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The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh of Resistor (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians on Undercover (2011), including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo Pörsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruh’s band Resistor, Alfio Costa & Guglielmo Mariotti (Italy), Roz Vitalis (Russia), and Contrarian (USA).
Secrets of Disguise (2013) is a double-CD that contains some original compositions alongside the covers. But these are not the same old tracks that always get covered nor are they all covers of English bands. There is some depth here, with tracks from England, Crack, Sandrose, and Utopia, not to mention Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, PFM, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Rush. The guest musicians include Jon Davison (Yes), Roine Stolt, Guy LeBlanc, Robert Webb (England), David Myers, Mark Trueack (Unitopia), Phideaux Xavier, Kamran Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), Linus Kåse (Änglagård), Mento Hevia (Crack), Lalo Huber (Nexus), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and many others. Watch/listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The big change with The Imperial Hotel (2014) is that it is all original material. It is easily one of the must-have CDs of this year. The core of the band remains Bernard, Unruh, and Pörsti, with major contributions from Robert Webb, Linus Kåse, David Myers, and Octavio Stampalia (Jinetos Negros). Guests include Yoshihisa Shimizu (Kenso), Kamran Alan Shikoh, Andrew Marshall, Martin Henderson (England), and more. All that talent and all that experience covering classic prog has translated to a fantastic album of classic-style prog. This is the real thing, with a lot of Yes and Genesis influence, Genesis style whimsy and Gentle Giant style intricacy, coming closest overall to England (Garden Shed). Well, that last statement has a lot to do with the fact that the title track and centerpiece of the album is the lost jewel of the band England, a 28-minute 1975 composition that finally sees the light of day. And it was worth the nearly 40 year wait. Despite the different composers, the entire album sounds remarkably cohesive. The CD comes in a beautiful (expensive) six-panel mini-LP style sleeve with 40-page booklet and artwork by Ed Unitsky.
Hunting for Significance (2009, 59-minutes) is the debut by a Dutch prog band that not only features female vocals -- Esther Ladiges has previously sung on albums by Ayreon and Ixion -- but is led by female guitarist/composer Eveline van Kampen and (on the first album) also includes a female keyboardist. They describe themselves as a symphonic prog band even though the guitar playing on the first CD is more often in the metal idiom. References include older The Gathering, Magenta (but heavier and less refined), and Ayreon (but less overblown). But there is a bit more than that here. When Illumion omit the metal guitar and thus open up the mix, there are passages where the vocals show some of the artiness of Kate Bush, other passages where the keyboards are free to create more sophisticated textures. “If ever a band showed promise of really going somewhere, it’s Dutch group Illumion via this stunning debut. Playing a medieval-tinged light prog-metal hybrid, Illumion offers a sound firmly entrenched in old-school classic prog.” [Progression issue 57]
Illumion’s second The Waves was originally released in 2012 but only on vinyl and a 2LP+CD combo package, after which the label realized that that was maybe not the smartest decision and released it on this standalone CD in 2014. Good thing too as this is a much stronger album that should not be missed. Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) guests. “This is definitely prog but not as we know it... I simply adore the ever-changing depths and variation in the compositional style and the instrumentation. Most songs are written in complex, non-standard time signatures... 9.5 out of 10” [DPRP]. “Illumion’s The Waves is simply spectacular! ...Every once in a while you get the pleasure of finding something extremely unique. This was one of those experiences... A great mix of progressive rock filled with new elements and original sounds and rhythms. Just listening to Ladiges’ vocals alone is worth the price of admission... You just have to experience this album to believe it.” [Sea of Tranquility] “The music can hardly be compared to anything or anyone else in the prog scene which certainly is a tremendous achievement nowadays! Illumion really impressed me; this is what prog rock should be like!” [Background Magazine] Read more reviews of both CDs.
We’ve all been waiting for these for so long that many had lost hope, but these are the first legitimate CD issues of the two albums from Fireballet, one of the very best American prog bands ever. (We always give the top spot to Happy the Man for their staggering originality, but after HtM, Fireballet are right up there.) Both of these CDs are digipacks with embossed covers and bonus track(s), the albums remastered by Larry Fast (Synergy). Night on Bald Mountain (1975) has a previously unheard studio track and a live version of King Crimson’s Pictures of a City. Two, Too (1976) has a previously unheard live track. If you can only afford one, Night on Bald Mountain is the better album. Ian McDonald (somewhere in between King Crimson and Foreigner) produced and added some flute and sax. Early King Crimson is a major influence, also ELP, Yes, and Genesis. One track is pure pastoral Trespass-era Genesis, probably the best take on that unique style by an American artist. Fireballet had two keyboardists, and so there is Mellotron and Hammond and pipe organ and ARP and all that is good and holy.
Two, Too is wordplay on tutu, the ballet costume. With the benefit of hindsight, the original LP cover featuring all the band members dressed as ballerinas has been replaced by the quasi-naked ballerina lifted out of the Night on Bald Mountain cover. One has to wonder whether the Two, Too LP cover isn’t half the reason the album is not regarded as highly as it should be. It may also have something to do with the band overreaching on some of the Yes-inspired vocal arrangements. There is a bit of the same change in direction you find from the first to second Ambrosia album, where there is at times a sort of cabaret or theatrical bent. It actually shows more originality and experimentation than the first album, even if not everything works. Whatever, we still like it a whole lot.
Magnolia is The Pineapple Thief’s 2014 studio album. This 2CD mediabook limited edition adds a bonus disc containing two exclusive bonus tracks plus four acoustic renditions of album tracks. (These Kscope limited editions do actually get deleted fairly quickly these days.) Watch this official video, containing an instrumental edit of the title track. See Page 2 for the full The Pineapple Thief catalog. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
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.
Thirteen Eight (2011, 71-minutes, digipack) is the CD that White Knight Records (co-founded by Magenta’s Rob Reed) had been champing at the bit to let the world hear. The FreddeGredde debut Thirteen Eight is the work of Swedish wunderkind Fredrik Larsson, assisted by a drummer. As the story goes, the young artist initially rose to prominence in the early days of the viral video revolution where his great musicianship gained attention on YouTube and generated millions of views on some of his most popular videos. Larsson’s YouTube channel quickly became the number one subscribed channel in Sweden. But Larsson’s real dream is represented by these CDs. The first thing that strikes the listener is the voice. The first generation of prog bands had some great singers, but the best singers of later generations by and large did not join prog bands. So male vocals of this quality are not common in today’s prog. The music is energetic modern symphonic prog that is both complex and accessible. Larsson may be young, but he knows the 1970s bands -- watch his video cover of Queen’s Killer Queen on his YouTube channel. This is one of the best debuts by a prog artist this millennium, and assurance that the future of prog is in good hands. The fastest way to preview the CD is via this video. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
With the experience of the first album under his belt, FreddeGredde’s second CD Brighter Skies (2014) is that much better. Larsson again employs a (different) drummer, and a guest adds flute on one track. Brighter Skies makes us think of a heavier and more bombastic Moon Safari, with a somewhat similar melodic sense and positive vibe. Or Spock’s Beard having gone very slightly insane. Our one criticism is that there are passages that, though not really prog-metal, have some of that “aesthetic” (ok, shortcoming) where the music gets overblown, the drummer overplays, too many sonic elements compete for space and attention, and the plot is lost -- the music gets aurally suffocating and the song and the subtleties are buried. In other words, there is a big difference in musical maturity between Yes and Dream Theater, unless you don’t think there is, in which case you’re really going to enjoy those overblown passages! Mind you most of the music on Brighter Skies has no problem breathing, as Larsson keeps the music in pure prog territory far from metal the bulk of the time. Overall this is excellent stuff. Read the Progulator and Prog Archives reviews. This is the jewel box edition.
“Bloody hell!!! How good is FreddeGredde??!!! Totally bloody amazing! What a voice!” [Jem Godfrey of Frost]
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 is first released as downloads by subscription, 52 “episodes” over a period of 52 weeks that began when 2014 did. The series is also being released on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves, of which this is the first. A book is supposed to be published alongside the final 2CD. 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 on YouTube.
Engineers’ 2009 second album Three Fact Fader is their first for the Kscope label, home of Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief and bands that sound like them, so not surprisingly, there is a noticeable PT/TPT style at play on this album. There is also the wall-of-fuzzy-guitars-and-reverb sound of Cocteau Twins, and the unmistakable guitar style of Neu! and Harmonia. So mix the melancholy psychedelia of Porcupine Tree with shoegazing dream-pop, and you have Engineers. Read the allmusic review.
We thought that Engineers might find it difficult to continue the blurred sound and style of Three Fact Fader without it becoming redundant (though that didn’t stop Cocteau Twins), and in fact Engineers did not make more of the same music on their third album In Praise of More (2010, super jewel box), personnel changes having a lot to do with this album being fairly different from its predecessor. The music is a very mellow kind of dream-pop, the vocals very soft, like The Beach Boys on quaaludes. We wouldn’t be surprised if the singers recorded their vocals lying down. The ambiences are often beautiful, yielding a gentle, dreamy psychedelic pop wrapped in fluffy cotton. This 2CD edition adds an instrumental version of the album on the bonus disc. Read reviews at The Line of Best Fit, Clash, and musicOMH.
Always Returning (2014) should be the Engineers album with the most prog appeal. While original singer Simon Phipps has departed, the vocals still have a soft, hypnotic quality, and the sound is lush and mesmerizing. It’s an unhurried music for when the mood calls for such, and an analog recording approach this time around has increased the music’s warmth. “Their most realised album yet, guided by a fascination with warm melodies and the textural possibilities of ambient sound” [PROG Magazine] Read the allmusic review.
Chroma (2014, digipack) is the first full-length album for Norwegian electronic-prog trio Three Winters, released on Termo Records (White Willow). The most familiar of the three musicians is Wobbler and White Willow keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie. This is electronic music with programmed percussion that can get bombastic, in the realm of Goblin, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and instrumental Ultravox / Billy Currie, with a conscious 1980s sound. Watch the official videos for Rapture and Atrocities and listen to Animism and At the Centre of Dystopia on YouTube. Read the Peek-a-boo review.
City of the Sun is the 2014 debut CD for Los Angeles based Heliopolis, a band made up of former members of Mars Hollow, Shaun Guerin’s band, Ten Jinn, and Genesis tribute band Gabble Ratchet. Half of Mars Hollow is here, and of those bands, Mars Hollow is who Heliopolis most closely resemble, actually surpassing them. Heliopolis play classic prog with Yes as the major influence, followed by Genesis and King Crimson. “These days there seems to be a disproportionate emphasis on darkness,” says bassist Kerry Chicoine. “We find exploring the balance between despair and optimism a more challenging and creatively satisfying approach.” Well said. These are mostly long tracks that take the listener on a journey, with the melodies, intricacies, and musicianship expected of classic prog, featuring vocal passages (sometimes with four-part harmony) combined with sophisticated instrumental excursions. This album belongs in the (British-inspired) American progressive rock canon that also includes the likes of Cathedral, Mirthrandir, Lift, Pentwater, Netherworld, etc. One of our favorites of the year.
Dreams of Sea (2010, 59-minutes) is the debut for Group 309, a Russian symphonic prog quartet (keys/vocals, guitar, bass, drums) in the style of Autograph, that is, a mainstream symphonic prog style, song-oriented with vocals usually present. The composer is the keyboardist, which as usual results in more structured, classically-influenced compositions that those of the prevailing guitar-dominated modern bands, and the keyboards do more of the interesting stuff. We’re not talking neo-prog in the sense of Marillion but rather the streamlined version of classic progressive rock that began to appear in the late 1970s. If Autograph isn’t a helpful reference, then another unhelpful reference is Synkopy. Excellent production, lyrics in Russian.
For The Keeper of an Hourglass (2014, 60-minutes), Group 309 have chosen to shift emphatically toward their prog side and away from their pop side without radically overhauling their sound, which still suggests Autograph, with mainly late-1970s British and American prog influences and a touch of Saga. The result is a powerful prog album, fully-professional and a big step up from their debut. Hopefully the band Little Tragedies has exposed more of the international audience to Russian-language vocals; Group 309’s singer is somewhat similar to Little Tragedies’ singer. Group 309 also feature well-known female singer Irina Surina on two tracks. The vocals are high quality and the music is too good to miss simply because one’s provincialism precludes listening to music with lyrics in any of the thousands of other Earth languages. English translations of the lyrics appear in the booklet.
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.
French band Motis began circa 2005 in a style we described as a cross between Malicorne and Ange. They have since become ever proggier, quietly blossoming into one of the top current French (classic-style) prog bands. Really. Their 2014 studio CD is a concept album about the fictitious character Josquin Messonnier. Vintage keys include Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes, and Solina String Ensemble. Listen to the album teaser and the track Couches dans la Paille - Ouverture. See our French page for the rest of the Motis CDs and much more info.
The Healing Road (the name taken from Neil Peart’s book) is a studio project led by German keyboardist Hans Peter Hess with a number of other musicians contributing drums, bass, guitars, and more keyboards. Timanfaya is the second The Healing Road album, initially released independently in 2007 before being picked up by Musea in 2008. This is instrumental keyboard-dominated symphonic rock with aspects of both classic and neo-prog. Hess lists Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Spock’s Beard, and Rush as influences. Of those, Genesis is the strongest, followed by Oldfield, the others not so much. Camel should probably be included -- isn’t the track Crater Camels a reference to Moonmadness? These are tasteful compositions full of nuance, a very exciting and satisfying progressive rock record. Read the Progressor and Background Magazine reviews.
Backdrop (2011) consists of two long pieces of music. To create something different from the previous albums, Hess set certain guidelines: less piano, less synths and Hammond; the album should have an acoustic, rural, pastoral atmosphere and contain as many acoustic instruments as he could get and play. Guests include a guitarist, keyboardist/singer, and accordionist. Simply put, this is Mike Oldfield’s Incantations Parts 5 & 6, and the fact that Oldfield was not involved in no way diminishes the beauty of this work. Sublime, mesmerizing and, for 2011, quite unexpected. And for those who enjoyed Robert Reed’s Sanctuary, you need Backdrop to compare and contrast. Watch the official promo videos: Clip 1 and Clip 2. Read the Background Magazine review.
The fifth The Healing Road album Birdbrain’s Travels (2014) again consists of two long instrumental suites. While some Oldfield influence remains, this album rocks a lot harder than Backdrop, with greater dynamics, and is darker in parts. This is top-notch melodic symphonic prog that, like most of Musea’s releases, will probably receive less exposure than many less deserving albums. Ignore this one at your own peril. If you like to watch beautiful photography panned and zoomed while listening to the music, then head to YouTube.
If the title sounds slightly awkward, it should have been translated to At Night, so deal with the extra letter. This is the 2014 studio album for Russian band Little Tragedies, running 61-minutes. This is the real symphonic prog, featuring Little Tragedies’ trademark mix of powerful instrumental fireworks and vocal passages with poetic Russian lyrics. (As if we know what they’re singing about.) As always, there is a lot of ELP influence, but also plenty of electric guitar. At a time when the distinction between what is called prog and the more prosaic forms of rock is often blurred, it’s reassuring to hear a band led by a keyboardist with classical training and chops. Listen to the tracks Walking Stick and Dawn. See our East European page for the rest of the Little Tragedies and related CDs and much more info.
Having completed the massive Dante’s The Divine Comedy project, the Musea label in conjunction with Finnish magazine Colossus continue their excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs, digging deeper into Italian literature of the Renaissance with another classic: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. See Prog Archives for the full list of bands participating on Part I and Part II, each a 4CD set. To mention a few of the bands on Part I: La Coscienza di Zeno, Nexus, Lady Lake, La Theorie des Cordes, Resistor, Faveravola, Index, Jinetes Negros, Senogul, Rhys Marsh, Flamborough Head, The Samurai of Prog, and Phideaux. Many of those bands also contribute to Part II, as do Robert Webb (England), Willowglass, Steve Unruh, Narrow Pass, Trion, Jaime Rosas, Unitopia, Karda Estra, D'AccorD, and many more. Each set counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
These are the digipack editions of the White Willow CDs on the band’s Termo label. Sacrament and Ex Tenebris are new 2014 remastered and expanded editions. Sacrament has three bonus tracks: two demos and one live version of album tracks. Ex Tenebris has four bonus tracks: a live version of one album track and three demos of previously-unheard songs. Norway’s White Willow managed a distinct sound on each of their six albums, with lineup changes often a contributing factor. They began with Ignis Fatuus in 1995, which had a softer, pastoral sound based upon refined female vocals, Mellotron, flute, and acoustic guitars. They were essentially a pagan folk ensemble that discovered Anglagard and Landberk, producing a melancholy and mystical hybrid. Their sound on Ex Tenebris (1998) and Sacrament (2000) became darker, heavier, and more gothic. There are acoustic timbres (flute, recorder, oboe, etc.), but by the time of Sacrament, it’s arguable whether there is any folk left; rather it is symphonic prog with a pastoral, neo-classical component.
White Willow’s sixth album Terminal Twilight (2011, digipack) finds them with a new lineup, now with Anglagard drummer Mattias Olsson and the return of vocalist Sylvia Erichsen. Tim Bowness (No-Man) guests. All the White Willow trademarks are in place: chiming guitar chords, flute, Mellotrons, and songs about sad people. See AllMusic (mp3 icon above) for reviews of all of these albums.
Led by Jacob Holm-Lupo of White Willow, Norwegian prog band The Opium Cartel is in most respects the follow-on to White Willow. Among the numerous musicians appearing on both Night Blooms (2009) and Ardor (2013, digisleeve) are Tim Bowness and Stephen Bennett (No-Man, Henry Fool), Mattias Olsson (White Willow, Änglagård), Rhys Marsh, Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler), and Ketil Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Wobbler). Scott McGill appears on Night Blooms, which is fairly close in style to the final White Willow album Terminal Twilight. Ardor continues along this trajectory, emphasizing the dream-pop component of the later White Willow albums while also featuring Nordic folk influences and the Scandinavian retro-prog style. Holm-Lupo explains: “I wanted to pay tribute to some of the music I heard and loved on the radio in the 80s. I wanted the color and sheen of 80s synths, coupled with the more adventurous playing and song structures of art rock and progressive rock.” Among the singers on Ardor are Norwegian pop stars Venke Knutson and Alexander Stenerud. Read the Musical Discoveries reviews of Ardor and Night Blooms; the former was their pick for best album of 2013.
Introitus are a superb Swedish prog band centered on married couple Mats and Anna Jobs Bender, initially with two of their children in the band. There are quite a few other musicians appearing on their debut CD Fantasy (2007, 73-minutes), while the core lineup of seven persons recorded their second CD Elements (2011, 67-minutes, digipack). Anna sings lead vocals and has a lovely voice, though the music is about half instrumental. Mats plays keyboards and writes most of the music, and you can tell the music is written by a keyboardist because, with a few exceptions such as Steve Hackett, guitarists don’t create symphonic architectures like this. Fantasy is full of symphonic prog in the Genesis, Hackett, and Yes veins, though Introitus have a very distinct personality. On Fantasy, they add accordion, cello, fiddles, sax, flute, and Swedish bagpipes in spots, the pipes and fiddle adding Celtic melodies when they appear, and there are touches of Vangelis-style electronics. Some of Mats’ compositions are 30 years old, so the ties to classic prog are stronger than one might expect. First released by the band, this is the 2011 remastered edition of Fantasy on Progress Records. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Fantasy caught the attention of the Progress Records label (Magic Pie, Brother Ape, etc.), who signed Introitus for Elements. Elements is also full of symphonic prog in the Genesis and Yes veins and a bit heavier than Fantasy; guess the youngsters in the band are asserting themselves. Elements still features flute and a small amount of cello, though we do miss those additional instruments found on their debut. On the other hand, two other band members are helping out with the keyboard workload, which features some skillful electronics touches. The final track is 17-minutes long and a grandiose conclusion to the album, sounding like a stirring movie soundtrack done up prog rock style. Read reviews here, also at Prog Archives. Listen to The Hand That Feeds You on YouTube.
On their third CD Anima (2014, digipack), the lineup is Mats Bender (keys), Anna Bender (lead vocals), Pär Hölje (guitar), Henrik Björlind (flute, additional keys), Dennis Lindkvist (bass), and Mattias Bender (drums, vocals). Listen to the track Broken Glass on YouTube.
Colours of Solitude (2014, digipack) is the first full-length CD from Swedish prog band A Secret River, who received exposure when one of the songs from their 2012 3-song EP was included on a Prog magazine cover CD. Since the EP, the core duo added a guitarist and a keyboardist to expand to their current four-man lineup. And keeping with tradition, one of the songs from Colours of Solitude appears on the CD that comes with the August 2014 issue of Prog. Artrock.se describes A Secret River as reminiscent of Moon Safari, later Anathema, and Blackfield. The Moon Safari resemblance is more in the instrumental passages, especially when synths have the lead lines. A Secret River don’t have harmony vocals of the Moon Safari magnitude; the vocals instead are of the dreamier, slightly-melancholy style of many modern prog bands. Overall, A Secret River’s music is joyous, just not giddy-happy like Moon Safari (who after all are the happiest prog band on earth). A Secret River deserve high marks for how their instrument parts can be quite intricate without being demonstrative, allowing the music to remain subtle and playful. A Secret River have the songs, melodies, harmonies, and arrangements to be a very popular prog band. (Before you ask us to get it for you, the three songs from the EP appear on Colours of Solitude.)
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.
Majestic is the band lead by American multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel. Majestic’s first album is from 2007 and each album has been a significant stride forward, that trend continuing with Epsilon 1 (2014, digipack). Epsilon 2 (digipack) was promised to follow later in 2014, and the band has delivered. Majestic can now be called the American Ayreon in that the music falls in the heavy symphonic space prog vein, different singers are used on different songs, and the album concept is in the sci-fi realm. Most of the vocalists from the previous album V.O.Z. return here, with the new guy being Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Nine Stones Close, Mandalaband). Read reviews at Prog Archives. See Page 2 for the rest of the Majestic catalog and much more info.
Opeth’s Pale Communion (2014) is available as a standard CD in a jewel case, and a CD+Blu-ray deluxe edition in a fat digipack. The Blu-ray contains the 5.1 surround mix plus two live bonus tracks. Steven Wilson did the mixing. “This is an admirably coherent collection of songs that are as uncompromisingly intricate and strange as they are incisively melodic. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s voice has become a thing of wonder; his ability to tug at heartstrings while singing the most willfully hazy of lyrics is matched only by these songs’ beautiful arrangements and pin-sharp ensemble playing. But Opeth’s leader is an awkward sod, and can’t resist indulging his CSNY harmony fantasies on the country-tinged first half of River, getting his Italian-horror groove on for the self-explanatorily titled Goblin, and peppering the air with perverse folk-rock curveballs during the languorous Moon Above, Sun Below. It ends with Faith in Others, which is at once the most profoundly moving song Åkerfeldt has ever written, and a tantalising glimpse into one possible future for this peerless band.” [The Guardian]
Midge Ure was the second singer for Ultravox, during their years of greatest success. His solo career began with The Gift in 1985. While relatively unknown in the U.S., Ure’s solo albums contain much quality material, and Ure even employed Troy Donockley for a time. By distancing his solo work from the robotic beat that characterized Ultravox, Ure’s music was free to breathe (Breathe being the name of his 1996 album). Fragile (2014) is Ure’s first album of new, original material in over a decade, and showing more progressive influences than his past work. Become is the liveliest track and the one that sounds the most like Ultravox. The rest of the songs are generally more stately and atmospheric. To the extent that this is pop, it is very symphonic, grandiose, sophisticated pop. Lush synth sounds make up most of the sound palette, sometimes with the Ultravox grand piano sound, while there is occasional electric guitar (or a reasonable facsimile) of a slightly Frippian nature. There is some cinematic instrumental material, and most of this album is as deserving of being called contemporary prog as a whole lot of other stuff. Listen to the album overview. Read the Get Ready to Rock review.
Back in stock. Philippe Luttun is a French musician whose main instrument is guitar, but he also plays keyboards, actually having learned piano first. He lists his main influences as Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Yes, Neal Morse, Pain of Salvation, Transatlantic, ELP, and Porcupine Tree. The Taste of Wormwood (2014, 67-minutes) is not Luttun’s first album; in fact he has quite a few dating back to 1996, independently released. But Wormwood came to Musea’s attention and they immediately picked it up. Subtitled Voices from Chernobyl, you now know the subject of this concept album. The mp3 icon above leads to Luttun’s YouTube videos for this CD, and you must have a look as there is a video for each of the eight tracks (some of which are very long). Particularly for an independent artist, this is really impressive as there is the equivalent of an entire movie there. The same obvious effort and professionalism that went into the videos also went into the music. This feels like a modern version of a concept album Pink Floyd might make if they were still active, though there are more styles at play than just Pink Floyd. It’s a dark masterpiece, and we don’t think Luttun can remain unknown now. “One can detect influences as diverse as Pink Floyd (for the great job on the sounds and atmospheres, the sampled saxophone and Gilmour-esque guitar), Pulsar’s Halloween for the more symphonic and desperate sections, the best Clearlight Symphony for crystalline flights of classical piano in weightlessness, and Liquid Tension Experiment for virtuoso aggressive parts. There are even a few electro/ambient sections as well as touches of Slavic folklore. But what is immediately striking is an incredible cinematic sense, tremendous energy and enthusiasm at all times... The contrast between quiet and explosive parts (often within the same song) gives this masterpiece an incredible power. A fabulous discovery!” [Clair & Obscur (translated from French, poorly)]
This 5 disc set on Chrysalis/Warner contains the Tull CDs Songs from the Wood (2003 remaster), Heavy Horses (2003 remaster), Stormwatch (2004 remaster), A (2004 remaster), and The Broadsword and the Beast (2005 remaster). The discs come in thin sleeves inside a slipcase. Yes, you probably already own some or all of these, but we’re talking four bucks per CD and the whole package takes up as much space as one jewel case CD. So maybe you still have the first edition CDs rather than the remasters, or maybe you just want to free up some shelf space and take the jewel case CDs to a thrift shop. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Jethro Tull’s 1973 classic A Passion Play gets the deluxe Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 4-disc book-size hardcover edition. A Passion Play (An Extended Performance) features new Steven Wilson mixes (stereo and 5.1) of the album, along with Steven Wilson mixes of the infamous Château d’Hérouville (‘Chateau Disaster’) recordings that preceded. So CD1 contains the new stereo mix of A Passion Play and CD2 contains the new stereo mix of The Château d’Hérouville Sessions. DVD1 contains A Passion Play in DTS 96/24 5.1 surround, Dolby Digital AC3 5.1 surround, and 96/24 stereo PCM. It also includes a 96/24 flat transfer from the original master, plus some historic video clips. DVD2 contains The Château d’Hérouville Sessions in those same surround and stereo formats. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. The 80-page book details the album, the band’s 1973 tour, and the Chateau recordings. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
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. As you’d expect, the music covers more ground than just the England style, but it still all falls more or less under the progressive 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.
These are the 2014 digipack editions of Rick Wakeman’s 1974 classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth and the 1999 sequel Return to the Centre of the Earth. This 40th anniversary edition of Journey... has not only been repackaged in a digipack with new Roger Dean artwork, but the music has been re-recorded and extended. Rick says: “This is the start of a new Journey. The original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible, but after it turned up without warning, we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop it into this album and tour.” While the original album was a live recording, Wakeman re-recorded it in 2012 with an orchestra, choir, and members of his English Rock Ensemble, adding 20 minutes of music, so this is actually the first studio version of the album, the first recording of the entire work, and the way it was originally intended. Original narrator David Hemmings died in 2003, so the new narration was done by actor Peter Egan. In the U.S., this studio version had previously been released only as mp3s.
Return... had been out-of-print for years. This 2014 edition was released to accompany Journey... and also comes in a digipack with new Roger Dean artwork.
Time to give some love to this overlooked album. Judy Dyble was the first singer for Fairport Convention, sang with Giles, Giles, Fripp, McDonald & Dyble (one of the pre-King Crimson permutations), and was half of the folk-rock duo Trader Horne. Talking With Strangers was first released in 2009 with a different cover, later reissued in this Termo Records (White Willow’s label) edition with one bonus track. Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool) and Alistair Murphy were heavily involved with this record, as they co-wrote most of the songs, contributed backing vocals, guitars, and keyboards, and produced and arranged. A large number of other musicians participate, notably Ian McDonald and Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Simon Nicol (Fairport Convention), Jacqui McShee (Pentangle), Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Celia Humphris (Trees), and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, etc.). The music marries Dyble’s enchanting voice and psych-folk influences to the progressive approach of Bowness and the other musicians. Both No-Man and early King Crimson are evoked at different times, the latter particularly during the 19+ minute Harpsong. The album includes a lovely cover of the Greg Lake / Peter Sinfield song C’est la vie. Read the Prog Archives review and lots more reviews.
Abel Ganz were the other Scottish neo-prog band during the 1980s progressive revival, Pallas being the better known of the two. Abel Ganz’s singer Alan Reed became Pallas’s second singer. The self-titled Abel Ganz CD (digipack, 73-minutes) is their new 2014 album. Word on the street is that this is their masterpiece, to wit: “I have just listened to a musical composition that goes further than just pleasing the senses. It is full of beauty and grace and manages to combine musical styles that are quite disparate and deliver a musical release that beguiles, bewitches, and enthralls. This is music that will stand the test of time and could become a legacy for this superb band. Abel Ganz has delivered what is bound to become a highlight of this already impressive musical year. I implore you to go henceforth and purchase this musical marvel!” Read the full Lady Obscure review. This is a different band than the 1980s Abel Ganz, with Denis Smith now running the show. None of the original members remain, though while Hugh Carter and Hew Montgomery have passed the baton, they did make minor contributions to this album. There are a lot of guest musicians, too many to name all here, but Frank Van Essen (Iona) and Malcolm Jones (from the great Scottish band Runrig) must be mentioned. In fact, this Abel Ganz have significantly strengthened their connection to Scottish music, and in an era in which it seems every prog band in every country draws from the same small set of influences, that’s exactly what we’d hope a Glaswegian band would do. Need a reference point? Big Big Train is not a bad one. Watch the official videos for Unconditional and Recuerdos.
Even without organizing all the Baja Prog festivals, Cast would still have asserted themselves as the top prog band in Mexico. A lack of funds forced them to wait 20 years before releasing their first CD in 1994, but there has been no stopping them since. Cast initially sang in English and fell into the neo-prog category. They made steady improvement and really hit their stride with 2003’s Al-Bandaluz, as a new line-up injected new life into the band and their style became far more connected to classic prog. Cast also began singing mostly in Spanish at that point, and the musical growth and the language switch seem to be connected. Their 2011 album Art reverted to English lyrics and the music regressed a bit, but Arsis or CastArsis (2014, digipack) returns to Spanish vocals (male and female). For whatever reason, Cast are a better band when singing in Spanish. (The problem of course is that a lot of Americans prefer mediocre music sung in English to the best prog album sung in any other language.) Polish violinist Michal Jelonek (who records under the name ‘Jelonek’) guests and adds a new element to the Cast sound, which also includes flute, sax, and clarinet from Pepe Torres. Torres first appeared on Al-Bandaluz and has been an important feature of Cast’s sound since. Alfonso Vidales may never get the recognition he deserves as both player and composer, but he really is in the top tier of progressive rock keyboardists. See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and much more info.
On the Road (2014), the debut by Dutch neo-prog band Minor Giant, will be one of the top albums of the year for neo-prog fans. Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) engineered, mixed and mastered. While the band cites as main influences Neal Morse, Frost, Transatlantic, and Camel, the end result is closer to Pendragon, Knight Area, and other Dutch neo-prog bands: very melodic, very symphonic, and very powerful. Watch/listen to the album overview and the title track. See the band’s website for more info.
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.
JPL is guitarist/singer Jean-Pierre Louveton of French prog band Nemo. He’s one of those musicians who needs multiple outlets (Wolfspring is his band too), and since 2002, he’s been releasing CDs under the JPL brand name in parallel with Nemo. The music is on the same high level as Nemo, not hugely different but somewhat more guitar-centric. MMXIV (2014) contains some French and some English lyrics and features guest singers Dominique Leonetti (Lazuli) and Nicholas James (25 Yard Screamer). Nemo keyboardist Guillaume Fontaine also guests. Watch the official Le dernier souffle de vent and album overview videos. See our French page for the Nemo catalog.
Dressed in Voices (2014) is the most melancholy and ominous-sounding Mostly Autumn album to date, though it wouldn’t be Mostly Autumn if it didn’t also possess uplifting qualities. Classic Rock Presents Prog says: “Dressed in Voices is a stunning, inventive work, lifting Mostly Autumn to a new stratum. It has so much variety and passion, both in the music and the narrative, that it takes a few bites to even begin to get to grips with the content. In some ways, it’s a movie waiting to happen, and the visual aspect of this tale is remarkably brought to the surface by the musical construction. More than anything, Mostly Autumn have set the bar extremely high for themselves, and this might be the start of a fresh season for them.” Also read the Progulator review. Listen to First Day at School on YouTube, which should whet your appetite sufficiently.
No indication is given on the Live at the Boerderij packaging, but we believe it is PAL, all-region. This double-DVD set contains Mostly Autumn’s complete show of 15 September 2012 in The Netherlands. It’s Mostly Autumn’s first DVD with Olivia Sparnenn on lead vocals. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette and a photo gallery. Read the Background Magazine and Get Ready to Rock! reviews. See our British page for the rest of the Mostly Autumn CDs and much more info, and our DVDs page for more of their DVDs.
Il Castello di Atlante are a long-lived Italian prog band featuring violin in addition to keys, guitar, bass, drums, and Italian-language vocals. The band was born in 1974 but didn’t release their first album until 1992. Their music is very much in the romantic 1970s Italian symphonic prog style (particularly Quella Vecchia Locanda and PFM), and the violin really takes their music to the next level. Capitolo 8: Live was recorded live in Torino in March 2012. This CD+DVD set comes in an 8-panel foldout mini-LP style package. The CD runs 71:45. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains one song not on the CD and has a running time of 1 hour, 29 minutes. Listen to Il Vessillo del Drago on YouTube.
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.
The label’s description: Italian prog band Living Stilts is not the same old Italian school band but is equally delicate and full of romanticism, not unlike Le Orme or Quella Vecchia Locanda with touches of Pink Floyd and Renaissance. Living Stilts’ debut Shipwreck (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is a concept album sung in English that centers on a vessel’s sinking. Listen to Facing the Winds of Doom on YouTube.
Exégesys (2009, 69-minutes) is the debut by this Argentine symphonic prog band with powerful, soaring female vocals (in Spanish), though much of the material on this first album is instrumental. There is a slight metal influence here but the band shouldn’t be saddled with the prog-metal tag (yet). For one, their primary composer is their keyboardist. The metal influence manifests only as a slight crudeness in a few spots, mostly early on, otherwise they have a sophisticated style comparable to other mainstream, bombastic South American prog bands such as Nexus, Crisálida, Entrance, and Matraz. Not sure what the significance of Virus Master spelled backwards is though. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Danger (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is their second. Only the keyboardist and singer from Exégesys remain, so new guys on guitar, bass, and drums. The prog-metal tag is probably unavoidable on this one as there are more Dream Theater-isms, but the band also sound more energetic, confident, and polished. The keyboardist is still in charge, so the music is as symphonic as before, with plenty of ELP, UK, and Yes-inspired material, and enough delicate passages to offset the bombast. With this album, Retsam Suriv may have leapfrogged Crisálida and Matraz. Watch the album overview and the video for Amenazas de un Final on YouTube, and listen to Un Mundo Diferente on SoundCloud.
This double-CD reissues the two albums of Spanish prog band Storm: The Storm (1974) and El Dia de la Tormenta (1979). The first album is in the Deep Purple heavy-prog style, organ and all, and sung in English. When Storm returned five years later with their second album, only the bass player had changed, but their style had changed, not surprising given how rapidly rock changed in those years. The second album is both more symphonic and more accessible, and is sung in Spanish. This 2CD set comes in an 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. Listen to the first three songs from the first album and the first two songs from the second. (These songs on YouTube were taken from vinyl and not from this 2CD; don’t worry about the pops and clicks.)
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.
Spleen Arcana is primarily the work of French multi-instrumentalist and singer Julien Gaullier, with a drummer and female backing vocalist. From the cover image and title of The Field Where She Died (2009), you would be correct in assuming it is a melancholic album, but it’s a fairly unique one. The album is bathed in a warm Mellotron glow, mostly strings but also some choir, making it a hybrid of vintage prog and modern styles (among the latter, Gaullier mentions Anathema and Radiohead as inspiration). Most of the tracks hover around the 10-minute mark. There is only a minor metal influence, and some of this sounds like an extension of later Pink Floyd. It isn’t unrelentingly dark either, as there are major key chord progressions during which the music is closer to Hogarth-era Marillion. A sincere and very worthwhile first album. Read the review at JerryLucky.com.
The second Spleen Arcana album The Light Beyond the Shades (2014) delves even deeper in Mellotron-drenched, retro-style sympho-prog, refining most aspects of the first album significantly. Apart from being sung in English, it sounds a lot like a lost French 1970s gem, as if Pulsar and Shylock had done a side project together. “Just about everything about The Light Beyond the Shades is either a refinement or a marked improvement over Spleen Arcana’s previous record. The three compositions are loaded with all kinds of vintage sounds from Hammond organ, Minimoog, Solina, Fender Rhodes, and Mellotron.” Read the full Jerry Lucky review as well as the Music from the Other Side of the Room and Lady Obscure reviews.
ARC is Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve together. These are probably the two most recognizable names in the UK electronic music scene, both musicians active since the late 1970s. Ian Boddy also runs the DiN label, while Mark Shreeve has lately been working under the Redshift banner. Fracture (2007) is ARC’s fifth album. Boddy mans the digital and software synths, while Shreeve is the analog guy with his giant Moog Modular system. The first four tracks come closest to later Klaus Schulze, a mix of quirky melody lines and rhythmic elements bathed in spacey atmospheres, constantly morphing and evolving. The 23-minute fifth track Rapture is the epic, a classic Berlin School piece featuring a central, pounding sequencer riff nested within deep space ambiences.
Umbra (2014) is a recording from ARC’s headline performance at the E-Live festival in The Netherlands in October 2013. The duo played for 90 minutes and the set was recorded to multi-track to allow Shreeve to edit and mix the album to fit onto a single CD. The audience reaction to the music has been included to provide a genuine taste of the concert experience. The powerful sequencing was recorded in the studio beforehand, then triggered by Boddy using Ableton Live during the concert. Read the Synth&Sequences and Igloo Magazine reviews. See our Electronic Music page for more EM.
Not the Weapon But the Hand (2012, digibook) is the first collaboration between Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri, longtime keyboardist of Porcupine Tree but with a career extending back to the band Japan. Hogarth describes the album: “It goes beyond what you might expect from the two of us... The album consists of music which is at times moving, complex, multi-layered (both instrumentally and vocally), spooky, goofy and of course, very personal to me. I am now as excited about this album as I was at the prospect of the collaboration in the first-place.” Not The Weapon But The Hand also features occasional appearances from Danny Thompson on double bass, Arran Ahmun (John Martyn) and Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield) on drums, and guitar and string arrangement contributions from Dave Gregory (XTC).
Arc Light (2014, 29-minutes, mini-LP sleeve) is a 5 track mini-album. Four of the tracks are new, while one is a new version of Intergalactic featuring a guest guitarist. Listen to this excerpt on You Tube.
Apple Jack Magic (2014) is the fifth album for prog guitarist/singer/songwriter Jack Foster III, whose previous work has prominently featured Robert Berry and Trent Gardner (Magellan). Berry is on this album on bass, drums, keys, backing vocals, and a couple co-writing credits, while several other musicians also contribute. Jack says: “A lot of the music is more drama-oriented than in past albums. I was working on various versions of a rock opera which never materialized. Some of the music comes from that effort: Guinevere’s Dead, Beyond the Blue, Take a Little Time... all might have been part of a big Broadway production!” Except that this album sounds nothing like what “rock opera” usually implies. There are no histrionic vocals, nor does the instrumental work suggest a stage production. It just sounds like quality songs: some rockers, some with touches of Americana, the majority more symphonic with an understated majesty that sometimes suggests an American (latter-day) Marillion, or Neal Morse (minus the religion). In case you’re new to the “Jazzraptor’ brand name, you can ignore the ‘jazz’ because there isn’t any. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Jack Foster III CDs and more info.
Vastland (2014) is the work of multi-instrumentalist Jason Tyndall, who sought out Jack Foster III to sing lead vocals and collaborate on the lyrics. It’s not a prog album but an intelligent blend of bluesy American rock using suitably bluesy guitar and alt-rock using a U2-derived guitar style. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Formed at the end of 1981, Nathan Mahl (a totally fabricated name) are now one of the longest-lived and most accomplished Canadian progressive rock bands. Bandleader and keyboardist Guy LeBlanc has in recent years been manning the keys in Camel, which doesn’t hurt Nathan Mahl’s profile. In terms of Nathan Mahl’s back catalog, their new CD Justify (2014, digipack) comes closest to Shadows Unbound. The lineup now is Guy LeBlanc, Tristan Vaillancourt, Don Prince, David Campbell, and very special guest Andrew Latimer (Camel). Listen to the tracks Spirit and Tantrik Kobbler. Check our Canadian page for more Nathan Mahl CDs and more info.
Beacon of Light (2009, 73-minutes) is the second CD for Adventure, who are sort of the Norwegian counterpart to the Swedish band Black Bonzo in that they blend retro-style symphonic prog with the heavier Uriah Heep style. Adventure have two male lead vocalists, one of whom sings in a more pompous, affected style, and female backing vocals. Their sound features vintage keys, flute, and guitar that sticks mainly to early-1970s tones. The sympho-prog side of their style is vaguely in the vein of The Flower Kings or Camel. Read reviews.
The self-titled CD is Adventure’s 2000 debut. This is the 2006 re-edition on the MALS label.
While Black Bonzo went in the opposite direction, on Caught in the Web (2014), Adventure take their Uriah Heep meets Jethro Tull style further towards the progressive side. Listen to the album teaser and the track Test of Time on YouTube.
We’ll venture that the majority of visitors to this site are familiar with American band Iluvatar, as they were the best-selling band on the Kinesis label when there was such a thing. So like us, you’ve been waiting since 1999’s A Story Two Days Wide for a new Iluvatar CD. After a period of time acclimating to the new millennium, Iluvatar, with their lineup unchanged, present From the Silence (2014) on 10t Records, the long wait referred to not only by the title but by some of the subject matter that deals with “embracing the aging process, and all that goes with it”. If we may crib from the press release: “Featuring all of the signature elements that fans expect, this new release proves that Iluvatar have lost none of the epic grandeur that made them a modern prog legend!” For those unfamiliar with Iluvatar, see the old Kinesis label Iluvatar section, which contains much info. The first four Iluvatar CDs, though currently out-of-print, have been remastered and are scheduled for re-release on 10t later in 2014.
Awake & Dreaming, the debut by London’s The Gift, is a 71-minute neo-prog opus consisting of two long song suites. The music relies heavily on the vocals of Mike Morton, which are front and center, very clear in the mix, while instrumentally it is mainstream symphonic neo-prog along the lines of Galahad, Tr3nity, Landmarq, etc., with just a touch of heavy riffing to let you know it’s a modern record. While the Cyclops label over-hyped it to call it the best prog album of 2006, it is a fine album that will probably require a few listens to get under your skin. Read the Prog Archives and DPRP reviews.
The follow-up Land of Shadows (2014) was a long time coming and finds The Gift on a new label. While in the same vein as their first, this is the superior album, slightly darker and showing progression in several areas. Tinyfish now strikes us as a decent reference, though unlike Tinyfish, The Gift have a keyboardist. We wouldn’t put The Gift alongside Big Big Train just yet, but they’re heading in that direction. Some of the songs are in that one-foot-in-prog, one-foot-in-serious-melodic-rock category, the focus on storytelling and thoughtful lyrics, the style not far removed from later Pink Floyd. But the Gift’s longer tracks are the proggy highlights, particularly the nearly 20-minute The Comforting Cold. Read the Lady Obscure and Prog Archives reviews.
For all the computer-generated imagery and the Star Trek connotation of their name, South Carolina-based Farpoint actually have quite an organic sound, a blend of folky art-rock and mellow prog. Their first two CDs appeared in 2002 and 2003. For the first incarnation of the band, it all comes together best on their third CD, the 65-minute From Dreaming to Dreaming (2004). The band’s first live performance was at Yescamp ’98, where they played several Yes covers. There is an early, pastoral Yes influence present at times and an overall positive vibe, but it would be misleading to make too much of that. The lineup has changed since then, and Farpoint’s music is too diverse. There is both an American as well as a British Isles folk influence present, and their instrumentation includes the standard rock instruments (electric & acoustic guitars, bass, drums, keys) augmented by classical guitar, mandolin, flute, and various types of percussion. They have a male singer with a voice like Ritchie Havens and a female singer with an angelic voice, an interesting contrast. Kansas and the first edition of Renaissance are probably better references.
Farpoint had actually disbanded late in 2005 but put things back together soon after with several personnel changes. Their fourth studio CD Cold Star Quiet Star (2008) was the result and it is their best and most progressive CD to date, appealing from start to finish, with quite a bit of instrumental content. The Yes style is there at times, but Farpoint still display a much wider range of influences, and the result is that they don’t sound like anyone else.
After the disappointing Kindred in 2011, Farpoint return in a big way with the much stronger, much proggier Paint the Dark (2014). The press release nails it: “Farpoint have taken everything that makes their unique blend of uplifting and positive symphonic-flavored prog, folk, and hard rock, and applied it on a more expansive canvas, creating the most layered and compositionally mature record of their career. Long-time fans will instantly recognize the band’s signature style while appreciating the more adventurous and atmospheric territories that the band explores on this release.” A guest violinist broadens their sound. Farpoint may currently be the most “American-sounding” prog band, sort of South Carolina’s answer to Kansas (the band), though musically distinct, and Paint the Dark best showcases the unique style Farpoint have created.
The Lie of the Beholder (2014) is the work of Roy Strattman, guitarist and co-composer of the band Little Atlas, here teamed with Nick D'Virgilio on drums and Little Atlas mates Ricardo Bigai on bass and Steve Katsikas on piano and cajon. Strattman’s writing process for this album began during the writing and recording of Little Atlas’s 2013 album Automatic Day. That album represented a shift to darker, more aggressive and more modern prog, and The Lie of the Beholder continues along that trajectory, deep into Porcupine Tree territory. As such, the music contrasts the dark and menacing with the serene and beautiful. Of course much depends on the degree to which the mood of the album resonates with the listener, but if it does, you’re likely to find this a very impressive work. “The album as a whole might satisfy those who long for a new Porcupine Tree [album], although it should be said that although the influence can be heard, this is by no means a direct clone.” [Ytsejam] Read the Sea of Tranquility and Rate Your Music reviews. Watch the promo video for the track A Candle in the Sun. See Page 2 for the Little Atlas CDs.
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. See Page 2 for the rest of the IQ catalog.
Cosmograf is one of the ascendant stars of the British prog scene, a project led by multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong, who cites Steven Wilson, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour as some of his inspirations. So not surprisingly, When Age Has Done Its Duty (2011) is an ambitious Pink Floyd-style concept work. It features a number of special guests from the UK prog community including Bob Dalton (It Bites), Steve Thorne, Simon Rogers (Also Eden), Steve Dunn (Also Eden), Huw Lloyd-Jones (Unto Us), Lee Abraham (The Lee Abraham Band), Luke Machin (The Tangent), and Dave Ware. Read the Progmeister and Prog Archives reviews.
The Man Left in Space (2013) features performances from Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard), Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn, Lee Abraham, Luke Machin, and Dave Ware. It’s another concept album, often with a wonderful spacey/surreal atmosphere, blending Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and neo-prog, with a smidgeon of heavy guitar. Part of it even sounds like a modern, proggy take on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, an allusion that may be deliberate. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
On Capacitor (2014), Armstrong is assisted by Nick D’Virgilio on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass, Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Lifesigns) on bass, Matt Stevens on guitar, Andy Tillison (The Tangent) on keyboards, and Steve Dunn on bass. “This album is not just a piece of music, it is part of Robin Armstrong’s body and soul and you can tell he has put everything into this, leaving nothing back. I cannot fault this record in any way. It is musical paradise with an amazing musician as its peerless architect. If I died and went to heaven right now, I couldn’t have asked for any more; I have had the biggest epiphany when it comes to music, in my life, ever. This is not just one of the albums of the year, it is one of the best albums I have ever heard, period.” [Lady Obscure] Also read the Progulator and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the album promo video and the video for The Fear Created.
The gradual transformation of Liverpool’s Anathema from doom metal to top-echelon modern prog band is well-documented, the band now far beyond their metal past. Distant Satellites is Anathema’s 2014 studio album. Steven Wilson even found time to do a bit of the mixing. The edition here is a single CD in jewel box + slipcase. Unfortunately, the mediabook edition which had a DVD containing 5.1 surround and hi-res 24-bit stereo has already been deleted. Read the Sputnik Music, Progulator, and The Guardian reviews. Listen to The Lost Song part 3 on YouTube.
Falling Deeper (2011, digibook) contains reworkings of older Anathema tracks, executed with more acoustic instruments and a 26-piece string orchestra. Anathema had already outgrown their metal past, but they wanted to show that their older songs were real songs with haunting melodies that the new arrangements now showcase. The orchestral arrangements are by Dave Stewart, who worked so successfully with Anathema on their previous album. This is the work of a very refined progressive rock band. “There’s little here to link these new reworkings to the band of old, so in a sense with Falling Deeper Anathema have rewritten their own history backwards... Falling Deeper is even more impressive because of the nature of this early material and the manner in which it is now portrayed.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog] Check our DVDs page for Anathema’s Universal Blu-ray and DVD.
D Project are a Québécois prog band singing in English, led by Stéphane Desbiens, who was the guitarist and principal composer in Sense, the primary musician in Mélia, and has been a member of Qwaarn, Ère G, Red Sand, and Jupiter9. Making Sense (2014, digisleeve) is their fourth CD. Here the core D Project trio receive assistance from Sean Filkins on vocals, Claude Leonetti (Lazuli) on his custom instrument the Léode, Guillaume Fontaine (Nemo) on keyboards, and other musicians on sax, violin, cello, flute, and backing vocals. The title of the album seems to be a deliberate reference to Desbiens’ previous band Sense. The album was mastered by Andy Jackson of Pink Floyd fame, and while Pink Floyd is a definite influence (no more so than on the title track), it is far from the only one. D Project are representative of a generation of talented musicians who’ve assimilated the styles of a number of earlier progressive bands and are able to vary the dominant influence on a track by track basis and still produce a cohesive album. With the expansion of the instrumentation, this is the most original and arguably the best D Project album to date. Listen to the title track on YouTube. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See our Canadian page for all the D Project CDs and much more info.
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 these CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in many 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.
Bridges of the Old Fishingmine contains 78-minutes of Quantum live madness from the Belgian Fonnefeesten in August 2011, heavy on songs from 2010’s Bridges of Kukuriku. Watch the album trailer video.
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.
There aren’t many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with “Traum” (“Dream”) do. Ausgeliefert (digisleeve) is the 2014 remastered reissue of Traumhaus’s 2001 debut, which was originally self-titled and had a different cover. The music is stylistically similar to neo-prog bands such as early Sylvan, but with German vocals reminiscent of the old East German bands such as Stern Meissen, Lift, and Electra. And some of the material is on the same level as those bands. This new edition adds two 2004 instrumental bonus tracks that were originally slated for the 2005 Hinaus EP, but were instead heavily modified and added to Die Andere Seite. Listen to the album sampler. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
After the Hinaus EP and some personnel changes, Traumhaus returned in 2008 with Die Andere Seite (The Other Side). This is the 2014 second edition, which has been partly remixed and fully remastered and comes in a digisleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping) and adds two bonus tracks, one from 2009, the other an English-language version of a song from Das Geheimnis. About half this album is neo-prog and prog-metal, while half is classic prog that exceeds their earlier work. The keyboardist favors vintage sounds, and the album is chock full of Mellotron, Hammond, Minimoog, Fender, etc. In fact, it’s one of the most Mellotron-heavy albums in recent years. There are times when Traumhaus cause flashbacks to prime-period Stern Meissen and Novalis, with an even more powerful sound. Unfortunately, the guitarist switches to metal mode on some tracks, and the music becomes rather ordinary. Well, extraordinary for prog-metal, because the keyboardist does everything he can to keep the music symphonic, but ordinary relative to Traumhaus’s other material. On balance though, this is one of the most under-recognized progressive bands. Listen to the album sampler.
Das Geheimnis (2013, digipack) features Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on drums, rather unexpected for a band that sings in German! This album continues along the lines of Die Andere Seite, a combination of classic and neo-prog, some metal moments but loads of vintage keys, centered on the 27-minute epic Das Vermächtnis (The Legacy). The music is much richer for the German-language lyrics that give it character and distinctiveness, still evoking Stern Meissen vocally. English translations of the lyrics are included. (Those so-called prog fans who insist music be sung in English and have a generic Anglo-American sound will not know who Stern Meissen is anyway.) Strongly melodic with exciting instrumental passages, this CD is highly recommended. Watch/listen to the album sampler. Watch a bit of Jimmy Keegan recording his parts and hear more of the album.
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 unrest in Ukraine hasn’t slowed Kalugin, as Magician’s Theater (2014, 58-minutes, digipack) is another instrumental opus of modern symphonic prog. Kalugin handles mainly keyboards while two guitarists with contrasting styles are employed. In addition to a powerful rhythm section, other musicians contribute Stick, flute, alto sax, bassoon, and accordion. This album is generally heavier than the previous Karfagen albums and a bit more of a conventional sympho-prog album than 2013’s Aleatorica, still with those touches that set Kalugin’s work apart. It’s probably the best place for the uninitiated to start. Watch the videos for The Juggler’s Boast and The Birth of Mankind. See our East European page for the rest of the Karfagen CDs and much more info.
Hoggwash is another band of Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild, AKKO), lord of progressive rock in Ukraine. Hoggwash though is a collaboration with Welsh musician Will Mackie. On their debut The Last Horizon (2007), Mackie and Kalugin have co-writing credits on all tracks, but the music was recorded in Ukraine by Kalugin with Karfagen members/collaborators and other Ukrainian musicians. And while Karfagen has mostly been an instrumental band, Hoggwash has excellent vocals by Kalugin. The result is a beautiful melodic symphonic rock CD in the Genesis and Camel veins. Despite all the input from Ukraine, The Last Horizon sounds so British that it serves to remind us what it is that distinguishes classic British prog from most everything else. This is the second edition, which adds two bonus tracks to take the total playing time up to 75-minutes.
It took a while for the follow-up Spellbound (2013, digipack), but then there have been at least nine albums from Kalugin’s other projects in the interim. Kalugin again sings and plays keys, Mackie plays keys, and seven other Ukrainian musicians take care of electric & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, alto sax, and more vocals. Hoggwash is distinct from Kalugin’s other bands -- Hoggwash is the more familiar form of sympho-prog, the most song-oriented and British-sounding and therefore having the widest appeal.
Jack O’ The Clock are a band from Oakland, California who, like many of the Bay Area bands, are adventurous and outside the mainstream. Like most truly inventive bands, Jack O’ The Clock are difficult to describe, but there is something special going on here. Their third album All My Friends (2013) is nominally artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but this album remains dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth. They “take us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity.” [Bluesbunny, Glasgow] Their sound has elicited comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Henry Cow/Art Bears, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. We’re sometimes reminded of However’s gentler songs, or even an American counterpart to Stormy Six circa L’Apprendista. The thirteen pieces on All My Friends showcase the band’s core of voices, violin, guitar, hammer dulcimer, bassoon, bass, and drums, plus an expanded woodwind/brass section (eight guest musicians) and found objects such as wine glasses, corrugated pipes, heating grates, and more. “Jack O’ The Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer... some of the freshest and most surprising music I’ve heard.” [Fred Frith] “The perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.” [Prognaut] Read the Exposé, Progulator, and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Night Loops (2014) is noticeably darker and less folky, striking a good balance between RIO-style chamber music and progressive songs with soothing vocals. As the title suggests, this album is dominated by a nighttime mood, while All My Friends has more of a daytime feel. “This is some of the most stunningly original music that one is likely to hear, on this world or any other.” [Exposé] Read the Progulator and Avant Music News reviews.
Special Buy. Clepsydra are a Marillion-influenced band from the Swiss city of Lugano, an Italian-speaking city, but Clepsydra sing in English. They are one of the most accomplished of the second-generation neo-prog bands (or third-generation prog bands, however you want to look at it), meaning bands that came to prominence in the 1990s and appear to have taken their inspiration directly from Marillion, only indirectly from Genesis. Hologram is Clepsydra’s 1991 debut. As you may be aware, Clepsydra’s four CDs were recently remastered for the 3654 Days box set and have now been released individually. The edition for sale here is the original and is half the price of the remastered edition. Note this does not come factory-sealed.
Monarch Trail is the new band assembled by Canadian Ken Baird after five albums under his own name, and the natural evolution of Baird’s music. After Baird had written some music that required more collaborative arrangements than usual, he asked drummer Chris Lamont and bassist Dino Verginella to be a part of Monarch Trail. Lamont played on Baird’s previous three albums and Verginella on the previous two. Three guitarists split the guitar duties, one of whom is Steve Cochrane, who also mastered the album. Those familiar with Baird’s albums will feel right at home, but the band dynamic has taken the music to a whole new level, and Skye (2014, digipack) is one of the finest neo-Genesis style albums in a long time. Not in the sense of aping Genesis but rather sharing an aesthetic, one that has otherwise been supplanted. Skye consists of just four tracks, the longest exceeding 20 minutes. Plenty of prog bands these days attempt long tracks, most of which are simply fatiguing, not the case here as the music evolves and builds effortlessly and logically. (We’ve all heard long tracks with alternating loud and soft bits that could be rearranged in any order and the track stopped at any point, and it would make no difference.) Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Canadian page for the Ken Baird catalog.
Paradise Filter is the 2014 studio CD for Caravan, their first new album in ten years. Released in late February, we’ve been waiting until we could bring it in at a decent price. The lineup here is Pye Hastings (vocals, guitars), Geoffrey Richardson (viola, banjo, acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards, backing vocals), Doug Boyle (lead guitar), Jim Leverton (bass, backing vocals), and Mark Walker (drums). Pye, the band’s primary songwriter for a long time now, composed nine of the album’s ten tracks. Read the JonB52 review.
Yeah, we know, not the most enthralling band name, but for melodic prog fans who’ve gotten past the individual’s name bias and enjoyed the albums by, say, Sean Filkins or Lee Abraham, you’re going to enjoy this one too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Jeff Green was born in northern California to an American father and English mother, and now lives in Ireland after having spent years in England. Jeff had one earlier self-released CD, while Elder Creek (2014) is on the British Festival Music label, which has also released CDs by the aforementioned Sean Filkins and Lee Abraham. To further the association, Sean Filkins is responsible for the lead vocals on the title track. In fact, Elder Creek is loaded with British musicians. Other participants include drummer Pete Riley (Wetton & Downes Icon, Keith Emerson), keyboardist Mike Stobbie (Pallas, now works closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber), singer Alan Reed (ex-Pallas), guitarist Phil Hilborne (has played with Brian May, Glen Hughes, Keith Emerson, Steve Vai), and three others. Jeff Green plays all manner of guitars and guitar synth and provides both lead and backing vocals. It’s a wonderful melodic and lush prog album, with more classic prog/rock influences than either Abraham’s or Filkins’ albums. Camel, David Gilmour, Yes, and Big Big Train could all be mentioned. Watch the album promo video and the video for the instrumental Point Blunt Light. If you do that and listen to the clips on Soundcloud (mp3 icon above) and still won’t buy the album because you don’t like the band name, we give up.
Classically trained at the University of Bologna in composition and piano, composer/arranger Alex Carpani continues the great Italian keyboard-centric prog rock tradition. On Waterline (2007, printed sleeve), his fluid and inventive keyboards are accompanied by an American rhythm section. Waterline is mostly instrumental but does feature Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme) on vocals and is between the Italian and British 1970s progressive rock styles. Dan Shapiro (Clearlight) and Ken Jaquess (K2, Atlantis) play bass, while Neil Bettencourt (Clearlight) plays drums. A number of guitarists contribute, among them Tony Spada (Holding Pattern). Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On The Sanctuary (2010, digipack), Carpani is assisted by two members of his live band: Ettore Salati on guitars and Fabiano Spiga on bass, while drums are handled by Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi (Mangala Vallis, Moongarden). Watch the album preview video. The cover art for the first two CDs is by Paul Whitehead. Read lots of reviews.
Alex Carpani’s live band is now his studio band too, and on 4 Destinies (2014, digipack) has one important additional member: David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) on saxes & flutes. The rest of the band is Alex on vocals & keyboards, Ettore Salati on guitars, Joe Sal additional vocals, GB Giorgi on bass, and Alessandro Di Caprio on drums. Cristiano Roversi produced and co-arranged. 4 Destinies has just four tracks averaging close to 14-minutes each. Watch the album trailer.
Released on the same label as Chris Squire’s band The Syn, Dreamer (2007) is the first album by Dutch-born American Anton Roolaart. He wrote, engineered, and produced this album, handling guitar, keys, vocals, and programming. While this is Anton’s baby, he wisely brought in other musicians including a bass player and keyboardist Rave Tesar of Renaissance. Drum duties are split between two drummers, one of whom is Rich Berends of Mastermind. It is a meticulously crafted symphonic rock album in which one can spot various influences, certainly Yes and Pink Floyd. Many of the songs were written years earlier, and Anton’s main sources of inspiration are the 1970s masters of the genre, but the Internet radio station he runs exposed him to newer progressive artists who have had an influence on his style. The album lacks the spark or energy of a band playing together, but if thought of in the same terms as, say, Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow and similar multi-layered works, Dreamer is an impressive achievement. Read reviews.
Anton’s superior second CD The Plight of Lady Oona (2014) was recorded in the U.S. and The Netherlands over the past few years. It features Annie Haslam singing on the title track, while Rave Tesar co-produced and adds keyboard parts. Several other musicians handle bass, drums, and additional keyboards. Read reviews at The Aquarian, Prog Archives, and Lady Obscure.
Cirrus Bay is led by American multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham. On Cirrus Bay’s 2008 debut The Slipping of a Day, Gillham is joined by a drummer/bassist, several singers (male and female), and two musicians providing tenor sax on two tracks. Gillham plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, mandolin, recorder, and percussion. Our opinion of Cirrus Bay’s first album changed completely about a third of the way through its 77 minutes, and that’s due to the fact the album was recorded in different sessions spanning a number of years. The first third of the CD contains a lot of pastoral, folky progressive, reflecting the fact that Cirrus Bay began as an acoustic duo. The CD then transforms into much more powerful, more instrumental symphonic prog. Gillham’s biggest influences are Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Jade Warrior, and Bo Hansson. We can state this confidently because it says as much in the booklet. (Among younger bands, he mentions a fondness for Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Watch.) There are tracks here that would have fit on Banks’ A Curious Feeling and have been the second-best track (after the song You, if you must know). Overall we’re reminded of Canadian Ken Baird.
The second Cirrus Bay CD A Step Into Elsewhere (2009, 55-minutes) is the CD they really wanted to make, a significant improvement over Slipping... and a cohesive musical statement. It’s female vocals only on this one, from two singers, and the easiest way to describe the album is a blend of Genesis circa Wind and Wuthering and Renaissance. Renaissance because the vocals are in an Annie Haslam style, and there is that breezy folkiness blended with classical piano. Genesis because Gillham is a musician who gets what Tony Banks does. It isn’t about how fast one can play scales, it’s about the chord progressions. There is plenty of electric and acoustic guitar in addition to keyboards, so it sounds closer to Genesis than a Tony Banks solo album, and there are influences of other progressive artists as well. Instrumentally, the appeal of this album is similar to the Willowglass albums, on top of which you get the beautiful vocals. “Had Genesis replaced Peter Gabriel with Annie Haslam instead of Phil Collins in 1975, the band might have sounded something like this. Cirrus Bay... so closely echoes the crisp prog sound of Wind and Wuthering-era Genesis it could double as a tribute band... Most tracks feature lush keyboard swells, delicate guitar-and-flute passages, strong soprano vocal melodies, tricky meter changes and classically-inspired instrumental breaks that would give Tony Banks and Steve Hackett a run for their money.” [Progression] Read the Prognaut review.
Whimsical Weather (2012, 62-minutes) picks up where A Step Into Elsewhere left off and further develops the Cirrus Bay style, essentially a combination of the breezy Renaissance style with beautiful female vocals and instrumental Genesis/Hackett style symphonic/pastoral prog. It’s a beautiful album with its soul in the early-to-mid 1970s, standing in stark contrast to the “sound and fury signifying nothing” of much modern music.
The Search for Joy (2014) features guest performances by Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thieves’ Kitchen, while classically-trained viola player Sarah Sanderson has signed on. Bill says the album has “more key changes than a drunken locksmith”. Listen to the track Learning to Fly on YouTube.
The 2014 Ian Anderson album is a Jethro Tull album in all but name. As with Thick as a Brick 2, the billing is henceforth “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson”. If you’re curious about Ian’s reasoning for that, it’s explained in the booklet. Homo Erraticus continues the Gerald Bostock thing begun on Thick as a Brick and continued on Thick as a Brick 2. As Anderson says: “Bostock has returned once again to lyric writing,... and I have had the fun and frolics of setting all to music of folk-rock-metal stylings. But you can call it Prog.” Ian and his band will be playing the album in its entirety on their tours, followed of course by a selection of Tull classics. The standard edition CD comes in jewel box + slipcase, while the hardcover mediabook edition has a 32-page booklet and adds a DVD-V containing the DTS 5.1 surround mix (by Jakko Jakszyk), 24/48 LPCM (high-res) stereo, and a making-of video. Those fortunate enough to have heard Thick as a Brick on a decent surround system know there is no going back to 2-channel now. Mediabook counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
German band Shamall is one of the more closely-guarded secrets in progressive rock. If you’ll have a look at Prog Archives, you’ll see that there are Shamall albums stretching back to 1989. (You’ll want to visit Prog Archives anyway for reviews and ratings of these albums.) The early Shamall albums are apparently synth music, but after the start of the new millennium, the music turns to progressive rock. The albums offered here are the five most recent as well as the highest-rated: Turn Off (2CD, 2013, digipack), Is This Human Behavior (2CD, 2009, digipack), Questions of Life (2008, digipack), Ambiguous Points of View (2CD, 2006, digibook), and Who Do They Think They Are (2CD, 2003, jewel box). Ambiguous Points of View counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
We’re devoting most of this space to the latest album Turn Off, because that’s the one we’ve listened to. It seems that the major influence present on the Shamall albums has been Pink Floyd. But Turn Off sounds much closer to Eloy, themselves Pink Floyd influenced but quite distinct. Shamall doesn’t just sound a little like Eloy here -- if you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a new Eloy album. More specifically, it sounds like Eloy featuring special guest Edgar Froese. That’s one of the remarkable qualities of this album, how well Tangerine Dream style sequencers and synths are integrated into progressive rock. There are male and female vocals (in English), though the music is heavily instrumental. It turns out that Shamall is primarily the work of one man, Norbert Krueler, but you’d probably never guess. This is one amazing album, perhaps with slightly too narrow a style given its 150-minute length, but you won’t feel shortchanged on this or any of the other Shamall albums. Most are double-CDs, and each disc is nearly full. There is a lot of music here.
Flaming Row is an international band project organized by German multi-instrumentalist Martin Schnella. His idea for the Flaming Row debut Elinoire (2011, 80-minutes) was to create a concept album with many different musicians, particularly singers, both male and female. Marek Arnold (keyboards, sax) of Toxic Smile and Seven Steps to the Green Door is one of the four core instrumentalists, while Elinoire has at least 17 singers and around 30 musicians total participating. Among those are Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman from Shadow Gallery (they play or sing on most of the songs), Billy Sherwood (Circa, Yes, World Trade), and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard). The results are impressive. The music is in the modern prog rock and prog-metal styles, so if that all sounds like Ayreon, then consider Flaming Row the German Ayreon, or as Music in Belgium described Elinoire in a very positive review, a cross between Ayreon and Caamora’s She. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the album trailer.
This is the single-CD edition of the second Flaming Row album Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures (2014, 80-minutes, digipack). (There exists a more expensive 2CD edition where the second disc contains an instrumental mix of the entire album.) In addition to the Flaming Row core of Kiri Geile, Martin Schnella, Marek Arnold, and Niklas Kahl, participants include Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard, Enchant), three members of Shadow Gallery, Arjen A. Lucassen (Ayeron), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard), and members past or present of Seven Steps to the Green Door, Pain of Salvation, Haken, Neal Morse Band, Ayreon, and others. It’s a sci-fi concept album with ten singers taking on various roles or narrating. Again, Ayreon and Clive Nolan’s extravaganzas are the best reference points. Watch the official videos for the tracks Burning Sky and Aim L45.
Se Delan are a new signing for the Kscope label, a duo made up of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, leader of post-prog band Crippled Black Phoenix, and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, who previously recorded as Killing Mood. The Se Delan debut The Fall (2014, mediabook) sounds like a harder/heavier Cocteau Twins.
The self-titled Amenophis CD is Musea’s reissue of the 1983 debut LP by this German symphonic prog band, one of the best ever prog albums from Germany, a mostly-instrumental blend of Steve Hackett, Genesis, and Camel. Five bonus tracks recorded the same year have been added. This CD was released in 1992 but had been out-of-print for many years until Musea pressed more in 2014. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Amenophis added a female vocalist and released a second album in 1988 entitled You & I (currently out-of-print), which was somewhat of a disappointment relative to their debut, being more mainstream. After taking a quarter century to mull over their direction, Amenophis recorded a new album Time (2014), much of which was composed between 2011-2013, also containing some newly arranged and recorded, previously-unreleased songs that date to the late 1980s. And the good news is that Time is a return to form, with a commitment to longer, symphonic tracks. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the tracks You and Some Times on YouTube.
Home Away from Home (2013, digipack) is the debut for Vermont’s Elephants of Scotland, a quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums, with the keyboardist on lead vocals and two others on backing vocals. They play symphonic prog with slight nods to ELP and Yes, but like many American prog bands, they eschew melodrama in favor of a more direct, Rush-like approach. Only on some tracks does the music actually resemble Rush, but as the keyboardist’s brother is in the Rush tribute band Blame Canada, it’s a genetic predisposition. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the video for the title track (the shortest song on the album).
Elephants of Scotland’s second CD Execute and Breathe (2014, digipack) is all around a more powerful album, the natural result of the band’s greater experience in all facets of music creation and recording. “In sum, Execute and Breathe is a great sophomore release from a band who never stray from a songwriting mantra. They write prog with hooks and flavors, songs with loose thematic connections that can stand alone while still contributing to the whole. This is a solid album that will grow on you with subsequent listens.” [The Phantom Tollbooth] Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Demon (2014) is Gazpacho’s eighth studio album. This mediabook edition contains one bonus track. “...a captivating and intriguing album that is absolutely brilliant... Such experimentalism is proof that the Norwegian guys are really talented and deserve to be considered one of the best progressive rock bands on the scene today. Demon is an album that requires time and patience to be understood and will reward an open-minded audience. Play it in the dark to fully experience its great music.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review and the DPRP roundtable reviews (should keep you busy for a while). Watch the album trailer and the video for The Wizard of Altai Mountains. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho CDs.
Manning’s The Ragged Curtain was released in 2002 but had been out-of-print for years until this new edition, which adds a bonus live track and comes in a printed sleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping). The album is magnificent, ranging from intimate, heartfelt songs to Van der Graaf Generator-like intensity. Manning is at this point a full-fledged band with six members including ex-Parallel or 90 Degrees guitarist Gareth Harwood, plus guests Andy Tillison (The Tangent, Parallel or 90 Degrees) on keyboards and Angela Goldthorpe (Mostly Autumn) on flute and recorders. The music is full of Mellotron flute and strings, and culminates in the eight-part epic title track. The album was engineered and produced by John Spence, whose credits include Mostly Autumn and Castanarc.
Guy Manning and his band returned in 2013 with their 14th release in 14 years: The Root, the Leaf & the Bone. “So has Manning still got plenty to say? The answer, I think, is there for all to see and hear in The Root, The Leaf & The Bone – finely crafted and consistently original songs, intelligent and meaningful lyrics, and a keen ear for creating the right blend of instrumentation, mood, and sound. Many will argue that his 14th album is Guy Manning’s most pleasing and accomplished collection of songs yet, and I don’t think you’ll find me disagreeing too much with that view.” [Progressive Ears] Read the DPRP roundtable reviews and the Progarchy review. See our British page for the rest of the Manning catalog and much more info.
The self-titled CD is the 2011 debut CD (digipack) for Toronto’s Druckfarben, a superb band of accomplished musicians including American singer Phil Naro (who sounds like Jon Anderson) who’ve bonded over their mutual love of classic progressive rock. Their major influence is Yes (all periods), also ELP, Bruford, and others. Not to be too cynical, but it’s nice in this decade to hear a new band who can really play, who have songs, who have a real keyboardist, who don’t allow metal anywhere near their music, who aren’t terminally depressing, you know, the sorts of things that define progressive rock. Read reviews at Proggnosis, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives.
Druckfarben’s Artifact DVD (NTSC, all-region) is a recording of the first live performance of their entire debut album. It took place in 2012 at the Mod Club in Toronto and includes a cover of Yes’ Siberian Khatru. The DVD also contains a 25-minute documentary chronicling the history of the band, its working methods, and plans for the future. Read the Background Magazine review.
Second Sound (2014, digipack) is Druckfarben’s second studio CD, highlighted by the 19-minute title track that closes the album. Druckfarben sound even more self-assured here. Read the T-Mak World review.
The self-titled 2010 digipack debut CD for female-fronted French prog band Delusion Squared is a 59-minute concept album sung in English. Through the early part of the CD, the impression is of an alt-rock band making a prog album, on a par with The Reasoning in terms of progressiveness. Partly this is because the vocals are often dry (little or no reverb), with that modern female vocal style that we like to call ‘slightly uninterested’. But one notices many elegant touches, how Delusion Squared leave more space in the mix and how both guitarist and keyboardist use their acoustic instruments more than their contemporaries. The album gets more progressive as it goes on, with the best material saved for last. The vocals become lusher and the metal-influenced guitar used on a couple early tracks vanishes, such that by the end it feels closer to Yes, Strawbs, or Renaissance than to contemporary bands.
“This is very Porcupine Tree,... the band settling into a steady groove with subtle variations of tones, textures and colours, and flourishes and embellishments rather than soloing... I found this a mesmerising listening experience, aural hypnotherapy, the trance only broken when the last track finished. This has the makings of a prog classic, 8.5/10” [Ravenheart Music]
“Take Porcupine Tree’s spacey elements as a base, augment them with a strong reliance upon clean acoustic guitar, then bind them all together with compellingly beautiful female vocals and you have a decent idea where neo-proggers Delusion Squared are coming from sonically. ...Delusion Squared ‘held back’ their very best material until last, for it is during the final trio of atmospheric, beautiful and compelling songs that they soar to their greatest heights, indelibly carving out such an infectious and unforgettable sonic presence that I find myself involuntarily, almost instinctively scrambling for the replay button each time the album draws to a close. [Progpositivity, Prog Archives] Read more reviews at Prog Archives and JerryLucky.com.
Delusion Squared II (2012, 60-minutes, digipack) follows a similar pattern in that the band get their more metal-tinged material out of the way early on, then the music becomes lusher and more elaborated, with more acoustic textures, more real symphonic rock. Unlike the first album, the listener doesn’t need to wait as long before the more refined stuff takes over the album. There are some official extracts on YouTube.
Delusion Squared complete the trilogy with The Final Delusion (2014, digipack). See the album mini-site for full info. Listen to the album preview.
RPWL’s 2014 album is available both as a standard CD and a limited edition that adds a DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix and one bonus track. Both editions are digipacks. RPWL’s music, like Steven Wilson’s, is well-suited to surround and should ideally be heard that way. Wanted sees the band continuing to expand their style, not simply rehashing what they’ve already done. Their core sound is intact, the lush, Floydian style with gorgeous choruses. The early tracks however feature extended instrumental breaks in which there is a strong classic prog and classic hard rock influence, with organ as the primary keyboard sound. Not the prettiest cover, but it’s part of the album’s concept, which you can read about on the band’s site. “RPWL have done it again; Wanted is a triumphant, confident statement that confirms just how good this band are.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Prog Sphere and Dangerdog reviews. See our German page for the rest of the RPWL catalog.
KingBathmat are a British prog or alt-prog band that began with a cassette release in 1998. And they are a band that might restore one’s faith in the future of British progressive rock. Truth Button (2012) is something like their seventh album, not counting the cassettes. At present, the titles here are the only ones available on CD. KingBathmat are a modern prog band in that (on Truth Button at least) they rely a lot on grungy guitar, yet the vocals often feel like they’re from a much earlier era. The music is psychedelic in an early Porcupine Tree way, there are lush keyboards and gentle passages when KingBathmat want them, the arrangements are complex, and there is that quirkiness that many of the great UK prog bands have. Read the DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, and adequacy.net reviews. There’s an album montage on YouTube.
In contrast to Truth Button, which features long tracks, most of the songs on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival (2005) are relatively short. It begins with the songs that are more alt than prog, then a noticeable shift occurs with the track Sweet Iris, which has almost a pastoral Genesis feel. The rest of the CD is really proggy and really good, culminating in the fantastic 11:27 Soul Searching Song. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is not nearly as heavy as Truth Button, the grungy guitar much less prevalent. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Overcoming the Monster (2013) is the latest which, like Truth Button, features long tracks. “Kingbathmat are one of the most exciting bands that get labeled prog on the scene at the moment, and as this album proves, they are so much more than just a prog band. This is an album you need to listen to, on headphones, in one sitting, so you are immersed in its majesty. Faultless.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the PopMatters review and many more. See Prog Archives for reviews of all the KingBathmat albums. Watch the video for the song Sentinel.
The main force behind KingBathmat is John Bassett, who after seven KingBathmat albums is ready to do a Steven Wilson and step out under his own name with Unearth (2014). Bassett retains the services of a drummer while handling vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and Theremin himself. In many ways we like this album better than some of the KingBathmat output. Here there are a lot more acoustic textures, more heart energy, and none of the heavy or grungy guitar. Unearth lets Bassett’s songwriting shine like never before, with the dominant mood being melancholy, the songs lyrically dark but musically lush, uplifting, and life-affirming. “I’ve absolutely fallen in love with [Unearth], listening to it at what one might call an addictive level... If Kingbathmat ever released an album that combined the drive of Kingbathmat and the pauses and reflections of Unearth, the band would make an album that would not be just a great release of third-wave prog, but a worthy masterwork, an equal to the best of Genesis or Pink Floyd or Yes from the 1970s.” Read the full Progarchy review. Watch the album trailer video and the official video for Stay Away from the Dark.
Eve (2010) is the fourth studio album for Mary Jane, a band formed in Southampton, England in 1993. Mary Jane (who are related to the band Zaney Janey) are the current kings of progressive/psychedelic/electric folk-rock (or as they say, electrifying folk-rock), and by that we mean the style of Spriguns, Mellow Candle, and Spirogyra, and Eve is as good as any album by those bands. Except that with a playing time of 63-minutes, it’s as good as any two albums by those bands. Mary Jane have excellent female vocals, use lots of violin as well as flute, mandolin and recorders alongside electric & acoustic guitars, bass, and drums. About half the songs are traditional, half self-penned. One must mention Steeleye Span and Pentangle, though Mary Jane are proggier and have that psych-folk edge. This music brushes up against the folkier side of Renaissance and should appeal to many fans of Jethro Tull and Solstice. Watch YouTube videos of Eve, Twa Corbies, Clonakilty, and Let the Fire Begin.
Solstice (2014) is Mary Jane’s latest and is every bit as good as Eve. Be thankful a band making this music even exists in the present day.
Brigit’s Daughter is a 27-song double-CD compilation released in 2011, subtitled The Early Years 1996-2002. The tracks were chosen by the band and are drawn from the albums Hazy Days, Zaney Janey, The Gates of Silent Memory, Tacit (which contained live sessions), and To the Prettiest One, plus one previously unreleased track. The Mary Jane history may put these albums in some sort of perspective. Reviewers often compared Mary Jane’s earlier albums to those of the legendary band Trees.
Berlin school devotees, keep reading. Node is an electronic music supergroup of sorts whose first album appeared in 1995, but their day jobs have kept them busy in the interim. Node 2 (2014, 73-minutes) features three of the original members: maverick producer and sonic legend Flood, renowned producer and composer Ed Buller, and classically-trained doctor of music Dave Bessell. They are joined by new member, Hollywood composer Mel Wesson, who has most recently provided the soundscapes for Hans Zimmer’s film scores. This collective indulge their passion for all things analog, featuring what is quite possibly the largest collection of vintage analog equipment to have been assembled in a studio in recent times. Click the mp3 icon above for the full story and description. Read the Igloo Magazine review.
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. In fact this CD is the first of two planned for 2014, with a full-length, conventional Rocket Scientists album with vocals due later in the year. 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.
The double-CD Revolution Road (2006) had been thought to be extinct, but the band got a box of returns and decided to lower the price. It’s the best thing Rocket Scientists have done. Founding members Mark McCrite (guitar, vocals), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Stick) are joined by drummer Gregg Bissonette and second lead vocalist David McBee. While Oblivion Days verged on prog-metal at times, Revolution Road’s heaviness is more of the hard rock variety. So the music blends progressive hard rock with the Beatles and pop influences that have always been present in Rocket Scientists’ music, with Norlander’s symphonic keyboards at the center. Norlander does it all, from fast Wakeman-esque leads to early-70s prog organ to Mellotron pads to his own signature lead lines. Rocket Scientists have really polished the pop aspect of their songwriting, within arrangements that are always proggy. The many standout tracks include a cover of The Moody Blues’ Gypsy (of a Strange and Distant Time). See our dedicated Rocket Scientists section for the rest of their catalog.
Studio album number 14! All of Glass Hammer’s full-time singers past and present appear, including Jon Davison (Yes), Susie Bogdanowicz, Carl Groves (Salem Hill), Walter Moore, and Michelle Young. Guests include guitarist Randy Jackson (Zebra), keyboardist Rob Reed (Magenta), and violinist David Ragsdale (Kansas). Watch the album trailer and the video for the song Crowbone. See Page 2 for the rest of the Glass Hammer catalog.
To the Stars (2014, digipack) is the new studio CD from Steve Unruh’s band Resistor. “Resistor fit within the sphere of current American progressive rock groups well, and fans of Phideaux, Discipline, and Echolyn amongst others would get a lot out of this release. It would be a crying shame if an album this exceptional slips under the radar and doesn’t get the attention that many of its contemporaries experience... Easily my favourite release of the first quarter of 2014.” [DPRP] Read the full DPRP and Progarchy reviews. Listen to the 3-minute audio trailer and the complete title track. See Page 2 for the rest of the Resistor and Steve Unruh CDs and more info.
Mind Portal are a Russian instrumental quartet (guitar/keys/bass/drums) debuting in 2010 with 1/1. They play heavy, fusion-tinged prog in a style similar to Planet X and Liquid Tension Experiment, with comparable technical skills. But Mind Portal earn high marks for melody and for concise, focused compositions, avoiding most of the excesses of those other bands. They have guitar melodies similar to what Joe Satriani comes up with, but not a lot of shredding for shredding’s sake. We would have liked some small degree of Russian flavor to give the music some distinctiveness -- this sounds entirely American -- but we understand that some of today’s progressive rock fans prefer a music monoculture. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Using a proprietary numbering scheme, 1/2: Thought and Matter (2014) is Mind Portal’s second, even better than their first. The technical level of the musicians is quickly apparent, and while that’s the end of the story for so many bands who can play but not compose, Mind Portal’s music is a real pleasure to listen to.
We’ll be the first to admit that our Belarus section is a bit thin, but as a start, here is Belarus band 7 Ocean, a trio of experienced musicians. The band was originally called Seventh Ocean, founded in 1989, before starting fresh as 7 Ocean. The music on the 7 Ocean debut The Mysterious Race of Strange Entities (2008) is 1970s-style keyboard-centric symphonic prog with some influence of ELP, The Nice, Rick Wakeman, Greenslade; really an amalgam of all the keyboard prog from that era, with an Eastern European flavor. The vocals are in what could be Belarusian. (All those languages with Cyrillic characters sound the same if you can’t speak any of them.) The music is relatively vocal-heavy, but as the tracks are long -- 10 tracks totaling 80-minutes -- there is ample room for instrumental and vocal passages to share the stage. Read the Progressor review.
7 Ocean followed with two albums released only as digital downloads, so Diapause (2014, 67-minutes) is their fourth album but second CD. The music is in a similar vein but with more instrumental content, and benefitting from greater experience.
The music scene is heating up in Uzbekistan. Flight 09 have existed since 1983 and are considered the dean of Uzbekistan rock bands. Signs of the Water (2014) is their fourth album. They had two releases on a U.S. label before moving to the Moscow-based MALS label for 2005’s Human Nature. That album was more or less hard rock dressed up with symphonic keyboards. Signs of the Water is definitely proggier, also more metal than hard rock per se, and more diverse. The vocals are in English.
Loving on Standby (2014, digipack) is the first CD of Vincent Leboeuf Gadreau, guitarist/singer of Québec City band Inner Odyssey. But this album is not in the style of Inner Odyssey, who are a prog-metal band. In fact we like Isos much more, as the music is more in the vein of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and the refined side of Riverside. Vocals in English.
This German quintet deserves to have “super” in their name, because for fans of classic British-style prog, Superdrama’s debut The Promise (2014, mediabook) may be the most exciting German prog release in a long time. One of very few other recent German bands making classic British-style melodic prog is Argos, and two of the four Argos members are in Superdrama! Superdrama was founded in 2004 though, so Argos may still be running in parallel. Superdrama’s primary influence is clearly Gabriel-era Genesis, though they are not overly derivative. There is a little Van der Graaf Generator resemblance, mainly because singer Robert Gozon can sound like Peter Hammill when he wants to, though he does so only on occasion. There are a few other prog influences sprinkled in, but the music doesn’t stray far from Genesis. This limited (and for the foreseeable future, only) edition comes in a hardcover mediabook with 60-page booklet. Watch the album sampler video.
Closed Doors to Open Plains (2014, 62-minutes, digipack) is the second CD for German prog quartet Seasons of Time, a mere 17 years after their debut, and far superior to it. They list their influences as Marillion, Pink Floyd, and Genesis. Watch the album sampler video.
It’s not like you can throw a rock today without hitting a band influenced by Pink Floyd (or by extension, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson), but the young Berlin-based band Osta Love are a rather good one, based on their second album Good Morning Dystopia (2013, digipack). Apparently worldwide stock of this CD is already down to double-digit quantities, so grab it if you want it, but expect to be hearing more from Osta Love, as fast-rising German prog label Progressive Promotion Records has signed them. Read the Background Magazine and Power of Metal.dk reviews. Watch Osta Love’s YouTube videos from this album.
Freedom to Glide is centered on English musicians Pete Riley and Andy Nixon who have played together for many years in the Pink Floyd tribute band Dark Side of the Wall. Their 2013 debut CD Rain (digipack) is, to quote the Sonic Abuse review, “the spiritual successor to The Final Cut, with its conceptual theme of the costs of war”, in this case with World War I as the subject matter. Freedom to Glide eschew high-energy instrumental excursions, focusing instead on the story and sustaining a profound and melancholy mood, equally beautiful and sad. The album has received plenty of accolades: also read the Prog Rock Music Talk, Get Ready to Rock!, and Progarchy reviews. Watch the official video for Rain (Part 1) and the unofficial video for When the Whistle Blows.
Canadian Rick Miller has been perfecting his soft, dark, and melancholy prog style with something like nine albums since 2003. Heart of Darkness (2014) is his latest. Rick has listed his influences as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards, assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Canadian page for the rest of the Rick Miller catalog and more info.
Tracks from the Alps (2014, digipack) is the sixth studio album for Italian band The Watch, who are essentially a clone of Gabriel-era Genesis. You know what you’re going to get, and if you’re at all a fan of early Genesis, this is not a difficult buy decision. One Genesis cover is included, the rare Going Out to Get You. The Watch continue to provide a valuable service by recording obscure early Genesis songs for which a good recording doesn’t exist or that were recorded by Genesis before they had fully established their style. See our Italian page for the rest of The Watch CDs.
Hail (2012, digipack) is a 4-track, 27-minute CD-EP by a young Welsh prog band, released on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s WhiteKnight label. Rob Reed, Magenta’s keyboardist and leader, plays on two of the tracks. (Keyboards are used on the other two tracks too.) The EP is mostly instrumental; what vocals there are are low and distant in the mix. There’s a minute of metal that opens the album, but the next 26 minutes are excellent: spacey and actually proggier than a lot of the current UK prog bands, who as a group lean toward melodic rock.
Phases (2014, digipack) is Eden Shadow’s first full-length CD, and it does have vocals. Instrumentally, Eden Shadow are a guitar/bass/drums trio with the guitarist and drummer adding keyboards; like so many modern prog bands, they lack a true keyboardist. Nik Turner guests with a flute solo on one track.
This is the debut by a new British neo-prog band on IQ’s Giant Electric Pea label, produced by IQ’s Mike Holmes and engineered by Rob Aubrey. Expect something resembling IQ and Jadis blended with influences of Muse, Porcupine Tree, and Cardiacs. Read the Prog Archives and Lady Obscure reviews.
Bavarian band Frequency Drift create atmospheric, melodic yet challenging music that they call ‘cinematic progressive rock’. Over (2014, 75-minutes, digipack) is Frequency Drift’s fifth, and they’ve found a home on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. As part of that collaboration, RPWL’s Yogi Lang (mixing) and Kalle Wallner (bass) participate on this album. Former RPWL drummer Phil Paul Rissettio and guitarist Martin Schnella (Flaming Row) also guest. Beyond that, the Frequency Drift lineup is expanded with instrumentation that includes flute, cello, violin, viola, acoustic & electric harp, tin whistle, marimba, gemshorn (a type of ocarina), and duclar (an ethnic sort of clarinet). It’s impressive enough for a band today to manage nearly an album per year, but the progress Frequency Drift have made in a relatively short time is even more impressive, moving from the cold, urban sounds of their earliest work to the warmer, more organic sound of their recent albums, all the while adding depth and carving out a unique style. Watch the official video for the track Run. Read reviews at Prog Archives and The Progressive Aspect. See our German page for the rest of the Frequency Drift CDs.
Lee Abraham was the bass player of Galahad for a time and has a couple CDs previous to these under his belt, one under his name, one as half of the duo Idle Noise. Black & White (2009) is a British neo-prog all-star project that includes John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena,...), Simon Godfrey (Tinyfish), Jem Godfrey (Frost), Gary Chandler (Jadis), Steve Thorne, Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train), and Dean Baker (Galahad). That cast leads to certain expectations, and this CD delivers on them. The music is melodic, mainstream, third-generation (unless we’re up to fourth generation now) British prog. Read the DPRP review.
Lee’s follow-up Distant Days (2014, 60-minutes) was recorded with the same core band that did the handful of gigs after the release of Black & White. Guests on Distant Days include Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Mandalaband, Nine Stones Close), Dec Burke (Frost, Darwin’s Radio), John Young (Lifesigns), Steve Thorne, Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf), and Karl Groom (Threshold). Jon Barry and Simon Nixon helped out on guitar. Pink Floyd is the dominant influence, though that’s true of most of the current generation of mainstream prog bands. The highlight is the 15-minute final track Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday, which sounds like it will be the concert finale. Watch the promo video.
When Lazuli first appeared on the scene more than ten years ago, Musea called them “the most promising new French band in years”. By now prog fans everywhere have figured out that Musea was right. Tant que l’herbe est grasse (2104, digipack) is Lazuli’s latest studio CD, which features Fish singing on one song. You can listen to the first song at least on Lazuli’s site. See our French page for all of Lazuli’s CDs and much more info, and see our DVDs page for Lazuli’s DVDs.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
Perfect Beings is the new progressive rock band assembled by Luley, and this self-titled digipack CD is their 2014 debut. Yes is still by far the dominant influence, especially the Steve Howe style guitar work, but the whole is more original and unique than Moth Vellum. The vocals contribute an introspective and melancholy aspect, while instrumentally the band bursts out in full Yes majesty and complexity. Very nice.
Dream the Electric Sleep, or DTES for short, are a progressive rock band from Kentucky who debuted in 2011 with Lost and Gone Forever (77-minutes, digipack) and followed up with Heretics (2014, 73-minutes, digipack). DTES belong to that cadre of modern prog bands typified by Oceansize whose only strong connection to classic prog is to Pink Floyd, though DTES also mention Genesis and King Crimson as influences. This is music composed by guitarists, and they build up a big sound by layering guitars with different tones, while keyboards play a very minor role. OK, that last bit also describes some of Rush, and Rush is part of the DTES sound. There are also aspects of modern Marillion and Americana flavors (banjo is used sparingly). Within that framework, it is all quite ambitious and accomplished.
“[Lost and Gone Forever] gets an easy 5 out of 5 stars -- did I say epic? One of the best albums of the year and one of the best debuts I have heard in a while.” Read the entire Sea of Tranquility review. “Swollen with ambition, Lost and Gone Forever is a precocious first effort from a band who have clearly embraced four decades of progressive rock in their convoluted entirety. The main reference points here are more recent sonic explorers like Radiohead and Cave In, but there are flashes of everything from It Bites-style pomp right back to Floyd-esque space blues floating around in this colorful quagmire. First and foremost, DTES deal in huge melodies and arena-filling crescendos, and from the opening track onwards this album exudes a dogged desire to stir the soul and tug the heartstrings. The finest moments are simply beautiful.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog]
Read the Sea of Tranquility and Background Magazine reviews of Heretics.
This is the 2013 debut CD by The Cosmic Remedy, an Internet-era transnational band headed by Transylvanian guitarist Bogáti-Bokor Ákos, known for his work in the Yes-influenced bands Yesterdays, Tabula Smaragdina, and You and I. The drummer is Finland’s Kimmo Pörsti, who also plays in Paidarion, Mist Season, Strandberg Project, and The Samurai of Prog. The male lead singer is Brazilian, the bassist is Italian. Then there are the guests, who include German Ulf Yacobs (Argos), the flute player from Yesterdays, the drummer and bassist from Tabula Smaragdina, and three female singers. One is the first lead singer of Yesterdays, one is the lead singer of German band Klima, and one is the lead singer of a Romanian Led Zeppelin tribute band. Everyone sings in excellent English; in fact the whole album sounds extremely English. The CD consists of 14 songs organized into four suites. The first suite is the really proggy one, Yes-influenced and close to the sound of Bogáti-Bokor Ákos’ other bands. The remaining three suites are more Beatles-influenced, lighter and more open, with an unmistakeable late-60s vibe. Mellotron strings are used to add proggy flavoring to these lighter songs. Read the Background Magazine and The Progressive Aspect reviews.
Jet Black Sea is a new project of Adrian Jones, leader of Nine Stones Close, joined on The Path of Least Existence (2013, digisleeve) by Michel Simons. As Adrian says: “The music is entirely instrumental, dark, ambient, progressive, and powerful. The album takes you on a complete journey through almost an hour of interconnected musical themes.” The music has commonality with Nine Stones Close but goes further afield; in Jet Black Sea, Jones is less constrained and perhaps more fully realizes his vision. It’s one of those albums you have to give yourself over to completely, perhaps using headphones and eliminating distractions. Watch the album overview video and the videos for The Law of Diminishing Returns and Northern Exposure on YouTube. Read customer reviews at amazon.co.uk. You may still find a few Nine Stones Close CDs on our British page. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The self-titled Skeem CD is the 2001 debut by a French neo-prog band with perfect English-language vocals and the symphonic keyboards and soaring guitars inspired by Marillion and Pendragon one has come to expect. The band has at its disposal an accomplished rhythm section, seeing as it’s Priam’s. There have been few French neo-prog bands after the now-forgotten Arrakeen; this is a good one. Prog Archives has mp3s and many reviews. This is the MALS label edition.
Just Suggesting (2CD, 2013) appeared 12 years later, so not surprisingly there have been some lineup changes. And if you let it go that long, a double CD is justified. It’s by-the-book neo-prog.
Suono! (2013) is the second album for this Italian symphonic prog quartet singing in Italian. Their first album was released 12 years earlier only as a self-produced CD-R. But it reached the ears of PFM’s Franz Di Cioccio, who wanted Distillerie di Malto on his new label, and gave them the opportunity to open for PFM in 2003. Simply put, Suono! is classic progressive rock without compromises. Three of the eight songs were recorded some time earlier when Maurizio Di Tollo (drums) and Luca Latini (flute) were in the lineup. Listen to the track Il Guardiano on YouTube (which at the time of this writing has the wrong title listed).
The German neo-prog band ICU released three CDs all during the 1990s: Moonlight Flit (1993), Now and Here (1995), and ICU (1997). Guitarist and bandleader Thomas Glönkler has gone on to release solo albums, of which 2010’s Goldstadt is close to being a masterpiece. ICU sang in English and always included flute in the lineup, giving their music added class, while their main appeal is to fans of the usual neo-prog suspects (Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, Collage, Egdon Heath,...). See Prog Archives for reviews of all the ICU albums, as well as audio for two songs.
The ICU albums had been thought to be long out-of-print, but Glönkler still has a small cache of the original discs belonging to ICU’s self-titled third CD. The booklet and traycards are now gone though, so he’s created an inkjet-printed booklet and traycard and combined them with an original disc, which is what is offered here.
Now and Here is a concept album, the highest-rated of the ICU albums on Prog Archives and generally considered to be ICU’s best. It’s one of the best continental neo-prog albums ever though probably forgotten due to its long unavailability, which this Collector’s Edition should rectify. It contains three CD-Rs with the original album mix on Disc 1. Disc 2 contains the first live performance of the entire album, from February 1995 in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg. Disc 3 contains live recordings, rarities, and demos. The set includes a lyric sheet and detailed liner notes for each track.
Moonlight Flit contains two CD-Rs and a DVD-R. The first disc contains the original album mix. Disc 2 contains the live performance of the entire album from November 1993 plus the bonus track Themes from Brave, which was originally published only as a limited edition single. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) features ICU live in Neuweiler in 1993, with a playing time of just under 20 minutes. It’s a professionally-edited, multi-camera shoot, not the crystal-clear images one expects today but quite good, comparable to a television broadcast of that era.
Live 95-96 (2CD-R, 113-minutes) sounds very good and captures ICU’s best live performances. The first disc was recorded in Calw in 1996, while the second disc was recorded in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg in 1995. Included are the only recording of the previously-unreleased track Precipice (7:58), the previously-unreleased full length version of The Brave (14:27), and a 21-minute Now and Here medley.
Note these are boutique products, manufactured by Glönkler one at a time, and he’s made our stock special for North America, with English liner notes, an NTSC DVD, some changes in bonus material, and all copies numbered and signed. The discs (apart from the self-titled 3rd) are CD-Rs and DVD-Rs with labels printed directly on the disc; the booklets and inlays are inkjet-printed. It all looks good, and since the albums are unlikely to be reprinted as replicated CDs, and with the wealth of bonus material, we think you’ll appreciate these unique sets. They aren’t sealed -- we do put a plastic sleeve on them once we receive them, but expect some slight wear to the cases. The 3-disc sets come in special 3-disc jewel cases that are the same width as a single jewel case.
Henry Fool are an eclectic band whose initial lineup comprised Tim Bowness (No-Man) on guitar and vocals, Stephen Bennett (LaHost) on keyboards, Brian Eno collaborator Peter Chilvers on bass, No-Man live guitarist Michael Bearpark, drummer Fudge Smith (Pendragon), and jazz session ace Myke Clifford on woodwinds. Their 2001 eponymous debut was originally released on the Cyclops label but had been out-of-print for years prior to this 2013 reissue on Kscope, which has been remastered by Andy Jackson, features new artwork, and has a new booklet with sleeve notes by Bowness and Bennett. Creating a distinctive combination of 1970s progressive influences (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine), contemporary textural experiments (Rain Tree Crow, Labradford), and hard-hitting group improvisations (King Crimson, Faust), Henry Fool created one of the most original progressive blends of that era. King Crimson is evoked often, both the Mellotron/flute symphonics of the first incarnation as well as the angular prog of the Red-era and the modern band. Two tracks were mixed by Steven Wilson. Henry Fool’s debut album will appeal to those into No-Man, early Porcupine Tree, and King Crimson.
It took until 2013 for the second Henry Fool album Men Singing, which despite the title is entirely instrumental. The lineup is almost the same, with the drummer now Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), the addition of a second keyboardist, a guest violinist, and none other than Phil Manzanera guesting on guitar. The music is a blend of progressive rock, Soft Machine style jazz-rock, and post-rock, ranging from symphonic to atmospheric to psychedelic and spacey. Read reviews. The gatefold mini-LP sleeve edition is now deleted, last copies.
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. Watch the promo video.
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 In The Last Waking Moments single EP is a CD containing five tracks. Two are the album and single edits of the title track. Through the Ages is a new song. The remaining two are live versions of A Million Miles Away and Spiraling professionally recorded during Marillion weekend in Montreal. 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. Watch the video for Final Breath.
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. 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. See Page 2 for the Magus CDs.
Seems like a rather mundane name for a band, but The Yearning, the 2005 debut of Chilean symphonic prog band Aisles, is anything but. On this album the lineup includes two keyboardists, two guitarists, and a singer who also plays flute, and three of them are brothers. Their music is clearly connected to 1970s progressive rock, but they are not at all retro. They are highly original and yet somehow familiar, musically mature beyond their years. In stark contrast to the majority of today’s bands, Aisles’ music is delicate and refined. The closest comparisons would be early PFM and Shingetsu. Even if Aisles don’t sound particularly like those bands, they have the characteristic dreamy, gentle passages with lots of acoustic timbres, punctuated by energetic and majestic outbursts. Overall the music sounds more British though, and in the most general terms only, you could compare them to Camel and Genesis. The vocals are in English; the blend of lead and backing vocals is a highlight of their sound.
In Sudden Walks (2009) is their second, and while the elements are familiar (Genesis, Marillion, Yes and Pink Floyd could be mentioned), there is no direct comparison for the music of Aisles. Only a few elements strike the listener as Latin American. What does strike the listener is the production quality, how crystal clear the instruments are and the separation between them, and how refined the music is. The instrumental palette is rich and detailed, with no one instrument dominating. The result is an original yet accessible symphonic prog album, one of the best from Chile.
Reminding the listener never to judge an album by the first couple tracks, Aisles’ third 4:45 AM (2013) opens with shorter, upbeat tracks with a more mainstream sound. Maybe Aisles are even attempting to have a 1980s hit single, but the window of opportunity for a 1980s hit single has closed. After that they return to their nuanced, progressive style, with the tracks getting longer and longer, and all’s well that ends well.
The River (2013) is the debut solo album by veteran Italian composer, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, Stick, keyboards), engineer, and producer Marco De Angelis, joined by lead vocalist Marcello Catalano, drummer Cristiano Micalizzi, and five female backing vocalists. The River is a concept album with first-rate production, sounding completely professional. Musically we are in later Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Fish, and Alan Parsons Project territory, thematically-linked songs that are progressive by virtue of their arrangements, the layered sonics and attention to detail. Read the Exposé and Background Magazine reviews. Watch the video for Black Stare.
Also Eden are one of the best of the modern-day British neo-prog bands. Their first two albums About Time (2006) and It’s Kind of You to Ask (2008) featured singer Huw Lloyd-Jones and are symphonic rock in the vein of Abel Ganz and, to a lesser extent, Marillion, Pallas, and IQ. On these first two CDs, the distinguishing characteristic of Also Eden’s music is an emotional warmth that made them the coziest of the British neo-prog bands.
Lloyd-Jones left prior to Also Eden’s 2010 EP Differences as Light, replaced by another fine singer in Rich Harding. That EP signaled the start of a slightly different direction for the band. Think of the Children! (2011) is the band’s third full-length album. The music is a bit heavier now, closer to recent Pallas, recent Galahad, and a modern take on early Marillion, though the blustery passages are sometimes alternated with delicate segments probably influenced by the Genesis pastoral 12-string sound. You can also hear references to Rush and Twelfth Night, among others. Overall, some of the charm and songwriting of the first two albums has been supplanted by an ambitious, serious-sounding and somewhat theatrical long-form approach that demands several listens. Listen to the album sampler mp3.
As for [Redacted] (2013), “Also Eden have significantly raised their game with this, their second album since Rich Harding took over as lead vocalist. Despite occasional echoes of Tangerine Dream, Porcupine Tree, and even Trespass-era Genesis in the album’s quieter moments, this is a harder-edged and more rock-orientated record than their previous work. The result is a powerful yet richly layered record, with Simon Rogers’ inventive guitar playing at the centre of the sound, and Rich Harding’s lyrics moving from the political to the personal.” [Where Worlds Collide] Also read reviews at Prog Archives and a compendium of reviews covering all the Also Eden albums.
This band from Northern Ireland claims to be Ireland’s only existing progressive rock band. After a 2004 debut, A Time of Shadow (2009) is their second album, while Everything Is Connected (2013) is their third. They have a very strong singer in Liam Campbell, who has something of a Peter Gabriel and Fish quality to his voice and sings with similar conviction. The music is in the Marillion vein, though often a better reference is Abel Ganz. An excellent band in the British Isles neo-prog tradition, emphasizing melody, strong songs and a singer who can carry them. Read reviews. Watch the promo video for Everything Is Connected.
Peter Gee is best known as the bassist for Pendragon. Paris (2013) is Gee’s fifth album, not counting his gospel album. It features Steve Thorne’s vocals on most of the songs, while Damian Wilson sings two songs and Damian’s brother Paul (who sang on Gee’s first album 20 years earlier) returns to sing one. Steve Christey (Jadis, John Wetton) is the drummer. As always, the 12 songs and 3 instrumentals cover a variety of styles and moods, with most of the vocal songs in Gee’s soft symphonic rock style, with heartfelt lyrics. The two songs chosen to go up first on YouTube and Soundcloud though are poor choices as far as prog fans are concerned, not doing justice to what is a fine album. See our British page for the rest of Peter Gee’s CDs and more info.
Yes, this is the same Solstice who were one of the leading lights of the 1980s UK progressive revival, still fronted by guitarist Andy Glass and also featuring Steve McDaniel (keyboards), Robin Phillips (bass), Pete Hemsley (drums), Jenny Newman (violin), and Emma Brown (vocals). The band’s iconic blend of soaring violin and guitar weaving around delicately passionate female vocals, underpinned by a driving rhythm section remains in force on their new studio album Prophecy (2013). The CD also includes three bonus tracks which are new remixes of songs from Solstice’s debut Silent Dance done by Steven Wilson, who is a long-time Solstice aficionado. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Solstice catalog.
These are the 2013 digipack editions on Esoteric, all newly remastered and personally supervised by Vangelis himself, with booklets that restore the original album artwork. Vangelis’ time on the RCA label yielded his greatest albums. Those include Heaven and Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), and Spiral (1977). (His 1978 album Beaubourg was also on RCA, but it is radically different, pure musique concrète.) Heaven and Hell was the first album to be recorded at his personal studio in London. This epic work in two parts features the English Chamber Choir and Vangelis’ first collaboration with Jon Anderson, the beautiful So Long Ago, So Clear. Those only familiar with Vangelis’ later, lighter works may be in for a shock, as Heaven and Hell is dark and powerful. The follow-up Albedo 0.39 was used in the television series Cosmos and contains some of Vangelis’ most iconic works, while the album contains elements of rock and jazz. These two are our favorite Vangelis albums and are landmark albums of progressive music.
Spiral is just a notch below those two. It contains the song To the Unknown Man, one of Vangelis’ best-known pieces. After Spiral, Vangelis did make some very good albums, but his style was never quite the same. Of course, the same was true for any number of first-generation prog artists as the 1970s drew to a close. The Spiral CD includes a rare bonus track, previously unissued on CD: To the Unknown Man Part Two, which was a single B-side.
By the time of Direct (1988), which was recorded for Arista, Vangelis had moved to Athens. “Like most Vangelis, this defies categorization. It has strong elements of rock & roll, symphonic synth ambience, and new age instrumental aspects. At the same time, the bold synthesizer strokes and washes fit the Berlin school of electronica. Given Vangelis’ proclivity for soundtrack work, it is no surprise that this disc sounds like great film music. It is a great CD that will appeal to many different audiences.” [All Music] Note the mp3 icons above link to allmusic.com, which not only has audio samples for these albums but also a review of each. Lots more reviews can be found at Prog Archives. You’ll note the RCA albums have the most raters of any of the many Vangelis albums with the exception of his Blade Runner soundtrack, which has more to do with the movie than the soundtrack per se.
Vangelis was considered to replace Rick Wakeman the first time Rick left Yes. Vangelis turned it down but became friends with Jon Anderson, leading to four Jon & Vangelis albums, of which Page of Life (1991) is the fourth, released eight years after the third. Note this edition contains the same content as the original 1991 edition. (There was a 1998 U.S. release that messed with the tracks.) This edition contains a rare bonus track: Sing With Your Eyes, taken from the promotional Wisdom Chain CD single.
This is the 2013 newly-remastered and expanded edition on Esoteric of Jon Anderson’s 1994 album Change We Must. The album features extensive orchestral arrangements of both new compositions and material from Anderson’s past, including a new version of Hearts (from the Yes album 90125) and State of Independence (from the Jon & Vangelis album The Friends of Mr Cairo). Change We Must also features additional material co-written by Jon Anderson and Vangelis, including the title track, The Kiss, and Candle Song. The CD features two bonus tracks: a single edit of the title track and an interview with Jon Anderson. The booklet fully restores the original album artwork and includes new liner notes by Jon. Click the mp3 icon above to read the All Music review.
Airbag are a five-man prog band from Oslo, Norway. Classic Rock Magazine hit the nail on the head when they described their 2009 debut Identity as: “Prog at its most chilled, honeyed and soothing... reminiscent of Coldplay doing Pink Floyd covers. Believe us, that’s a recommendation.” Airbag are also reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at their most sensual, as well as Gazpacho, RPWL, modern Marillion and Anathema. The music is lush and dripping with atmosphere, with omnipresent synth pads and some of the guitar work sounding like EBow, plus top-notch vocals. Gorgeous, melancholy stuff.
All Rights Removed (2011) is their second. The current edition comes in a standard jewel box. Read the Background Magazine and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album preview video.
This is the limited digisleeve edition of Airbag’s third CD The Greatest Show on Earth (2013). “With The Greatest Show on Earth, Airbag have merely tired out the extended crescendoing solo formula and made room for further variation from their already newfound triumphs to help them reach that looming magnum opus and seat as one of prog’s modern heroes.” Read the full Sputnik Music review as well as the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
This is a group of CDs with overlapping personnel that have been released before, been out-of-print for years, but have been reissued in 2013 by Gonzo Multimedia. 1976 was a busy year for woodwind player Jack Lancaster and keyboardist Robin Lumley, a year in which they produced both the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums and helped set Brand X in motion. Most of the arrangements on the Peter and the Wolf album were done by Lancaster and Lumley, though this version of the album is not credited to them per se. The album is a progressive rock reworking of Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf that also features such luminaries as Gary Moore, Manfred Mann, Phil Collins, Percy Jones, Bill Bruford, Gary Brooker, Stephane Grappelli, Alvin Lee, Cozy Powell, Brian Eno, Jon Hiseman, John Goodsall, Chris Spedding, and more. The music generally follows Prokoviev’s compositions but with rock instruments representing the characters.
The lineup on the instrumental Marscape album includes Jack Lancaster, Robin Lumley, John Goodsall, Percy Jones, and Phil Collins. It was released almost simultaneously with Brand X’s debut Unorthodox Behaviour, and in the minds of many fans, this is Brand X, though here Lancaster is the composer, which makes Marscape distinct from the Brand X albums, less fusion-y and more classically-influenced. Read the in-depth article on the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums at DPRP.
Missing Period represents the earliest known recordings of Brand X, from 1975-76. Recorded shortly before the release of their debut album Unorthodox Behaviour, the source tapes for this material were recovered by John Goodsall from family members in England, who presented John with a box containing all sorts of Brand X memorabilia. At the bottom of the box were some old reels of tape of unknown origin. Upon review, John and Percy Jones realized they had uncovered a long lost treasure, excellent quality recordings of Brand X’s classic lineup performing previously unreleased material.
The Brand X live CD is a soundboard recording of a performance at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles in September 1979, shortly after the release of the Product album.
Wild Connections (1979) is a collaboration between Jack Lancaster and Rick van der Linden, the keyboardist and leader of the Dutch band Trace. They are joined by a drummer and a choir, while Lancaster plays only Lyricon (the first electronic wind controller) and van der Linden plays only Yamaha GX-1. No bass player was necessary because van der Linden, being an organist, was very good at playing foot pedals. The GX-1 was Yamaha’s monstrous three-manual + bass pedals synth, weighing around 300kg/660lb and costing on the order of $60,000. Consequently, van der Linden was one of very few musicians to own one, the most famous being Keith Emerson, who used the GX-1 on Fanfare for the Common Man and Pirates. Wild Connections is an excellent album that contains van der Linden’s best baroque-rock outside of Trace.
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 this album, 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 Clearlight CDs.
British band Legend formed in 1988 and released their first CD in 1991. They bill themselves as a pagan progressive rock band in that they draw upon the folklore and pre-Christian mysticism of the British Isles. They have always had a female lead vocalist, but each of the titles here feature a different one. Triple Aspect (1996) is their third and is the best of the CDs they released during their first era.
Cardinal Points (2011, 59-minutes) was the first new studio CD from Legend since Triple Aspect. It is divided into four long tracks in the 13-17 minute range, following an earth, wind, fire, and water theme. Legend sometimes integrate a heavy, plodding Hawkwind or early Rainbow approach, though ‘neo-prog’ best describes their music. As this CD progresses, the music becomes more nuanced and open, approaching Renaissance level in the last and longest track, maybe the best thing they’ve recorded. Read the JerryLucky.com review.
Spirit (2013) is heavier than Legend’s past work, and when all is said and done, we suspect it will rate higher than any Legend album to date. While only a tiny bit of it could qualify as prog-metal, there is an aesthetic at play that will attract symphonic metal fans. Legend are more keyboard-heavy than any metal band though, so heavy neo-prog it shall be. New singer Beck Siàn, who has an established solo career, steals the show. Beck has a pure yet powerful voice, with great range and articulation, and a haunting delivery when she wants it. In her upper range, she’s unmistakably Kate Bush-y, which is interesting because the two are actually related, and Kate was an inspiration for Beck. Beck’s voice is sometimes multitracked to sound like a choir, giving the music a big, epic, gothic feel. Similar to the previous album, the music opens up during the latter part of the album, with more space and nuance, an even better showcase for the vocals. Read reviews of all at Prog Archives.
Space-prog album of the year? Phoenix Rising (2013, digipack) is a collaboration between Japanese instrumental prog/jam band Rovo and Steve Hillage’s electronic band System 7. The album was performed and recorded live. Like most Japanese prog bands, Rovo have impressive instrumental skills, and they have an electric violinist. The dueling between Hillage’s electric guitar and Yuji Katsui’s violin are one highlight. The majority of tracks were written by Hillage and/or his partner Miquette Giraudy, while Rovo wrote some, and one is a cover of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Meeting of the Spirits. Read the Get Ready to Rock! and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album trailer and another short video.
Circles (2010) is the second album from Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison, and multi-instrumentalist, singer, and extended range bass player 05Ric. The extended range bass is an instrument 05Ric had a hand in designing, incorporating aspects of the Chapman Stick and a conventional electric guitar. These are two stellar musicians making full-sounding music mostly in the Adrian Belew-era King Crimson vein with a healthy dose of Allan Holdsworth added. We’ve all heard lots of bands influenced by 80s Crimson and by Holdsworth, but few if any as good as the originals. Circles however is right up there with them. The intricacy of it all is kind of mind-bending, yet it is musical, flowing naturally; it’s even soothing at times. Gavin is definitely holding back when playing with Porcupine Tree (which makes sense for PTree’s style). This edition includes a CD plus a DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround, packaged in a super jewel box + slipcase. Thank you Kscope for a hi-res surround version with no increase in price! Those with DVD-Video-only players can listen to the DTS surround mix.
The Man Who Sold Himself (2012, digibook) is the third collaboration for Harrison and 05Ric. The DVD in this two disc set contains a 5.1 mix of the album. (There is no indication of DVD-Audio on the outside of the packaging. Kscope lists it as a DVD-A on their site, but one can never be sure labels understand the difference between a DVD-A and a DVD-Video disc containing only audio.) Read reviews at ThisIsNotAScene and Alternative Matter. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Drop is the first for the duo, originally released in 2007 and featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Dave Stewart, and Gary Sanctuary (Three Friends). Nine carefully crafted songs feature ground-breaking multi-layered guitars, vocal harmonies, and rhythms. This 2013 Kscope slipcased edition features new artwork by Carl Glover.
The 2013 Ayreon album The Theory of Everything (digipack) is a rock opera (imagine that!) that begins a new story line for the Ayreon universe. The two CDs contain four 20+ minute epics divided into 42 separate tracks. The DVD contains 2.5 hours of behind-the-scenes content, mainly a making-of documentary and interviews. An Ayreon album always has impressive participants, but this one outdoes the previous albums. To name just the biggest names: John Wetton, Steve Hackett, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Troy Donockley, and Jordan Rudess. This album is proggier (less metallic) and more instrumental than the previous album 01011001, in some ways returning to the early days. Read the Sea of Tranquility, The Monolith, and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album trailer and the official video for the title track. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Dutch page for more Ayreon CDs.
This is the best American symphonic prog by an artist you’ve never heard of, unless you have heard of The Psychedelic Ensemble, in which case you don’t need to read this sentence. The band name is a misnomer as the music is symphonic prog, not psych. The noun ‘psyche’ is a better word than ‘psychedelic’ as far as the album concepts go, since it’s the human psyche that is often being examined. Essentially a solo artist, you’d never guess that was the case because the music sounds like a large ensemble. The man behind it all doesn’t reveal his identity and we’ll respect that, though we can say he has a career in contemporary classical music and a long composition resume. Maybe he doesn’t want his classical peers to learn he has an alternate life as a progger.
The debut The Art of Madness (2009, 54-minutes) was released on the Musea label and is slightly different than what follows. The dominant influence on this album is DSotM-era Pink Floyd, though somewhat more introspective and brooding -- if you know the band Product, we’re reminded of their approach. But Pink Floyd is far from the only style here. There are instrumental passages that have nothing to do with Pink Floyd, fast-tempo and adventurous, while there is room for classical chamber music, prog-folk, ELP-style and more. There is great attention to detail, an uncommonly intricate sonic tapestry, all told quite an original and impressive work.
On the following albums: The Myth of Dying (2010, 58-minutes), The Dream of the Magic Jongleur (2011, 64-minutes), and The Tale of the Golden King (2013, 72-minutes), Yes becomes the dominant influence while the Pink Floyd influence drops off. ELP/UK and Gentle Giant are also influences, but the music is generally darker and busier than those bands. The Tale of the Golden King features a female vocalist and an orchestra on some tracks. All the albums are more instrumental than vocal. Read reviews of all.
Drive Home (2013) features unreleased Steven Wilson tracks, videos, live recordings, and high-definition audio. The video content of the Blu-ray (all-region) includes a new video for the title track, the video for The Raven That Refused to Sing, and four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour. Audio-only content includes two previously unreleased tracks. The first of these, The Birthday Party, was recorded in Los Angeles during the same sessions as The Raven... album. The second is an orchestral version of The Raven That Refused to Sing, a new mix that strips it down to just orchestra and vocals. These tracks are also featured on the CD along with the audio from the live tracks and an edit of Drive Home. All the songs on the Blu-Ray are mixed in both stereo and 5.1 surround. The audio on the Blu-Ray is lossless 96/24 throughout. Watch the promo video. See Page 2 for the rest of the Steven Wilson catalog.
Hawklords are a branch of the large Hawkwind family tree. The lineup on Dream (2013) has only Harvey Bainbridge in common with the lineup that recorded 1978’s 25 Years On, but just about every other current Hawklord has been in Hawkwind at some point. “With too convoluted a history to document here, the current incarnation -- Harvey Bainbridge from the original ’78 spin-off plus several other mothership veterans -- jettisons most of the laboured biker rock that marred last year’s We Are One for an airier dynamic. The closest comparison would be Levitation/Sonic Attack-era Hawkwind. Dream a Dream updates Motorway City with a heavy trance back end and Psychic Eyes is Coded Languages in a parallel reality. As persuasive as these are, the ante is upped on Dead Air -- a reverse-echoed slice of futuristic whimsy redolent of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman -- and the uplifting melody of Elemental Mind. An occasional touch of water-treading takes off a little of the shine, though the balance between looking back and forward is expertly struck.” [Classic Rock Magazine] Read what the non-paid guys think at amazon. Watch the promo video.
Hawkwind’s 1975 magnum opus gets the royal Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 2CD+DVD box set. The first CD contains the remastered original mix, the first CD ever of Warrior on the Edge of Time mastered from the original master tapes. It has eight bonus tracks (five previously unreleased). The second CD contains a new stereo mix by Steven Wilson from the multi-track masters, plus five bonus tracks (two previously unreleased). And most importantly, the DVD, which contains a 5.1 surround mix by the master of surround himself. Note this is a DVD-Video disc (NTSC, all-region), not DVD-Audio, which is boneheaded, particularly for Esoteric who you think would know better. So the surround mix is DTS 96/24 and Dolby Digital (the latter was never intended for music, so play the DTS). The DVD also includes Wilson’s new stereo mix in 24-bit/96kHz LPCM, and a flat transfer of the original stereo master in 24/96. So aside from the bonus tracks and ignoring portability concerns, you don’t actually need the CDs unless you prefer the lower resolution audio. The 16-page booklet features photos, memorabilia, and an essay. Don’t know this album? Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Hawkwind CDs.
The English Way (2009) and Energy (2013) are the second and third albums respectively for English quintet Mother Black Cap. If the prevailing trend in British prog at this time is represented by The Reasoning, DeeExpus, Touchstone, Tinyfish, etc., then Mother Black Cap run counter to it. For one, these CDs have a live, underproduced sound, and the music is often relaxed and flowing, more so on The English Way as Energy lives up to its name and gets downright raucous at times. With electric piano and Hammond organ the dominant keyboards, the sound is more oriented to 1970s prog and early-80s neo-prog. Camel could be mentioned, and the band have been known to play covers of other early 1970s bands including Pink Floyd and Focus. Some tracks are closer to the likes of Grey Lady Down and Grace. Energy features additional musicians on trumpet, flugelhorn, fiddle, and vocals. A few tracks on Energy bring to mind the great Horslips, and the final track borrows from the instrumental section of MacArthur Park (one of the earliest prog songs). Not copyists, and not entirely a retro band, but MBC make warm, inviting music for fans of very English-sounding (and since we mentioned Horslips, Irish-sounding) prog. Read the Blogcritics review of The English Way and the Background Magazine review of Energy.
Deluge Grander sprung from the ashes of Baltimore progressive band Cerebus Effect. It was the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton that made the final Cerebus Effect CD their most symphonic, and on their 2006 debut August in the Urals, Deluge Grander continue in that same direction, more symphonic and, well, grander. Britton is the primary composer here, and he is a tremendous keyboardist. The pieces vary from long to really long, so that only five tracks comprise the 71-minute CD. No one will be able to digest this music in one go. It is complex symphonic prog in a 1970s style, with some vocals but no attempts at songs per se, as instrumental content clearly dominates. The 27-minute first track is the closest to Cerebus Effect, the most angular and dissonant of the pieces, though the dissonance is used more for contrast than as the sole style. The other tracks are more melodic and symphonic. There are many possible reference points, including Änglagård, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Fireballet, Genesis, and Yes, but the music rarely suggests any one band for long. There are times when Britton’s piano playing suggests John Tout and Renaissance, times when his organ playing suggests Rick Wakeman, and lots of times when he uses Mellotron strings. This album has turned a lot of heads among the fan base for classic progressive rock.
Birds and Buildings is Dan Britton’s other band and is fairly similar. The two bands also share a bass player. Bantam to Behemoth (2008, 69-minutes) has some vocals by Britton and a female singer on one track, but they are so buried in the mix that this still feels like an instrumental CD. The major difference between this and the first Deluge Grander is the presence of a woodwinds (sax, flute, clarinet) player. The flute tends to be used in the gentler, pastoral passages, while the sax is used in the more energetic passages. The sax style is similar to David Jackson or Mel Collins, ranging from melodic to frenzied. The presence of sax leads to comparisons with King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gong, and there is more of a Canterbury influence here than in Deluge Grander. There are still gobs of Mellotron strings and choir, and highly-skilled ensemble playing. The production is a little bass-shy, but overall this is a tremendous CD in the tradition of the complex side of British symphonic progressive.
Bantam to Behemoth was recorded between the two Deluge Grander CDs, and the second Deluge Grander CD The Form of the Good (2009) seems to have more in common with Bantam to Behemoth than August in the Urals, perhaps not surprising given that B&B’s woodwind player guests here. The Form of the Good is entirely instrumental and has more of the sonic maelstrom approach of the French band Clearlight. Here the core quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums in augmented by a large number of guests contributing clarinet, flute, sax, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and oboe. Clearlight had Didier Malherbe’s woodwinds and either David Cross’s or Didier Lockwood’s violin, so Deluge Grander usually have a sonic counterpart to those in the mix here. As with B&B, this is blended with a more symphonic style highlighted by Mellotron.
2013 and it’s Birds and Buildings’ turn again, with Multipurpose Trap (63-minutes). The lineup has changed but the instrumentation still includes violin, sax, flute, and clarinet. In the band’s words, B&B “play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on zeulh), complex symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness”. The band says that every song has up to six people singing, but only for a minute or less on most songs, mainly to confound ‘instrumental’ versus ‘vocal’ classification. Read the Exposé reviews.
Inner Firmaments Decay (2010) is the debut CD by All Over Everywhere, a musical collective based around the collaborative songwriting of Trinna Kesner and Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Birds and Buildings). Inner Firmaments Decay is a themed collection of songs featuring the vocals of Megan Wheatley (who also sings in Birds and Buildings) and a large ensemble of classical and rock musicians who float in and out of the songs. There’s flute, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, violin, viola, cello, hammered dulcimer, zither, piano, accordion, oboe, clarinet, vibes, bass, drums and percussion, and then there are Dan Britton’s keyboards, featuring loads of Mellotron. There is some similarity then to the British band Karda Estra, who also blend rock and classical instruments and use female vocals. Look upon All Over Everywhere as the marriage of dream-pop and symphonic rock. The first seven songs range from three to seven minutes in length, with the female vocals heavily-reverbed, the textures mostly acoustic apart from Britton’s symphonic keys. The mood is somewhat sad, languorous and dreamy. The final track Gratitude (10:35) begins in the same style but morphs seamlessly into majestic symphonic rock and a joyful mood, and may be the only piece of music that transitions from Cocteau Twins or various Projekt label bands into Genesis. Read the DPRP review.
That’s how Cerebus Effect spell their name, even though the three-headed watchdog Cerberus appears on the traycard of Acts of Deception (2005), the second studio CD for this Baltimore-area instrumental band. There is a small amount of “vocals”, but it is not singing as we understand it, and the vocals are very low in the mix. With the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton, Acts of Deception contains a unique blend of symphonic progressive and heavy fusion. Cerebus Effect like to play it fast and furious and in odd time signatures. They’ve been listening to their progressive rock, and you can catch influences of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Djam Karet, Volaré, Happy the Man, Kultivator, Van der Graaf Generator, Magma, and Genesis, to name just a few. Actually, the Genesis and Magma occur in the same song, which is typical of their eclecticism. The tracks that won’t allow you to catch your breath are broken up by a few more peaceful tracks, one suggestive of Steve Hackett’s acoustic pieces and another of Happy the Man’s slower tracks. There are enough bands that impress with technical skills while making for a fatiguing listen, but Cerebus Effect blend in enough structure and symphonic textures to make this an album to return to.
Sonus Umbra is a band whose incarnations have followed bandleader/composer/bassist Luis Nasser, from the band’s roots in Mexico City (the band then called Radio Silence), on to Maryland and now Chicago. Consequently the lineup of Sonus Umbra today has only Nasser and drummer Andy Tillotson in common with the Maryland band, the rest of the band consisting of Rich Poston (electric guitar), Tim McCaskey (acoustic guitar), Brian Harris (keys), Steve Royce (flute/vocals), and Roey Ben-Yoseph on lead vocals. There’s also a guest cellist on Winter Soulstice (2013, 71-minutes, digipack), the first CD for the Chicago edition, and it is the best Sonus Umbra CD to date. The band even call it a departure from their previous work, but the characteristic Sonus Umbra mood is present, as well as the acoustic moments that are a highlight of the early albums. This is clearly the best lineup Sonus Umbra have had. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Sonus Umbra’s debut CD Snapshots from Limbo was very well received, eventually getting re-released by Musea. Spiritual Vertigo (2004) is their second. Here Sonus Umbra produce a melancholy and brooding progressive rock with slight psychedelic or space-rock overtones, leaning towards dark and mysterious without sacrificing melody. Guitars have the edge over keyboards, but the liberal use of acoustic guitar keeps things sounding warm. Andres Aullet’s vocals have a slightly surreal quality to them, and he is aided briefly by guest vocalist Lisa Francis of Kurgan’s Bane. They have their own style; at different times you hear traces of Pink Floyd, Rush, and a host of other 1970s progressives. This is the MALS label edition; the U.S. edition is out-of-print.
Digging for Zeros (2005, 61-minutes) saw changes in the vocal department, the lead vocals here shared by Lisa Francis and Jeff Laramee, both of whom were at this time also members of Baltimore band Kurgan’s Bane, as was Luis Nasser. Sonus Umbra continue to be at their most compelling when they add acoustic guitar to the mix, which they do frequently. On this album, there are occasions when the acoustic guitar is absent, the keys drop out and the music becomes mere hard rock (like Kurgan’s Bane). But in addition to the acoustic guitar, there is plenty of piano and synth to keep things progressive. The dominant tone is again somber and dark but not to the point of ugliness, and there are many lighter, uplifting moments, particularly when Francis sings. Her vocals add a welcome dimension to Sonus Umbra’s music. This is the MALS label edition.
After Chameleon, an album of shorter songs, Magenta’s sixth studio album The Twenty Seven Club (2013) sees them return in spectacular form with six progressive rock epics. “The new album has been five years in the making and I have tried to take the best elements of all the previous Magenta albums to craft the best collection of songs I could. I think this has been achieved and The Twenty Seven Club represents a return to our progressive rock roots” says Rob. “Only a few people have heard the album thus far but all have agreed that this is the best Magenta album to date”. The Twenty Seven Club refers to a large group of musician/singers (including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain) who all died at the age of 27, many from alcohol or drug abuse. Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost) is the drummer on this album. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album in DTS 24/96 and Dolby Digital, the 107-minute The Making of The Twenty Seven Club documentary, and the promo video for the song The Lizard King. Watch the promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Magenta catalog.
Circa: is the band assembled by Yes alumni Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Alan White (drums, vocals), with Jimmy Haun (formerly of Lodgic) on guitars & vocals. The Circa: albums can be filed alongside the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy albums and the 1990s Yes albums that Sherwood played on. These are the 2013 reissues on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, which feature new artwork. The self-titled album is their 2007 debut; it comes with a DVD that appears to be the 2008 Circa: Live DVD. The DVD contains the entire album performed live plus a great 40-minute instrumental journey through three decades of Yes entitled Chronological Journey. Extras include behind the scenes footage.
HQ (2009) is their second, with Jay Schellen taking Alan White’s drum stool.
The double-CD And So On / Overflow reissues the little-known third Circa: album And So On (2011) plus the rarities collection Overflow, the first time on CD for the latter. Sherwood and Kaye remained for And So On, with Johnny Bruhns taking over on guitars and Scott Connor on drums. Listen to excerpts.
The appearance of William Shatner on the recent The Prog Collective - Epilogue CD was just a taster for this album, based on a concept written by Shatner and featuring his spoken word poetry. Ponder the Mystery (2013, digipack) is another Prog Collective type project, organized by Billy Sherwood and featuring an all-star lineup, in this instance Rick Wakeman, Simon House, Edgar Froese, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Nik Turner, and several more. Shatner says he’s a prog fan, though to paraphrase Billy Sherwood: “well, he probably doesn’t have Gentle Giant on his iPod.” Read the Rolling Stone interview and Billboard article, which says that Shatner will perform the album live with Circa: as his band!
These CDs are all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. The Prog Collective is being touted as the biggest prog all-star project ever. The self-titled 2012 first Prog Collective CD features performances by John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman, Geoff Downes, Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Gary Green, Annie Haslam, Steve Hillage, John Wesley, Tony Kaye, and more.
The second Prog Collective CD Epilogue (2013, digipack) includes most of the same musicians plus Steve Morse, Jim Cuomo (Fireballet), Larry Fast, Patrick Moraz, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Mel Collins, Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Roye Albrighton (Nektar), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), the final appearance of the late Peter Banks, prog superstar William Shatner, and more. Listen to the track Shining Diamonds.
The Fusion Syndicate (2012) features Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Theo Travis, and many others. Read the Something Else! review.
Sleeping with Fractals (2013, 63-minutes) is a surprisingly good debut from Manchester, England’s Ontofield. You can often hear Pendragon and early Marillion in the music, but it’s unlike the second-rate imitators of those bands that we all heard enough of during the 1990s. There are lots of other influences including more modern ones, and a distinct personality, while the British songwriting and melodic sense is much in evidence. For diehard neo-prog fans at least, Ontofield may be the best newcomer of the year. Read reviews at MuzikReviews.com and Prog Archives.
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