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Shoot the Moon (2010, digipack) is the debut CD by Belgian band Fish on Friday, who play a pop/prog blend that reviewers often compare to The Alan Parsons Project. The man corresponding to Parsons in Fish on Friday is keyboardist/vocalist Frank Van Bogaert, who owns one of the top studios in Belgium. Read the DPRP review.
Godspeed (2014, digipack) is Fish on Friday’s third but their first for the Esoteric Antenna label (Esoteric’s imprint for new music). “The addition of renowned bassist Nick Beggs and the ever-busy saxophonist and flautist Theo Travis has only enhanced and added a certain elegance to the sound on Godspeed. Fish on Friday have generated comparisons to The Alan Parsons Project, not only musically but also in terms of it being a producer/engineer-led project. That trend is continued here, most notably on Radio and Stay, which recall the Parsons album Pyramid. There’s also a hint of Yes that pops up during Godspeed. Yet it’s not all about recreating the triumphs of the 70s, and Ghost Song is almost Steven Wilson-esque in stature. There are also countless original twists on Sanctuary and Tick-Tock, confirming that Fish on Friday possess a readily identifiable sound. Ultimately, it’s an outstanding, articulate and impeccably presented album.” [Prog Magazine] Watch the album preview video.
Protein for Everyone (2014, digipack) is the fifth album for this band from Bristol, England. They marry the Canterbury style (e.g., early Soft Machine, Caravan) with classic psych-pop vocal melodies à la The Beach Boys, Stackridge, 10cc, or XTC, with all the quirkiness that implies and more. One might compare them to a more accessible Antique Seeking Nuns (instrumentally anyway), or to Supersister, or (for those with an advanced degree in prog) to Moving Gelatine Plates. To quote the liner notes: “Occasionally melancholic and blackly humorous lyrics are wrapped in a musical blanket of odd time signatures, fizzing with lively energetic progressive arrangements that have a pop sensibility, luring you in with three part harmonies and earworm melodies before wigging out on an inappropriate glockenspiel and fuzz bass solo in 10/8.” This is a wonderful, brilliant album, and you’ll probably need to watch the album preview video to hear for yourself. Read the Progarchy and The Active Listener reviews.
This box set on Esoteric compiles all of PFM’s BBC radio and television appearances on two CDs and one DVD (NTSC, all-region), all newly remastered. An illustrated booklet with essay is also included. These audio and video recordings had remained in the BBC archives until now; this is their first official release. Disc One contains PFM’s 1975 Radio One “In Concert” recordings, while Disc Two contains their 1976 Radio One “In Concert” recordings. The DVD contains three broadcasts of the classic BBC Two television series The Old Grey Whistle Test, from 1974, 1975, and 1976. See Prog Archives for the track listing. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Swedish prog sensation Moon Safari are back with Live in Mexico, a double-CD recorded live in April 2014 at the Baja Prog festival in Mexico. Drumming on this release is Mikael Israelsson from Black Bonzo, while Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings) mixed and mastered the audio. There are only two songs in common with Moon Safari’s earlier live 2CD The Gettysburg Address. Three songs are from their most recent studio album Himlabacken vol. 1, and the finale is Lover’s End Pt. III: Skellefteå Serenade in its entirety. See our Scandinavian page for the complete Moon Safari catalog and much more info.
This 2014 CD on Angel Air is the first time on CD for this 1976 album that had been out-of-print forever. This is the first album under Dave Greenslade’s name and is his best, for while his later albums really were solo albums, Cactus Choir sounds like a band album, and most fans probably think of it as the fifth Greenslade album, and on a par with the best Greenslade. The Roger Dean artwork doesn’t hurt. Greenslade had split up in 1975, but Dave Greenslade had already written a new album of music and was ready to make another LP. He assembled a stellar cast of musicians including Tony Reeves from Greenslade, Simon Phillips, Steve Gould (Rare Bird), John G Perry, Mick Grabham (Procol Harum), and more. This CD includes one bonus track, which began as a piece Dave wrote in 1974 as the theme tune for a TV series. He wrote lyrics for it in 1976 and got Chris Farlowe to sing them. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews. Listen to the title track, Country Dance, and Gettysburg on YouTube (some taken from vinyl). See our British page for some Greenslade CDs.
These are the 2012-2014 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. If this album is new to you and you’re a fan of Oldfield and the other artists mentioned, rejoice that there is still undiscovered music like this.
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 either 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.
This 2CD set is the first live album for popular Canadian prog band Mystery. Recorded live at the Boerderij in The Netherlands in May 2013, Tales from the Netherlands (digisleeve) features a selection of songs from The World Is a Game as well as favorites from Mystery’s back catalog. It is the only live recording with former lead singer Benoit David, who was also Jon Anderson’s replacement in Yes for a time. Watch the album montage video (which makes one wonder if a DVD is in the works). See our Canadian page for the rest of the Mystery catalog and more info.
Men Who Climb Mountains (2014) is Pendragon’s 10th studio album, written and arranged by vocalist/guitarist Nick Barrett. With only a change in drummer since the previous album, the lineup is now Barrett, Clive Nolan (keys), Peter Gee (bass), and Craig Blundell (drums). Pendragon shifted to a darker and somewhat heavier style beginning with 2006’s Believe (for which we can thank Porcupine Tree and their ilk). Men Who Climb Mountains sees Pendragon continuing to reinvent themselves along those more contemporary lines. This is the limited edition 2CD, which adds a bonus disc containing Nick Barrett’s “Acoustic House Concert - Live at Twig’s”, a 2013 solo acoustic recording. Our copies are factory-sealed. See our British page for more Pendragon CDs.
Peter Gee is best known as the bassist for Pendragon. Songs from the Heart (2014) is a double-CD compilation containing 30 songs drawn from Gee’s five albums to date (excluding his gospel album): Heart of David, A Vision of Angels, The Spiritual World, East of Eden, and Paris. While there are no new songs, all of the songs from Gee’s first three albums have been remastered, some songs have been edited to make the whole album flow better, and one song has been remixed. The cover illustration is by Simon Williams, the artist responsible for most of the Pendragon album covers, while the booklet includes a biography, photo gallery, and track-by-track musician listing. See our British page for the full Peter Gee catalog.
Lunatic Soul is the solo project of Riverside singer Mariusz Duda, who we all know has a great voice. Helpfully, the first two CDs are labeled simply “Lunatic Soul”, the idea being that together they form a double-album. The black one is the first, from 2008, and comes in a digipack. The white one is the 2010 sequel and comes in a Super Jewel Box. Duda is assisted by several other musicians including Riverside’s keyboardist and friends from Quidam and Indukti. The music is beautifully textured, and the mood is much the same as Riverside (and Porcupine Tree, and all the other modern prog bands who’ve jumped on this particular bandwagon): dark, lush, melancholy and moving. It’s easy to draw parallels to the music Steven Wilson creates outside of Porcupine Tree, or to early Porcupine Tree (when it was really Wilson solo). With the metal element of the parent band downplayed (the first three Lunatic Soul albums contain no electric guitar at all), the music is more ambient, and the more refined and progressive elements are allowed more room to be heard. The second album is even more refined than the first. Duda says it’s a blend of everything he likes, in particular Dead Can Dance and Peter Gabriel on IV or Passion. Watch the Lunatic Soul II album teaser video.
Impressions (2011, digipack) is considered to be the final part of a trilogy of Lunatic Soul albums. As Duda says: “Impressions is a collection of instrumental compositions which act as an addition to the story told on the black and white Lunatic Soul albums. These songs without lyrics, with scarce vocal parts, are more ambient in style.” Read the Reflections of Darkness review. Watch the album teaser video.
Walking on a Flashlight Beam (2014, 64-minutes) sees electric guitar returned to the mix, and that’s not the only way in which Duda expands the Lunatic Soul sound palette, using more ethnic sounds for one. Following the instrumental Impressions, Duda is singing again here, yet the instrumental passages are not forgotten. The CD+DVD edition comes in a hardcover mediabook (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). The DVD content is nothing to get overly excited about: a 25-minute “making-of” documentary/interview. Read the Prog Sphere review. Watch the album teaser video.
This is the excellent 2012 debut by a Québec prog quintet singing in English, their music a mix of classic symphonic (Genesis, Floyd) and more modern (Porcupine Tree) prog styles. While the band keep reasonably busy playing live near home, they’ve been a well-kept secret outside the province. Hopefully their inclusion here begins to remedy that, and in time Piezo should reach the same level of popularity that Red Sand enjoy. Watch the promo video.
Visions from Realities (2013, 50-minutes, digipack) is the debut by this Italian band/project, the initiative of Umberto Pagnini who wrote the music and lyrics but used other musicians to realize the album. The music on this first CD is song-oriented symphonic prog with a folk-pop overlay. The primary singer is Norway’s PelleK, who can also be heard singing on The Anabasis CD. He comes from a metal background, but you wouldn’t know it as he saves any oversinging for his own band. Additional vocals are provided by Mark Colton of Credo and Norwegian Marit Børresen (that’s a female name). There is electric guitar and symphonic keys, but most prominent are the acoustic and clean guitar tones in a Le Orme style. The best songs have that Italian romantic feel (Le Orme, Atons, etc.), but as the lyrics are in English, that feel is not as strong as it would be with Italian lyrics. But then none of the singers are Italian. This is an album where the second half is stronger than the first. Be sure to at least audition the song Usual Plays in Heaven - Be Kind and Talk to Me, which showcases most of Active Heed’s considerable strengths.
Only singer PelleK returns on Higher Dimensions (2014, 65-minutes, digipack), otherwise Pagnini has a new crew, primary among them Cristiano Roversi (Submarine Silence, Moongarden, CCLR, Mangala Vallis, solo), who is responsible for all the arrangements in addition to keyboards and bass. Moongarden’s Gian Maria Roveda is the drummer, while Mirco Ravenoldi of the band Catafalchi del Cyber is the guitarist. This is no doubt the superior album, the prog elements having now nudged the pop elements off to the side, with Roversi adding a lot of Genesis stylings via his vintage keys. There are also occasional heavier elements not present on the first album. Read the Jerry Lucky and Lady Obscure reviews.
From leading electronic music label DiN comes Weltenuhr (2014, digipack), the second collaboration between Norwegian ambient guitarist Erik Wøllo and German synthesist Bernhard Wöstheinrich. They use female vocals on two of the album’s 11 tracks, while the fully instrumental tracks (in DiN’s words) “range from the pounding beat driven Subgiants to the ethereal Echoes of Parlours. Bernhard’s inventive textural rhythms provide the perfect backdrop for Wøllo’s soaring E-bow guitar melodies on tracks such as Oculus and Denser World.”
ARC is Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve together. These are probably the two most recognizable names in the UK electronic music scene, both musicians active since the late 1970s. Ian Boddy also runs the DiN label, while Mark Shreeve has lately been working under the Redshift banner. Fracture (2007) is ARC’s fifth album. Boddy mans the digital and software synths, while Shreeve is the analog guy with his giant Moog Modular system. The first four tracks come closest to later Klaus Schulze, a mix of quirky melody lines and rhythmic elements bathed in spacey atmospheres, constantly morphing and evolving. The 23-minute fifth track Rapture is the epic, a classic Berlin School piece featuring a central, pounding sequencer riff nested within deep space ambiences.
Umbra (2014) is a recording from ARC’s headline performance at the E-Live festival in The Netherlands in October 2013. The duo played for 90 minutes and the set was recorded to multi-track to allow Shreeve to edit and mix the album to fit onto a single CD. The audience reaction to the music has been included to provide a genuine taste of the concert experience. The powerful sequencing was recorded in the studio beforehand, then triggered by Boddy using Ableton Live during the concert. Read the Synth&Sequences and Igloo Magazine reviews. See our Electronic Music page for more EM.
This is the 2014 mini-LP sleeve reissue on the Azafran label of a 2010 CD that disappeared far too soon. Amoeba Split are a Spanish band with female vocals (in English), though their music is heavily instrumental. They are greatly influenced by the British Canterbury bands, from Soft Machine to Hatfield and the North to Matching Mole to Caravan to Gong. Dance of the Goodbyes is their first full-length release, following a 2003 demo. This edition adds a previously-unreleased bonus track. Read the Exposé and Prog Archives reviews.
Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the first line-up of Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as the Violent Silence that recorded Kinetic, with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs were completed with a new vocalist and appear on the Violent Silence CD A Broken Truce.
The main influence on In Our Nature (2012) is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as ‘no-prog’) before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Have no fear, Hidden Lands’ second CD Lycksalighetens ö (2014, digipack) is sung in English. The Swedish title translates to Isle of Bliss. There is slightly more guitar than on In Our Nature, slightly more intricacy, and at times more melancholy, which has to do with the subject matter (a former classmate of songwriter Hannes Ljunghall found dead the previous year). Listen to the track Corsican Daydream on YouTube.
Colin Mold founded the band Kara, is currently the guitarist in Karnataka, and is an associate member of Magicfolk. Mold’s first solo CD Water of Divinities (2007) is every bit as good as the Kara CD and has many similarities. It began as a collection of instrumental pieces designed around the story of Saint Alban and ended up as a mix of vocal pieces and instrumentals. Mold sings and plays acoustic & electric guitars and synths. Jo Marriot plays flute on two tracks and Steve Barfoot plays drums on one. It is soft progressive rock with similarities to Camel, Gordon Giltrap, Mike Oldfield, Steve Hackett, Clannad and others.
On his second CD Girl on the Castle Steps (2012, 59-minutes), Mold sings and plays electric & acoustic guitar, keyboards, and violin and is joined by a full-time drummer (who adds pipes on one track), and Iona’s Martin Nolan guesting on whistles. Cindy L. Spear, who has also worked with Iona and Mandalaband, wrote the lyrics of four songs. You want the short description? How about Pendragon meets Fairport Convention? The songs at their core are in the best British Isles singer-songwriter folk tradition, and with the violin naturally suggest modern Fairport Convention, but Mold’s songs are more poignant and epic. These folky songs begin with symphonic synth pads and Clannad-like atmospheres, then build to majestic sympho-prog climaxes, with Mold’s lyrical electric guitar soaring like Nick Barrett’s or Mike Oldfield’s. Mandalaband, Iona, and Barclay James Harvest are good reference points. Watch the videos for the songs Realm of the Free and By the Lake.
Now You See Me (2014, 60-minutes, digipack) is Mold’s third, with the lyric writing split between Mold and Spear. “While nowhere near the hyper-complex poly-rhythmic prog-rock that we all enjoy, the music of Colin Mold is utterly honest, oozing from a sensitive soul who expresses himself with a great amount of humility, originality and personality. Having been a music teacher as well as a touring member of Karnataka proves that he possesses chops and skills that are clearly beyond the ordinary. His guitar playing is exemplary, a style that is passionate and highly compact, somewhere between Steve Hackett and Iona’s Dave Bainbridge, while he handles symphonic keyboards as well as occasional piano and uses the violin to heighten the effects that he wishes to depict. Lyrically, he also depends on Cindy L. Spear to provide some emphasis to Colin’s picturesque yet simply expressed instrumentals, exuding just the right amount of sonic grandeur and preciousness. But where Colin Mold really outclasses the competition in the singer-songwriter category is his drop-dead beautiful voice, an extremely expressive delivery as well as a tone that is plainly amazing. He sings with great passion, not just obvious skill... Colin owns a warm, suave, suggestive, passionate, fragile yet powerful tone that seems to emote very convincingly, at least to my ears. Listening to it is sheer panacea, a healing disposition that never fails to amaze and charm... I always get the impression, a rare one I must admit, that he is singing for just me, so how could I not be enthused?” Read the full review at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for Eye of the Wind, Blue Wings, and Will We Ever Return on YouTube. These are among the loveliest and most seductive soft progressive CDs we’ve heard in some time.
“Fans of Iona, October Project, Clannad, Mostly Autumn and Magenta will now be able to add the name Kara to the fold of Celtic-inspired progressive folk-rock bands that have become increasingly popular recently.” Thus begins the review of Kara’s 2005 debut CD at Sea of Tranquility. We’d add Karnataka to the list. On this CD, Kara is a trio of Colin Mold (guitars, keys, vocals), Kirsta Johnston (lead vocals, recorders, flute, keys), and Steve Barfoot (drums, vocals). They have the sound of a larger ensemble. The term “folk” is often used in reviews, but Kara are no more folk than Mike Oldfield or Renaissance, which few folkies recognize as folk music. Mike Oldfield is an especially good reference for Kara because of the excellent electric guitar leads as well as acoustic work of Colin Mold, while the atmospheric synth pads that underpin it all are reminiscent of Clannad. Yes, Kara do cover one English traditional song, the ever-popular She Moved Through the Fair, but Kara’s arrangement is instrumental and would have fit well on the Robin of Sherwood soundtrack. Wonderful music hidden beneath a pedestrian cover. “This is an excellent album, all the members are multi-instrumentalists, and of the nine tracks on the CD, there really is not a weak one among them. As a musical reference, think early Mostly Autumn with their Celtic influence but without the longer epic tracks.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the in-depth review at Musical Discoveries.
iamthemorning are a Russian duo of (female) singer Marjana Semkina, who sings in English, and keyboardist Gleb Kolyadin, who is primarily a classically-trained pianist, with guests on guitar, bass, drums, violin, viola, and cello. Live, the band performs with as many as eight musicians on stage. Perhaps you came across iamthemorning’s 2012 independently-released debut album, titled simply “~”. It bowled a lot of people over, sounding somewhat like a neo-classical version of Renaissance, with more “indie-sounding” female vocals (a more dispassionate Kate Bush comes to mind). The Renaissance comparison is due primarily to the piano work being similar to that of John Tout, but Tout’s style is largely Russian classical anyway. Initially the only CD edition of “~” was a handmade version the band were making one at a time. They’ve since manufactured a couple CD editions (a digipack is available on their bandcamp site, mp3 icon above).
We thought a label would pick up iamthemorning, and somewhat surprisingly, it is Kscope that released Belighted (2014, gatefold mini-LP sleeve). Gavin Harrison performed and recorded the drums parts. Belighted is slightly darker and slightly more conventional souding than “~”, which makes sense for a Kscope release, but this is still a rare, novel form of rock-classical fusion. Rare because of the relative dearth of current generation prog musicians who have significant classical training. We’re almost forced to turn to Russia now to find conservatory-trained musicians in rock, Little Tragedies being another example though their style is very different from iamthemorning’s. This is beguiling music with few parallels, but we’re going to take a shot and call it a blend of Kate Bush (circa The Dreaming but also her 21st century work), Karda Estra, Renaissance, post-prog and modern indie. It’s a start anyway. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the album preview video, or just while away an hour watching iamthemorning on YouTube.
Hyperdrive (2014) is the latest CD for Dutch neo-prog band Knight Area, featuring a new lineup. Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) guests. See our Dutch page for all the Knight Area CDs and more info.
This 2014 digipack CD is the third for the Swedish improvisational instrumental psych-space-rock quartet whose members include Anekdoten’s Nicklas Barker (who brought his Mellotron). “All I can say is...wow. This is what space rock is all about folks. Music of this nature is supposed to take you on a journey, allowing the listener to close their eyes and let the sounds carry you off into another dimension, and Once There Was a Time When Time and Space Were One clearly does that, and then some. Utilizing acoustic & electric guitars, Mellotron, flute, bass, drums, congas, and other instruments, the band have put together a collection of pieces that sort of flow into each other, the album insisting on being taken as a whole rather than broken into separate songs. This is one that you really have to just put on and let it sweep you away, and trust me, it will, over and over again. Recorded fully analog on 2" tape courtesy of a 16-track Ampex from 1969, the album has that classic sound from start to finish, tracks like the two-part Song of Innocence taking you back to vintage-era Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, and Ash Ra Tempel with waves of slashing guitars, throbbing rhythms, and pulsating keyboard washes... Into the Cosmic Halo just soars, with guitar work that reminds of some of the best Steve Hillage, while Garden of Delights builds and builds in intensity to a stunning climax, almost like a lost track from the Pink Floyd Ummagumma album... It’s an intoxicating album, with gorgeous soundscapes that literally can take your breath away. The haunting Mellotron of Epilogue is one of the most gorgeous passages you’ll hear on a prog album this year, but in truth it’s just one of many captivating parts of this wonderful album.” [Sea of Tranquility] Watch the album trailer video.
Manning’s Akoustik (2012) contains reimagined / reworked pieces from the now vast Manning back catalog in an ‘unplugged’ format, and follows the success the band have had playing acoustic gigs. The band has been stripped down to a mere nine people here, while the Jethro Tull / Ian Anderson feel is more pronounced. “Akoustik is a great album for a lazy Sunday. It has a delightfully relaxed vibe and would suit a quiet moment with a chance to watch the rain come down from the warmth of your home. The timing of the release couldn’t be better as there are some lovely autumnal shades to this work. The tracks are beautifully realised as acoustic numbers, and it almost seems that the original versions had their acoustic counterparts hidden within them and that Guy and the band have stripped away the layers to expose them.” [Prog Archives]
Akoustick #2 (2014) is the follow-up and includes what Guy Manning describes as “Nine reimagined oldies from across the Manning back catalogue plus three brand new pieces, all given the acoustic treatment.” Listen to an mp3 of the track Flight 19. Both CDs come in cardboard sleeves and count as only one-half CD each for shipping. See our British page for the rest of the Manning catalog and much more info.
Product is primarily the work of Arman Christoff Boyles (vocals, guitar, keys), with help from Scott Rader (drums, bass) and guests. Their first CD On Water (2000) tells a surreal story from the viewpoint of a drowning young sailor, set against the backdrop of the American Revolution. The level of originality is high; the closest comparisons are No-Man, Porcupine Tree, and Hogarth-era Marillion, specifically their moodier tracks. Boyles has a deep, unique voice. Songs usually start off in acoustic singer-songwriter mode, with dry, close-miked vocals, then blossom into lush, majestic progressive rock. A wealth of subtle production effects warrants repeated listens.
Product’s 2003 second CD Aire is currently out-of-print. Their third CD The Fire (2005, 63-minutes), released by the British Cyclops label, is based on the life of Nero and restores some of the fire that was missing from Aire. This album sounds like a meeting of Hogarth-era Marillion and Pink Floyd with touches of King Crimson, generally quite dark and moody.
Product completed their water/air/fire/earth tetralogy in grand style with Earth (2008, 67-minutes), their most fully-realized work to date. Earth is based on the life of Nikola Tesla and reflects on our relationship with technology. Read the DPRP review.
Product return in 2014 with Aether (77-minutes), based on the life of Harry Houdini and his interaction with the spiritualist movement. All the hallmarks of the Product style are present, with Mellotron strings used often to add grandeur. This one is even better than Earth, and even more difficult to compare to anyone else.
Back in stock. Sweden’s A.C.T play symphonic prog with the addition of strong pop songwriting along the lines of Queen, Kayak, Saga, City Boy, and early Split Enz. They marry English-style progressive and pop extremely well, with a lush, dense sound and plenty of complexity to go with a knack for catchy melodies. InsideOut reissued their first four CDs in 2006/2007 with bonus audio and/or video tracks and expanded booklets. Silence (2006), Last Epic (2003), and Imaginary Friends (2001) are temporarily out-of-stock; Today’s Report (1999, 62-minutes) remains.
After a wait of eight agonizing years, A.C.T released Circus Pandemonium (2014), which has more metal guitar but is otherwise similar. We initially sold the European edition back in late winter 2014; our current stock is the U.S. edition released in October on MVD. The audio content appears to be identical. Watch the album teaser video and listen to the song A Truly Gifted Man on YouTube. Read the Stark Music Reviews and Prog Archives reviews.
Masal is a band led by and performing the compositions of French musician Jean-Paul Prat. The beginnings of Prat’s music lie in the 1970s, and Zeuhl lovers will certainly remember the album Masal, a classic recorded in 1982 under the name Jean-Paul Prat. The lineup at that time included from five to fourteen musicians who also performed with the likes of Gong, Magma, and Soft Machine. Galgal (2009, digipack) is the sequel to Masal. It’s built around the same elements that made its ancestor a success: an over-the-top instrumental music, owing as much to Christian Vander’s universe as to brass-jazz-rock or classical music. It’s a flawless performance by the six musicians, with six long pieces highlighted by a 14-minute suite.
Viens des quatre vents (2014, digipack) is another album of world-class jazz-rock in the French tradition as well as the jazzier Canterbury style (Gilgamesh, for one). Watch this video of the band live in the studio.
Ellips is a band formed by Alexis and Charles Roman, the two sons of keyboardist Jacques Roman of French prog legend Pulsar. Charles previously released two albums under the name Cosmos Dream. In Ellips, Alexis plays keyboards and sings (in English), while Charles plays both guitar and keys. The band is completed by a bassist and drummer, and a guitarist/singer guests. Sight (2014) is their debut, alt-prog with a strong ambient side that runs in the family. Listen to the track Alive and the short album teaser on YouTube.
The Lost Generation is the prog rock project of Matteo Bevilacqua, whose regular gig is in London-based metal band Diaries of a Hero. The Lost Generation (2014, digipack) was recorded in Italy though. The album is sung in English, with both male and female vocals. Lots of acoustic or clean guitar tones and ample space in the arrangements ensure that this is far from metal, even though it does occasionally rock hard. Though the music is Anglo-sounding and not related to PFM or Banco, it does have beauty, warmth, and fragility that may have something to do with being in Italy rather than London. Very nice. Listen to Ladder to the Stars on YouTube.
We’re just capitalizing the band name the way they do. La Grande Illusion (2014) is the debut by this Finnish project led by Matti Laine, who composed the music and handles keys, electronics, bass, additional guitar, EBow, and vocals. There are quite a few other musicians, contributing electric guitar, drums, percussion, violin, trumpet, and additional vocals. The music is primarily instrumental, a very cool, hi-tech world-prog, with elements of Peter Gabriel, Deep Forest, and much more. The trumpet, played in a Mark Isham style, gives la YnE a not-something-you-hear-every-day flavor. Watch several videos on YouTube.
Fred (Frédéric) Schneider is a bass prodigy. His first solo album was recorded in 1996 under the name Fred and Co. Nine years and many collaborations later, he returned with the instrumental album Kess Kiss Bass? (2005), whose title probably contains a French play on words that we don’t get. Schneider later took over bass duties in French prog band Eclat, first appearing on their 2009 live album Live au Roucas. Voyage (2014, 66-minutes) was released a few months before Schneider made an appearance at the 2014 Crescendo Festival, a prestigious French prog festival. Voyage features a couple tracks with vocals (in English and wordless) but is otherwise instrumental. Schneider’s music is a novel form of modern jazz-rock fusion, highly structured, melodic, accessible, and consistently inventive. Not more of the same old thing, Schneider’s music is one surprise after another, with lots of keyboards, samples, and guitar to fill out the sound. It’s the kind of music that sounds like it could just as easily have come out of the U.S., except that there probably isn’t an American band today making music like Fred Schneider.
The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh of Resistor (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians on Undercover (2011), including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo Pörsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruh’s band Resistor, Alfio Costa & Guglielmo Mariotti (Italy), Roz Vitalis (Russia), and Contrarian (USA).
Secrets of Disguise (2013) is a double-CD that contains some original compositions alongside the covers. But these are not the same old tracks that always get covered nor are they all covers of English bands. There is some depth here, with tracks from England, Crack, Sandrose, and Utopia, not to mention Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, PFM, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Rush. The guest musicians include Jon Davison (Yes), Roine Stolt, Guy LeBlanc, Robert Webb (England), David Myers, Mark Trueack (Unitopia), Phideaux Xavier, Kamran Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), Linus Kåse (Änglagård), Mento Hevia (Crack), Lalo Huber (Nexus), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and many others. Watch/listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The big change with The Imperial Hotel (2014) is that it is all original material. It is easily one of the must-have CDs of this year. The core of the band remains Bernard, Unruh, and Pörsti, with major contributions from Robert Webb, Linus Kåse, David Myers, and Octavio Stampalia (Jinetos Negros). Guests include Yoshihisa Shimizu (Kenso), Kamran Alan Shikoh, Andrew Marshall, Martin Henderson (England), and more. All that talent and all that experience covering classic prog has translated to a fantastic album of classic-style prog. This is the real thing, with a lot of Yes and Genesis influence, Genesis style whimsy and Gentle Giant style intricacy, coming closest overall to England (Garden Shed). Well, that last statement has a lot to do with the fact that the title track and centerpiece of the album is the lost jewel of the band England, a 28-minute 1975 composition that finally sees the light of day. And it was worth the nearly 40 year wait. Despite the different composers, the entire album sounds remarkably cohesive. The CD comes in a beautiful (expensive) six-panel mini-LP style sleeve with 40-page booklet and artwork by Ed Unitsky.
Hunting for Significance (2009, 59-minutes) is the debut by a Dutch prog band that not only features female vocals -- Esther Ladiges has previously sung on albums by Ayreon and Ixion -- but is led by female guitarist/composer Eveline van Kampen and (on the first album) also includes a female keyboardist. They describe themselves as a symphonic prog band even though the guitar playing on the first CD is more often in the metal idiom. References include older The Gathering, Magenta (but heavier and less refined), and Ayreon (but less overblown). But there is a bit more than that here. When Illumion omit the metal guitar and thus open up the mix, there are passages where the vocals show some of the artiness of Kate Bush, other passages where the keyboards are free to create more sophisticated textures. “If ever a band showed promise of really going somewhere, it’s Dutch group Illumion via this stunning debut. Playing a medieval-tinged light prog-metal hybrid, Illumion offers a sound firmly entrenched in old-school classic prog.” [Progression issue 57]
Illumion’s second The Waves was originally released in 2012 but only on vinyl and a 2LP+CD combo package, after which the label realized that that was maybe not the smartest decision and released it on this standalone CD in 2014. Good thing too as this is a much stronger album that should not be missed. Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) guests. “This is definitely prog but not as we know it... I simply adore the ever-changing depths and variation in the compositional style and the instrumentation. Most songs are written in complex, non-standard time signatures... 9.5 out of 10” [DPRP]. “Illumion’s The Waves is simply spectacular! ...Every once in a while you get the pleasure of finding something extremely unique. This was one of those experiences... A great mix of progressive rock filled with new elements and original sounds and rhythms. Just listening to Ladiges’ vocals alone is worth the price of admission... You just have to experience this album to believe it.” [Sea of Tranquility] “The music can hardly be compared to anything or anyone else in the prog scene which certainly is a tremendous achievement nowadays! Illumion really impressed me; this is what prog rock should be like!” [Background Magazine] Read more reviews of both CDs.
We’ve all been waiting for these for so long that many had lost hope, but these are the first legitimate CD issues of the two albums from Fireballet, one of the very best American prog bands ever. (We always give the top spot to Happy the Man for their staggering originality, but after HtM, Fireballet are right up there.) Both of these CDs are digipacks with embossed covers and bonus track(s), the albums remastered by Larry Fast (Synergy). Night on Bald Mountain (1975) has a previously unheard studio track and a live version of King Crimson’s Pictures of a City. Two, Too (1976) has a previously unheard live track. If you can only afford one, Night on Bald Mountain is the better album. Ian McDonald (somewhere in between King Crimson and Foreigner) produced and added some flute and sax. Early King Crimson is a major influence, also ELP, Yes, and Genesis. One track is pure pastoral Trespass-era Genesis, probably the best take on that unique style by an American artist. Fireballet had two keyboardists, and so there is Mellotron and Hammond and pipe organ and ARP and all that is good and holy.
Two, Too is wordplay on tutu, the ballet costume. With the benefit of hindsight, the original LP cover featuring all the band members dressed as ballerinas has been replaced by the quasi-naked ballerina lifted out of the Night on Bald Mountain cover. One has to wonder whether the Two, Too LP cover isn’t half the reason the album is not regarded as highly as it should be. It may also have something to do with the band overreaching on some of the Yes-inspired vocal arrangements. There is a bit of the same change in direction you find from the first to second Ambrosia album, where there is at times a sort of cabaret or theatrical bent. It actually shows more originality and experimentation than the first album, even if not everything works. Whatever, we still like it a whole lot.
Magnolia is The Pineapple Thief’s 2014 studio album. This 2CD mediabook limited edition adds a bonus disc containing two exclusive bonus tracks plus four acoustic renditions of album tracks. (These Kscope limited editions do actually get deleted fairly quickly these days.) Watch this official video, containing an instrumental edit of the title track. See Page 2 for the full The Pineapple Thief catalog. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Despite the Norwegian/Germanic looking name, Røsenkreütz are an Italian band led by Fabio Serra. Serra began as guitarist for the band Arlequin, who released a cassette at the beginning of the prog revival, then went on to Genesis tribute band Yellow Plastic Shoobedoo. (Both bands featured the late D.F.A. keyboardist Alberto Bonomi.) From 1989 on, Serra has worked as a producer and engineer in addition to musician and composer, which will explain the high production values on this CD. The genesis of Back to the Stars (2014) was a project Serra began long ago with Leviathan singer Alex Brunori. More recently, Serra assembled the Røsenkreütz band (both studio and live) and completed this album with the help of some guests that include a violinist and Cristiano Roversi (Moongarden, Mangala Vallis). Røsenkreütz sing in English and sport more Anglo influences than Italian, principally Genesis. The music is energetic with some Asia-style AOR mixed in and should hook most prog fans pretty quickly. As one Prog Archives reviewer says: “Back to the Stars is a near-perfect example of how good crossover bands can be when they get that balance of progressive technicality and melodic commercial appeal just right - no easy feat!” Read all the reviews at Prog Archives.
Thirteen Eight (2011, 71-minutes, digipack) is the CD that White Knight Records (co-founded by Magenta’s Rob Reed) had been champing at the bit to let the world hear. The FreddeGredde debut Thirteen Eight is the work of Swedish wunderkind Fredrik Larsson, assisted by a drummer. As the story goes, the young artist initially rose to prominence in the early days of the viral video revolution where his great musicianship gained attention on YouTube and generated millions of views on some of his most popular videos. Larsson’s YouTube channel quickly became the number one subscribed channel in Sweden. But Larsson’s real dream is represented by these CDs. The first thing that strikes the listener is the voice. The first generation of prog bands had some great singers, but the best singers of later generations by and large did not join prog bands. So male vocals of this quality are not common in today’s prog. The music is energetic modern symphonic prog that is both complex and accessible. Larsson may be young, but he knows the 1970s bands -- watch his video cover of Queen’s Killer Queen on his YouTube channel. This is one of the best debuts by a prog artist this millennium, and assurance that the future of prog is in good hands. The fastest way to preview the CD is via this video. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
With the experience of the first album under his belt, FreddeGredde’s second CD Brighter Skies (2014) is that much better. Larsson again employs a (different) drummer, and a guest adds flute on one track. Brighter Skies makes us think of a heavier and more bombastic Moon Safari, with a somewhat similar melodic sense and positive vibe. Or Spock’s Beard having gone very slightly insane. Our one criticism is that there are passages that, though not really prog-metal, have some of that “aesthetic” (ok, shortcoming) where the music gets overblown, the drummer overplays, too many sonic elements compete for space and attention, and the plot is lost -- the music gets aurally suffocating and the song and the subtleties are buried. In other words, there is a big difference in musical maturity between Yes and Dream Theater, unless you don’t think there is, in which case you’re really going to enjoy those overblown passages! Mind you most of the music on Brighter Skies has no problem breathing, as Larsson keeps the music in pure prog territory far from metal the bulk of the time. Overall this is excellent stuff. Read the Progulator and Prog Archives reviews. This is the jewel box edition.
“Bloody hell!!! How good is FreddeGredde??!!! Totally bloody amazing! What a voice!” [Jem Godfrey of Frost]
The Black Codex is the most ambitious project yet for Dutchman Christiaan Bruin, who has a number of excellent prog CDs under the Chris name (that you ought to hear) and is also a member of the bands Sky Architect, Nine Stones Close, and a couple others. The Black Codex is based on an original story of Bruin’s. The series is first released as downloads by subscription, 52 “episodes” over a period of 52 weeks that began when 2014 did. The series is also being released on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves, of which this is the first. A book is supposed to be published alongside the final 2CD. You can hear excerpts from each episode at The Black Codex website. The music is a very cinematic, epic, orchestral progressive rock, using vocals on some episodes, not only a unique concept but rather unique musically too, and very impressive. That this music is different from Bruin’s other projects (and that his other albums are all different from each other) and yet still very much progressive rock speaks to the man’s creativity and range. Watch the series trailer and listen to A Dot on the Horizon on YouTube.
Engineers’ 2009 second album Three Fact Fader is their first for the Kscope label, home of Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief and bands that sound like them, so not surprisingly, there is a noticeable PT/TPT style at play on this album. There is also the wall-of-fuzzy-guitars-and-reverb sound of Cocteau Twins, and the unmistakable guitar style of Neu! and Harmonia. So mix the melancholy psychedelia of Porcupine Tree with shoegazing dream-pop, and you have Engineers. Read the allmusic review.
We thought that Engineers might find it difficult to continue the blurred sound and style of Three Fact Fader without it becoming redundant (though that didn’t stop Cocteau Twins), and in fact Engineers did not make more of the same music on their third album In Praise of More (2010, super jewel box), personnel changes having a lot to do with this album being fairly different from its predecessor. The music is a very mellow kind of dream-pop, the vocals very soft, like The Beach Boys on quaaludes. We wouldn’t be surprised if the singers recorded their vocals lying down. The ambiences are often beautiful, yielding a gentle, dreamy psychedelic pop wrapped in fluffy cotton. This 2CD edition adds an instrumental version of the album on the bonus disc. Read reviews at The Line of Best Fit, Clash, and musicOMH.
Always Returning (2014) should be the Engineers album with the most prog appeal. While original singer Simon Phipps has departed, the vocals still have a soft, hypnotic quality, and the sound is lush and mesmerizing. It’s an unhurried music for when the mood calls for such, and an analog recording approach this time around has increased the music’s warmth. “Their most realised album yet, guided by a fascination with warm melodies and the textural possibilities of ambient sound” [PROG Magazine] Read the allmusic review.
Chroma (2014, digipack) is the first full-length album for Norwegian electronic-prog trio Three Winters, released on Termo Records (White Willow). The most familiar of the three musicians is Wobbler and White Willow keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie. This is electronic music with programmed percussion that can get bombastic, in the realm of Goblin, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and instrumental Ultravox / Billy Currie, with a conscious 1980s sound. Watch the official videos for Rapture and Atrocities and listen to Animism and At the Centre of Dystopia on YouTube. Read the Peek-a-boo review.
City of the Sun is the 2014 debut CD for Los Angeles based Heliopolis, a band made up of former members of Mars Hollow, Shaun Guerin’s band, Ten Jinn, and Genesis tribute band Gabble Ratchet. Half of Mars Hollow is here, and of those bands, Mars Hollow is who Heliopolis most closely resemble, actually surpassing them. Heliopolis play classic prog with Yes as the major influence, followed by Genesis and King Crimson. “These days there seems to be a disproportionate emphasis on darkness,” says bassist Kerry Chicoine. “We find exploring the balance between despair and optimism a more challenging and creatively satisfying approach.” Well said. These are mostly long tracks that take the listener on a journey, with the melodies, intricacies, and musicianship expected of classic prog, featuring vocal passages (sometimes with four-part harmony) combined with sophisticated instrumental excursions. This album belongs in the (British-inspired) American progressive rock canon that also includes the likes of Cathedral, Mirthrandir, Lift, Pentwater, Netherworld, etc. One of our favorites of the year.
Dreams of Sea (2010, 59-minutes) is the debut for Group 309, a Russian symphonic prog quartet (keys/vocals, guitar, bass, drums) in the style of Autograph, that is, a mainstream symphonic prog style, song-oriented with vocals usually present. The composer is the keyboardist, which as usual results in more structured, classically-influenced compositions that those of the prevailing guitar-dominated modern bands, and the keyboards do more of the interesting stuff. We’re not talking neo-prog in the sense of Marillion but rather the streamlined version of classic progressive rock that began to appear in the late 1970s. If Autograph isn’t a helpful reference, then another unhelpful reference is Synkopy. Excellent production, lyrics in Russian.
For The Keeper of an Hourglass (2014, 60-minutes), Group 309 have chosen to shift emphatically toward their prog side and away from their pop side without radically overhauling their sound, which still suggests Autograph, with mainly late-1970s British and American prog influences and a touch of Saga. The result is a powerful prog album, fully-professional and a big step up from their debut. Hopefully the band Little Tragedies has exposed more of the international audience to Russian-language vocals; Group 309’s singer is somewhat similar to Little Tragedies’ singer. Group 309 also feature well-known female singer Irina Surina on two tracks. The vocals are high quality and the music is too good to miss simply because one’s provincialism precludes listening to music with lyrics in any of the thousands of other Earth languages. English translations of the lyrics appear in the booklet.
Attack of the Martians is the debut CD for Massachusetts four-piece Eccentric Orbit, originally released in 2004, but it had been out-of-print for years. With the band active again, it made sense to re-release it. Behind the not-terribly-attractive cover lies a very good instrumental progressive rock album based around vintage analog keyboards (or samples thereof), especially Hammond and Mellotron, also Rhodes, clavinet, etc. On this album, Eccentric Orbit feature keyboards, MIDI wind-controlled synths, bass, and drums. Their members have appeared on albums by Pye Fyte, A Triggering Myth, and two Gentle Giant tribute CDs. Some of the tracks on Attack of the Martians sport an ELP influence, while others suggest King Crimson, some of the Italian 1970s bands, and a bit of Happy the Man. It’s retro enough that it may fool people into thinking they’ve found a lost early-70s album. This 2014 edition comes in a jewel case and adds a 10-minute track, taking the total playing time to 56-minutes. The new song was written back in 2004 but only recorded recently by the current line-up. Listen to the tracks Star Power and Sputnik on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility review of the first edition.
Creation of the Humanoids (2014, digipack) is Eccentric Orbit’s second CD, and it’s significantly more powerful and accomplished. The current lineup has new member Tom Benson on violin, guitar synth, and MandoBot (an electric MIDI mandolin!); Rick Landwehr on drums; Bill Noland on bass; and Madeleine Noland on wind synth and keyboards. It’s again a retro-sounding album, it’s just that there may never have been a band that sounded exactly like this back in the 1970s, or ever. The band’s stock-in-trade Mellotron and other vintage keys still play a big role, but the sound is more aggressive, along the lines of 1970s King Crimson what with the violin and muscular bass, balanced by Eccentric Orbit’s more symphonic tendencies. Fans of Crimso-style instrumental prog will be very happy.
French band Motis began circa 2005 in a style we described as a cross between Malicorne and Ange. They have since become ever proggier, quietly blossoming into one of the top current French (classic-style) prog bands. Really. Their 2014 studio CD is a concept album about the fictitious character Josquin Messonnier. Vintage keys include Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes, and Solina String Ensemble. Listen to the album teaser and the track Couches dans la Paille - Ouverture. See our French page for the rest of the Motis CDs and much more info.
The Healing Road (the name taken from Neil Peart’s book) is a studio project led by German keyboardist Hans Peter Hess with a number of other musicians contributing drums, bass, guitars, and more keyboards. Timanfaya is the second The Healing Road album, initially released independently in 2007 before being picked up by Musea in 2008. This is instrumental keyboard-dominated symphonic rock with aspects of both classic and neo-prog. Hess lists Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Spock’s Beard, and Rush as influences. Of those, Genesis is the strongest, followed by Oldfield, the others not so much. Camel should probably be included -- isn’t the track Crater Camels a reference to Moonmadness? These are tasteful compositions full of nuance, a very exciting and satisfying progressive rock record. Read the Progressor and Background Magazine reviews.
Backdrop (2011) consists of two long pieces of music. To create something different from the previous albums, Hess set certain guidelines: less piano, less synths and Hammond; the album should have an acoustic, rural, pastoral atmosphere and contain as many acoustic instruments as he could get and play. Guests include a guitarist, keyboardist/singer, and accordionist. Simply put, this is Mike Oldfield’s Incantations Parts 5 & 6, and the fact that Oldfield was not involved in no way diminishes the beauty of this work. Sublime, mesmerizing and, for 2011, quite unexpected. And for those who enjoyed Robert Reed’s Sanctuary, you need Backdrop to compare and contrast. Watch the official promo videos: Clip 1 and Clip 2. Read the Background Magazine review.
The fifth The Healing Road album Birdbrain’s Travels (2014) again consists of two long instrumental suites. While some Oldfield influence remains, this album rocks a lot harder than Backdrop, with greater dynamics, and is darker in parts. This is top-notch melodic symphonic prog that, like most of Musea’s releases, will probably receive less exposure than many less deserving albums. Ignore this one at your own peril. If you like to watch beautiful photography panned and zoomed while listening to the music, then head to YouTube.
If the title sounds slightly awkward, it should have been translated to At Night, so deal with the extra letter. This is the 2014 studio album for Russian band Little Tragedies, running 61-minutes. This is the real symphonic prog, featuring Little Tragedies’ trademark mix of powerful instrumental fireworks and vocal passages with poetic Russian lyrics. (As if we know what they’re singing about.) As always, there is a lot of ELP influence, but also plenty of electric guitar. At a time when the distinction between what is called prog and the more prosaic forms of rock is often blurred, it’s reassuring to hear a band led by a keyboardist with classical training and chops. Listen to the tracks Walking Stick and Dawn. See our East European page for the rest of the Little Tragedies and related CDs and much more info.
Having completed the massive Dante’s The Divine Comedy project, the Musea label in conjunction with Finnish magazine Colossus continue their excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs, digging deeper into Italian literature of the Renaissance with another classic: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. See Prog Archives for the full list of bands participating on Part I and Part II, each a 4CD set. To mention a few of the bands on Part I: La Coscienza di Zeno, Nexus, Lady Lake, La Theorie des Cordes, Resistor, Faveravola, Index, Jinetes Negros, Senogul, Rhys Marsh, Flamborough Head, The Samurai of Prog, and Phideaux. Many of those bands also contribute to Part II, as do Robert Webb (England), Willowglass, Steve Unruh, Narrow Pass, Trion, Jaime Rosas, Unitopia, Karda Estra, D'AccorD, and many more. Each set counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
Glass are a northwest U.S. prog trio that have been around since the early 1970s. Palindrome (2014) contains Glass’s characteristic mix of Canterbury (specifically Soft Machine), classical-rock, space-rock, and self-indulgent experimental noodling. Read the Aural Innovations review. The rest of the Glass CDs and much more info are on Page 2. We recommend those new to Glass start with one of their earlier CDs.
These are the digipack editions of the White Willow CDs on the band’s Termo label. Sacrament and Ex Tenebris are new 2014 remastered and expanded editions. Sacrament has three bonus tracks: two demos and one live version of album tracks. Ex Tenebris has four bonus tracks: a live version of one album track and three demos of previously-unheard songs. Norway’s White Willow managed a distinct sound on each of their six albums, with lineup changes often a contributing factor. They began with Ignis Fatuus in 1995, which had a softer, pastoral sound based upon refined female vocals, Mellotron, flute, and acoustic guitars. They were essentially a pagan folk ensemble that discovered Anglagard and Landberk, producing a melancholy and mystical hybrid. Their sound on Ex Tenebris (1998) and Sacrament (2000) became darker, heavier, and more gothic. There are acoustic timbres (flute, recorder, oboe, etc.), but by the time of Sacrament, it’s arguable whether there is any folk left; rather it is symphonic prog with a pastoral, neo-classical component.
White Willow’s sixth album Terminal Twilight (2011, digipack) finds them with a new lineup, now with Anglagard drummer Mattias Olsson and the return of vocalist Sylvia Erichsen. Tim Bowness (No-Man) guests. All the White Willow trademarks are in place: chiming guitar chords, flute, Mellotrons, and songs about sad people. See AllMusic (mp3 icon above) for reviews of all of these albums.
Led by Jacob Holm-Lupo of White Willow, Norwegian prog band The Opium Cartel is in most respects the follow-on to White Willow. Among the numerous musicians appearing on both Night Blooms (2009) and Ardor (2013, digisleeve) are Tim Bowness and Stephen Bennett (No-Man, Henry Fool), Mattias Olsson (White Willow, Änglagård), Rhys Marsh, Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler), and Ketil Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Wobbler). Scott McGill appears on Night Blooms, which is fairly close in style to the final White Willow album Terminal Twilight. Ardor continues along this trajectory, emphasizing the dream-pop component of the later White Willow albums while also featuring Nordic folk influences and the Scandinavian retro-prog style. Holm-Lupo explains: “I wanted to pay tribute to some of the music I heard and loved on the radio in the 80s. I wanted the color and sheen of 80s synths, coupled with the more adventurous playing and song structures of art rock and progressive rock.” Among the singers on Ardor are Norwegian pop stars Venke Knutson and Alexander Stenerud. Read the Musical Discoveries reviews of Ardor and Night Blooms; the former was their pick for best album of 2013.
Introitus are a superb Swedish prog band centered on married couple Mats and Anna Jobs Bender, initially with two of their children in the band. There are quite a few other musicians appearing on their debut CD Fantasy (2007, 73-minutes), while the core lineup of seven persons recorded their second CD Elements (2011, 67-minutes, digipack). Anna sings lead vocals and has a lovely voice, though the music is about half instrumental. Mats plays keyboards and writes most of the music, and you can tell the music is written by a keyboardist because, with a few exceptions such as Steve Hackett, guitarists don’t create symphonic architectures like this. Fantasy is full of symphonic prog in the Genesis, Hackett, and Yes veins, though Introitus have a very distinct personality. On Fantasy, they add accordion, cello, fiddles, sax, flute, and Swedish bagpipes in spots, the pipes and fiddle adding Celtic melodies when they appear, and there are touches of Vangelis-style electronics. Some of Mats’ compositions are 30 years old, so the ties to classic prog are stronger than one might expect. First released by the band, this is the 2011 remastered edition of Fantasy on Progress Records. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Fantasy caught the attention of the Progress Records label (Magic Pie, Brother Ape, etc.), who signed Introitus for Elements. Elements is also full of symphonic prog in the Genesis and Yes veins and a bit heavier than Fantasy; guess the youngsters in the band are asserting themselves. Elements still features flute and a small amount of cello, though we do miss those additional instruments found on their debut. On the other hand, two other band members are helping out with the keyboard workload, which features some skillful electronics touches. The final track is 17-minutes long and a grandiose conclusion to the album, sounding like a stirring movie soundtrack done up prog rock style. Read reviews here, also at Prog Archives. Listen to The Hand That Feeds You on YouTube.
On their third CD Anima (2014, digipack), the lineup is Mats Bender (keys), Anna Bender (lead vocals), Pär Hölje (guitar), Henrik Björlind (flute, additional keys), Dennis Lindkvist (bass), and Mattias Bender (drums, vocals). The younger members continue to assert themselves as the music continues to get slightly heavier and more modern sounding, but the classic prog elements haven’t gone anywhere, and the blend makes for quite an exciting listen. Listen to the tracks Broken Glass and Who Goes There on YouTube. Read the Prog Archives and Progplanet reviews.
Colours of Solitude (2014, digipack) is the first full-length CD from Swedish prog band A Secret River, who received exposure when one of the songs from their 2012 3-song EP was included on a Prog magazine cover CD. Since the EP, the core duo added a guitarist and a keyboardist to expand to their current four-man lineup. And keeping with tradition, one of the songs from Colours of Solitude appears on the CD that comes with the August 2014 issue of Prog. Artrock.se describes A Secret River as reminiscent of Moon Safari, later Anathema, and Blackfield. The Moon Safari resemblance is more in the instrumental passages, especially when synths have the lead lines. A Secret River don’t have harmony vocals of the Moon Safari magnitude; the vocals instead are of the dreamier, slightly-melancholy style of many modern prog bands. Overall, A Secret River’s music is joyous, just not giddy-happy like Moon Safari (who after all are the happiest prog band on earth). A Secret River deserve high marks for how their instrument parts can be quite intricate without being demonstrative, allowing the music to remain subtle and playful. A Secret River have the songs, melodies, harmonies, and arrangements to be a very popular prog band. (Before you ask us to get it for you, the three songs from the EP appear on Colours of Solitude.)
Touch the Sky Volume II (2014) is the much superior second CD for symphonic Ameri-prog band Supernal Endgame, who have joined the 10T Records roster as the label starts to corner the market on quality American prog bands (Iluvatar, Little Atlas, etc.). We were lukewarm about Volume I, which came out in 2010, but for Touch the Sky Volume II, drummer and lead vocalist Rob Price says “we’ve pushed much further into prog/art rock territory, without sacrificing our commitment to making thoroughly melodic music. Although there are significantly more purely instrumental passages on this album, we hope that listeners will spend time pondering the project’s lyrical content.” Special guests include Dave Bainbridge (Iona) and Carl Baldasarre (Syzygy). Think vintage Kansas.
Majestic is the band lead by American multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel. Majestic’s first album is from 2007 and each album has been a significant stride forward, that trend continuing with Epsilon 1 (2014, digipack). Epsilon 2 (digipack) was promised to follow later in 2014, and the band has delivered. Majestic can now be called the American Ayreon in that the music falls in the heavy symphonic space prog vein, different singers are used on different songs, and the album concept is in the sci-fi realm. Most of the vocalists from the previous album V.O.Z. return here, with the new guy being Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Nine Stones Close, Mandalaband). Read reviews at Prog Archives. See Page 2 for the rest of the Majestic catalog and much more info.
Opeth’s Pale Communion (2014) is available as a standard CD in a jewel case, and a CD+Blu-ray deluxe edition in a fat digipack. The Blu-ray contains the 5.1 surround mix plus two live bonus tracks. Steven Wilson did the mixing. “This is an admirably coherent collection of songs that are as uncompromisingly intricate and strange as they are incisively melodic. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s voice has become a thing of wonder; his ability to tug at heartstrings while singing the most willfully hazy of lyrics is matched only by these songs’ beautiful arrangements and pin-sharp ensemble playing. But Opeth’s leader is an awkward sod, and can’t resist indulging his CSNY harmony fantasies on the country-tinged first half of River, getting his Italian-horror groove on for the self-explanatorily titled Goblin, and peppering the air with perverse folk-rock curveballs during the languorous Moon Above, Sun Below. It ends with Faith in Others, which is at once the most profoundly moving song Åkerfeldt has ever written, and a tantalising glimpse into one possible future for this peerless band.” [The Guardian]
Midge Ure was the second singer for Ultravox, during their years of greatest success. His solo career began with The Gift in 1985. While relatively unknown in the U.S., Ure’s solo albums contain much quality material, and Ure even employed Troy Donockley for a time. By distancing his solo work from the robotic beat that characterized Ultravox, Ure’s music was free to breathe (Breathe being the name of his 1996 album). Fragile (2014) is Ure’s first album of new, original material in over a decade, and showing more progressive influences than his past work. Become is the liveliest track and the one that sounds the most like Ultravox. The rest of the songs are generally more stately and atmospheric. To the extent that this is pop, it is very symphonic, grandiose, sophisticated pop. Lush synth sounds make up most of the sound palette, sometimes with the Ultravox grand piano sound, while there is occasional electric guitar (or a reasonable facsimile) of a slightly Frippian nature. There is some cinematic instrumental material, and most of this album is as deserving of being called contemporary prog as a whole lot of other stuff. Listen to the album overview. Read the Get Ready to Rock review.
Back in stock. Philippe Luttun is a French musician whose main instrument is guitar, but he also plays keyboards, actually having learned piano first. He lists his main influences as Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Yes, Neal Morse, Pain of Salvation, Transatlantic, ELP, and Porcupine Tree. The Taste of Wormwood (2014, 67-minutes) is not Luttun’s first album; in fact he has quite a few dating back to 1996, independently released. But Wormwood came to Musea’s attention and they immediately picked it up. Subtitled Voices from Chernobyl, you now know the subject of this concept album. The mp3 icon above leads to Luttun’s YouTube videos for this CD, and you must have a look as there is a video for each of the eight tracks (some of which are very long). Particularly for an independent artist, this is really impressive as there is the equivalent of an entire movie there. The same obvious effort and professionalism that went into the videos also went into the music. This feels like a modern version of a concept album Pink Floyd might make if they were still active, though there are more styles at play than just Pink Floyd. It’s a dark masterpiece, and we don’t think Luttun can remain unknown now. “One can detect influences as diverse as Pink Floyd (for the great job on the sounds and atmospheres, the sampled saxophone and Gilmour-esque guitar), Pulsar’s Halloween for the more symphonic and desperate sections, the best Clearlight Symphony for crystalline flights of classical piano in weightlessness, and Liquid Tension Experiment for virtuoso aggressive parts. There are even a few electro/ambient sections as well as touches of Slavic folklore. But what is immediately striking is an incredible cinematic sense, tremendous energy and enthusiasm at all times... The contrast between quiet and explosive parts (often within the same song) gives this masterpiece an incredible power. A fabulous discovery!” [Clair & Obscur (translated from French, poorly)]
This 5 disc set on Chrysalis/Warner contains the Tull CDs Songs from the Wood (2003 remaster), Heavy Horses (2003 remaster), Stormwatch (2004 remaster), A (2004 remaster), and The Broadsword and the Beast (2005 remaster). The discs come in thin sleeves inside a slipcase. Yes, you probably already own some or all of these, but we’re talking four bucks per CD and the whole package takes up as much space as one jewel case CD. So maybe you still have the first edition CDs rather than the remasters, or maybe you just want to free up some shelf space and take the jewel case CDs to a thrift shop. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Jethro Tull’s 1973 classic A Passion Play gets the deluxe Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 4-disc book-size hardcover edition. A Passion Play (An Extended Performance) features new Steven Wilson mixes (stereo and 5.1) of the album, along with Steven Wilson mixes of the infamous Château d’Hérouville (‘Chateau Disaster’) recordings that preceded. So CD1 contains the new stereo mix of A Passion Play and CD2 contains the new stereo mix of The Château d’Hérouville Sessions. DVD1 contains A Passion Play in DTS 96/24 5.1 surround, Dolby Digital AC3 5.1 surround, and 96/24 stereo PCM. It also includes a 96/24 flat transfer from the original master, plus some historic video clips. DVD2 contains The Château d’Hérouville Sessions in those same surround and stereo formats. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. The 80-page book details the album, the band’s 1973 tour, and the Chateau recordings. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
Robert Webb is the keyboardist, singer, and main composer in the band England, known for their legendary 1977 album Garden Shed. His solo album Liquorish Allsorts (2014, 64-minutes) contains long lost gems, recordings spanning over 40 years and from many different recording situations, from early studio sessions to home recordings to his current music work. The 20-page booklet tells the story behind each track. As you’d expect, the music covers more ground than just the England style, but it still all falls more or less under the progressive rock umbrella, and much of it does have at least some England flavor, sometimes a lot. In other words, Webb’s solo music is consistent with his work in England, as opposed to the work of a musician who had disowned his past and since made unrelated music. Robert says that his intent has always been either to make pop music more artistic, or art music more popular.
These are the 2014 digipack editions of Rick Wakeman’s 1974 classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth and the 1999 sequel Return to the Centre of the Earth. This 40th anniversary edition of Journey... has not only been repackaged in a digipack with new Roger Dean artwork, but the music has been re-recorded and extended. Rick says: “This is the start of a new Journey. The original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible, but after it turned up without warning, we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop it into this album and tour.” While the original album was a live recording, Wakeman re-recorded it in 2012 with an orchestra, choir, and members of his English Rock Ensemble, adding 20 minutes of music, so this is actually the first studio version of the album, the first recording of the entire work, and the way it was originally intended. Original narrator David Hemmings died in 2003, so the new narration was done by actor Peter Egan. In the U.S., this studio version had previously been released only as mp3s.
Return... had been out-of-print for years. This 2014 edition was released to accompany Journey... and also comes in a digipack with new Roger Dean artwork.
Time to give some love to this overlooked album. Judy Dyble was the first singer for Fairport Convention, sang with Giles, Giles, Fripp, McDonald & Dyble (one of the pre-King Crimson permutations), and was half of the folk-rock duo Trader Horne. Talking With Strangers was first released in 2009 with a different cover, later reissued in this Termo Records (White Willow’s label) edition with one bonus track. Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool) and Alistair Murphy were heavily involved with this record, as they co-wrote most of the songs, contributed backing vocals, guitars, and keyboards, and produced and arranged. A large number of other musicians participate, notably Ian McDonald and Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Simon Nicol (Fairport Convention), Jacqui McShee (Pentangle), Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Celia Humphris (Trees), and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, etc.). The music marries Dyble’s enchanting voice and psych-folk influences to the progressive approach of Bowness and the other musicians. Both No-Man and early King Crimson are evoked at different times, the latter particularly during the 19+ minute Harpsong. The album includes a lovely cover of the Greg Lake / Peter Sinfield song C’est la vie. Read the Prog Archives review and lots more reviews.
Abel Ganz were the other Scottish neo-prog band during the 1980s progressive revival, Pallas being the better known of the two. Abel Ganz’s singer Alan Reed became Pallas’s second singer. Abel Ganz’s 1980s albums were initially only available on cassette before being reissued on CD by a now-defunct French label. Back from the Zone features five remastered tracks from their first three albums, finally sounding the way they should, plus one of their old tracks re-recorded in 2001, plus a new 2001 track, for a total of 65 minutes of music. This is melodic symphonic prog that ranks with Pallas, Twelfth Night, Haze, Galahad, and Castanarc.
The self-titled Abel Ganz CD (digipack, 73-minutes) is their new 2014 album. Word on the street is that this is their masterpiece, to wit: “I have just listened to a musical composition that goes further than just pleasing the senses. It is full of beauty and grace and manages to combine musical styles that are quite disparate and deliver a musical release that beguiles, bewitches, and enthralls. This is music that will stand the test of time and could become a legacy for this superb band. Abel Ganz has delivered what is bound to become a highlight of this already impressive musical year. I implore you to go henceforth and purchase this musical marvel!” Read the full Lady Obscure review. This is a different band than the 1980s Abel Ganz, with Denis Smith now running the show. None of the original members remain, though while Hugh Carter and Hew Montgomery have passed the baton, they did make minor contributions to this album. There are a lot of guest musicians, too many to name all here, but Frank Van Essen (Iona) and Malcolm Jones (from the great Scottish band Runrig) must be mentioned. In fact, this Abel Ganz have significantly strengthened their connection to Scottish music, and in an era in which it seems every prog band in every country draws from the same small set of influences, that’s exactly what we’d hope a Glaswegian band would do. Need a reference point? Big Big Train is not a bad one. Watch the official videos for Unconditional and Recuerdos.
We’ll venture that the majority of visitors to this site are familiar with American band Iluvatar, as they were the best-selling band on the Kinesis label when there was such a thing. So like us, you’ve been waiting since 1999’s A Story Two Days Wide for a new Iluvatar CD. After a period of time acclimating to the new millennium, Iluvatar, with their lineup unchanged, present From the Silence (2014) on 10t Records, the long wait referred to not only by the title but by some of the subject matter that deals with “embracing the aging process, and all that goes with it”. If we may crib from the press release: “Featuring all of the signature elements that fans expect, this new release proves that Iluvatar have lost none of the epic grandeur that made them a modern prog legend!” For those unfamiliar with Iluvatar, see the old Kinesis label Iluvatar section, which contains much info. The first four Iluvatar CDs, though currently out-of-print, have been remastered and are scheduled for re-release on 10t soon, or at least eventually.
Even without organizing all the Baja Prog festivals, Cast would still have asserted themselves as the top prog band in Mexico. A lack of funds forced them to wait 20 years before releasing their first CD in 1994, but there has been no stopping them since. Cast initially sang in English and fell into the neo-prog category. They made steady improvement and really hit their stride with 2003’s Al-Bandaluz, as a new line-up injected new life into the band and their style became far more connected to classic prog. Cast also began singing mostly in Spanish at that point, and the musical growth and the language switch seem to be connected. Their 2011 album Art reverted to English lyrics and the music regressed a bit, but Arsis or CastArsis (2014, digipack) returns to Spanish vocals (male and female). For whatever reason, Cast are a better band when singing in Spanish. (The problem of course is that a lot of Americans prefer mediocre music sung in English to the best prog album sung in any other language.) Polish violinist Michal Jelonek (who records under the name ‘Jelonek’) guests and adds a new element to the Cast sound, which also includes flute, sax, and clarinet from Pepe Torres. Torres first appeared on Al-Bandaluz and has been an important feature of Cast’s sound since. Alfonso Vidales may never get the recognition he deserves as both player and composer, but he really is in the top tier of progressive rock keyboardists. See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and much more info.
On the Road (2014), the debut by Dutch neo-prog band Minor Giant, will be one of the top albums of the year for neo-prog fans. Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) engineered, mixed and mastered. While the band cites as main influences Neal Morse, Frost, Transatlantic, and Camel, the end result is closer to Pendragon, Knight Area, and other Dutch neo-prog bands: very melodic, very symphonic, and very powerful. Watch/listen to the album overview and the title track. See the band’s website for more info.
Agnieszka Swita is the Polish (female) singer, songwriter, and other core member of Clive Nolan’s Caamora Theatre Company, responsible for Alchemy in 2013 and She in 2007. Agnieszka’s first solo album Sleepless (2014) features Clive Nolan on keyboards, orchestrations, and backing vocals; Steve Harris (Ark, Paul Menel Band) on guitars, Andy Faulkner (Jump, Twelfth Night) on bass; and Dave Mackintosh on drums. The music and lyrics are all Agnieszka’s apart from the title track which is Nolan’s. Nolan produced while Karl Groom engineered, mixed, and mastered at Thin Ice Studios, home to Pendragon, Arena, and other British neo-prog bands. This album has that bombastic Thin Ice sound and sounds a lot like Arena with female vocals, or Caamora without the histrionics.
JPL is guitarist/singer Jean-Pierre Louveton of French prog band Nemo. He’s one of those musicians who needs multiple outlets (Wolfspring is his band too), and since 2002, he’s been releasing CDs under the JPL brand name in parallel with Nemo. The music is on the same high level as Nemo, not hugely different but somewhat more guitar-centric. MMXIV (2014) contains some French and some English lyrics and features guest singers Dominique Leonetti (Lazuli) and Nicholas James (25 Yard Screamer). Nemo keyboardist Guillaume Fontaine also guests. Watch the official Le dernier souffle de vent and album overview videos. See our French page for the Nemo catalog.
Dressed in Voices (2014) is the most melancholy and ominous-sounding Mostly Autumn album to date, though it wouldn’t be Mostly Autumn if it didn’t also possess uplifting qualities. Classic Rock Presents Prog says: “Dressed in Voices is a stunning, inventive work, lifting Mostly Autumn to a new stratum. It has so much variety and passion, both in the music and the narrative, that it takes a few bites to even begin to get to grips with the content. In some ways, it’s a movie waiting to happen, and the visual aspect of this tale is remarkably brought to the surface by the musical construction. More than anything, Mostly Autumn have set the bar extremely high for themselves, and this might be the start of a fresh season for them.” Also read the Progulator review. Listen to First Day at School on YouTube, which should whet your appetite sufficiently.
No indication is given on the Live at the Boerderij packaging, but we believe it is PAL, all-region. This double-DVD set contains Mostly Autumn’s complete show of 15 September 2012 in The Netherlands. It’s Mostly Autumn’s first DVD with Olivia Sparnenn on lead vocals. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette and a photo gallery. Read the Background Magazine and Get Ready to Rock! reviews. See our British page for the rest of the Mostly Autumn CDs and much more info, and our DVDs page for more of their DVDs.
TNNE is the successor to Luxembourg neo-prog band No Name, who released four albums between 1993-2006. You have to look closely at the CD cover to see that TNNE stands for The No Name Experience, and TNNE have taken over the No Name website. TNNE is No Name founding member, keyboardist and composer Alex Rukavina plus No Name singer Patrick Kiefer, along with a new guitarist, bassist, drummer, and guest saxophonist. The Clock That Went Backwards (2014, digipack) is their debut. Expect neo-prog along the lines of Clepsydra, Pendragon, IQ, etc. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Flor de Loto (Lotus Flower) are at present the biggest prog band in Peru. The band began as an instrumental quartet with their first CD released in 2005. The current lineup is bigger now, with lead and backing vocals (in Spanish) and instrumentation consisting of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, flute, Andean woodwinds, tenor sax, bass, and drums. Initially Flor de Loto were more jam-based and psychedelic. Their music continued to evolve, becoming carefully-composed, more European and less Andean sounding and closer to the prog mainstream, with a slight metal influence eventually creeping in but also some fusion. They added vocals while the psychedelic aspect vanished. There has always been a folk element that is central to the band’s identity, calling to mind an Andean version of Tempest. The flute has always suggested Tull and Solaris, maybe early Camel when the flute playing is more pastoral. The 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.
Il Castello di Atlante are a long-lived Italian prog band featuring violin in addition to keys, guitar, bass, drums, and Italian-language vocals. The band was born in 1974 but didn’t release their first album until 1992. Their music is very much in the romantic 1970s Italian symphonic prog style (particularly Quella Vecchia Locanda and PFM), and the violin really takes their music to the next level. Capitolo 8: Live was recorded live in Torino in March 2012. This CD+DVD set comes in an 8-panel foldout mini-LP style package. The CD runs 71:45. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains one song not on the CD and has a running time of 1 hour, 29 minutes. Listen to Il Vessillo del Drago on YouTube.
GnuQuartet are Italy’s Acoustic Asturias, a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute, with rock sensibilities. In fact Karma (2014) consists of five prog rock covers plus one original composition. The covers are Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa), Roundabout (Yes), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Hairless Heart (Genesis), and Concerto Grosso 1, Allegro (New Trolls), while the original Stereotaxis might just be the highlight. GnuQuartet are not entirely acoustic as there are occasional effects on the strings, and the percussive playing style is rock, not classical. Read the JustIn Case Prog Radio and Exposé reviews. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The label’s description: Italian prog band Living Stilts is not the same old Italian school band but is equally delicate and full of romanticism, not unlike Le Orme or Quella Vecchia Locanda with touches of Pink Floyd and Renaissance. Living Stilts’ debut Shipwreck (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is a concept album sung in English that centers on a vessel’s sinking. Listen to Facing the Winds of Doom on YouTube.
Exégesys (2009, 69-minutes) is the debut by this Argentine symphonic prog band with powerful, soaring female vocals (in Spanish), though much of the material on this first album is instrumental. There is a slight metal influence here but the band shouldn’t be saddled with the prog-metal tag (yet). For one, their primary composer is their keyboardist. The metal influence manifests only as a slight crudeness in a few spots, mostly early on, otherwise they have a sophisticated style comparable to other mainstream, bombastic South American prog bands such as Nexus, Crisálida, Entrance, and Matraz. Not sure what the significance of Virus Master spelled backwards is though. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Danger (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is their second. Only the keyboardist and singer from Exégesys remain, so new guys on guitar, bass, and drums. The prog-metal tag is probably unavoidable on this one as there are more Dream Theater-isms, but the band also sound more energetic, confident, and polished. The keyboardist is still in charge, so the music is as symphonic as before, with plenty of ELP, UK, and Yes-inspired material, and enough delicate passages to offset the bombast. With this album, Retsam Suriv may have leapfrogged Crisálida and Matraz. Watch the album overview and the video for Amenazas de un Final on YouTube, and listen to Un Mundo Diferente on SoundCloud.
This double-CD reissues the two albums of Spanish prog band Storm: The Storm (1974) and El Dia de la Tormenta (1979). The first album is in the Deep Purple heavy-prog style, organ and all, and sung in English. When Storm returned five years later with their second album, only the bass player had changed, but their style had changed, not surprising given how rapidly rock changed in those years. The second album is both more symphonic and more accessible, and is sung in Spanish. This 2CD set comes in an 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. Listen to the first three songs from the first album and the first two songs from the second. (These songs on YouTube were taken from vinyl and not from this 2CD; don’t worry about the pops and clicks.)
This set reissues Asfalto’s fifth and sixth albums on CD: Más Que Una Intención (1983) and Cronophobia (1984), and adds a DVD of Asfalto live in 1985, all in an elaborate 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. The DVD is NTSC, all-region and runs about an hour. This Madrid-based band formed in 1972 and debuted in 1978 with an eponymous album of hard rock, then added a keyboardist and made their best album Al Otro Lado later the same year. Ahora followed in 1979, and the 1981 double-LP Dejalo Asi was quite good. Asfalto then added a new singer and formed their own label. By the time of Más Que Una Intención, the shift was on to melodic hard rock using lots of keyboards which add proggy touches, and Cronophobia continued in the same style. These two albums represent the height of Asfalto’s popularity in Spain, as they’re pretty mainstream. The band had a couple periods of inactivity but continued to release albums as late as 2009, though it’s unclear whether anyone outside Spain has heard those albums.
This 2014 CD is the third for Italian band LogoS, but their previous albums were released back in 1999 and 2001 (and are currently out-of-print). So L’enigma della Vita (76-minutes) is a new beginning for LogoS. Suffice to say, this CD is exactly what fans of Italian symphonic prog crave, and there is a spacey element that gives LogoS distinctiveness. “Logos’ L’Enigma della Vita is one for the ages, a scintillating example of modern RPI, caramelized with grandiose symphonic elements, a touch of space/psychedelia, massive hues of shadow and light, as well as all the characteristics that make RPI such a devout prog institution... The material is exemplary, highly layered and intensely emotional on a multitude of levels, a recording that will definitely stand the test of time.” Read the rest of this and other reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the promo video and more songs/videos on YouTube.
Return of the Samurai (2013) really means the return of Tai Phong. Tai Phong are a well-known prog band in France (and to a lesser extent Japan), though they sing almost entirely in English. This is partly because their 1970s albums were released on WEA and produced the hit single Sister Jane, also because their singer Jean-Jacques Goldman went on to become a hugely popular (in the French-speaking world) pop-rock singer-songwriter. Goldman not surprisingly has no interest in rejoining Tai Phong now, but the founders of the band are two Vietnamese brothers, of whom Khanh remains and is now running the band. After three albums during the 1970s, Tai Phong re-emerged once in 2000 with the album Sun, so this is their second comeback. They were always a soft symphonic prog band, perhaps comparable to early Barclay James Harvest, with Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd influences well assimilated. Their style has changed somewhat but it still tends to the softer side, while they now use female vocals on some songs. It appears Tai Phong are aware that they have two sets of fans, their prog fans (Tai Phong were first and foremost a prog band) and their pop fans whose gateway was Sister Jane, and so this new album has something for both camps. Even the more mainstream songs here are usually elevated by Gilmour-esque lead guitar. Mike Oldfield had a similar problem around the time of Moonlight Shadow, and this new album made us think of his mid-period work. Watch the videos for One Day, Long Ago, Reviens Moi, and Carry Me. The CD comes in a simple printed cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Spleen Arcana is primarily the work of French multi-instrumentalist and singer Julien Gaullier, with a drummer and female backing vocalist. From the cover image and title of The Field Where She Died (2009), you would be correct in assuming it is a melancholic album, but it’s a fairly unique one. The album is bathed in a warm Mellotron glow, mostly strings but also some choir, making it a hybrid of vintage prog and modern styles (among the latter, Gaullier mentions Anathema and Radiohead as inspiration). Most of the tracks hover around the 10-minute mark. There is only a minor metal influence, and some of this sounds like an extension of later Pink Floyd. It isn’t unrelentingly dark either, as there are major key chord progressions during which the music is closer to Hogarth-era Marillion. A sincere and very worthwhile first album. Read the review at JerryLucky.com.
The second Spleen Arcana album The Light Beyond the Shades (2014) delves even deeper in Mellotron-drenched, retro-style sympho-prog, refining most aspects of the first album significantly. Apart from being sung in English, it sounds a lot like a lost French 1970s gem, as if Pulsar and Shylock had done a side project together. “Just about everything about The Light Beyond the Shades is either a refinement or a marked improvement over Spleen Arcana’s previous record. The three compositions are loaded with all kinds of vintage sounds from Hammond organ, Minimoog, Solina, Fender Rhodes, and Mellotron.” Read the full Jerry Lucky review as well as the Music from the Other Side of the Room and Lady Obscure reviews.
Not the Weapon But the Hand (2012, digibook) is the first collaboration between Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri, longtime keyboardist of Porcupine Tree but with a career extending back to the band Japan. Hogarth describes the album: “It goes beyond what you might expect from the two of us... The album consists of music which is at times moving, complex, multi-layered (both instrumentally and vocally), spooky, goofy and of course, very personal to me. I am now as excited about this album as I was at the prospect of the collaboration in the first-place.” Not The Weapon But The Hand also features occasional appearances from Danny Thompson on double bass, Arran Ahmun (John Martyn) and Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield) on drums, and guitar and string arrangement contributions from Dave Gregory (XTC).
Arc Light (2014, 29-minutes, mini-LP sleeve) is a 5 track mini-album. Four of the tracks are new, while one is a new version of Intergalactic featuring a guest guitarist. Listen to this excerpt on You Tube.
Apple Jack Magic (2014) is the fifth album for prog guitarist/singer/songwriter Jack Foster III, whose previous work has prominently featured Robert Berry and Trent Gardner (Magellan). Berry is on this album on bass, drums, keys, backing vocals, and a couple co-writing credits, while several other musicians also contribute. Jack says: “A lot of the music is more drama-oriented than in past albums. I was working on various versions of a rock opera which never materialized. Some of the music comes from that effort: Guinevere’s Dead, Beyond the Blue, Take a Little Time... all might have been part of a big Broadway production!” Except that this album sounds nothing like what “rock opera” usually implies. There are no histrionic vocals, nor does the instrumental work suggest a stage production. It just sounds like quality songs: some rockers, some with touches of Americana, the majority more symphonic with an understated majesty that sometimes suggests an American (latter-day) Marillion, or Neal Morse (minus the religion). In case you’re new to the “Jazzraptor’ brand name, you can ignore the ‘jazz’ because there isn’t any. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Jack Foster III CDs and more info.
Vastland (2014) is the work of multi-instrumentalist Jason Tyndall, who sought out Jack Foster III to sing lead vocals and collaborate on the lyrics. It’s not a prog album but an intelligent blend of bluesy American rock using suitably bluesy guitar and alt-rock using a U2-derived guitar style. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Formed at the end of 1981, Nathan Mahl (a totally fabricated name) are now one of the longest-lived and most accomplished Canadian progressive rock bands. Bandleader and keyboardist Guy LeBlanc has in recent years been manning the keys in Camel, which doesn’t hurt Nathan Mahl’s profile. In terms of Nathan Mahl’s back catalog, their new CD Justify (2014, digipack) comes closest to Shadows Unbound. The lineup now is Guy LeBlanc, Tristan Vaillancourt, Don Prince, David Campbell, and very special guest Andrew Latimer (Camel). Listen to the tracks Spirit and Tantrik Kobbler.
Note Nathan Mahl’s Heretik Vol. 2 is available again after being out-of-print for years, and so at the moment we have the full Nathan Mahl and Guy LeBlanc catalog in stock again and at a better price. See our Canadian page for all the Nathan Mahl and Guy LeBlanc CDs and more info.
Beacon of Light (2009, 73-minutes) is the second CD for Adventure, who are sort of the Norwegian counterpart to the Swedish band Black Bonzo in that they blend retro-style symphonic prog with the heavier Uriah Heep style. Adventure have two male lead vocalists, one of whom sings in a more pompous, affected style, and female backing vocals. Their sound features vintage keys, flute, and guitar that sticks mainly to early-1970s tones. The sympho-prog side of their style is vaguely in the vein of The Flower Kings or Camel. Read reviews.
The self-titled CD is Adventure’s 2000 debut. This is the 2006 re-edition on the MALS label.
While Black Bonzo went in the opposite direction, on Caught in the Web (2014), Adventure take their Uriah Heep meets Jethro Tull style further towards the progressive side. Listen to the album teaser and the tracks Test of Time and Fast Train on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Awake & Dreaming, the debut by London’s The Gift, is a 71-minute neo-prog opus consisting of two long song suites. The music relies heavily on the vocals of Mike Morton, which are front and center, very clear in the mix, while instrumentally it is mainstream symphonic neo-prog along the lines of Galahad, Tr3nity, Landmarq, etc., with just a touch of heavy riffing to let you know it’s a modern record. While the Cyclops label over-hyped it to call it the best prog album of 2006, it is a fine album that will probably require a few listens to get under your skin. Read the Prog Archives and DPRP reviews.
The follow-up Land of Shadows (2014) was a long time coming and finds The Gift on a new label. While in the same vein as their first, this is the superior album, slightly darker and showing progression in several areas. Tinyfish now strikes us as a decent reference, though unlike Tinyfish, The Gift have a keyboardist. We wouldn’t put The Gift alongside Big Big Train just yet, but they’re heading in that direction. Some of the songs are in that one-foot-in-prog, one-foot-in-serious-melodic-rock category, the focus on storytelling and thoughtful lyrics, the style not far removed from later Pink Floyd. But the Gift’s longer tracks are the proggy highlights, particularly the nearly 20-minute The Comforting Cold. Read the Lady Obscure and Prog Archives reviews.
For all the computer-generated imagery and the Star Trek connotation of their name, South Carolina-based Farpoint actually have quite an organic sound, a blend of folky art-rock and mellow prog. Their first two CDs appeared in 2002 and 2003. For the first incarnation of the band, it all comes together best on their third CD, the 65-minute From Dreaming to Dreaming (2004). The band’s first live performance was at Yescamp ’98, where they played several Yes covers. There is an early, pastoral Yes influence present at times and an overall positive vibe, but it would be misleading to make too much of that. The lineup has changed since then, and Farpoint’s music is too diverse. There is both an American as well as a British Isles folk influence present, and their instrumentation includes the standard rock instruments (electric & acoustic guitars, bass, drums, keys) augmented by classical guitar, mandolin, flute, and various types of percussion. They have a male singer with a voice like Ritchie Havens and a female singer with an angelic voice, an interesting contrast. Kansas and the first edition of Renaissance are probably better references.
Farpoint had actually disbanded late in 2005 but put things back together soon after with several personnel changes. Their fourth studio CD Cold Star Quiet Star (2008) was the result and it is their best and most progressive CD to date, appealing from start to finish, with quite a bit of instrumental content. The Yes style is there at times, but Farpoint still display a much wider range of influences, and the result is that they don’t sound like anyone else.
After the disappointing Kindred in 2011, Farpoint return in a big way with the much stronger, much proggier Paint the Dark (2014). The press release nails it: “Farpoint have taken everything that makes their unique blend of uplifting and positive symphonic-flavored prog, folk, and hard rock, and applied it on a more expansive canvas, creating the most layered and compositionally mature record of their career. Long-time fans will instantly recognize the band’s signature style while appreciating the more adventurous and atmospheric territories that the band explores on this release.” A guest violinist broadens their sound. Farpoint may currently be the most “American-sounding” prog band, sort of South Carolina’s answer to Kansas (the band), though musically distinct, and Paint the Dark best showcases the unique style Farpoint have created.
The Lie of the Beholder (2014) is the work of Roy Strattman, guitarist and co-composer of the band Little Atlas, here teamed with Nick D'Virgilio on drums and Little Atlas mates Ricardo Bigai on bass and Steve Katsikas on piano and cajon. Strattman’s writing process for this album began during the writing and recording of Little Atlas’s 2013 album Automatic Day. That album represented a shift to darker, more aggressive and more modern prog, and The Lie of the Beholder continues along that trajectory, deep into Porcupine Tree territory. As such, the music contrasts the dark and menacing with the serene and beautiful. Of course much depends on the degree to which the mood of the album resonates with the listener, but if it does, you’re likely to find this a very impressive work. “The album as a whole might satisfy those who long for a new Porcupine Tree [album], although it should be said that although the influence can be heard, this is by no means a direct clone.” [Ytsejam] Read the Sea of Tranquility and Rate Your Music reviews. Watch the promo video for the track A Candle in the Sun. See Page 2 for the Little Atlas CDs.
The Road of Bones is IQ’s 2014 studio album. This 2CD special edition comes in a digipack and adds a second CD containing six additional brand new songs totaling 49 minutes, an entire second album for a few bucks more. They’ve had five years to write them, so these aren’t demos and outtakes. Why would any self-respecting IQ fan want the single CD? The Road of Bones marks the return to the studio of bass player Tim Esau after two decades away. See Page 2 for the rest of the IQ catalog.
Cosmograf is one of the ascendant stars of the British prog scene, a project led by multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong, who cites Steven Wilson, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour as some of his inspirations. So not surprisingly, When Age Has Done Its Duty (2011) is an ambitious Pink Floyd-style concept work. It features a number of special guests from the UK prog community including Bob Dalton (It Bites), Steve Thorne, Simon Rogers (Also Eden), Steve Dunn (Also Eden), Huw Lloyd-Jones (Unto Us), Lee Abraham (The Lee Abraham Band), Luke Machin (The Tangent), and Dave Ware. Read the Progmeister and Prog Archives reviews.
The Man Left in Space (2013) features performances from Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard), Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn, Lee Abraham, Luke Machin, and Dave Ware. It’s another concept album, often with a wonderful spacey/surreal atmosphere, blending Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and neo-prog, with a smidgeon of heavy guitar. Part of it even sounds like a modern, proggy take on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, an allusion that may be deliberate. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
On Capacitor (2014), Armstrong is assisted by Nick D’Virgilio on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass, Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Lifesigns) on bass, Matt Stevens on guitar, Andy Tillison (The Tangent) on keyboards, and Steve Dunn on bass. “This album is not just a piece of music, it is part of Robin Armstrong’s body and soul and you can tell he has put everything into this, leaving nothing back. I cannot fault this record in any way. It is musical paradise with an amazing musician as its peerless architect. If I died and went to heaven right now, I couldn’t have asked for any more; I have had the biggest epiphany when it comes to music, in my life, ever. This is not just one of the albums of the year, it is one of the best albums I have ever heard, period.” [Lady Obscure] Also read the Progulator and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the album promo video and the video for The Fear Created.
The gradual transformation of Liverpool’s Anathema from doom metal to top-echelon modern prog band is well-documented, the band now far beyond their metal past. Distant Satellites is Anathema’s 2014 studio album. Steven Wilson even found time to do a bit of the mixing. The edition here is a single CD in jewel box + slipcase. Unfortunately, the mediabook edition which had a DVD containing 5.1 surround and hi-res 24-bit stereo has already been deleted. Read the Sputnik Music, Progulator, and The Guardian reviews. Listen to The Lost Song part 3 on YouTube.
Falling Deeper (2011, digibook) contains reworkings of older Anathema tracks, executed with more acoustic instruments and a 26-piece string orchestra. Anathema had already outgrown their metal past, but they wanted to show that their older songs were real songs with haunting melodies that the new arrangements now showcase. The orchestral arrangements are by Dave Stewart, who worked so successfully with Anathema on their previous album. This is the work of a very refined progressive rock band. “There’s little here to link these new reworkings to the band of old, so in a sense with Falling Deeper Anathema have rewritten their own history backwards... Falling Deeper is even more impressive because of the nature of this early material and the manner in which it is now portrayed.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog] Check our DVDs page for Anathema’s Universal Blu-ray and DVD.
D Project are a Québécois prog band singing in English, led by Stéphane Desbiens, who was the guitarist and principal composer in Sense, the primary musician in Mélia, and has been a member of Qwaarn, Ère G, Red Sand, and Jupiter9. Making Sense (2014, digisleeve) is their fourth CD. Here the core D Project trio receive assistance from Sean Filkins on vocals, Claude Leonetti (Lazuli) on his custom instrument the Léode, Guillaume Fontaine (Nemo) on keyboards, and other musicians on sax, violin, cello, flute, and backing vocals. The title of the album seems to be a deliberate reference to Desbiens’ previous band Sense. The album was mastered by Andy Jackson of Pink Floyd fame, and while Pink Floyd is a definite influence (no more so than on the title track), it is far from the only one. D Project are representative of a generation of talented musicians who’ve assimilated the styles of a number of earlier progressive bands and are able to vary the dominant influence on a track by track basis and still produce a cohesive album. With the expansion of the instrumentation, this is the most original and arguably the best D Project album to date. Listen to the title track on YouTube. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See our Canadian page for all the D Project CDs and much more info.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If the Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet these CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in many years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog that take this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Bridges of the Old Fishingmine contains 78-minutes of Quantum live madness from the Belgian Fonnefeesten in August 2011, heavy on songs from 2010’s Bridges of Kukuriku. Watch the album trailer video.
Terragaia (2014, digipack) is a 70-minute concept album featuring guest appearances by members of Anima Mundi, Neo Prophet, and others. Despite the passage of nine years since the first Quantum Fantay CD, we’re still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
There aren’t many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with “Traum” (“Dream”) do. Ausgeliefert (digisleeve) is the 2014 remastered reissue of Traumhaus’s 2001 debut, which was originally self-titled and had a different cover. The music is stylistically similar to neo-prog bands such as early Sylvan, but with German vocals reminiscent of the old East German bands such as Stern Meissen, Lift, and Electra. And some of the material is on the same level as those bands. This new edition adds two 2004 instrumental bonus tracks that were originally slated for the 2005 Hinaus EP, but were instead heavily modified and added to Die Andere Seite. Listen to the album sampler. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
After the Hinaus EP and some personnel changes, Traumhaus returned in 2008 with Die Andere Seite (The Other Side). This is the 2014 second edition, which has been partly remixed and fully remastered and comes in a digisleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping) and adds two bonus tracks, one from 2009, the other an English-language version of a song from Das Geheimnis. About half this album is neo-prog and prog-metal, while half is classic prog that exceeds their earlier work. The keyboardist favors vintage sounds, and the album is chock full of Mellotron, Hammond, Minimoog, Fender, etc. In fact, it’s one of the most Mellotron-heavy albums in recent years. There are times when Traumhaus cause flashbacks to prime-period Stern Meissen and Novalis, with an even more powerful sound. Unfortunately, the guitarist switches to metal mode on some tracks, and the music becomes rather ordinary. Well, extraordinary for prog-metal, because the keyboardist does everything he can to keep the music symphonic, but ordinary relative to Traumhaus’s other material. On balance though, this is one of the most under-recognized progressive bands. Listen to the album sampler.
Das Geheimnis (2013, digipack) features Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on drums, rather unexpected for a band that sings in German! This album continues along the lines of Die Andere Seite, a combination of classic and neo-prog, some metal moments but loads of vintage keys, centered on the 27-minute epic Das Vermächtnis (The Legacy). The music is much richer for the German-language lyrics that give it character and distinctiveness, still evoking Stern Meissen vocally. English translations of the lyrics are included. (Those so-called prog fans who insist music be sung in English and have a generic Anglo-American sound will not know who Stern Meissen is anyway.) Strongly melodic with exciting instrumental passages, this CD is highly recommended. Watch/listen to the album sampler. Watch a bit of Jimmy Keegan recording his parts and hear more of the album.
Bavarian band Frequency Drift create atmospheric, melodic yet challenging music that they call ‘cinematic progressive rock’. Over (2014, 75-minutes, digipack) is Frequency Drift’s fifth, and they’ve found a home on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. As part of that collaboration, RPWL’s Yogi Lang (mixing) and Kalle Wallner (bass) participate on this album. Former RPWL drummer Phil Paul Rissettio and guitarist Martin Schnella (Flaming Row) also guest. Beyond that, the Frequency Drift lineup is expanded with instrumentation that includes flute, cello, violin, viola, acoustic & electric harp, tin whistle, marimba, gemshorn (a type of ocarina), and duclar (an ethnic sort of clarinet). It’s impressive enough for a band today to manage nearly an album per year, but the progress Frequency Drift have made in a relatively short time is even more impressive, moving from the cold, urban sounds of their earliest work to the warmer, more organic sound of their recent albums, all the while adding depth and carving out a unique style. Watch the official video for the track Run. Read reviews at Prog Archives and The Progressive Aspect. See our German page for the rest of the Frequency Drift CDs.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. The unrest in Ukraine hasn’t slowed Kalugin, as Magician’s Theater (2014, 58-minutes, digipack) is another instrumental opus of modern symphonic prog. Kalugin handles mainly keyboards while two guitarists with contrasting styles are employed. In addition to a powerful rhythm section, other musicians contribute Stick, flute, alto sax, bassoon, and accordion. This album is generally heavier than the previous Karfagen albums and a bit more of a conventional sympho-prog album than 2013’s Aleatorica, still with those touches that set Kalugin’s work apart. It’s probably the best place for the uninitiated to start. Watch the videos for The Juggler’s Boast and The Birth of Mankind. See our East European page for the rest of the Karfagen CDs and much more info.
Hoggwash is another band of Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild, AKKO), lord of progressive rock in Ukraine. Hoggwash though is a collaboration with Welsh musician Will Mackie. On their debut The Last Horizon (2007), Mackie and Kalugin have co-writing credits on all tracks, but the music was recorded in Ukraine by Kalugin with Karfagen members/collaborators and other Ukrainian musicians. And while Karfagen has mostly been an instrumental band, Hoggwash has excellent vocals by Kalugin. The result is a beautiful melodic symphonic rock CD in the Genesis and Camel veins. Despite all the input from Ukraine, The Last Horizon sounds so British that it serves to remind us what it is that distinguishes classic British prog from most everything else. This is the second edition, which adds two bonus tracks to take the total playing time up to 75-minutes.
It took a while for the follow-up Spellbound (2013, digipack), but then there have been at least nine albums from Kalugin’s other projects in the interim. Kalugin again sings and plays keys, Mackie plays keys, and seven other Ukrainian musicians take care of electric & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, alto sax, and more vocals. Hoggwash is distinct from Kalugin’s other bands -- Hoggwash is the more familiar form of sympho-prog, the most song-oriented and British-sounding and therefore having the widest appeal.
Jack O’ The Clock are a band from Oakland, California who, like many of the Bay Area bands, are adventurous and outside the mainstream. Like most truly inventive bands, Jack O’ The Clock are difficult to describe, but there is something special going on here. Their third album All My Friends (2013) is nominally artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but this album remains dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth. They “take us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity.” [Bluesbunny, Glasgow] Their sound has elicited comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Henry Cow/Art Bears, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. We’re sometimes reminded of However’s gentler songs, or even an American counterpart to Stormy Six circa L’Apprendista. The thirteen pieces on All My Friends showcase the band’s core of voices, violin, guitar, hammer dulcimer, bassoon, bass, and drums, plus an expanded woodwind/brass section (eight guest musicians) and found objects such as wine glasses, corrugated pipes, heating grates, and more. “Jack O’ The Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer... some of the freshest and most surprising music I’ve heard.” [Fred Frith] “The perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.” [Prognaut] Read the Exposé, Progulator, and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Night Loops (2014) is noticeably darker and less folky, striking a good balance between RIO-style chamber music and progressive songs with soothing vocals. As the title suggests, this album is dominated by a nighttime mood, while All My Friends has more of a daytime feel. “This is some of the most stunningly original music that one is likely to hear, on this world or any other.” [Exposé] Read the Progulator and Avant Music News reviews.
Monarch Trail is the new band assembled by Canadian Ken Baird after five albums under his own name, and the natural evolution of Baird’s music. After Baird had written some music that required more collaborative arrangements than usual, he asked drummer Chris Lamont and bassist Dino Verginella to be a part of Monarch Trail. Lamont played on Baird’s previous three albums and Verginella on the previous two. Three guitarists split the guitar duties, one of whom is Steve Cochrane, who also mastered the album. Those familiar with Baird’s albums will feel right at home, but the band dynamic has taken the music to a whole new level, and Skye (2014, digipack) is one of the finest neo-Genesis style albums in a long time. Not in the sense of aping Genesis but rather sharing an aesthetic, one that has otherwise been supplanted. Skye consists of just four tracks, the longest exceeding 20 minutes. Plenty of prog bands these days attempt long tracks, most of which are simply fatiguing, not the case here as the music evolves and builds effortlessly and logically. (We’ve all heard long tracks with alternating loud and soft bits that could be rearranged in any order and the track stopped at any point, and it would make no difference.) Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Canadian page for the Ken Baird catalog.
Paradise Filter is the 2014 studio CD for Caravan, their first new album in ten years. Released in late February, we’ve been waiting until we could bring it in at a decent price. The lineup here is Pye Hastings (vocals, guitars), Geoffrey Richardson (viola, banjo, acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards, backing vocals), Doug Boyle (lead guitar), Jim Leverton (bass, backing vocals), and Mark Walker (drums). Pye, the band’s primary songwriter for a long time now, composed nine of the album’s ten tracks. Read the JonB52 review.
Yeah, we know, not the most enthralling band name, but for melodic prog fans who’ve gotten past the individual’s name bias and enjoyed the albums by, say, Sean Filkins or Lee Abraham, you’re going to enjoy this one too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Jeff Green was born in northern California to an American father and English mother, and now lives in Ireland after having spent years in England. Jeff had one earlier self-released CD, while Elder Creek (2014) is on the British Festival Music label, which has also released CDs by the aforementioned Sean Filkins and Lee Abraham. To further the association, Sean Filkins is responsible for the lead vocals on the title track. In fact, Elder Creek is loaded with British musicians. Other participants include drummer Pete Riley (Wetton & Downes Icon, Keith Emerson), keyboardist Mike Stobbie (Pallas, now works closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber), singer Alan Reed (ex-Pallas), guitarist Phil Hilborne (has played with Brian May, Glen Hughes, Keith Emerson, Steve Vai), and three others. Jeff Green plays all manner of guitars and guitar synth and provides both lead and backing vocals. It’s a wonderful melodic and lush prog album, with more classic prog/rock influences than either Abraham’s or Filkins’ albums. Camel, David Gilmour, Yes, and Big Big Train could all be mentioned. Watch the album promo video and the video for the instrumental Point Blunt Light. If you do that and listen to the clips on Soundcloud (mp3 icon above) and still won’t buy the album because you don’t like the band name, we give up.
Classically trained at the University of Bologna in composition and piano, composer/arranger Alex Carpani continues the great Italian keyboard-centric prog rock tradition. On Waterline (2007, printed sleeve), his fluid and inventive keyboards are accompanied by an American rhythm section. Waterline is mostly instrumental but does feature Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme) on vocals and is between the Italian and British 1970s progressive rock styles. Dan Shapiro (Clearlight) and Ken Jaquess (K2, Atlantis) play bass, while Neil Bettencourt (Clearlight) plays drums. A number of guitarists contribute, among them Tony Spada (Holding Pattern). Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On The Sanctuary (2010, digipack), Carpani is assisted by two members of his live band: Ettore Salati on guitars and Fabiano Spiga on bass, while drums are handled by Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi (Mangala Vallis, Moongarden). Watch the album preview video. The cover art for the first two CDs is by Paul Whitehead. Read lots of reviews.
Alex Carpani’s live band is now his studio band too, and on 4 Destinies (2014, digipack) has one important additional member: David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) on saxes & flutes. The rest of the band is Alex on vocals & keyboards, Ettore Salati on guitars, Joe Sal additional vocals, GB Giorgi on bass, and Alessandro Di Caprio on drums. Cristiano Roversi produced and co-arranged. 4 Destinies has just four tracks averaging close to 14-minutes each. Watch the album trailer.
Released on the same label as Chris Squire’s band The Syn, Dreamer (2007) is the first album by Dutch-born American Anton Roolaart. He wrote, engineered, and produced this album, handling guitar, keys, vocals, and programming. While this is Anton’s baby, he wisely brought in other musicians including a bass player and keyboardist Rave Tesar of Renaissance. Drum duties are split between two drummers, one of whom is Rich Berends of Mastermind. It is a meticulously crafted symphonic rock album in which one can spot various influences, certainly Yes and Pink Floyd. Many of the songs were written years earlier, and Anton’s main sources of inspiration are the 1970s masters of the genre, but the Internet radio station he runs exposed him to newer progressive artists who have had an influence on his style. The album lacks the spark or energy of a band playing together, but if thought of in the same terms as, say, Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow and similar multi-layered works, Dreamer is an impressive achievement. Read reviews.
Anton’s superior second CD The Plight of Lady Oona (2014) was recorded in the U.S. and The Netherlands over the past few years. It features Annie Haslam singing on the title track, while Rave Tesar co-produced and adds keyboard parts. Several other musicians handle bass, drums, and additional keyboards. Read reviews at The Aquarian, Prog Archives, and Lady Obscure.
Cirrus Bay is led by American multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham. On Cirrus Bay’s 2008 debut The Slipping of a Day, Gillham is joined by a drummer/bassist, several singers (male and female), and two musicians providing tenor sax on two tracks. Gillham plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, mandolin, recorder, and percussion. Our opinion of Cirrus Bay’s first album changed completely about a third of the way through its 77 minutes, and that’s due to the fact the album was recorded in different sessions spanning a number of years. The first third of the CD contains a lot of pastoral, folky progressive, reflecting the fact that Cirrus Bay began as an acoustic duo. The CD then transforms into much more powerful, more instrumental symphonic prog. Gillham’s biggest influences are Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Jade Warrior, and Bo Hansson. We can state this confidently because it says as much in the booklet. (Among younger bands, he mentions a fondness for Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Watch.) There are tracks here that would have fit on Banks’ A Curious Feeling and have been the second-best track (after the song You, if you must know). Overall we’re reminded of Canadian Ken Baird.
The second Cirrus Bay CD A Step Into Elsewhere (2009, 55-minutes) is the CD they really wanted to make, a significant improvement over Slipping... and a cohesive musical statement. It’s female vocals only on this one, from two singers, and the easiest way to describe the album is a blend of Genesis circa Wind and Wuthering and Renaissance. Renaissance because the vocals are in an Annie Haslam style, and there is that breezy folkiness blended with classical piano. Genesis because Gillham is a musician who gets what Tony Banks does. It isn’t about how fast one can play scales, it’s about the chord progressions. There is plenty of electric and acoustic guitar in addition to keyboards, so it sounds closer to Genesis than a Tony Banks solo album, and there are influences of other progressive artists as well. Instrumentally, the appeal of this album is similar to the Willowglass albums, on top of which you get the beautiful vocals. “Had Genesis replaced Peter Gabriel with Annie Haslam instead of Phil Collins in 1975, the band might have sounded something like this. Cirrus Bay... so closely echoes the crisp prog sound of Wind and Wuthering-era Genesis it could double as a tribute band... Most tracks feature lush keyboard swells, delicate guitar-and-flute passages, strong soprano vocal melodies, tricky meter changes and classically-inspired instrumental breaks that would give Tony Banks and Steve Hackett a run for their money.” [Progression] Read the Prognaut review.
Whimsical Weather (2012, 62-minutes) picks up where A Step Into Elsewhere left off and further develops the Cirrus Bay style, essentially a combination of the breezy Renaissance style with beautiful female vocals and instrumental Genesis/Hackett style symphonic/pastoral prog. It’s a beautiful album with its soul in the early-to-mid 1970s, standing in stark contrast to the “sound and fury signifying nothing” of much modern music.
The Search for Joy (2014) features guest performances by Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thieves’ Kitchen, while classically-trained viola player Sarah Sanderson has signed on. Bill says the album has “more key changes than a drunken locksmith”. Listen to the track Learning to Fly on YouTube.
The 2014 Ian Anderson album is a Jethro Tull album in all but name. As with Thick as a Brick 2, the billing is henceforth “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson”. If you’re curious about Ian’s reasoning for that, it’s explained in the booklet. Homo Erraticus continues the Gerald Bostock thing begun on Thick as a Brick and continued on Thick as a Brick 2. As Anderson says: “Bostock has returned once again to lyric writing,... and I have had the fun and frolics of setting all to music of folk-rock-metal stylings. But you can call it Prog.” Ian and his band will be playing the album in its entirety on their tours, followed of course by a selection of Tull classics. The standard edition CD comes in jewel box + slipcase, while the hardcover mediabook edition has a 32-page booklet and adds a DVD-V containing the DTS 5.1 surround mix (by Jakko Jakszyk), 24/48 LPCM (high-res) stereo, and a making-of video. Those fortunate enough to have heard Thick as a Brick on a decent surround system know there is no going back to 2-channel now. Mediabook counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Nick Magnus first came to prominence as keyboardist in Steve Hackett’s band during The Golden Age of Steve Hackett, that is, the era that began with Spectral Mornings, and it’s probably fair to say that Magnus had a significant role in the sound of those albums. N’monix (2014, digipack) is Magnus’s fifth solo album, the first since his superb Children of Another God in 2010. N’monix includes contributions from Steve Hackett, Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool), Rob Townsend (current member of Steve Hackett’s band), Pete Hicks (the singer on Spectral Mornings and Defector), Tony Patterson (ReGenesis), and several more singers. Watch the videos for the songs Eminent Victorians and Shadowland. If Eminent Victorians at least doesn’t do it for you, you’re probably not a fan of Magnus, Hackett, or the old Genesis melodrama.
German band Shamall is one of the more closely-guarded secrets in progressive rock. If you’ll have a look at Prog Archives, you’ll see that there are Shamall albums stretching back to 1989. (You’ll want to visit Prog Archives anyway for reviews and ratings of these albums.) The early Shamall albums are apparently synth music, but after the start of the new millennium, the music turns to progressive rock. The albums offered here are the five most recent as well as the highest-rated: Turn Off (2CD, 2013, digipack), Is This Human Behavior (2CD, 2009, digipack), Questions of Life (2008, digipack), Ambiguous Points of View (2CD, 2006, digibook), and Who Do They Think They Are (2CD, 2003, jewel box). Ambiguous Points of View counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
We’re devoting most of this space to the latest album Turn Off, because that’s the one we’ve listened to. It seems that the major influence present on the Shamall albums has been Pink Floyd. But Turn Off sounds much closer to Eloy, themselves Pink Floyd influenced but quite distinct. Shamall doesn’t just sound a little like Eloy here -- if you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a new Eloy album. More specifically, it sounds like Eloy featuring special guest Edgar Froese. That’s one of the remarkable qualities of this album, how well Tangerine Dream style sequencers and synths are integrated into progressive rock. There are male and female vocals (in English), though the music is heavily instrumental. It turns out that Shamall is primarily the work of one man, Norbert Krueler, but you’d probably never guess. This is one amazing album, perhaps with slightly too narrow a style given its 150-minute length, but you won’t feel shortchanged on this or any of the other Shamall albums. Most are double-CDs, and each disc is nearly full. There is a lot of music here.
Flaming Row is an international band project organized by German multi-instrumentalist Martin Schnella. His idea for the Flaming Row debut Elinoire (2011, 80-minutes) was to create a concept album with many different musicians, particularly singers, both male and female. Marek Arnold (keyboards, sax) of Toxic Smile and Seven Steps to the Green Door is one of the four core instrumentalists, while Elinoire has at least 17 singers and around 30 musicians total participating. Among those are Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman from Shadow Gallery (they play or sing on most of the songs), Billy Sherwood (Circa, Yes, World Trade), and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard). The results are impressive. The music is in the modern prog rock and prog-metal styles, so if that all sounds like Ayreon, then consider Flaming Row the German Ayreon, or as Music in Belgium described Elinoire in a very positive review, a cross between Ayreon and Caamora’s She. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the album trailer.
This is the single-CD edition of the second Flaming Row album Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures (2014, 80-minutes, digipack). (There exists a more expensive 2CD edition where the second disc contains an instrumental mix of the entire album.) In addition to the Flaming Row core of Kiri Geile, Martin Schnella, Marek Arnold, and Niklas Kahl, participants include Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard, Enchant), three members of Shadow Gallery, Arjen A. Lucassen (Ayeron), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard), and members past or present of Seven Steps to the Green Door, Pain of Salvation, Haken, Neal Morse Band, Ayreon, and others. It’s a sci-fi concept album with ten singers taking on various roles or narrating. Again, Ayreon and Clive Nolan’s extravaganzas are the best reference points. Watch the official videos for the tracks Burning Sky and Aim L45.
Se Delan are a new signing for the Kscope label, a duo made up of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, leader of post-prog band Crippled Black Phoenix, and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, who previously recorded as Killing Mood. The Se Delan debut The Fall (2014, mediabook) sounds like a harder/heavier Cocteau Twins.
The self-titled Amenophis CD is Musea’s reissue of the 1983 debut LP by this German symphonic prog band, one of the best ever prog albums from Germany, a mostly-instrumental blend of Steve Hackett, Genesis, and Camel. Five bonus tracks recorded the same year have been added. This CD was released in 1992 but had been out-of-print for many years until Musea pressed more in 2014. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Amenophis added a female vocalist and released a second album in 1988 entitled You & I (currently out-of-print), which was somewhat of a disappointment relative to their debut, being more mainstream. After taking a quarter century to mull over their direction, Amenophis recorded a new album Time (2014), much of which was composed between 2011-2013, also containing some newly arranged and recorded, previously-unreleased songs that date to the late 1980s. And the good news is that Time is a return to form, with a commitment to longer, symphonic tracks. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the tracks You and Some Times on YouTube.
Home Away from Home (2013, digipack) is the debut for Vermont’s Elephants of Scotland, a quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums, with the keyboardist on lead vocals and two others on backing vocals. They play symphonic prog with slight nods to ELP and Yes, but like many American prog bands, they eschew melodrama in favor of a more direct, Rush-like approach. Only on some tracks does the music actually resemble Rush, but as the keyboardist’s brother is in the Rush tribute band Blame Canada, it’s a genetic predisposition. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the video for the title track (the shortest song on the album).
Elephants of Scotland’s second CD Execute and Breathe (2014, digipack) is all around a more powerful album, the natural result of the band’s greater experience in all facets of music creation and recording. “In sum, Execute and Breathe is a great sophomore release from a band who never stray from a songwriting mantra. They write prog with hooks and flavors, songs with loose thematic connections that can stand alone while still contributing to the whole. This is a solid album that will grow on you with subsequent listens.” [The Phantom Tollbooth] Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Demon (2014) is Gazpacho’s eighth studio album. This mediabook edition contains one bonus track. “...a captivating and intriguing album that is absolutely brilliant... Such experimentalism is proof that the Norwegian guys are really talented and deserve to be considered one of the best progressive rock bands on the scene today. Demon is an album that requires time and patience to be understood and will reward an open-minded audience. Play it in the dark to fully experience its great music.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review and the DPRP roundtable reviews (should keep you busy for a while). Watch the album trailer and the video for The Wizard of Altai Mountains. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho CDs.
The self-titled CD is the 2011 debut CD (digipack) for Toronto’s Druckfarben, a superb band of accomplished musicians including American singer Phil Naro (who sounds like Jon Anderson) who’ve bonded over their mutual love of classic progressive rock. Their major influence is Yes (all periods), also ELP, Bruford, and others. Not to be too cynical, but it’s nice in this decade to hear a new band who can really play, who have songs, who have a real keyboardist, who don’t allow metal anywhere near their music, who aren’t terminally depressing, you know, the sorts of things that define progressive rock. Read reviews at Proggnosis, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives.
Druckfarben’s Artifact DVD (NTSC, all-region) is a recording of the first live performance of their entire debut album. It took place in 2012 at the Mod Club in Toronto and includes a cover of Yes’ Siberian Khatru. The DVD also contains a 25-minute documentary chronicling the history of the band, its working methods, and plans for the future. Read the Background Magazine review.
Second Sound (2014, digipack) is Druckfarben’s second studio CD, highlighted by the 19-minute title track that closes the album. Druckfarben sound even more self-assured here. Read the T-Mak World review.
The self-titled 2010 digipack debut CD for female-fronted French prog band Delusion Squared is a 59-minute concept album sung in English. Through the early part of the CD, the impression is of an alt-rock band making a prog album, on a par with The Reasoning in terms of progressiveness. Partly this is because the vocals are often dry (little or no reverb), with that modern female vocal style that we like to call ‘slightly uninterested’. But one notices many elegant touches, how Delusion Squared leave more space in the mix and how both guitarist and keyboardist use their acoustic instruments more than their contemporaries. The album gets more progressive as it goes on, with the best material saved for last. The vocals become lusher and the metal-influenced guitar used on a couple early tracks vanishes, such that by the end it feels closer to Yes, Strawbs, or Renaissance than to contemporary bands.
“This is very Porcupine Tree,... the band settling into a steady groove with subtle variations of tones, textures and colours, and flourishes and embellishments rather than soloing... I found this a mesmerising listening experience, aural hypnotherapy, the trance only broken when the last track finished. This has the makings of a prog classic, 8.5/10” [Ravenheart Music]
“Take Porcupine Tree’s spacey elements as a base, augment them with a strong reliance upon clean acoustic guitar, then bind them all together with compellingly beautiful female vocals and you have a decent idea where neo-proggers Delusion Squared are coming from sonically. ...Delusion Squared ‘held back’ their very best material until last, for it is during the final trio of atmospheric, beautiful and compelling songs that they soar to their greatest heights, indelibly carving out such an infectious and unforgettable sonic presence that I find myself involuntarily, almost instinctively scrambling for the replay button each time the album draws to a close. [Progpositivity, Prog Archives] Read more reviews at Prog Archives and JerryLucky.com.
Delusion Squared II (2012, 60-minutes, digipack) follows a similar pattern in that the band get their more metal-tinged material out of the way early on, then the music becomes lusher and more elaborated, with more acoustic textures, more real symphonic rock. Unlike the first album, the listener doesn’t need to wait as long before the more refined stuff takes over the album. There are some official extracts on YouTube.
Delusion Squared complete the trilogy with The Final Delusion (2014, digipack). See the album mini-site for full info. Listen to the album preview.
RPWL’s 2014 album is available both as a standard CD and a limited edition that adds a DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix and one bonus track. Both editions are digipacks. RPWL’s music, like Steven Wilson’s, is well-suited to surround and should ideally be heard that way. Wanted sees the band continuing to expand their style, not simply rehashing what they’ve already done. Their core sound is intact, the lush, Floydian style with gorgeous choruses. The early tracks however feature extended instrumental breaks in which there is a strong classic prog and classic hard rock influence, with organ as the primary keyboard sound. Not the prettiest cover, but it’s part of the album’s concept, which you can read about on the band’s site. “RPWL have done it again; Wanted is a triumphant, confident statement that confirms just how good this band are.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Prog Sphere and Dangerdog reviews. See our German page for the rest of the RPWL catalog.
KingBathmat are a British prog or alt-prog band that began with a cassette release in 1998. And they are a band that might restore one’s faith in the future of British progressive rock. Truth Button (2012) is something like their seventh album, not counting the cassettes. At present, the titles here are the only ones available on CD. KingBathmat are a modern prog band in that (on Truth Button at least) they rely a lot on grungy guitar, yet the vocals often feel like they’re from a much earlier era. The music is psychedelic in an early Porcupine Tree way, there are lush keyboards and gentle passages when KingBathmat want them, the arrangements are complex, and there is that quirkiness that many of the great UK prog bands have. Read the DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, and adequacy.net reviews. There’s an album montage on YouTube.
In contrast to Truth Button, which features long tracks, most of the songs on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival (2005) are relatively short. It begins with the songs that are more alt than prog, then a noticeable shift occurs with the track Sweet Iris, which has almost a pastoral Genesis feel. The rest of the CD is really proggy and really good, culminating in the fantastic 11:27 Soul Searching Song. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is not nearly as heavy as Truth Button, the grungy guitar much less prevalent. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Overcoming the Monster (2013) is the latest which, like Truth Button, features long tracks. “Kingbathmat are one of the most exciting bands that get labeled prog on the scene at the moment, and as this album proves, they are so much more than just a prog band. This is an album you need to listen to, on headphones, in one sitting, so you are immersed in its majesty. Faultless.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the PopMatters review and many more. See Prog Archives for reviews of all the KingBathmat albums. Watch the video for the song Sentinel.
The main force behind KingBathmat is John Bassett, who after seven KingBathmat albums is ready to do a Steven Wilson and step out under his own name with Unearth (2014). Bassett retains the services of a drummer while handling vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and Theremin himself. In many ways we like this album better than some of the KingBathmat output. Here there are a lot more acoustic textures, more heart energy, and none of the heavy or grungy guitar. Unearth lets Bassett’s songwriting shine like never before, with the dominant mood being melancholy, the songs lyrically dark but musically lush, uplifting, and life-affirming. “I’ve absolutely fallen in love with [Unearth], listening to it at what one might call an addictive level... If Kingbathmat ever released an album that combined the drive of Kingbathmat and the pauses and reflections of Unearth, the band would make an album that would not be just a great release of third-wave prog, but a worthy masterwork, an equal to the best of Genesis or Pink Floyd or Yes from the 1970s.” Read the full Progarchy review. Watch the album trailer video and the official video for Stay Away from the Dark.
Eve (2010) is the fourth studio album for Mary Jane, a band formed in Southampton, England in 1993. Mary Jane (who are related to the band Zaney Janey) are the current kings of progressive/psychedelic/electric folk-rock (or as they say, electrifying folk-rock), and by that we mean the style of Spriguns, Mellow Candle, and Spirogyra, and Eve is as good as any album by those bands. Except that with a playing time of 63-minutes, it’s as good as any two albums by those bands. Mary Jane have excellent female vocals, use lots of violin as well as flute, mandolin and recorders alongside electric & acoustic guitars, bass, and drums. About half the songs are traditional, half self-penned. One must mention Steeleye Span and Pentangle, though Mary Jane are proggier and have that psych-folk edge. This music brushes up against the folkier side of Renaissance and should appeal to many fans of Jethro Tull and Solstice. Watch YouTube videos of Eve, Twa Corbies, Clonakilty, and Let the Fire Begin.
Solstice (2014) is Mary Jane’s latest and is every bit as good as Eve. Be thankful a band making this music even exists in the present day.
Brigit’s Daughter is a 27-song double-CD compilation released in 2011, subtitled The Early Years 1996-2002. The tracks were chosen by the band and are drawn from the albums Hazy Days, Zaney Janey, The Gates of Silent Memory, Tacit (which contained live sessions), and To the Prettiest One, plus one previously unreleased track. The Mary Jane history may put these albums in some sort of perspective. Reviewers often compared Mary Jane’s earlier albums to those of the legendary band Trees.
Supernatural Highways (2014, digipack) is the first new CD from Rocket Scientists since 2007. It is all-instrumental with a playing time of 30:13, dominated by the 26-minute, seven-part Traveler on the Supernatural Highways. The other track is an arrangement of the John Barry composition On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, written for the Bond film. In fact this CD is the first of two planned for 2014, with a full-length, conventional Rocket Scientists album with vocals due later in the year. The core of Rocket Scientists remains Mark McCrite (guitars), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Sticks, cello), here joined by Gregg Bissonette (drums), Greg Ellis (percussion), Lana Lane (vocal pads), plus a trumpet player and a trombone player handling the Bond brass parts. This is Rocket Scientists at their (instrumental) best. The Bond piece is, like Rocket Scientists’ Space 1999 theme, much more fun than the original. The epic suite has much that is familiar to RS fans but sees the band stretching in new directions. Paramount is the integration of electronics. Norlander has already proven himself an excellent electronic musician, and here he incorporates sequencers and electronic sounds into driving progressive rock, something that a few have done (Ozric Tentacles, obviously) but that could be explored/exploited further. Other parts of the suite get fusion-y, and one has the feeling that, with a different mix, sections could be used as epic and thrilling Hollywood movie soundtrack material.
The double-CD Revolution Road (2006) had been thought to be extinct, but the band got a box of returns and decided to lower the price. It’s the best thing Rocket Scientists have done. Founding members Mark McCrite (guitar, vocals), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Stick) are joined by drummer Gregg Bissonette and second lead vocalist David McBee. While Oblivion Days verged on prog-metal at times, Revolution Road’s heaviness is more of the hard rock variety. So the music blends progressive hard rock with the Beatles and pop influences that have always been present in Rocket Scientists’ music, with Norlander’s symphonic keyboards at the center. Norlander does it all, from fast Wakeman-esque leads to early-70s prog organ to Mellotron pads to his own signature lead lines. Rocket Scientists have really polished the pop aspect of their songwriting, within arrangements that are always proggy. The many standout tracks include a cover of The Moody Blues’ Gypsy (of a Strange and Distant Time). See our dedicated Rocket Scientists section for the rest of their catalog.
Studio album number 14! All of Glass Hammer’s full-time singers past and present appear, including Jon Davison (Yes), Susie Bogdanowicz, Carl Groves (Salem Hill), Walter Moore, and Michelle Young. Guests include guitarist Randy Jackson (Zebra), keyboardist Rob Reed (Magenta), and violinist David Ragsdale (Kansas). Watch the album trailer and the video for the song Crowbone. See Page 2 for the rest of the Glass Hammer catalog.
Mind Portal are a Russian instrumental quartet (guitar/keys/bass/drums) debuting in 2010 with 1/1. They play heavy, fusion-tinged prog in a style similar to Planet X and Liquid Tension Experiment, with comparable technical skills. But Mind Portal earn high marks for melody and for concise, focused compositions, avoiding most of the excesses of those other bands. They have guitar melodies similar to what Joe Satriani comes up with, but not a lot of shredding for shredding’s sake. We would have liked some small degree of Russian flavor to give the music some distinctiveness -- this sounds entirely American -- but we understand that some of today’s progressive rock fans prefer a music monoculture. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Using a proprietary numbering scheme, 1/2: Thought and Matter (2014) is Mind Portal’s second, even better than their first. The technical level of the musicians is quickly apparent, and while that’s the end of the story for so many bands who can play but not compose, Mind Portal’s music is a real pleasure to listen to.
We’ll be the first to admit that our Belarus section is a bit thin, but as a start, here is Belarus band 7 Ocean, a trio of experienced musicians. The band was originally called Seventh Ocean, founded in 1989, before starting fresh as 7 Ocean. The music on the 7 Ocean debut The Mysterious Race of Strange Entities (2008) is 1970s-style keyboard-centric symphonic prog with some influence of ELP, The Nice, Rick Wakeman, Greenslade; really an amalgam of all the keyboard prog from that era, with an Eastern European flavor. The vocals are in what could be Belarusian. (All those languages with Cyrillic characters sound the same if you can’t speak any of them.) The music is relatively vocal-heavy, but as the tracks are long -- 10 tracks totaling 80-minutes -- there is ample room for instrumental and vocal passages to share the stage. Read the Progressor review.
7 Ocean followed with two albums released only as digital downloads, so Diapause (2014, 67-minutes) is their fourth album but second CD. The music is in a similar vein but with more instrumental content, and benefitting from greater experience.
Loving on Standby (2014, digipack) is the first CD of Vincent Leboeuf Gadreau, guitarist/singer of Québec City band Inner Odyssey. But this album is not in the style of Inner Odyssey, who are a prog-metal band. In fact we like Isos much more, as the music is more in the vein of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and the refined side of Riverside. Vocals in English.
This German quintet deserves to have “super” in their name, because for fans of classic British-style prog, Superdrama’s debut The Promise (2014, mediabook) may be the most exciting German prog release in a long time. One of very few other recent German bands making classic British-style melodic prog is Argos, and two of the four Argos members are in Superdrama! Superdrama was founded in 2004 though, so Argos may still be running in parallel. Superdrama’s primary influence is clearly Gabriel-era Genesis, though they are not overly derivative. There is a little Van der Graaf Generator resemblance, mainly because singer Robert Gozon can sound like Peter Hammill when he wants to, though he does so only on occasion. There are a few other prog influences sprinkled in, but the music doesn’t stray far from Genesis. This limited (and for the foreseeable future, only) edition comes in a hardcover mediabook with 60-page booklet. Watch the album sampler video.
Closed Doors to Open Plains (2014, 62-minutes, digipack) is the second CD for German prog quartet Seasons of Time, a mere 17 years after their debut, and far superior to it. They list their influences as Marillion, Pink Floyd, and Genesis. Watch the album sampler video.
It’s not like you can throw a rock today without hitting a band influenced by Pink Floyd (or by extension, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson), but the young Berlin-based band Osta Love are a rather good one, based on their second album Good Morning Dystopia (2013, digipack). Apparently worldwide stock of this CD is already down to double-digit quantities, so grab it if you want it, but expect to be hearing more from Osta Love, as fast-rising German prog label Progressive Promotion Records has signed them. Read the Background Magazine and Power of Metal.dk reviews. Watch Osta Love’s YouTube videos from this album.
Freedom to Glide is centered on English musicians Pete Riley and Andy Nixon who have played together for many years in the Pink Floyd tribute band Dark Side of the Wall. Their 2013 debut CD Rain (digipack) is, to quote the Sonic Abuse review, “the spiritual successor to The Final Cut, with its conceptual theme of the costs of war”, in this case with World War I as the subject matter. Freedom to Glide eschew high-energy instrumental excursions, focusing instead on the story and sustaining a profound and melancholy mood, equally beautiful and sad. The album has received plenty of accolades: also read the Prog Rock Music Talk, Get Ready to Rock!, and Progarchy reviews. Watch the official video for Rain (Part 1) and the unofficial video for When the Whistle Blows.
Canadian Rick Miller has been perfecting his soft, dark, and melancholy prog style with something like nine albums since 2003. Heart of Darkness (2014) is his latest. Rick has listed his influences as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards, assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Canadian page for the rest of the Rick Miller catalog and more info.
Tracks from the Alps (2014, digipack) is the sixth studio album for Italian band The Watch, who are essentially a clone of Gabriel-era Genesis. You know what you’re going to get, and if you’re at all a fan of early Genesis, this is not a difficult buy decision. One Genesis cover is included, the rare Going Out to Get You. The Watch continue to provide a valuable service by recording obscure early Genesis songs for which a good recording doesn’t exist or that were recorded by Genesis before they had fully established their style. See our Italian page for the rest of The Watch CDs.
Hail (2012, digipack) is a 4-track, 27-minute CD-EP by a young Welsh prog band, released on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s WhiteKnight label. Rob Reed, Magenta’s keyboardist and leader, plays on two of the tracks. (Keyboards are used on the other two tracks too.) The EP is mostly instrumental; what vocals there are are low and distant in the mix. There’s a minute of metal that opens the album, but the next 26 minutes are excellent: spacey and actually proggier than a lot of the current UK prog bands, who as a group lean toward melodic rock.
Phases (2014, digipack) is Eden Shadow’s first full-length CD, and it does have vocals. Instrumentally, Eden Shadow are a guitar/bass/drums trio with the guitarist and drummer adding keyboards; like so many modern prog bands, they lack a true keyboardist. Nik Turner guests with a flute solo on one track.
This is the debut by a new British neo-prog band on IQ’s Giant Electric Pea label, produced by IQ’s Mike Holmes and engineered by Rob Aubrey. Expect something resembling IQ and Jadis blended with influences of Muse, Porcupine Tree, and Cardiacs. Read the Prog Archives and Lady Obscure reviews.
Lee Abraham was the bass player of Galahad for a time and has a couple CDs previous to these under his belt, one under his name, one as half of the duo Idle Noise. Black & White (2009) is a British neo-prog all-star project that includes John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena,...), Simon Godfrey (Tinyfish), Jem Godfrey (Frost), Gary Chandler (Jadis), Steve Thorne, Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train), and Dean Baker (Galahad). That cast leads to certain expectations, and this CD delivers on them. The music is melodic, mainstream, third-generation (unless we’re up to fourth generation now) British prog. Read the DPRP review.
Lee’s follow-up Distant Days (2014, 60-minutes) was recorded with the same core band that did the handful of gigs after the release of Black & White. Guests on Distant Days include Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Mandalaband, Nine Stones Close), Dec Burke (Frost, Darwin’s Radio), John Young (Lifesigns), Steve Thorne, Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf), and Karl Groom (Threshold). Jon Barry and Simon Nixon helped out on guitar. Pink Floyd is the dominant influence, though that’s true of most of the current generation of mainstream prog bands. The highlight is the 15-minute final track Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday, which sounds like it will be the concert finale. Watch the promo video.
When Lazuli first appeared on the scene more than ten years ago, Musea called them “the most promising new French band in years”. By now prog fans everywhere have figured out that Musea was right. Tant que l’herbe est grasse (2104, digipack) is Lazuli’s latest studio CD, which features Fish singing on one song. You can listen to the first song at least on Lazuli’s site. See our French page for all of Lazuli’s CDs and much more info, and see our DVDs page for Lazuli’s DVDs.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
Perfect Beings is the new progressive rock band assembled by Luley, and this self-titled digipack CD is their 2014 debut. Yes is still by far the dominant influence, especially the Steve Howe style guitar work, but the whole is more original and unique than Moth Vellum. The vocals contribute an introspective and melancholy aspect, while instrumentally the band bursts out in full Yes majesty and complexity. Very nice.
Dream the Electric Sleep, or DTES for short, are a progressive rock band from Kentucky who debuted in 2011 with Lost and Gone Forever (77-minutes, digipack) and followed up with Heretics (2014, 73-minutes, digipack). DTES belong to that cadre of modern prog bands typified by Oceansize whose only strong connection to classic prog is to Pink Floyd, though DTES also mention Genesis and King Crimson as influences. This is music composed by guitarists, and they build up a big sound by layering guitars with different tones, while keyboards play a very minor role. OK, that last bit also describes some of Rush, and Rush is part of the DTES sound. There are also aspects of modern Marillion and Americana flavors (banjo is used sparingly). Within that framework, it is all quite ambitious and accomplished.
“[Lost and Gone Forever] gets an easy 5 out of 5 stars -- did I say epic? One of the best albums of the year and one of the best debuts I have heard in a while.” Read the entire Sea of Tranquility review. “Swollen with ambition, Lost and Gone Forever is a precocious first effort from a band who have clearly embraced four decades of progressive rock in their convoluted entirety. The main reference points here are more recent sonic explorers like Radiohead and Cave In, but there are flashes of everything from It Bites-style pomp right back to Floyd-esque space blues floating around in this colorful quagmire. First and foremost, DTES deal in huge melodies and arena-filling crescendos, and from the opening track onwards this album exudes a dogged desire to stir the soul and tug the heartstrings. The finest moments are simply beautiful.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog]
Read the Sea of Tranquility and Background Magazine reviews of Heretics.
This is the 2013 debut CD by The Cosmic Remedy, an Internet-era transnational band headed by Transylvanian guitarist Bogáti-Bokor Ákos, known for his work in the Yes-influenced bands Yesterdays, Tabula Smaragdina, and You and I. The drummer is Finland’s Kimmo Pörsti, who also plays in Paidarion, Mist Season, Strandberg Project, and The Samurai of Prog. The male lead singer is Brazilian, the bassist is Italian. Then there are the guests, who include German Ulf Yacobs (Argos), the flute player from Yesterdays, the drummer and bassist from Tabula Smaragdina, and three female singers. One is the first lead singer of Yesterdays, one is the lead singer of German band Klima, and one is the lead singer of a Romanian Led Zeppelin tribute band. Everyone sings in excellent English; in fact the whole album sounds extremely English. The CD consists of 14 songs organized into four suites. The first suite is the really proggy one, Yes-influenced and close to the sound of Bogáti-Bokor Ákos’ other bands. The remaining three suites are more Beatles-influenced, lighter and more open, with an unmistakeable late-60s vibe. Mellotron strings are used to add proggy flavoring to these lighter songs. Read the Background Magazine and The Progressive Aspect reviews.
Suono! (2013) is the second album for this Italian symphonic prog quartet singing in Italian. Their first album was released 12 years earlier only as a self-produced CD-R. But it reached the ears of PFM’s Franz Di Cioccio, who wanted Distillerie di Malto on his new label, and gave them the opportunity to open for PFM in 2003. Simply put, Suono! is classic progressive rock without compromises. Three of the eight songs were recorded some time earlier when Maurizio Di Tollo (drums) and Luca Latini (flute) were in the lineup. Listen to the track Il Guardiano on YouTube (which at the time of this writing has the wrong title listed).
Airbag are a five-man prog band from Oslo, Norway. Classic Rock Magazine hit the nail on the head when they described their 2009 debut Identity as: “Prog at its most chilled, honeyed and soothing... reminiscent of Coldplay doing Pink Floyd covers. Believe us, that’s a recommendation.” Airbag are also reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at their most sensual, as well as Gazpacho, RPWL, modern Marillion and Anathema. The music is lush and dripping with atmosphere, with omnipresent synth pads and some of the guitar work sounding like EBow, plus top-notch vocals. Gorgeous, melancholy stuff.
All Rights Removed (2011) is their second. The current edition comes in a standard jewel box. Read the Background Magazine and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album preview video.
This is the limited digisleeve edition of Airbag’s third CD The Greatest Show on Earth (2013). “With The Greatest Show on Earth, Airbag have merely tired out the extended crescendoing solo formula and made room for further variation from their already newfound triumphs to help them reach that looming magnum opus and seat as one of prog’s modern heroes.” Read the full Sputnik Music review as well as the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
The 2013 Ayreon album The Theory of Everything (digipack) is a rock opera (imagine that!) that begins a new story line for the Ayreon universe. The two CDs contain four 20+ minute epics divided into 42 separate tracks. The DVD contains 2.5 hours of behind-the-scenes content, mainly a making-of documentary and interviews. An Ayreon album always has impressive participants, but this one outdoes the previous albums. To name just the biggest names: John Wetton, Steve Hackett, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Troy Donockley, and Jordan Rudess. This album is proggier (less metallic) and more instrumental than the previous album 01011001, in some ways returning to the early days. Read the Sea of Tranquility, The Monolith, and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album trailer and the official video for the title track. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Dutch page for more Ayreon CDs.
After Chameleon, an album of shorter songs, Magenta’s sixth studio album The Twenty Seven Club (2013) sees them return in spectacular form with six progressive rock epics. “The new album has been five years in the making and I have tried to take the best elements of all the previous Magenta albums to craft the best collection of songs I could. I think this has been achieved and The Twenty Seven Club represents a return to our progressive rock roots” says Rob. “Only a few people have heard the album thus far but all have agreed that this is the best Magenta album to date”. The Twenty Seven Club refers to a large group of musician/singers (including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain) who all died at the age of 27, many from alcohol or drug abuse. Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost) is the drummer on this album. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album in DTS 24/96 and Dolby Digital, the 107-minute The Making of The Twenty Seven Club documentary, and the promo video for the song The Lizard King. Watch the promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Magenta catalog.
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