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NEW AND FEATURED:
Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me is the 2016 debut by The Mute Gods, a new band signed to InsideOut whose members are all renowned prog musicians. The band leader is bassist, Chapman Stick player, and vocalist Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Lifesigns, Lonely Robot,...). Beggs is helped most by long-time Steve Hackett collaborator and keyboardist Roger King. Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UK, The Aristocrats,...) plays the drums on most of the tracks. Guests include Adam Holzman, Frank Van Bogaert (Fish on Friday), Ricky Wilde, Rob Reed, Nick D’Virgilio, and Gary O’Toole. The label says the album is “a mercurial journey that seamlessly shifts between the realms of progressive rock and adventurous pop.” Watch the official videos for the title track, Feed the Troll, Father Daughter, Nightschool for Idiots, and Praying to a Mute God.
Unlike the debut album with its many guests, Beggs chose to keep Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth (2017) to the core trio, ensuring a laser focus and consistency throughout. Roger King, the album’s keyboardist and producer, also works with Beggs on Hackett’s sold-out world tours. King has long been Hackett’s right-hand man, serving in production, arrangement, and writing capacities. Marco Minnemann, considered one of the top drummers of our time, has worked with Beggs extensively on many Steven Wilson tours and recordings. Watch the video for We Can’t Carry On. Read The Prog Report review. Both of these titles are the U.S. jewel case edition.
Swedish prog band Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the first line-up of Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as the Violent Silence that recorded Kinetic, with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs were completed with a new vocalist and appear on the Violent Silence CD A Broken Truce.
The main influence on In Our Nature (2012) is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Have no fear, Hidden Lands’ second CD Lycksalighetens ö (2014, digipack) is sung in English. The Swedish title translates to Isle of Bliss. There is slightly more guitar than on In Our Nature, slightly more intricacy, and at times more melancholy, which has to do with the subject matter (a former classmate of songwriter Hannes Ljunghall found dead the previous year). Listen to Corsican Daydream and Dakkar on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Halcyon (2017, digipack) is the third Hidden Lands CD, full of long tracks. Listen to Water Spirit on YouTube.
Polish band Retrospective released their first full-length album Stolen Thoughts in 2008. That album contained dark, despairing modern prog sung in English, like a more depressed Riverside. While there is only a little actual metal, the aesthetic seems closer to the modern metal aesthetic, though there is some Pink Floyd and a little 1970s King Crimson influence.
Four years later and Lost in Perception (2012, digipack) was released on the German Progressive Promotion label. The model for Retrospective may still be Riverside, but this is a more self-assured effort, with the band playing more to their own strengths. Female vocals from the keyboardist complement the male lead vocals. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Ocean of a Little Thoughts and The End of the Winter Lethargy, which are the album’s two singles. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Five more years and we have Re:search (2017, digipack), Retrospective’s strongest album to date. Watch the album trailer and the video for Right Way.
Hopefully many of you are by now familiar with The Winter Tree, the Vermont-based band led by Andrew Laitres that evolved out of the band Magus and as such have been making music since at least 1987. For Mr. Sun (2017, digipack), Laitres took an Alan Parsons approach, using several different singers, and the music (a mix of vocal songs and instrumentals) often resembles the Alan Parsons Project. Watch the video for the title track, which features Alistair Gordon (Tony Banks’ Bankstatement) and Neil Taylor (Tears for Fears, Chris de Burgh). Those two appear on other tracks as well, and there are several other musicians on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, varying on a track by track basis, while Nashville’s Tom Dupree III plays drums throughout. The guests seem to inject extra energy and enthusiasm; beautiful packaging design too. See our USA page for the full The Winter Tree / Magus / Andrew Laitres catalog and more info.
Greyfeather is an American all-star prog band featuring Brian Coralian (IZZ) on drums & percussion, Kevin Jarvis (Farpoint) on acoustic guitar & vocals, Steve Katsikas (Little Atlas) on vocals & keyboards, Dennis Mullin (Iluvatar) on electric guitars, and Wade Summerlin (Cobweb Strange) on bass & vocals. Their 2017 debut CD was recorded over several years. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. Read the story of how Greyfeather came about. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Noxologic (2017, digipack) is the second album by this Finnish band. The pressing was very limited, such that by the time we received our copies, the label had already sold out. We expect the bulk of the CDs went to Japan. So we have a small number and that’s it. Progression was formed way back in 1976, then reformed in 2002 with only bandleader Harri Nokso remaining. Their first album was released in 2007, and following more lineup changes, Progression prepared for a second album in 2010. But the recording sessions ground to a halt in 2011 and the recordings languished until the newest band members decided to finish the project. As some of the intended tracks were never recorded in the studio, live versions of four pieces have taken their place. The six-man lineup includes Harri Nokso on electric guitar, Otso Pakarinen (Paidarion, Ozone Player) on drums, Jan-Olof Strandberg (Strandberg Project, Paidarion, The Fusion Project) on bass, Kimmo Pörsti (Mist Season, Paidarion, The Samurai of Prog) on drums, Jaan Jaanson (Paidarion) on electric guitar, and Jussi-Matti Haavisto on viola. As you can hear in the album promo video, Progression play classic instrumental fusion (e.g. Mahavishnu Orchestra) with classic Scandinavian symphonic prog blended in.
Scrape Across the Sky (2017) is IQ’s first Blu-ray release. Recorded in December 2014 at The Boerderij in The Netherlands, the concert was part of the The Road of Bones tour and features all the tracks from the first The Road of Bones CD, along with a host of other live IQ favorites. Audio options include stereo and 5.1 surround. The special features include the encores from the Borederij gig (Ten Million Demons, Widow’s Peak), the video of Until the End from the 2014 Lorelei festival, all the projections from the complete gig (encores too) set to the live stereo soundtrack, The Art of The Road of Bones: Peter Nicholls in conversation with artist and designer Tony Lythgoe, plus a photo gallery. * IMPORTANT! Same caveat here as for the Big Big Train Blu-ray. This Blu-ray is not guaranteed to play on all players outside the PAL zone (Europe, Australia, New Zealand), and returns are not accepted due to player incompatibility. Your player must be capable of playing and converting 1080i50 (50 Hz, 25 fps) video. If you own an Oppo, you should be set; owners of other brands and especially older players should check their manuals. We refer you to Big Big Train’s technical briefing. The disc is all-region, but that’s a separate issue.
Live on the Road of Bones (2CD digipack) was recorded at The Met Arts Centre in Bury in September 2015. This 2-hour double-CD features live versions of all the material on disc 1 of The Road of Bones, along with a selection of live favorites stretching back some 30 years. Initially exclusive to the IQ website and live shows, it is now available to the masses. See Page 2 for more IQ titles and our DVD/Blu-ray page for IQ’s standalone DVDs.
Awaking the Muse (2009) is the very strong debut by a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Nice Beaver, Trion, King Eider, and Pink Floyd Project. Leap Day play upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles; The Flower Kings is not a bad reference point either. Simply ear candy for lovers of undiluted neo-prog. Watch the video for Eyes Wide Open. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Skylge’s Lair (2011) is their second, and it is less neo-prog than their debut, more of a sense of Kayak and to some extent Focus, less of Marillion. Well, Flamborough Head developed similarly, becoming more of a classic prog band on later albums, and King Eider and Trion always leaned more toward classic prog than neo. There are lots of vintage keyboard sounds -- enough Mellotron flute to suggest The Beatles, enough bouncy electric piano to bring Supertramp to mind. Greenslade is a good reference point since both bands have two keyboardists, and Camel must also be mentioned. Excellent melodic prog with a stately feel. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (2013, digipack) followed on the heels of new albums by Trion and Flamborough Head, a very productive period for these musicians. Watch the album trailer video and listen to Insects on YouTube. “Taking little cues from the classic era of Genesis and the epic sound of Pink Floyd, but with a vocal personality all their own and little traces of humour, this atmospheric work is not only Leap Day’s crowning achievement to date, but one of the finest neo-prog albums in a long while... Tighter melodies, tastefully executed instrumental passages without the need for drawn-out showboating, warm production and a surreal subject matter showcase the band improving everything they already did very well, while also setting the bar very high for not only themselves, but the neo-prog sub-genre itself.” Read the full review and others at Prog Archives, also the Background Magazine review.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 2 (2015, digipack) is the second part of the concept album series. (Who knows how many chapters this thing has?) Watch the album trailer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Live at the Northern Prog Festival (2016, digipack) is a concert album from Leap Day’s 2015 appearance at the Northern Prog Festival, an annual Dutch festival that began in 2013. The six-man lineup performs songs from all four of Leap Day’s studio albums. Read the Background Magazine review.
Dreamcatcher (2015, digipack) is the first solo CD for Eddie Mulder, guitarist of Leap Day, Trion, and Flamborough Head. The album is pensive, peaceful, and largely acoustic guitar oriented, with accents from keyboards, flute, and electric guitar. Assisting are some of Eddie’s bandmates: Edo Spanninga (keyboards, production), Margriet Boomsma (flute), Gert van Engelenburg (keys), and Derk Evert Waalkens (keys). Watch the album sampler video.
Mulder’s second CD Horizons (2016, digipack) contains 12 new tracks plus five live bonus tracks. His bandmates Edo Spanninga and Margriet Boomsma again contribute keyboards and flute, respectively, alongside a guest violinist. The live tracks are performed by a five-person band.
Lizard are a Polish prog band featuring powerful vocals in Polish. They debuted in 1996 with W Galerii Czasu (In the Gallery of Time), updating the tradition of some of the great East European prog bands of the 1970s and 1980s such as Modry Efekt and Synkopy. They followed with Psychopuls (2004), on which Lizard are very influenced by King Crimson circa 1973-1974, even to the extent of including some David Cross-style violin. (So that’s where they took their name.) Tales from Artichoke Wood followed in 2005 and it is a more original work, more lyrical, flowing and symphonic, with a subtle jazz-rock influence and some delicate passages worthy of Genesis. There is as much of an influence of the first UK album here. Unfortunately, these early CDs are probably out-of-print.
Spam (2006) is another quality album from Lizard, though not simply a continuation of Tales from Artichoke Wood. This one returns somewhat to the sound of their earliest albums, but the writing and playing have matured. Some King Crimson influence is present, but there is more UK influence, specifically the UK tracks with Jobson on violin. With violin used on every track, one is also reminded of Ankh, but Lizard are more refined and complex. As on their first album, Lizard sound like the successors to Synkopy, East, and other great first-generation East European prog bands.
Live: Destruction and Little Pieces of Cheese (2015) is a recording of Lizard’s concert in Łódź, Poland in late 2014. It draws primarily from Lizard’s 2013 album Master & M and finishes with a rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man. Watch the official video of Lizard performing Chapter I from this album.
Trochę Żółci, Trochę Więcej Bieli (2016, digipack) translates to something like A Bit of Yellow and a Bit More of White. It’s Lizard’s latest studio CD and one of their best. The quintet is augmented by guests on sax, trumpet, classical guitar, and more keyboards. All the track titles are really long, so just listen to this track, this other track, and this short ambient piece on YouTube. As the music hopefully makes apparent, Lizard are one of Poland’s top prog bands, maybe their top band now in the classic prog category, and it would be a shame if the Polish language vocals were an insurmountable barrier for any prog fan, given how much of the music is instrumental.
Word on the street is that Southern Empire may be the final band added to the Rosfest 2017 lineup, so in the hope that isn’t fake news, here they are. Southern Empire is the second offshoot of Unitopia, the first being United Progressive Fraternity (UPF). Southern Empire was formed by keyboardist Sean Timms after his 17-year involvement with the popular Australian prog band ended in 2013 with the disbanding of Unitopia. Timms recruited four other musicians so that Southern Empire is a quintet, plus guests on this 2016 debut that include Steve Unruh (The Samurai of Prog) on violin, Tim Irrgang (Unitopia, UPF) on percussion, and Adam Page on sax and flute. The companion DVD shows the band performing the album in the studio, minus the short opening and closing tracks. The audio might be identical, so you may even prefer the DVD to the CD. In any event, not a bad bonus. (No indication on the packaging whether the DVD is NTSC or PAL.) Listen to several songs on YouTube, also Dreams & Machines. Read the Background Magazine and Prog Archives reviews.
Red Sand is a prog band from Québec City who sing in English. Their seventh album 1759 (mini-LP sleeve) was released in the last days of 2016. Bandleader Simon Caron says it’s the best Red Sand album yet, and that may not be hyperbole. In the beginning, Red Sand were very influenced by Fish-era Marillion. They went through a period of incorporating other prog styles before reverting to their pure Marillion style for a couple albums. Not that 1759 doesn’t sound a lot like early Marillion much of the time, but there is more diversity here, with elements more reminiscent of classic prog. Kind of what Red Sand did on Gentry only with a different result. About the album title, in Québec City the city’s history is all around you, and 1759 was the year of the pivotal battle between British and French forces. While the British victory would shape eastern Canada, Québec City remains the center of Francophone culture in North America. We restocked most of the Red Sand back catalog, and you’ll find more info on that page.
Tales from the Silent Ocean (2015) is the debut CD for Steve Hughes. You may know Steve as the drummer for Big Big Train on four albums or the stand-in drummer for Kino in 2004. He also spent four years touring and recording with The Enid (1994-1998) and has had stints with countless other bands over the last 20 years. One of those was Rush tribute band The Spirit of Rush, which also featured vocalist Dec Burke (Darwin’s Radio, Frost, solo). Tales from the Silent Ocean features Sean Filkins on vocals, Maciej Zolnowski on violin and cello, Jamie C. Strand on electric & acoustic guitars, several additional singers and a couple guest guitarists. The music is superb symphonic prog that is fascinating throughout the album’s 79-minute length. In terms of the classic prog bands, it’s coming more from a Genesis direction than any other, but it has a more contemporary style closer to Frost, Kino, or Sean Filkins’ album. Watch the album preview video.
Once We Were: Part One (2016, digipack, 77-minutes) is Hughes’ second, which features contributions from Dec Burke, Maciej Zolnowski, guitarist Keith Winter (ex-Shakatak), and others. The monumental 33-minute track The Summer Soldier is the new high water mark for Steve. Watch the album trailer video and the video for Was I Wrong?. “It’s the originality of the material however that sets this album apart, as the 33-minute The Summer Soldier testifies. True, it references other artists and styles in places, but I can guarantee that you’ve never heard a long-form piece quite like it. Even the shorter songs mostly avoid the usual verse-chorus format. Moreover, the journey from the epic scale of The Summer Soldier to the intimacy of the album’s closing songs is breathtaking in its scope. Like its predecessor, this is a strong contender for my album of the year.” Read the full DPRP review, also the Background Magazine review.
The promised and now delivered Once We Were: Part Two (2016, digipack), featuring most of the same line-up, means that if Part One was contending for your album of the year, now you’ve got two to deal with. Watch the album trailer video.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, an under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic, and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and real strings. It is majesty without bombast. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
Four years in the making, Anti-Matter Poetry (2010, 65-minutes) is stunning. What we said about Voices is just as applicable here, but everything has been perfected. Some bands in the ‘modern progressive’ category are not capable of playing convincing classic symphonic prog, but parts of Anti-Matter Poetry are exactly that, with the largest debt owed to Pink Floyd (as is also the case with Porcupine Tree and many of the other modern prog bands). And some bands are in the modern prog category mainly because they’ve diluted and dumbed down the music with metal, grunge, etc., but that’s not the case with t. What does put t in the modern prog category is the prevailing mood of melancholy and alienation, the skillful use of samples and loops to augment but not form the basis of the music, and the finely-detailed atmospheres.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack, 66-minutes) is t’s fourth. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Fragmentropy (2015, digipack, 77-minutes) and Epistrophobia (2016, digipack) continue an amazing string of albums for Thielen, with t now getting the recognition this music deserves. Read the Progradar and Sea of Tranquility reviews of Fragmentropy.
Hauras Silta is the 2009 debut by a 9-person Finnish prog band using both female and male vocals. This is one of Kimmo Pörsti’s bands; Kimmo is also in The Samurai of Prog, Mist Season, and Maahinen. The music of Paidarion is closely related to Mist Season and Maahinen. “It is somewhat retro, no question. I hear the echo of Renaissance, chiefly, but then also Jethro Tull, Holdsworth-era Gong, fusion, and even Steely Dan in some of the blistering, crafty, perfectly tailored guitar solos. But Hauras Silta is retro in the clean, appealing sense of the term as we might apply it to, say, Anglagard. In other words, Paidarion takes its genre tradition seriously, resides within it, but then also offers clever interpretations, subtle blends and bends, and the freshness of modern studio embellishment to end with a truly fine album -- the best new prog release I’ve heard in a very long time... If more contemporary prog rock scaled these heights, I’d be a bigger fan.” [Progressive Ears]
Paidarion introduced a new line-up on Behind the Curtains (2011), the band now a live act and not just a studio project. The lyrics have switched to English, the female vocals courtesy of new member Elina Hautakoski; there are also some male vocals from guest Rob Price (Supernal Endgame). Among the other guests are Americans Michael Manring (bass) and Steve Unruh (violin). The music is about half instrumental, where Paidarion can often be compared to early Isildurs Bane, between the symphonic rock with Scandinavian folk melodies of the first two Isildurs Bane albums and the upbeat symphonic jazz-rock of their third and fourth. There are also moments where an ELP influence can be heard, other moments that recall Pekka Pohjola, while some of the vocals tracks tend toward jazz song. Even with the switch to English, Paidarion sound like a Scandinavian prog band. Their music has a sense of place, of terroir, a quality far less common now than in the first generation prog bands. Read the Progmeister review.
For Two Worlds Encounter (2016), the band name is extended as this time it’s a special project with international friends: singer Jenny Darren, Robert Webb (England), Kev Moore, Bogáti-Bokor Ákos (Yesterdays, The Cosmic Remedy), and Otso Pakarinen (Ozone Player). In 2015, Paidarion invited these musicians to play concerts with them in Finland. After the gigs, they decided to record the material in the studio and release a new Paidarion album. Since the songs had first been played live, the live feel carries over to the studio album. Two Worlds Encounter is sort of a cross between a Paidarion album and a The Samurai of Prog album. It includes a cover of the England song Yellow, from the famous Garden Shed album, and Horsemen to Symphinity, from Windchase’s Symphinity album (in effect the third Sebastian Hardie album). The CD comes in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve with 20-page booklet. Read the Prog Archives reviews.
Blue (2014, digipack) is the debut CD by German/English prog band Eyesberg, whose first period of existence was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All the compositions here date to that time but have been recently recorded. The drummer on this first album is Ulf Jacobs (Argos, Yacobs). Eyesberg’s singer Malcolm Shuttleworth has a voice a bit similar to Phil Collins, and Genesis is probably the band’s primary influence, but the end result may have greater appeal to fans of neo-prog. It’s really a case of one foot in classic-prog and one foot in neo-prog, always melodic and majestic. Watch the generous (10:46) album trailer.
Masquerade (2016, digipack) is Eyesberg’s superior second album. It contains new or mostly new compositions that continue in a Genesis vein, approximately Wind and Wuthering era, culminating in the five-part, 18-minute closing track Wait and See. Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) is the drummer. This is an outstanding album for Genesis lovers. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the album trailer and Faceless on YouTube.
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. But Karfagen is the vehicle for his most ambitious work. After a tour of Europe, Kalugin returned reenergized to the studio to finish the amazing Spektra (2016, digipack), the eighth Karfagen album, with half the musicians in Ukraine guesting. This is 63 minutes of innovative symphonic prog that consistently surprises, and after absorbing it, you’ll be the one who’s reenergized. Will Kalugin ever receive the recognition he deserves? Listen to the album teaser and Terra Incognita on YouTube. See our East European page for the rest of the Karfagen CDs and the related bands.
English band Big Big Train began in the early 1990s as a soft neo-prog band, but steadily improving with each album, they have grown into one of the top progressive rock bands in the world, and one that is breaking new ground. The band that had already added drummer Nick D’Virgilio, former XTC and Peter Gabriel guitarist Dave Gregory, and best-singer-in-prog David Longdon, has now added Beardfish mastermind Rikard Sjöblom! Who doesn’t want to board Big Big Train now?
A Stone’s Throw from the Line (2CD, 2016, digisleeve) is Big Big Train’s first live album. The album was recorded at the three sold-out Kings Place, London shows in August 2015 that garnered the band the Live Event of the Year award at the 2016 Progressive Music Awards. Those shows saw Big Big Train return to the stage after a 17-year absence. The best performance of each song from the three gigs made it to the CD while maintaining the actual running order of the shows. A 40-page booklet is included.
Stone & Steel (2016, dual-layer Blu-ray) is Big Big Train’s first video release. (There is no DVD, and as we’re now well into the 4K era, it’s time DVDs were retired.) Big Big Train had until recently been focused on studio work. Uncertain how easy it would be to do justice to their complex and layered recordings on stage, the band decided to try out live renditions of their songs in a studio environment. In August 2014, they were joined at Real World Studios by a film crew tasked with documenting the week’s rehearsals. Stone & Steel - the title referencing some of the band’s lyrical themes of English landscape and industrial history, and the fabric of Real World Studios itself - shows the band’s transition from studio to stage. The film features full-length live-in-the-studio performances of nine songs, plus interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Real World rehearsals. A year later, in August 2015, Big Big Train’s first gigs in 17 years took place at three sold-out shows at Kings Place in London. Stone & Steel also features live performances of four songs from the gigs. The audio on all performances is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and stereo, the running time approximately 3 hours. Stone & Steel comes in a hardcover mediabook with a 64-page full-color booklet and counts as 2 CDs for shipping. Watch the promotional video. * IMPORTANT! The Stone & Steel Blu-ray is not guaranteed to play on all players outside the PAL zone (Europe, Australia, New Zealand), and returns are not accepted due to player incompatibility. Your player must be capable of playing and converting 1080i50 (50 Hz, 25 fps) video. If you own an Oppo, you should be set; owners of other brands and especially older players should check their manuals. Please read this technical briefing. When this Blu-ray was released back in March 2016, the band intended to release a North American edition in July but were forced to abandon this idea when the conversion/encoding process did not meet their standards.
If you were asking yourself how Big Big Train could follow a work of the magnitude and brilliance of English Electric, it has taken a few years for the answer, which is Folklore (2016, 68-minutes, digipack). From the press release: On Folklore, Big Big Train are reimagining and breathing new life into traditional themes, and also creating a few new ones along the way. The crafts of songwriting and storytelling beat strongly at the heart of the Big Big Train and inform every track on the new album. Folklore features the same line-up (eight-piece band and brass quintet) that performed three sold-out shows at Kings Place in London during the summer of 2015, with the addition of a string quartet. The experience of bringing this complex music to the concert stage has honed the band’s sound, making Folklore a focused and exciting listening experience. All the hallmarks of the Big Big Train sound can be found here: powerful and emotional vocal delivery, and dramatic extended song arrangements which showcase the musical ability within the band. Watch the video for the title track, the album trailer, and the video for Wassail (the title track of the Wassail EP also appears on Folklore).
Please see our British page for the rest of the Big Big Train catalog. Note the majority of the Big Big Train CDs have gone out-of-print, so if we have those in stock, they are our last copies.
Chaos from the Stage (DVD+CD, digisleeve) presents Magenta live at The Assembly - Leamington in November 2015. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the entire 105-minute concert. The CD contains as much audio as would fit. Watch the promo video. See our British page for more Magenta titles.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium, Kiama). Sanctuary (2014, digisleeve) is a rather amazing work, as it is in essence an alternate-universe version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to right-thinking people everywhere one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. (If the current generation of prog fans sometimes seems clueless about Mike Oldfield in general, there is this perspective: Oldfield is one of only four individual artists to whom Paul Stump devotes a section of his The Music’s All That Matters book, the others being Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, and Anthony Phillips. The others owe much of their renown to the bands they were in.) Reed even secured the collaboration of Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (who co-produced) and Simon Heyworth (who mastered Sanctuary) after receiving their seal of approval. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the album in 24/96 stereo and DTS 5.1 surround for maximum bliss, plus the promo videos. Watch the videos for Sanctuary Part 1 and Sanctuary Part 2 (excerpt), the latter a great piece of comedy with a special guest star, and you should find a few more of the promo videos nearby.
Rob Reed cements his status as the second coming of Mike Oldfield with Sanctuary II (2016, digisleeve), a double-CD + DVD (NTSC, all-region) set. The first CD contains Sanctuary II Parts 1 & 2. The second CD contains two more songs, two tracks from the Marimba EP, and some alternate versions/mixes. The DVD contains a 5.1 surround mix and 24/96 stereo of Sanctuary II Parts 1 & 2 as well as promo videos. Simon Phillips (who played on several Oldfield albums) plays drums, Angharad Brinn handles lead vocals, Les Penning plays recorders, and Tom Newman adds bodhran in addition to being credited as executive producer. The women of Synergy Vocals do the nonsense-syllable vocal style that Oldfield invented (and which Karl Jenkins later ran with in Adiemus). As Reed is carrying on Oldfield’s legacy, this album also moves forward in time from the Tubular Bells style of the first Sanctuary album to the next Oldfield phase, using a drummer and increasing the majesty of the soaring guitar lines. Uplifting, to say the least. Watch album promo 1, promo 2, and promo 3.
The Ancient Tale (2013) is the second album for Norwegian quintet Fatal Fusion, following their 2010 private release Land of the Sun. They play classic style prog and progressive hard rock, naming Genesis, Camel, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Rainbow as some of their influences. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the album teaser video and listen to Halls of Amenti.
Total Absence (2016) is their follow-up. Listen to Shadow of the King and Forgotten One.
If we may lift Afforested’s bio from Prog Archives: “Kent county, England brothers Alex and Jonathan Betts formed Afforested in 2007, featuring a modern form of folk and progressive rock-inspired sounds that blend modern keyboards with more traditional acoustic instruments including mandolin, flute, recorder, and guitar for a fresh take on British and Celtic folk. The brothers’ debt to influences from Gryphon and Gentle Giant to PFM and Rick Wakeman are obvious and strong, although the overall tenor of the music is innovative and original.” The band list their main influences as Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span, Gryphon, and The Gordon Giltrap Band. Since the album title Songs from the Wood had already been taken, this 2016 2CD set is cleverly titled 2 CD Set and contains all of Afforested’s recorded output to date, namely their new 2016 album Frithu, their 2012 album Surviving Remnants of the Medieval Greenwood, and their 2009 EP Wolf’s Heads and Woodlanders. The older material had been available only as downloads and was remixed and/or remastered for this 2CD. Frithu is the first to feature vocals; the older material is instrumental. We’re suckers for this stuff, and if the idea of later Gryphon with more synths and fewer crumhorns sounds appealing to you, give a listen. The song titles contain words such as mogshade, yaffleing, bodgers, and pannage, which maybe you can use at a renn faire to annoy people. Read reviews of Surviving Remnants... at Prog Archives.
Slychosis are a prog band from Mississippi led by Gregg Johns. On their 2006 self-titled debut (digipack), Slychosis display many of their influences, including Genesis, Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Hawkwind, and 70s hard rock. On a few of these tracks, they wear those influences on their sleeves, but most of the tracks are more original. The debut recording is project studio quality, so while it doesn’t have the clarity and sheen of a pro studio recording, it does reinforce the illusion that it is an early 1970s album.
Slychedelia (2008, digipack) is a significant step up in both music and production and, unlike its predecessor, doesn’t sound like a 1970s record. There is still a strong classic prog feel and some 70s hard rock, but the heavier, more aggressive guitar is from the modern era, and modern technology is employed, for example, the Vocaloid Miriam software, which allows Miriam Stockley (Adiemus) to sing on one’s record without her knowledge. On the latter tracks, the heavy guitar disappears and the Genesis influence becomes dominant, sounding something like the Banks/Rutherford/Collins lineup producing an instrumental progressive track (which they did all too infrequently). Instrumentals dominate over vocals, though the vocals are respectable. The Slychosis CD packages from Slychedelia on are beautiful, featuring the artwork and design of Russian artist Vladimir Moldavsky.
The third Slychosis CD Mental Hygiene (2010) features guests Jeff Hamel of Majestic and Proximal Distance on guitar and keyboards, Bones Joshua Theriot of Abigail’s Ghost on guitar, Bridget Shield on vocals, and Mike Fortenberry on trumpet. There is greater emphasis on vocals on this album, with both a bluesy female voice and the somewhat Gabriel-esque male vocals. The band say they added “dark and heavy undertones to the melodic prog layers associated with Slychosis”, meaning that the Genesis-like symphonic rock is interrupted now and again by something cruder.
The fourth CD Fractured Eye (2012, digipack) is probably the best Slychosis album to that point. The band is a trio here with Gregg Johns (keys, guitar, bass) still at the helm, plus Tony White (lead vocals, guitar) and drummer Shannon Goree. Though the latter two are new members, the three grew up playing together in prog and classic rock cover bands. The CD has the best production yet for a Slychosis CD, and the new lineup adds a welcome freshness. This album doesn’t stray into the prog metal and hard rock that disrupted the previous album. There are still hard rock elements -- it’s an integral part of the Slychosis style -- but they are integrated into the symphonic rock. Bones Joshua Theriot of Abigail’s Ghost guests. Watch the album montage video.
The fifth Slychosis CD is “V” on the cover and “5” on the digipack spine. Either way, guitarist John Goodsall (Brand X, Fire Merchants) guests.
See the related band Proximal Distance.
Noi al dir di Noi (2016, digipack) is the debut by this Italian quartet from Genova, assisted by many guests. Promenade play a fantastic jazzy prog blending the Canterbury and Rock Progressivo Italiano (Italian sympho-prog) styles. The music eschews bombast in favor of a sophisticated harmonic vocabulary, while Promenade’s Italian DNA ensures the music is warm and seductive. Read the progVisions review (which also features an audio sample). Listen to the album teaser.
Per Questi e Altri Naufragi (2007, mini-LP sleeve) is the debut CD of former Germinale guitarist Salvo Lazzara. Germinale released four CDs between 1994-2005 before splitting up. This first album is different from what would come later, more of a solo album consisting of relaxing acoustic and clean-tone guitar instrumentals with overdubbed bass, some percussion and piano, similar to Riccardo Zappa’s mellower pieces: refined, dreamy, pastoral, and atmospheric. The use of found voices and sounds adds a slight avant-garde edge.
Pensiero Nomade eventually transformed into a full band with a bigger sound. There are seven musicians on their fifth album Da Nessun Luogo (2016, digipack), led by Lazzara on guitars, bass, and touch guitar, with the other musicians contributing female vocals in Italian, piano, synths, trumpet, flute, MIDI horns, bass, and drums/percussion. This is striking, innovative fare, balancing intelligent songwriting with challenging and creative instrumental work. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for Più lontano più forte and Niente, Finalmente.
There are the 2016 remastered editions on Omega Entertainment. After a period of dormancy, Le Orme returned to active duty in 1996 with Il Fiume, followed in 2001 by Elementi. These albums demonstrate that Le Orme have lost nothing since the 1970s, that is unless you’re looking for the faux ELP of their early albums. Instead, this is their lush, warm, lyrical, and unabashedly romantic symphonic prog style, with lyrics in Italian. Elementi features cover artwork by Paul Whitehead. See our Italian page for more Le Orme CDs.
Lost World Band (initially just “Lost World”) was formed in 1996 by three Moscow Conservatory students. They added a singer in time for Trajectories, their first album, released in 2003 despite what it says on the traycard. It was released on the prestigious Russian Boheme label. The band have since taken matters into their own hands, and bandleader Andy Didorenko now lives in New York City. Lost World play symphonic prog with a strong classical element, using flute and violin in addition to the standard prog rock instrumentation. The way they do classical rock on this album is unlike anyone else, and some of it is outstanding. On this album, the closest comparison might be Hungary’s After Crying, another band of conservatory-trained musicians. But Lost World show little ELP influence, which is the dominant influence in After Crying. Both bands share some King Crimson influence, and Lost World add some pastoral Genesis. Of the 14 tracks on Trajectories, only five have vocals (in Russian). Moods range from dark and frenetic to gentle, romantic and pastoral. Because the pieces are generally of modest length, it never gets boring. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
This is the 2014 second edition of Awakening of the Elements, the word revisited added to the title to distinguish it from the first edition released in 2006 on Musea. This new edition is released by the band and comes in a digisleeve with 12-page booklet. Not only was the entire album remixed and remastered, the drums and strings were re-recorded live. On the 2006 edition they were programmed. These changes make this version a great improvement over the Musea edition. Both Awakening of the Elements and the follow-up Sound Source (2009, 65-minutes) are all-instrumental. This is classical progressive rock of the highest order, with flute and violin featured prominently. Probably because they’re Russian, they sound unlike most of the other prog bands with heavy classical influence, so the music usually sounds quite original. Kansas, The Dixie Dregs, or Jethro Tull are fair reference points for some of the material. These guys can play and they can compose. Read the Proggnosis reviews of Awakening of the Elements and Sound Source and the Progressor reviews of Awakening of the Elements and Sound Source.
Solar Power (2013, digipack) returns to using vocals, this time in English, though instrumental content dominates. The violin seems more prominent on this album, and this is some of the best violin-prog around. At times the music shows similarities to symphonic Kansas, King Crimson with David Cross, Atoll’s L’Araignee-Mal lineup, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and KBB. But much of the music defies easy comparisons, and as this is their fourth studio album, it’s time to acknowledge this as Lost World Band’s style.
Of Things and Beings (2016, digipack) was recorded in both New York City and Moscow and continues with the same lineup as Solar Power with the addition of a percussionist. Over time, Andy Didorenko has assumed an ever greater role in the band, in the studio handling all guitars, violins, keyboards, and vocals, and he is as talented a musician as you will find in prog.
Flor de Loto (Lotus Flower) are at present the biggest prog band in Peru. For all we know, they could be the biggest rock band. The band began as an instrumental quartet with their first CD released in 2005. The lineup has since expanded, with lead and backing vocals (in Spanish) and instrumentation consisting of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, flute, Andean woodwinds, tenor sax, bass, and drums. Initially Flor de Loto were more jam-based and psychedelic. Their music continued to evolve, becoming carefully-composed, more European and less Andean sounding and closer to the prog mainstream, with an Iron Maiden style metal influence eventually creeping in but also some fusion. They added vocals while the psychedelic aspect vanished. There has always been a folk element that is central to the band’s identity, calling to mind an Andean version of Tempest. The flute has always suggested Tull and Solaris, maybe early Camel when the flute playing is more pastoral. The reason we haven’t continued to stock the earlier Flor de Loto CDs was that it was becoming impossible to acquire CDs that hadn’t been pre-damaged by being shipped around South America without jewel cases. The Mexican Azafran label has come to the rescue, releasing Flor de Loto’s sixth album Nuevo Mesías (2014) in a factory-sealed, 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. The CD contains nine new songs, while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains six videos (two live), the Making of Nuevo Mesías documentary, and a photo gallery. The videos are all songs from previous albums, so no redundancy with the CD content.
Medusa: En Vivo en Buenos Aires is Flor de Loto live in Argentina in November 2014. This two-disc set is housed in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve. Both the CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contain the 12 tracks of the concert. The DVD also includes two song videos, three live videos from other concerts, and a 2015 documentary.
Árbol de la Vida / Tree of Life (2016, mini-LP sleeve) is Flor de Loto’s latest studio album. The core quintet is joined by a violinist and keyboardist, taking the music in a more symphonic direction, while Italian singer Fabio Lione sings on one track.
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 review.
Maybe Jack O’ The Clock’s appearance at ProgDay 2015 had something to do with Repetitions of the Old City - I (2016) being a more conventionally progressive album, one that will be accessible to more mainstream prog fans without losing anything of their old style. Actually though these are the songs that have formed the backbone of Jack O’ The Clock’s live sets over the previous six years or so. Since then, they’ve been refining the mixes, doing overdubs, and bringing in some wonderful guest musicians including Fred Frith. The band says: “We are making a deliberate effort this time around to capture the intensity and immediacy of the live Jack O’ The Clock. This doesn’t mean there is absolutely no production, but there is a crisp, concise core and a unity to the sound that is true to all five of us and sounds more like the band than ever before. It took a few years and a lot of experimentation to find this sound, but we’ve learned how to put all the funny pieces together, how to make this unruly beast sing. This is our main sequence, our bright, rich, fully-cooked state.” It’s an outstanding album, and the fact there is a ‘I’ in the title means a second new album should be upon us soon. Listen to .22, or Denny Takes One for the Team on YouTube.
Delta Red is a Mexican guitar/bass/drums trio playing instrumental progressive rock and fusion partly influenced by Red-era King Crimson, but more varied than that. Varied in style that is, but as with any band with this lineup, the sound palette doesn’t vary much. Their first album was Gama de Espectros (2009). A lot of time passed between that album and Horror Vacui (2016, digipack), and the material here is definitely stronger, with less hard rock and a more convincing fusion side. It should please fans of Japan’s Baraka and Show-Yen or the electric side of Chile’s Tryo.
No Fear of Looking Down (2016, digipack) is Jadis’s eighth studio album. The band now is Gary Chandler (guitars, vocals, keys), Stephen Christey (drums), and Andy Marlow (bass), with contributions from the semi-retired Martin Orford on flute, keys, hurdy gurdy, and backing vocals. Listen to the album sampler and A Thousand Staring Eyes. See our British page for more Jadis CDs.
After a few years of inactivity, the ProgQuébec label returns in 2016 with a holy grail of 1970s Québec progressive rock. Unreleased and virtually unknown until now, Maelstrom recorded a full album in 1976, at the height of Quebec’s golden age of progressive rock. The band performed live and toured until 1978, notably opening for PFM, Van der Graaf Generator, and Strawbs. After failing to land a record contract, the master tapes were forgotten... for over 40 years! This is not an album of interest only to collectors, this is a masterpiece, among the top prog albums from Québec. That an album like this can be unearthed in 2016 is astounding. As the label says: “Melding unbridled virtuosity and exceptional creativity, the music and lyrics of the album Maelstrom will catapult you into a vortex of sounds and allegories that almost makes you giddy as you feel swept far away from everything. From the opening notes, the listener is immersed in a musical universe reminiscent of that of groups such as Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, but with a sound signature uniquely and truly Québécois... Comparable Québec peers include Et Cetera, Opus 5, Le Match, Maneige, and Harmonium. The six francophone pieces stretch out through long instrumental segments, permitting a demonstration of the band members’ talents.” Note this Maelstrom is no relation to the U.S. Maelstrom from the same era, other than that both played progressive rock.
Given the Impossible (2016, digipack) is The Far Meadow’s second album, following 2012’s Where Joys Abound. It’s their first featuring vocalist Marguerita Alexandrou and Brazilian guitarist Denis Warren. Where Joys Abound appears to have been available only as a digital download, so The Far Meadow will probably be a tremendous surprise to many. This is the most traditional symphonic prog band on the Bad Elephant label, for us the best period. The crystalline female vocals remind us of Solstice (just don’t ask us which Solstice singer we’re reminded of because they had several), and the music itself is somewhere between Genesis, Solstice, Renaissance, UK, and any number of modern prog bands rooted in classic prog but not pretending to be from another era. This is real prog, with a true pianist/keyboardist, and a guitarist who can play in multiple styles none of which is metal. Epic compositions with extended instrumental workouts, virtuoso playing all round, and superb production make this one of the best prog albums of the year. We’re in love; if you don’t like this album, you’re probably on the wrong site. Read the Progradar review.
So Close & Yet So Far Away (2010) is a fine debut CD by this Greek prog band. There is undeniably some Fish-era Marillion influence on this album; one clue should be that the lead singer (who is also the keyboardist and composer) goes by a single made-up name, in this case, ‘Jargon’. But generally Verbal Delirium’s music has a distinct identity, a slight melancholy (and delirium?) characteristic of the Greek prog bands. Overall the music is more romantic than Marillion, partly because Mr. Jargon is more of a pianist than Mark Kelly and partly due to the contributions of a guest cellist, while on a few other occasions, it’s just heavier. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Proggnosis reviews.
The Imprisoned Words of Fear (2016, digipack) is Verbal Delirium’s third album. They are at times heavier now (one song is prog-metal), but overall more symphonic proggy, especially on the long tracks The Decayed Reflection and Fear. Read the Progressive Music Planet and ProgRocks.gr reviews.
Another find for the Bad Elephant label, Under a Banner is led by Adam Broadhurst on acoustic guitars and lead vocals, with other band members on electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, and backing vocals. A cellist guests on two tracks of The Wild Places (2016, digipack), which follows two full-length albums plus two EPs. This is at its core passionate and sophisticated Celtic-tinged folk-rock that crosses well into prog by virtue of the expansive arrangements and production, somewhat along the lines of Manning. This is a band that gigs a lot, and the album has a live energy.
Emmett Elvin is the keyboardist for Knifeworld, Guapo, and Chrome Hoof, but he is also a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Assault on the Tyranny of Reason (2016, digipack) is his first album of new material since 2014’s acclaimed Bloody Marvels. Sarah Anderson (Chrome Hoof), Anna Tam (Mediaeval Baebes), Chlöe Herington (Knifeworld), Beverley Crome (The Cesarians), and Daniel Friend reprise guest appearances, joined by drummer Alex Thomas (Chrome Hoof) who adds a new distinctive percussive edge. Other stellar musicians from Emmett’s circle also guest, including Knifeworld and Gong main man Kavus Torabi. Read the Progradar, The Progressive Aspect, and Music from the Other Side of the Room reviews.
Yes, RPWL’s main influence is Pink Floyd, but they clearly incorporated that influence into their own unique style. There would have been no point to another bunch of covers of the most obvious Pink Floyd tracks from DSotM on, but that’s not what RPWL do on Plays Pink Floyd. Instead they delve into the early, deep Pink Floyd catalog, playing in the spirit of Pink Floyd but in the style of RPWL. The tracks: Arnold Layne, The Embryo, Green Is the Colour, Atom Heart Mother, Fat Old Sun, The Narrow Way Part 3, Let There Be More Light. These were recorded live between 2010-2015 all over Europe, some songs greatly extended over the studio versions. This 70+ minute CD is a limited edition and comes in a digisleeve. (Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.) Watch the album trailer.
The RPWL Plays Pink Floyd’s ‘The Man and The Journey’ CD+DVD (2016, digisleeve) contains the audio and video recording of RPWL’s performance of ‘The Man and The Journey’ show at De Cacaofabriek in Helmond, Netherlands in February 2016. Wikipedia says “The Man and The Journey are two album-length suites of music performed in concert by Pink Floyd during their 1969 tour. They consist of several of their early songs, some unreleased songs, and material later included on Soundtrack from the Film More and Ummagumma.” It was a legendary conceptual show that included visual performance elements, and RPWL does the same. At the time of this release, there has been no official Pink Floyd audio or video release of this show. This is an extraordinary example of psychedelic prog. The DVD features DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio as well as stereo. The DVD is all-region, but assume it is PAL. There is no NTSC/PAL indication on the packaging, but RPWL were selling this on their late 2016 European tour, so PAL makes sense. Watch the album trailer. See our German page for the rest of the RPWL catalog.
AltaVia are an Italian prog quintet (vocals/keys/guitars/bass/drums, with four members singing) formed in 2007. Girt Dog (2011) is their debut. The band say that “their main influences can be found in both the classic and neo-prog scenes (Yes and Genesis, but also IQ and It Bites) while also featuring rich orchestral atmospheres and catchy melodies.” Their music mainly falls in the IQ and Jadis camps, with a bit more pomp, but if this isn’t the first really convincing British-style neo-prog to come out of Italy, it is the best. As far as non-UK bands playing this style, AltaVia are at least on the same level as Collage, Opus Est, or Martigan. Most of the continental neo-prog bands took their cues more from early Marillion, which often led to darker, pseudo-serious neo-prog. AltaVia however have the bright exuberance of Jadis or Magenta, and a very British melodic sense. It’s easy to see why Rob Reed of Magenta and Will Mackie of Caerllysi Music chose this as the first release on their White Knight label.
AltaVia’s second Kreosote (2016, digisleeve) is again sung in English except for one song which is sung in the ancient Etruscan language. (If you don’t know who the Etruscans were, it’s a good bet you’ve never been to Tuscany.) Watch the video for Road to Nowhere.
Materya are Italians Andrea Stagni (piano/keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals) and Betty Copeta (vocals), with the assistance of drummers Claudio Trotta (Deus ex Machina) and Marcello Bellina. There are drums on 7 of 12 tracks of Materya’s debut Case (2012, digipack). Stagni, Copeta, and Bellina are all members of AltaVia. Materya is to AltaVia as Aries is to La Maschera di Cera. Betty has a gorgeous, crystalline voice, delivering lyrics in both English and Italian. Stagni also sings, and as a keyboardist sounds influenced by Tony Banks / Genesis. It’s mandatory to mention Renaissance in all cases of prog with pure, female vocals, and we comply, but references to Magenta and Karnataka are also apt. This is a beautiful album, with Materya’s version of Stella Splendens the highlight. Stella Splendens is a late medieval song that appeared in a manuscript from 1399 or thereabouts. The song has been recorded by just about every artist doing medieval music, including Adaro, Blackmore’s Night, and Companyia Elèctrica Dharma, but Materya’s arrangement is the best we’ve heard, with a slab of Genesis sympho-prog inserted.
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 White Knight 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 contemporaneous 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.
Melodies for Maladies (2016, digipack) is Eden Shadow’s second full-length CD and features Theo Travis guesting on flute and soprano sax. “I believe the term ‘the best band you’ve never heard of’ comes into play here, and with an album this good, it’s incredibly easy to say. In a scene where there are numerous clones and rehashes, this album is a breath of fresh air.” Read the full Progarchy review, also the Prog Sphere review.
25 Yard Screamer are a Welsh band signed to the White Knight label. Something That Serves to Warn or Remind (2013, digipack) is the band’s fourth or fifth album. Initially a guitar/bass/drums trio, their earlier albums received some attention in prog rock circles, but to us the lack of a keyboardist made it problematic to consider them a prog band (though if Rush are near the center of your prog universe, you probably feel differently). For this album, 25 Yard Screamer added a keyboardist, though the music is still composed by the trio. While the keys play only a minor role, the additional tone colors do help, and the album has less of the hard rock of some of their previous efforts. There is enough subtlety, atmosphere, and mood variation to place this album solidly in the modern prog camp. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Keep Sending Signals (2016) is the follow-up. Read the Get Ready to ROCK! review.
Ampersand Vol. 2 (2016) contains 12 brand new studio tracks. As with the first volume of Ampersand, these are orphaned IZZ tracks, tracks that haven’t found a home on a previous IZZ album or were recorded in between album sessions. If you’ve heard the first Ampersand then you know the quality is at IZZ’s usual high level. Watch the video for Fine. The CD comes in a simple printed jacket with no booklet, but you can download the booklet in PDF form. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See our U.S. page for all the IZZ CDs.
Paul Bremner is IZZ’s guitarist. His first solo CD Wombsong (2004) was a mellow affair, but his second The Witness (2016, digipack) is much more energetic. IZZ’s Tom Galgano, who sings lead vocals on several tracks and who engineered and co-produced the album with Bremner notes, “Every song on this album is different and yet they are all connected by Paul’s unique guitar sound and songwriting. It’s been an absolute pleasure working on this album – in fact in many ways it’s been like working on an ‘alternate’ IZZ record.” Yes, an alternate-universe IZZ is a fair description, as Bremner has written or co-written a number of IZZ songs. IZZ’s female vocalists Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade each get a song to sing lead on, while IZZ drummers Brian Coralian and Greg DiMiceli play on several tracks. The final track Last Exit Before Toll exceeds 20 minutes and features all of Bremner’s IZZ bandmates, taking the listener on a journey while encompassing the full range of Bremner’s style. Watch the promo video and listen to excerpts from Are You Ooh Yah? and Pilot Fish.
Finally, the long-awaited hi-res surround + new stereo mix editions of Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair are here. The CD in both sets contains a new 2016 stereo mix by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson. Beat adds one bonus track, while Three of a Perfect Pair adds six newly-mixed extra tracks. The DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) in each set contains the original album remixed by Steven Wilson in MLP (lossless) and DTS 5.1 surround, the 30th anniversary edition album mix plus bonus tracks and alternate takes in 24/48 stereo, and the 2016 stereo mix in 24/48. Beat also contains three videos: Heartbeat (studio), Waiting Man and Heartbeat (live Munich 1982). Three of a Perfect Pair contains the promotional video for Sleepless. Each comes in a slipcased digipack and includes new sleeve notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith along with rare photos and archive material.
Beat was released in June 1982 just eight months after Discipline. It marked the first occasion where a King Crimson line-up remained intact for two consecutive albums and was also the first album by the band to employ a separate producer, Rhett Davies. The strength of the songs combined with the signature complex polyrhythmic textures of 80s Crimson helped the album chart in both the US and UK.
Three of a Perfect Pair, released in April 1984, was King Crimson’s final album of the 1980s. The album proper is clearly divided into an accessible side and an experimental side, with the album’s closer Larks’ Tongues in Aspic III being the only reference to the 1970s incarnations of the band. See Page 2 for more King Crimson titles.
The Anchoress is Welsh multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, PhD, and producer Catherine Anne Davies (who also plays in the live line-up of Simple Minds). Confessions of a Romance Novelist was released in January 2016 as a single CD. Now Kscope has issued this 2CD digipack edition, with a bonus disc containing five new acoustic tracks. The Anchoress was the winner of the 2016 Limelight Award (a reader-voted Best Newcomer category) at Prog magazine’s Progressive Music Awards. Prog magazine went so far as to proclaim her debut album “...Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love updated for the 21st century.” Or think of The Anchoress as a female Peter Gabriel and you’ll be in the ballpark. Catherine plays a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, flute, omnichord, Mellotron, wurlitzer, glockenspiel, and celeste, as well as multitracking up to 25 vocal harmonies on some of the songs. Some songs pack plenty of punch. Listen to Doesn’t Kill You on YouTube and Popular on Vimeo.
Norway’s Gazpacho have become one of the more prominent prog bands today, but there are probably quite a few fans who haven’t heard Gazpacho’s early work. These are the 2016 digipack CD reissues on Kscope of Gazpacho’s first three albums. Gazpacho used programmed drums on Bravo (2003), which doesn’t really detract much from the music. The music is spellbinding and dreamlike, with Mellotron strings used here and there and guests on violin and flute adding to the rich textures. Gazpacho added a full-time drummer beginning with their second album When Earth Lets Go (2004). Firebird (2005) was originally released on Marillion’s Racket Records label, with Steve Rothery guesting on one track. See our Scandinavian page for the full Gazpacho catalog and more info. You’ll see that Kscope has been reissuing several titles as mid-price digipacks while the mediabook editions disappear.
Rabbit in the Vestibule (2008) is the debut by Toronto’s Half Past Four, an excellent, eclectic prog band that with this album could be grouped loosely with Echolyn and IZZ in that they have a modern, energetic sound that is nevertheless respectful of the classic progressive rock bands, with some nimble playing and complex arrangements. Likewise, Half Past Four have a true keyboardist (who favors piano), the essential element missing from too many modern so-called prog bands, so the balance between keys and guitar is what it should be for a prog band. Half Past Four’s songs are centered around talented female vocalist Kyree Vibrant (which is a pretty good name). The music is often arty and quirky, skirting Squonk Opera territory, simultaneously innovative and catchy. Read the DPRP review.
Good Things (2013, digisleeve) is Half Past Four’s second CD, showcasing songwriting and playing that has matured over the previous five years. “Three Russian emigrants to Canada join with two native Canadians to form one of the most unclassifiable bands to come along in some time. Half Past Four fuse aspects of The Police, Primus, Yes, King Crimson, Heart, and Kate Bush with Zappa-esque quirk and humor, the jazzy chording of Allan Holdsworth, and the sludge-heavy guitars of Porcupine Tree, sometimes all within the same song! Especially noteworthy is singer Kyree Vibrant... Good Things is a remarkable concoction of excellent musicianship and wildly inventive arrangements.” [Progression] Also read the Sea of Tranquility review. Be sure to watch this video advertising the CD, also the video for the title track featuring Goblin’s Maurizio Guarini as ‘the gardener’. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Land of the Blind (2016) contains five wildly-varying, eccentric, and intricate new songs totaling 26 minutes, so call it a mini-album. The songs Mood Elevator and Toronto Tontos (a Max Webster cover) are heavier, sometimes fusion-y, and Zappa-esque. They’re quite good, while the other three may be the best things Half Past Four have yet created, indicating that this band may still not have peaked. “As this absolutely jubilant and refreshing record comes to a close I just cannot help but smile. These are virtuoso musicians without a trace of smugness or superiority, they just play and sing for the love of the music and it shows, in spades. A joyous expression of love, hope, and humour all rolled into an incredible package that you just can’t resist.” Read the full Progradar review, also The Progressive Aspect review. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Sorceress (2016) is Opeth’s 12th full length release, their metal past not just in the rear view mirror now but effectively out of sight. This is the 2CD limited edition digipack which adds a second disc including two more brand new tracks plus three classics live. It was interesting to hear bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt praise Il Paese dei Balocchi’s 1972 sole album in a recent interview -- it’s encouraging to encounter that depth today when it seems many bands’ knowledge of prog consists of having heard a couple Pink Floyd albums. Read the Sputnik Music and The Prog Report reviews. Watch the videos for Will o the Wisp (hear Opeth sound like Jethro Tull!), The Wilde Flowers (named after the seminal Canterbury band), and the title track.
This is the 2016 U.S. edition on The End Records, which comes in a tall digisleeve. Deliverance and Damnation were originally released separately in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but the albums stem from the same writing and recording sessions and were originally intended as a double album, even if the two are dissimilar. This edition puts the two together on two CDs that contain new stereo mixes. More significant are the two DVDs (NTSC, all-region) which contain new 5.1 surround mixes (DTS 96/24 5.1 and Dolby AC3 5.1) as well as the new stereo mixes in 96/24 LPCM. Steven Wilson did the new mixes for Damnation, while Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) did the new mixes for Deliverance. The artwork was reworked by original designer Travis Smith, while the 32-page book features liner notes by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jerry Ewing of Prog magazine. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
F E A R (2016), short for F*** Everyone and Run, is Marillion’s 18th studio album, containing five new tracks broken into 17 parts. Long tracks divided into sub-sections, your assurance that it’s prog! “It is an album jam packed with wonderful music, gorgeous melodies, complex and personal lyrics – everything that can be expected from 21st century Marillion, but boosted up a notch.” Read the full The Prog Report review. Listen to The New Kings, or listen to the band explain the album.
The CD version comes in a standard jewel case. The SACD version comes in a hardcover digibook. It’s a hybrid SACD, meaning it also functions as a CD. But pop it into an SACD-capable player (these days usually a compatible Blu-ray player), and you not only get hi-res DSD audio, you get hi-res surround. The back of the digibook states “MULTICHANNEL 5.0”, so if that’s accurate, they decided to omit the LFE (subwoofer) channel from the mix. Which is okay.
See our British page for more Marillion CDs.
This is the 2016 newly-remastered edition on Esoteric of Gravy Train’s third album Second Birth (1973), with fully restored artwork and liner notes. It contains one bonus track, the B-side of a 1973 single. Second Birth was the band’s first album for Dawn Records after two on Vertigo, hence the rebirth reference.
These are Esoteric’s newly remastered, remixed, and expanded editions of BJH’s Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974) and Gone to Earth (1977), which come in fat digipacks. The first CD in each set contains the original stereo mix remastered, while the second CD contains a new stereo mix. The star attraction is the DVD (NTSC, all-region) in each set containing a 5.1 surround mix as well as the new stereo mix in 96 kHz / 24-bit. Each also includes seven bonus tracks (some in 5.1), fully restored artwork and lavishly illustrated booklets with liner notes. Each counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Barclay James Harvest CDs.
New York City’s Edensong debuted in 2008 with The Fruit Fallen, which had a surprisingly early-1970s British progressive sound with nods to Van der Graaf Generator, Yes, Jethro Tull and others, but overall the music is darker, more melancholy and pastoral. It goes without saying that Edensong’s songwriting is not on the level of those classic bands, but the appeal is to those looking for long, dense tracks with that magical sound, or to those missing Anglagard. The keyboards here generally stick to piano and organ, there is a lot of flute, some violin and cello. A small amount of metal lowers the tenor a bit and disrupts the early-70s illusion, but it isn’t prog-metal.
Echoes of Edensong (2010) contains a mix of studio and live tracks. There are three live renditions of tracks from The Fruit Fallen, the studio version of Lorelai (previously released on The Haiti Projekt), a remastered version of a song originally intended for inclusion on The Fruit Fallen, and a new arrangement and recording of Beneath the Tide, a song that dates to 1999 and Edensong’s predecessor band Echoes of Eden. The CD comes in a printed cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Edensong’s ambitious 70+ minute follow-up is Years in the Garden of Years (2016, digipack). Watch the album trailer and the video for Cold City.
Valkyrie (2016) is an epic concept album, not a new thing for Glass Hammer, but this one’s new! The unchanging core of the band Steve Babb and Fred Schendel handle more vocal duties these days, but singer Susie Bogdanowicz is front and center. Guitarist Alan Shikoh and drummer Aaron Raulson complete the lineup. In an effort to have some of their live energy translate to the studio recording, the band rehearsed this album for months as if it were to be a live concert before recording the basic tracks. “A widescreen masterclass example of current progressive music that perfectly fuses vintage and modern sounds with an equally on-point balance of subtlety and bombast, Glass Hammer have completely set the symphonic-prog standard of the year with Valkyrie, their most ambitious, mature, grandiose, vocally exquisite and instrumentally rich work to date. Long-time fans will absolutely adore it but also likely be very surprised as well, and newcomers to the group could not pick a better place to start exploring their wondrous music. Crackling with warmth, variety, inspiration and overall progressive music excellence, it is very possibly the greatest musical statement of Glass Hammer’s near 25-year career so far, but indisputably one of the finest and most essential prog discs of 2016.” Read the full Prog Archives review, also the Progarchy and Progradar reviews. Watch the album trailer. See our USA page for many more Glass Hammer CDs and DVDs.
Dec Burke was the singer/guitarist of Darwin’s Radio and has also been a member of Frost and AudioPlastik. He released his first solo CD Destroy All Monsters in 2010, which had Carl Westholm of Carptree guesting on one song. The Carptree connection was much stronger on Dec’s second CD Paradigms & Storylines (2011), as Carl Westholm handles all the keyboards and keyboard arrangements, allowing Dec to concentrate on electric & acoustic guitars and lead vocals. Musically Paradigms & Storylines is a big step up from Monsters, blending Dec’s typically British songwriting and melodic sense with the later bombastic Carptree sound.
Dec was guitarist and singer for the band AudioPlastik on their 2015 debut In the Head of a Maniac. Book of Secrets (2016, digipack) is not as heavy as In the Head of a Maniac, but it is heavier than Dec’s previous two. It was mixed by Lee Abraham and mastered by Karl Groom. Carl Westholm returns on piano, Mellotron, and organ, while Kristoffer Gildenlow (ex-Pain of Salavation) handles bass and Steve Hughes drums. Watch the video for Everlasting.
Becoming Aware (2016, digipack) is the debut by London-based melodic prog band Paradigm Shift. This is modern British prog with some classic rock flavoring and good guitar/keyboards interplay. The album was mixed by Rob Aubrey (IQ, Big Big Train, many other UK prog bands). Read the Progradar and Background Magazine reviews. Watch the album trailer.
This is the 2015 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ classic first album The Geese and the Ghost, which comes in a clamshell box. The big news here is the third disc, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo! The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1. There is also MLP stereo and 24/48 LPCM stereo. The first CD contains the remastered album. Esoteric call it the ‘2014 remaster’ and state that this edition was “newly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth”. Heyworth and Andy Myles did the surround mix. So it would appear that this is a newer remaster than the 2008 Voiceprint edition. The second CD contains demos and alternate versions, plus two versions of Silver Song (sung by Phil Collins). It appears to be identical to the second disc in the Voiceprint edition with the addition of one more bonus track, the previously unreleased 1973 song Only Your Love featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford. The box also includes a poster (so you can see the detail in one of the best album covers ever) and a very extensive booklet with a new essay, all in all a really nice job by Esoteric. The Geese and the Ghost was released in 1977, but the recordings for it had begun several years earlier and are representative of the pastoral early Genesis sound. As most Genesis fans know, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins play on this album, with Phil singing on two tracks and Mike co-writing three. Among the many guest musicians are John Hackett and Jack Lancaster. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
These are the 2016 4-disc editions of Anthony Phillips’ 1978 second album Wise After the Event and 1979 third album Sides, which come in a clamshell box. The main attraction here is the fourth disc of each set, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo. The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 (as you’d expect on any DVD-A). There is also MLP stereo and LPCM stereo. The first CD of each set contains a new stereo mix of the album. The second CD contains demos, outtakes, and extras. In the case of Wise After the Event, the bonus disc is not identical to the 2008 Voiceprint edition, as they went to the trouble of remixing some songs from the multi-tracks. The third CD contains a newly-remastered version of the original stereo mix. Simon Heyworth was responsible for the surround and new stereo mixes and the remastering. The box also includes a poster and an extensive booklet with a new essay, two more first class jobs by Esoteric. Each counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Ant took over vocals on Wise After the Event (1978), while the other musicians include Michael Giles, Mel Collins, John G. Perry, and Rupert Hine (who also produced). Giles and Perry form the rhythm section on Sides (1979), with many other musicians assisting including Mel Collins and John Hackett. The original album contained two instrumentals and eight vocal songs, with several different lead vocalists. The first side of the LP offers a charming pop style that is difficult to label ‘mainstream’ even if that was Phillips’ intent, because his version of pop never had a chance of radio airplay. The second side features Genesis-oriented progressive material and some of Phillips’ strongest tracks. Ant was under considerable pressure to make his music more commercial at this time, as was every other progressive artist on a major label. Sides was his way of only half giving in. Many of the bonus tracks on Sides are instrumental mixes that are proggier than the vocal versions on the album proper.
This is Esoteric’s 2016 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ 1984, which comes in a fat digipack. It features a new stereo mix on the first CD. The second CD contains alternate mixes and out-takes and appears to be identical to the second disc in the 2008 Voiceprint 2CD edition. Again, the highlight is the DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 5.1 surround mix and hi-res new stereo mix. The lavishly illustrated booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay by Jon Dann (with brief foreword by Steven Wilson) and also includes a poster. 1984 was released in 1981 and finds Ant playing keyboards and only occasional guitar. Morris Pert and Richard Scott assist, but it’s mostly Ant. He uses the Roland CR-78 CompuRhythm, which was also used by Genesis, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Mike Oldfield and many others. It was never intended to sound like real drums, which is its appeal. 1984 is instrumental and bursting with great melodies, and perhaps Oldfield is not a bad reference for some of it. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
If you have no desire for surround or hi-res stereo, you may be happier with the cheaper 2008 Voiceprint editions, which were remastered at that time. They’re out-of-print but we may have some still in stock. See our British page for those and more Anthony Phillips CDs.
These are the 2016 Esoteric editions of To Another Horizon (1982) and Magic Theatre (1983), the third and fourth Gandalf albums. Unavailable for some years, both have been remastered for the first time from the original master tapes. The booklets feature an exclusive new interview with Gandalf and fully restore the original album artwork. Gandalf is the name adopted by Austrian composer and multi-instrumentalist Heinz Strobl. He has released many albums in the new age vein, but his early albums are prog. These two are arguably his best prog albums as they feature a full lineup with other musicians contributing flute, keyboards, bass, and drums, while Strobl plays guitars, keys, percussion, and anything else he could lay his hands on. The music is in a Mike Oldfield and Bo Hansson vein, at times similar to the gentler side of Steve Hackett (who would guest on a later Gandalf album). Read the Prog Archives reviews of Magic Theatre and To Another Horizon.
Tapestry of Propositions (2016) is subtitled The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 1. It contains an hour-long version of the song Propositions (which dates to 1970) with over a dozen of the improvisations that usually follow now edited together, recorded live at fourteen different locations during 2013-14. Check our British page for more Curved Air CDs.
Against all odds, a new Focus album appeared in 2002, Focus 8. The original Focus disbanded at the end of the 1970s with the departure of their famous guitarist Jan Akkerman. The story of this incarnation of Focus begins with three young musicians who decided to pay tribute to their idol and form a Focus tribute band called (naturally) Hocus Pocus. After perfecting their cover versions, they invited keyboardist/flutist/madman Thijs Van Leer to a jam session. Thijs wasn’t prepared for such devotion to the original group’s spirit, nor this high a quality level. The combined band was so good that Thijs jumped on the opportunity to reform Focus with fresh blood. And that’s exactly what Focus 8 was about: vintage Focus, played with enthusiasm, renewed vigor, and Van Leer’s unique sense of humor. And yodeling.
After the reunion of Focus and the release of the Focus 8 album, the band toured the world and was introduced to new music styles and influences. The line-up on Focus and Friends - 8.5 / Beyond the Horizon (2016) features Thijs Van Leer, Pierre van der Linden, Bobby Jacobs, and Jan Dumée. The sessions for this album were all recorded in between South American tour commitments during 2005, and every track is a previously-unreleased composition by the members of Focus or producer Marvio Ciribelli. The album features all-star Brazilian musicians joining Focus on new recordings, plus a drum duet with the great Brazilian drummer Marcio Bahia.
Drummer Pierre van der Linden, who first joined Focus in 1970, rejoined in 2004 and remains on the stool for Focus X (2012), so Thijs isn’t the only old guy. This is the 2016 digibook (hardcover) edition on the band’s own imprint. Read the Dangerdog review. Roger Dean provided the cover art.
Live in Europe is an official 2CD live set that features the Focus 9 line-up of Thijs Van Leer, Pierre van der Linden, Bobby Jacobs, and Niels van der Steenhoven. This had previously only been available at the merchandise stand at Focus concerts. This includes most of Focus’s best-known tracks, recorded in seven different European cities on the Focus 9 - New Skin tour.
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 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.
Hawaii (2016, 2CD digipack) is Aisles’ most ambitious album to date, the music expanding in several directions as Aisles focus on the international prog audience, having already conquered Chile. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. “Music without borders has always been the prog way... The Chileans have come up with something special on their fourth album, stretching out sounds in all directions. On your first listen to these 80 minutes, you’ll rightly pick up the influences of Camel, Rush, Barclay James Harvest, and Van der Graaf Generator. These all coalesce beautifully on the epic The Poet Part I: Dusk and The Poet Part II: New World. But as you delve into Hawaii and its explorative, eclectic style, then more contemporary notations start coming through, from Dream Theater to Steven Wilson and Anathema.” [Prog magazine] Also read the Dangerdog, Ghost Cult, and Maximum Volume Music reviews.
City of the Sun (2014) is the debut by a great jazzy, eclectic Norwegian prog band singing in English. The lineup is vocals/guitars, sax, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. The jazz elements enter primarily by way of the sax, which is played in a controlled but powerful style, sometimes bringing Van der Graaf Generator with David Jackson or Gong with Didier Malherbe to mind. Comparisons to Soft Machine, King Crimson, Zappa, or Out of Focus are all valid, but Seven Impale are definitely more modern. Their vocals are generally in a soft, dreamy style similar to Radiohead’s, and they inject contemporary heaviness. The tracks are long, varied, and complex. This is inventive, head-turning music, not the same old stuff. Some modern prog scenes and fanbases have a narrow range, seemingly unaware of vast sections of the prog universe. It’s refreshing then to hear a young band (Seven Impale’s members were in their early 20s at the time of this recording) creating something exciting and venturing beyond the mainstream. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Seven Impale push the envelope further on Contrapasso (2016). Read the Prog Sphere review and the Can This Even Be Called Music review and interview.
Canadian Rick Miller has had a long career making symphonic prog albums that blend Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards (usually lots of Mellotron), 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. Breaking Point was first released by Rick in 2015 as a download only. The Russian MALS label has reissued most of Rick’s albums on CD, and they released this mini-LP (heavyweight cardboard) sleeve edition in 2016. Rick has never altered his style greatly from one album to the next, but one can hear a gradual increase in sophistication over time. Read The Prog Mind review where you can listen to the full 10-minute track Tears of Blood. See our Canadian page for lots more Rick Miller CDs and more info.
Cirrus Bay is led by American multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham. 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 of their first CD. Among newer bands, he mentions a fondness for Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Watch. Overall we’re reminded of Canadian Ken Baird.
After their somewhat tentative 2008 debut Slipping of a Day, the second Cirrus Bay CD A Step Into Elsewhere (2009) 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) 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”. Watch the videos for Song of the Wind, Waking Wild, Learning to Fly, and Cotton Skies.
Places Unseen (2016) is Cirrus Bay’s latest and greatest. Watch the video for the title track and listen to Horseback to Hanssonland.
These are the 2016 newly remastered editions on Esoteric’s Reactive imprint of Peter Baumann’s first two albums: Romance 76 (1976) and Trans Harmonic Nights (1979). Both had been unavailable on CD for many years. Both restore the original album artwork and include a booklet with new essay. Baumann of course was a core member of Tangerine Dream. He composed Romance 76 while still touring with the band and left TD in 1977. These two albums are his best and closest to the Tangerine Dream style, transitioning into something more distinct with Trans Harmonic Nights.
Poor Genetic Material are a German symphonic prog band with an exceptional lead singer from the UK in Philip Griffiths, whose father Martin was the singer for Beggars Opera, a Scottish early-70s prog band. Martin sang with his son on three songs on the previous PGM album A Day in June. Poor Genetic Material’s ninth album Absence (2016) sees Martin Griffiths, whose voice has lost nothing since his Beggars Opera days, join as a full member, so father and son will continue sharing PGM’s microphone. The seven-person band again includes flutist Pia Darmstaedter from Autumnal Blossom, who joined PGM on the previous album and plays an important role on this one. The 30-minute title track is split into two parts that begin and end the album. (Listen to a chunk of it.) All the elements of PGM’s distinctive musical style feature here: excellent musicianship combined with inventive songwriting, classy music ranging from delicate and melodious to intensely proggy, from accessible tunes to quirky, complex arrangements. There is more Pink Floyd influence than we recall hearing on the previous PGM albums. See our German page for more Poor Genetic Material CDs and more info, also the related band Alias Eye.
Autumnal Blossom is the band of classical flutist Pia Darmstaedter who, after playing in different orchestras, now works as a freelance musician. Due to her work with prog band Poor Genetic Material where she is now a full member, she also feels at home in prog and art-rock. PGM’s Stefan Glomb (guitars, bass) and Philipp Jaehne (keyboards) play on Against the Fear of Death (2013) and helped produce it. Darmstaedter sings and plays piano in addition to flute. On this album these different music worlds merge. Old acoustic instruments (flutes, cello, contrabass) are contrasted with electronic sounds. Songs with a chamber music approach alternate with tracks with a full band line-up. It’s a fascinating blend of prog, classical, and folk that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the lyrics, which are based on British and American poems written between 1600-1900.
Philipp Jaehne is part of the band on Spellbound (2016), along with a guitarist, bassist, drummer, string trio, and whatever you call someone who plays cor anglais (English horn). Pia sings and plays flute and keyboards. Spellbound is a concept album that further develops the style of Against the Fear of Death, an original progressive style with few easy comparisons. Spellbound is cheerier and more upbeat than its somewhat gloomy predecessor, so start here. See the related band Coarbegh.
Scintilla (mediabook) is Nosound’s 2016 studio album. Kscope is being magnanimous here, as the Scintilla CD not only comes in the hardcover mediabook format (with 24-page booklet), it includes a Blu-ray disc yet virtually no increase in price. The Blu-ray includes the album in 24bit/96kHz LPCM stereo and 5.1 surround, plus bonus video content. It’s laudable that Kscope considers HD and surround audio to be standard, not something you should pay twice the price for. Acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Chimenti cowrote and sings on the serene Sogno e Incendio, while Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh lends his distinctive vocals to two of the album’s tracks. Bandleader Giancarlo Erra considers Scintilla the beginning of the second phase of Nosound’s career, utilizing a more organic and acoustic sound palette. Watch several videos from this album. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for more Nosound albums and more info on the band.
French keyboardist Yann Porée added “Lindatar” to his name because it’s apparently the Elvish word for “composer” in Tolkien’s world. We’ll just say it: L’Ultime Attente (2015) is the best keyboard-prog album we can think of since Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Patrick Moraz’s The Story of I. Porée admits that Wakeman is his greatest influence, and Six Wives is the closest reference point for L’Ultime Attente, which is instrumental apart from a smidgeon of spoken word at the start and several seconds of wordless vocals. The music is keyboards and drums (not sure if the bass is done by keyboards or bass guitar) until the finale which features electric guitar. Porée has been called a fervent defender of progressive rock. His music is of the 1970s, and since then there have been few prog keyboardists who are pianists first, who can really play, and who demonstrate first-hand knowledge of classical music. There are also similarities to some of Keith Emerson’s work, and the Dutch band Trace would be another reference point if Rick van der Linden’s major influence had been Beethoven rather than Bach. Maybe listeners who came into prog after the golden age won’t have the same reaction to this, but for us it is an all too rare now joy.
In the preceding few years, The Pineapple Thief had to some extent begun to drift away from progressive rock and toward indie rock. On Your Wilderness (2016, mini-LP sleeve), bandleader Bruce Soord says he returned to the band’s progressive roots for inspiration. Assisting in this change of direction is Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), who plays drums throughout and clearly elevates the material. Guests include John Helliwell (Supertramp) on clarinet, Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) providing a string quartet, Darran Charles (Godsticks) on guitar, and a four-piece choir. “On this album, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output, and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead.” Read the full Progradar review, also the Heavy Blog Is Heavy review. Watch the videos for In Exile and No Man’s Land. See Page 2 for more The Pineapple Thief CDs.
This is the 2015 (2016 in the U.S.) debut CD (digipack) from the main man behind The Pineapple Thief. All the tracks were written and performed by Bruce Soord with Darran Charles of Godsticks playing additional guitar. Here Soord focuses on the more introspective and dreamier side of his songwriting. As the Crash and Ride Music review implies, this album relates to The Pineapple Thief in the same way Lunatic Soul relates to Riverside. Listen to the album teaser, Willow Tree, and Familiar Patterns on YouTube. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
Kotebel are a Spanish symphonic prog band that released their first CD Structures in 2000. That first CD was more of a solo project of bandleader Carlos Plaza, and Kotebel was initially only a studio project. Kotebel became a band that continued to grow with each new album, eventually becoming a powerful live act. This limited edition 2CD (2016, digipack) is a remastered version of the album released in 2014 only as a digital download, containing Kotebel’s complete concert at the 2013 Prog-Résiste convention in Belgium. The album features the complete Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble plus pieces from Ouroboros. As such, this is Kotebel’s modern style, which is challenging and complex, closer to the likes of Anglagard, as opposed to Kotebel’s earlier, more melodic/romantic prog style. This 2CD adds bonus tracks from Kotebel’s concerts at Portugal’s Gouveia Art Rock festival in 2007 and Madrid in 2011. See our Spanish page for more Kotebel CDs and much more info.
Riding on the success of The Grand Experiment album, The Neal Morse Band (Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Eric Gillette, and Bill Hubauer) set out on a world tour in the spring of 2015. Alive Again shows them performing for an enthusiastic audience in The Netherlands in March 2015. “The Neal Morse Band are a force of nature. They have evolved into a great live band, one that is as good as there is in music and they really shine on this live set. The performances here are jaw-dropping and might have you giving a standing ovation from your couch. Take a bathroom break before you start too, because once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.” Read the full The Prog Report review. Watch the trailer.
The Time Is Always Now (2016, digisleeve) is the debut album from Holon, the project of Norwegian singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ronny Pedersen. It’s a new release for Rhys Marsh’s Autumnsongs Records and fits right in with the slightly psychedelic Scandinavian prog and post-prog style of the label. The album was recorded at Autumnsongs Recording Studio in Trondheim and produced and mixed by Marsh. Contributing musicians include Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, White Willow) on Hammond organ, Silje Leirvik on vocals, Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Kaukasus, Jaga Jazzist) on flute, and Geir Anfinn Halland Johansen (Anfinnsaas) on drums, as well as Marsh (vocals, pedal steel, bass, various keyboards including Mellotron). Ronny sings and plays guitar, bass, and sitar. The Time Is Always Now is a collection of songs Pedersen had been writing over the past ten years. He met Rhys Marsh through a common friend, played him some of these songs, and Rhys offered to produce Holon. Watch the videos for A Drop of Me and Two Grains of Sand. To preview the entire album, see the Pop Matters album premiere.
The Fringe is a new super-trio consisting of Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance), Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic, The Flower Kings), and Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard). This is their self-titled 2016 debut CD (digipack). The three met three years earlier, prompted by D’Virgilio’s desire to assemble a trio for a pair of shows in Poland. The three initially created new arrangements of songs from their respective catalogs, but the chemistry was such that they wanted to continue as a group and write new material. While modern recording technology would’ve easily allowed them to write and record their debut album from remote locations, the spark of working together in the same room was felt strongly during their initial sessions. So this album was recorded by the ancient method of having everyone in the studio together. The Fringe are a rock band -- maybe the name indicates they’re on the fringe of prog - but as you’d expect with these musicians, there is complexity in the arrangements. Of the members’ other bands/projects, The Fringe probably comes closest to Lo-Fi Resistance. Read The Prog Report review.
Your eyes do not deceive you, it is a new album by Welsh prog band Multi Story! Part of the British progressive revival, they released their first LP East/West in 1985. We must’ve liked it because it became the second CD released on the Kinesis label (or whatever we were calling the label in 1992). The key members of the quintet are writing partners Rob Wilsher (keyboards) and Paul Ford (vocals). There was a second Multi-Story LP (there used to be a hyphen in their name), 1987’s Through Your Eyes, with a different singer, but don’t fret too much if you’ve never heard it as it’s a fairly tepid AOR affair. More recently, Wilsher and Ford got the creative juices flowing again and started working on new material as a duo. The material was nearing completion when Rob met brothers Jordan and Aedan Neale on another music project, which sparked the idea of reworking the material to accommodate a full band and fire up the Multi Story machine again. Bassist Kyle Jones completed the new lineup, and the band began gearing up for live dates. With the key original members in charge, Crimson Stone (2016) resembles East/West except that while the latter contained mostly short songs, Crimson Stone has mostly long tracks, only one under five minutes. If you’re not familiar with East/West (it’s out-of-print), the music was closer to Yes than to Genesis/Marillion, which set Multi-Story apart from the other neo-prog bands. The Yes influence may be more imagined than real though, the similarity between Paul Ford’s and Jon Anderson’s voices having much to do with the perception. To rerun an old quote from CD Services: “The band actually sound similar to Yes but not in the clone way that Starcastle did, more like imagining that if Yes existed in a parallel universe, this might be the musical direction they could have taken. This is how they might sound, only with a bit more variation and less intensity, but still with a sound full of rich textures and excellent compositions plus good vocals from Paul Ford. This UK band had the potential to be big during the second phase of prog rock in the 1980s, but like many other excellent bands, it never quite happened.”
The tour following Steve Hackett’s 2015 studio album Wolflight was titled Acolyte to Wolflight with Genesis Revisited. This 2016 live release contains 23 tracks spanning Hackett’s entire solo career with extra attention given to Voyage of the Acolyte on its 40th anniversary, plus eight Genesis classics (including deep catalog such as After the Ordeal). Hackett’s band features Roger King (keyboards), Nad Sylvan (lead vocals), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (woodwinds and more), and some guy named Roine Stolt mostly playing bass, oddly enough. John Hackett and Amanda Lehmann guest. In addition to the 2.5+ hour main show, there are behind-the-scenes and rehearsal documentaries, plus videos for three songs. The Blu-ray (all-region) contains DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 surround (no center channel) as well as stereo. Watch the trailer.
In September 2015, over the course of four sold-out shows, Ayreon’s concept album The Human Equation was brought to life as a full-blown musical production at the Nieuwe Luxor theater in Rotterdam. Ayreon had apparently never performed live before. The final night was recorded for this DVD+2CD set (2016, digipack). The Theater Equation show features the 19-strong Epic Rock Choir assembled for this event, as well as guest vocalists from the original 2004 album including James Labrie, Marcela Bovio, Heather Findlay and others, plus Anneke van Giersbergen, Jermain ‘Wudstik’ van der Bogt, and Mike Mills who replaced original vocalists unable to take part. The DVD features 5.1 surround audio and subtitles in nine languages. (It should be NTSC, all-region as it was manufactured in the U.S.) Watch the trailer. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Dutch page for Ayreon CDs.
Having completed the massive Dante’s The Divine Comedy project, Finnish progressive rock association Colossus continues its excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs, digging deeper into Italian literature of the Renaissance with another classic: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. Each participating band created a new piece of music, generally in a vintage style and often lengthy. Musea released the 4CD Part I in 2011 and the 4CD Part II in 2014. The Seacrest label took over the franchise beginning with Part III (4CD, 2016), a logical fit as not only is Seacrest a Finnish label, they’re also home to The Samurai of Prog, featuring some of the same musicians and also focused on vintage prog. Just some of the bands on Part III: Latte e Miele, United Progressive Fraternity, Robert Webb, Ageness, Ellesmere, JPL, Willowglass, Trion, Nexus, Elephants of Scotland, Jinetes Negros, Interpose+, Court, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Rebel Wheel, Taproban, D’accord, Phoenix Again, Castle Canyon, Il Castello di Atlante, Faveravola, Cirrus Bay. Artwork for the album and its 64-page booklet is by Ed Unitsky. So much good prog here at only pennies per minute! Watch the 10-minute album overview video (where you’ll also find the full band/track list) and the teaser video for United Progressive Fraternity’s Mercenaries. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
The Rome Pro(G)ject is an international all-star project headed by keyboardist Vincenzo Ricca and including Steve Hackett (electric & classical guitar), David Jackson (sax, flute), and Billy Sherwood (bass, drums, electric guitar), with Mauro Montobbio and Luca Grosso of Narrow Pass, Riccardo Romano and Daniele Pomo of Ranestrane, Franck Carducci (two solo albums to date), and others. Of Fate and Glory (2016, digipack) is their second concept CD about the Eternal City, containing 66-minutes of instrumental progressive rock, a musical story about ancient Rome. Listen to the 10-minute album sampler and watch the video for S.P.Q.R. with Steve Hackett getting a lot of screen time.
In the Haze That Surrounds Us is the 2015 debut by this Québec prog band in the Haken vein, singing in English.
Dream the Electric Sleep, or DTES for short, are a modern prog band from Kentucky who debuted in 2011 with Lost and Gone Forever 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 post rock, 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.” [Prog magazine]
Read the Sea of Tranquility and Background Magazine reviews of Heretics.
After two self-produced, independently-released CDs, Beneath the Dark Wide Sky (2016, digipack) sees DTES moving up in the music world, now with a label and a producer. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Flight and Let the Light Flood In.
Pandora (2015, digipack) is the debut by a wonderful prog band from Manchester, England who use both female and male vocals in music that is heavily instrumental. “The best praise I can give We Are Kin is to say that, for the sixty-four minutes I listen to Pandora, my life is irrevocably a much better place to be.” Read the full Lady Obscure review. “Pandora is awash with melodic and varied compositions that are multi-layered and complex, plus there is an underlying narrative describing a potential future. You can get lost in it all... This is not music that has been written using a formulaic and predictable ‘prog’ blueprint. For me that will always keep me listening over the rehashing of well-known classic prog tracks.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review. Listen to Tides of Midnight and Home Sweet Home.
And I Know (2016, digipack) is their sophomore effort, more difficult to describe than Pandora, which wasn’t easy to describe to begin with. It’s still under the progressive rock umbrella, but it’s even more quirky (and we like quirky). The album title and three of the song titles combine to form the sentence “And I know that one day we’ll have to say goodbye” and yes, there is poignant beauty here. We Are Kin have a unique vision, and their music fascinates in its balance of familiarity and unpredictability. “This is emotion and expression on a grander scale than a casual listening will allow. It is the complete package.” Read the full The Prog Mind 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 (some 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, Starcastle, etc. One of our favorites of the year. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Epic at the Majestic (2016, digipack), released by the British label Bad Elephant, is Heliopolis recorded live at their 2015 RoSFest performance. They play their entire City of the Sun album but in extended versions. The venerable Mike Potter did the recording, while the mastering was done at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood, ensuring excellent sound.
Mike Kershaw is a British singer/songwriter who until 2011 recorded under the name Relocate to Heathrow. He attracted the attention of the Bad Elephant label, who released what is probably Kershaw’s strongest work to date: What Lies Beneath (2016, digipack). Most of Kershaw’s music is clearly progressive rock or influenced by it, and he finds himself in the lineage of British singer/songwriters such as Dave Cousins, Roger Waters, Roy Harper, and Guy Manning, to name a few (though Kershaw’s voice reminds us of Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs). In addition to singing, Kershaw plays keyboards and has a host of other musicians on the album including two-thirds of Fractal Mirror. Leopold Blu-Sky of Unto Us plays bass, guitars, keys, and pedal steel and produced and mixed the album. The longer tracks allow Kershaw to shift through different moods and tempos while retaining the sense of warmth that pervades his music. Read the The Prog Mind and Progradar reviews.
These are the 2016 digipack second editions released on the Polish Oskar label. The audio of Tales... and Bridge... was remastered in 2016.
Unspoken Whisper (1997) is the debut from this Dutch prog band singing in English. It is good neo-prog with a strong Genesis/Camel influence, felt predominantly during the instrumental sections of which there are many. Sweeping synths and piano from the two keyboardists give ample room for emotive guitar breaks in the Steve Hackett or Gary Chandler (Jadis) style.
Flamborough Head’s fourth album Tales of Imperfection (2005) continues with the same lineup as 2002’s One for the Crow, now with female vocals. This album is more instrumental though, with more flute and recorder and a very strong Camel influence. While guitarist Eddie Mulder doesn’t have quite the warm, smooth tone of Andy Latimer, his leads are otherwise Latimer-like, and the prominent flute will remind the listener either of Snow Goose-era Camel or, when paired with 12-string guitar, early Genesis. The vocal sections have a different feel of course, similar to early Quidam or Karnataka. Mellotron flavors some of the music, and there are four tracks around the ten-minute mark, so at least for those oriented toward 1970s prog, this is Flamborough Head’s strongest album to date.
Bridge to the Promised Land contains the first recordings of Flamborough Head. It was originally released in 1994 only on cassette and led to the band being signed by the British Cyclops label. After Cyclops released the Unspoken Whisper and Defining the Legacy CDs, they released a CD of Bridge to the Promised Land in 2001 in a limited edition of only 500 copies. The CD includes three previously-unreleased tracks plus three very different versions of tracks from Unspoken Whisper and Defining The Legacy.
See our Dutch page for the full catalog of Flamborough Head CDs currently in-print, along with more info.
The Battle (2016, digipack) is the debut by Israeli prog quartet Aperco, who sing in English. Guests add flute and sax. Aperco take their cues from the 1970s prog giants with Pink Floyd probably the most frequently occurring influence, but one can hear the influence of Camel, King Crimson, and Genesis as well. There are orchestral moments and there are pastoral moments, and Aperco integrate all their influences best on the nearly 12-minute Awaken, a majestic way to close an outstanding album for classic prog lovers.
Dentro de los Cuentos del Día (2015) is for all intents and purposes the debut by Venezuelan symphonic prog band Syriak. Syriak was actually formed way back in 1981 and recorded an album that year that remains unreleased. The band’s bio says a second album was recorded in 1986 and released in 1987 but doesn’t mention its title. After a long hiatus, the band was revived in 2010, bringing in a new singer and new drummer. They began writing new material, resulting in this CD. Syriak list Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Rush as their influences. The music is melodic and exuberant, with quality vocals in Spanish and plenty of intricate instrumental work. In fact there are more than enough instrumental fireworks that listeners who usually avoid non-English lyrics may want to make an exception. The exuberance in the music reflects Syriak’s roots in the 1980s, before the influx of metal and melancholy into prog slowed tempos and elevated dreariness to an art form. Anyway, it’s heartening to see new activity of any sort on the Venezuelan prog scene, and this is not simply another entry but one that has that spark and is genuinely exciting.
Symphonic rock masters The Enid have been going for 40 years now and yet there are prog fans who remain unaware of the band. The current incarnation is really The Enid, The Next Generation, as founder/leader Robert John Godfrey repopulated the band with younger musicians. Dust (2016) completes the trilogy of albums begun with Journey’s End and Invicta. Dust takes a somewhat more theatrical approach, full of melodrama, with a greater role for lead vocalist Joe Payne who seems poised to be the next Freddie Mercury. Watch the video for Someone Shall Rise. Read the Sputnik Music and Progarchy reviews; the latter includes an interview with Robert John Godfrey. See our British page for many more The Enid titles and more info.
The DVD Something Wicked This Way Comes: Live at Claret Hall Farm / Stonehenge 84 was originally released in 2004. It has been freshly redesigned in this 2016 Cherry Red edition, which adds two CDs suitably edited to present the audio in its own right. The DVD is NTSC, all-region. This papersleeve package takes up less space than a single jewel case and features new liner notes from Classic Rock’s Malcolm Dome. The audio has been edited and remastered. The Enid lineup here is Robert John Godfrey (keyboards), Steve Stewart (guitars, bass), Chris North (drums, percussion), and Glen Tollet (bass, keyboards, tuba). Claret Hall Farm was a camping weekend for members of the Enid fan club The Stand. Held at the band’s home, the weekend and performances were essentially a party to show appreciation for the fan’s loyalty over the years. The second concert recording here was shot at the last-ever festival of its kind to be held on ancient site Stonehenge.
These are the 2012-2016 remastered digipack reissues on Sireena Records. New Views is the 1984 debut by Swedish symphonic prog band Tribute. This is an album we’re very fond of, and though the band may have been forgotten in the past three decades, this album sold well upon its release, and the band toured western Europe. It was during their 1985 tour in Germany that their drummer bailed and Tribute managed to find a replacement in Pierre Moerlen, who became a member for three years. The music on New Views is instrumental with beautiful wordless female vocals. Even though Moerlen had not yet joined, there is a very strong influence of instrumental Mike Oldfield (Moerlen’s employer at the time) of the Incantations through Crises period. There are also elements of Camel, Genesis, instrumental Alan Parsons Project, and (in one track) Tangerine Dream. The 22-minute epic title track is the highlight of an album that is supremely melodic with just the right amount of grandeur.
Moerlen was on board for the second Tribute album Breaking Barriers (1986) and contributed to the writing. The style of this album shifts toward the Pierre Moerlen’s Gong style of the same timeframe. Breaking Barriers has much in common with the similarly-named PM Gong album Breakthrough released the same year, which has almost all of the Tribute members in the line-up. “Breaking Barriers was Tribute’s second release and continued their exploration into commercial symphonic progressive space rock. This album has stronger electric guitar presence and a couple vocal tracks, but manages to sustain their positive musical explorations. The vocal harmonies are truly majestic with compelling voices used throughout. The great thing about this album is that they did not try to carbon copy the first and really gave way to some new leanings and genuine progression to follow through on. On this album, Tribute also dig more into the world music envelope with an African ditty (featuring Amadu Jarr on African percussion) and a Scottish Celtic influenced track. Overall a great album full of excellent musicianship and expressive positive songwriting.” [Prog Archives]
The mostly-instrumental live album Live: The Melody, The Beat, The Heart was compiled from different performances in late 1986, mostly in northern Germany. The recordings feature Pierre Moerlen on drums. This album is by no means redundant, as the majority of the material does not appear on a studio album. Tribute played over 300 gigs between 1983-86, so this is the sound of a seasoned band of seven musicians, and the recording quality is superb. The music is full of what the prog heart desires, with flute, sax, vibraphone, and tubular bells expanding the sound.
Terra Incognita (1990) is Tribute’s fourth and final album. The band had undergone significant restructuring, as Pierre Moerlen, Josef Rhedin, and Åke Ziedén had left the band. Those remaining were siblings Gideon, Lena, and Nina Andersson, and Dag Westling, joined by a huge number of guests. This album represents a return to a more epic symphonic style, and the tracks are characterized by long instrumental passages and orchestration on a grand scale. The overdubs were numerous, including various stringed instruments, vocals, synths, drum sets, orchestral percussion, and many other orchestral instruments played by members of the Norrköping Symphonic Orchestra, with which Tribute had collaborated on several earlier occasions. One song has Swedish lyrics, the rest English. At the time of this writing, it is the highest rated of Tribute’s studio albums on Prog Archives.
Erik Norlander is known as the keyboardist for Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane, and the John Payne version of Asia, not to mention numerous albums under his own name. Surreal (2016, digipack) is the follow-up to 2009’s The Galactic Collective album, a full-band, high-energy rock album with Norlander’s keyboards to the fore. While The Galactic Collective contained re-recorded existing compositions, Surreal is new material: five instrumental tracks plus one track with vocals by Lana Lane. The rhythm section is the same as on The Galactic Collective: Mark Matthews on bass and Nick LePar on drums. Another familiar face is percussionist Greg Ellis, who played on three other Norlander solo albums including his 1997 debut Threshold. Rocket Scientists members Don Schiff (cello, NS/Stick) and Mark McCrite (acoustic guitar) guest. Surreal also highlights the guitar work of Alastair Greene and Jeff Kollman, two of Los Angeles’ finest axemen and stellar musicians that Norlander has worked with on other projects. See our DVDs page for Erik Norlander DVDs and our bargains page for Erik Norlander and Lana Lane CDs at reduced prices.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998, then nothing until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. This album will get the blood of neo-prog fans pumping. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance. Read reviews at Prog Archives, The Progressive Aspect, DPRP, and Get Your Rock Out.
This is the limited edition of Safe Asylum (2016), which contains two additional instrumental tracks (that first appeared several months earlier on the download-only Alice EP). Safe Asylum is darker, more complex and serious sounding than Trip the Life Fantastic. Which you can tell just by looking at the covers. The mostly long tracks are quite involved, though the music remains melodic to be sure. The keyboardist is the bandleader, so the guitar/keys balance is enforced. At this point, Fugazi-era Marillion is only a distant ancestor, as Drifting Sun have ambitiously taken their music into other realms. Read the Progradar and Progarchives reviews.
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.
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.
The Perfect Map (2016, digipack) is Elephants of Scotland’s third studio CD. “Elephants of Scotland have really struck gold on their third album, the mix of strong word play and musical mastery quite something. Elephants of Scotland have been a well-kept secret for too long. With The Perfect Map in their hand, there’s no doubt they’ve found the route to success, and with a fair wind at their back, hopefully a seat at the top table of the prog world.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review, also the Progradar review.
Disconnected (2016) is the fourth full-length album from Norwegian prog band Airbag. Prog Magazine described Airbag’s previous album The Greatest Show on Earth as “a confident step in the right direction, so much so you’re led to believe that album number four really could be the big one”. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. This is the jewel case edition. Check our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Airbag catalog and more info.
Cyril began as a band project combining melodic and progressive rock that now includes the core members of Toxic Smile. Their first album Gone Through Years (2013, digipack) is thematically based on the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Keyboardist and woodwind player Marek Arnold has released numerous albums with his other bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row and seems to join another band each year; he has since signed on with United Progressive Fraternity. Cyril also features the voice of Larry B. (Toxic Smile), plus guitar, bass and drums. Guitarist Ralf Dietsch interjects a little flamenco and classical guitar but otherwise plays in a conventional style. We admire Marek Arnold’s other bands, but Cyril has the best songs and is so polished, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. The grand, larger-than-life choruses with harmony vocals harken back to a time when rock was a happier music, and these songs have the hooks needed to lodge in your skull. While there is great emphasis on melodies and vocal arrangements, Cyril’s music is progressive rock first and foremost. It can get heavy but there’s no real metal, rather aspects of bombastic modern hard rock. The music is too upbeat and melodic in exactly the way that modern metal isn’t. While the music and words are credited to Cyril, it’s a good bet Marek Arnold is responsible for most of the music, because the difference between Cyril’s music and typical modern prog is the difference in how keyboardists and guitarists write and arrange. Keyboardists tend to have a stronger foundation in harmony and approach composition harmony-first, while modern prog is run almost exclusively by guitarists. Arnold’s sax and clarinet are great additions to the orchestration, and the production couldn’t be better. Maybe the band closest to Cyril is Unitopia. Both bands rely on their excellent singers, and fans of Unitopia can expect to find similar qualities here. (Note we wrote that last bit prior to Arnold joining United Progressive Fraternity, the successor to Unitopia. So there.) Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Paralyzed (2016, digipack) is Cyril’s second, which bears the “Mastered by Eroc” quality assurance stamp. Larry B. shares vocal duties with Stern Combo Meissen singer Manuel Schmid for added variety, while Guy Manning contributed some lyrics. It often takes until the second album for a new band to get everyone’s attention, and as Cyril have continued with the same style as on their debut, we expect we don’t need to write much more and that the album will sell itself. Listen to the album trailer.
Some of you ought to remember the 1997 album Burning Banners, the debut by German neo-prog band Cromwell. But who expected to see a second Cromwell album in 2016? Black Chapter Red (digipack) picks up where Cromwell left off 19 years earlier, in a style close to Pallas and any number of continental neo-prog bands. Listen to the album trailer.
Thirst (2011), Left to Burn (2007), and A Handful of Earth (2004) are the first three CDs by Swedish prog quintet Salva, now signed to White Knight Records, the label run by Rob Reed of Magenta and Will Mackie of Caerllysi Music, who say: “Salva’s unique trademark sound combines symphonic prog, hard rock/metal, and folk/singer-songwriter. The band’s influences range from the 70s prog of Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd to hard rock/metal by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Rainbow to Scandinavian and Celtic folk mixed with pop sensibilities. On Thirst, the symph has become grander, the riffs have become heavier, and the melodies are as elaborate and melancholy as always. The combination of compositional and thematic focus, great musicianship, and seldom heard variety in both writing and sound makes this a must-have for all lovers of melodic, adventurous, and at times heavy symphonic rock.” Watch the video for Primoris Iugum from Thirst. Read reviews at Salva’s site and at Prog Archives.
Sigh of Boreas (2016, digisleeve) is the fourth Salva CD and one that should earn the band an even wider fan base. Watch the video for Gone II, which effectively showcases most of the Salva style. We especially like the folk touches and acoustic instruments when they appear and think Salva could do even more of this.
Frost are a UK prog band who like to put an asterisk at the end of their name, but we’re not going to comply because people would be looking below for a footnote. This is the digipack edition of Frost’s long-awaited third album Falling Satellites (2016), which includes two bonus tracks. The album features a 32-minute suite titled Sunlight. Joe Satriani guests. “It’s that contrast of light to dark, loud to quiet, reverential to utterly modern that mark Frost*’s Falling Satellites clearly as the prog album to beat in 2016, mainly because it will be the single most progressive attempt all year.” Read the full Popdose review and the Background Magazine review. Watch the video for Heartstrings. See our British page for more Frost titles and more info.
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 probably our second favorite CD of 2014, after Dave Bainbridge’s Celestial Fire. 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. “The Samurai of Prog have outdone themselves with The Imperial Hotel and I can safely say this is one of the best prog releases of 2014. If you enjoy the likes of Genesis, Yes, Kansas, et all, I cannot recommend this album enough.” [Sea of Tranquility] Watch the album overview video.
Lost and Found (2016) is a double-CD in a gorgeous six-panel mini-LP style sleeve, full of Ed Unitsky’s incredible artwork, with a 32-page booklet. Working with original members of Pavlov’s Dog, Lift, Cathedral, Odyssey, and Quill, The Samurai of Prog have excavated lost prog epics from the 1970s by these bands. Because of dissolving record contracts, band line-up changes, and the shifting landscape of popular music, these amazing compositions were never properly recorded... until now! These songs had survived only as old cassettes containing demo recordings, band rehearsals, or live performances. The Samurai have recorded stunning, brand-new arrangements, and the result transcends a mere new prog album. This is living history, or revisionist history, rendered in audiophile quality. The Samurai of Prog remains the core trio of Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti, and Steve Unruh, plus Tom Doncourt and the late Stefan Renström (Simon Says). Special guests include Jon Davison (Yes), Mark Trueack (UPF, Unitopia), K. Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), David Myers (The Musical Box, solo), Linus Kåse (Änglagård), Chip Gremillion (Lift), Keith Christian (Quill), Johan Öijen (Brighteye Brison), and Steve Scorfina (Pavlov’s Dog). The album includes a 57-minute track The Demise written by Ken DeLoria and the other Quill members. Watch the album overview video.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music. Using both rock and classical chamber instruments and heavenly wordless female vocals, composer Richard Wileman achieves a surreal melancholy and poignant beauty that has few parallels. Karda Estra’s 12th album Time and Stars (2016) collects the two previously-released EPs The Seas and The Stars and Future Sounds on a new special edition CD. The EPs were released as very limited CD-Rs that are no longer available. “Richard Wileman, a.k.a. Karda Estra, with consummately-skilled help from his usual musical friends, has gifted us a skillfully crafted, fleet-of-foot sci-fi classical soundtrack concept album, chronicling the history of time and the universe... possibly. It is a delicate and beautifully beguiling thing, made all the more delightful by Ileesha Wileman’s occasional wistfully gossamer vocals.” [Something for the Weekend?] Please see our British page for more Karda Estra CDs (some on sale) and much more info.
Hopefully most prog fans are now familiar with British band Sanguine Hum, one of our favorite contemporary prog bands. What We Ask Is Where We Begin (2CD, 2016) is subtitled The Songs For Days Sessions. This material actually dates to 2006 and is a lost album of sorts. For convoluted reasons, Songs For Days was released under the name Joff Winks Band, though it was the same four guys in Joff Winks Band, Antique Seeking Nuns, and Sanguine Hum. Adding to its obscurity, Songs For Days was only released as a digital download. The first disc of this double-CD contains the Songs For Days album, its first appearance on CD. The gestation period of Songs For Days covered many years of writing and recording sessions, as evidenced by the second disc, which begins with three singles remixed in 2015. These are followed by eight previously-unreleased songs (40 minutes), then five session out-takes (20 minutes). Several instrumental pieces were newly finished by the band for this release. Included is the band’s faithful cover of Steely Dan’s Here at the Western World. The booklet includes extended liner notes, interviews, rare photos, and memorabilia from the era. Watch the album promo video. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review. See our British page for the rest of the Sanguine Hum catalog.
At last, Twice Bitten on CD! During the British progressive revival of the 1980s, quite a few bands released their music only on cassette, at least initially. Those outside the UK had to have really been tuned in to know about some of these bands. (A young Steven Wilson was in one of them, the band Karma.) Twice Bitten was the duo of Rog Patterson and Greg Smith, who met at Nottingham University in 1982. A shared love of the work of Anthony Phillips and 12-string guitars led to them writing (in their words) ‘quasi-prog compositions’ and inventing the genre ‘heavy wood’ -- melodic music relying on electric and acoustic stringed instruments with no keyboards or drums. Twice Bitten released two cassette albums back then, and Rog Patterson at least a couple solo cassettes. Late Cut CD (2015, digipack) is the CD reissue of Twice Bitten’s 1985 cassette album No Third Man with the audio cleaned up and remastered, plus two tracks recorded in 2015. One of these is the 12-minute, five-movement Crocus Point, a track Twice Bitten used to perform live but which had previously only been recorded in greatly abridged form. Fans of Anthony Phillips and early Genesis, this album will restore you spiritually. Watch the video for Crocus Point.
Following their 2008 CD St Lo which was really a solo album by bandleader Adrian Jones, British/Dutch band Nine Stones Close began with Traces (2010), their first as a full working band. Jones apparently lives in Leiden in The Netherlands but is probably an expat given his name and the fact the other musicians on Traces are British. The music is very melancholy, brooding, and remorseful, with the obvious reference points being Pink Floyd, Brave-era Marillion, Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief, Gazpacho, and American band Product.
One Eye on the Sunrise (2012, 61-minutes) features both Dutch and British musicians alongside Jones: Peter Vink (Q65/Ayreon/Star One) on bass, Pieter van Hoorn (Knight Area) on drums, Marc Atkinson on vocals, and Brendan Eyre (Riversea) on keys. Read the Progmeister and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the album teaser video and videos for the tracks A Secret and ... and Dream of Sleep.
Following a gestation period during which Jones released the Jet Black Sea album, Leaves (2016, digipack) sees Nine Stones Close with a new label (Bad Elephant) and a revamped lineup, now mostly Dutch musicians including Christiaan Bruin (The Black Codex) on keyboards. Marc Atkinson and Brendan Eyre are gone. Pieter van Hoorn remains, the new bass/Stick player is Peter Groen, while the new singer is Adrian O’Shaughnessy. Three Dutch guest musicians add violin, cello, and rhythm guitar. The previous albums were already dark, and this one is darker still.
The Room is the progeny of Grey Lady Down, a well-liked neo-prog band of the 1990s. The Room was formed by GLD singer Martin Wilson and GLD guitarist Steve Anderson, adding three new members on keyboards, bass, and drums. With Wilson’s distinctive voice in the mix, it would be impossible for GLD fans not to think of the parent band when listening to The Room. Beyond the Gates of Bedlam (2015, digipack) is their second and more fully-realized album. The bands Jump and Multi-Story are also good reference points. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Progradar reviews.
Daymoon is a Portuguese symphonic prog band that on All Tomorrows (2011, 65-minutes) includes multinational guests Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Mats Johansson and Thomas Olsson (Isildurs Bane), Hugo Flores (Sonic Pulsar, Project Creation, Factory of Dreams), and many others from Portugal, the USA, Sweden, and Italy. Tillison produced and mixed the album. Daymoon have an early-1970s progressive sound, and while you can say that about numerous current bands, Daymoon’s retro sound is relatively rare. Much of it has the softer, more mysterious and slightly psychedelic sound that is part Trespass-era Genesis, part Moody Blues, part early Van der Graaf Generator, part Giles Giles & Fripp, and part early Pink Floyd. Along the way there are suggestions of Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson. Daymoon use flute extensively to get that particular period sound. A surprising release then, and one with great appeal to those fond of that early sound and style.
Fabric of Space Divine (2013, digipack) had been a work in progress since before All Tomorrows. It recounts the history of the universe in a little over an hour, with each track flowing seamlessly into the next. Flores is again among the guests. This is an impressive symphonic rock album that can’t be easily compared to one or two prog bands, but the names we tossed out there for the debut are still applicable, along with Mike Oldfield and Flores’ own bands (Sonic Pulsar, Project Creation) minus the metal. Daymoon weave in subtle ethnic touches on some tracks, adding to the richness of the music. The variation in style is one of the album’s strong points, as we’ve all heard bands with a homogeneous sound repeat it for 70 minutes and then wonder why listeners pine for the days of 35-minute albums. Elaborate, rich, and more consistent than its predecessor, Fabric of Space Divine is a significant step forward for this unique band. See Prog Archives for reviews of both CDs.
Cruz Quebrada (2016, digipack) is still sung in English. As the album trailer explains, Cruz Quebrada is the name of a Lisbon suburb that translates to “broken cross”. Also watch the official video for Thyme (though it contains only an excerpt from the very long track). Even if between them the two videos don’t portray the full range of the music here, we urge you to watch them as there is a heartbreaking story behind this album. The album moves from a dark and melancholy first half to a more optimistic second half, using a great variety of instrumentation including violin, trumpet, clarinet, recorder, and more. Read the streetclip.tv review.
The News (2016, digipack) is the second full-length album for N.y.X, a wild and crazy Italian prog band assisted on this album by Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn, among others. Read the Progressive Music Planet and Progradar reviews.
Trojan Horse are one of the new breed of British prog bands that the Bad Elephant label is especially good at signing, bands that are fresh and exciting and don’t retread familiar prog paths. As such they aren’t easy to describe in a few words. Trojan Horse somehow connect the dots between early Soft Machine and Cardiacs, taking a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way. It all goes into a blender and comes out with a lot of energy. World Turned Upside Down (2014, digipack) is their second. “Ever since Trojan Horse’s brilliant self-titled debut, this magazine has championed them, and here is the grand payoff. The Duke brothers and drummer Guy Crawford have made a spectacular follow-up worthy of their Salfordian musical heritage as well as their 70s prog forebears... Trojan Horse have again brought together everything that’s great about both classic and modern prog.” [Prog magazine] Watch the album promo video and the video for Paper Bells.
Despite Guardian Angels (2014, 73-minutes, digipack) is the debut by Montreal prog band Huis, composed of veterans of the Montreal music scene. Though not a founding member, Mystery bandleader/guitarist Michel St-Père joined Huis more recently, and Mystery is not a bad reference point. “Despite Guardian Angels incorporates all of the staples of a great prog rock album, including lush instrumentation, odd time signatures, sharp tempo changes, well balanced, omnipresent keyboards with Hammond, Moog and Mellotron tones, mesmerizing compositions impeccably interpreted, highly cohesive, never going overboard on the symphonic side, and with Michel St-Père’s elegant and tasteful guitar work throughout. The album as a whole flows incredibly well between the vocal and instrumental components.” [ProgMontréal] Read the Lady Obscure and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Neither in Heaven (2016, 68-minutes, digipack) is the follow-up. Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) guests on keyboards, while other musicians guest on keyboards and flute. Arena might be the best comparison now. Watch the album teaser video.
Geometric Dutch neo-prog band Triangle began under the name Square the Circle in Rotterdam in 1993. This places them right in the heyday of Dutch neo-prog, a generation of bands beginning with Edgon Heath who took their cues from the British neo-prog bands that arose during the 1980s (Marillion, IQ, etc.). Square the Circle became the name of Triangle’s 2000 debut CD, which was followed by Retreat in 2004. After a hiatus, Triangle returned in 2016 with Alert & Alive, the title probably a reference to their comeback, the music still in the neo-prog mainstream.
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). Read the Background Magazine and Power of Metal.dk reviews.
Osta Love added new members on keys/vocals and bass, and The Isle of Dogs (2015, digipack) goes in a different direction, brighter and more upbeat than the melancholy Good Morning Dystopia, with vocal harmonies made possible by the addition of another singer. While Osta Love and RPWL have distinct styles, the RPWL audience is the natural one for Osta Love now. “The addition of two more minds here has had quite an effect on the music. The band has veered away from the cold insecurity of their debut and sprinted toward a lovelier, brighter, and more whimsical sound. The Isle of Dogs is in every way better than its predecessor. It is an album of serene journeys, featuring earthy and intuitive passages that make you feel connected and at peace... The Isle of Dogs feels exactly like a collision of Pink Floyd with The Moody Blues... It truly is an album that allows you to take flight and view the vistas in your mind. Ultimately, it feels like home.” Read the full The Prog Mind review.
This is the 2009 edition on Esoteric of Concerto for Electric Violin, remastered from the original master tapes. The label says: “Concerto for Electric Violin was recorded by Curved Air and Wolf violinist Darryl Way for Island Records and was the subject of much critical acclaim and a feature on ITV’s South Bank Show upon its release in 1978. A unique fusion of rock and classical music, the album made full use of synthesizer technology to produce a truly unique work of classical progressive rock. For the recording sessions, Way was joined by former Curved Air colleague Francis Monkman and drummer Ian Mosley (formerly with Wolf, later to join Marillion).” “It is exactly what it says on the package, a full-fledged concerto that bucks every prevalent musical fashion (1978 was the age of punk, after all) by proving that prog wasn’t only alive and well, it was also still capable of startling the unwary listener... Certainly Way’s Concerto withstands comparison with any other rocker’s attempt to blend the classics with more modern disciplines.” Read the full AllMusic review.
Ultra Violins (2013) is the first solo album in over 20 years for violinist Darryl Way, known for his work in Curved Air and Darryl Way’s Wolf. Ultra Violins features Way’s interpretations of a number of a well-known classical pieces as well as a new version of the Curved Air show-stopper Vivaldi, all multi-tracked with some use of other instruments for a full sound. On Vivaldi at least, Way plays electric violin. Way says: “The motivating force behind creating Ultra Violins was to introduce some new material for solo violin that came from the vocal repertoire and the world of orchestral music, rather than music specifically for solo violin.” The CD includes a multimedia section with a music video and a video interview of Way. This album is a real pleasure, and you’ll get smarter just by listening to it.
Children of the Cosmos (2014) is Darryl Way’s first prog album in approximately forever. In addition to electric violin, Way plays keyboards and sings, with his daughter Rosie singing on one track. Both Darryl and Rosie are more than capable singers. Read the All About Jazz, Prog Rock Music Talk, and Examiner.com reviews.
Myths, Legends and Tales (2016) continues the second coming of Darryl Way, making progressive rock again with renewed creativity. As Way says: “As a rock violinist, I have always been searching for that elusive sound, turn of phrase and means of expression that would give the electric violin a legitimate voice in the idiom of rock music. With this album, I feel that I have come closer than ever before to achieving this goal. Myths, Legends and Tales is another attempt by me to fly the flag for prog rock. I’ve raised the flag up the mast as far as I am able and can only now hope that it will be seen and appreciated by the devoted fans of this neglected genre.”
This is the 2016 Esoteric edition, the first ever official UK CD release for this 1974 classic, remastered from the original Deram master tapes. It includes three non-LP bonus tracks. Originally formed in 1968 at Exeter University, the band was first known as Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, a hippy music/theatre collective. After recording two albums for Dandelion and touring for two years, the original group disbanded. In 1972, original members Root Cartwright (guitars, mandolin), Belinda Bourquin (violin, keyboards, recorder), and David Jones (percussion) formed a new band under the moniker of Principal Edwards, with Nick Pallett (lead vocals), Richard Jones (bass, vocals), and Geoff Nicholls (drums). Moving in a more rock-oriented direction and signing to Miles Copeland’s management company, they secured a contract with Deram and recorded Round One in 1973, with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason as producer. While the proggiest tracks are Triplets and the 13-minute The Rise of the Glass - White Gangster, the whole of the album is very good, a prog/art/psych/pop/folk amalgam that sounds more like 1971 than 1974.
A star is born... Maglev is a Dutch sympho-prog band coincidentally centered on talented singer and multi-instrumentalist Joost Maglev (which sounds like a made-up surname, but who knows), with Robby Valentine on piano, Sebas Honing on guitar, a violinist, and two backing singers. Joost has played in many bands and has released music under his own name in a progressive pop vein. He is amazing at Queen-style harmony vocals. (Listen to his earlier song Nymph.) Overwrite the Sin (2016, digisleeve) is Maglev gone full-on prog, featuring five tracks, the shortest 8:15. Each track emphasizes a different prog sub-style, with allusions to Yes, Queen, Kayak, A.C.T, City Boy, and maybe Cardiacs (the latter named by Joost as a musical hero). So there is exuberant pomp-prog, Yes grandeur, A Night at the Opera eccentricity, and modern heaviness, always melodic and grand scale. Overwrite the Sin is obviously the product of someone who learned how to write songs first before expanding the arrangements as required by prog. We were going to work magnetic and levitation into this blurb but didn’t want to force it. Watch the album trailer on YouTube. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Konchordat is another name to add to the British neo-prog pantheon. They debuted in 2009 with English Ghosts (out-of-print), which was mostly in the classic 1980s neo-prog style (e.g., Marillion, Pendragon), though since singer Lee Harding has a somewhat Gabriel-like voice, Citizen Cain or the more Genesis-like Ad Infinitum tracks also come to mind. The New Crusade (2011) is their second. “The New Crusade marks a significant surge in confidence and artistry for Konchordat. Still entrenched in lavish symphonic prog, albeit tempered by brief excursions into neo-prog pastures, founder member Steve Cork and now permanent singer and guitarist Stuart Martin have begun to forge a distinct identity of their own. The opening title track’s shimmering keyboards and potent six-string sustain certainly betrays a penchant for Fish-era Marillion, and maybe even a dash of Pallas, but that is the last time on The New Crusade that this band sound wholly indebted to anyone else... This is a purposeful and precise reinvention of a thoroughly British strain of prog, replete with spine-tingling guitar solos, some elegantly poetic lyrics, and enough pathos to force tears from the eyes of a stone statue of Stalin.” [Prog magazine] Read the Background Magazine review. Note the band sold us their last copies of The New Crusade, so don’t wait until this one is also gone.
Rise to the Order (2016, digipack) is markedly heavier than the first two Konchordat albums. Think of Arena and Pallas at their heaviest.
It’s come to our attention that some people don’t know what a Rube Goldberg machine is, so for those people, we’ll tell you that there’s no one in this band named Rube Goldberg. The Rube Goldberg Machine is a London-based trio, and Fragile Times (2016, digipack) is their debut on the Bad Elephant label, who are quickly becoming one of the most important prog labels. We liked this CD the first time we heard it, and have liked it even more with each subsequent listen. The music seems familiar, related to a lot of British music stretching as far back as The Beatles, yet we’re at a loss to compare it to anyone in particular. If it helps, it would sound at home on the Kscope label. It is diverse, inventive progressive rock with an unforced, natural sound (no stinkin’ metal). The songwriting is very strong, the vocals and lyrics are important, while the instrumental content is suitably intricate. The instrumental lineup is two guitars, bass, and a session drummer, those being each musician’s primary instrument, but each musician in the trio doubles on keyboards. As expected, the keyboard parts tend to be Mellotron-like pads as opposed to anything pianistic, resulting in lush textures and accents that work perfectly in these compositions. In some tracks, the two guitarists play intricate interlocking lines. At times there is a slight space/psych feel, at other times a slight psych-folk aspect. The vocals are recorded relatively dry, which gives them intimacy. The Rube Goldberg Machine describe themselves as a forward-thinking prog rock band, and we’re just going to go with that. Read The Prog Mind review.
Unsongs (2016, digipack) is the debut CD for Mancunians Mothertongue, the most Cardiacs-like band to come out of England since the beloved Cardiacs. (Not that any other country could have produced Cardiacs.) ““Let’s hope they don’t notice how little sense it makes before they release it,” said Mothertongue drummer John Simm of their debut LP on signing to Bad Elephant. It was a fair point. Much of Unsongs makes no sense at all. Single songs span several different subgenres, and stated influences include imaginary numbers, science fiction, and dinosaurs. All of which is unsurprising, perhaps, for a ‘random collection of musicians’ with a collective propensity for hopping from gypsy cabaret to ska to indie prog to Sensational Alex Harvey Band-esque madness. A lot is crammed in, weaved into tight proggy timings that slickly change by the minute... For ears that relish glorious chaos, look no further than Unsongs.” [Prog magazine] Also read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
Bring Me to the Water (2016) is a seven-track CD with a playing time of 34:34, the first CD by a Dutch prog band with powerful female vocals somewhat similar to Magenta’s Christina Booth. While five of the tracks are listed as bonus tracks, they are actually remastered versions of the band’s earlier material. Nothing is repeated; they are different songs. The album was produced and mixed by Christiaan Bruin (Chris, The Black Codex). Read the Muzikman review. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Inner Odyssey are a young band from Quebec whose 2011 debut CD Have a Seat was in the prog-metal vein. (Don’t stop reading now because the story gets much better). It displayed influences of Riverside, Porcupine Tree, and (what a surprise) Dream Theater. Inner Odyssey made a tremendous leap with their second CD Ascension (2015, digipack). The metal aspects of the first album are greatly downplayed, as this is modern symphonic prog with occasional aggressive guitar, full of intricacy and subtlety. They also have a new singer. “Ascension is as good an album of refreshingly contemporary progressive rock as you will hear – it never sits still, never flags, never disappoints, and despite its occasional forays into the dark recesses of the mind is positively life-affirming.” Read the full Get Ready to ROCK! review and the Jerry Lucky review. Listen to Losing Your Mind, Retrospection, and A World of My Own on YouTube.
Emotional Creatures Part One (2005) and Part Two (2007) are two finely-crafted neo-prog albums from English singer/songwriter Steve Thorne. Both were released on IQ’s GEP label and include many well-known prog musicians. Part One includes, among others, Tony Levin, Nick D’Virgilio, Geoff Downes (Asia), Martin Orford (IQ), Gary Chandler (Jadis), Steve Christey (Jadis, John Wetton), John Jowitt (IQ, many more), and Paul Cook (ex-IQ). Part Two includes D’Virgilio, Levin, Chandler, Downes, Orford, Pete Trewavas (Marillion), John Mitchell (Arena, Kino, etc.), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), and several more. Both are excellent albums featuring Thorne’s songs, vocals, and multi-instrumental skills in expansive symphonic arrangements that integrate progressive rock with folk and pop leanings. The styles touch upon Hogarth-era Marillion, IQ, Jadis, Kevin Gilbert, Peter Gabriel, Manning, Pineapple Thief, and more. In classic British progressive fashion, Thorne starts with a song; it’s the arrangement that makes it progressive rock. Read the DPRP reviews of Part One and Part Two.
Thorne moved to the Festival Music label for his 2009 third CD Into the Ether. Thorne again assembled a stellar cast of musicians to realize his songs, including Trewavas, D’Virgilio, Harrison, Levin, Mitchell, Chandler, John Giblin (Brand X, many others), and John Beck (It Bites, Kino). Thorne has taken the production and songwriting on Into The Ether to the next level. With thought-provoking lyrics, very strong melodies and lush arrangements, if ‘singer-songwriter neo-prog’ is a genre, then Steve Thorne is the benchmark. Warning to those who embrace the modern zeitgeist: these songs contain joy and exuberance and may cause you to feel good. The CD comes in a slipcase with 28-page booklet. Read the DPRP review.
Thorne is back on GEP for Crimes & Reasons (2012, 54-minutes, digipack). This album features Tony Levin on bass, Nick D’Virgilio and Bob White on drums, Gary Chandler on guitar, and (coaxed briefly out of retirement) Martin Orford on flute, with Thorne handling more instruments himself. It’s another collection of songs as good as any coming out of the UK now in any genre, full of heart energy, set in prog rock arrangements with a suitably powerful and expansive sound (thanks to Rob Aubrey and his studio), and not a single weak track. Read the DPRP review.
Island of the Imbeciles (2016, digipack) is Steve Thorne’s fifth and possibly last album. Steve intends to take a break from his solo career for a while, although he says he has enough material for another four or five albums, but that he wants to concentrate on writing for other artists. Tony Levin, Nick D’Virgilio, and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) all contribute to Island of the Imbeciles. Watch the promo video. (Yes, we wish it was longer than 42 seconds too, but you have to admit, it’s a great 42 seconds.)
Different Light is a neo-prog band that began life in Malta, releasing the CD All About Yourself in 1996 and the EP A Kind of Consolation in 1999. The first incarnation of the band ended then, but Different Light was reconstituted in Prague in 2008 by singer/keyboardist Trevor Tabone, where they released the album Icons that Weep in 2009. Il Suono della Luce (The Sound of Light) is subtitled “A Collection 1996-2009”; it includes 12 tracks representing the best material from those first three albums plus one unreleased track. The Burden of Paradise (2016) is Different Light’s latest studio CD. It may send fans of Fish-era Marillion into a euphoric state at times. (About 30 seconds into the CD, there is a piano figure that has to be a deliberate Lavender reference.) The album covers more ground than just Marillion but remains in a melodic neo-prog or more keyboard-centric 1980s Rush style. Tabone says he had quite a few older ideas that they’d never recorded, and that these were combined with newer compositions, especially in the multi-part suites. Read the Progarchy and Rocking Charts reviews.
Matthew Parmenter is known for his narrative songwriting and costumed performances as leader and front-man of Discipline, rightly hailed as the American Van der Graaf Generator, earning Matthew the title of the American Peter Hammill. As the press release suggests, Parmenter’s third solo album All Our Yesterdays (2016, digipack, not named after a Star Trek episode) is best experienced as a single, all-encompassing musical odyssey. Each track can be taken on its own merit, but the full, immersive effect is most evident when they’re all heard in succession. The listener is transported on an allegorical journey and emerges transformed at the close of the album. Paul Dzendzel of Discipline guests on drums, while Parmenter sings and plays all other instruments. Like Parmenter’s previous albums, this has the feel of a full band, and the title ‘The American Peter Hammill’ has never been more deserved. All Our Yesterdays was mixed by Terry Brown (Rush, Fates Warning) and mastered by Grammy winning engineer Peter Moore. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review. See our U.S. page for more Matthew Parmenter and Discipline CDs.
This Moscow-based band is not your typical progressive rock band in that the nucleus of the band is two sisters: keyboardist/singer Elena Kanevskaya and guitarist Tatyana Kanevskaya. The vocals are in English. While their official start date as a band is 1997, it was only in 2006 that they added a bassist and drummer and became a rock band. Forget all your preconceptions of what a band led by two women should sound like. This is symphonic prog by musicians who clearly love the genre, but with their influences absorbed well enough that Eternal Wanderers have a unique identity.
Their first full-length album The Door to a Parallel World (2008) has already been deleted. While The Door to a Parallel World was good, So Far and So Near (2011, 64-minutes, digipack) is really good. One thing you can expect from today’s Russian bands is a connection to classical music on a par with the first-generation progressive rock bands, a much more direct connection than is common among today’s bands. For Eternal Wanderers, sometimes that connection is to Stravinsky and other early 20th century classical; this is where Eternal Wanderers occasionally sound like ELP. More often it’s the earlier, romantic classical style, where Renaissance and Genesis are better reference points. Eternal Wanderers added a flute player on this album, and they sometimes play a medieval-flavored style closer to Jethro Tull. The final track And I Will Follow is very Renaissance-like and features Eternal Wanderers’ most beautiful vocal performance to date. Perhaps the most attractive thing about Eternal Wanderers and the Russian bands in general is that they are just far enough out of the western music mainstream to have a unique style, thankfully ignoring trends toward metal, pop, and conformity elsewhere in prog. Not entirely out though, as this CD was mastered by Masterdisk in New York. For those who like complex, classically-influenced prog that still has accessible melodies, this CD is manna. Read the DPRP review.
Eternal Wanderers’ third album is the double-CD The Mystery of the Cosmic Sorrow (2016, digipack), the result of five years of work. It is a monumental work of symphonic space-prog, spacier than their previous output while building upon it. But then “cosmic” is in the title.
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.
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. Read lots of reviews.
It’s over to the Italian Ma.Ra.Cash label for Carpani’s fourth album So Close, So Far (2016, digipack), which features his current five-man band. With English-language vocals throughout, this one is much closer to an English neo-prog style than to classic Italian prog, with a lush, expansive sound and heroic melodies. Watch your speed if listening while driving. Watch the album teaser video.
Over Reality (2016, digipack) is the debut by an Italian synth-centric prog band singing in English, with a tremendous singer who sounds like Bono of U2. They could easily pass for a British band, and their music and videos are highly professional. Interestingly, the album was mastered in the U.S. In an era of sameness and mediocre singers (in prog anyway), Metadrive don’t sound like every other band, rather their music sounds like a symphonic space-rock take on 1980s British/Irish pop. Watch the short album teaser and the official video for Mankind Theme. You can hear much of the album during this radio interview.
Kaipa were the top first-generation Swedish prog band, featuring guitarist Roine Stolt, who would later form The Flower Kings, and keyboardist Hans Lundin, who would reboot Kaipa in 2002. Kaipa sing in Swedish on these albums, while both The Flower Kings and the second incarnation of Kaipa switched to English-language vocals. Relative to The Flower Kings, Kaipa’s music is more purely Swedish, their symphonic rock colored by the centuries-old Swedish choral and folk music traditions. The self-titled first album (1975), Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976), and Solo (1978) are for us the best albums to have come out of Sweden (along with Atlas - Blå Vardag). By now a lot of prog fans will have discovered the later bands first and need to work their way backwards to these albums. Prog fans old enough to have listened in chronological order or who simply have a 1970s orientation (and have not limited themselves to albums sung in English) are likely to consider the 1970s Kaipa albums superior.
This is the first time on CD for Händer (1980) and Nattdjurstid (1982). Roine Stolt was no longer in the band, the 1980s were underway and, well, you know how that decade went for the first-generation prog bands. Händer could be considered a transitional album like Genesis’ Duke. (Händer was recorded in the same studio just after Genesis cleaned out their gear.) Nattdjurstid went farther off course into synth-pop.
These are all the 2015-2016 editions on the Tempus Fugit label. The audio was remastered in 2015. The first album has two bonus tracks, Inget Nytt Under Solen has four, and Nattdjurstid has three. Interestingly, three of the four original members (all except Hans Lundin) toured in 2014-2015 as Kaipa Da Capo, playing the original Kaipa music, augmented by Roine’s brother Michael Stolt on lead vocals, and keyboardist Max Lorentz. See our Scandinavian page for the later Kaipa CDs.
Journey of the Yak (2008) is one of the best British progressive rock albums in recent memory, pure classic prog, instrumental, close to Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Camel. Yak are a keys/bass/drums trio, but their sound is bigger than that -- after hearing this, you’ll swear there is a guitarist in the band, one who has the expressive Hackett/Latimer lead style nailed! In fact, keyboardist Martin Morgan is playing the guitar parts from a keyboard, the best emulation of that sustained electric guitar style we’ve ever heard. Of course a guitarist or two will be required live, as the guitar and keyboard sounds are layered. Just when you’ve despaired of ever hearing a British prog band create the real thing again, you are rescued by a Yak. “Sounds like Dave Greenslade jamming with Genesis.” [Prog magazine] Read reviews at Yak’s site and at Prog Archives. Watch the video for Entangled in Dreams.
Yak returned in 2015 with Quest for the Stones, and nothing changed. The trio remains intact, the album is again instrumental, and the music is still classic British symphonic prog of the highest order. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. “Know that it is traditional prog played at the highest standard, and as a result I cannot recommend it highly enough.” Read the full Progmeister review and the Prog Archives reviews.
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 Sonus Umbra lineup on Winter Soulstice (2013, 71-minutes, digipack), the first CD for the Chicago edition, 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. Winter Soulstice 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.
Beyond the Panopticon (2015, digipack) is the second CD for the Chicago edition of Sonus Umbra and features an expanded lineup, with Brittany Moffitt sharing lead vocal duties, and guest spots for both cello and clarinet. Watch the album trailer and the video for Grotesquerie.
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.
4½ (2016) is Steven Wilson’s interim release between Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the next studio album. Of the six tracks, four originated during the sessions for Hand. Cannot. Erase. and one from the The Raven That Refused to Sing sessions. The last track is a version of Don’t Hate Me, a song originally recorded by Porcupine Tree in 1998, and is based on a live recording made on the recent European tour with additional recording done later in the studio. The vocals on this new version are sung as a duet between Steven and Ninet Tayeb. Also appearing on the album are current and former members of Steven’s band: Adam Holzman, Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Dave Kilminster, Craig Blundell, Marco Minnemann, Chad Wackerman, and Theo Travis. The Blu-ray features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 96/24 5.1 LPCM, and 96/24 stereo LPCM audio, plus six bonus instrumentals and alternate mixes including a 5.1 mix of the 2015 version of Lazarus. The Blu-ray includes mp3 and FLAC download codes that do not come with the CD version of this album, so you are covered. (If you have never experienced Steven Wilson in surround, our heart goes out to you.) Listen to the album trailer (all 15 seconds of it) on YouTube. See Page 2 for more Steven Wilson titles.
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