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NEW AND FEATURED:
Ed Bernard is the guitarist of Toronto prog band Druckfarben, in which he also plays violin and mandolin and contributes backing vocals. On his first solo album Polydactyl (2015, digipack), Bernard also takes care of keyboards, bass, and vocals, while two drummers split drum duties. Polydactyl is every bit as proggy as Druckfarben and on the same high level. The album features guest vocalists Cameron Hawkins of FM and Druckfarben bandmate Phil Naro. William Hare (Druckfarben keyboardist) plays piano on one song, while two other musicians guest on piano and bass. Maybe the band we’re most frequently reminded of is Kansas, but the album also contains a lot of high-energy rock-fusion as well as influences of Genesis, Yes, and others. Like Druckfarben, this is classic progressive rock surpassed by few today. The virtuosity is obvious but never obscures the melodies and songs. And the acoustic instruments are not forgotten. Read the Progressive Music Planet review. See our Canadian page for the Druckfarben CDs and DVD.
Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! is the latest Tull album to receive the deluxe Steven Wilson 5.1 surround and 96/24 PCM stereo remix treatment. It comes in hardcover book-size packaging with an 80-page book. Subtitled The TV Special Edition, this set features a previously-unreleased re-recorded version of the album for a 1976 UK TV special as well as the TV film itself. The set also includes the original album flat transfer, a flat transfer of the original 1976 quad LP production master, and loads of previously-unreleased archive tracks that even Ian Anderson can’t remember recording. There’s so much here that you’re advised to head to JethroTull.com to see all the details. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
Klubkin’s Voyage is the 79-minute 2011 debut by a Russian symphonic prog band in the vein of Kansas, Yes, Genesis, and Camel. The lyrics are in Russian, though the music is heavily instrumental. The audio was mastered at Masterdisk in New York City, and the artwork is gorgeous. Read the Prognaut and DPRP reviews. Klubkin’s Voyage was April 2011 Record of the Month at Progressive Rock BR (read review).
Another World (2015, digipack) is Quorum’s second, but the compositions date to a decade earlier, before Klubkin’s Voyage, during the earliest days of the band. This album consists of six songs with vocals and one instrumental. Five of these songs along with two others were recorded and released as a demo CD in 2006. The band decided to postpone the final release, having already begun work on Klubkin’s Voyage. The material that appears on Another World was revised and recorded again almost from scratch. The audio was again mastered at Masterdisk in New York City. Klubkin’s Voyage is very good, but taking stock now after Another World, we can’t think of a better Russian band ever in the melodic symphonic prog mainstream of 1970s Genesis and Yes. (If we’re talking ELP, then it’s Little Tragedies.) There is some fantastic Genesis-inspired material here, and the fact Quorum’s music has its own character, due in part to the Russian vocals, makes it far more than derivative or copyist. It is certainly highly recommended to those who believe the first, golden era of progressive rock was cut way short by a hostile industry.
Flying Colors is the band formed by Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue, and Casey McPherson. This Blu-ray (all-region) plus 2CD digipack set captures their performance at Switzerland’s Z7 venue in the fall of 2014, the 8th show on the tour to promote the second Flying Colors album Second Nature. They’re touting this Blu-ray’s technological innovation: “Viewers can listen in 5.1 surround from the two best seats in the house: at the soundboard, or in the front row. All the show’s audio was processed with a new engineering system, developed specifically for Live at the Z7, which creates stunning detail and separation.” 24 cameras were used to shoot the video in 4K Ultra-HD (down-res’d for this Blu-ray), which “was mastered by Cinnafilm using their Dark Energy technology (IMAX) for stunning visuals”. All seem to be firsts for a commercial concert video. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The Blu-ray also includes HD music videos of four songs. Watch the official trailer.
Popular Québec prog band Mystery are back with a new studio album Delusion Rain (2015, digipack), the first with new singer Jean Pageau. The rest of the line-up now is Benoit Dupuis on keyboards, François Fournier on bass, Sylvain Moineau on guitar, Jean-Sébastien Goyette on drums, and bandleader Michel St-Pčre on guitars, plus guests Antoine Michaud of Monochrome Seasons (also touring guitarist for Mystery) and Sylvain Descoteaux (Huis). Listen to teaser 1, teaser 2, and the title track on YouTube. See our Canadian page for all the Mystery CDs and more info.
Crisálida are a Chilean symphonic prog-metal band with a very good female vocalist singing in Spanish. When Crisálida play symphonic prog, it’s quite good -- dramatic and powerful, though of course it’s the more modern, streamlined variety. And when they add the metal guitar it’s, well, prog-metal. The self-titled CD is their 2006 debut. Raco (2009) is their second.
Solar (2012, digipack) is their third, on which the progressive parts show greater maturity and refinement, and the metal parts are still metal. Read the Exposé review. Listen to the song Araucana on YouTube.
Crisálida took the next step with their fourth album Terra Ancestral (2015), engaging the services of Anathema’s Daniel Cardoso to produce, mix, and master the album. The music does move closer to Anathema’s style. Watch the video for Morir Aquí.
Ossicles are a Norwegian prog band who initially self-released their debut Mantelpiece as a double-CD digipack at the end of 2012. We briefly sold that edition before it went out-of-print. However, Karisma Records (Airbag, Magic Pie, Nordagust,...) took notice and reissued Mantelpiece as a single CD in a jewel case in 2015, which is the edition for sale here. In reducing it to a single CD, it looks like only the final song Miracle Worker (4:34) was omitted. On the strength of this album, Ossicles were invited by Mike Portnoy to appear at the Progressive Nation at Sea Festival in 2014, though the band had to decline for financial reasons. The music on Mantelpiece is more or less in the Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree vein, though Ossicles’ own personality shines through. “Sometimes an amazing album comes your way that you wonder how the rest of the world missed it. Over a year ago, two 20 year old guys from Norway produced a breathtaking CD called Mantelpiece. It’s a rich and accomplished piece and it deserves to be noticed.” [Progarchy] Read the DPRP review. Watch the official video for Watersoul II.
Karisma then released the second Ossicles CD Music for Wastelands (2015, digipack). Listen to Halfway Homes and watch the official video for Family Tree. Read the Soundscape and Lords of Metal reviews.
Galahad’s Solidarity: Live in Konin (DVD+2CD, 2015, digipack) was recorded in Konin, Poland in October 2013, one of a few selected live shows promoting the Battle Scars and Beyond the Realms of Euphoria albums. This live album includes Mark Spencer in the line-up on bass guitar as well as Neil Pepper’s bass and guitar parts on a couple tracks. Both the 2 CDs as well as the DVD (PAL, all-region) concert film contain the complete show. The DVD adds a band documentary/interview and photo gallery. View the track list.
Sleepers (1995) is Galahad’s third studio album, which made great strides from the previous two. The Avalon Records edition is the 2005 second edition on the band’s own label, which comes in a jewel case. The remastered digipack is the 2015 20th anniversary edition on the Oskar label. It was recently remastered and generally spruced up by Karl Groom at Thin Ice Studios. This digipack edition also adds two bonus tracks: Suffering in Silence, which we believe had been a Japan-only bonus track, and a new orchestral/vocal re-recording of Pictures of Bliss. See our British page for lots more Galahad titles and more info.
Lizard are a Polish prog band featuring powerful vocals in Polish. They debuted in 1996 but their earlier CDs have gone out-of-print. At times Lizard have been very influenced by King Crimson circa 1973-1974 (so that’s where they took their name), while they also update the tradition of some of the great East European progressive bands of the 1970s and 1980s such as Modry Efekt and Synkopy.
Spam (2006) is the last Lizard album to feature violin. Some King Crimson influence is present, but there is more UK influence, specifically the UK tracks with Jobson on violin. With violin used on every track, one is also reminded of Ankh, but Lizard are more refined and complex.
Lizard had been working on Master & M (2013) since early 2008 but had to deal with some personnel changes along the way. (The violin is gone). This concept album is one of their two best, some King Crimson influence still showing but the style overall quite different from KC. It’s still easy to think of a contemporary (heavier) version of Modry Efekt or Synkopy, given the similar sound of the West Slavic languages. Most of the Polish prog bands that emerged during the 1990s (Lizard, Collage, Quidam, Abraxas, etc.) sang in Polish, but since then laws were passed mandating all vocals be in English, and so there are too many today who would rather miss out on great progressive rock with great vocals than come to terms with the existence of other languages. Those so-called prog fans won’t know Modry Efekt and Synkopy anyway and probably stopped reading this already. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Live: Destruction and Little Pieces of Cheese (2015) is a recording of Lizard’s concert in Łódź, Poland in late 2014. It draws primarily from Master & M and finishes with a rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man. Watch the official video of Lizard performing Chapter I from this album. (So is there a Blu-ray in the works?)
Reingold Records, the Swedish label run by Jonas Reingold, now has U.S. distribution, so while the following titles aren’t new, they are less expensive now. Hopefully more will follow.
The Tour Kaputt DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack) and double-CD (digipack) each contain 13 tracks (143 minutes) recorded live at De Boerderij in The Netherlands in 2007, featuring the line-up of Roine Stolt, Tomas Bodin, Hasse Fröberg, Jonas Reingold, and special guest Pat Mastelotto. Each has a 20-page booklet. See our Scandinavian page for The Flower Kings’ CDs.
Karmakanic’s double-CD Live in the US (digipack) was recorded in May 2012 at RoSfest in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Karmakanic played all their epics. Watch the album trailer. See our Scandinavian page for more Karmakanic CDs and more info.
Keyboardist Lalle Larsson has played on numerous albums, probably best known for his work in Karmakanic and Agents of Mercy. Nightscapes (2012, digipack, 69-minutes) is the final CD in Larsson’s Weaveworld trilogy, three instrumental albums built around the same concept with the same band. That band includes the fretless bass wizardry of Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic), the jazz/fusion guitar mastery of Richard Hallebeek (One Spirit, RHP), the heavy guitar sounds of Stefan Rosqvist (Cloudscape, Fullforce), and the high energy drumming of Mickael “Walle” Wahlgren (Agents of Mercy). Read the Prog Archives and Background Magazine reviews.
Awaking the Muse (2009) is the very strong debut by a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Trion, Nice Beaver, King Eider, and Pink Floyd Project. Leap Day play upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles; The Flower Kings is not a bad reference point either. Simply ear candy for lovers of undiluted neo-prog. Watch the video for Eyes Wide Open. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Skylge’s Lair (2011) is their second, and it is less neo-prog than their debut, more of a sense of Kayak and to some extent Focus, less of Marillion. Well, Flamborough Head developed similarly, becoming more of a classic prog band on later albums, and King Eider and Trion always leaned more toward classic prog than neo. There are lots of vintage keyboard sounds -- enough Mellotron flute to suggest The Beatles, enough bouncy electric piano to bring Supertramp to mind. Greenslade is a good reference point since both bands have two keyboardists, and Camel must also be mentioned. Excellent melodic prog with a stately feel. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (2013, digipack) follows on the heels of new albums by Trion and Flamborough Head, a very productive period for these musicians. Watch the album trailer video and listen to Insects on YouTube. “Taking little cues from the classic era of Genesis and the epic sound of Pink Floyd, but with a vocal personality all their own and little traces of humour, this atmospheric work is not only Leap Day’s crowning achievement to date, but one of the finest neo-prog albums in a long while... Tighter melodies, tastefully executed instrumental passages without the need for drawn-out showboating, warm production and a surreal subject matter showcase the band improving everything they already did very well, while also setting the bar very high for not only themselves, but the neo-prog sub-genre itself.” Read the full review and others at Prog Archives, also the Background Magazine review.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 2 (2015, digipack) is the second part of the concept album series. (Who knows how many chapters this thing has?) Watch the album trailer.
Hyperlive (2015, digipack) is the first live DVD (NTSC, all-region) for popular Dutch neo-prog band Knight Area. An audio CD is included. Hyperlive was filmed in Katowice, Poland on 9 April 2015, with Knight Area performing 12 tracks including almost all of their most recent album Hyperdrive. Bonus features include interviews with Mark Smit, Gerben Klazinga, Mark Bogert, and Pieter van Hoorn, plus a photo gallery. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio, 100 minutes. Watch the DVD trailer. See our Dutch page for Knight Area’s CDs.
Transfiction (2015, digipack) is the second CD for Elleven, a German melodic neo-prog quintet with female vocals, along the lines of Breathing Space. The band began circa 2001 as an offshoot of Chandelier (one of the earliest German neo-prog bands), though by the time this album was recorded, the Chandelier guys had moved on. Watch the video for Try . With purchase of the CD, we’re supposed to include a download card for an instrumental mix of the album. If we forget, please bug us.
Nad Sylvan first appeared on the prog scene as singer in the Genesis-inspired Swedish duo Unifaun before joining Roine Stolt in Agents of Mercy. More recently, Nad has been Steve Hackett’s singer. Nad’s solo album Courting the Widow (2015, 70-minutes) features an impressive cast of guests including Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Lifesigns,...), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard), Gary O’Toole and Rob Townsend (Steve Hackett), Doane Perry (Jethro Tull), Annbjřrg Lien, and others. Rooted in classic prog, Nad considers Courting the Widow “very much a symphonic album... I feel that I have delivered an album that’s true to myself and my values in life. It’s heartfelt, passionate, emotional, and full of dramatic passages.” Read The Prog Mind review. Listen to the album teaser and the title track on YouTube.
Molok (2015, mediabook) is Gazpacho’s ninth studio album. World-renowned Norwegian accordion player Stian Carstensen from Farmers Market guests, as well as Norwegian music archaeologist Gjermund Kolltveit who plays some stone age instruments including our favorite, moose jaws. “Molok is, in its own right, a deeply impressive piece of work. Conceptually intriguing, instrumentally beguiling and emotionally powerful, it’s beautifully composed, played and produced – another practically flawless entry in one of the most consistent back catalogues in modern progressive rock... History will record this band as one of the most relentlessly adventurous and eclectic progressive rock bands of recent years, but for now Gazpacho remain one of the best-kept secrets of modern progressive rock, and Molok numbers among their finest achievements.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review, also the Sputnik Music review. Listen to Know Your Time on YouTube.
Night of the Demon (2015, digipack) was recorded when Gazpacho embarked upon the Demon album tour in spring 2014. They brought in Dutch filmmaker Jon Vis to film their show at Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. Gazpacho played songs from Firebird, Night, Tick Tock, Missa Atropos, March of Ghosts, and the majority from Demon. The 80-minute audio CD features nine tracks while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) features the full 14 track performance. Watch the DVD trailer. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho titles and info on the band.
Directed by Lasse Hoile, A Sort of Homecoming is the concert film of Anathema’s performance on 7 March 2015 in the spectacular setting of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. That month, Anathema played an acoustic tour of cathedrals that culminated in this sold-out show in their hometown. While billed as acoustic, that only really affects the guitarists as there are drums and there are electronic keyboards. Having worked previously with Anathema on Universal, Lasse Hoile captured the 100-minute set against the sensational backdrop of the cathedral. Featuring 15 songs selected from the albums Distant Satellites, We’re Here Because We’re Here, Hindsight, and Weather Systems, the band are accompanied throughout by David Wesling on cello, while violinist Anna Phoebe guests on a haunting rendition of the song Anathema. Bruce Soord mixed the 5.1 surround audio. The Blu-ray features 24/48 stereo LPCM and DTS 5.1 Master Audio options. The 2CD+DVD edition comes in a mediabook (counts as 2 CDs for shipping). The DVD-V (NTSC, all-region) has stereo, DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The Blu-ray adds a behind-the-scenes film titled A Temporary Peace (not on the DVD). “A once in a lifetime experience that words can barely do justice.” [Prog magazine] Watch the trailer. Check our British page for some Anathema CDs.
This is the 2015 Kscope edition of Stone to Flesh, originally released in 1995. This edition comes in a digipack with new artwork and a brand new studio track. With all the tracks exceeding seven minutes, Stone to Flesh contains some of the best examples of Jansen and BarbieriŤ’s trademark style of progressive rock that is both atmospheric/ambient and percussive, with nods to Japan at their most experimental. Guests include David Torn, Steven Wilson, and Colin Edwin. Watch the video for Mother London.
Different Strings are a heavy neo-prog band from Malta. Following a 2007 debut, The Sounds of Silence Part I: The Counterparts (2011, digisleeve) and Part II: The Counterfeits (2015, digisleeve) were originally intended to be a double-album. Finances probably had something to do with the passage of years between the two, but the band also played live quite a bit in the interim. Those well-versed in Maltese prog may recall the band Different Light and their 1996 CD All About Yourself and wonder if the two bands are related, given that there may not be any other prog bands from Malta. Despite the similar names, they aren’t really related except that Different Light bassist Trevor Catania plays on two tracks on The Sounds of Silence Part I. Watch the promo video for Part II, listen to Selfishness part I and Fatal Chronic Damage on YouTube and Let Me Out of Here on Prog Archives.
American Jeremy Morris is best known to prog fans for his Pilgrim’s Journey and Celestial City CDs released on the Kinesis label in the mid-1990s. He has released many other albums on his own label, most with vocals, his main styles other than prog being psychedelic rock, space rock, and power pop. Across its 77 minutes, Not of This World (2015) covers most of Jeremy’s styles, concentrating on his progressive and late-60s psychedelic rock styles. The CD features mostly long tracks, both vocal and instrumental, concluding with the 17-minute progressive highlight The Other World. The most pop-sounding material suggests an alternate universe where The Monkees got a Mellotron and started to go prog. Read the Something Else! review. Listen to mp3s of What Planet Are We From?, The Other World, and Clouds are Lifting. See our U.S. page for more Jeremy CDs.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
Perfect Beings is the new prog band assembled by Luley. Perfect Beings I is their 2014 debut, while Perfect Beings II is their 2015 second CD; both are digipacks. Yes is still the dominant influence, but it is less overt than in Moth Vellum or on Sheepfather’s, as Perfect Beings have a more original and unique style. The soothing vocals establish a serene baseline from which the music expands in symphonic splendor or bursts out in intricate instrumental passages. Read reviews.
Glasgow’s Comedy of Errors had been known (if they were known at all) as the other Scottish neo-prog band, after Pallas and Abel Ganz. Though the band formed in 1984, their time had not yet come. Comedy of Errors are calling Disobey (2011, digipack) their debut, but the band released a vinyl mini-album in 1986 that compiled their demos to that point. Those tracks were later combined with 1987 demos to form the eponymous CD released in 1988 by the French UGUM/MSI label. (Good luck finding that now.) The 2011 reformed Comedy of Errors features the three core members from those days, a new drummer, and a bit of assistance from Hew Montgomery (ex-Abel Ganz). Rob Aubrey did the final mixing and mastering for all these CDs, almost a requirement for a UK neo-prog CD. If you’re a fan of UK neo-prog and didn’t know of Comedy of Errors before, you are in for a treat. And if you do know Comedy of Errors, you are in for a treat. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Disobey montage.
Comedy of Errors’ triumphant comeback continues with Fanfare & Fantasy (2013, digipack). Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Fanfare & Fantasy montage.
Spirit (2015, digipack) is Comedy of Errors’ latest, their best sounding CD yet and one that every self-respecting fan of neo-prog needs. Listen to the Spirit sampler.
Heavy on the Beach (2015, digipack) is the debut CD from Glasgow’s Grand Tour, a new band featuring some not-so-new musicians. Grand Tour’s leader is keyboardist Hew Montgomery, a founding member of Abel Ganz. Grand Tour had its genesis in 2005. Hew says he’d begun to feel the need to take more direct control of his own material as Abel Ganz moved off in a slightly different musical direction from his. In fact, the current Abel Ganz has no full-time members in common with the band that recorded the first two Abel Ganz albums; it appears only current bandleader Denis Smith has any connection to Abel Ganz of the 1980s or 1990s. The second member to sign on to Grand Tour was local guitarist Andrew Young. The two were joined in 2007 by Joe Cairney, vocalist with then-dormant Comedy of Errors. The lineup was completed with the addition of drummer Bruce Levick (Comedy of Errors) in 2009. In 2010, Young was replaced by Comedy of Errors guitarist Mark Spalding, who agreed to join after a brief listen to the existing demos. So with the keyboardist/composer of the original Abel Ganz and three Comedy of Errors members, you ought to have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get. This is Glasgow-prog!
Recorded at RoSFest 2015, Glass Hammer’s Double Live is the band’s first live album in over ten years. Prog Magazine declared Glass Hammer’s RoSfest 2015 performance “…the boldest set of the weekend. Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have always succeeded in creating an ensemble that fully complements their sense of musical grandeur.” This 3-disc set comes in a fat jewel case (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). The seven long tracks spanning Perelandra to The Breaking of the World are spread across two CDs, while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the 90-minute video of the concert with Dolby Digital surround audio. Watch the trailer.
The Breaking of the World (2015) is Glass Hammer’s 17th studio album. (That’s what it says on Glass Hammer’s site; we lost count a long time ago.) This one features Carl Groves, Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Susie Bogdanowicz, Kamran Alan Shikoh, and Aaron Raulston, with mastering by Bob Katz. The ubiquitous Steve Unruh guests on violin and flute. Watch the album trailer. Read the Progarchy review. See our U.S. page for the rest of the Glass Hammer CDs.
It’s possible the title of The Enid’s 13th studio album The Bridge (2015, digipack) alludes to bridging the gap between the old The Enid and the current generation of the band. The band state that on this album, they wanted to further explore the classical elements of their music in finer detail. The orchestral arrangements and vocals are bolstered by symphonic/ambient guitar textures and huge choral arrangements. The majority of the songs are re-imagined arrangements of songs from The Enid’s back catalog, with vocals added to formerly instrumental pieces. “When you listen to The Bridge, the merely good is transformed into the sublime and exalted. The Enid have delivered a set of songs that enable you to take time away from your hectic life and give you a melodic treat of great magnitude, the closest thing to a legal high, an oasis of calm in a world of chaos. Yes, it will not appeal to all with its delicate sensibilities, but for me it is something that, once heard, I cannot ever do without.” Read the full Progradar review. There are lots more The Enid CDs on our British page along with much more info, while our DVDs page should have some The Enid DVDs.
Head (2000) is the debut by British prog band Thieves’ Kitchen, who on this CD sound vocally very much like Jadis. Instrumentally it’s a bit more diverse than that, with lots of proggy things going on throughout five long tracks spanning 63-minutes. The final 20-minute track T.A.N.U.S. is worth the price of admission alone, as they add a National Health or Bruford feel to their otherwise more neo-prog style, foreshadowing the direction they would head (pun unavoidable) in.
On Argot (2001), Thieves’ Kitchen continue with the style established on T.A.N.U.S., with four extremely long tracks totaling 65-minutes. There is little if anything neo-progressive on this CD. Keyboardist Wolfgang Kindl favors organ, often with the sound and style of Dave Stewart/National Health, while guitarist Phil Mercy, like Phil Miller, plays in an angular style. Overall the music is more rock-oriented and less jazz-influenced than National Health (and it almost goes without saying that there is no writer in the band on the level of Dave Stewart). Despite the neo-prog background of some of the members, T.K. de-emphasize melody, as the complexity of the music leaves little room for melodic vocal lines. Echolyn offshoot Finneus Gauge is a good reference point.
Shibboleth (2003) is their third CD and it trumps the previous two. The band now take their cues more from Hatfield and the North and National Health than from the symphonic bands. Since their previous album, Thieves’ Kitchen swapped their male singer for Amy Darby, and her voice fits the music better. While organ is still his main keyboard, Wolfgang Kindl plays some Mellotron on this album, in case you wondered what a Canterbury band would sound like with Mellotron. So here is a modern British prog band carving out their own identity, creating music to satisfy cravings for complex arrangements and instrumental interplay, and finally getting everything right. This is the MALS label edition.
For The Water Road (2008, 73-minutes), Thieves’ Kitchen’ have a new keyboardist: Thomas Johnson, formerly of Änglagĺrd. The rest of the lineup remains the same, but there are guest musicians. Änglagĺrd alumnus Anna Holmgren contributes numerous flute passages, original TK bassist Paul Beecham plays sax and oboe, and cello makes an appearance courtesy of Stina Pettersson. Furthermore, vocalist Amy Darby also plays recorders, clarinet, harp, and Theremin. The album was recorded at Rob Aubrey’s studio, with the keyboards recorded at Mattias Olsson’s studio in Stockholm. Johnson was very much involved in the writing, and for the first 25 minutes or so, the Änglagĺrd style is dominant. After that, Thieves’ Kitchen’s Canterbury style reasserts itself, with guitarist Phil Mercy still responsible for much of the writing. This is the best-sounding TK CD so far, and with the blend of the Änglagĺrd and Canterbury styles, the best TK CD to date period.
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (2013, digisleeve, 57-minutes) is well worth the long wait. The core of Thieves’ Kitchen remains singer Amy Darby, guitarist Phil Mercy, and keyboardist Thomas Johnson. Flutist Anna Holmgren returns, while the rhythm section on this album is Sanguine Hum’s: Paul Mallyon (drums) and Brad Waissman (bass). Other guests include cellist Tove Törngren and trumpeter Paul Marks. TK’s well-established jazzy Canterbury style dominates (Bill Bruford’s Feels Good to Me is another good reference), with the Mellotron and secondary instruments adding important extra dimensions. Darby’s vocals remind us of Squonk Opera. The busy Rob Aubrey again engineered. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Clockwork Universe (2015, digisleeve) features new bassist Johan Brand from Änglagĺrd. “Where Phil and Thomas Johnson have really cranked things up a notch or three is in the composition, making this, in this reviewer’s opinion, their strongest album to date without question. I remember when Dave Stewart wrote music like this.” Read the full review by Bill Gillham (Cirrus Bay).
These are the 2015 digipack editions on Sireena Records of Dry (1979) and Sky Racer (1981), both mastered from the original tapes. Streetmark was a German prog band that released four albums on Sky Records, beginning with Nordland in 1976, followed by Eileen in 1977. Keyboardist Dorothea Raukes was a founding member and one of the first female figures of the German prog scene. The band went through constant lineup changes, and by the time of their third album Dry, Raukes had taken control of the band as well as most of the lead vocals. The singer on the first Streetmark album was awful, and the singer on their second had been murdered by this time (not on account of his singing), so Streetmark are at their best in the vocals department on the two albums here. Dry is an underappreciated German prog album. With this album, the band moved toward a more melodic and rock-oriented prog style, while maintaining a good deal of spaciness. There is loads of organ and synths, with melodic guitar leads. The “Neue Deutsche Welle” (NDW), the German version of new wave, ran a few years behind punk and new wave in the UK, so though Dry is from 1979, it feels more like 1976. There is disco influence in one song, but it’s actually not a horrible track. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
After recording their first three albums in Conny Planck’s studio, Streetmark moved to Dieter Dierks’ studio for Sky Racer. Raukes was the only original member on this album, which continues along the same trajectory as Dry, the quality dropping off slightly as the level of commercialism increased a bit, unavoidable at that time. You’d think the short song Stick to Reggae would be one to skip, but it’s an instrumental done almost entirely on synths. The title track is also instrumental and a Genesis/Camel-inspired highlight, as Raukes plays fast and furious lead synth lines like you just don’t hear anymore. Fortunately Streetmark didn’t follow the emerging trend of the NDW, and overall Sky Racer is a decent prog album, certainly for 1981 when prog was at or near a low point. It would be their last.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other projects. The Sula Bassana material consists of long, mostly-instrumental psychedelic space-rock excursions dominated by heavily-fuzzed guitar, with synths and Mellotron strings in support. Schmidt also handles bass and drums, with occasional help from other musicians on drums and vocals. Dark Days is from 2012, The Night from 2009. Both were mastered by Eroc (Grobschnitt). This is the 2015 jewel case edition of The Night.
Dreamer is the first Sula Bassana album, originally released in 2002. This “10 Years Anniversary” edition has been remastered with two bonus tracks added. Read the Aural Innovations reviews of Dark Days and The Night, and many more reviews on the Sula Bassana site.
Live at Roadburn Festival 2014 is the recording of a one-off concert by Sula Bassana, who normally never plays live under this moniker, accompanied by a full band assembled for this event. Of the four (mostly long) songs, only one (Dark Days) appears on a previous Sula Bassana studio album, but the live version is extended and includes some improvised parts. Eroc again mastered.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If the Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet Quantum Fantay’s CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog that take this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Terragaia (2014, digipack) is a 70-minute concept album featuring guest appearances by members of Anima Mundi, Neo Prophet, and others. Despite the passage of nine years since the first Quantum Fantay CD, we’re still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
With four long tracks of almost exactly the same length, Dancing in Limbo (2015, digipack) showcases a new Quantum Fantay lineup, which only adds fresh angles to the band’s trademark style. Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles guests, which makes perfect sense.
Kind of surprising no one combined “progressive” and “fusion” for this band name before, even if there is little real fusion here. Profusion are an Italian heavy prog quintet (vocals in English, keys, guitars, bass, drums), who you might file alongside Subsignal. Profusion’s drummer is a native of Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), which explains the Georgian ethnic elements that appear in some songs. Phersu (2015, digipack) is Profusion’s third album and features well-known guests from outside Italy, including Mamuka Ghaghanidze from Georgian ethnic fusion band The Shin, Polish virtuoso accordionist Jakub Mietła, and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, originally from Georgia. (To see/hear Anita, watch the video for Wrinkled Maiden). A creative band like Profusion expands heavy prog beyond its usual restricted boundaries.
Flor de Loto (Lotus Flower) are at present the biggest prog band in Peru. The band began as an instrumental quartet with their first CD released in 2005. The current lineup is bigger now, with lead and backing vocals (in Spanish) and instrumentation consisting of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, flute, Andean woodwinds, tenor sax, bass, and drums. Initially Flor de Loto were more jam-based and psychedelic. Their music continued to evolve, becoming carefully-composed, more European and less Andean sounding and closer to the prog mainstream, with a slight metal influence eventually creeping in but also some fusion. They added vocals while the psychedelic aspect vanished. There has always been a folk element that is central to the band’s identity, calling to mind an Andean version of Tempest. The flute has always suggested Tull and Solaris, maybe early Camel when the flute playing is more pastoral. The earlier Flor de Loto CDs are more or less sold out. The Mexican Azafran label has released Flor de Loto’s sixth album Nuevo Mesías (2014) in a factory-sealed, 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. The CD contains nine new songs, while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains six videos (two live), the Making of Nuevo Mesías documentary, and a photo gallery. The videos are all songs from previous albums, so no redundancy with the CD content.
Medusa: En Vivo en Buenos Aires is Flor de Loto live in Argentina in November 2014. This two-disc set is housed in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve. Both the CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contain the 12 tracks of the concert. The DVD also includes two song videos, three live videos from other concerts, and a 2015 documentary.
Peruvian band Supay play instrumental flute-led prog, with (initially) two woodwind players in their lineup in addition to keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums. The woodwinds include the quena (a traditional Andean end-blown flute), the quenacho (a bigger quena), the tarca (another traditional Andean wooden flute), the zampońa (double panpipes), and the toyo (another bunch of bundled pipes). The music is symphonic prog enriched by Andean folk music. Not surprisingly, that folk element is generated mostly by the Andean flutes while the rest of the band is playing in a symphonic rock style, though the guitarist and keyboardist occasionally slip in a folk-based melody. Think of Los Jaivas at their most progressive.
Confusión, their debut album, was first released by the band in 2004 (with a different cover), then re-released in this 2006 edition by Mylodon Records. Supay’s second El Viaje was also first released by the band in 2007, again with a different cover, then by Mylodon in this 2009 edition. (The El Viaje album was preceded by an EP of the same name; this is the full-length CD.) There were some line-up changes and only one woodwind player remains, so there is slightly more guitar and less flute, but Supay’s style is largely unchanged.
Seńales was first released by the band at the end of 2013, followed by this Mylodon edition in 2014. It sees Supay becoming increasingly symphonic and is their best album, easily accessible to most prog fans. There are some vocals (in Spanish) though the music remains predominantly instrumental. This album deserves far more attention than it has received so far. Watch the videos for the Seńales and Seńales Parte II. More info at Prog Archives.
Vly is a distant collaboration between British-based guitarist Karl Demata (Crippled Black Phoenix) and New York singer Keith Gladysz, Italian keyboardist Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre), bassist Chris Heilmann (Crippled Black Phoenix), and Swedish drummer Mattias Olsson (Änglagĺrd, White Willow). The musicians never met face-to-face, instead relying on the now common method of sending files over the Internet. The band says the sound of I / Time (2015, digipack) includes “elements of progressive rock, classic rock, folk, early-Floydian psychedelia, intimate pop melodies, massive walls of epic guitar riffage, post-classical, post-rock, and electronic music.” The music is in the mainstream of the modern prog style that has Steven Wilson as its patron saint, with that slightly psychedelic, dreamy, indie-rock atmosphere. The retro elements include some Beatles references, the aforementioned Floyd influence, and some vintage keys, but otherwise there is little connection to classic prog or Änglagĺrd or Il Tempio delle Clessidre. Just so that’s clear. Watch the album trailer and the video for Circles.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. The seventh Karfagen album 7 (2015, digipack) is centered around the nearly half-hour epic Seven Gates. Kalugin says: “I’ve done my best to create it with the variety of being both dynamic and also allowing the music to breath, to recreate the late 70s prog ‘tone’ that I still enjoy so much today.” The label says that Kalugin stays true to his love of Camel, Focus, and The Alan Parsons Project, to name just a few. Watch the album teaser video. See our East European page for the full Karfagen catalog and more info.
Antony Kalugin has half the musicians in Ukraine on the Sunchild albums, with the vocals in English. Synesthesia (2015, digipack) turns over lead vocals to John Sleeper, who we know little about other than that he is the best singer Sunchild have had. With a true lead singer on board, Synesthesia puts more emphasis on vocals, evolving in a Peter Gabriel direction, with the distinction between Karfagen (more instrumental and more challenging) and Sunchild now clearer. Sunchild have taken the next step toward international stardom (such as it exists in the prog world). See our East European page for the now extensive Sunchild catalog, as well as Kalugin’s other bands.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, an under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic, and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and real strings. It is majesty without bombast. These tracks supposedly deal with the voices we hear in our head in various life situations, and Thielen’s voice has a distant quality that evokes that. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack) is the fourth t album. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic, and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Fragmentropy (2015, digipack) continues an amazing string of albums for Thielen, with t now getting the recognition this music deserves.
Seven Steps to the Green Door consistently produce one of the most intriguing modern takes on progressive rock. In true postmodern fashion, this German band integrate many different styles into a cohesive whole, but there is little doubt that it is symphonic prog at its core. The classically-influenced piano playing of Marek Arnold is a key feature of the music, and he also adds some woodwinds. They have excellent male vocals (and some female vocals) in English. Their albums are sophisticated and very well recorded.
Step in 2 My World (2008, 66-minutes) is their second. Where the band have really taken things to the next level are the vocals. They use one female and two male singers, both in lead and harmony roles, plus a guest spot for Larry B., the singer from the current Stern Combo Meissen and Toxic Smile.
The? Book (2011, digipack) was first released as a hardcover digibook with 52-page booklet, but that edition is gone, replaced by this less expensive and less elaborate digipack. Larry B. again guests, as well as Flaming Row leader Martin Schnella (who would become a full band member). This concept album is the band’s most ambitious to date, more intense than the first two. “The conclusion this time is simple: the best (retro)-progressive album of the year. Melodic but never dull, diverse without being unstructured, both gentle and fierce, sustained by an elaborate story that focuses on what seems for a lot of people to be currently burning in their soul.” [Musikreviews.de, translated from German] “...the album offers everything the proggies’ heart desires: springy melodies, complex rhythms, delicate vocal harmonies, fast-paced keyboard and guitar riffs, and a pinch of metal for seasoning here and there... Certainly one of the best German (prog) rock releases of recent years.” [Babyblaue Seiten, translated from German] “Seven Steps to the Green Door have clearly reached the premier league of the German prog scene... My absolute buy recommendation!” [proggies.ch, translated from German]
Among the guests on Fetish (2015, digipack, 78-minutes) are Arno Menses (Subsignal), Dan Mash (United Progressive Fraternity, The Tangent), and Steve Unruh (Resistor, United Progressive Fraternity). Seven Steps are at their best on this album, which has everything a fan of contemporary prog could want. Fetish is so nimble, melodic, and playful, and yet it is inventive, always pleasantly surprising the listener, compositions full of complexity that still come across as prog ear candy because the band have a knack for making everything flow effortlessly. Watch the album preview video, the video for Porn!, and listen to Inferior on YouTube. “Seven Steps to the Green Door has crafted a magnificent album with Fetish, it’s as easy as that. The sheer diversity of this album will perhaps alienate some, but the generally easy-flowing compositions are easier on the ears than you would imagine from a band incorporating such a great diversity into their material. And a top quality mix and production also ensure that these fairly challenging compositions are easy to enjoy. An eclectic recording well worth inspecting, and on my personal shortlist as a strong contender for album of the year for 2015.” Read the full Prog Archives review. See our German page for the related band Toxic Smile.
Project: Patchwork is the large-scale project of German multi-instrumentalist Gerd Albers, featuring at least 27 other musicians, not counting the choir. The more recognizable names include Martin Schnella (Flaming Row, Seven Steps to the Green Door), Kalle Wallner (RPWL), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile), Yossi Sassi (Orphaned Land), and David M. Scholtz (Orpheo, Eisenhower). There are several female and several male vocalists, with the lyrics in English except for the beautiful song Bau’ Dir ein Schloss. There is some heavier material that may suggest Ayreon and Flaming Row, but Tales from a Hidden Dream (2015) is more colorful than that, covering more stylistic ground while staying within the boundaries of progressive rock. Maybe that’s the ‘patchwork’ in the name, but the producers have blended the contributions from all these musicians into a cohesive whole, and the fact that the album is not overproduced and overblown makes it a very successful debut. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Oblivion and Land of Hope and Honour. “All I can say is this album is as close to perfection as any I have heard this year. It is clearly progressive in nature, but many genres are touched upon such as folk, hard rock, metal, funk, and orchestral music. One would think that the album would sound like a hodgepodge of styles but nothing could be further from the truth. The music is cohesive and brilliantly played with beautifully soaring guitar, lush keyboards, and strong lead vocals.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review.
Edison’s Children is Marillion’s Pete Trewavas and American musician Eric Blackwood. Their 2011 debut In The Last Waking Moments (71-minutes) includes guest appearances by Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley, Steve Rothery, Steve Hogarth, Andy Ditchfield (DeeExpus), and Robin Boult (Fish). The music is closer to Porcupine Tree than Marillion, darker and more psychedelic, with Pink Floyd the dominant influence. Vocals are somewhat low-key but are an important part of the music. This is very much music composed by guitarists, with keyboards/synths used only for texture, but what a difference those textures make. The album builds to the long penultimate track, which is majestic in that Floydian way and is probably the one that remains in memory after the disc has finished spinning; the short final track is an aftermath and wind-down. Pink Floyd’s melancholic and dystopian view seems more in line with the current zeitgeist than the utopian view of Yes or the more positive energy of the other classic prog bands; In The Last Waking Moments is another example of that, and an excellent album in its own right.
A Million Miles Away (2012) is a limited-edition 29-minute, 7-song CD-EP. The title track and one other are from the In The Last Waking Moments album, and there is also a single edit of the title track. The main attraction here is four new songs, all mixed and/or mastered by John Mitchell. The CD comes in a cardboard jacket and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The Final Breath Before November (2013, digisleeve, 79-minutes) is Edison’s Children’s very impressive second full-length album, which no one is able to describe without using the word “haunting”. Henry Rogers (Touchstone, DeeExpus, Final Conflict) is the drummer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Edison’s Children’s third album Somewhere Between Here and There (2015, digisleeve) features seven new tracks, then the 80-minute CD is maxed out with several alternate mixes of other songs plus a live track. The celebrity mixers include Jakko M Jakszyk, John Mitchell, and Robin Boult. Among the guests are Chris Mack (Iluvatar) on drums and the son of Neil Armstrong (yes, that Neil Armstrong) on guitar. Not a giant leap for Edison’s Children, but a sizeable step.
Nemo have probably done more to popularize French-language prog than any other band of their generation. This is the limited 2CD digipack edition of their ninth album Coma (2015). The title is likely a reference to the fact that Nemo had previously announced they would be quitting at least temporarily. Not long after that, Nemo announced they were recording one final album, or at least their last for a long time. The second disc in this edition contains five bonus tracks: a Deep Purple cover, a Led Zeppelin cover, and the three long tracks Nemo contributed to Colossus/Musea’s The Divine Comedy (Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) series. Watch the video for Comaďne and listen to the album sampler on YouTube. See our French page for all the Nemo and related CDs.
This is the same New Jersey-based progressive rock band whose self-titled 1997 CD was released on Mellow Records. Advent’s second release Cantus Firmus (2006, 69-minutes) improves on their debut in just about every way. The band is heavily influenced by Gentle Giant, which is apparent within the first few seconds, even more so on this album than on their debut. But while Advent have some of the medieval feel and similar-sounding vocals, Gentle Giant isn’t the end of the story. There is some Genesis influence present, maybe a little Yes as well, so Advent’s style is often more majestic and regal than Gentle Giant. The album features wonderfully elaborate arrangements, beautiful guitar work (including a substantial amount of classical and acoustic guitar), and tight vocal interplay. The CD also includes previously unreleased 24-track recordings of two songs from the band’s debut CD as bonus tracks. As explained in the liner notes, Advent recorded 24-track versions of five songs in 1992, but due to various constraints, only one received a proper mix and appeared on their debut CD. The other four songs from those sessions ended up on the album in their original four-track cassette versions. So as you can imagine, the improvement in the 24-track versions is immense, and one of the bonus tracks also had new drumming added.
After a long silence, Advent return in 2015 with the remarkable Silent Sentinel (digipack, 78-minutes), picking up right where they left off but with larger arrangements and expanded instrumentation that includes a real choir. Certainly Gentle Giant remains the dominant influence, and maybe However should be added to the reference list, but Advent have used such influences as a springboard to a personal style, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another band today that sounds like this. Just listen to Voices from California on YouTube. “I really can’t exaggerate or overstate how much Silent Sentinel grabs and intrigues me. It’s the kind of release that makes me not only proud to be a prog fan, but it actually makes me proud to be alive, to live at a time that produces such artists. This is the equal of Big Big Train and The Tangent in terms of quality, innovation, and beauty... Silent Sentinel is something truly special.” Read the full Progarchy review.
British saxophonist/flautist and composer Theo Travis has played with a whole lot of people, including Steven Wilson (who mixed and mastered this album), Porcupine Tree, Gong, The Tangent, Soft Machine Legacy, Robert Fripp, Karmakanic, No Man, Bass Communion, Francis Dunnery, Bill Nelson, David Sinclair, Jade Warrior, and many more. Double Talk is Travis’ fusion band, who on Transgression (2015, digipack) play powerful instrumental progressive electric jazz-rock with a strong 1970s influence. Travis says: “I’ve written most of the music and much of it reflects my love of music from the late 1960s and early 1970s when the boundaries between jazz, rock, and experimental music were more fluid, though I think the music we have recorded still sounds contemporary. You might be able to hear the influences of King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as late Talk Talk and ECM artists such as Terje Rypdal and my friend Palle Mikkelborg.” One track is an instrumental version of The Tangent’s A Place in the Queue, another is a cover of Robert Wyatt’s Maryan. Listen to the album trailer part 1 and part 2. Part 2 introduces the other musicians in the band, who have a wealth of experience.
The self-titled Eldberg CD (2011, digipack) is the debut for this retro, early-1970s style prog band from Iceland. Eldberg sing in Icelandic. (Even the language is retro; it resembles 12th century Norse). The music is comparable to Trettioĺriga Kriget on TK’s self-titled album and Krigssang, though the Eldberg members are too young to have been around when those albums were made. Pretty incredible to hear younger musicians so successfully capture the spirit of that music, though the Scandinavians are unusually adept at it. Listen to Enginn friđur, Hliđarlif vor tíma, and Sunnan viđ sól, austan viđ mána on YouTube.
Eldberg’s second Ţar Er Heimur Hugans (2015, digipack) continues in a similar style and is even better. Listen to Nćturljóđ on YouTube.
El Color de las Cosas (2014, digipack) is the debut for Chilean prog-fusion band Zeptelar, who should draw comparisons to Congreso, Fulano, and Hatfield and the North. Wordless female vocals are an important facet of their sound. Read the Prog Sphere review.
Aquí y Afuera is the 2009 debut by an symphonic prog band from Chile, instrumental on this first album. Being a young band, the drummer and especially the guitarist play in the metal idiom half the time, but it is keyboardist Alonso Quijada that distinguishes Anachronos from your garden variety prog-metal band. The guitar may be mixed as loud or louder than the keys even when doing nothing more than chugga chugga as metal guitarists are wont to do, but the music is dominated by Quijada’s classically-influenced keyboards, primarily piano. Everything of harmonic interest is in the keyboard parts, and Quijada uses samples for occasional touches of South American folk that add spice. Recommended to fans of modern bombastic prog.
The self-titled Anachronos CD is actually their second, released in 2014. But it does represent a new beginning for the band, as they added female lead singer Ingrid Contreras (singing in Spanish). Now Anachronos’s music has two stellar components: Quijada’s keyboards and Contreras’s vocals. Yes, the guitarist still plays metal half the time, but when he plays sympathetically to the keyboards, Anachronos are at their best.
Misteriosevoci (2007, 60-minutes) is the debut CD for Italian prog band Barock Project, a magnificent album for lovers of Italian 1970s symphonic prog. The music is pure 70s style with vocals here in Italian, dominated by a virtuoso keyboardist schooled in classical music. It is that uniquely Italian blend of English progressive rock (ELP foremost), classical music, and romantic Italian pop melodies. Read the Exposé and DPRP reviews.
Barock Project followed with the CDs Rebus (2009) and Coffee in Neukölln (2012), shifting to English-language lyrics and, at the same time, more Anglo prog styles. Coffee in Neukölln is a fantastic album, and Skyline (2015, digisleeve) picks up where it left off, but Barock Project put it all together here, combining their classical-rock style, Italian melodic sense, infectious vocals, and their more Anglo prog styles into the album that should finally raise their profile to where it belongs. Vittorio De Scalzi of New Trolls sings and plays flute on the title track, while Paul Whitehead provided the artwork. As one Prog Archives reviewer says: “If this is not a classic-to-be, I have pretty much misunderstood prog.” Watch the videos for Overture and The Making of Skyline.
The Winter Tree is the return of Magus under a new name, owing to the fact there are too many other bands with ‘Magus’ in their name, but there is also a shift in style. The name ‘The Winter Tree’ is taken from the Renaissance song. The self-titled CD (2011, digipack) is the debut, and it shows that Andrew Laitres’ songwriting skills have matured a lot in the past nine years. (Andrew Laitres and Andrew Robinson are the same person, all names being subject to change with this band.) The Steve Hillage-like space-rock style that was a major component of the Magus sound is present here in one of the instrumental tracks but is otherwise used more as coloration. This is lush, understated, song-oriented symphonic prog with an affinity for the likes of later Camel and Colin Bass, Ken Baird, Maestoso, Mandalaband, and the Alan Parsons Project. Listen to Guardian Angel and A Twilight in Middle March on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility and ProgressiveWorld reviews.
Guardians (2012, digipack) is proggier than the first CD, but we’ll keep the list of reference bands mostly the same, just throw Genesis and Pink Floyd in there now. The Winter Tree have their own style, but it’s clear that Laitres’ loves are the first-generation British melodic prog bands, tending toward the softer side of the genre. Guardians is a beautiful prog album that doesn’t sound retro, but on the other hand ignores the direction taken by what is usually considered the modern prog movement, a direction that generally runs counter to most of the bands mentioned here. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Watch the video for Beautiful World.
Twilight of the Magicians (2013, digipack) is a mostly-instrumental album performed by Laitres with the assistance of several guests. The nine songs were inspired by the late Rudolf Steiner’s writings about the lost continent of Atlantis. It’s distinct from the first two The Winter Tree CDs, representing a return to the Magus style to some degree. The music varies from semi-relaxed, rhythmic, groove-oriented space rock to more overtly symphonic tracks to synthetic soundscapes, all exceptionally well executed. Watch the video for the title track.
In contrast to the mostly-instrumental Twilight of the Magicians, Earth Below (2015, digipack) contains all vocal songs, returning to the style of the first two The Winter Tree albums, and also sees guitarist/vocalist Mark Bond return to the fold. Earth Below features Mattias Olsson (White Willow, Änglagĺrd) on all the drums, while Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel) mixed the album and added some guitar and keyboards. Latvian Baiba Kranate contributes some backing vocals.
See our U.S. page for the Magus CDs.
Even after so many albums, top Mexican prog band Cast have found a way with Vida (2015, digipack) to take their music to a new level. Roberto Izzo, violinist of GnuQuartet as well as orchestra director and violinist of New Trolls, is now a permanent collaborator both in the studio and live. The full GnuQuartet (violin, viola, cello, flute) plays on much of the album, as does woodwind player Pepe Torres, a longtime collaborator. Now with members from Mexico, Chile, and Italy, vocals in English, and cover art by Paul Whitehead, Vida introduces Cast as an international band who are supporting the album with concerts in England and Germany. Watch the album teaser on YouTube. See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and much more info.
GnuQuartet are Italy’s Acoustic Asturias, a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute, with rock sensibilities. In fact Karma (2014) consists of five prog rock covers plus one original composition. The covers are Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa), Roundabout (Yes), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Hairless Heart (Genesis), and Concerto Grosso 1, Allegro (New Trolls), while the original Stereotaxis might just be the highlight. GnuQuartet are not entirely acoustic as there are occasional effects on the strings, and the percussive playing style is rock, not classical. Read the JustIn Case Prog Radio and Exposé reviews. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
I Heard You Listening (2015, digipack) is the new Echolyn studio CD, their first in three years. We’ve been Echolyn fans from the early days -- seeing them in small clubs at the time of their first CD, attending the release party for Suffocating the Bloom -- so their early material is hard to displace as our favorite. Echolyn say that for I Heard You Listening, they went back to their musical roots and resurrected the original sound that made them famous, now with better production values, writing, vocal melodies, and musicianship. We couldn’t be happier! Listen to Different Days and watch the interview video. See our U.S. page for the rest of the Echolyn catalog. Collect them all!
This is the 2015 second CD (digipack) for Swedish prog band Agusa, following their 2014 debut Högtid. Their sound is straight out of the early 1970s, a mostly-instrumental, organic, psychedelic-flavored style of prog, with Hammond organ as the sole keyboard. For this second album, which consists of just two long tracks, they added a flute player. The music is in the Kebnekajse, Bo Hansson, and Flasket Brinner veins. Read The Obelisk review where you can also listen to the entire 20+ minute first track.
Italian Stefano Panunzi is a key figure in that ambient & jazz inflected prog subgenre that may not yet have a name but can count musicians such as Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison, Tim Bowness (not to mention Henry Fool and No-Man), David Sylvian, and the late Mick Karn among its other leading lights. Panunzi is leader of the band Fjieri, who debuted in 2009 with Endless. All those musicians apart from Sylvian played on that album, alongside quite a few others. Words Are All We Have (2015, digipack) is Fjieri’s second, another Anglo-Italian project, the participants this time including Fjieri core member Nicola Lori, Bowness, Harrison, 05Ric, Jakko M. Jakszyk, Daniele Iacono (Ezra Winston), American expat trumpeter Mike Applebaum, and several others. Lori’s twisting fretless bass is a worthy successor to Mick Karn’s. Most of the songs have vocals, sung by Jakszyk except one by Bowness, and they are quality songs. Imagine the band Japan (at the end of their career) extrapolated into even more progressive realms, merging with King Crimson, No-Man, and the solo work of all these great musicians. Watch the album trailer.
The CDs Stefano Panunzi has released under his own name are quite similar to the Fjieri CDs. A Rose (2010, digipack) is his second and features Mick Karn, Tim Bowness, Giancarlo Erra (Nosound), Theo Travis, Markus Reuter, Robbie Aceto, and many more musicians. It downplays the ambient jazz of Panunzi’s first CD and features more songs: seven songs using seven different singers, plus three instrumentals. The production is immaculate, the music mesmerizing and seductive; this is a masterpiece of ambient progressive rock. Read the Prognaut and DPRP reviews.
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Englishman Peter Jones, who has a background writing and performing adult contemporary music but went full-on prog with Cocoon (2014, 69-minutes), released on Rob Reed’s White Knight label. Well, most of our customers are adults and many of them are contemporary, so maybe this still is adult contemporary music. Jones cites his influences as (from the classic side) Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Queen, and (from the modern side) Frost, Big Big Train, and Haken, also Roine Stolt (who Jones may not have heard until recently, but as Stolt was a founding member of Kaipa, he can straddle both camps). The artist name is itself an allusion to Steve Hackett. If you have the love we do for Genesis and English whimsy, this album will make you drop what you’re doing and just listen and smile. This is the best release so far on White Knight. Read the Progarchy review.
What could be better than the best recent new prog artist turning out a fantastic second CD in a short time? Story Tellers Part One (2015, digisleeve) is just that. That Pete Jones wrote and recorded this new album in 28 days (because there wasn’t much else to do during February) indicates a singular talent at work. Pete lost his sight as an infant to Retinoblastoma, making his story quite amazing and inspiring. “Peter Jones has delivered what is, to my ears, an album that is even better than the delights of Cocoon. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm, and allure of Story Tellers Part One. It takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood. Peter is one of the pre-eminent songwriters out there today and has given us a little piece of wonder to enjoy.” Read the full Progradar review. Watch the videos for Beauty Falls and The Quest for Beauty.
The Singles Complete (2015, digisleeve) is a 2CD set containing 24 tracks and over 120 minutes of Magenta material. Included for the first time on CD are Magenta’s versions of the Yes song Wonderous Stories and the ELP classic Lucky Man. This collection includes some brand new remixes, alternate arrangements, and extended versions of classic Magenta songs. This 2CD replaces and supersedes the out-of-print 2007 single CD entitled The Singles, though that first edition contains a couple tracks that don’t appear on this 2CD. You may still find a copy of the original at a big discount on our British page, along with the rest of the Magenta catalog. The songs on that first edition were drawn from Magenta’s four previous EP/singles, but most of them appeared in new re-recorded versions, and none had previously been available on a full-length CD. So this 2CD adds the songs from Magenta’s two post-2007 EPs plus the aforementioned new mixes and such.
New Jersey prog band 3rdegree first appeared with a 1993 cassette release, followed by their first CD in 1996. They disbanded in 1997 but reformed more recently. Ones and Zeros Volume 1 (2015, digisleeve) is 3rdegree’s first full-fledged concept album, released in time for the band’s first-ever European tour beginning in September 2015, culminating with an appearance at the UK Summer’s End festival. With Ones and Zeros Volume 1, 3rdegree have taken the next step beyond their 2012 album The Long Division (digisleeve), itself a great album that exceeds 3rdegree’s earlier work. The music is drawn from 1970s influences such as City Boy, Genesis, Crack the Sky, Greenslade, and Utopia. It belongs in the same camp as Echolyn and IZZ and is on the same level. There are touches of jazz here and there as was common during the 70s, and 3rdegree really honed their vocal arrangements, which include those high-pitched harmony vocals that were outlawed after the 70s. The recording and arrangements follow the aesthetic of leaving space in the mix such that listening to the music is actually pleasurable rather than fatiguing. 3rdegree have come a long way from their beginnings and are now firmly among the top few U.S. prog bands, and vocally they are doing things that none of the others are. If you haven’t got on board with 3rdegree yet, it is time. Read the Progarchy and Prog Archives reviews of Ones and Zeros Volume 1. Watch the video for The Best & Brightest.
Narrow-Caster (2008, digisleeve) is a contemporary-sounding prog rock record, with some similarities to Echolyn or IZZ. While lead singer George Dobbs has a voice that reminds us of Dave Lawson of Greenslade (though Dobbs is a better singer), 3rdegree’s greatest strength may be their Yes-like harmony vocals. The result is sometimes similar to the band Ring of Myth -- 3rdegree use more keyboards and are more melodic but lack the Howe-like guitar. Read reviews at DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, USA Progressive Music, and Rock Report.
Human Interest Story (1996, 72-minutes) is also an excellent album of Ameri-prog, sounding like a cross between Rush and Echolyn. This is the last of the original jewel case edition.
3rdegree played their first live shows in over ten years at the New Jersey Proghouse in 2007. The Reunion Concerts double DVD (NTSC, all-region, digisleeve) contains 3rdegree’s traditional electric show plus an unplugged show. The show was recorded in 1080i HD (downres’d for the DVD). The discs are DVD-Rs. Included are five songs that do not appear on any other CD or DVD plus covers of Gentle Giant’s Peel the Paint and Sarah McLachlan’s Elsewhere. Bonuses include behind-the-scenes and interview footage.
Hailing from the northeastern U.S., Zen Carnival debuted in 1999 with Inheritance, instantly-likeable 1970s-style prog in a Genesis/Camel direction. Zen Carnival’s second CD Bardo (67-minutes) is a much more mature and original work, and one of the best modern prog albums of 2006. While Inheritance was a more traditional progressive rock album, Bardo took a step in the direction of Porcupine Tree, and sounds quite contemporary. There is a suggestion of later Marillion, which has a lot to do with singer Ken Pfeifer’s voice, but there is also that sensuousness. There is also a jazzy ambience at times, overall a greater breadth than on their debut, with fewer stylistic limits. The constants are the excellent songwriting, the rich sound palette, and the exciting instrumental excursions. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews.
Writing for Lucid Dreamer (2015, digipack) commenced shortly after Bardo was released, and recording began in 2010. So though a long time has passed, Lucid Dreamer picks up where Bardo left off, carving out territory not too far from IZZ. The fusion-y instrumental work that appears in many songs is one of Zen Carnival’s trademarks, as they deftly incorporate it into a set of art-rock songs. A proggier Sting or Steely Dan may come to mind. The great instrumental Medieval Suite could be Dixie Dregs (minus the bluegrass), while Lullaby is the song that comes closest to later Marillion, with Ken Pfeifer sounding similar to Steve Hogarth here. If there is such a thing as adult contemporary prog, Lucid Dreamer should reach the top of that chart.
City Boy were an English progressive pop or art-rock band along the lines of 10cc, Stackridge, Be Bop Deluxe, Quantum Jump, early Queen, Supertramp, and ELO. They released seven LPs between 1975-1981. Like Supertramp, City Boy had two lead vocalists, one high-pitched and the other low-pitched. They added a third lead vocalist (also their new drummer) on their fourth album. Prior to their first LP, they had been a folk band, and this carries over slightly onto their self-titled 1975 debut, where there are some more acoustic-flavored tracks, especially the gorgeous Haymaking Time. This first album was City Boy’s best: it shows the strongest identification with progressive rock, and has a couple longer tracks that are outstanding, 5000 Years / Don’t Know Can’t Tell for one. Dinner at the Ritz (1976) displays a bit of the English music hall influence, as Queen did early on, and also includes excellent hard rocking songs (Queen were pretty good at that too). Peter Hammill and David Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator guest on the title track!
Beginning with Young Men Gone West (1977), the albums became less arty, more a set of quirky and sophisticated rock/pop songs. Like every band operating during the late 1970s, pressure increased every year to produce hit singles and more commercial rock. In City Boy’s case, they were probably also pressured to make music insipid enough to break them in the USA. Book Early (1978) yielded the band’s first hit single, and while we’re sure there are a lot of pop fans who consider this album City Boy’s best, none of those people ever shop at this site. Well-known producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange produced the first five City Boy albums and was an adjunct member of the band.
The City Boy fan site has a good overview of their albums, actually taken from the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock.
The single CDs are the U.S. editions on Renaissance Records. The 2-in-1 double-CDs are the 2015 UK editions, which have been remastered from the original tapes and include new booklets with new sleeve notes. As a bonus, the City Boy / Dinner at the Ritz 2CD adds a 1975 BBC In Concert recording featuring live versions of five great tracks from the first album. The bonus tracks on the Young Men Gone West / Book Early 2CD are two non-LP tracks: Medicine and Turn On to Jesus.
Journey of the Yak (2008) is one of the best British progressive rock albums in recent memory, pure classic prog, instrumental, close to Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Camel. Yak are a keys/bass/drums trio, but their sound is bigger than that -- after hearing this, you’ll swear there is a guitarist in the band, one who has the expressive Hackett/Latimer lead style nailed! In fact, keyboardist Martin Morgan is playing the guitar parts from a keyboard, the best emulation of that sustained electric guitar style we’ve ever heard. Of course a guitarist or two will be required live, as the guitar and keyboard sounds are layered. Just when you’ve despaired of ever hearing a British prog band create the real thing again, you are rescued by a Yak. “Sounds like Dave Greenslade jamming with Genesis.” [Prog magazine] Read reviews at Yak’s site and at Prog Archives. Listen to Entangled in Dreams on YouTube.
Yak return in 2015 with Quest for the Stones, and nothing has changed. The trio remains intact, the album is again instrumental, and the music is still classic British symphonic prog of the highest order. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. “Know that it is traditional prog played at the highest standard, and as a result I cannot recommend it highly enough.” Read the full Progmeister review and the Prog Archives reviews.
The Unquiet Sky (2015) is the latest studio CD for Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell, Paul Manzi, and new bassist Kylan Amos. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Check our British page for more Arena CDs and our DVDs page for Arena’s DVDs.
With their 2009 self-titled double-CD debut, IOEarth became one of the most talked-about new British progressive rock bands. IOEarth are not just another melodic rock band in symphonic clothing. This is an astounding debut: expansive, cinematic, eclectic, and technologically current (which progressive rock originally was but today more often is not). The music is heavily instrumental while featuring two female vocalists on several tracks and Steve Balsamo (ChimpanA) singing on three.
While the IOEarth debut was the work of Dave Cureton & Adam Gough plus several guests, they needed to assemble a band for live performances. Thus Moments (2012, 62-minutes, digipack) sees three of those guests promoted to full members and another musician added such that IOEarth is a sextet here, with guests on trumpet, spoken word, and percussion. Among the promotions is singer Claire Malin, who has a larger presence here. There are somewhat more vocals on Moments, and on the vocal tracks, the album can feel closer to the current progressive rock mainstream. But with the samples, the genre-bending, the expansive arrangements and detailed atmospheres, there is no mistaking IOEarth for another band. “IOEarth have delivered a progressive masterwork, clearly demonstrating significant artistic growth from their debut. Clearly one of the most rapidly emerging progressive bands of this decade, these musicians are sure to broaden their following with Moments. Bravo!” Read the full Musical Discoveries review and the Prog Archives reviews.
Live in the USA (digipack) is the recording of IOEarth’s performance at RoSfest 2012. It contains 11 tracks drawn from both previous studio albums. Read reviews of all the IOEarth CDs.
IOEarth returned in 2015 with another ambitious double-CD studio album: New World (digipack). The supporting cast to Cureton & Gough has been shuffled a bit, with a new singer and drummer and the addition of violin to the arsenal. We think the first album, when IOEarth was purely a studio project, may remain their most unique. Each subsequent album pushes IOEarth closer to the prog mainstream, slightly heavier, more bombastic, and a reflection of their experience as a live act, all the while increasing their popularity. Yet their distinctiveness persists as they manage great variety and stitch it all together into music that no one else is making. “A band which has always impressed and excelled in the live arena, but which for me hasn’t quite captured that spark on record. This new double album, their third, puts all of that to right, and manages to match its ambition with delivery. There is so much variety on this disc, it’s impossible to categorise, but the ethereal cinematic, new age, and mid-eastern influences give it a truly distinctive sound, as do the heavenly vocals of Linda Odinsen and the judicious use of sax, flute, and violin. New World is an album that all fans of progressive music should listen to.” [Something for the Weekend] Watch the official video for the title track. Note IOEarth are booked to play the 2015 Cruise to the Edge with Yes and others.
Kinetic Element is a classic prog band out of Richmond, Virginia, let by keyboardist Mike Visaggio. Their debut Powered by Light (2009, 69-minutes) is pure 1970s-style symphonic prog that sits right alongside the work of Kansas, Lift, Pentwater, Ethos, and various other American 70s prog bands, and is on the same level. Like those bands, Kinetic Element have absorbed the influences of Yes, Genesis, ELP, and other first-tier progressive bands. (Refugee is actually a better reference than ELP here.) Significantly, the music is composed by a keyboardist. Contrast that with the “modern prog” bands whose music is typically written by a guitarist, the band fortunate to have a skilled keyboardist at all. Visaggio is not someone trying to recreate the sound of an era that predates him; he’s old enough that he was there when progressive rock first emerged. Read reviews.
Travelog (2015, 70-minutes) is Kinetic Element’s even better second album, with just five long tracks. Yes is arguably the dominant influence now, and Fred Schendel and Steve Babb of Glass Hammer mixed and mastered, which reminds us to mention Glass Hammer as a good reference point. This is true symphonic prog in all its glory. Read the Prog Archives and Power of Prog reviews.
Starship Universe is Mike Visaggio’s 2006 solo CD, on which he has help from a drummer on three tracks. The style is largely the same, epic prog influenced by ELP, Yes, and Rick Wakeman. Read the Prognaut review.
Arne Schäfer is the leader, along with keyboardist Ekkehard Nahm, of the German band Versus X. Apogee is nominally the solo vehicle for Schäfer, where he handles keyboards, guitars, and vocals, always assisted by a drummer. In practice Apogee and Versus X sound pretty similar, but now with twice as many Apogee albums as Versus X albums, we’d say that the Apogee albums contain the better music. Schäfer’s vocal and lyric style resemble Peter Hammill’s, and while there is a strong Van der Graaf Generator influence, there is just as much Genesis as well as some King Crimson.
The eighth Apogee album The Art of Mind (2015, digipack) sees Apogee move to the Progressive Promotion label, who must be doing something right because a lot of top European prog talent has done the same. Watch the video teaser. “While long suites are a progressive rock trademark, some artists do it better than others. Apogee does a magnificent job with the orchestrations, arrangements, and transitions, delivering a notable work of symphonic progressive rock that takes you back to the classic years of the early and mid-1970s.” Read the full Progressive Rock Central review. See our German page for the full Apogee catalog.
The Receiver is a new signing for the Kscope label, home of Steven Wilson and all things post-prog. The Receiver is an American duo whose music Kscope calls symphonic dream-prog. All Burn (2015, digipack) is the duo’s third album, after two on other labels. The music fits the Kscope aesthetic and is overflowing with tremendous melodies and symphonic/synthetic textures. This is what pop music should sound like in 2015 in an ideal world, though the really proggy bits ensure that that alternate reality will never intersect this one.
In Vaults (2015) is the third studio album for Chicago prog band District 97. Read the Prog Metal Zone review. See our U.S. page for more District 97 CDs and more info on the band.
Norway’s Magic Pie quickly became one of the most talked-about progressive rock bands, especially after performances at both Rosfest 2006 and 2007. In addition to influences of early 1970s progressive rock bands, Magic Pie incorporate influences of early 70s melodic and hard rock bands, in the same manner as Finnish band Five Fifteen, though Magic Pie are much proggier. With Hammond organ as Magic Pie’s weapon of choice, Deep Purple and Atomic Rooster could be two of those influences. And with four vocalists, Magic Pie have those great harmony vocals, something that has largely been lost in modern rock. A lot of what Magic Pie do will appeal to fans of The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic. Ultimately, Magic Pie’s greatest success may be that they capture the spirit of earlier bands without copying the style of any of them, and their albums have a positive vibe that will restore the spirits of those whose hearts are in the 70s.
Their 2004 debut Motions of Desire is temporarily out-of-print, but a reissue is in the works. Circus of Life (2007) is their equally good 64-minute second album. In true progressive fashion, its 46-minute title suite is divided into five parts, of which one part is further subdivided into four parts. Read reviews of Circus of Life and Motions of Desire.
Magic Pie’s third, The Suffering Joy (2011, digipack), is cause to rejoice. As Sea of Tranquility says: “If you can only get one prog-rock CD this year, The Suffering Joy should be that CD.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review, the USA Progressive Music review, and still more reviews.
King for a Day (2015) is Magic Pie’s fourth. “King for a Day manages to pull together all that is modern day progressive rock, with a healthy nod to the ’70s of course, but satisfying fully those who crave musical complexity as well as enchanting, memorable melodies. Fans of Yes, Deep Purple, Genesis, Dream Theater, The Beatles, Spock’s Beard, and The Flower Kings will surely love every minute of this, and no doubt this album has to be considered one of the frontrunners for best prog release of 2015.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the video for Trick of the Trade.
No points for guessing that Belgian band Neo-Prophet are a neo-prog band, but they are an uncommonly good one. They debuted in 2009 with Monsters, and there were Marillion-isms to be sure (the words misplaced childhood even appear in the lyrics), but Neo-Prophet are not simply Marillion/Arena imitators. They add touches of hard rock, while loads of symphonic keyboards maintain the guitars/keys balance.
The major change on T.I.M.E. (2015, digipack) is that the hyphen in the band name is gone. That and the fact that only bandleader/singer/bassist Hans Six remains from the previous lineup. The new guitarist and new keyboardist are both on loan from Quantum Fantay! Otherwise not too much has changed. The music is at times heavier and more bombastic, the album alternating between heavier, slightly metallic prog and more pure melodic/symphonic prog. Which is how it is for most neo-prog circa 2015, and neo-prog fans will likely be thrilled with T.I.M.E. Frank van Bogaert (Fish on Friday) mixed and mastered. Watch the sneak preview video.
Kaipa were the top first-generation Swedish prog band, featuring guitarist Roine Stolt, who would later form The Flower Kings, and keyboardist Hans Lundin, who would reboot Kaipa in 2002. Kaipa sing in Swedish on these albums, while both The Flower Kings and the second incarnation of Kaipa switched to English-language vocals. Relative to The Flower Kings, Kaipa’s music is more purely Swedish, their symphonic rock colored by the centuries-old Swedish choral and folk music traditions. The self-titled first album (1975) and Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976) are for us the best albums to have come out of Sweden (along with Atlas - Blĺ Vardag). By now a lot of prog fans will have discovered the later bands first and need to work their way backwards to these albums. Prog fans old enough to have listened in chronological order or who simply have a 1970s orientation (and have not limited themselves to albums sung in English) may consider the 1970s Kaipa albums superior.
These are the 2015 editions on the Tempus Fugit label. The audio was remastered in January 2015. The first album has two bonus tracks, while Inget Nytt Under Solen has four. Last we knew, Tempus Fugit intends to also reissue Kaipa’s Solo (1978), Händer (1980), and Nattdjurstid (1982) on CD. Interestingly, three of the four original members (all except Hans Lundin) are touring in 2015 as Kaipa Da Capo, playing the original Kaipa music. Fleshing out the band are Roine’s brother Michael Stolt on lead vocals, and keyboardist Max Lorentz. See our Scandinavian page for the later Kaipa CDs.
The Black Codex is the most ambitious project yet for Dutchman Christiaan Bruin, who has a number of excellent prog CDs under the Chris name (that you ought to hear) and is also a member of the bands Sky Architect, Nine Stones Close, and a couple others. The Black Codex is based on an original story of Bruin’s. The series was first released as downloads by subscription, 52 “episodes” over a period of 52 weeks throughout 2014. The series is now available on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves. You can hear excerpts from each episode at The Black Codex website. The music is a very cinematic, epic, orchestral progressive rock, using vocals on some episodes, not only a unique concept but rather unique musically too, and very impressive. That this music is different from Bruin’s other projects (and that his other albums are all different from each other) and yet still very much progressive rock speaks to the man’s creativity and range. Watch the series trailer and listen to A Dot on the Horizon and Silhouette in the Window on YouTube.
Remembrance (2015, digipack) is the third album for Maiden uniteD, an all-star project whose charter is to rearrange and perform Iron Maiden songs using mainly acoustic instrumentation. (Are they counting Hammond organ as an acoustic instrument? Because there’s a lot of Hammond.) Forget about that, this is symphonic prog. This is not some sort of unplugged, small, mellow music. There are bass and drums, and this is often big, dramatic, bombastic, and symphonic. You absolutely do not need to be an Iron Maiden fan to appreciate this. The 13 musicians include founder Joey Bruers, Damian Wilson as primary vocalist, Ruud Jolie and Mike Coolen (Within Temptation), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), and other established musicians. Watch the album trailer and all will become clear, also listen to Still Life ’15, which features violin from Marcela Bovio, and Aces High.
Obsidian Desert (2015, digipack) is the debut by Dutch prog/prog-metal quintet Armed Cloud. On the metal side, their major influences are Queensryche and Fates Warning, and as they’re Dutch, it’s hard not to think of Ayreon. The mp3 icon above leads to the band’s website and all the info. “With Obsidian Desert, Armed Cloud has released the perfect album that will help them climb the ladder of progressive rock music. As a statement, they show what they are capable of and are ready to participate on the highest level of the Dutch progressive rock scene.” Read the full Background Magazine review.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarq’s comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarq’s career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarq’s Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
The double-CD Origins is an anthology covering 1992-2014. The upper year in that range is because this set contains one new song. Since the four studio and two live Landmarq CDs on the Cyclops label have been out-of-print for years, Origins is not superfluous as most anthologies are. Disc One (73-minutes) is titled The Tracy Years, while Disc Two (74-minutes) is titled The Damian Years. Damian Wilson was Landmarq’s singer on their first three studio albums (1991-1995), after which Tracy Hitchings took over. Landmarq’s 1990s CDs are recommended to fans of Pendragon and Clive Nolan’s various projects of that era.
Roadskill (2015) is a live CD and DVD (NTSC, all-region) recorded during Landmarq’s 2013 tour at De Boerderij in the Netherlands. The DVD features two additional songs that couldn’t fit on the 78-minute CD, plus interviews with the band.
This is the 2015 Esoteric remastered and expanded edition of this oft-issued (occasionally even on legitimate labels) album. Spring’s 1971 album is a classic of British progressive rock, or at least proto-prog. The album owes its status to the heavy use of Mellotron. Strip the Mellotron out of the mix and what remains is about as progressive as The Moody Blues, nonetheless possessing the charm of the place and time in which it was made. Slather on the Mellotron and there you have it. Esoteric have newly remastered the album from the original master tapes, then added a second disc containing 12 bonus tracks from 1971. These tracks were intended for a second, unreleased album, and Esoteric state that these tracks are released officially for the first time. Note many of these tracks appeared on the Second Harvest CD released several years earlier on the Italian Akarma label. You can draw your own conclusion about the legitimacy of that Akarma release and whether it used the original tapes. The booklet features fully-restored artwork, previously unseen photographs, and a new essay. Read the AllMusic review.
Box of Shamans is a new Los Angeles prog band closely related to Heliopolis. Box of Shamans are led by multi-instrumentist Michael Matier (Heliopolis, Ten Jinn), with singer Scott Jones (Heliopolis); the two have been writing together for many years. Drummer Jerry Beller (Heliopolis, Mars Hollow) joins them for their debut Belief and Illusion (2015, digipack). As you might expect from members of Heliopolis and Mars Hollow, the music comes closest to Yes, but with a distinct style. It balances complexity and accessibility, angularity and melody. It is an extrapolation of 1970s progressive rock that does not follow the paths of neo-prog, metal-prog, or other problematic paths prog has since gone down. Or as we wrote about the Blue Shift album that preceded this by a couple months, it sure is good to hear the real thing now and again. We’d file this alongside Perfect Beings, if only to demonstrate how Los Angeles currently leads the Yes division of progressive rock. Read the Progradar review.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998, then nothing until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. This album will get the blood of neo-prog fans pumping. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance. Read reviews at Prog Archives, The Progressive Aspect, DPRP, and Get Your Rock Out. Note Trip the Life Fantastic apparently first appeared as a CD-R, but this new pressing is a CD.
OVNI is El Salvador’s top (well, only) progressive rock band. Their name is the Spanish acronym equivalent to UFO. Humans But Not Terrestrials (2004), also known as Humanos Pero No Terrestres, featured a new lineup for OVNI and was a huge step forward for the band. This 79-minute sci-fi concept album is sung mostly in English, with a few songs in Spanish. OVNI come closest to Yes on this album, though that’s only an approximation. The songs sung in Spanish tend to have a slightly different feel, sometimes suggesting Italian progressive rock, and some of it could probably be called neo-prog. One might spot ELP, Jethro Tull, or Pink Floyd here and there, but OVNI have their own melodic prog style. There are some epic statements here, the longest track a 23-minute suite. The usual keys/guitar/bass/drums instrumentation is augmented by mandolin, flute, and various South American stringed things. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The True Purposes of God / Los Verdaderos Propósitos de Dios (2006) is a 74-minute concept album which is also sung in both English and Spanish, with the majority in English. The description of Humans But Not Terrestrials also applies here, though this album seems to emphasize the pop side of OVNI’s songwriting a bit more, an aspect of the band that has been present from the beginning. OVNI’s melodies tend to sound more British than those of other Latin American prog bands, from a Beatles influence on some tracks to a 1980s neo-prog influence on others. Another very good album. Watch the videos for Friendship?, Against Nada, and ElectroElle y RockyKate.
Salvadoreńo / Alien is OVNI’s ambitious 2011 studio double-CD. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for the title track, The Monseigneur, Himno Nacional de El Salvador, Traffic in San Sivar, and Un Nińo Tenaz.
Simple (2015) sees OVNI putting more emphasis on songs, which is something they’ve gotten very good at. The progressive elements, the excellent work on both guitar and keyboards, is obvious during the instrumental breaks and merely shifted out of the foreground during the verses and choruses. The songs are retro in the sense that they are upbeat, with none of the modern darkness, melancholy, and moaning about life. There is one instrumental, three songs sung in Spanish, and five in English. The Spanish-language songs bring to mind South American bands such as Os Mutantes and 14 Bis (even if those bands sing in Portuguese), or even some of the Italian pop-prog bands.
La Experiencia (2001) is a 72-minute live CD that includes concerts from 1987, 1989, and 2000. This is the first lineup of OVNI playing melodic symphonic prog with a standard guitar, keys, bass & drums lineup, plus vocals in Spanish. It’s prog all right, though there’s also a bit of an AOR feel, like a Spanish-language Asia. There are songs, the vocals are prominent, but there are also long tracks with plenty of instrumental work.
Samsara (1998, 60-minutes) is the debut for Numen, a five-piece Spanish band that present an effective amalgam of the Camel and Marillion styles, the latter felt particularly in the ringing, bell-like clean guitar tone that is one of Steve Rothery’s trademarks. Singer César Alcaraz delivers the English lyrics in a clear voice with only a slight accent. The occasional appearance of flute is most welcome. The tracks are generally long with a good balance of instrumental sections and vocals, and though this will be called neo-prog by most, it avoids those tendencies that can give neo a bad name. The only ethnic Spanish element is the use of some Spanish guitar, otherwise they sound British. Read this Prog Archives review. This is the remastered 2015 digipack edition on the MALS label.
Numenclature (2014, digipack, 62-minutes) is their second, and despite the passage of 16 years, the lineup remains the same. Watch the official video for The Camel’s Back and listen to Out of the Earth on YouTube.
Sky were an instrumental classical-rock band whose members included John Williams, often considered the best classical guitarist in the world at that time, keyboardist Francis Monkman (Curved Air), Australian guitarist Kevin Peek, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummer/percussionist Tristan Fry. Sky 1 (1979) reached #2 in the UK charts, rather unbelievable for a classical-rock album during the punk and new wave era. But then Sky 2 (1980) trumped that and reached #1. Sky 2 was originally a double-LP and is their best, with Sky 1 second. Read reviews of Sky 1 and Sky 2 at Prog Archives, where you’ll also find some mp3s.
These 2014 editions of Sky 1 and Sky 2 on Esoteric have been newly remastered, with original album artwork fully restored and a new essay. And they each add a DVD (NTSC, all-region). The Sky 1 CD includes the bonus tracks Dies Irae, the single version of March to the Scaffold (previously unreleased on CD), and a previously unreleased live version of Where Opposites Meet recorded by BBC Radio One at a charity concert at Wembley Arena in November 1979. The Sky 1 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1979 BBC TV appearances, seven tracks from five different shows, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. The Sky 2 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1980 BBC TV appearances, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. These include 12 tracks from Sky’s concert at Hammersmith Odeon in 1980 plus Sky’s performance of Toccata on Top of the Pops in April 1980. Note some earlier CD editions of Sky 2 omitted two tracks, but this Esoteric edition omits nothing.
Francis Monkman then departed, replaced by Steve Gray. Monkman was the best composer the band had though, and no subsequent album reached the quality of the first two. Still, the band had a lot of momentum, and Sky 3 (1981) reached #8 on the UK charts, while Sky 4: Forthcoming (1982) reached #7. That would be the last studio album to chart in the UK, though the double-LP Sky Five Live (1983) would reach #24. Successful tours of the UK, Europe, Australia, and Japan followed the release of Sky 3 and Sky 4.
As with Esoteric’s reissues of Sky 1 and Sky 2, these 2015 editions of Sky 3 and Sky 4 on Esoteric feature the original albums newly remastered on the CD, and each includes a DVD (NTSC, all-region). Sky 3’s DVD features Sky’s memorable concert at Westminster Abbey in London from February 1981, which was recorded and broadcast by BBC Television and later released on VHS and Laserdisc. This is its first time on DVD. Sky 4’s DVD features Sky’s live set for the BBC TV program Night Music, broadcast in July 1982. This is its first ever release in any format.
In 1982, this lineup embarked on an extensive tour of Australia. A mobile recording unit captured concerts in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, which were mixed at Abbey Road studios and released as Sky Five Live in January 1983. Unavailable for nearly twenty years, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered and adds the 20-minute piece The Animals, originally featured on the vinyl double-LP but omitted from the 1996 CD release. The Animals does not appear on any studio album, and there are more tracks that are exclusive to this album, so though it is recorded live, it really does qualify as the fifth Sky album. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay.
Sky’s sixth album Cadmium was released in 1983. Unavailable on CD for over two decades, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered, adds three bonus tracks to the CD, and also features a DVD (NTSC, all-region) of the previously-unreleased BBC TV recording of Sky at Drury Lane in December 1983, along with a performance of the piece Troika on the Val Doonican Show that same month. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay. “The last album to feature John Williams, its pre-Christmas release was not only an attempt to capture the gift-buying market, but reflected the content of perhaps the most accomplished work the band had done since Francis Monkman’s departure. Opening with an interpretation of a Christmas classical music stalwart (including sleighbells!), with track titles like Mother Russia and A Girl in Winter, how can one not associate this with cold, wet nights (preferably snow instead of rain)? Most of Sky’s classical reworkings leave me cold, but Troika is one of the exceptions. Herbie offers his almost-contractual ‘silly’ piece in the shape of Telex from Peru, and the album’s quiet piece comes courtesy of a rare Fry composition, Then and Now. Eminently listenable, full of good tunes, and more occasions than most for the individuals to display prowess with their chosen instruments, not to mention a replacement for Hotta as the encore piece when playing live, the aptly-named Son of Hotta.” [Richard Sliwa, creator of the unofficial Sky site (click mp3 icon above)]
John Williams departed Sky in December 1983 and the band continued as a quartet, with Kevin Peek assuming a greater role. In 1985 they recorded the album The Great Balloon Race at studios in Australia and London, with several guest musicians adding some instruments not previously used by Sky (flute, pan pipes, sax, spoken word). This album gets overlooked because of where it falls on the Sky timeline, and because it had been out-of-print for a long time. In 1987 Sky recorded their final album Mozart (called The Mozart Album on its U.S. release, which also had a different cover). It saw Sky arrange Mozart compositions, and it features (heavily) the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (an English chamber orchestra) conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Both The Great Balloon Race and Mozart had been unavailable for over 20 years until these Esoteric reissues, which are newly remastered from the original master tapes, fully restore the original album artwork, and feature a new essay. (No DVD with these two, just a CD.)
Since they began in the mid-1980s, Ozric Tentacles have been the premier progressive psychedelic space-rock band. Technicians of the Sacred (2CD, 2015, digipack) is Ozric Tentacles’ first studio outing since 2011’s Paper Monkeys and their first double album since the classic Erpland in 1990. Listen to the album montage. See our British page for more Ozrics CDs.
Yes, this is the same U.S. band that released Not the Future I Ordered in 1997. The only lineup change on Levels of Undo (2015) is at singer, with Denise Chandler replacing Stewart Meredith. Meredith was a high tenor, so not much of a change, and as Yes remains Blue Shift’s primary influence, the vocals in Jon Anderson’s range work well. There is one track of solo jazz guitar and one track that sounds like Hawkwind. The rest, especially the two epic tracks, is 1970s style prog in the Yes vein with forays into ELP, King Crimson, and fusion territory. For Yes fans, Drivetime (10:25) and the title track (20:41) are as good as anything you’re likely to hear this year (or ever again from Yes). After listening to a lot of modern and neo-prog, it’s refreshing to hear the undiluted product again. Progressive rock is not a flavor nor cousin of metal or pop or alt-rock; ideally it stands above and apart with no mistaking the difference. If a reminder of that is needed, Levels of Undo should do it.
Minimum Vital are one of the very best second-generation French symphonic prog bands, and one of the few from their era still going. Pavanes (2CD, 2015, digipack) expands the style of their previous album Capitaines, which represented something of a return to the style of their 1990 album Sarabandes, emphasizing Minimum Vital’s singular form of medieval progressive rock. On Pavanes, Minimum Vital have created a unique fusion of progressive rock and folk, but the folk is mostly of their invention, a fanciful folk music from an imaginary time and place. Watch the official video for Javary & Montago and listen to Folkish on YouTube. See our French page for the other Minimum Vital CDs still in print.
Progression by Failure is the band of French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Piveteau, who is primarily a keyboardist. While Progression By Failure’s 2009 debut CD was a one-man project, Piveteau added a guitarist and drummer for Sonic Travelogue (2015, digipack). The improvement is significant, as Sonic Travelogue is a classic-style instrumental sympho-prog album displaying great range and sophistication. Listen to extracts from the album on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Percept From… (2013) is the debut CD by a Japanese band playing instrumental violin-led progressive rock with fusion aspects, perhaps inspired by KBB. No one does this style better than the Japanese now. Listen to the album montage on YouTube.
What Is Constant (2015) is their second, in the same style. Listen to Cloud 9 on YouTube.
Ad Hominem (2014) is the debut by a young Venezuelan prog quintet. It’s great to see new prog life in Venezuela, a country with a history of excellent progressive rock by Tempano, Vytas Brenner, Equilibrio Vital, Aditus, and others. We’re also glad Calle Santiago sing in their native tongue. Calle Santiago lean toward the harder-edged modern prog style but feature many classy elements that give their music distinctiveness. Listen to Resistencia and Libertad on YouTube.
Before Englishman Rhys Marsh moved to Norway, he’d formed his first band Mandala in London in 1997, playing guitar and singing, with Francis Booth (bass) and Will Spurling (drums) and, at times, a string section. They were together for nine years and played hundreds of concerts, though they never recorded an album. They got back together in 2014 to record their debut album Midnight Twilight (2015, digisleeve, 50-minutes), an album 18 years in the making. They chose ten songs from the more than 40 in their repertoire. The main tracks were recorded live in Marsh’s studio in Norway, with a few overdubs added. They then went to London to record their original string section (violin, cello) with the same recording engineer they’d worked with ten years earlier. There is much in common with the music Marsh would later develop under his own name using Norwegian musicians, and it is not far removed from the Anekdoten style. The music is on the melancholy and dark side, blending progressive rock with folk-noir (both western and eastern), retro-style psychedelic rock, and more. Marsh describes it as all being “wrapped in an early-seventies glow”. In addition to the real strings, Marsh adds a dollop of Mellotron strings. The 16-page booklet includes a brief history of Mandala and recording session photos. Watch the videos for Fire Is Mine and a live-in-studio performance of Sun (the first song Marsh ever wrote).
Transformation (2015) is the new and very long awaited studio album from FM, the Canadian progressive rock legends. The Esoteric label says: “With its roots firmly planted in late seventies progressive rock -- complex rhythms, driving bass lines, soaring melodies -- the music on Transformation is symphonic in scope with not one but two violinists on board.” FM co-founder/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins is joined by drummer Paul DeLong (Roger Hodgson), viola/mandolinist Edward Bernard on loan from Druckfarben, and violin virtuoso Aaron Solomon. Terry Brown (Rush) did the mixing.
It took until 2014, but here finally is the audio and video record of FM’s performance at NEARfest 2006. This CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) set comes in a digipack. The 12 tracks include six from Black Noise, three from Surveillance (all the best ones), one from City of Fear, and two new compositions. FM reformed and rehearsed for months for this show, and it showed as they were tight and polished. See our Canadian page for more FM CDs and more info on the band.
This is the 2015 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ classic first album The Geese and the Ghost, which comes in a clamshell box. The Geese and the Ghost was released in 1977, but the recordings for it had begun several years earlier and are representative of the pastoral early Genesis sound. As most Genesis fans know, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins play on this album, with Phil singing on two tracks and Mike co-writing three. Among the many guest musicians are John Hackett and Jack Lancaster.
The big news here is the third disc, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo! The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 (as you’d expect on any DVD-A). There is also MLP stereo and 24/48 LPCM stereo. The first CD contains the remastered album. Esoteric call it the ‘2014 remaster’ and state that this edition was “newly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth”. Heyworth and Andy Myles did the surround mix. So it would appear that this is a newer remaster than the 2008 Voiceprint edition. The second CD contains demos and alternate versions, plus two versions of Silver Song (sung by Phil Collins). It appears to be identical to the second disc in the Voiceprint edition with the addition of one more bonus track, the previously unreleased 1973 song Only Your Love featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford. The box also includes a poster (so you can see the detail in one of the best album covers ever) and a very extensive booklet with a new essay, all in all a really nice job by Esoteric. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Anthony Phillips CDs. (If you have no intention of listening to the surround or hi-res audio on the DVD-A, you may be better off with the less expensive Voiceprint 2CD.)
This is the U.S. jewel case edition of The Tangent’s eighth album A Spark in the Aether (2015), which contains the same bonus track as the European edition. This CD is subtitled The Music That Died Alone - Volume Two, a reference to The Tangent’s debut album. Joining bandleader Andy Tillison this time are Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, and Luke Machin, all of whom have played on previous The Tangent albums, plus new drummer Morgan Ĺgren (Mats/Morgan band, Kaipa, Frank Zappa). Tillison says: “This is an album that seeks to return to the core of what The Tangent means to me… After our big orchestral opus that we delivered in Le Sacre du Travail, we’re to an extent reining in the instrumentation to the 5-piece electric prog rock band and focusing a little more on that all-important second word of the genre name: rock. At least (grins with less than average teeth) for the first half!” This time around, The Tangent incorporate American influences, ensuring A Spark in the Aether has something new to offer. “This will probably be my album of the year for 2015... It is not every day that you hear an album for the first time and realise you are listening to an absolute masterpiece of writing, playing, and production. In this case it happened, and on subsequent listens gets even better.” Read the full Background Magazine review, also the Progradar review. Watch the videos for the title track and San Francisco. See our British page for more The Tangent CDs, a DVD, and much more info.
The Gift of Anxiety (2013, digipack) is the first full-length album for Dutch prog band Sylvium, following a 2012 EP. While that EP was instrumental and more a solo project of guitarist and band leader Ben van Gastel, Sylvium are a proper band now, and The Gift of Anxiety has some quality vocals. Their bassist is Gijs Koopman, formerly of Cliffhanger and Knight Area. The music covers symphonic, neo-, heavy, ambient and Floydian prog and more, probably falling primarily in the Anathema / Porcupine Tree / Riverside camp. Watch the album trailer and the official video for Weathering.
Sylvium further develop their sound on their second CD, the concept album Waiting for the Noise (2015, digisleeve). Watch the album trailer and the official video for Signal to Noise. “I was suitably impressed by Sylvium’s debut album The Gift of Anxiety to say it was a brilliant progressive rock album, so how do you top that? You go one better with an album of exceptional songwriting and profoundly astute lyrics, where the musicianship is first-rate and the vocals become a definitive part of the story. There has been a lot of talk about how good Steven Wilson’s new release is, but for me, I think that this time David has slain Goliath. I doff my hat to Sylvium for producing one of this year’s most memorable albums so far.” Read the full Progradar review.
Everlasting Instant (2015) concludes IZZ’s three-part series of albums that began with The Darkened Room in 2009 and continued with 2012’s Crush of Night, “with a fresh palette of sounds all the while maintaining the sharp and memorable melodies that have become a hallmark of the band”. The band regards Everlasting Instant as the culmination of the musical themes presented on the two preceding albums: “Many of the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics on Everlasting Instant began as seeds on the two previous albums and have come to fruition on this release. Listeners will recognize these subtle variations on prior themes and will also be presented with an exciting new collection of musical ideas.” Watch the video for Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV. See our U.S. page for all the IZZ CDs and much more info.
Wolflight is Steve Hackett’s 2015 studio album, and Steve seems to be taking this progressive rock fad seriously, as this is his best record in a long time. He is joined by long time collaborators Roger King (keyboards, programming), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (sax, duduk), Nick Beggs (bass, Stick), and Amanda Lehmann (harmony vocals). Among the guests are Chris Squire and Hugo Dagenhardt. Read the Blogcritics review. Watch the videos for The Wheel’s Turning, Love Song to a Vampire, and the title track.
The jewel case edition contains just the CD. The digipack adds a Blu-ray containing the album in DTS Master Audio 5.1, 24/48 5.1 LPCM, and 24/48 stereo LPCM (all are lossless). The Blu-ray also contains two bonus tracks in 24/48 stereo, and interviews with Hackett. See our British page for more Steve Hackett CDs and our DVDs page for some Steve Hackett DVDs.
Secrets of Angels (2015) debuts another female vocalist for Karnataka: Hayley Griffiths. She is a classically trained soprano who has toured extensively worldwide as a solo artist and as lead vocalist in the international phenomenon Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. Musical Discoveries, who have followed Karnataka closely from the beginning, call Hayley the best singer the band has had, which is high praise. Otherwise, Secrets of Angels picks up where 2010’s The Gathering Light left off, with Troy Donockley again guesting. “Secrets of Angels is to The Gathering Light as Delicate Flame of Desire was to The Storm, that is to say, an exponential improvement in songwriting, arrangements, production and -- most notably -- vocal work that is nothing short of amazing.” Read the full Musical Discoveries review and the Rock Report review. Watch the album trailer.
The New Light Blu-ray (all-region) is Karnataka live in concert, filmed in HD at The Met Theatre in Bury on their 2012 tour. It features 5.1 surround and 24-bit stereo audio. Extras include interviews with the band and a tour image gallery. Read the Lady Obscure review. Watch the promo video. Note this comes in a standard plastic Blu-ray case, but the band didn’t have them sealed. See our British page for more Karnataka CDs and much more info.
Inversa Visual, the fourth album from this six-man Barcelona prog band, was released by the band in 2009 and reissued in this 2010 edition by Musea. Herba d’Hamelí began their career playing Jethro Tull covers, and they’ve gone through some changes, especially affecting their third album which was only released as a digital download. On Inversa Visual, they play 1970s-style symphonic prog featuring both flute and keyboards, in the vein of Gotic and Camel, with some jazz-rock that recalls Iman and Iceberg. The vocals are in Catalan. If you told us this album had been recorded in the mid-1970s, we would have been fooled and happily filed it next to Gotic, Ibio, Companyia Elčctrica Dharma, and the many other first-generation Spanish prog bands. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Their self-released fifth album Girafes a Sibčria (2011) establishes Herba d’Hamelí as one of the best (and least known) 70s-style prog bands around. This record sounds like an undiscovered gem from the golden age of prog, with an understated majesty and graceful flow that is rare today. While too many bands today aim for a me-too Anglo-American mainstream sound, their influences limited to the same obvious ones, Herba d’Hamelí’s music has a sense of place, like the first-generation European prog bands who weren’t trying to all sound the same. If your faith in progressive rock is in need of a little restoration, this album should do it.
Interiors (2015) is at least as good as Girafes a Sibčria. Read the Music From the Other Side of the Room review.
Aviator was a sort of second-tier British supergroup who released these two albums in 1979 and 1980. The band was formed by Jack Lancaster and Mick Rogers, joined by John G. Perry and Clive Bunker, with Robin Lumley producing. Lancaster is known for his Marscape and Peter and the Wolf albums with Robin Lumley and his Wild Connections album with Rick van der Linden. The second Aviator album Turbulence was recorded without Lancaster, but then Lancaster’s 1980 album Skinningrove Bay featured all of the Aviator lineup, so they must’ve still been getting along. Mick Rogers is best known as the singer/guitarist of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Clive Bunker is best known for his time as Jethro Tull’s drummer, and John G. Perry was in Caravan, Quantum Jump, Anthony Phillips’ band, and others. The self-titled first Aviator LP was not hard to find in the U.S., but Turbulence was. Both reflect the fact that, the band UK excepted, it was difficult to make progressive rock in the UK during those years, and so these two albums are a mix of jazz-tinged prog and more straightforward rock and pop-rock. Read reviews at Prog Archives and the GloryDazeMusic.com reviews of Turbulence and Aviator.
This 1989 album was the first of two released by Fire Merchants, a trio of John Goodsall (Brand X) on guitar, Chester Thompson (Genesis, Weather Report) on drums, and bassist/percussionist Doug Lunn. The music is rock-fusion, like a heavier, more aggressive and rock-oriented Brand X. This is the 2014 edition on Gonzo, which includes three bonus tracks.
Castle Canyon are an unknown early-1970s American instrumental progressive rock band. Two short tracks on Gods of 1973 (2009) actually were recorded in 1973-74. Four were composed in 1973-74 but not recorded until 2008, and three are new but sound consistent with the others. There is some guitar, but this is keyboard-dominated symphonic prog using vintage sounds. While ELP is the most frequently-heard influence and Trace is often a good reference point, the music ranges wider than that and is fairly original, including some excellent impressionistic soundscapes. Close your eyes and imagine it’s a lost classic from 1973, because in a way it is.
Criteria Obsession (2015, digipack) is the second Castle Canyon CD, again emphasizing 1970s-style vintage keyboard dominated prog instrumentals. The trio of keyboards, guitars, and drums has the assistance of different bass players on different tracks, and a guest saxophonist on one. There are two short ARP 2600 solo works recorded in 1974, while the band’s 1972 tour de force Criteria Obsession / The Mushroom Song (14:35) finally sees the light of day in 2015. (There are brief vocals on this track.) The 13-minute Disaster is a studio recording of a piece the band used to play live; it juxtaposes carefully composed elements with sections of wild abandon, showing a fusion side to Castle Canyon. Though you might never guess, My Lady Carey is a rock arrangement of one of the earliest surviving renaissance musical pieces. They just don’t make albums like this anymore.
Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts (2010) is the debut solo album for Magenta’s front-woman Christina Booth. Christina co-wrote all 10 tracks with Rob Reed, who also mixed and produced the album. Guests on the album include John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost), Steve Balsamo (The Storys, ChimpanA), Troy Donockley (ex-Iona), and Chris Fry (Magenta), with a remix of Deep Ocean by Jem Godfrey (Frost). Says Christina of the album: “Although it’s not Prog, it’s pretty varied and I hope that Magenta fans will find plenty to like. It’s certainly been a labour of love, and I really believe it’s the finest set of songs I’ve ever written.” Read the Musical Discoveries review.
Christina’s second CD The Light (2015, digisleeve) features contributions from Andy Tillison (The Tangent), John Mitchell, Theo Travis, Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost), Dan Nelson (Godsticks), and Magenta bandmates Chris Fry and Rob Reed. As on her first album, Christina worked closely with Rob developing the tracks, Christina coming up with the melodies and lyrics, Rob taking care of the arrangements as well as producing and mixing. The songs are linked lyrically, most inspired by Christina’s recent battle with breast cancer, with the natural melancholy of the music balanced by a sense of hope. Watch the video for Disappeared.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium). Sanctuary (2014, digisleeve) is a rather amazing work, as it is in essence an alternate-universe version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to right-thinking people everywhere one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. (If the current generation of prog fans sometimes seems clueless about Mike Oldfield in general, there is this perspective: Oldfield is one of only four individual artists to whom Paul Stump devotes a section of his The Music’s All That Matters book, the others being Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, and Anthony Phillips. The others owe much of their renown to the bands they were in.) Reed even secured the collaboration of Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (who co-produced) and Simon Heyworth (who mastered Sanctuary) after receiving their seal of approval. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the album in 24/96 stereo and DTS 5.1 surround for maximum bliss, plus the promo videos. Watch the videos for Sanctuary Part 1 and Sanctuary Part 2 (excerpt), the latter a great piece of comedy with a special guest star, and you should find a few more of the promo videos nearby.
Willow’s Song (2015) is an 11-track CD with a playing time of 35:29 containing material recorded for Sanctuary but omitted. The centerpieces are two vocal tracks featuring singer Angharad Brinn that were left off so as not to disrupt the feel of the all-instrumental Sanctuary. If you’ve seen the movie The Wicker Man (the 1973 original), then you can’t forget Willow’s Song, a haunting psych-folk song (which is accompanied by Britt Ekland dancing naked.) Reed does a great rendition of this song, which you can hear in Reed’s video to accompany it. The second vocal song is a brilliant version of the traditional Scarborough Fair, given the full Mike Oldfield treatment, transforming it into majestic prog. Willow’s Song is repeated in an extended version, while Scarborough Fair is repeated in an instrumental version. There are two very Oldfield-esque instrumental pieces not used on Sanctuary, while the remaining songs are remixes and demo versions of parts of Sanctuary. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Though Nosound began as the solo studio project of Giancarlo Erra, they grew into five piece live band. In the summer of 2014, Nosound were invited to perform at an extraordinary festival: the Starmus Festival at the Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). It was here that Nosound recorded Teide 2390 (2015, mediabook with 24-page booklet), featuring songs from their entire career. (The ‘2390’ in the title is the altitude of the location in meters.) In addition to a 70-minute CD, this set includes a hybrid DVD-Audio/Video disc. DVD-Audio players will play the 5.1 surround 24/96 MLP lossless mix of the album. DVD-Video players can play the DTS 24/96 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround versions. The DVD also contains the stereo mix in 24/48 LPCM. In addition, there is a video featurette that includes the performances of several songs plus behind-the-scenes footage. Watch the video for I Miss the Ground. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for all the Nosound CDs and much more info.
The best orchestra in the world, recorded in the best studio in the world (Abbey Road), playing some of the best songs in the world. Guests include Thijs Van Leer (Focus), Richard Harvey (Gryphon), Patrick Moraz, Ian Bairnson (The Alan Parsons Project), Gavin Harrison, Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson band), and the late Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboardist of Three Dog Night). The tracks: ELP Suite: Tarkus / From the Beginning / Tarkus (reprise), Comfortably Numb, Thick as a Brick, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Focus II, Nights in White Satin, Think of Me With Kindness, Roundabout, Watcher of the Skies, Red Barchetta. If your favorite song did not make the cut, lobby hard for a Volume 2. Watch the educational/motivational video.
DeLane Lea Studios 1973 is a live-in-the-studio recording by Renaissance performing in 1973 to a small gathering of friends at historic DeLane Lea Studios in London (used by The Beatles, Queen, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, among others). The track list: Can You Understand?, Let It Grow, Sounds of the Sea, Carpet of the Sun, At the Harbour, Ashes Are Burning, Prologue. Ashes Are Burning features guest appearances by Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) and Al Stewart! This is on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, so one must assume it’s a legit release from the original tapes. It sounds good.
Also on Purple Pyramid is the double-CD Academy of Music 1974, an archival recording receiving its first legit release in 2015. This is Renaissance performing at the historic (and no longer standing) Academy of Music hall in New York City, accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra. It was professionally recorded for radio broadcast. The track list: Can You Understand?, Black Flame, Carpet of the Sun, Cold Is Being, Things I Don’t Understand, Running Hard, Ashes Are Burning, Mother Russia, Prologue. See our British page for more Renaissance CDs.
The Gentle Storm is a collaboration between mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and vocalist/lyricist Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering). It’s a given that this is an epic concept album. The interesting aspect of The Diary (2015, digipack) is that the two CDs in this set feature two contrasting interpretations of the same songs, with disc 1 ‘Gentle’ containing the “acoustic/folk” arrangements and disc 2 ‘Storm’ containing “a full-on metal assault”. Of course the latter is as much symphonic prog as it is metal. Watch the official videos for Shores of India and Heart of Amsterdam and listen to the Gentle version of Shores of India.
This is the 2010 CD edition on Esoteric of the self-titled 1971 Fields album. After the first lineup of Rare Bird folded in early 1971, keyboardist Graham Field formed this outfit with bassist/singer/guitarist Alan Barry and drummer Andy McCulloch (in between his time with King Crimson and Greenslade). Although Fields didn’t achieve the commercial success Rare Bird had, (what had until recently been) their sole album is a very good British prog album, certainly better than the Rare Bird albums that would follow since Rare Bird without Graham Fields wasn’t very progressive at all. This CD edition has been remastered from the original master tapes and features an essay by Sid Smith and an interview with Graham Field. Read reviews at Music from the Other Side of the Room and Prog Archives.
Following the album’s release, the band’s line-up changed with the departure of Alan Barry and the arrival of Frank Farrell from Supertramp. This line-up recorded a follow-up album in 1972 that was perplexingly shelved by CBS Records and remained consigned to the vaults for forty-odd years! The original master tapes of this fine album were recently located and have been remastered by the Esoteric team as Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace (2015) with the full involvement of Graham Field and featuring a booklet with an essay by Sid Smith and interview with Graham Field. Listen to Let Her Sleep on YouTube.
Glacier are a prog band from Durham, England who have been around in one form or another since 1979. Their CD debut was Monument in 2001, essentially a compilation of older material. And it isn’t nearly as good as their second CD Ashes for the Monarch (2015, mini-LP sleeve). It’s safe to consider Glacier alongside Comedy of Errors, Abel Ganz, and Cyan, but Ashes for the Monarch is to a greater extent loaded with Genesis and Steve Hackett style symphonic splendor, some Yes influence as well. A guest on violin adds a Kansas or Solstice feel to some tracks, in particular the 11-part, 23-minute epic One Man Alone. This CD should be on the shopping list of any fan of melodic prog. It sounds very British, and is utterly free of metal or other impurities. “This is an album that should be enjoyed for what it is intended to be, a celebration of a genre that simply refuses to fade and as such represents an example of the highest calibre. For those seeking nostalgia with a contemporary twist, look no further. Glacier’s new work fourteen years in the making is a joy and well worth the wait. Traditional prog at its very best.” Read the full Progmeister and DPRP reviews.
Stewart Bell is the keyboardist and main composer in Citizen Cain. It looks as though going forward, the Citizen Cain franchise is in his hands, as Bell plans this 74-minute album to be only the first in a trilogy. The Antechamber of Being (Part 1) is a prog rock opera featuring five vocalists: Simone Rossetti (The Watch), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), Bekah Mhairi Comrie, Phil Allen (Citizen Cain), and Bell himself. Allen also plays guitar, so two-thirds of Citizen Cain is present. Musically and even vocally, it sounds quite a bit like Citizen Cain, albeit slightly heavier, picking up where Citizen Cain left off with 2012’s Skies Darken. The Genesis and Peter Gabriel allusions still abound (if you don’t hear Genesis’ The Knife at one point, you’re just not listening), though the songwriting chops are not on the Genesis level. The music is complex and dense though not impenetrable; the same could be said of much of Citizen Cain’s music. Read the DPRP, Jerry Lucky, and Background Magazine reviews.
This four track CD (20:11, slimline case) contains new versions of Steve Hackett’s anthem and signature track Spectral Mornings. The release is the brainchild of Magenta’s Rob Reed, who wanted to reimagine the instrumental track with its beautiful melody as a song. Rob asked Big Big Train’s David Longdon to write lyrics for the new version. Spectral Mornings 2015 features guitars by Steve Hackett, vocals by Longdon and Magenta’s Christina Booth, drums by Big Big Train’s Nick D’Virgilio, keyboards by Rob Reed, and bass from ever-in-demand Nick Beggs. Longdon also adds flute. The main version Spectral Mornings 2015 is followed by an acoustic version, an instrumental version, and the “Classic Mix”. The four versions are for the most part quite different from each other, not the usual alternate mixes but entirely different arrangements. For instance, the instrumental version features recorders played by Peter Jones, which combined with harp sounds from Reed opens the track in orchestral Celtic territory before the familiar soaring Hackett guitar enters and the song bursts into full-bandwidth splendor. Take one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and uplifting instrumental pieces ever written, add high-quality lyrics and two of the most recognizable voices in contemporary prog singing a male/female duet. Let cream-of-the-crop musicians add new elements and ideas in a spirit of complete respect. Get that Hackett guy to ensure the guitar is done properly. The result is pure bliss. The musicians are donating their profits to the Parkinson’s Society UK. Watch the video.
Brazilians Zózimo Rech and Adrianne Simioni combine their efforts to varying degrees on these albums. Both musicians play guitar as well as keyboards and both combine synth music and instrumental progressive rock unlike anyone else. In addition to time spent in rock and fusion bands, Rech and Simioni were the only constant members of Orquestra Profana, an ensemble in existence from 1991-95 and dedicated to the interpretation of classical music with electric and electronic instruments. Their newest work is Le Quattro Stagioni / The Four Seasons (2015), which is Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work performed on electric guitars and synths. Orquestra Profana performed this live during their existence, and Rech and Simioni felt obligated to record a studio version.
The Life of a Star is by and large a loud, bombastic progressive rock album that uses a lot of synths, but electric guitar prevails. It was recorded back in 1997 but not released until 2006. Pictures of a Solar System (2006) is considered the sequel. Pictures of a Solar System has some electric guitar and some rock but is more of a symphonic/melodic/rhythmic synth album along the lines of Synergy, though with higher energy, sometimes touching upon the style of Fonya. It is compositionally the more mature album.
On her 2006 album The Intelligible Sky, Simioni plays electric & acoustic guitar and electric violin. Rech has arranging, co-arranging, and/or co-writing credits on all the songs, produced the album, and took care of the keyboards and sequencers. The album is more prog rock than synth music. It has more than enough energy and complexity for progressive rock fans, yet is full of sophisticated synth textures, both symphonic and spacey. The drums on these earlier albums are programmed, but they are well done; a human drummer would not have added much.
Oregon (2004, 66-minutes) is the second CD from Dutch quartet Nice Beaver, who expand well beyond the neo-prog style of their 2002 debut On Dry Land (currently out-of-print, but the band say a re-release is in the works). For one, they’ve added some heavy guitar, but more importantly, there is a Camel influence on some tracks and some slight jazz touches, and though the early Marillion style is still present in places, it isn’t the only thing they do. That said, there are some great Steve Rothery style guitar leads. A very good sophomore effort showing a lot of growth. Read the DPRP and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
For The Time It Takes (2015, digipack), Nice Beaver followed Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Trion over to the Polish Oskar label, not too surprising given how intertwined these Dutch prog bands are. Nice Beaver take another step forward with this album, showing an even stronger kinship to Camel as well as to Rush and Marillion, with jazzy touches throughout. Listen to the album teaser and Rainbow’s End on YouTube.
Note Flamborough Head’s Lost in Time is back in stock.
Steven Wilson’s 2015 fourth studio album is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and for good reason. Wilson’s band is the same one that recorded The Raven... and toured in 2013-2014, but Wilson demonstrates again that he isn’t going to make the same solo album twice. The standard CD edition comes in a digipack. The Blu-ray has lossless hi-res surround (96/24 5.1 LPCM and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) and 96/24 LPCM stereo versions of all the album tracks. It has a studio documentary filmed and edited by Lasse Hoile, and a photo gallery. It also adds instrumental versions of all the album tracks in 96/24 stereo LPCM, seven alternative version bonus tracks, and lastly, the Blu-ray comes with a download code for FLAC and mp3 versions of the album, which means the Blu-ray has you covered. Listen to First Regret / 3 Years Older on SoundCloud. Watch the video for Perfect Life. (Three chords, five or six words, and you’re probably singing along first time through.) “Hand.Cannot.Erase, while available in a variety of formats, is best experienced in 96/24 on Blu-ray... Could there be an artist under more pressure to put forth brilliant, original music in surround sound than Steven Wilson? For all intents and purposes, Wilson is the poster boy for the 5.1 audio universe -- in fact, no one else comes close.” [soundandvision.com] See Page 2 for more Steven Wilson titles.
Sanguine Hum’s third studio album Now We Have Light (2015) is a double-CD that comes in two editions. The standard edition is a 2CD in jewel box + slipcase. The limited edition comes in a fat digipack and adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) containing a making-of documentary (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). Now We Have Light is a concept album that the band had been working on for over a decade, its roots going back to the days of Antique Seeking Nuns. During this time, they hatched a bizarre conceptual story that perhaps took the formation of Sanguine Hum to make it feasible to complete. Somewhat like a twisted mix of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Now We Have Light is a future parable set in an entirely possible scenario, in which entirely impossible events start occurring. Although core songs were written for this album as far back as 2002, the band were inspired by the most recent Sanguine Hum material to revisit the old tunes and, where needed, develop and rewrite what already existed, while at the same time creating a large amount of new music. Ultimately, it has come to represent a definitive cross section of all the work they’ve made as Antique Seeking Nuns, Joff Winks Band, Nunbient, and Sanguine Hum thus far. UK jazz vibraphone player Jim Hart guests on several tracks. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for all the Sanguine Hum studio CDs and much more info.
Sylvan and RPWL are the leaders of the current German prog scene, both bands having been releasing CDs for about 15 years now, so it’s good to see them working together on the business end, as Sylvan’s 2015 studio album Home is released on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. The less expensive version is the standard jewel case edition. The limited edition has the same 78 minutes of audio but comes in elaborate mediabook packaging for not much more (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). Home is Sylvan’s first full-on concept album since Posthumous Silence. Epic in every sense, Home could unseat Posthumous Silence as the band’s meisterwerk. Watch the album preview video and the video for Shine; listen to In Between. See our German page for the rest of the Sylvan CDs.
This is Esoteric’s newly remastered and expanded edition of the 1975 self-titled Kestrel album, a minor classic of English prog. The second disc contains six bonus tracks: two are non-LP, while the others are single or alternate versions of album tracks. The audio was remastered from the original master tapes, while the booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay. Kestrel were from Newcastle and released only this one album before disbanding. The LP became a collector’s item, particularly in Japan. The fact that the keyboardist plays a lot of Mellotron has something to do with the album’s reputation. File this album next to Cressida, Spring, Fantasy, and Fruupp. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to August Carol on YouTube, and you can find the rest of the album there with a little effort.
Neil Campbell is an English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist. Like Oldfield and Hackett before him, Campbell is more interested in composing and creating than simply showcasing his guitar skills. Despite the varying band/artist name, these are all full-on progressive works featuring a full band lineup. There is some overlap in the musicians, but the albums are distinct from one another. Campbell has an outlet for his solo guitar work (you can find his solo CDs on his website), so these band CDs receive his progressive energies. Emergence (2015, digisleeve) is an uncommonly good instrumental prog album, on which Marty Snape (Bulbs) makes important contributions. Campbell employs wordless female voices here in a manner between Karda Estra and The Northettes. Combined with Campbell’s classical guitar and keyboard/electronic embellishments, these more relaxed pieces will have you floating blissfully downstream. That is until Campbell cuts loose with electric guitar while a tight rhythm section plays energetically in odd meters, sending energy up your spine. There is fusion, majestic symphonic prog, even Philip Glass style melody lines if you listen for them, just some of the best instrumental music being made. Listen to an mp3 of Morphogenic Fields. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On (2013, digipack) is the debut for Campbell’s band Bulbs, and it may have been the best instrumental prog album of that year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy, and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Read the Prog Archives reviews.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock. Read the Exposé review.
We would’ve stocked this British CD just for the band name, but it turns out to be an amazing album. It’s a homemade project that doesn’t sound homemade, but it does have the charm of an authentic, hand-knitted prog album. The music was written by father-son team Kevin and Bruce McDade, who play most of the instruments with help from a few others, while father Kevin wrote the lyrics. They did the smart thing in hiring drummer Gareth Roberts, a veteran of London’s West End, then recorded the drums and had the album mixed in a professional studio. The result is an excellent sounding production named Grak (2014, digipack). Paradoxically, it is familiar-sounding enough to make classic prog fans feel all warm and fuzzy, yet it’s also unlike anything you’ve heard before. There are influences of Genesis and Jethro Tull, among others. There are folk instruments including violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and bodhran (Irish heritage on display). There are synths and French horns and Mellotron, but there is also heavy guitar sprinkled throughout, and some crazy electronic beats. The 22-minute closer A Sense of Texture has a middle section of manic electronic beats (challenging Mike Oldfield’s Guilty for best prog dance bit), yet it never stops sounding like prog. The music can be quite complex (the 150 tracks of audio on A Sense of Texture crashed the studio’s Pro Tools system), and the mix engineer contributed this useful review quote: “This is flippin bonkers!”. But for all the complexity, there are songs here. If it seems as though modern prog bands are unable to write an actual chorus (you know, something that occurs more than once, makes you want to sing along, and sticks in your head after the music has stopped), Twombley Burwash will remind you how British bands of yore wrote choruses. The band says that the idea of the album was to take the listener on such an enjoyable and challenging journey that, at the end, you’d want to start all over. Sounds like the mission statement of the best prog bands. Read the DPRP review; they gave it 10 out of 10.
This is the digipack 2CD limited edition of the new Van der Graaf Generator live album Merlin Atmos, recorded on the band’s 2013 European tour. Disc 1 contains Flight, Lifetime, All That Before, Bunsho, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, and Gog. These are reportedly the first live performances of the full Flight and A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, the latter being the band’s all-time epic, while Flight is Peter Hammill’s epic-length piece from his A Black Box album. If that set list isn’t sufficient to cause paroxysms of delight, this limited edition adds a 70-minute second disc containing Interference Patterns, Over the Hill, Your Time Starts Now, Scorched Earth, Meurglys III The Songwriter’s Guild, Man-Erg, and Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End. As you can see, the second disc is as essential as the first, containing many VdGG classics. Check our British page for more VdGG CDs.
Heartbreak in ((Stereo)) (2015, digisleeve) is the debut by Mollmaskin, the project of Anders Bjermeland, leader of psychedelic adventurers Flashback Caruso and a member of Rhys Marsh’s The Autumn Ghost. Bjermeland sings and plays all manner of instruments here, with a bit of help from Rhys Marsh (who also mixed and mastered) and Magnus Nygĺrd Muldal. The music has a wonderful, nearly indefinable retro sound that today could only have come out of Scandinavia. Early song-oriented Soft Machine is one reference point, Dungen another, and Faust can be mentioned if only because the album contains a cover of Faust’s Jennifer (one of Faust’s slightly more conventional songs). Listen to How Many Ants, The Long Shadow, and The Death of Lennon on YouTube. Note this is a double-CD, but the album would have fit easily on a single CD. It’s the same price as a single CD on the label, so maybe there’s just a lot of unused capacity at CD plants these days.
Cleopatra / Purple Pyramid originally released this CD in 2013, then dropped the price in 2015. It’s part of their series of all-star CDs organized by Billy Sherwood and assembled in his studio, this time 11 covers of Steve Miller Band songs, all classics having received lots of airplay in the day. The participants are mostly from the world of prog and in addition to Sherwood include Tony Kaye, Peter Banks, John Wetton, Rick Wakeman, Geoff Downes, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), John Wesley, Steve Morse, Rod Argent, Steve Hillage, Nektar, Jordan Rudess, Derek Sherinian, Colin Moulding (XTC), Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow), Steve Stevens, and Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash). If you came of age during the 1970s and had the radio on, then these songs are part of your DNA, and hearing them again interpreted by these musicians is great entertainment.
Good Morning, Gettysburg (DVD+CD, 2015, digipack) is Vermont progsters Elephants of Scotland live at Rosfest 2014. The entire 13 song set was shot in high definition and mixed from the 24-bit digital multi-track recording. So while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) is necessarily standard def, the band have cleverly included the HD video on the DVD as an mp4 file. Now there are only 14 songs total on Elephants of Scotland’s two studio CDs, and the only song not performed live is on the DVD as a bonus track with a new 2015 studio mix (with video of the drum tracking session). So this is sort of the complete and unabridged Elephants of Scotland. See our USA page for Elephants of Scotland’s studio CDs and info on the band.
Things are heating up in Luxembourg, first TNNE and now Light Damage, who began as a Genesis and Pink Floyd cover band. Their Pink Floyd tribute was under the name Brain Damage. Now writing their own material, this 2015 digipack CD is the quintet’s debut. Light Damage’s sound has much of the old Marillion, or actually the continental European take on Fish-era Marillion that one hears in Clepsydra, early Sylvan, and others. And of course there is a Pink Floyd component as well. Read the Background Magazine review. Listen to The Supper of Cyprianus and Empty on YouTube and Heaven on SoundCloud.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music, using both rock and classical chamber instruments. Six of the eight tracks on their 12th(?) album Strange Relations (2015) were jointly composed by Karda Estra mastermind Richard Wileman and Paul Sears (The Muffins) and also feature Sears on drums. It looks as though this collaboration will continue in the future. As usual, many other musicians flesh out the unique Karda Estra sound. Listen to Strange Relations 5 on YouTube. “Karda Estra continue to revise and fine tune a sound that is expressive, angular, and uncommonly beautiful. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Wileman has chosen a path that eschews all of the common trappings of the rock idiom, perfecting a profile that lies midway between symphonic rock and a modern chamber sound, lushly orchestrated with violins, double-reeds, flute, clarinet, saxes, voice and more, in addition to Wileman’s guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, kalimba, and percussion... a seriously enjoyable listen that’s in a class of its own.” [Exposé] See our British page for many more Karda Estra CDs and much more info.
The self-titled Quantum Jump album (1976) is the first of two great if somewhat curious albums by Rupert Hine’s funky jazz-rock progressive-pop band. In addition to Hine (vocals, keyboards), the band features John G. Perry (bass), Mark Warner (guitar), and Trevor Morais (drums), with Morris Pert and Ray Cooper guesting on percussion. Hine says that on this album, they were trying to blend funk and fusion with English songwriting sensibility. There’s a feel of Steely Dan and Zappa run through a Canterbury filter. Sort of. This is the 2014 edition on Esoteric, remastered from the original tapes and including five bonus tracks. (These appear to be the same bonus tracks that were on the 1998 Voiceprint edition.) The booklet features fully restored artwork and new liner notes.
Barracuda (1977) saw the departure of Warner but the addition of multiple guests including Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) as well as Simon Jeffes and “The Penguin Cafe String Ensemble” as they were credited. There is less of the funk and jazz-rock of the first album here, and Barracuda gets the nod as the slightly better of the two. This 2015 edition on Esoteric has been newly remastered from the original tapes and expanded to a double-CD. It has 15 bonus tracks including Quantum Jump’s entire live appearance on the BBC Radio One In Concert show in July 1977, which saw guitarist Roye Albrighton (Nektar) in a short-lived role as a member of the live band, along with Geoffrey Richardson on viola. The other bonus tracks include two single edits previously unreleased on CD, two outtakes from the 1977 recording sessions at Trident Studios in London, and four rare tracks taken from the 1979 remix compilation album Mixing. The booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay and interview with Rupert Hine. “Barracuda is a sumptuously layered and beautifully recorded album that, a superabundance of clavichord apart, gives few clues as to its age.” Click the mp3 icon above to read the full AllMusic reviews of both albums.
Tony Patterson is probably best known as the singer for top UK Genesis tribute act ReGenesis, and he recently contributed to Nick Magnus’s N’monix album. His voice is naturally Gabrielesque and doesn’t sound contrived. Keyboardist Brendan Eyre may be best known for the band Riversea, which he formed with singer/guitarist Marc Atkinson; both also joined Nine Stones Close. Tony and Brendan discussed the idea of working on a project together that would reflect their native North East (England) roots. The album’s themes include memories of loss, heartache, and the abiding beauty of the North East landscape that drew them back to places and people left behind. Northlands (2014, digipack) is a beautifully crafted, cinematic album that features contributions from Steve Hackett, John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Tim Esau (IQ), Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close), and several others. “Within the same month of Pink Floyd’s final album being released comes a musical adventure from two relatively unknown musicians who have sculptured a masterpiece which deserves as much recognition as Pink Floyd’s swan song. From the premise of the tale to the honing of each song and nuances there within, Northlands is a breath of fresh air... What it is defies category. It is beautiful, delicate, thought-provoking, and a joyful journey for any music lover. Northlands exceeded all expectations for me, and any listener will find with each listen it will grow with you and you with it.” Read the full Progmeister review. Watch the album preview video and listen to an even longer album preview on YouTube.
Scorch (2014, digipack) is the second album for Tin Spirits, this one released on Esoteric Antenna, which is Esoteric’s imprint for new prog as opposed to reissues. Tin Spirits are a quartet led by former XTC and current Big Big Train guitarist Dave Gregory. Gregory’s guitar work has been an important factor in Big Big Train’s ascension. Much like label-mates Schnauser, Tin Spirits are unabashedly progressive (the final track exceeds 15 minutes) yet entirely accessible. After an appearance at the 2014 Summer’s End prog festival, UK prog fans know this band well, and now U.S. fans need to get on board. Read the Progarchy review. Watch the video for Summer Now and listen to Little Eyes on YouTube.
This 2CD set includes the entire output of Pelican, who were one of the first Icelandic prog bands. Included are their LPs Uppteknir (1974) and Lítil Fluga (1975), plus three non-LP bonus tracks. After the release of Uppteknir, Pelican were the biggest band in Iceland. Despite the Icelandic album titles, Pelican sang in English, and in fact their LPs were recorded in Massachusetts! They even toured the U.S. east coast, playing to as many as 1,000 people, an audience size that seems almost impossible now for a prog band. In addition to progressive rock, Pelican’s music included Beatles-esque pop, pysch, and American rural rock. But they never lost their Icelandic flavor and their sound remained distinctive. Listen to Á Sprengisandi (an arrangement of an old Icelandic folk song), Instrumental Love Song, Amnesia, and Sunrise to Sunset on YouTube.
Our pick for Best Album of 2014:
Dave Bainbridge is the main creative force in the band Iona. Bainbridge’s Veil of Gossamer (2004, 64-minutes) is stunning, as good as any prior Iona release and better in some respects. While Iona singer Joanne Hogg sings on every track except for the instrumentals, Bainbridge also employs two more incredible female voices: Rachel Jones (Karnataka) and Scottish singer Mae McKenna (at least three albums of her own). Jones and McKenna are used extensively; usually all three vocalists are present on the same track, with McKenna handling the Scottish Gaelic vocals. Also playing on most tracks are Iona bandmates Troy Donockley and Frank van Essen, as well as Tim Harries, Nick Beggs, and others. The album strikes the perfect balance between vocals and instrumental work, ranging from soaring progressive rock to orchestral splendor to that plaintive, yearning beauty that characterizes the best Celtic music.
Iona reached their peak in prog rock terms on 2006’s The Circling Hour. Troy Donockley would later depart and Iona returned to their early sound, de-emphasizing the progressive rock aspect of their style to some extent. Well, energy cannot be destroyed and must go somewhere, and now it’s crystal clear where Dave Bainbridge’s progressive energies have gone. Celestial Fire (2014, 74-minutes, digisleeve) is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece and an album Dave says he’s always wanted to make. Dave explains: “It’s an album which really draws upon the excitement and exhilaration I first felt, listening to many of my early musical heroes: Yes, Gentle Giant, David Sancious and Tone, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Hatfield and The North, Deep Purple, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Stivell, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, to name but a few! It was listening to all these great musicians and composers that first inspired me to become a musician and composer.” The album showcases some amazing playing from Dave on both guitar and keyboards, and though the music is heavily instrumental, there are vocals from numerous singers including Damian Wilson, Joanne Hogg, and Sally Minnear (daughter of Kerry). Dave is assisted by Troy Donockley, his Iona bandmates, Randy George (Ajalon), and many more. For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and the only reason it won’t make your top ten is if you don’t hear it before you have to hand your list in! Also read the Spiritual Prog and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Listen to For Such a Time as This on YouTube.
Andy Jackson is best known for his role as Pink Floyd engineer and co-producer, but he is a musician and composer in his own right, having recorded the albums On the Surface, Obvious, and Mythical Burrowing Animals*. (Apparently selling CDs was not the goal of those albums, as Andy mostly hoarded them.) Signal to Noise (2014, digipack) is, not surprisingly, quite Floydian. This deluxe edition adds a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 96kHz / 24-bit quad (4.0) mix in your choice of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, both of which are lossless, plus a hi-res LPCM stereo mix. Read the Mediaversal review. Watch the album preview video and the video for The Boy in the Forest.
* Described by the one (and only) amazon reviewer as “Easily the best record ever made. This could be the basis for a whole new religion that could one day topple Christianity.”
Formed from the ashes of Australia’s much-loved Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity sees Unitopia’s Matt Williams, David Hopgood, Tim Irrgang, and Mark Trueack joined by Guy Manning (Manning), Dan Mash (Maschine, The Tangent), and Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, Cyril). Guests on the UPF debut Fall in Love With the World (2014) include Jon Anderson, Steve Hackett, Steve Unruh, Claire Vezina, Guillermo Cides, Ian Ritchie, and more. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album overview video and the video for The Water.
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 ŕ la The Beach Boys, Stackridge, 10cc, or XTC, with all the quirkiness that implies and more. One might compare them to a more accessible Antique Seeking Nuns (instrumentally anyway), or to Supersister, or (for those with an advanced degree in prog) to Moving Gelatine Plates. To quote the liner notes: “Occasionally melancholic and blackly humorous lyrics are wrapped in a musical blanket of odd time signatures, fizzing with lively energetic progressive arrangements that have a pop sensibility, luring you in with three part harmonies and earworm melodies before wigging out on an inappropriate glockenspiel and fuzz bass solo in 10/8.” This is a brilliant album, and you’ll probably need to watch the album preview video to hear for yourself. “This is a fantastic album and shows a band at the peak of their musical and compositional powers, and there is no weak track on it.” Read the full Progarchy and The Active Listener reviews.
Men Who Climb Mountains (2014) is Pendragon’s 10th studio album, written and arranged by vocalist/guitarist Nick Barrett. With only a change in drummer since the previous album, the lineup is now Barrett, Clive Nolan (keys), Peter Gee (bass), and Craig Blundell (drums). Pendragon shifted to a darker and somewhat heavier style beginning with 2006’s Believe (for which we can thank Porcupine Tree and their ilk). Men Who Climb Mountains sees Pendragon continuing to reinvent themselves along those more contemporary lines. This is the limited edition 2CD, which adds a bonus disc containing Nick Barrett’s “Acoustic House Concert - Live at Twig’s”, a 2013 solo acoustic recording. See our British page for more Pendragon CDs.
Robert Webb is the keyboardist, singer, and main composer in the band England, known for their legendary 1977 album Garden Shed. His solo album Liquorish Allsorts (2014, 64-minutes) contains long lost gems, recordings spanning over 40 years and from many different recording situations, from early studio sessions to home recordings to his current music work. The 20-page booklet tells the story behind each track. Some tracks include crystalline female vocals from Jenny Darren, other tracks have male vocals, and much of the music is instrumental. Many other musicians appear, varying of course track by track. As you’d expect, the music covers more ground than just the England style, but it still all falls under the progressive rock and classical-rock umbrella, and much of it does have at least some England flavor, sometimes a lot. In other words, Webb’s solo music is consistent with his work in England, as opposed to the work of a musician who had disowned his past and since made unrelated music. Robert says that his intent has always been either to make pop music more artistic, or art music more popular. Fans of classic prog will find much to love here.
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