the CD, and also features a DVD (NTSC, all-region) of the previously-unreleased BBC TV recording of Sky at Drury Lane in December 1983, along with a performance of the piece Troika on the Val Doonican Show that same month. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay. “The last album to feature John Williams, its pre-Christmas release was not only an attempt to capture the gift-buying market, but reflected the content of perhaps the most accomplished work the band had done since Francis Monkman’s departure. Opening with an interpretation of a Christmas classical music stalwart (including sleighbells!), with track titles like Mother Russia and A Girl in Winter, how can one not associate this with cold, wet nights (preferably snow instead of rain)? Most of Sky’s classical reworkings leave me cold, but Troika is one of the exceptions. Herbie offers his almost-contractual ‘silly’ piece in the shape of Telex from Peru, and the album’s quiet piece comes courtesy of a rare Fry composition, Then and Now. Eminently listenable, full of good tunes, and more occasions than most for the individuals to display prowess with their chosen instruments, not to mention a replacement for Hotta as the encore piece when playing live, the aptly-named Son of Hotta.” [Richard Sliwa, creator of the unofficial Sky site (click mp3 icon above)]
John Williams departed Sky in December 1983 and the band continued as a quartet, with Kevin Peek assuming a greater role. In 1985 they recorded the album The Great Balloon Race at studios in Australia and London, with several guest musicians adding some instruments not previously used by Sky (flute, pan pipes, sax, spoken word). This album gets overlooked because of where it falls on the Sky timeline, and because it had been out-of-print for a long time. In 1987 Sky recorded their final album Mozart (called The Mozart Album on its U.S. release, which also had a different cover). It saw Sky arrange Mozart compositions, and it features (heavily) the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (an English chamber orchestra) conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Both The Great Balloon Race and Mozart had been unavailable for over 20 years until these Esoteric reissues, which are newly remastered from the original master tapes, fully restore the original album artwork, and feature a new essay. (No DVD with these two, just a CD.)
Since they began in the mid-1980s, Ozric Tentacles have been the premier progressive psychedelic space-rock band. Technicians of the Sacred (2CD, 2015, digipack) is Ozric Tentacles’ first studio outing since 2011’s Paper Monkeys and their first double album since the classic Erpland in 1990. Listen to the album montage. See our British page for more Ozrics CDs.
Steve Roach is often considered to be America’s leading electronic musician. Before Roach developed his own style of ambient/tribal electronics, he made classic-style electronic music influenced by Tangerine Dream, Ashra, and Klaus Schulze. Empetus was originally released in 1986 and represents the pinnacle of this style for Roach, as he later abandoned it for a long time. Empetus is far more upbeat and structured than his later work. It is primarily energetic sequencer-driven music in the Berlin school style, though even at this time Roach had enough of his own style to distinguish this from so many Berlin school copyists. This 2008 2CD edition adds a second disc containing two long, previously-unreleased pieces (46:44 and 26:32) from circa 1982.
Skeleton Keys (2015, digipack, 74-minutes) was recorded using the Synthesizers.com large format analog modular synthesizer/sequencer-based system, and sees Steve Roach return to his early style of sequencer-driven EM. “Skeleton Keys connects directly to my first love in electronic music,” Roach explains. “This form of music creates a living portal to a unique place in consciousness, emotion, body awareness, and expansion of perception. It’s a place that can only be reached by way of this genre and these instruments, in particular the sequencer: a tool common within electronic music since early in its inception. I have been obsessed with the sound this instrument facilitates since my arrival as a composer in the late 70s.”
The MALS label has resumed licensing and reissuing out-of-print Musea CDs in mini-LP style sleeves (gatefold for Step Ahead and Deyss). The sole album from French band Step Ahead, released in 1982, is excellent progressive rock influenced by Yes and sounding very English. Having an Irish lead vocalist and English lyrics helped in that regard. Read the ProgRockMusic.net review, which includes links to two audio tracks. “One of the best progressive rock albums of the eighties. Superbly composed, constructed, recorded and mixed... absolutely indispensable for all progressive fans.” [La Discographie du Rock Français]
Pentacle’s La Clef des Songes (1975) is a French classic, symphonic prog with gentle folk touches and understated vocals, most influenced by the first two King Crimson albums and ending up sounding like a cross between Pulsar, Ange, and Tangerine. The album was produced by Christian Decamps of Ange. Three long bonus live tracks are included.
Tale Cue were an above-average neo-prog band from Italy who released only this one album in 1991. The music is in the Marillion and Twelfth Night veins but darker, more mysterious and melancholy. Tale Cue have a female singer, with lyrics in English. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Deyss’ second album Vision in the Dark (1987), originally a 3-sided double-LP, was perhaps the best symphonic prog album of that era to come out of continental Europe. Deyss’ first album At-King (1985) is weaker, but it does have a colorful cover with a jester on it. Which should give you a good idea who their major influence was. The singer here is a guest, not the guy named Jester who took over on Vision in the Dark. As with that album, the strongest track is the title track, which again concludes the album. Both albums put their weaker material up front, then build from there to finish strong.
Yes, this is the same U.S. band that released Not the Future I Ordered in 1997. The only lineup change on Levels of Undo (2015) is at singer, with Denise Chandler replacing Stewart Meredith. Meredith was a high tenor, so not much of a change, and as Yes remains Blue Shift’s primary influence, the vocals in Jon Anderson’s range work well. There is one track of solo jazz guitar and one track that sounds like Hawkwind. The rest, especially the two epic tracks, is 1970s style prog in the Yes vein with forays into ELP, King Crimson, and fusion territory. For Yes fans, Drivetime (10:25) and the title track (20:41) are as good as anything you’re likely to hear this year (or ever again from Yes). After listening to a lot of modern and neo-prog, it’s refreshing to hear the undiluted product again. Progressive rock is not a flavor nor cousin of metal or pop or alt-rock; ideally it stands above and apart with no mistaking the difference. If a reminder of that is needed, Levels of Undo should do it.
Minimum Vital are one of the very best second-generation French symphonic prog bands, and one of the few from their era still going. Pavanes (2CD, 2015, digipack) expands the style of their previous album Capitaines, which represented something of a return to the style of their 1990 album Sarabandes, emphasizing Minimum Vital’s singular form of medieval progressive rock. On Pavanes, Minimum Vital have created a unique fusion of progressive rock and folk, but the folk is mostly of their invention, a fanciful folk music from an imaginary time and place. Watch the official video for Javary & Montago and listen to Folkish on YouTube. See our French page for the other Minimum Vital CDs still in print.
Progression by Failure is the band of French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Piveteau, who is primarily a keyboardist. While Progression By Failure’s 2009 debut CD was a one-man project, Piveteau added a guitarist and drummer for Sonic Travelogue (2015, digipack). The improvement is significant, as Sonic Travelogue is a classic-style instrumental sympho-prog album displaying great range and sophistication. Listen to extracts from the album on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Percept From… (2013) is the debut CD by a Japanese band playing instrumental violin-led progressive rock with fusion aspects, perhaps inspired by KBB. No one does this style better than the Japanese now. Listen to the album montage on YouTube.
What Is Constant (2015) is their second, in the same style. Listen to Cloud 9 on YouTube.
Ad Hominem (2014) is the debut by a young Venezuelan prog quintet. It’s great to see new prog life in Venezuela, a country with a history of excellent progressive rock by Tempano, Vytas Brenner, Equilibrio Vital, Aditus, and others. We’re also glad Calle Santiago sing in their native tongue. Calle Santiago lean toward the harder-edged modern prog style but feature many classy elements that give their music distinctiveness. Listen to Resistencia and Libertad on YouTube.
Night of the Demon (2015, digipack) was recorded when Gazpacho embarked upon the Demon album tour in spring 2014. They brought in Dutch filmmaker Jon Vis to film their show at Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. Gazpacho played songs from Firebird, Night, Tick Tock, Missa Atropos, March of Ghosts, and the majority from Demon. The 80-minute audio CD features nine tracks while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) features the full 14 track performance. Watch the DVD trailer. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho titles and info on the band.
Before Englishman Rhys Marsh moved to Norway, he’d formed his first band Mandala in London in 1997, playing guitar and singing, with Francis Booth (bass) and Will Spurling (drums) and, at times, a string section. They were together for nine years and played hundreds of concerts, though they never recorded an album. They got back together in 2014 to record their debut album Midnight Twilight (2015, digisleeve, 50-minutes), an album 18 years in the making. They chose ten songs from the more than 40 in their repertoire. The main tracks were recorded live in Marsh’s studio in Norway, with a few overdubs added. They then went to London to record their original string section (violin, cello) with the same recording engineer they’d worked with ten years earlier. There is much in common with the music Marsh would later develop under his own name using Norwegian musicians, and it is not far removed from the Anekdoten style. The music is on the melancholy and dark side, blending progressive rock with folk-noir (both western and eastern), retro-style psychedelic rock, and more. Marsh describes it as all being “wrapped in an early-seventies glow”. In addition to the real strings, Marsh adds a dollop of Mellotron strings. The 16-page booklet includes a brief history of Mandala and recording session photos. Watch the videos for Fire Is Mine and a live-in-studio performance of Sun (the first song Marsh ever wrote).
Transformation (2015) is the new and very long awaited studio album from FM, the Canadian progressive rock legends. The Esoteric label says: “With its roots firmly planted in late seventies progressive rock -- complex rhythms, driving bass lines, soaring melodies -- the music on Transformation is symphonic in scope with not one but two violinists on board.” FM co-founder/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins is joined by drummer Paul DeLong (Roger Hodgson), viola/mandolinist Edward Bernard on loan from Druckfarben, and violin virtuoso Aaron Solomon. Terry Brown (Rush) did the mixing.
It took until 2014, but here finally is the audio and video record of FM’s performance at NEARfest 2006. This CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) set comes in a digipack. The 12 tracks include six from Black Noise, three from Surveillance (all the best ones), one from City of Fear, and two new compositions. FM reformed and rehearsed for months for this show, and it showed as they were tight and polished. See our Canadian page for more FM CDs and more info on the band.
This is the 2015 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ classic first album The Geese and the Ghost, which comes in a clamshell box. The Geese and the Ghost was released in 1977, but the recordings for it had begun several years earlier and are representative of the pastoral early Genesis sound. As most Genesis fans know, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins play on this album, with Phil singing on two tracks and Mike co-writing three. Among the many guest musicians are John Hackett and Jack Lancaster.
The big news here is the third disc, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo! The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 (as you’d expect on any DVD-A). There is also MLP stereo and 24/48 LPCM stereo. The first CD contains the remastered album. Esoteric call it the ‘2014 remaster’ and state that this edition was “newly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth”. Heyworth and Andy Myles did the surround mix. So it would appear that this is a newer remaster than the 2008 Voiceprint edition. The second CD contains demos and alternate versions, plus two versions of Silver Song (sung by Phil Collins). It appears to be identical to the second disc in the Voiceprint edition with the addition of one more bonus track, the previously unreleased 1973 song Only Your Love featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford. The box also includes a poster (so you can see the detail in one of the best album covers ever) and a very extensive booklet with a new essay, all in all a really nice job by Esoteric. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Anthony Phillips CDs. (If you have no intention of listening to the surround or hi-res audio on the DVD-A, you may be better off with the less expensive Voiceprint 2CD.)
This is the U.S. jewel case edition of The Tangent’s eighth album A Spark in the Aether (2015), which contains the same bonus track as the European edition. This CD is subtitled The Music That Died Alone - Volume Two, a reference to The Tangent’s debut album. Joining bandleader Andy Tillison this time are Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, and Luke Machin, all of whom have played on previous The Tangent albums, plus new drummer Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan band, Kaipa, Frank Zappa). Tillison says: “This is an album that seeks to return to the core of what The Tangent means to me… After our big orchestral opus that we delivered in Le Sacre du Travail, we’re to an extent reining in the instrumentation to the 5-piece electric prog rock band and focusing a little more on that all-important second word of the genre name: rock. At least (grins with less than average teeth) for the first half!” This time around, The Tangent incorporate American influences, ensuring A Spark in the Aether has something new to offer. “This will probably be my album of the year for 2015... It is not every day that you hear an album for the first time and realise you are listening to an absolute masterpiece of writing, playing, and production. In this case it happened, and on subsequent listens gets even better.” Read the full Background Magazine review, also the Progradar review. Watch the videos for the title track and San Francisco. See our British page for more The Tangent CDs, a DVD, and much more info.
The Gift of Anxiety (2013, digipack) is the first full-length album for Dutch prog band Sylvium, following a 2012 EP. While that EP was instrumental and more a solo project of guitarist and band leader Ben van Gastel, Sylvium are a proper band now, and The Gift of Anxiety has some quality vocals. Their bassist is Gijs Koopman, formerly of Cliffhanger and Knight Area. The music covers symphonic, neo-, heavy, ambient and Floydian prog and more, probably falling primarily in the Anathema / Porcupine Tree / Riverside camp. Watch the album trailer and the official video for Weathering.
Sylvium further develop their sound on their second CD, the concept album Waiting for the Noise (2015, digisleeve). Watch the album trailer and the official video for Signal to Noise. “I was suitably impressed by Sylvium’s debut album The Gift of Anxiety to say it was a brilliant progressive rock album, so how do you top that? You go one better with an album of exceptional songwriting and profoundly astute lyrics, where the musicianship is first-rate and the vocals become a definitive part of the story. There has been a lot of talk about how good Steven Wilson’s new release is, but for me, I think that this time David has slain Goliath. I doff my hat to Sylvium for producing one of this year’s most memorable albums so far.” Read the full Progradar review.
Everlasting Instant (2015) concludes IZZ’s three-part series of albums that began with The Darkened Room in 2009 and continued with 2012’s Crush of Night, “with a fresh palette of sounds all the while maintaining the sharp and memorable melodies that have become a hallmark of the band”. The band regards Everlasting Instant as the culmination of the musical themes presented on the two preceding albums: “Many of the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics on Everlasting Instant began as seeds on the two previous albums and have come to fruition on this release. Listeners will recognize these subtle variations on prior themes and will also be presented with an exciting new collection of musical ideas.” Watch the video for Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV. See our U.S. page for all the IZZ CDs and much more info.
Wolflight is Steve Hackett’s 2015 studio album, and Steve seems to be taking this progressive rock fad seriously, as this is his best record in a long time. He is joined by long time collaborators Roger King (keyboards, programming), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (sax, duduk), Nick Beggs (bass, Stick), and Amanda Lehmann (harmony vocals). Among the guests are Chris Squire and Hugo Dagenhardt. Read the Blogcritics review. Watch the videos for The Wheel’s Turning, Love Song to a Vampire, and the title track.
The jewel case edition contains just the CD. The digipack adds a Blu-ray containing the album in DTS Master Audio 5.1, 24/48 5.1 LPCM, and 24/48 stereo LPCM (all are lossless). The Blu-ray also contains two bonus tracks in 24/48 stereo, and interviews with Hackett. See our British page for more Steve Hackett CDs and our DVDs page for some Steve Hackett DVDs.
Blue Radiance (2015, digipack) is the 19th solo album for Erik Wøllo, Norway’s leading electronic musician. This is one of Wøllo’s good ones, as it is rhythmic, melodic, and accessible, balancing ambient and upbeat moods. In the label’s words: “Blue Radiance’s eleven new compositions feature sophisticated and engaging waves of Wøllo’s trademark processed electric guitar, occasional acoustic guitars, synthesizers, and percussion. Striking, varied, and deeply emotional, the tracks open up when the guitar surfaces out of the swirls, revealing soul-stirring themes rich with melancholy and hope. It’s that interplay – the contrast of the lead lines with the washes of sound and minimal piano – which make for an intensely powerful listening experience.”
Weltenuhr (2014, digipack) is the second collaboration between Erik Wøllo and German synthesist Bernhard Wöstheinrich. They use female vocals on two of the album’s 11 tracks, while the fully instrumental tracks (in the label’s words) “range from the pounding beat driven Subgiants to the ethereal Echoes of Parlours. Bernhard’s inventive textural rhythms provide the perfect backdrop for Wøllo’s soaring E-bow guitar melodies on tracks such as Oculus and Denser World.” See our Electronic Music page for more EM.
Secrets of Angels (2015) debuts another female vocalist for Karnataka: Hayley Griffiths. She is a classically trained soprano who has toured extensively worldwide as a solo artist and as lead vocalist in the international phenomenon Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. Musical Discoveries, who have followed Karnataka closely from the beginning, call Hayley the best singer the band has had, which is high praise. Otherwise, Secrets of Angels picks up where 2010’s The Gathering Light left off, with Troy Donockley again guesting. “Secrets of Angels is to The Gathering Light as Delicate Flame of Desire was to The Storm, that is to say, an exponential improvement in songwriting, arrangements, production and -- most notably -- vocal work that is nothing short of amazing.” Read the full Musical Discoveries review and the Rock Report review. Watch the album trailer.
The New Light Blu-ray (all-region) is Karnataka live in concert, filmed in HD at The Met Theatre in Bury on their 2012 tour. It features 5.1 surround and 24-bit stereo audio. Extras include interviews with the band and a tour image gallery. Read the Lady Obscure review. Watch the promo video. Note this comes in a standard plastic Blu-ray case, but the band didn’t have them sealed. See our British page for more Karnataka CDs and much more info.
Inversa Visual, the fourth album from this six-man Barcelona prog band, was released by the band in 2009 and reissued in this 2010 edition by Musea. Herba d’Hamelí began their career playing Jethro Tull covers, and they’ve gone through some changes, especially affecting their third album which was only released as a digital download. On Inversa Visual, they play 1970s-style symphonic prog featuring both flute and keyboards, in the vein of Gotic and Camel, with some jazz-rock that recalls Iman and Iceberg. The vocals are in Catalan. If you told us this album had been recorded in the mid-1970s, we would have been fooled and happily filed it next to Gotic, Ibio, Companyia Elèctrica Dharma, and the many other first-generation Spanish prog bands. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Their self-released fifth album Girafes a Sibèria (2011) establishes Herba d’Hamelí as one of the best (and least known) 70s-style prog bands around. This record sounds like an undiscovered gem from the golden age of prog, with an understated majesty and graceful flow that is rare today. While too many bands today aim for a me-too Anglo-American mainstream sound, their influences limited to the same obvious ones, Herba d’Hamelí’s music has a sense of place, like the first-generation European prog bands who weren’t trying to all sound the same. If your faith in progressive rock is in need of a little restoration, this album should do it.
Interiors (2015) is at least as good as Girafes a Sibèria. Read the Music From the Other Side of the Room review.
Aviator was a sort of second-tier British supergroup who released these two albums in 1979 and 1980. The band was formed by Jack Lancaster and Mick Rogers, joined by John G. Perry and Clive Bunker, with Robin Lumley producing. Lancaster is known for his Marscape and Peter and the Wolf albums with Robin Lumley and his Wild Connections album with Rick van der Linden. The second Aviator album Turbulence was recorded without Lancaster, but then Lancaster’s 1980 album Skinningrove Bay featured all of the Aviator lineup, so they must’ve still been getting along. Mick Rogers is best known as the singer/guitarist of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Clive Bunker is best known for his time as Jethro Tull’s drummer, and John G. Perry was in Caravan, Quantum Jump, Anthony Phillips’ band, and others. The self-titled first Aviator LP was not hard to find in the U.S., but Turbulence was. Both reflect the fact that, the band UK excepted, it was difficult to make progressive rock in the UK during those years, and so these two albums are a mix of jazz-tinged prog and more straightforward rock and pop-rock. Read reviews at Prog Archives and the GloryDazeMusic.com reviews of Turbulence and Aviator.
This 1989 album was the first of two released by Fire Merchants, a trio of John Goodsall (Brand X) on guitar, Chester Thompson (Genesis, Weather Report) on drums, and bassist/percussionist Doug Lunn. The music is rock-fusion, like a heavier, more aggressive and rock-oriented Brand X. This is the 2014 edition on Gonzo, which includes three bonus tracks.
Castle Canyon are an unknown early-1970s American instrumental progressive rock band. Two short tracks on Gods of 1973 (2009) actually were recorded in 1973-74. Four were composed in 1973-74 but not recorded until 2008, and three are new but sound consistent with the others. There is some guitar, but this is keyboard-dominated symphonic prog using vintage sounds. While ELP is the most frequently-heard influence and Trace is often a good reference point, the music ranges wider than that and is fairly original, including some excellent impressionistic soundscapes. Close your eyes and imagine it’s a lost classic from 1973, because in a way it is.
Criteria Obsession (2015, digipack) is the second Castle Canyon CD, again emphasizing 1970s-style vintage keyboard dominated prog instrumentals. The trio of keyboards, guitars, and drums has the assistance of different bass players on different tracks, and a guest saxophonist on one. There are two short ARP 2600 solo works recorded in 1974, while the band’s 1972 tour de force Criteria Obsession / The Mushroom Song (14:35) finally sees the light of day in 2015. (There are brief vocals on this track.) The 13-minute Disaster is a studio recording of a piece the band used to play live; it juxtaposes carefully composed elements with sections of wild abandon, showing a fusion side to Castle Canyon. Though you might never guess, My Lady Carey is a rock arrangement of one of the earliest surviving renaissance musical pieces. They just don’t make albums like this anymore.
Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts (2010) is the debut solo album for Magenta’s front-woman Christina Booth. Christina co-wrote all 10 tracks with Rob Reed, who also mixed and produced the album. Guests on the album include John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost), Steve Balsamo (The Storys, ChimpanA), Troy Donockley (ex-Iona), and Chris Fry (Magenta), with a remix of Deep Ocean by Jem Godfrey (Frost). Says Christina of the album: “Although it’s not Prog, it’s pretty varied and I hope that Magenta fans will find plenty to like. It’s certainly been a labour of love, and I really believe it’s the finest set of songs I’ve ever written.” Read the Musical Discoveries review.
Christina’s second CD The Light (2015, digisleeve) features contributions from Andy Tillison (The Tangent), John Mitchell, Theo Travis, Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost), Dan Nelson (Godsticks), and Magenta bandmates Chris Fry and Rob Reed. As on her first album, Christina worked closely with Rob developing the tracks, Christina coming up with the melodies and lyrics, Rob taking care of the arrangements as well as producing and mixing. The songs are linked lyrically, most inspired by Christina’s recent battle with breast cancer, with the natural melancholy of the music balanced by a sense of hope. Watch the video for Disappeared.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium). Sanctuary (2014, digisleeve) is a rather amazing work, as it is in essence an alternate-universe version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to right-thinking people everywhere one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. (If the current generation of prog fans sometimes seems clueless about Mike Oldfield in general, there is this perspective: Oldfield is one of only four individual artists to whom Paul Stump devotes a section of his The Music’s All That Matters book, the others being Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, and Anthony Phillips. The others owe much of their renown to the bands they were in.) Reed even secured the collaboration of Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (who co-produced) and Simon Heyworth (who mastered Sanctuary) after receiving their seal of approval. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the album in 24/96 stereo and DTS 5.1 surround for maximum bliss, plus the promo videos. Watch the videos for Sanctuary Part 1 and Sanctuary Part 2 (excerpt), the latter a great piece of comedy with a special guest star, and you should find a few more of the promo videos nearby.
Willow’s Song (2015) is an 11-track CD with a playing time of 35:29 containing material recorded for Sanctuary but omitted. The centerpieces are two vocal tracks featuring singer Angharad Brinn that were left off so as not to disrupt the feel of the all-instrumental Sanctuary. If you’ve seen the movie The Wicker Man (the 1973 original), then you can’t forget Willow’s Song, a haunting psych-folk song (which is accompanied by Britt Ekland dancing naked.) Reed does a great rendition of this song, which you can hear in Reed’s video to accompany it. The second vocal song is a brilliant version of the traditional Scarborough Fair, given the full Mike Oldfield treatment, transforming it into majestic prog. Willow’s Song is repeated in an extended version, while Scarborough Fair is repeated in an instrumental version. There are two very Oldfield-esque instrumental pieces not used on Sanctuary, while the remaining songs are remixes and demo versions of parts of Sanctuary. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Back in stock. Presto Ballet’s 2012 studio CD Relic of the Modern World had been unavailable for nearly two years, which stalled the band’s momentum, but now we have freshly-minted copies. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. See our U.S. page for the other Presto Ballet CDs currently available and all the info on the band.
Though Nosound began as the solo studio project of Giancarlo Erra, they grew into five piece live band. In the summer of 2014, Nosound were invited to perform at an extraordinary festival: the Starmus Festival at the Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). It was here that Nosound recorded Teide 2390 (2015, mediabook with 24-page booklet), featuring songs from their entire career. (The ‘2390’ in the title is the altitude of the location in meters.) In addition to a 70-minute CD, this set includes a hybrid DVD-Audio/Video disc. DVD-Audio players will play the 5.1 surround 24/96 MLP lossless mix of the album. DVD-Video players can play the DTS 24/96 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround versions. The DVD also contains the stereo mix in 24/48 LPCM. In addition, there is a video featurette that includes the performances of several songs plus behind-the-scenes footage. Watch the video for I Miss the Ground. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for all the Nosound CDs and much more info.
The best orchestra in the world, recorded in the best studio in the world (Abbey Road), playing some of the best songs in the world. Guests include Thijs Van Leer (Focus), Richard Harvey (Gryphon), Patrick Moraz, Ian Bairnson (The Alan Parsons Project), Gavin Harrison, Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson band), and the late Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboardist of Three Dog Night). The tracks: ELP Suite: Tarkus / From the Beginning / Tarkus (reprise), Comfortably Numb, Thick as a Brick, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Focus II, Nights in White Satin, Think of Me With Kindness, Roundabout, Watcher of the Skies, Red Barchetta. If your favorite song did not make the cut, lobby hard for a Volume 2. Watch the educational/motivational video.
DeLane Lea Studios 1973 is a live-in-the-studio recording by Renaissance performing in 1973 to a small gathering of friends at historic DeLane Lea Studios in London (used by The Beatles, Queen, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, among others). The track list: Can You Understand?, Let It Grow, Sounds of the Sea, Carpet of the Sun, At the Harbour, Ashes Are Burning, Prologue. Ashes Are Burning features guest appearances by Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) and Al Stewart! This is on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, so one must assume it’s a legit release from the original tapes. It sounds good.
Also on Purple Pyramid is the double-CD Academy of Music 1974, an archival recording receiving its first legit release in 2015. This is Renaissance performing at the historic (and no longer standing) Academy of Music hall in New York City, accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra. It was professionally recorded for radio broadcast. The track list: Can You Understand?, Black Flame, Carpet of the Sun, Cold Is Being, Things I Don’t Understand, Running Hard, Ashes Are Burning, Mother Russia, Prologue. See our British page for more Renaissance CDs.
The Breaking of the World (2015) is Glass Hammer’s 17th studio album. (That’s what it says on Glass Hammer’s site; we lost count a long time ago.) This one features Carl Groves, Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Susie Bogdanowicz, Kamran Alan Shikoh, and Aaron Raulston, with mastering by Bob Katz. The ubiquitous Steve Unruh guests on violin and flute. Watch the album trailer. Read the Progarchy review. See our U.S. page for the rest of the Glass Hammer CDs.
The Gentle Storm is a collaboration between mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and vocalist/lyricist Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering). It’s a given that this is an epic concept album. The interesting aspect of The Diary (2015, digipack) is that the two CDs in this set feature two contrasting interpretations of the same songs, with disc 1 ‘Gentle’ containing the “acoustic/folk” arrangements and disc 2 ‘Storm’ containing “a full-on metal assault”. Of course the latter is as much symphonic prog as it is metal. Watch the official videos for Shores of India and Heart of Amsterdam and listen to the Gentle version of Shores of India.
This is the 2010 CD edition on Esoteric of the self-titled 1971 Fields album. After the first lineup of Rare Bird folded in early 1971, keyboardist Graham Field formed this outfit with bassist/singer/guitarist Alan Barry and drummer Andy McCulloch (in between his time with King Crimson and Greenslade). Although Fields didn’t achieve the commercial success Rare Bird had, (what had until recently been) their sole album is a very good British prog album, certainly better than the Rare Bird albums that would follow since Rare Bird without Graham Fields wasn’t very progressive at all. This CD edition has been remastered from the original master tapes and features an essay by Sid Smith and an interview with Graham Field. Read reviews at Music from the Other Side of the Room and Prog Archives.
Following the album’s release, the band’s line-up changed with the departure of Alan Barry and the arrival of Frank Farrell from Supertramp. This line-up recorded a follow-up album in 1972 that was perplexingly shelved by CBS Records and remained consigned to the vaults for forty-odd years! The original master tapes of this fine album were recently located and have been remastered by the Esoteric team as Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace (2015) with the full involvement of Graham Field and featuring a booklet with an essay by Sid Smith and interview with Graham Field. Listen to Let Her Sleep on YouTube.
Argos’ self-titled 2008 debut CD and 2010 follow-up Circles may be the most British-sounding prog records to come out of Germany. The music is keyboard-dominated and 1970s-styled, with vocals in English from a singer who sounds sort of like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Pye Hastings. The music displays influences of Genesis, Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and Stackridge. Argos’ MySpace page lists other influences as well, of which Fruupp and England are also good references. When Argos do Peter Hammill, there’s no mistaking it -- it’s almost better than the real thing. One of the characteristics of much classic British prog is whimsy, which Argos have understood. To some extent, you could call Argos the German equivalent of The Tangent, in that it’s all about classic British progressive rock done extremely well. If your first love is 1970s British prog, this music provides that magical feeling -- you can’t say exactly what it is, but you know it when you hear it. Part of it is emotional warmth, an accusation rarely leveled at modern-style prog. Unfortunately, Musea let both of those CDs go out-of-print after about two years.
Now on Progressive Promotion Records, Cruel Symmetry (2012, digipack, 55-minutes) is another fantastic album for Argos, often emphasizing their Canterbury side. The 20:43 title track is the centerpiece. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Background Magazine.
A Seasonal Affair (2015, digipack) includes guest spots for Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile, United Progressive Fraternity, Flaming Row, Cyril), and Andy Wells (Pilgrym). For what it’s worth, we compared Argos to The Tangent years ago, and now Andy Tillison is guesting. See the related band Yacobs.
Glacier are a prog band from Durham, England who have been around in one form or another since 1979. Their CD debut was Monument in 2001, essentially a compilation of older material. And it isn’t nearly as good as their second CD Ashes for the Monarch (2015, mini-LP sleeve). It’s safe to consider Glacier alongside Comedy of Errors, Abel Ganz, and Cyan, but Ashes for the Monarch is to a greater extent loaded with Genesis and Steve Hackett style symphonic splendor, some Yes influence as well. A guest on violin adds a Kansas or Solstice feel to some tracks, in particular the 11-part, 23-minute epic One Man Alone. This CD should be on the shopping list of any fan of melodic prog. It sounds very British, and is utterly free of metal or other impurities. “This is an album that should be enjoyed for what it is intended to be, a celebration of a genre that simply refuses to fade and as such represents an example of the highest calibre. For those seeking nostalgia with a contemporary twist, look no further. Glacier’s new work fourteen years in the making is a joy and well worth the wait. Traditional prog at its very best.” Read the full Progmeister and DPRP reviews.
Stewart Bell is the keyboardist and main composer in Citizen Cain. It looks as though going forward, the Citizen Cain franchise is in his hands, as Bell plans this 74-minute album to be only the first in a trilogy. The Antechamber of Being (Part 1) is a prog rock opera featuring five vocalists: Simone Rossetti (The Watch), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), Bekah Mhairi Comrie, Phil Allen (Citizen Cain), and Bell himself. Allen also plays guitar, so two-thirds of Citizen Cain is present. Musically and even vocally, it sounds quite a bit like Citizen Cain, albeit slightly heavier, picking up where Citizen Cain left off with 2012’s Skies Darken. The Genesis and Peter Gabriel allusions still abound (if you don’t hear Genesis’ The Knife at one point, you’re just not listening), though the songwriting chops are not on the Genesis level. The music is complex and dense though not impenetrable; the same could be said of much of Citizen Cain’s music. Read the DPRP, Jerry Lucky, and Background Magazine reviews.
This four track CD (20:11, slimline case) contains new versions of Steve Hackett’s anthem and signature track Spectral Mornings. The release is the brainchild of Magenta’s Rob Reed, who wanted to reimagine the instrumental track with its beautiful melody as a song. Rob asked Big Big Train’s David Longdon to write lyrics for the new version. Spectral Mornings 2015 features guitars by Steve Hackett, vocals by Longdon and Magenta’s Christina Booth, drums by Big Big Train’s Nick D’Virgilio, keyboards by Rob Reed, and bass from ever-in-demand Nick Beggs. Longdon also adds flute. The main version Spectral Mornings 2015 is followed by an acoustic version, an instrumental version, and the “Classic Mix”. The four versions are for the most part quite different from each other, not the usual alternate mixes but entirely different arrangements. For instance, the instrumental version features recorders played by Peter Jones, which combined with harp sounds from Reed opens the track in orchestral Celtic territory before the familiar soaring Hackett guitar enters and the song bursts into full-bandwidth splendor. Take one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and uplifting instrumental pieces ever written, add high-quality lyrics and two of the most recognizable voices in contemporary prog singing a male/female duet. Let cream-of-the-crop musicians add new elements and ideas in a spirit of complete respect. Get that Hackett guy to ensure the guitar is done properly. The result is pure bliss. The musicians are donating their profits to the Parkinson’s Society UK. Watch the video.
Traveller (2014, digipack) is the debut for Dutch prog band Unkh (not to be confused with Polish band Ankh), though the band was established in 1991. As you listen to the album on Bandcamp (mp3 icon above), you’ll realize that Unkh mix in some styles other than prog. The band describe themselves as “a mashup of contemporary alternative rock and seventies progressive music.” Well, maybe not ‘contemporary’ alternative rock, unless the 1980s are considered contemporary. But the non-prog is concentrated in some of the shorter tracks (which still have prog elements), while the no-doubt-about-it prog tracks are the long ones Borderlines.ca (12:51) and especially Borderlines.fr (13:32). Here and elsewhere, Unkh demonstrate an affinity with Supersister, not to mention Genesis and King Crimson. The album is actually easy to recommend as it’s not the same old thing but instead a unique combination of influences. Read the Background Magazine review.
Impressionist Symphony (2014) celebrates the 40th anniversary of Clearlight Symphony. For the new symphony, Cyrille Verdeaux is reunited with Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, and Didier Malherbe and joined by other friends old and new including Paul Sears (The Muffins) on eight extended compositions. Impressionist Symphony continues Cyrille’s return to progressive rock, which began with the previous year’s Spirits Burning & Clearlight - Healthy Music in Large Doses CD, which features Cyrille and many members of the prog and space rock communities. Impressionist Symphony is the album Clearlight fans had been waiting for Cyrille to make for many years. Read the Jerry Lucky and All About Jazz reviews. Watch the album teaser video.
With Clearlight leader Cyrille Verdeaux living in California now for a long time, a collaboration with California space collective Spirits Burning was a natural. There are at least 35 musicians on Healthy Music in Large Doses (2013), including Daevid Allen, Robert Rich, and members past and present of Hawkwind, High Tide, Gong, Universal Totem Orchestra, The Muffins, Thinking Plague, Cartoon, and others. Watch the album preview video. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Aural Innovations reviews. See our French page for the rest of the Clearlight CDs and much more info.
Brazilians Zózimo Rech and Adrianne Simioni combine their efforts to varying degrees on these albums. Both musicians play guitar as well as keyboards and both combine synth music and instrumental progressive rock unlike anyone else. In addition to time spent in rock and fusion bands, Rech and Simioni were the only constant members of Orquestra Profana, an ensemble in existence from 1991-95 and dedicated to the interpretation of classical music with electric and electronic instruments. Their newest work is Le Quattro Stagioni / The Four Seasons (2015), which is Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work performed on electric guitars and synths. Orquestra Profana performed this live during their existence, and Rech and Simioni felt obligated to record a studio version.
The Life of a Star is by and large a loud, bombastic progressive rock album that uses a lot of synths, but electric guitar prevails. It was recorded back in 1997 but not released until 2006. Pictures of a Solar System (2006) is considered the sequel. Pictures of a Solar System has some electric guitar and some rock but is more of a symphonic/melodic/rhythmic synth album along the lines of Synergy, though with higher energy, sometimes touching upon the style of Fonya. It is compositionally the more mature album.
On her 2006 album The Intelligible Sky, Simioni plays electric & acoustic guitar and electric violin. Rech has arranging, co-arranging, and/or co-writing credits on all the songs, produced the album, and took care of the keyboards and sequencers. The album is more prog rock than synth music. It has more than enough energy and complexity for progressive rock fans, yet is full of sophisticated synth textures, both symphonic and spacey. The drums on these earlier albums are programmed, but they are well done; a human drummer would not have added much.
Oregon (2004, 66-minutes) is the second CD from Dutch quartet Nice Beaver, who expand well beyond the neo-prog style of their 2002 debut On Dry Land (currently out-of-print, but the band say a re-release is in the works). For one, they’ve added some heavy guitar, but more importantly, there is a Camel influence on some tracks and some slight jazz touches, and though the early Marillion style is still present in places, it isn’t the only thing they do. That said, there are some great Steve Rothery style guitar leads. A very good sophomore effort showing a lot of growth. Read the DPRP and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
For The Time It Takes (2015, digipack), Nice Beaver followed Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Trion over to the Polish Oskar label, not too surprising given how intertwined these Dutch prog bands are. Nice Beaver take another step forward with this album, showing an even stronger kinship to Camel as well as to Rush and Marillion, with jazzy touches throughout. Listen to the album teaser and Rainbow’s End on YouTube.
Note Flamborough Head’s Lost in Time is back in stock.
Steven Wilson’s 2015 fourth studio album is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and for good reason. Wilson’s band is the same one that recorded The Raven... and toured in 2013-2014, but Wilson demonstrates again that he isn’t going to make the same solo album twice. The standard CD edition comes in a digipack. The Blu-ray has lossless hi-res surround (96/24 5.1 LPCM and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) and 96/24 LPCM stereo versions of all the album tracks. It has a studio documentary filmed and edited by Lasse Hoile, and a photo gallery. It also adds instrumental versions of all the album tracks in 96/24 stereo LPCM, seven alternative version bonus tracks, and lastly, the Blu-ray comes with a download code for FLAC and mp3 versions of the album, which means the Blu-ray has you covered. Listen to First Regret / 3 Years Older on SoundCloud. Watch the video for Perfect Life. (Three chords, five or six words, and you’re probably singing along first time through.) “Hand.Cannot.Erase, while available in a variety of formats, is best experienced in 96/24 on Blu-ray... Could there be an artist under more pressure to put forth brilliant, original music in surround sound than Steven Wilson? For all intents and purposes, Wilson is the poster boy for the 5.1 audio universe -- in fact, no one else comes close.” [soundandvision.com] See Page 2 for more Steven Wilson titles.
Steve Rothery is of course Marillion’s guitarist. His instrumental album The Ghosts of Pripyat was first released in September 2014 after a very successful Kickstarter campaign. InsideOut took over in 2015 for the general release, and this is the U.S. jewel box edition. Steve Rothery invited Steven Wilson and Steve Hackett to contribute a guest guitar solo each, and you can see what the main criterion for playing guitar on this album was. Actually Rothery’s band includes guitarist Dave Foster (Mind if we call you Steve?) from Mr. So & So. It was a couple writing sessions with Dave that was the genesis of this album. The rest of the band is Riccardo Romano (RanestRane) on keys, Yatim Halimi (Panic Room) on bass, and Leon Parr (ex-Mr. So & So) on drums. The album has kind of a David Gilmour / Pink Floyd vibe, along with many Rothery trademarks familiar to Marillion fans. Watch the album trailer and listen to Morpheus on YouTube.
The 3-disc Live in Rome digipack set was recorded at a sold out show in Italy in 2014. The first CD contains six tracks from The Ghosts of Pripyat. The second CD contains performances of classic Marillion material plus two songs by Italian prog band RanestRane. The reason for that is that for this concert, the keyboardist was Riccardo Romano of RanestRane, and Rothery (as well as Steve Hogarth) guested on the RanestRane album A Space Odyssey Part I: Monolith. The rest of Rothery’s band is Dave Foster on guitar, Yatim Halimi on bass, Leon Parr on drums, and guest singers Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi. The DVD contains the video of all the songs on the two CDs except for Sugar Mice, presumably dropped for reasons of space. Read the Echoes and Dust review. Watch The Old Man of the Sea. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Sanguine Hum’s third studio album Now We Have Light (2015) is a double-CD that comes in two editions. The standard edition is a 2CD in jewel box + slipcase. The limited edition comes in a fat digipack and adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) containing a making-of documentary (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). Now We Have Light is a concept album that the band had been working on for over a decade, its roots going back to the days of Antique Seeking Nuns. During this time, they hatched a bizarre conceptual story that perhaps took the formation of Sanguine Hum to make it feasible to complete. Somewhat like a twisted mix of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Now We Have Light is a future parable set in an entirely possible scenario, in which entirely impossible events start occurring. Although core songs were written for this album as far back as 2002, the band were inspired by the most recent Sanguine Hum material to revisit the old tunes and, where needed, develop and rewrite what already existed, while at the same time creating a large amount of new music. Ultimately, it has come to represent a definitive cross section of all the work they’ve made as Antique Seeking Nuns, Joff Winks Band, Nunbient, and Sanguine Hum thus far. UK jazz vibraphone player Jim Hart guests on several tracks. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for all the Sanguine Hum studio CDs and much more info.
Sylvan and RPWL are the leaders of the current German prog scene, both bands having been releasing CDs for about 15 years now, so it’s good to see them working together on the business end, as Sylvan’s 2015 studio album Home is released on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. The less expensive version is the standard jewel case edition. The limited edition has the same 78 minutes of audio but comes in elaborate mediabook packaging for not much more (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). Home is Sylvan’s first full-on concept album since Posthumous Silence. Epic in every sense, Home could unseat Posthumous Silence as the band’s meisterwerk. Watch the album preview video and the video for Shine; listen to In Between. See our German page for the rest of the Sylvan CDs.
This is Esoteric’s newly remastered and expanded edition of the 1975 self-titled Kestrel album, a minor classic of English prog. The second disc contains six bonus tracks: two are non-LP, while the others are single or alternate versions of album tracks. The audio was remastered from the original master tapes, while the booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay. Kestrel were from Newcastle and released only this one album before disbanding. The LP became a collector’s item, particularly in Japan. The fact that the keyboardist plays a lot of Mellotron has something to do with the album’s reputation. File this album next to Cressida, Spring, Fantasy, and Fruupp. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to August Carol on YouTube, and you can find the rest of the album there with a little effort.
Neil Campbell is an English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist. Like Oldfield and Hackett before him, Campbell is more interested in composing and creating than simply showcasing his guitar skills. Despite the varying band/artist name, these are all full-on progressive works featuring a full band lineup. There is some overlap in the musicians, but the albums are distinct from one another. Campbell has an outlet for his solo guitar work (you can find his solo CDs on his website), so these band CDs receive his progressive energies. Emergence (2015, digisleeve) is an uncommonly good instrumental prog album, on which Marty Snape (Bulbs) makes important contributions. Campbell employs wordless female voices here in a manner between Karda Estra and The Northettes. Combined with Campbell’s classical guitar and keyboard/electronic embellishments, these more relaxed pieces will have you floating blissfully downstream. That is until Campbell cuts loose with electric guitar while a tight rhythm section plays energetically in odd meters, sending energy up your spine. There is fusion, majestic symphonic prog, even Philip Glass style melody lines if you listen for them, just some of the best instrumental music being made. Listen to an mp3 of Morphogenic Fields. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On (2013, digipack) is the debut for Campbell’s band Bulbs, and it may have been the best instrumental prog album of that year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy, and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Read the Prog Archives reviews.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock. Read the Exposé review.
King of Agogik is a German instrumental prog band that has been flying way too far under the radar, maybe because of the obscure words in the band name and album titles. (The word is agogic in English and refers to accenting a note by increasing its duration.) King of Agogik is the project of Hans Jörg Schmitz, an accomplished drummer with much band and live experience. He was the drummer on Traumhaus’s Die Andere Seite and Willowglass’s The Dream Harbour albums, and there is a King of Agogik track on Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas - Part II.
The King of Agogik CDs thus far are: Exlex Beats (2014, digipack, 77-minutes), From A to A (2011, digipack, 77-minutes), The Rhythmic Drawing Room (2009, 2CD, digipack, 134-minutes), Aleatorik System (2008, digipack, 75-minutes), and Membranophonic Experience (2006, digipack, 74-minutes). Start with the later CDs and work backwards. All feature other musicians; among the many musicians on the latest album Exlex Beats are Steve Unruh (Resistor, The Samurai of Prog), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and Arne Schäfer (Versus X, Apogee). The instrumentation is extensive, and though it varies from album to album, there are keyboards including Mellotron, flute, violin, mandolin, Chapman Stick, sax, oboe, and female voices, not to mention guitar, bass, and drums. The music is generally symphonic prog/neo-prog but it is eclectic, with sections that range from metallic to jazzy to pastoral to cinematic to jamming and more. Head to Prog Archives for reviews and details, and see the band’s review compendium. Watch Exlex Beats trailer 2 and trailer 1 and that’ll probably be enough convincing without having to read anything.
We would’ve stocked this British CD just for the band name, but it turns out to be an amazing album. It’s a homemade project that doesn’t sound homemade, but it does have the charm of an authentic, hand-knitted prog album. The music was written by father-son team Kevin and Bruce McDade, who play most of the instruments with help from a few others, while father Kevin wrote the lyrics. They did the smart thing in hiring drummer Gareth Roberts, a veteran of London’s West End, then recorded the drums and had the album mixed in a professional studio. The result is an excellent sounding production named Grak (2014, digipack). Paradoxically, it is familiar-sounding enough to make classic prog fans feel all warm and fuzzy, yet it’s also unlike anything you’ve heard before. There are influences of Genesis and Jethro Tull, among others. There are folk instruments including violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and bodhran (Irish heritage on display). There are synths and French horns and Mellotron, but there is also heavy guitar sprinkled throughout, and some crazy electronic beats. The 22-minute closer A Sense of Texture has a middle section of manic electronic beats (challenging Mike Oldfield’s Guilty for best prog dance bit), yet it never stops sounding like prog. The music can be quite complex (the 150 tracks of audio on A Sense of Texture crashed the studio’s Pro Tools system), and the mix engineer contributed this useful review quote: “This is flippin bonkers!”. But for all the complexity, there are songs here. If it seems as though modern prog bands are unable to write an actual chorus (you know, something that occurs more than once, makes you want to sing along, and sticks in your head after the music has stopped), Twombley Burwash will remind you how British bands of yore wrote choruses. The band says that the idea of the album was to take the listener on such an enjoyable and challenging journey that, at the end, you’d want to start all over. Sounds like the mission statement of the best prog bands. Read the DPRP review; they gave it 10 out of 10.
This is the U.S. edition of Beardfish’s 2015 CD +4626-Comfortzone. It is a double-CD with the same audio content as the more expensive European limited edition; the only difference is that it comes in a jewel case rather than a digipack. The bonus second disc is entitled The Early Years - Outtakes and Demos and contains 13 tracks recorded between 2002-2008, almost all previously-unreleased. If you thought The Void ventured too far toward prog-metal, you’ll be pleased to know that Beardfish have done an about-face, returning to a large degree to their early sound, which is what got us excited about them in the first place. “This is an album that fizzes with passion for music’s endless bounty. The bar for 2015 has been set.” [Prog Magazine] Read the Sonic Abuse and Background Magazine reviews. Listen to Hold On on SoundCloud. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Beardfish CDs and more info.
This is the digipack 2CD limited edition of the new Van der Graaf Generator live album Merlin Atmos, recorded on the band’s 2013 European tour. Disc 1 contains Flight, Lifetime, All That Before, Bunsho, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, and Gog. These are reportedly the first live performances of the full Flight and A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, the latter being the band’s all-time epic, while Flight is Peter Hammill’s epic-length piece from his A Black Box album. If that set list isn’t sufficient to cause paroxysms of delight, this limited edition adds a 70-minute second disc containing Interference Patterns, Over the Hill, Your Time Starts Now, Scorched Earth, Meurglys III The Songwriter’s Guild, Man-Erg, and Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End. As you can see, the second disc is as essential as the first, containing many VdGG classics. Check our British page for more VdGG CDs.
Autumnsongs Records is a relatively new Norwegian label who now have U.S. distribution. This is the first batch of CDs to come through their U.S. distributor:
Heartbreak in ((Stereo)) (2015, digisleeve) is the debut by Mollmaskin, the project of Anders Bjermeland, leader of psychedelic adventurers Flashback Caruso and a member of Rhys Marsh’s The Autumn Ghost. Bjermeland sings and plays all manner of instruments here, with a bit of help from Rhys Marsh (who also mixed and mastered) and Magnus Nygård Muldal. The music has a wonderful, nearly indefinable retro sound that today could only have come out of Scandinavia. Early song-oriented Soft Machine is one reference point, Dungen another, and Faust can be mentioned if only because the album contains a cover of Faust’s Jennifer (one of Faust’s slightly more conventional songs). Listen to How Many Ants, The Long Shadow, and The Death of Lennon on YouTube. Note this is a double-CD, but the album would have fit easily on a single CD. It’s the same price as a single CD on the label, so maybe there’s just a lot of unused capacity at CD plants these days.
Scandinavian prog luminaries Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho), Rhys Marsh (The Autumn Ghost, Opium Cartel), and Mattias Olsson (Anglagard, White Willow) joined forces as Kaukasus to record and release their outstanding debut album Kaukasus I (2014, digisleeve). The project began as an experiment in the Krautrock style, but the music morphed into full-fledged, modern-sounding, dark Nordic progressive rock, with elements of Krautrock, art-rock, and world music. The label references Japan, Genesis, Can, Brian Eno, and early Peter Gabriel. “Despite the fact we’ve seen these musicians work together before in various contexts to make fantastic music, Kaukasus is perhaps their first collaborative effort to exhibit a truly deep level of prog appeal. Furthermore, there’s something special about this group that clicks, the way they sort of take the best of Rhys’ singer-songwriter style but place it in an extensive environment that Rhys, Einarsen, and Olsson have, quite frankly, turned into their prog playground. I give huge compliments to all three in saying that “I” is a spectacular album that has a strong sense of emotional weight, a record to be taken seriously and reckoned with in and of itself, and a release that while not being perfect, clearly demonstrates that if these guys produce a second album, it is sure to be a masterpiece. Kaukasus is surely to be considered one of the best new bands of 2014, and “I” is likely to rank up there with the best albums of the year. Read the full Progulator review, also the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to Lift the Memory and In the Stillness of Time on YouTube.
Rhys Marsh is a British expat singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who now lives in Norway. His ‘multi-national orchestra’ The Autumn Ghost has featured members of Anekdoten, Wobbler, White Willow, Änglagård, and others. The double-CD Trio (2013, digisleeve) was recorded live in the studio, the only overdubs being vocals and flute. Marsh had decided to form a live band to promote his third album The Blue Hour, but he wanted to reinterpret the songs rather than replicate them. So the line-up he chose featured two exciting multi-instrumentalists from Norwegian psychedelic band Flashback Caruso. Trio features songs from the first three Autumn Ghost records, dramatically rearranged for this new ensemble, plus one new instrumental track. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube.
Sentiment (2014, digisleeve) is the first Rhys Marsh album on which he does everything himself. “The guitar work, both electric and acoustic, is solid and superbly recorded, but it is probably keyboards that do more to define the sound. If Mellotron can choke horses, surely this album has enough to do it. Both string and flute sounds are used on nearly every track, along with electric piano and other instruments, none of which are noticeably digital in nature, though I wouldn't rule them out. Sentiment is a prime example of applying such vintage sounds in a modern context. The general vibe is not unlike Porcupine Tree without any appreciable metal elements. Tempos and moods vary from track to track, so while the overall effort is very cohesive, it doesn’t descend into tedious sameness. On the whole, this is a fine release that should find fans among many prog fans, provided they’re not allergic to Mellotrons.” [Exposé] Also read the Progulator review. Watch the videos for Burn the Brightest Day, Last November, and The Seventh Face. See our Scandinavian page for the earlier Rhys Marsh CDs.
Mater Thallium was formed in 2013 by two members of the band Procosmian Fannyfiddlers as a celebration of dark rock icons Candlemass, King Crimson, and Black Sabbath. Mater Thallium’s eponymous 2013 debut was a full-on symphonic doom rock album. What was initially intended as a one-off project took on a life of its own, and the quartet immediately began work on the far more progressive and adventurous concept album Abandoned by the Sun (2014, digisleeve). The opening track establishes a link to the previous record, but thereafter the music moves in multiple, unexpected directions. This is the type of prog album you’d expect to find on the Italian Black Widow label, if that helps clue you in to its style. Read the Jerry Lucky and The Progressive Aspect reviews. Listen to Exiled Witness and Finite on YouTube.
With the Lights Turned Out So Beautiful (2012, digisleeve) and Endless Serenade (2013, digisleeve) are the first two albums by Norwegian singer-songwriter Silje Leirvik, released by Autumnsongs Records. Both were recorded and produced by Rhys Marsh, who plays many instruments, with help from Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Kaukasus) on Endless Serenade. The first album features more organic tones including grand piano, violin, and cello, while the second album has more experimental textures and Mellotron. Both feature guitar and drums. But the absolute highlight is Silje’s voice, which is simply one of the greatest female voices of our time. These albums transcend the usual pigeonholing, as there is some sort of Nordic magic at work here. Read reviews at Silje’s website. From With the Lights Turned Out So Beautiful, listen to Dark Pages and With Me on YouTube. From Endless Serenade, watch the video for Black Heart and listen to Serenade.
Cleopatra / Purple Pyramid originally released this CD in 2013, then dropped the price in 2015. It’s part of their series of all-star CDs organized by Billy Sherwood and assembled in his studio, this time 11 covers of Steve Miller Band songs, all classics having received lots of airplay in the day. The participants are mostly from the world of prog and in addition to Sherwood include Tony Kaye, Peter Banks, John Wetton, Rick Wakeman, Geoff Downes, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), John Wesley, Steve Morse, Rod Argent, Steve Hillage, Nektar, Jordan Rudess, Derek Sherinian, Colin Moulding (XTC), Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow), Steve Stevens, and Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash). If you came of age during the 1970s and had the radio on, then these songs are part of your DNA, and hearing them again interpreted by these musicians is great entertainment.
Good Morning, Gettysburg (DVD+CD, 2015, digipack) is Vermont progsters Elephants of Scotland live at Rosfest 2014. The entire 13 song set was shot in high definition and mixed from the 24-bit digital multi-track recording. So while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) is necessarily standard def, the band have cleverly included the HD video on the DVD as an mp4 file. Now there are only 14 songs total on Elephants of Scotland’s two studio CDs, and the only song not performed live is on the DVD as a bonus track with a new 2015 studio mix (with video of the drum tracking session). So this is sort of the complete and unabridged Elephants of Scotland. See our USA page for Elephants of Scotland’s studio CDs and info on the band.
This is the first release on the new Timeless Momentum label, run by Antoine Fafard (Spaced Out). And it’s the best fusion release we’ve heard in a long time, an album that may remind fusion fans why they fell in love with fusion in the first place. Unless you live in Montreal, you may not have heard of Canadian guitarist and composer Jerry De Villiers Jr, a unique player with incredible tone and highly melodic phrasing. Jerry was heavily active in the Montreal jazz scene in the 1990s and was also busy composing, recording, and performing his own music under the project name Turning Point. Due to various circumstances, none of the music he recorded in the studio with Turning Point was ever released on CD. The music on The Turning Point Archives (2014, 76-minutes) consists of seven 1995 studio tracks plus seven pieces recorded live in 1994, basically an LP worth of each. The sound throughout couldn’t be better. On the live tracks, Jerry is supported by a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer. The studio tracks include various collaborators, with Jerry playing some keys in addition to guitar. There is a brass section on two of the studio tracks, sax on three. Half the tracks are in a fusion-tinged, symphonic rock style centered on soaring lead guitar, while half the tracks (more so the live ones) are in a straight fusion style. But it is fusion of the highest caliber, the kind of stuff that energizes fusion aficionados like nothing else can. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Heavy on the Beach (2015, digipack) is the debut CD from Glasgow’s Grand Tour, a new band featuring some not-so-new musicians. Grand Tour’s leader is keyboardist Hew Montgomery, a founding member of Abel Ganz. Grand Tour had its genesis in 2005. Hew says he’d begun to feel the need to take more direct control of his own material as Abel Ganz moved off in a slightly different musical direction from his. In fact, the current Abel Ganz has no full-time members in common with the band that recorded the first two Abel Ganz albums; it appears only current bandleader Denis Smith has any connection to Abel Ganz of the 1980s or 1990s. The second member to sign on to Grand Tour was local guitarist Andrew Young. The two were joined in 2007 by Joe Cairney, vocalist with the then-dormant Comedy of Errors. The lineup was completed with the addition of drummer Bruce Levick (Comedy of Errors) in 2009. In 2010, Young was replaced by Comedy of Errors guitarist Mark Spalding, who agreed to join after a brief listen to the existing demos. So with the keyboardist/composer of the original Abel Ganz and three Comedy of Errors members, you ought to have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get. This is Glasgow-prog!
Things are heating up in Luxembourg, first TNNE and now Light Damage, who began as a Genesis and Pink Floyd cover band. Their Pink Floyd tribute was under the name Brain Damage. Now writing their own material, this 2015 digipack CD is the quintet’s debut. Light Damage’s sound has much of the old Marillion, or actually the continental European take on Fish-era Marillion that one hears in Clepsydra, early Sylvan, and others. And of course there is a Pink Floyd component as well. Read the Background Magazine review. Listen to The Supper of Cyprianus and Empty on YouTube and Heaven on SoundCloud.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music, using both rock and classical chamber instruments. Six of the eight tracks on their 12th(?) album Strange Relations (2015) were jointly composed by Karda Estra mastermind Richard Wileman and Paul Sears (The Muffins) and also feature Sears on drums. It looks as though this collaboration will continue in the future. As usual, many other musicians flesh out the unique Karda Estra sound. Listen to Strange Relations 5 on YouTube. “Karda Estra continue to revise and fine tune a sound that is expressive, angular, and uncommonly beautiful. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Wileman has chosen a path that eschews all of the common trappings of the rock idiom, perfecting a profile that lies midway between symphonic rock and a modern chamber sound, lushly orchestrated with violins, double-reeds, flute, clarinet, saxes, voice and more, in addition to Wileman’s guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, kalimba, and percussion... a seriously enjoyable listen that’s in a class of its own.” [Exposé] See our British page for many more Karda Estra CDs and much more info.
The Road of Bones is IQ’s 2014 studio album. This 2CD special edition comes in a digipack and adds a second CD containing six additional brand new songs totaling 49 minutes, an entire second album for a few bucks more. They’ve had five years to write them, so these aren’t demos and outtakes. Why would any self-respecting IQ fan want the single CD? The Road of Bones marks the return to the studio of bass player Tim Esau after two decades away.
We hadn’t been able to restock the Special Edition of IQ’s 2009 CD Frequency for the past several years, and never had it at this price. Whereas the standard edition contains just the CD (in a jewel case), this Special Edition comes in a digipack and adds a full-length DVD (NTSC, all-region, stereo, 16:9) of IQ performing live in Holland in 2007. Sweet! See Page 2 for the rest of the IQ catalog.
The self-titled Quantum Jump album (1976) is the first of two great if somewhat curious albums by Rupert Hine’s funky jazz-rock progressive-pop band. In addition to Hine (vocals, keyboards), the band features John G. Perry (bass), Mark Warner (guitar), and Trevor Morais (drums), with Morris Pert and Ray Cooper guesting on percussion. Hine says that on this album, they were trying to blend funk and fusion with English songwriting sensibility. There’s a feel of Steely Dan and Zappa run through a Canterbury filter. Sort of. This is the 2014 edition on Esoteric, remastered from the original tapes and including five bonus tracks. (These appear to be the same bonus tracks that were on the 1998 Voiceprint edition.) The booklet features fully restored artwork and new liner notes.
Barracuda (1977) saw the departure of Warner but the addition of multiple guests including Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) as well as Simon Jeffes and “The Penguin Cafe String Ensemble” as they were credited. There is less of the funk and jazz-rock of the first album here, and Barracuda gets the nod as the slightly better of the two. This 2015 edition on Esoteric has been newly remastered from the original tapes and expanded to a double-CD. It has 15 bonus tracks including Quantum Jump’s entire live appearance on the BBC Radio One In Concert show in July 1977, which saw guitarist Roye Albrighton (Nektar) in a short-lived role as a member of the live band, along with Geoffrey Richardson on viola. The other bonus tracks include two single edits previously unreleased on CD, two outtakes from the 1977 recording sessions at Trident Studios in London, and four rare tracks taken from the 1979 remix compilation album Mixing. The booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay and interview with Rupert Hine. “Barracuda is a sumptuously layered and beautifully recorded album that, a superabundance of clavichord apart, gives few clues as to its age.” Click the mp3 icon above to read the full AllMusic reviews of both albums.
The Third Day (2014, gatefold mini-LP sleeve) is the third full-length CD for Edinburgh prog-pop-electronica band North Atlantic Oscillation, signed to the Kscope label. It gets a U.S. release several months after its European release, so this will look like old news to some of you. The 2013 Sand album (NAO in all but name) improved upon the second NAO album, and The Third Day improves upon Sand, making it the NAO album with the greatest appeal to traditional prog fans. Really, it departs from most modern prog not so much in the music itself as in the unconventional mix (vocals are half-buried, separation of instruments wasn’t a goal). Give it a listen; you can stream the whole album at the mp3 icon above. “This is the sound of progressive music in 2014 but with a broad appeal outside that genre’s demographic. A highlight of the year so far no matter how clumsily you try to define or pigeonhole it.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review.
Tony Patterson is probably best known as the singer for top UK Genesis tribute act ReGenesis, and he recently contributed to Nick Magnus’s N’monix album. His voice is naturally Gabrielesque and doesn’t sound contrived. Keyboardist Brendan Eyre may be best known for the band Riversea, which he formed with singer/guitarist Marc Atkinson; both also joined Nine Stones Close. Tony and Brendan discussed the idea of working on a project together that would reflect their native North East (England) roots. The album’s themes include memories of loss, heartache, and the abiding beauty of the North East landscape that drew them back to places and people left behind. Northlands (2014, digipack) is a beautifully crafted, cinematic album that features contributions from Steve Hackett, John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Tim Esau (IQ), Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close), and several others. “Within the same month of Pink Floyd’s final album being released comes a musical adventure from two relatively unknown musicians who have sculptured a masterpiece which deserves as much recognition as Pink Floyd’s swan song. From the premise of the tale to the honing of each song and nuances there within, Northlands is a breath of fresh air... What it is defies category. It is beautiful, delicate, thought-provoking, and a joyful journey for any music lover. Northlands exceeded all expectations for me, and any listener will find with each listen it will grow with you and you with it.” Read the full Progmeister review. Watch the album preview video and listen to an even longer album preview on YouTube.
Scorch (2014, digipack) is the second album for Tin Spirits, this one released on Esoteric Antenna, which is Esoteric’s imprint for new prog as opposed to reissues. Tin Spirits are a quartet led by former XTC and current Big Big Train guitarist Dave Gregory. Gregory’s guitar work has been an important factor in Big Big Train’s ascension. Much like label-mates Schnauser, Tin Spirits are unabashedly progressive (the final track exceeds 15 minutes) yet entirely accessible. After an appearance at the 2014 Summer’s End prog festival, UK prog fans know this band well, and now U.S. fans need to get on board. Read the Progarchy review. Watch the video for Summer Now and listen to Little Eyes on YouTube.
This 2CD set includes the entire output of Pelican, who were one of the first Icelandic prog bands. Included are their LPs Uppteknir (1974) and Lítil Fluga (1975), plus three non-LP bonus tracks. After the release of Uppteknir, Pelican were the biggest band in Iceland. Despite the Icelandic album titles, Pelican sang in English, and in fact their LPs were recorded in Massachusetts! They even toured the U.S. east coast, playing to as many as 1,000 people, an audience size that seems almost impossible now for a prog band. In addition to progressive rock, Pelican’s music included Beatles-esque pop, pysch, and American rural rock. But they never lost their Icelandic flavor and their sound remained distinctive. Listen to Á Sprengisandi (an arrangement of an old Icelandic folk song), Instrumental Love Song, Amnesia, and Sunrise to Sunset on YouTube.
Our pick for Best Album of 2014:
Dave Bainbridge is the main creative force in the band Iona. Bainbridge’s Veil of Gossamer (2004, 64-minutes) is stunning, as good as any prior Iona release and better in some respects. While Iona singer Joanne Hogg sings on every track except for the instrumentals, Bainbridge also employs two more incredible female voices: Rachel Jones (Karnataka) and Scottish singer Mae McKenna (at least three albums of her own). Jones and McKenna are used extensively; usually all three vocalists are present on the same track, with McKenna handling the Scottish Gaelic vocals. Also playing on most tracks are Iona bandmates Troy Donockley and Frank van Essen, as well as Tim Harries, Nick Beggs, and others. The album strikes the perfect balance between vocals and instrumental work, ranging from soaring progressive rock to orchestral splendor to that plaintive, yearning beauty that characterizes the best Celtic music.
Iona reached their peak in prog rock terms on 2006’s The Circling Hour. Troy Donockley would later depart and Iona returned to their early sound, de-emphasizing the progressive rock aspect of their style to some extent. Well, energy cannot be destroyed and must go somewhere, and now it’s crystal clear where Dave Bainbridge’s progressive energies have gone. Celestial Fire (2014, 74-minutes, digisleeve) is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece and an album Dave says he’s always wanted to make. Dave explains: “It’s an album which really draws upon the excitement and exhilaration I first felt, listening to many of my early musical heroes: Yes, Gentle Giant, David Sancious and Tone, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Hatfield and The North, Deep Purple, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Stivell, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, to name but a few! It was listening to all these great musicians and composers that first inspired me to become a musician and composer.” The album showcases some amazing playing from Dave on both guitar and keyboards, and though the music is heavily instrumental, there are vocals from numerous singers including Damian Wilson, Joanne Hogg, and Sally Minnear (daughter of Kerry). Dave is assisted by Troy Donockley, his Iona bandmates, Randy George (Ajalon), and many more. For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and the only reason it won’t make your top ten is if you don’t hear it before you have to hand your list in! Also read the Spiritual Prog and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Listen to For Such a Time as This on YouTube.
Edge of the World: Live in Europe (2014, 2CD, digisleeve) is Iona’s first full-length live recording in nine years. It was recorded at various venues in the UK and The Netherlands during their 2012 Another Realm tour. There are 20 tracks though none from The Circling Hour, the focus being on Another Realm and the albums up through Open Sky. Read the Musical Discoveries review. See Page 2 for more Iona CDs.
Life Journey (2009) sees Iona’s co-founders reunited once again for another inspirational soundtrack to a book, taking up where 1998’s The Eye of the Eagle left off. Frank van Essen guests on violin and drums. This all-instrumental music was originally commissioned and conceived as a musical interpretation of the imagery and prose contained within Mary Fleeson’s book Life Journey, but it transcends that as the unique chemistry between the two musicians has produced a deeply spiritual, timeless work. Dave Bainbridge says: “In many ways this felt like we were returning to the source of the inspiration that birthed Iona the band.” Watch the official video for the title track. Listen to Light Eternal on Soundcloud. See Page 2 for more Iona-related CDs.
Joanne Hogg is Iona’s singer (she also plays keyboards and acoustic guitar), while Frank van Essen is Iona’s drummer and violinist/violist. Raphael’s Journey (2010) was initially available only as a download prior to this CD, which comes in a simple printed sleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping). Clannad’s Moya Brennan sings on five tracks, while the other musicians include the rest of the Iona lineup of that period: Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley, and Phil Barker, plus guests on cello, electric guitar, and vocals.
Uncountable Stars (2014, digipack) sees Joanne working with producer/guitarist Tre Sheppard, with many musicians assisting including Frank van Essen. It’s a collection of songs of depth and quality, varying from upbeat to mystical/magical; songs such as Mountain of Debris reach peaks that are quite intense. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Note the version sold by amazon.com is an on-demand CD-R; we have the real thing.
Guitarist/composer Malcolm Smith is a founding member of U.S. prog band Metaphor. While Metaphor still exists, and a new album from them should appear eventually, Smith took this opportunity to form an alternate band. The keyboardist on We Were Here (2014, digipack) is Metaphor’s Marc Spooner, who made important contributions to the compositions. The drummer is Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow), and the bassist is Loren Gustafson. Metaphor and Mind Furniture vocalist John Mabry sings on one track, while the other five tracks are instrumental. Other musicians guest. First, dispel any notion that this sounds less like a band album than Metaphor because it’s under Malcolm’s name. It sounds exactly like a band recording, and depending on your taste, it is arguably better than the Metaphor albums to date. Metaphor grew out of a Gabriel-era Genesis tribute band. We Were Here still has some Genesis influence, but the music is shifted toward Gentle Giant and, to a lesser extent, Happy the Man, more complex and quirky without sacrificing too much accessibility. Well, Metaphor were going in that direction anyway when they left off. This album has all the layered instrumentation, tempo and time signature changes, multi-section arrangements, and exemplary musicianship a prog fan could want. Shameless and indulgent, just the way you like it, and an emphatically proggy way to bring 2014 to a close. See our U.S. page for the Metaphor and related CDs.
In Search of the Perfect Melody (2014, digipack) is the latest studio CD for Poland’s Millenium and also marks their 15 year anniversary. It includes the longest track they’ve ever done, the nearly 20-minute title suite. Several musicians guest on vocals, sax, and cello. Listen to Girl from a Glass Sphere and Over & Over on YouTube. See our East Euro page for lots more Millenium CDs and more info.
This is the English-language version of the 2014 second CD by Polish prog band Walfad, whose name apparently is an acronym for We Are Looking For A Drummer. They already have a drummer though, and you’d think that name would make him a bit uneasy about his job security. This second album is much better than Walfad’s debut. Millenium’s Ryszard Kramarski produced and probably exerted some influence. The Musicwaves review (in French) compares Walfad to Tai Phong and Galadriel. Read the DPRP review. Listen to Sullen Lady on YouTube.
Andy Jackson is best known for his role as Pink Floyd engineer and co-producer, but he is a musician and composer in his own right, having recorded the albums On the Surface, Obvious, and Mythical Burrowing Animals*. (Apparently selling CDs was not the goal of those albums, as Andy mostly hoarded them.) Signal to Noise (2014, digipack) is, not surprisingly, quite Floydian. This deluxe edition adds a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 96kHz / 24-bit quad (4.0) mix in your choice of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, both of which are lossless, plus a hi-res LPCM stereo mix. Read the Mediaversal review. Watch the album preview video and the video for The Boy in the Forest.
* Described by the one (and only) amazon reviewer as “Easily the best record ever made. This could be the basis for a whole new religion that could one day topple Christianity.”
Supernatural Highways (2014, digipack) is the first new CD from Rocket Scientists since 2007. It is all-instrumental with a playing time of 30:13, dominated by the 26-minute, seven-part Traveler on the Supernatural Highways. The other track is an arrangement of the John Barry composition On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, written for the Bond film. It is the first of two 2014 CDs, the other being Refuel, the result of the band having written too much material for a single CD. The core of Rocket Scientists remains Mark McCrite (guitars), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Sticks, cello), here joined by Gregg Bissonette (drums), Greg Ellis (percussion), Lana Lane (vocal pads), plus a trumpet player and a trombone player handling the Bond brass parts. This is Rocket Scientists at their (instrumental) best. The Bond piece is, like Rocket Scientists’ Space 1999 theme, much more fun than the original. The epic suite has much that is familiar to RS fans but sees the band stretching in new directions. Paramount is the integration of electronics. Norlander has already proven himself an excellent electronic musician, and here he incorporates sequencers and electronic sounds into driving progressive rock, something that a few have done (Ozric Tentacles, obviously) but that could be explored/exploited further. Other parts of the suite get fusion-y, and one has the feeling that, with a different mix, sections could be used as epic and thrilling Hollywood movie soundtrack material.
After the all-instrumental Supernatural Highways, Refuel (2014, 61-minutes, digipack) is a more traditional Rocket Scientists album mixing vocal and instrumental tracks in the band’s characteristic style. Gregg Bissonette is again the drummer. The guest vocalists include Lana Lane, Kelly Keeling, and Emily McCrite, while the brass players featured on Supernatural Highways return. Refuel is probably the band’s most collaborative work, with Don Schiff penning two of the songs. In addition to Stick and bass, Schiff plays contrabass, cello, and viola throughout the album. Mark McCrite remains the primary vocalist, but Erik Norlander sings some lead, something that was an important element on the first two Rocket Scientists albums. Watch the video for She’s Getting Hysterical. See our U.S. page for more Rocket Scientists.
Moods (2009, 78-minutes) is the second studio CD by this Dutch band playing in the Dutch neo-prog style exemplified by Egdon Heath, For Absent Friends, Sinister Street, and various bands on the defunct SI label, which operated during the 1990s. Silhouette’s music is very melodic and symphonic, closest to Egdon Heath’s style, and sounds like it could have been recorded in the early 1990s in that there are no concessions to more modern trends. It won’t convert any neo-prog haters but is easily recommended to fans of Marillion, Pendragon, et al. Moods was mixed and mastered by Gerben Klazinga of Knight Area, while guitarist Aldo Adema (Egdon Heath, Seven Day Hunt) guests. This is the 2013 digipack edition on the Dutch FREIA label.
Across the Rubicon (2012, digipack) is their third, Silhouette showing steady growth with each album. Read reviews at Sea of Tranquility, Background Magazine, and Prog Archives.
Kayak’s Ton Scherpenzeel guests on Beyond the Seventh Wave (2014, digisleeve), which puts Silhouette up there with the best continental neo-prog bands. Other guests add clarinet, flute, cello, and violin. Watch the album trailer video.
While World in Motion (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is the debut by a Belgian prog band, Fossil Evolution’s pedigree is surprising. Those whose core competencies include progressive rock know that Isopoda were, along with early Machiavel, the top Belgian sympho-prog band. After releasing albums in 1978 and 1981, Isopoda reunited briefly in 2004 for two concerts. They reunited a second time in 2013, with the band lineup augmented by two of founding member Arnold De Schepper’s three sons. Arnold had already formed Fossil Evolution with all his sons and were to be joined by Isopoda keyboardist Luc Vanhove. However, Luc passed away in 2013, so the lineup was completed by the school friend of one of the sons. World in Motion consists of five original tracks and one fully-reworked adaptation of the Isopoda classic Considering, which has gone from 8 minutes to 12:37 and now includes trumpet passages -- it’s better than the original! The album blends the Isopoda style with more contemporary influences, with the primary appeal being to neo-prog fans. Watch the album trailer video.
Solaris are Hungary’s well-known instrumental symphonic prog band who use flute extensively, lending comparisons to Jethro Tull and Camel’s The Snow Goose, but Solaris have their own distinctive style that incorporates Hungarian folk melodies. Their 1983 debut The Martian Chronicles is their classic, for many the best Hungarian prog album and one of the top instrumental prog albums period. Martian Chronicles II (2014) is the sequel to that album. As with Tubular Bells and Thick as a Brick, nothing boosts sales and press coverage like naming your new album the same as your classic album and appending a “II”. But we’re grateful for a new Solaris CD under any name. Watch promo video 1 and promo video 2. See our Hungarian page for more Solaris CDs and related bands.
Formed from the ashes of Australia’s much-loved Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity sees Unitopia’s Matt Williams, David Hopgood, Tim Irrgang, and Mark Trueack joined by Guy Manning (Manning), Dan Mash (Maschine, The Tangent), and Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, Cyril). Guests on the UPF debut Fall in Love With the World (2014) include Jon Anderson, Steve Hackett, Steve Unruh, Claire Vezina, Guillermo Cides, Ian Ritchie, and more. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album overview video and the video for The Water.
Smorgasbord (2009, 55-minutes) is already the third CD for this Norwegian prog band. How can they be less than famous? As with Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers, and other current Scandinavian bands, Brimstone do a modern, proggier take on classic early 1970s rock, with influences extending back into the late 1960s. The first cliché that comes to mind is ‘a breath of fresh air’, but that occurred to at least one of the reviewers linked to below, so no need to repeat it. Some of the music is what used to be called ‘rural rock’, with CSN&Y style vocals, but done up in proggy arrangements that result in what we’ll call ‘feel-good prog’ because of the sunny, summer mood. And some of the music is more overtly proggy, which feels even better than the ‘feel-good prog’. If none of that makes much sense, read the reviews at Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility.
Thankfully the band shortened their name to just Brimstone for their 2014 CD Mannsverk. (Don’t panic, they still sing in English.) Brimstone again deliver vintage prog using vintage instruments with crisp modern production. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Unseen Cord (2014, 70-minutes) is Salem Hill’s ninth studio album. The CD actually has two titles and two covers, the other being Thicker Than Water. Presumably the bandmembers couldn’t agree on a name or cover and so there are two. Bandleader Carl Groves says that this is their most poignant record since 1998’s The Robbery of Murder and adds: “If you loved the debut and/or Different Worlds for their quirkiness, you’ll groove on this one. I give you Happy Hands, an instrumental in 7 with Hammond, grungy bass and...VIBES! If you liked Catatonia and The Robbery of Murder for the stories and the emotional impact, you’ll groove on this one. We’re dealing with some pretty weighty issues on a couple of tracks, one of them clocking in at 28 minutes. If you like the pomposity of Not Everybody’s Gold, we flex our prog chops on, well, every flippin’ track on this album. There are some particularly gnarly sections in a song called Sing On and in the aforementioned epic. You like the bite of Be? Crunch guitar carries the 8-minute rocker This May Hurt More. Pining for the lush keyboard flavoring of Mimi’s Magic Moment? We gotcha. A beautiful Yamaha C7 acoustic grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Mellotron prominently flavor the song Float. You want the thick vocals and enchanting melodies of Pennies in the Karma Jar? We deliver. Every song. If we sound braggadocious, it’s only because this one is special.” See our U.S. page for the rest of the Salem Hill CDs (and DVD) currently in print, and more info.
Blue (2014, digipack) is the debut CD by German/English prog band Eyesberg, whose first period of existence was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All the compositions here date to that time but have been recently recorded. Among the current members is Ulf Jacobs (Argos, Yacobs). Eyesberg’s singer Malcolm Shuttleworth has a voice a bit similar to Phil Collins, and Genesis is probably the band’s primary influence, but the end result may have greater appeal to fans of neo-prog. It’s really a case of one foot in classic-prog and one foot in neo-prog, always melodic and majestic. Watch the generous (10:46) album trailer on YouTube.
Protein for Everyone (2014, digipack) is the fifth album for this band from Bristol, England. They marry the Canterbury style (e.g., early Soft Machine, Caravan) with classic psych-pop vocal melodies à la The Beach Boys, Stackridge, 10cc, or XTC, with all the quirkiness that implies and more. One might compare them to a more accessible Antique Seeking Nuns (instrumentally anyway), or to Supersister, or (for those with an advanced degree in prog) to Moving Gelatine Plates. To quote the liner notes: “Occasionally melancholic and blackly humorous lyrics are wrapped in a musical blanket of odd time signatures, fizzing with lively energetic progressive arrangements that have a pop sensibility, luring you in with three part harmonies and earworm melodies before wigging out on an inappropriate glockenspiel and fuzz bass solo in 10/8.” This is a brilliant album, and you’ll probably need to watch the album preview video to hear for yourself. “This is a fantastic album and shows a band at the peak of their musical and compositional powers, and there is no weak track on it.” Read the full Progarchy and The Active Listener reviews.
We love this record, first released on LP in 1984, with a first CD issue that was deleted before anyone could buy it, and now this 2014 remastered and expanded CD edition on Esoteric. If you’re not familiar with this album, you may want to read its Wikipedia entry or the Allmusic review to understand the full story. It is both a comedy and a music album, and stands alone as either. Neil, played by actor Nigel Planer, is the hippie character from UK comedy series The Young Ones (1982-84). The man behind the music is none other than Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, National Health). The cast of musicians is reasonably astounding: Gavin Harrison, Pip Pyle, Jakko Jakszyk, Rick Biddulph, Jimmy Hastings, Annie Whitehead, Barbara Gaskin, and Bryson Graham (Mainhorse, Spooky Tooth). On the comedy side, Stephen Fry and Dawn French make appearances. The songs are mostly covers of prog and pysch nuggets, to mention a few: Caravan’s Golf Girl, Hole in My Shoe (Traffic), and My White Bicycle (Tomorrow). In some regards, these are better than the originals because of Dave Stewart’s arrangements. What makes a song “prog” is largely down to the arrangement, especially evidenced by the version here of Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man. Quotes from The Court of the Crimson King and Strawberry Fields Forever pop up in other songs. Esoteric have added four bonus tracks. Three were only on the cassette version of the album, and one is the B-side of the Hole in My Shoe single.
These are the newly-remastered 2014 Esoteric Recordings editions. Forest of Feelings has one bonus track; both have booklets with fully restored artwork and new liner notes. Keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious was still a teenager when he joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. He became an in-demand session and touring musician, and some prog fans may only know him for his work for Peter Gabriel beginning with Passion, or for playing a big role on Jon Anderson’s Animation. But Sancious’ true legacy is his own records, and Forest of Feelings (1975) and Transformation (The Speed of Love) (1976) are arguably his two best. While Transformation is credited to his band Tone, that’s a mere formality as the same musicians appear on Forest of Feelings. Fortunately the music has nothing to do with Springsteen; it has more in common with Yes, Genesis, and ELP. It is a unique blend of symphonic fusion and progressive rock. Sancious learned classical piano at an early age, and he uses a large arsenal of keyboards on these records, records that are essential in any serious progressive rock library. “Forest of Feelings is an auspicious debut that delivers not only a mastery of various musical genres, but a holistic view of them. Just as the whole fusion thang was moving toward an increasingly irrelevant technician’s language devoid of any cultural connection other than its own, this culturally advanced, spiritually open set hit the shelves. This music sounds as refreshing and life-affirming in the 21st century as it did in 1975.” “As an album, Transformation (The Speed of Love) is awe-inspiring, a work of progged-out jazz-rock that’s as iconic as Birds of Fire, Blow by Blow, or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, yet stands alone for its artful ambition and emotional commitment.” Click the mp3 icons above to read the full Allmusic reviews.
Men Who Climb Mountains (2014) is Pendragon’s 10th studio album, written and arranged by vocalist/guitarist Nick Barrett. With only a change in drummer since the previous album, the lineup is now Barrett, Clive Nolan (keys), Peter Gee (bass), and Craig Blundell (drums). Pendragon shifted to a darker and somewhat heavier style beginning with 2006’s Believe (for which we can thank Porcupine Tree and their ilk). Men Who Climb Mountains sees Pendragon continuing to reinvent themselves along those more contemporary lines. This is the limited edition 2CD, which adds a bonus disc containing Nick Barrett’s “Acoustic House Concert - Live at Twig’s”, a 2013 solo acoustic recording. See our British page for more Pendragon CDs.
This is the excellent 2012 debut by a Québec prog quintet singing in English, their music a mix of classic symphonic (Genesis, Floyd) and more modern (Porcupine Tree) prog styles. While the band keep reasonably busy playing live near home, they’ve been a well-kept secret outside the province. Hopefully their inclusion here begins to remedy that, and in time Piezo should reach the same level of popularity that Red Sand enjoy. Watch the promo video.
Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the first line-up of Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as the Violent Silence that recorded Kinetic, with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs were completed with a new vocalist and appear on the Violent Silence CD A Broken Truce.
The main influence on In Our Nature (2012) is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as ‘no-prog’) before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Have no fear, Hidden Lands’ second CD Lycksalighetens ö (2014, digipack) is sung in English. The Swedish title translates to Isle of Bliss. There is slightly more guitar than on In Our Nature, slightly more intricacy, and at times more melancholy, which has to do with the subject matter (a former classmate of songwriter Hannes Ljunghall found dead the previous year). Listen to the track Corsican Daydream on YouTube.
iamthemorning are a Russian duo of (female) singer Marjana Semkina, who sings in English, and keyboardist Gleb Kolyadin, who is primarily a classically-trained pianist, with guests on guitar, bass, drums, violin, viola, and cello. Live, the band performs with as many as eight musicians on stage. Perhaps you came across iamthemorning’s 2012 independently-released debut album, titled simply “~”. It bowled a lot of people over, sounding somewhat like a neo-classical version of Renaissance, with more “indie-sounding” female vocals (a more dispassionate Kate Bush comes to mind). The Renaissance comparison is due primarily to the piano work being similar to that of John Tout, but Tout’s style is largely Russian classical anyway. Initially the only CD edition of “~” was a handmade version the band were making one at a time. They’ve since manufactured a couple CD editions (a digipack is available on their bandcamp site, mp3 icon above).
We thought a label would pick up iamthemorning, and somewhat surprisingly, it is Kscope that released Belighted (2014, gatefold mini-LP sleeve). Gavin Harrison performed and recorded the drums parts. Belighted is slightly darker and slightly more conventional souding than “~”, which makes sense for a Kscope release, but this is still a rare, novel form of rock-classical fusion. Rare because of the relative dearth of current generation prog musicians who have significant classical training. We’re almost forced to turn to Russia now to find conservatory-trained musicians in rock, Little Tragedies being another example though their style is very different from iamthemorning’s. This is beguiling music with few parallels, but we’re going to take a shot and call it a blend of Kate Bush (circa The Dreaming but also her 21st century work), Karda Estra, Renaissance, post-prog and modern indie. It’s a start anyway. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the album preview video, or just while away an hour watching iamthemorning on YouTube.
Despite the Norwegian/Germanic looking name, Røsenkreütz are an Italian band led by Fabio Serra. Serra began as guitarist for the band Arlequin, who released a cassette at the beginning of the prog revival, then went on to Genesis tribute band Yellow Plastic Shoobedoo. (Both bands featured the late D.F.A. keyboardist Alberto Bonomi.) From 1989 on, Serra has worked as a producer and engineer in addition to musician and composer, which will explain the high production values on this CD. The genesis of Back to the Stars (2014) was a project Serra began long ago with Leviathan singer Alex Brunori. More recently, Serra assembled the Røsenkreütz band (both studio and live) and completed this album with the help of some guests that include a violinist and Cristiano Roversi (Moongarden, Mangala Vallis). Røsenkreütz sing in English and sport more Anglo influences than Italian, principally Genesis. The music is energetic with some Asia-style AOR mixed in and should hook most prog fans pretty quickly. As one Prog Archives reviewer says: “Back to the Stars is a near-perfect example of how good crossover bands can be when they get that balance of progressive technicality and melodic commercial appeal just right - no easy feat!” Read all the reviews at Prog Archives.
Attack of the Martians is the debut CD for Massachusetts four-piece Eccentric Orbit, originally released in 2004, but it had been out-of-print for years. With the band active again, it made sense to re-release it. Behind the not-terribly-attractive cover lies a very good instrumental progressive rock album based around vintage analog keyboards (or samples thereof), especially Hammond and Mellotron, also Rhodes, clavinet, etc. On this album, Eccentric Orbit feature keyboards, MIDI wind-controlled synths, bass, and drums. Their members have appeared on albums by Pye Fyte, A Triggering Myth, and two Gentle Giant tribute CDs. Some of the tracks on Attack of the Martians sport an ELP influence, while others suggest King Crimson, some of the Italian 1970s bands, and a bit of Happy the Man. It’s retro enough that it may fool people into thinking they’ve found a lost early-70s album. This 2014 edition comes in a jewel case and adds a 10-minute track, taking the total playing time to 56-minutes. The new song was written back in 2004 but only recorded recently by the current line-up. Listen to the tracks Star Power and Sputnik on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility review of the first edition.
Creation of the Humanoids (2014, digipack) is Eccentric Orbit’s second CD, and it’s significantly more powerful and accomplished. The current lineup has new member Tom Benson on violin, guitar synth, and MandoBot (an electric MIDI mandolin!); Rick Landwehr on drums; Bill Noland on bass; and Madeleine Noland on wind synth and keyboards. It’s again a retro-sounding album, it’s just that there may never have been a band that sounded exactly like this back in the 1970s, or ever. The band’s stock-in-trade Mellotron and other vintage keys still play a big role, but the sound is more aggressive, along the lines of 1970s King Crimson what with the violin and muscular bass, balanced by Eccentric Orbit’s more symphonic tendencies. Fans of Crimso-style instrumental prog will be very happy.
Touch the Sky Volume II (2014) is the much superior second CD for symphonic Ameri-prog band Supernal Endgame, who have joined the 10T Records roster as the label starts to corner the market on quality American prog bands (Iluvatar, Little Atlas, etc.). We were lukewarm about Volume I, which came out in 2010, but for Touch the Sky Volume II, drummer and lead vocalist Rob Price says “we’ve pushed much further into prog/art rock territory, without sacrificing our commitment to making thoroughly melodic music. Although there are significantly more purely instrumental passages on this album, we hope that listeners will spend time pondering the project’s lyrical content.” Special guests include Dave Bainbridge (Iona) and Carl Baldasarre (Syzygy). Think vintage Kansas.
Robert Webb is the keyboardist, singer, and main composer in the band England, known for their legendary 1977 album Garden Shed. His solo album Liquorish Allsorts (2014, 64-minutes) contains long lost gems, recordings spanning over 40 years and from many different recording situations, from early studio sessions to home recordings to his current music work. The 20-page booklet tells the story behind each track. Some tracks include crystalline female vocals from Jenny Darren, other tracks have male vocals, and much of the music is instrumental. Many other musicians appear, varying of course track by track. As you’d expect, the music covers more ground than just the England style, but it still all falls under the progressive rock and classical-rock umbrella, and much of it does have at least some England flavor, sometimes a lot. In other words, Webb’s solo music is consistent with his work in England, as opposed to the work of a musician who had disowned his past and since made unrelated music. Robert says that his intent has always been either to make pop music more artistic, or art music more popular. Fans of classic prog will find much to love here.
Agnieszka Swita is the Polish (female) singer, songwriter, and other core member of Clive Nolan’s Caamora Theatre Company, responsible for Alchemy in 2013 and She in 2007. Agnieszka’s first solo album Sleepless (2014) features Clive Nolan on keyboards, orchestrations, and backing vocals; Steve Harris (Ark, Paul Menel Band) on guitars, Andy Faulkner (Jump, Twelfth Night) on bass; and Dave Mackintosh on drums. The music and lyrics are all Agnieszka’s apart from the title track which is Nolan’s. Nolan produced while Karl Groom engineered, mixed, and mastered at Thin Ice Studios, home to Pendragon, Arena, and other British neo-prog bands. This album has that bombastic Thin Ice sound and sounds a lot like Arena with female vocals, or Caamora without the histrionics.
This 2014 CD is the third for Italian band LogoS, but their previous albums were released back in 1999 and 2001 (and are currently out-of-print). So L’enigma della Vita (76-minutes) is a new beginning for LogoS. Suffice to say, this CD is exactly what fans of Italian symphonic prog crave, and there is a spacey element that gives LogoS distinctiveness. “Logos’ L’Enigma della Vita is one for the ages, a scintillating example of modern RPI, caramelized with grandiose symphonic elements, a touch of space/psychedelia, massive hues of shadow and light, as well as all the characteristics that make RPI such a devout prog institution... The material is exemplary, highly layered and intensely emotional on a multitude of levels, a recording that will definitely stand the test of time.” Read the rest of this and other reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the promo video and more songs/videos on YouTube.
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