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Our pick for Best Album of 2014:
Dave Bainbridge is the main creative force in the band Iona. Bainbridgeís Veil of Gossamer (2004, 64-minutes) is stunning, as good as any prior Iona release and better in some respects. While Iona singer Joanne Hogg sings on every track except for the instrumentals, Bainbridge also employs two more incredible female voices: Rachel Jones (Karnataka) and Scottish singer Mae McKenna (at least three albums of her own). Jones and McKenna are used extensively; usually all three vocalists are present on the same track, with McKenna handling the Scottish Gaelic vocals. Also playing on most tracks are Iona bandmates Troy Donockley and Frank van Essen, as well as Tim Harries, Nick Beggs, and others. The album strikes the perfect balance between vocals and instrumental work, ranging from soaring progressive rock to orchestral splendor to that plaintive, yearning beauty that characterizes the best Celtic music.
Iona reached their peak in prog rock terms on 2006ís The Circling Hour. Troy Donockley would later depart and Iona returned to their early sound, de-emphasizing the progressive rock aspect of their style to some extent. Well, energy cannot be destroyed and must go somewhere, and now itís crystal clear where Dave Bainbridgeís progressive energies have gone. Celestial Fire (2014, 74-minutes, digisleeve) is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece and an album Dave says heís always wanted to make. Dave explains: ďItís an album which really draws upon the excitement and exhilaration I first felt, listening to many of my early musical heroes: Yes, Gentle Giant, David Sancious and Tone, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Hatfield and The North, Deep Purple, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Stivell, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, to name but a few! It was listening to all these great musicians and composers that first inspired me to become a musician and composer.Ē The album showcases some amazing playing from Dave on both guitar and keyboards, and though the music is heavily instrumental, there are vocals from numerous singers including Damian Wilson, Joanne Hogg, and Sally Minnear (daughter of Kerry). Dave is assisted by Troy Donockley, his Iona bandmates, Randy George (Ajalon), and many more. For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and the only reason you wonít is if you donít order it before you have to hand your list in! Listen to For Such a Time as This on YouTube.
Edge of the World: Live in Europe (2014, 2CD, digisleeve) is Ionaís first full-length live recording in nine years. It was recorded at various venues in the UK and The Netherlands during their 2012 Another Realm tour. There are 20 tracks though none from The Circling Hour, the focus being on Another Realm and the albums up through Open Sky. Read the Musical Discoveries review. See Page 2 for more Iona CDs.
Life Journey (2009) sees Ionaís co-founders reunited once again for another inspirational soundtrack to a book, taking up where 1998ís The Eye of the Eagle left off. Frank van Essen guests on violin and drums. This all-instrumental music was originally commissioned and conceived as a musical interpretation of the imagery and prose contained within Mary Fleesonís book Life Journey, but it transcends that as the unique chemistry between the two musicians has produced a deeply spiritual, timeless work. Dave Bainbridge says: ďIn many ways this felt like we were returning to the source of the inspiration that birthed Iona the band.Ē Watch the official video for the title track. Listen to Light Eternal on Soundcloud. See Page 2 for more Iona-related CDs.
Joanne Hogg is Ionaís singer (she also plays keyboards and acoustic guitar), while Frank van Essen is Ionaís drummer and violinist/violist. Raphaelís Journey (2010) was initially available only as a download prior to this CD, which comes in a simple printed sleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping). Clannadís Moya Brennan sings on five tracks, while the other musicians include the rest of the Iona lineup of that period: Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley, and Phil Barker, plus guests on cello, electric guitar, and vocals.
Uncountable Stars (2014, digipack) sees Joanne working with producer/guitarist Tre Sheppard, with many musicians assisting including Frank van Essen. Itís a collection of songs of depth and quality, varying from upbeat to mystical/magical; songs such as Mountain of Debris reach peaks that are quite intense. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Note the version sold by amazon.com is an on-demand CD-R; we have the real thing.
Guitarist/composer Malcolm Smith is a founding member of U.S. prog band Metaphor. While Metaphor still exists, and a new album from them should appear eventually, Smith took this opportunity to form an alternate band. The keyboardist on We Were Here (2014, digipack) is Metaphorís Marc Spooner, who made important contributions to the compositions. The drummer is Mattias Olsson (ńnglagŚrd, White Willow), and the bassist is Loren Gustafson. Metaphor and Mind Furniture vocalist John Mabry sings on one track, while the other five tracks are instrumental. Other musicians guest. First, dispel any notion that this sounds less like a band album than Metaphor because itís under Malcolmís name. It sounds exactly like a band recording, and depending on your taste, it is arguably better than the Metaphor albums to date. Metaphor grew out of a Gabriel-era Genesis tribute band. We Were Here still has some Genesis influence, but the music is shifted toward Gentle Giant and, to a lesser extent, Happy the Man, more complex and quirky without sacrificing too much accessibility. Well, Metaphor were going in that direction anyway when they left off. This album has all the layered instrumentation, tempo and time signature changes, multi-section arrangements, and exemplary musicianship a prog fan could want. Shameless and indulgent, just the way you like it, and an emphatically proggy way to bring 2014 to a close. See Page 2 for the Metaphor and related CDs.
This is the 2014 digipack reissue on the Seacrest label of Yesterdaysí debut full-length CD Holdfťnykert (Moonlit Garden), first released by the band in 2006, then by Musea in 2008. It had been out-of-print for some time. This new edition has improved sound, new artwork, and a new booklet with liner notes in English. Yesterdays are a progressive rock band formed by musicians belonging to the ethnic Hungarian minority of western Romania. This is why their female vocalist JŠnosi Kinga sings most of the songs in Hungarian, though a few are sung in English. The founder of the band, BogŠti-Bokor Ńkos, was also guitarist of the band You and I, one of the best Hungarian progressive bands. His bands and projects since have included Tabula Smaragdina and The Cosmic Remedy. From the bandís name, youíd be correct to infer a Yes influence, as there was in You and I, and a fleeting quote of a well-known Yes melody confirms that. But the Yes influence is minor, and there is as much influence of Camel, Renaissance, or Genesis. The music is beautiful symphonic prog, generally mellow, perfect for summer days. It is highlighted by female vocals, flute, and Mellotron, and much of the guitar work is acoustic. It often brings Magenta to mind, while the original liner notes referenced Harmoniumís classic Les Cinq Saisons. Read the DPRP review.
In Search of the Perfect Melody (2014, digipack) is the latest studio CD for Polandís Millenium and also marks their 15 year anniversary. It includes the longest track theyíve ever done, the nearly 20-minute title suite. Several musicians guest on vocals, sax, and cello. Listen to Girl from a Glass Sphere and Over & Over on YouTube.
In the World of Fantasy?...and Other Rarities (2014, 76-minutes) is a limited, numbered 15th Anniversary CD. The title track is taken from In Search of the Perfect Melody, while the rest of the tracks are an assortment of alternate versions and rarities. Click the mp3 icon next to this title above to see the details. See our East Euro page for a lot more Millenium CDs and more info.
This is the English-language version of the 2014 second CD by Polish prog band Walfad, whose name apparently is an acronym for We Are Looking For A Drummer. They already have a drummer though, and youíd think that name would make him a bit uneasy about his job security. This second album is much better than Walfadís debut. Milleniumís Ryszard Kramarski produced and probably exerted some influence. The Musicwaves review (in French) compares Walfad to Tai Phong and Galadriel. Listen to Sullen Lady on YouTube.
Loonypark are a Polish neo-prog band that includes the (female) singer and the keyboardist formerly with Liquid Shadow. (The keyboardist is also a member of Nemezis and at least one other band.) Egoist (2008) is Loonyparkís debut. The music here is in the Polish neo-prog mainstream, with English-language vocals and both Steve Rothery-style and metal guitar, but more conservative and relaxed than most. Millenium circa Reincarnations is not a bad reference point. Singer Sabina Godula has a relatively deep, soulful voice that has a large impact on the feel of the music.
The second Loonypark CD Straw Andy (2011) seems even more a vehicle for Sabinaís vocals. This is lush pop-prog in the style of Varius Manx and Nemezis.
Unbroken Spirit Lives in Us (2014) is Loonyparkís third and best. The music remains melodic and fairly relaxed, sometimes bursting out in denser, livelier passages. Listen to Treasure on YouTube.
This is the 2014 debut by a Polish keyboard-dominated prog band with female vocals (in English). Sea Vine list the keyboards used as grand piano, Fender piano, Moog, and Hohner String Melody, so expect vintage sounds.
Back in stock. This is the 2013 debut by an excellent Polish band playing spacey prog with female vocals in English. The vocals are usually multi-tracked, heavily reverbed, and panned to different locations to give a psychedelic effect. Weíre hesitant to call this space-rock because that usually implies long improvised jams, and thatís not what Soma White do. Their songs are composed and structured, the arrangements lush and detailed. They use an excellent variety of guitar tones ranging from modern aggressive to lyrical leads to clean, ringing tones, and they augment their sound with creative use of electronics. Above all, the music is original. As with the band Hipgnosis, itís exciting to find a new Polish band not playing the same tired prog-metal or tepid neo-prog, and yet Soma Whiteís sound is modern and may appeal to fans of the spacey side of Riverside. The album was mastered by Andy Jackson, known for his work with Pink Floyd. The CD comes in a type of hardcover packaging weíve never seen before; itís quite nice. (Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.) Watch the official video for Pure Nonsense.
It took until 2014, but here finally is the audio and video record of FMís performance at NEARfest 2006. This CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) set comes in a digipack. The 12 tracks include six from Black Noise, three from Surveillance (all the best ones), one from City of Fear, and two new compositions. The Canadian prog legends reformed and rehearsed for months for this show, and it showed as they were tight and polished. See our Canadian page for FMís studio CDs and more info on the band.
Tony Patterson is probably best known as the singer for top UK Genesis tribute act ReGenesis, and he recently contributed to Nick Magnusís Nímonix album. His voice is naturally Gabrielesque and does not sound contrived. Keyboardist Brendan Eyre may be best known for the band Riversea, which he formed with singer/guitarist Marc Atkinson; both also joined Nine Stones Close. Tony and Brendan discussed the idea of working on a project together that would reflect their native North East (England) roots. The albumís themes include memories of loss, heartache, and the abiding beauty of the North East landscape that drew them back to places and people left behind. Northlands (2014, digipack) is a beautifully crafted, cinematic album that features contributions from Steve Hackett, John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Tim Esau (IQ), Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close), and several others. ďWithin the same month of Pink Floydís final album being released comes a musical adventure from two relatively unknown musicians who have sculptured a masterpiece which deserves as much recognition as Pink Floydís swan song. From the premise of the tale to the honing of each song and nuances there within, Northlands is a breath of fresh air... What it is defies category. It is beautiful, delicate, thought-provoking, and a joyful journey for any music lover. Northlands exceeded all expectations for me, and any listener will find with each listen it will grow with you and you with it.Ē Read the full Progmeister review. Watch the album preview video and listen to an even longer album preview on YouTube.
Andy Jackson is best known for his role as Pink Floyd engineer and co-producer, but he is a musician and composer in his own right, having recorded the albums On the Surface, Obvious, and Mythical Burrowing Animals*. (Apparently selling CDs was not the goal of those albums, as Andy mostly hoarded them.) Signal to Noise (2014, digipack) is, not surprisingly, quite Floydian. This deluxe edition adds a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 96kHz / 24-bit quad (4.0) mix in your choice of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, both of which are lossless, plus a hi-res LPCM stereo mix. Read the Mediaversal review. Watch the album preview video and the video for The Boy in the Forest.
* Described by the one (and only) amazon reviewer as ďEasily the best record ever made. This could be the basis for a whole new religion that could one day topple Christianity.Ē
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 Majestyís Secret Service, written for the Bond film. It is the first of two 2014 CDs, the other being Refuel, the result of the band having written too much material for a single CD. The core of Rocket Scientists remains Mark McCrite (guitars), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Sticks, cello), here joined by Gregg Bissonette (drums), Greg Ellis (percussion), Lana Lane (vocal pads), plus a trumpet player and a trombone player handling the Bond brass parts. This is Rocket Scientists at their (instrumental) best. The Bond piece is, like Rocket Scientistsí Space 1999 theme, much more fun than the original. The epic suite has much that is familiar to RS fans but sees the band stretching in new directions. Paramount is the integration of electronics. Norlander has already proven himself an excellent electronic musician, and here he incorporates sequencers and electronic sounds into driving progressive rock, something that a few have done (Ozric Tentacles, obviously) but that could be explored/exploited further. Other parts of the suite get fusion-y, and one has the feeling that, with a different mix, sections could be used as epic and thrilling Hollywood movie soundtrack material.
After the all-instrumental Supernatural Highways, Refuel (2014, 61-minutes, digipack) is a more traditional Rocket Scientists album mixing vocal and instrumental tracks in the bandís characteristic style. Gregg Bissonette is again the drummer. The guest vocalists include Lana Lane, Kelly Keeling, and Emily McCrite, while the brass players featured on Supernatural Highways return. Refuel is probably the bandís most collaborative work, with Don Schiff penning two of the songs. In addition to Stick and bass, Schiff plays contrabass, cello, and viola throughout the album. Mark McCrite remains the primary vocalist, but Erik Norlander sings some lead, something that was an important element on the first two Rocket Scientists albums. Watch the video for Sheís Getting Hysterical.
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. Itís the best thing Rocket Scientists had done to date. 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 Roadís 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 Scientistsí music, with Norlanderís 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 Bluesí Gypsy (of a Strange and Distant Time). See our dedicated Rocket Scientists section for the rest of their catalog.
Red Jasper are an English prog band that formed in the mid-1980s and released a half dozen albums up through 1997. After the Angel Air label reissued the Red Jasper albums in 2012, the band reformed and are now playing live again. It also led to this new CD: The Great and Secret Show (2014). Founding member and lead singer Davey Dodds is no longer involved, so the band is now a quartet with the same lineup as on 1997ís Anagramary, minus Dodds. Anagramary was the blueprint for how Red Jasper would sound today, essentially a neo-prog band with little of the folk element of their early days. Dodds was hardly involved on Anagramary, while Dave Clifford sang lead on two of the Anagramary tracks. Clifford worked extensively as a vocalist during Red Jasperís long break and the job is now his. While some will miss the eccentricity and English folk elements, fans of early Marillion, Galahad, Twelfth Night, etc. are probably happier. See our British page for all the Red Jasper CDs and more info.
This 2014 live CD captures a set of King Crimson songs performed by American prog band District 97 with former King Crimson singer/bassist John Wetton. Wetton had previously made a cameo appearance on District 97ís 2012 album Trouble With Machines. The track list: One More Red Nightmare, The Great Deceiver, Lament, The Night Watch, Fallen Angel, Book of Saturday, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Starless, Easy Money. Many of these songs are rarely heard live now. District 97ís female lead vocalist Leslie Hunt sometimes sings alongside Wetton, adding a unique flavor. See Page 2 for District 97ís two studio CDs.
While World in Motion (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is the debut by a Belgian prog band, Fossil Evolutionís pedigree is surprising. Those whose core competencies include progressive rock know that Isopoda were, along with early Machiavel, the top Belgian sympho-prog band. After releasing albums in 1978 and 1981, Isopoda reunited briefly in 2004 for two concerts. They reunited a second time in 2013, with the band lineup augmented by two of founding member Arnold De Schepperís three sons. Arnold had already formed Fossil Evolution with all his sons and were to be joined by Isopoda keyboardist Luc Vanhove. However, Luc passed away in 2013, so the lineup was completed by the school friend of one of the sons. World in Motion consists of five original tracks and one fully-reworked adaptation of the Isopoda classic Considering, which has gone from 8 minutes to 12:37 and now includes trumpet passages -- itís better than the original! The album blends the Isopoda style with more contemporary influences, with the primary appeal being to neo-prog fans. Watch the album trailer video.
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 Bruinís. The series is first released as downloads by subscription, 52 ďepisodesĒ over a period of 52 weeks throughout 2014. The series is also being released on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves, of which these are the first and second. 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 Bruinís other projects (and that his other albums are all different from each other) and yet still very much progressive rock speaks to the manís creativity and range. Watch the series trailer and listen to A Dot on the Horizon on YouTube.
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 Greensladeís 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 doesnít 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.
Solaris are Hungaryís well-known instrumental symphonic prog band who use flute extensively, lending comparisons to Jethro Tull and Camelís The Snow Goose, but Solaris have their own distinctive style that incorporates Hungarian folk melodies. Their 1983 debut The Martian Chronicles is their classic, for many the best Hungarian prog album and one of the top instrumental prog albums period. Martian Chronicles II (2014) is the sequel to that album. As with Tubular Bells and Thick as a Brick, nothing boosts sales and press coverage like naming your new album the same as your classic album and appending a ďIIĒ. But we think few will be disappointed with Marsbťli KrůnikŠk II. Watch promo video 1 and promo video 2. See our Hungarian page for more Solaris CDs and related bands.
Formed from the ashes of Australiaís much-loved Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity sees Unitopiaís Matt Williams, David Hopgood, Tim Irrgang, and Mark Trueack joined by Guy Manning (Manning), Dan Mash (Maschine, The Tangent), and Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, Cyril). Guests on the UPF debut Fall in Love With the World (2014) include Jon Anderson, Steve Hackett, Steve Unruh, Claire Vezina, Guillermo Cides, Ian Ritchie, and more. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album overview video and the video for The Water.
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: ďProg at its most chilled, honeyed and soothing... reminiscent of Coldplay doing Pink Floyd covers. Believe us, thatís a recommendation.Ē 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 Airbagís third CD The Greatest Show on Earth (2013). ďWith 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 progís modern heroes.Ē Read the full Sputnik Music review as well as the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
Lullabies in a Car Crash (2014, digisleeve) is the debut solo CD by Airbag lead guitarist and main songwriter BjÝrn Riis. While Riis sings backing vocals in Airbag, he is lead singer here. The album features Airbagís Henrik Fossum on drums and Asle Tostrup providing loops and effects. Long-time Airbag collaborator Vegard Sleipnes co-produced the album along with BjÝrn. BjÝrn says the album is very much a personal statement, with lyrics dealing with fear of abandonment, alienation and loss, while also an homage to many of his musical influences. In case thereís any doubt who his biggest musical influence is, Riis is the creator of the website Gilmourish.com, which gets a lot of traffic. This should be an easy decision for Airbag and Pink Floyd fans. Listen to the album preview on YouTube.
The After-Effect (2014, digipack) is the fifth CD for Polish prog band Osada Vida, who have come a long way since their debut. Watch the official trailer and the videos for King of Isolation and Sky Full of Dreams. See our East European page for more Osada Vida CDs (and a DVD).
Jethro Tullís 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 Ch‚teau díHťrouville (ĎChateau Disasterí) recordings that preceded. So CD1 contains the new stereo mix of A Passion Play and CD2 contains the new stereo mix of The Ch‚teau díHťrouville 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 Ch‚teau díHťrouville Sessions in those same surround and stereo formats. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. The 80-page book details the album, the bandís 1973 tour, and the Chateau recordings. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
Steven Wilson next turned his mixing attention to Tullís 1974 album Warchild. This 2CD+2DVD set is called The 40th Anniversary Theatre Edition and comes in hardcover book-size packaging. Originally planned as a large-scale film and album project, Tull recorded 21 songs for the project plus another 10 orchestral pieces intended for the film soundtrack. Eventually the film project was shelved and the resulting album featured a mere 10 tracks. This new edition brings together all of the music recorded during the period. A total of 25 tracks have been remixed in 5.1 surround as well as stereo, including four of the orchestral pieces. The original 1974 mix is represented by a flat transfer of the album, six more orchestral tracks, and a quadrophonic mix of the album. The first DVD also contains video clips of a 1974 Montreux photo session and press conference, as well as The Third Hoorah promo footage with remixed stereo audio. The surround audio is DTS 96/24 and AC3 Dolby Digital. The stereo audio on the DVDs is 96/24 LPCM. The 80-page booklet features an extensive history of the project, a film script synopsis, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, and rare and unseen photographs. It all makes the old CD version of Warchild that you have now seem hopelessly inadequate. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
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). Note these do not contain the bonus tracks that were on the 2003-2005 remastered CDs, just the albums proper. The discs come in thin sleeves inside a slipcase. Yes, you probably already own some or all of these, but weíre 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 and want to free up some shelf space too. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
City of the Sun (2014) is the debut by a great jazzy, eclectic Norwegian prog band singing in English. The lineup is vocals/guitars, sax, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. The jazz elements enter primarily by way of the sax, which is played in a controlled but powerful style, sometimes bringing Van der Graaf Generator with David Jackson or Gong with Didier Malherbe to mind. Comparisons to Soft Machine, King Crimson, Zappa, or Out of Focus are all valid, but Seven Impale are definitely more modern. Their vocals are generally in a soft, dreamy style similar to Radioheadís, and they inject contemporary heaviness. The tracks are long, varied, and complex. This is inventive, head-turning music, not the same old stuff. Some modern prog scenes and fanbases have a narrow range, seemingly unaware of vast sections of the prog universe. Itís refreshing then to hear a young band (Seven Impaleís members are in their early 20s) creating something exciting and venturing beyond the mainstream. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Progulator. Listen to Windshears and God Left Us for a Black-Dressed Woman on YouTube.
Lucid Moments (2011) is the debut CD for Tune, a Polish band who might sound like Riverside or Pain of Salvation except that on this album, they integrate accordion into their sound, making them unique. Read the Sea of Tranquility and progVisions reviews.
Tuneís lineup is the same on their second CD Identity (2014, digipack), but theyíve abandoned the accordion, so scratch that comment above about them being unique. Keyboardist Janusz Kowalski, who played the accordion on Lucid Moments, seems to concentrate on piano on this album. Itís all very dark and melancholy. Listen to the album teaser and the songs Crackpot and Change on YouTube.
Smorgasbord (2009, 55-minutes) is already the third CD for this Norwegian prog band. How can they be less than famous? As with Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers, and other current Scandinavian bands, Brimstone do a modern, proggier take on classic early 1970s rock, with influences extending back into the late 1960s. The first clichť that comes to mind is Ďa breath of fresh airí, but that occurred to at least one of the reviewers linked to below, so no need to repeat it. Some of the music is what used to be called Ďrural rockí, with CSN&Y style vocals, but done up in proggy arrangements that result in what weíll call Ďfeel-good progí because of the sunny, summer mood. And some of the music is more overtly proggy, which feels even better than the Ďfeel-good progí. If none of that makes much sense, read the reviews at Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility.
Thankfully the band shortened their name to just Brimstone for their 2014 CD Mannsverk. (Donít panic, they still sing in English.) Brimstone again deliver vintage prog using vintage instruments with crisp modern production. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Unseen Cord (2014, 70-minutes) is Salem Hillís ninth studio album. The CD actually has two titles and two covers, the other being Thicker Than Water. Presumably the bandmembers couldnít agree on a name or cover and so there are two. Bandleader Carl Groves says that this is their most poignant record since 1998ís The Robbery of Murder and adds: ďIf you loved the debut and/or Different Worlds for their quirkiness, youíll groove on this one. I give you Happy Hands, an instrumental in 7 with Hammond, grungy bass and...VIBES! If you liked Catatonia and The Robbery of Murder for the stories and the emotional impact, youíll groove on this one. Weíre dealing with some pretty weighty issues on a couple of tracks, one of them clocking in at 28 minutes. If you like the pomposity of Not Everybodyís Gold, we flex our prog chops on, well, every flippiní track on this album. There are some particularly gnarly sections in a song called Sing On and in the aforementioned epic. You like the bite of Be? Crunch guitar carries the 8-minute rocker This May Hurt More. Pining for the lush keyboard flavoring of Mimiís Magic Moment? We gotcha. A beautiful Yamaha C7 acoustic grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Mellotron prominently flavor the song Float. You want the thick vocals and enchanting melodies of Pennies in the Karma Jar? We deliver. Every song. If we sound braggadocious, itís only because this one is special.Ē See Page 2 for the rest of the Salem Hill CDs (and DVD) currently in print, and more info.
The Great Divide (2014) is the first album in ten years for Enchant, the San Francisco Bay Area prog band whose first CD appeared in 1995. This is the 2CD mediabook (hardcover) edition, which has one bonus track on the first disc, while the bonus second disc is a 10 track, 71-minute anthology covering the entire Enchant catalog. Listen to the album teaser on YouTube. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Pneumatica (2014, digipack) is the first purely instrumental album for Squonk Opera, who have been going non-stop for something like 22 years now. Squonk Opera may be even more alluring to prog fans as an instrumental band than they are with their usual female vocals. Take a minute and 26 seconds to watch this glimpse of Squonkís fabulous Pneumatica show. Youíll see and hear that Steve OíHearn has a new toy: MIDI (electronic) bagpipes from Asturian piper and instrument maker Hevia. This adds a new dimension to Squonk Operaís sound. You can find bands featuring pipes that play rock or add programmed beats, but none of them play in odd time signatures or have symphonic arrangements like this, none of them play progressive rock. For those still not familiar with Squonk Opera, head to Page 2 for more Squonk Opera CDs (and a DVD) and much more info.
This is the 2014 digipack reissue on the Made In Germany label of a CD first released in 2000. Friendship is a collaboration between Klaus Schulze and Manuel GŲttsching in studio sessions in 1998 and 2000. While Schulze was once (or twice) a member of Ash Ra Tempel (as the drummer), the decision to release this CD under that name probably has more to do with marketing. This is not in the 1970s Ash Ra Tempel style. Itís closer to a Klaus Schulze album of the 2000 timeframe, with GŲttschingís electric and acoustic guitar adding an important extra dimension. In typical Schulze fashion, just three tracks span 79-minutes. Read the Sonic Curiosity review.
Fractal Mirror is a distant collaboration between two Dutchmen and one American. The origins of Fractal Mirror are in mid-1980s Amsterdam. The band says they were initially influenced by bands on the 4AD label and David Sylvian, and this influence can still be heard. But at that same time, the second generation progressive rock bands were in full force, and Fractal Mirror mention IQ, Pendragon, Twelfth Night, Marillion, and Pallas. But they especially credit Canadian band Terraced Garden, which is amazing because, have you ever heard anyone cite Terraced Garden? (You probably donít even know who Terraced Garden is.) Terraced Gardenís LPs have (to our knowledge) never been reissued on CD, which is a good way to become unknown. Anyway, the two Dutchmen rebooted in 2012 and found their American drummer and lyricist via Facebook.
Their first CD Strange Attractors (2013, digipack) was mastered in Norway by Rhys Marsh, expanding the international aspect. Read reviews. Watch the video for The Fading Ghosts of Yesterday.
Garden of Ghosts (2014, digipack) is a big leap forward. It was co-produced and mixed by Echolynís Brett Kull who plays guitar and/or adds backing vocals on every song, while Larry Fast (Synergy) contributes keyboards, Don Fast sitar and guitar, and Amsterdamís Stephanus Choir do what choirs do. Echolynís Ray Weston, Paul Ramsey, and Tom Hyatt get some vocals in, just to stay sharp. Larry Fast also mastered the album and in fact signed the band to his label. Brett became enamored of the band too, saying źďFractal Mirrorís music is a strange combination of different cultures creating a unique and yet familiar sound. I love the occasional odd chord change or Leoís brilliant note choice in his melodies. There is an Ďeaseí in these songs Ė nothing pointy or pointless. Even heavier tunes like Phoenix have a certain amount of grace in them. There is real experience in the words and the way they are sung by Leo that transcends rigid style borders.Ē Watch the album preview video and the video for The Garden.
Lost World Band was formed in 1996 by three Moscow Conservatory students. Their first album Trajectories was released in 2003 on the prestigious Russian Boheme label. The band have since taken matters into their own hands, and band leader Andy Didorenko at least now lives in New York City.
This is the 2014 second edition of Awakening of the Elements, the word revisited added to the title to distinguish it from the first edition released in 2006 on Musea. This new edition is released by the band and comes in a digisleeve with 12-page booklet. Not only was the entire album remixed and remastered, the drums and strings were re-recorded live. On the 2006 edition they were programmed. These changes make this version a great improvement over the Musea edition.
Awakening of the Elements is all-instrumental. This is classical progressive rock of the highest order, with flute and violin featured prominently. Probably because theyíre Russian, Lost World Band sound unlike most of the other prog bands with heavy classical influence, so the music usually sounds quite original. Kansas, The Dixie Dregs, or Jethro Tull are fair reference points for some of the material. These guys can play and they can compose. Read the Proggnosis and Progressor reviews of the 2006 edition. See our East European page for the full Lost World Band catalog and more info.
Blue (2014, digipack) is the debut CD by German/English prog band Eyesberg, whose first period of existence was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All the compositions here date to that time but have been recently recorded. Among the current members is Ulf Jacobs (Argos, Yacobs). Eyesbergís singer Malcolm Shuttleworth has a voice a bit similar to Phil Collins, and Genesis is probably the bandís primary influence, but the end result may have greater appeal to fans of neo-prog. Itís really a case of one foot in classic-prog and one foot in neo-prog, always melodic and majestic. Watch the generous (10:46) album trailer on YouTube.
Gong, with Daevid Allen in control, are back with a new studio album. I See You (2014) comes in the hardcover mediabook format, with 28-page booklet. The current sextet lineup is augmented by Gilli Smyth adding ďsprinkled space whisperĒ. With no compromises, this is Gong doing their psych-space-jazz-rock that may have you seeing airborne teapots and angelic eggs, though itís the word ĎYouí in the title that may be the most important clue. Read the Ytsejam.com review. Check our British page for a few of the classic Gong albums.
These are the digipack editions of the White Willow CDs on the bandís Termo label. Storm Season, Sacrament, and Ex Tenebris are new 2014 remastered and expanded editions with new artwork. Storm Season has three bonus tracks: two demos and one outtake. 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.
Norwayís 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, itís arguable whether there is any folk left; rather it is symphonic prog with a pastoral, neo-classical component.
The band consider Storm Season (2004) to be their breakthrough album, at least in terms of sales. It is White Willowís most electric and rock-based, with heavy guitars prominent at times, though there is still plenty of Mellotron and other analog keys, flute, and cello along with the female vocals.
White Willowís 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, ńnglagŚrd), Rhys Marsh, Lars Fredrik FrÝislie (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: ďI 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.Ē 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.
The Best of Magus & The Winter Tree 1988-2013 (digipack) is an anthology of the closely-related Vermont-based bands Magus and The Winter Tree. If youíre not familiar with these bands, see Page 2 for their full catalogs and all the info. This nice-price CD is full, containing 50 minutes of revised/remixed Magus songs plus 30 minutes of the best of the three The Winter Tree albums. Itís a different selection of Magus songs than the earlier Echoes from the Edge of the Millennium CD apart from ...and the River Joins the Sea... and the Gong-inspired Rif, but this new CD includes the full revised/remixed/remastered editions whereas Echoes... contains only edited versions. Some of the Magus tracks here have had new bass, drums, and/or textures added before being remixed and remastered.
Swedish prog band Cross have a career dating back to the late 1980s. Da Capo (2014, digipack) consists of new versions of Cross songs originally released in the early 1990s, re-recorded by Cross in 2014. The keyboardist on this album is Mats Bender from Introitus, while bassist Thomas Christensen, a Cross member from 1994-97, was happy to rejoin. The songs date as far back as the second Cross album Second Movement. Cross are now a much more symphonic and powerful prog band than they were back then, so this is no redundant rehash. With the same lush, symphonic arrangements and production as heard on the previous Cross album Wake Up Call, this is in effect a new album, with four long tracks (Fire, Dream Reality, Visions, Courage) plus the brief Changing. Listen to Dream Reality and Fire on YouTube. See our Scandinavian page for the full Cross catalog and more info.
Belgian band Fish on Friday 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. Godspeed (2014, digipack) is Fish on Fridayís third but their first for the Esoteric Antenna label (Esotericís imprint for new music). ďThe 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. Thereís also a hint of Yes that pops up during Godspeed. Yet itís 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, itís an outstanding, articulate and impeccably presented album.Ē [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 ŗ 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: ďOccasionally 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.Ē This is a brilliant album, and youíll probably need to watch the album preview video to hear for yourself. ďThis is a fantastic album and shows a band at the peak of their musical and compositional powers, and there is no weak track on it.Ē Read the full Progarchy and The Active Listener reviews.
We love this record, first released on LP in 1984, with a first CD issue that was deleted before anyone could buy it, and now this 2014 remastered and expanded CD edition on Esoteric. If youíre not familiar with this album, you may want to read its Wikipedia entry or the Allmusic review to understand the full story. It is both a comedy and a music album, and stands alone as either. Neil, played by actor Nigel Planer, is the hippie character from UK comedy series The Young Ones (1982-84). The man behind the music is none other than Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, National Health). The cast of musicians is reasonably astounding: Gavin Harrison, Pip Pyle, Jakko Jakszyk, Rick Biddulph, Jimmy Hastings, Annie Whitehead, Barbara Gaskin, and Bryson Graham (Mainhorse, Spooky Tooth). On the comedy side, Stephen Fry and Dawn French make appearances. The songs are mostly covers of prog and pysch nuggets, to mention a few: Caravanís Golf Girl, Hole in My Shoe (Traffic), and My White Bicycle (Tomorrow). In some regards, these are better than the originals because of Dave Stewartís arrangements. What makes a song ďprogĒ is largely down to the arrangement, especially evidenced by the version here of Donovanís Hurdy Gurdy Man. Quotes from The Court of the Crimson King and Strawberry Fields Forever pop up in other songs. Esoteric have added four bonus tracks. Three were only on the cassette version of the album, and one is the B-side of the Hole in My Shoe single.
This 1976 album is the first of two great if somewhat curious albums by Rupert Hineís funky jazz-rock progressive-pop band. In addition to Hine (vocals, keyboards), the band features John G. Perry (bass), Mark Warner (guitar), and Trevor Morais (drums), with Morris Pert and Ray Cooper guesting on percussion. Hine says that they were trying to blend funk and fusion with English songwriting sensibility. Thereís a feel of Steely Dan and Zappa run through a Canterbury filter. Sort of. This is the 2014 edition on Esoteric, remastered from the original tapes and including five bonus tracks. (These appear to be the same bonus tracks that were on the 1998 Voiceprint edition.) The booklet features fully restored artwork and new liner notes. Click the mp3 icon above to read the Allmusic review.
This 2014 Esoteric Recordings release is the first official CD of this 1972 album, newly remastered from the original master tapes. The bandís origins are in Berlin in 1969, initially called Children of Fools, founded by two Americans. The ensemble grew to ten members, most with a U.S. military service background. Gigs in Germany led to a UK recording contract, and in 1971 the various members of the band somehow managed early outs from the army and went to London to record their one and only album. They were championed by Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris. The album is a fusion of rock and jazz using brass instruments, the full lineup on the LP being guitar/vocals, keyboards, bass, drums, alto sax, tenor sax, two trumpets, trombone, and congas. The music is at times reminiscent of early Chicago, at other times in the underground early prog style. The LP is very rare now. Listen to Ein Grosses (probably the heaviest, most jamming song) on YouTube.
These are the newly-remastered 2014 Esoteric Recordings editions. Forest of Feelings has one bonus track; both have booklets with fully restored artwork and new liner notes. Keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious was still a teenager when he joined Bruce Springsteenís E Street Band. He became an in-demand session and touring musician, and some prog fans may only know him for his work for Peter Gabriel beginning with Passion, or for playing a big role on Jon Andersonís Animation. But Sanciousí true legacy is his own records, and Forest of Feelings (1975) and Transformation (The Speed of Love) (1976) are arguably his two best. While Transformation is credited to his band Tone, thatís a mere formality as the same musicians appear on Forest of Feelings. Fortunately the music has nothing to do with Springsteen; it has more in common with Yes, Genesis, and ELP. It is a unique blend of symphonic fusion and progressive rock. Sancious learned classical piano at an early age, and he uses a large arsenal of keyboards on these records, records that are essential in any serious progressive rock library. ďForest of Feelings is an auspicious debut that delivers not only a mastery of various musical genres, but a holistic view of them. Just as the whole fusion thang was moving toward an increasingly irrelevant technicianís language devoid of any cultural connection other than its own, this culturally advanced, spiritually open set hit the shelves. This music sounds as refreshing and life-affirming in the 21st century as it did in 1975.Ē ďAs an album, Transformation (The Speed of Love) is awe-inspiring, a work of progged-out jazz-rock thatís as iconic as Birds of Fire, Blow by Blow, or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, yet stands alone for its artful ambition and emotional commitment.Ē Click the mp3 icons above to read the full Allmusic reviews.
North Star (digipack) is the 2014 comeback album for Curved Air, one of the pioneering progressive rock bands. The lineup now is Sonja Kristina (vocals), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Kirby Gregory (guitars), Paul Sax (violin), Robert Norton (keyboards), and Chris Harris (bass). So often such comeback albums are a disappointment, but North Star is really good, better than any of the Curved Air studio albums after 1973ís Air Cut. You wonít miss Darryl Way with Paul Saxís fine violin work. Seven songs are new, four are re-recorded versions of songs from the first two Curved Air albums and one Sonja Kristina solo album, and three are covers. One of the latter is The Policeís Spirits in the Material World, which is permissible since Sonja was married to Stewart Copeland. Read the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
Violinist Darryl Way is a co-founder of Curved Air, though not a current member. Children of the Cosmos (2014) is his first prog album in approximately forever. In addition to electric violin, Way plays keyboards and sings, with his daughter Rosie singing on one track. Both Darryl and Rosie can sing! Read the All About Jazz, Prog Rock Music Talk, and Examiner.com reviews. See our British page for more Darryl Way and Darryl Wayís Wolf CDs.
These 2014 remastered and expanded editions on Esoteric complete that labelís reissue program of Gordon Giltrapís band albums. See our British page for all the Giltrap band CDs and more, plus much more info. There youíll also find some of the previous editions on Giltrapís La Cooka Ratcha label (Voiceprint) at reduced prices.
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 Safariís earlier live 2CD The Gettysburg Address. Three songs are from their most recent studio album Himlabacken vol. 1, and the finale is Loverís End Pt. III: SkellefteŚ Serenade in its entirety. See our Scandinavian page for the complete Moon Safari catalog and much more info.
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 weíre 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 (Moerlenís 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 youíre 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 Moerlenís 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. ďBreaking Barriers was Tributeís 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.Ē [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 Mysteryís back catalog. It is the only live recording with former lead singer Benoit David, who was also Jon Andersonís 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 Pendragonís 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 2006ís 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 Barrettís ďAcoustic House Concert - Live at TwigísĒ, a 2013 solo acoustic recording. See our British page for more Pendragon CDs.
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 ďLunatic SoulĒ, 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 Riversideís 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 whoíve jumped on this particular bandwagon): dark, lush, melancholy and moving. Itís 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 itís 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: ďImpressions 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.Ē 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 thatís 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 ďmaking-ofĒ documentary/interview. Read the Prog Sphere review. Watch the album teaser video.
Steve Rothery is of course Marillionís guitarist. This 3-disc digipack set was recorded at a sold out show in Italy in 2014. The first CD contains six tracks from Rotheryís solo album The Ghosts of Pripyat. The second CD contains performances of classic Marillion material plus two songs by Italian prog band RanestRane. The reason for that is that for this concert, the keyboardist was Riccardo Romano of RanestRane, and Rothery (as well as Steve Hogarth) guested on the RanestRane album A Space Odyssey Part I: Monolith. The rest of Rotheryís band is Dave Foster (Mr. So & So) on guitar, Yatim Halimi (Panic Room) on bass, Leon Parr on drums, and guest singers Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi. The DVD contains the video of all the songs on the two CDs except for Sugar Mice, presumably dropped for reasons of space. Read the Echoes and Dust review. Watch The Old Man of the Sea. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarqís comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarqís career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarqís Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
The double-CD Origins is an anthology covering 1992-2014. The upper year in that range is because this set contains one new song. Since the four studio and two live Landmarq CDs on the Cyclops label have been out-of-print for years, Origins is not superfluous as most anthologies are. Disc One (73-minutes) is titled The Tracy Years, while Disc Two (74-minutes) is titled The Damian Years. Damian Wilson was Landmarqís singer on their first three studio albums (1991-1995), after which Tracy Hitchings took over. Landmarqís 1990s CDs are recommended to fans of Pendragon and Clive Nolanís various projects of that era.
Hopefully Bill Nelson is familiar to most prog fans, the one-time Be Bop Deluxe leader/guitarist who went on to release many albums under his own name, usually far removed from the Be Bop Deluxe style. The Esoteric label is in the midst of remastering and reissuing Nelsonís extensive catalog. Weíre not keeping pace with them, but these are some of the more important titles.
This is the newly remastered edition on Esoteric of Iconography (1986), which was credited to Orchestra Arcana due to the contractual situation Bill found himself in with CBS Records. The music comprises recordings made at Billís Echo Observatory home studio in 1984 and 1985. While most of Nelsonís catalog is his peculiar brand of alt-pop, Iconography is one of his more experimental works: instrumental, predominantly synth/keyboard-based, using tape loops and found voices, a relic from the analog age. Bill reflected on the album thus: ďWhilst these recordings are Ďlo-fií in nature, I have always been fond of them. These recordings serve as a reminder that expensive technology isnít always the key to creativity.Ē This edition fully restores the original album artwork and features new notes by Bill Nelson. It also features two bonus tracks from the 1985 Sex Psyche Etc. EP.
Nelsonís 1986 album Getting the Holy Ghost Across was released in the U.S. in a semi-butchered edition under the name On a Blue Wing, due to record company meddling. The only previous CD issue was a 500 copy edition on Nelsonís own label. This 2013 edition on Esoteric was remastered and greatly expanded with the addition of the tracks from the Living for the Spangled Moment EP and the Wildest Dreams EP, both also from 1986. The booklet features fully restored artwork and a new essay. This is among the best Nelson solo works, generally comparable to later Japan (the band that gave us David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri, Mick Karn, and Steve Jansen). Read the Prognaut review of the previous edition.
After the Satellite Sings was originally released in 1995 and contains 16 tracks, only three of which are instrumentals. Nelson continues to reinvent himself here, and itís one of his more popular solo works as he returns not only to singing but to playing a lot of guitar. This 2014 Esoteric edition has been remastered, while its booklet features fully restored artwork and a new essay.
This is the excellent 2012 debut by a Quťbec 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, theyíve 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 Norwayís PelleK, who can also be heard singing on The Anabasis CD. He comes from a metal background, but you wouldnít know it as he saves any oversinging for his own band. Additional vocals are provided by Mark Colton of Credo and Norwegian Marit BÝrresen (thatís 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 Heedís 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. Moongardenís 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 WÝllo and German synthesist Bernhard WŲstheinrich. They use female vocals on two of the albumís 11 tracks, while the fully instrumental tracks (in DiNís words) ďrange from the pounding beat driven Subgiants to the ethereal Echoes of Parlours. Bernhardís inventive textural rhythms provide the perfect backdrop for WÝlloís soaring E-bow guitar melodies on tracks such as Oculus and Denser World.Ē
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 ARCís 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 ARCís 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 Exposť 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 BjŲrn Westťn, 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 Silenceís 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 donít sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as Ďno-progí) 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, itís a requirement, and itís rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and LíAncien Rťgime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Have no fear, Hidden Landsí second CD Lycksalighetens Ų (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. Moldís 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 Ionaís 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 Moldís 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 Moldís lyrical electric guitar soaring like Nick Barrettís or Mike Oldfieldís. 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 Moldís third, with the lyric writing split between Mold and Spear. ďWhile 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 Ionaís 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 Colinís 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?Ē 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 weíve heard in some time.
ďFans 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.Ē Thus begins the review of Karaís 2005 debut CD at Sea of Tranquility. Weíd 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 ďfolkĒ 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 Karaís arrangement is instrumental and would have fit well on the Robin of Sherwood soundtrack. Wonderful music hidden beneath a pedestrian cover. ďThis 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.Ē [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 iamthemorningís 2012 independently-released debut album, titled simply ď~Ē. It bowled a lot of people over, sounding somewhat like a neo-classical version of Renaissance, with more ďindie-soundingĒ 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 Toutís style is largely Russian classical anyway. Initially the only CD edition of ď~Ē was a handmade version the band were making one at a time. Theyíve 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 ď~Ē, 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. Weíre 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 iamthemorningís. This is beguiling music with few parallels, but weíre 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. Itís 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 Anekdotenís Nicklas Barker (who brought his Mellotron). ďAll 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... Itís 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 youíll hear on a prog album this year, but in truth itís just one of many captivating parts of this wonderful album.Ē [Sea of Tranquility] Watch the album trailer video.
Manningís Akoustik (2012) contains reimagined / reworked pieces from the now vast Manning back catalog in an Ďunpluggedí 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. ďAkoustik 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 couldnít 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.Ē [Prog Archives]
Akoustick #2 (2014) is the follow-up and includes what Guy Manning describes as ďNine reimagined oldies from across the Manning back catalogue plus three brand new pieces, all given the acoustic treatment.Ē 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.
Productís 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.
Swedenís 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, 64-minutes), Last Epic (2003, 67-minutes), Imaginary Friends (2001, 63-minutes), and Todayís Report (1999, 62-minutes).
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 more recently 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 Pratís music lie in the 1970s, and Zeuhl lovers will 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 followed in 2009, built around the same elements that made its ancestor a success: an over-the-top instrumental music, owing as much to Christian Vanderís universe as to brass-jazz-rock or classical music. 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.
Weíre 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 (Frťdťric) 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 donít 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. Schneiderís music is a novel form of modern jazz-rock fusion, highly structured, melodic, accessible, and consistently inventive. Not more of the same old thing, Schneiderís music is one surprise after another, with lots of keyboards, samples, and guitar to fill out the sound. Itís the kind of music that sounds like it could just as easily have come out of the U.S., except that there probably isnít 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 PŲrsti (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 PŲrsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruhís 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 KŚse (ńnglagŚrd), 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 PŲrsti, with major contributions from Robert Webb, Linus KŚse, 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. ďIf ever a band showed promise of really going somewhere, itís 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.Ē [Progression issue 57]
Illumionís 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. ďThis 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 10Ē [DPRP]. ďIllumionís 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 Ladigesí vocals alone is worth the price of admission... You just have to experience this album to believe it.Ē [Sea of Tranquility] ďThe 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!Ē [Background Magazine] Read more reviews of both CDs.
Weíve 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 Crimsonís 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 isnít 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 Thiefís 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, RÝsenkreŁtz 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 RÝsenkreŁtz 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). RÝsenkreŁtz 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: ďBack 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!Ē Read all the reviews at Prog Archives.
Thirteen Eight (2011, 71-minutes, digipack) is the CD that White Knight Records (co-founded by Magentaís 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. Larssonís YouTube channel quickly became the number one subscribed channel in Sweden. But Larssonís 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 todayís 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 Queenís 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, FreddeGreddeís 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 Spockís Beard having gone very slightly insane. Our one criticism is that there are passages that, though not really prog-metal, have some of that ďaestheticĒ (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 donít think there is, in which case youíre 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.
ďBloody hell!!! How good is FreddeGredde??!!! Totally bloody amazing! What a voice!Ē [Jem Godfrey of Frost]
Engineersí 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 didnít 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 wouldnít 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. Itís an unhurried music for when the mood calls for such, and an analog recording approach this time around has increased the musicís warmth. ďTheir most realised album yet, guided by a fascination with warm melodies and the textural possibilities of ambient soundĒ [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 FrÝislie. 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 Guerinís 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. ďThese days there seems to be a disproportionate emphasis on darkness,Ē says bassist Kerry Chicoine. ďWe find exploring the balance between despair and optimism a more challenging and creatively satisfying approach.Ē 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. Weíre 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 isnít 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 309ís singer is somewhat similar to Little Tragediesí 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 oneís 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. Itís retro enough that it may fool people into thinking theyíve 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 Orbitís second CD, and itís 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. Itís again a retro-sounding album, itís just that there may never have been a band that sounded exactly like this back in the 1970s, or ever. The bandís 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 Orbitís 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 Peartís 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, Spockís Beard, and Rush as influences. Of those, Genesis is the strongest, followed by Oldfield, the others not so much. Camel should probably be included -- isnít 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 Oldfieldís 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 Reedís 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 Birdbrainís 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 Museaís 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 Tragediesí trademark mix of powerful instrumental fireworks and vocal passages with poetic Russian lyrics. (As if we know what theyíre 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, itís 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 Danteís 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 Boccaccioís 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 3 CDs for shipping.
Glass are a northwest U.S. prog trio that have been around since the early 1970s. Palindrome (2014) contains Glassís 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.
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 donít 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 Matsí 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), Pšr HŲlje (guitar), Henrik BjŲrlind (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 havenít 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 donít 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 Riverís 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 ďweíve 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 projectís lyrical content.Ē Special guests include Dave Bainbridge (Iona) and Carl Baldasarre (Syzygy). Think vintage Kansas.
Majestic is the band lead by American multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel. Majesticís 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.
Opethís 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. ďThis is an admirably coherent collection of songs that are as uncompromisingly intricate and strange as they are incisively melodic. Mikael Ňkerfeldtís 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 songsí beautiful arrangements and pin-sharp ensemble playing. But Opethís leader is an awkward sod, and canít 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 Ňkerfeldt has ever written, and a tantalising glimpse into one possible future for this peerless band.Ē [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., Ureís 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, Ureís music was free to breathe (Breathe being the name of his 1996 album). Fragile (2014) is Ureís 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.
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 Luttunís first album; in fact he has quite a few dating back to 1996, independently released. But Wormwood came to Museaís 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 Luttunís 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. Itís a dark masterpiece, and we donít think Luttun can remain unknown now. ďOne can detect influences as diverse as Pink Floyd (for the great job on the sounds and atmospheres, the sampled saxophone and Gilmour-esque guitar), Pulsarís 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!Ē [Clair & Obscur (translated from French, poorly)]
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 youíd 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, Webbís 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.
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 Willowís 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 Dybleís 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 Cíest 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 Ganzís singer Alan Reed became Pallasís second singer. Abel Ganzís 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: ďI 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!Ē 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, thatís exactly what weíd 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.
Weíll 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, youíve been waiting since 1999ís 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 ďembracing the aging process, and all that goes with itĒ. If we may crib from the press release: ďFeaturing 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!Ē 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.
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 bandís website for more info.
Agnieszka Swita is the Polish (female) singer, songwriter, and other core member of Clive Nolanís Caamora Theatre Company, responsible for Alchemy in 2013 and She in 2007. Agnieszkaís 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 Agnieszkaís apart from the title track which is Nolanís. 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. Heís one of those musicians who needs multiple outlets (Wolfspring is his band too), and since 2002, heís 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 wouldnít be Mostly Autumn if it didnít also possess uplifting qualities. Classic Rock Presents Prog says: ďDressed 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, itís 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.Ē 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 Autumnís complete show of 15 September 2012 in The Netherlands. Itís Mostly Autumnís 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.
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 bandís 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 havenít continued to stock the earlier Flor de Loto CDs was that it was becoming impossible to acquire CDs that hadnít been pre-damaged by being shipped around South America without jewel cases. The Mexican Azafran label has come to the rescue, releasing Flor de Lotoís sixth album Nuevo MesŪas (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 MesŪas documentary, and a photo gallery. The videos are all songs from previous albums, so no redundancy with the CD content.
GnuQuartet are Italyís 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 Exposť 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 labelís 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 Stiltsí debut Shipwreck (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is a concept album sung in English that centers on a vesselís sinking. Listen to Facing the Winds of Doom on YouTube.
Exťgesys (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 shouldnít 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, CrisŠlida, 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 Exťgesys 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 CrisŠlida 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; donít worry about the pops and clicks.)
This set reissues Asfaltoís fifth and sixth albums on CD: MŠs Que Una Intenciůn (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 MŠs Que Una Intenciůn, 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 Asfaltoís popularity in Spain, as theyíre pretty mainstream. The band had a couple periods of inactivity but continued to release albums as late as 2009, though itís 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 Líenigma 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. ďLogosí LíEnigma 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.Ē 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 itís 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 isnít 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. ďJust about everything about The Light Beyond the Shades is either a refinement or a marked improvement over Spleen Arcanaís previous record. The three compositions are loaded with all kinds of vintage sounds from Hammond organ, Minimoog, Solina, Fender Rhodes, and Mellotron.Ē 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: ďIt 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.Ē 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: ďA 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: Guinevereís Dead, Beyond the Blue, Take a Little Time... all might have been part of a big Broadway production!Ē Except that this album sounds nothing like what ďrock operaĒ 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 youíre new to the ďJazzraptorí brand name, you can ignore the Ďjazzí because there isnít 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.
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 doesnít hurt Nathan Mahlís profile. In terms of Nathan Mahlís 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 Mahlís 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 Adventureís 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 Londonís 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 itís 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 wouldnít put The Gift alongside Big Big Train just yet, but theyíre 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 Giftís 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 bandís first live performance was at Yescamp í98, 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 Farpointís 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 donít 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: ďFarpoint 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 bandís signature style while appreciating the more adventurous and atmospheric territories that the band explores on this release.Ē A guest violinist broadens their sound. Farpoint may currently be the most ďAmerican-soundingĒ prog band, sort of South Carolinaís answer to Kansas (the band), though musically distinct, and Paint the Dark best showcases the unique style Farpoint have created.
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 DíVirgilio (Spockís Beard), Dave Meros (Spockís Beard), Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn, Lee Abraham, Luke Machin, and Dave Ware. Itís 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 Bowieís Space Oddity, an allusion that may be deliberate. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
On Capacitor (2014), Armstrong is assisted by Nick DíVirgilio 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. ďThis album is not just a piece of music, it is part of Robin Armstrongís 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 couldnít 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.Ē [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 Liverpoolís Anathema from doom metal to top-echelon modern prog band is well-documented, the band now far beyond their metal past. Distant Satellites is Anathemaís 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. ďThereís 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.Ē [Classic Rock Presents Prog] Check our DVDs page for Anathemaís Universal Blu-ray and DVD.
D Project are a Quťbťcois prog band singing in English, led by Stťphane Desbiens, who was the guitarist and principal composer in Sense, the primary musician in Mťlia, and has been a member of Qwaarn, »re 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 Lťode, 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 Desbiensí 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 whoíve 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 bandís 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 donít make you jump around the room, well then youíre probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if youíre a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then itís 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 2010ís 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, weíre still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
There arenít many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with ďTraumĒ (ďDreamĒ) do. Ausgeliefert (digisleeve) is the 2014 remastered reissue of Traumhausís 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, itís 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 Traumhausís 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 (Spockís 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 Vermšchtnis (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 Ďcinematic progressive rockí. Over (2014, 75-minutes, digipack) is Frequency Driftís fifth, and theyíve found a home on RPWLís Gentle Art of Music label. As part of that collaboration, RPWLís 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). Itís 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 hasnít slowed Kalugin, as Magicianís 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 2013ís Aleatorica, still with those touches that set Kaluginís work apart. Itís probably the best place for the uninitiated to start. Watch the videos for The Jugglerís 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 Kaluginís 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 Kaluginís 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 Oí 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 Oí 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 Oí The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but this album remains dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth. They ďtake us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity.Ē [Bluesbunny, Glasgow] Their sound has elicited comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Henry Cow/Art Bears, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. Weíre sometimes reminded of Howeverís gentler songs, or even an American counterpart to Stormy Six circa LíApprendista. The thirteen pieces on All My Friends showcase the bandís 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. ďJack Oí The Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer... some of the freshest and most surprising music Iíve heard.Ē [Fred Frith] ďThe perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.Ē [Prognaut] Read the Exposť, 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. ďThis is some of the most stunningly original music that one is likely to hear, on this world or any other.Ē [Exposť] 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 Bairdís 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 Bairdís 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 Bairdís 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. (Weíve 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, weíve 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 bandís primary songwriter for a long time now, composed nine of the albumís ten tracks. Read the JonB52 review.
Yeah, we know, not the most enthralling band name, but for melodic prog fans whoíve gotten past the individualís name bias and enjoyed the albums by, say, Sean Filkins or Lee Abraham, youíre going to enjoy this one too. But weíre 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. Itís a wonderful melodic and lush prog album, with more classic prog/rock influences than either Abrahamís or Filkinsí 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 wonít buy the album because you donít 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 Carpaniís 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 Squireís 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 Antonís 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 Antonís 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 Andersonís Olias of Sunhillow and similar multi-layered works, Dreamer is an impressive achievement. Read reviews.
Antonís 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 Bayís 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 Bayís first album changed completely about a third of the way through its 77 minutes, and thatís 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. Gillhamís 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 Banksí A Curious Feeling and have been the second-best track (after the song You, if you must know). Overall weíre 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. Itís 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 isnít about how fast one can play scales, itís 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. ďHad 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.Ē [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. Itís a beautiful album with its soul in the early-to-mid 1970s, standing in stark contrast to the ďsound and fury signifying nothingĒ of much modern music.
The Search for Joy (2014) features guest performances by Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thievesí Kitchen, while classically-trained viola player Sarah Sanderson has signed on. Bill says the album has ďmore key changes than a drunken locksmithĒ. 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 ďJethro Tullís Ian AndersonĒ. If youíre curious about Ianís reasoning for that, itís 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: ďBostock 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.Ē 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 Hackettís band during The Golden Age of Steve Hackett, that is, the era that began with Spectral Mornings, and itís probably fair to say that Magnus had a significant role in the sound of those albums. Nímonix (2014, digipack) is Magnusís fifth solo album, the first since his superb Children of Another God in 2010. Nímonix includes contributions from Steve Hackett, Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool), Rob Townsend (current member of Steve Hackettís 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 doesnít do it for you, youíre 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 youíll have a look at Prog Archives, youíll see that there are Shamall albums stretching back to 1989. (Youíll 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.
Weíre devoting most of this space to the latest album Turn Off, because thatís the one weíve 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 doesnít just sound a little like Eloy here -- if you didnít know any better, youíd think this was a new Eloy album. More specifically, it sounds like Eloy featuring special guest Edgar Froese. Thatís 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 youíd probably never guess. This is one amazing album, perhaps with slightly too narrow a style given its 150-minute length, but you wonít 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 (Spockís 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 Caamoraís 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 (Spockís Beard, Enchant), three members of Shadow Gallery, Arjen A. Lucassen (Ayeron), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spockís Beard), and members past or present of Seven Steps to the Green Door, Pain of Salvation, Haken, Neal Morse Band, Ayreon, and others. Itís a sci-fi concept album with ten singers taking on various roles or narrating. Again, Ayreon and Clive Nolanís extravaganzas are the best reference points. Watch the official videos for the tracks Burning Sky and Aim L45.
Home Away from Home (2013, digipack) is the debut for Vermontís 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 keyboardistís brother is in the Rush tribute band Blame Canada, itís a genetic predisposition. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the video for the title track (the shortest song on the album).
Elephants of Scotlandís second CD Execute and Breathe (2014, digipack) is all around a more powerful album, the natural result of the bandís greater experience in all facets of music creation and recording. ďIn 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.Ē [The Phantom Tollbooth] Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Demon (2014) is Gazpachoís eighth studio album. This mediabook edition contains one bonus track. ď...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.Ē 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 Torontoís Druckfarben, a superb band of accomplished musicians including American singer Phil Naro (who sounds like Jon Anderson) whoíve 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 itís nice in this decade to hear a new band who can really play, who have songs, who have a real keyboardist, who donít allow metal anywhere near their music, who arenít terminally depressing, you know, the sorts of things that define progressive rock. Read reviews at Proggnosis, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives.
Druckfarbenís 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 Yesí 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 Druckfarbenís 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 Ďslightly uninterestedí. 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.
ďThis 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, 8.5/10Ē [Ravenheart Music]
ďTake Porcupine Treeís 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 Ďheld backí 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 doesnít 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.
RPWLís 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. RPWLís music, like Steven Wilsonís, 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 theyíve 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 itís part of the albumís concept, which you can read about on the bandís site. ďRPWL have done it again; Wanted is a triumphant, confident statement that confirms just how good this band are.Ē 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.
Studio album number 14! All of Glass Hammerís 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 shreddingís 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 todayís 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 Portalís second, even better than their first. The technical level of the musicians is quickly apparent, and while thatís the end of the story for so many bands who can play but not compose, Mind Portalís music is a real pleasure to listen to.
Weíll 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 canít 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.
This is the debut by a new British neo-prog band on IQís Giant Electric Pea label, produced by IQís 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. Note Synaesthesia are scheduled to play at Rosfest 2015.
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 weíre up to fourth generation now) British prog. Read the DPRP review.
Leeís 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, Darwinís 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 thatís 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.
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 PFMís 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).
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