Titles are arranged alphabetically with recent additions highlighted in yellow.
A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-T | U-Z
Abacus formed in 1971 with both German and English members, but the version of the band that released Destiny (2010) is all-German. Still, they sound British. The music here is AOR-flavored progressive rock, between ELP and the first Asia album, between Yes and 90125 Yes. Abacus put their more radio-friendly material (radio-friendly for circa 1980, that is) in the first half of the CD, then acquit themselves nicely in the second half with excellent symphonic rock tracks, especially The Light (13:21) and The Fight (8:24), which are not as vocal-heavy as the earlier tracks. The shortest track is 6:53, so maybe not so radio-friendly after all.
Abarax are a six-man band that includes four members of the same family: father and three sons! They are very Pink Floyd influenced. They’re German, so by association one could also compare them to Eloy, Solar Project, or RPWL (minus the playfulness and Beatles influence). Abarax are very good at this style, with excellent lead guitar and strong harmony vocals, at times quite majestic and beautiful.
Their 2006 debut Crying of the Whales is out-of-print. Blue Room (2010) is their second (now also out-of-print, last copies). Here Abarax take the Pink Floyd influence much more in the direction of Jane, early Eloy, and other similar 1970s German symphonic bands. With the 70s fuzz guitar tone, roaring Hammond organ, and a harmony vocal style that also belongs to the period, this is utterly convincing as a 1970s German progressive rock record.
Adaro, who disbanded in 2006, were arguably the most important band in the German Mittelalterrock (medieval rock) genre. The bands in this movement run the gamut from folk to metal, with most on the heavy end of the spectrum. Adaro were the proggiest of the bunch, simply more sophisticated, nuanced, and sensitive than the metal-oriented bands. Adaro feature male and female vocals singing German texts from the 13th-14th centuries or thereabouts. They augment the usual rock instrumentation (including electronics) with hurdy-gurdy (sometimes run through guitar effects), crumhorn, flute, recorders, bombard, and bagpipes. Issued in 2004, Words Never Spoken extended edition takes Adaro’s 1999 four-track EP and adds a whole lot of high-quality 2004 live material until the CD is bursting at 78-minutes. Schlaraffenland (2004) is their final studio album. The title translates to Cockaigne or Cockayne, a medieval mythical land of plenty. Both CDs are varied and a few tracks are better skipped, but overall Adaro were a special band. Ritchie Blackmore is a big fan, and fans of Blackmore’s Night should definitely give Adaro a listen. Read the DPRP review of Schlaraffenland.
This is the 2008 remastered digipack reissue on SPV’s Revisited Records label of 2nd (1973), which followed Agitation Free’s 1972 first album Malesch. These two albums are notable for combining cosmic synth work with Middle Eastern motifs, the ethnic element more prominent on Malesch. The music features that typical Krautrock blend of extended psychedelic jams, laid-back attitude and grooves, and experimentation. The presence of acoustic guitars and bouzouki (more prominent on 2nd) emphasizes the easygoing nature of the music, along with Stefan Diez’s elegant guitar soloing, while occasional free-form passages keep things on the edge. It runs the gamut from pure Krautrock to prog rock and fusion. The band’s synthesist was Michael Hoenig, who later had brief collaborations with Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Gottsching; released the well-known Berlin School Departure from the Northern Wasteland, then moved to the U.S. to compose film and television scores. 2nd has a 7:42 bonus track.
The 4-disc Last, Fragments, & Live ’74 (2016, fat digipack) combines the live CDs Last, Fragments, and Live ’74 with the DVD Live im Kesselhaus Berlin (NTSC, all-region). These are the latest (as of 2016) editions of these CDs, with the bonus tracks. The DVD contains 16 tracks and runs 94-minutes. It probably contains the same six tracks on the Shibuya Nights bonus DVD, plus ten more. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Last was released posthumously in 1975, its three (two very long) tracks recorded at concerts in France in 1973 and Berlin in 1974. It is more cosmic and electronic than the earlier albums, closer to Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, and Yatha Sidra. This CD edition adds an 11-minute 1971 bonus track.
Fragments is a 1974 live recording whose initial release was not until 1996. This newer edition contains a 13:31 bonus track and an 11:20 Quicktime movie entitled Agitation Free at Work.
Live ’74 (At the Cliffs of River Rhine) was originally released in 1998 and contains a 1974 concert plus a 9-minute 1972 live bonus track. The 1974 concert has excellent sound and contains four tracks from 2nd plus one unreleased. This is considered the essential Agitation Free live recording.
Alias Eye are a very good German neo-prog band that shares lead singer Philip Griffiths with the band Poor Genetic Material. Philip’s father Martin was the singer for Beggars Opera, a Scottish early-1970s prog band. The music has some of the laid-back Pink Floyd atmosphere, also a bit of Kansas, Saga, and Spock’s Beard, and like the great 1970s prog bands, the musician’s skills serve the song rather than a technical exercise. Because both Alias Eye and Poor Genetic Material rely heavily on Griffiths’ excellent voice, fans of one band will probably like the other as well. Alias Eye is a bit more mainstream than PGM, but the appeal is similar.
In-Between (2012) is “a return to the melody-driven arrangements of their debut Field of Names, while retaining the heaviness of In Focus. In-Between highlights Alias Eye’s approach to songwriting: strong vocal hook lines are paired with lavish choir arrangements and meticulously arranged instrumental passages.” The album includes a new rendition of Beggars Opera’s classic Time Machine, featuring both original singer Martin Griffiths and son Philip on the vocals. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Background Magazine reviews.
The Amber Light are a German band with great appeal to those into the moody, atmospheric style of Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Hogarth-era Marillion, RPWL, Sigur Ros, and Product. Singing in flawless English of course, The Amber Light also mix in some influences of Pink Floyd and Van der Graaf Generator, and so their fan base consists of a mixture of young people from the alternative scene, younger art-rock fans, and older prog fans open to the newer styles. Their first full-length CD Goodbye to Dusk, Farewell to Dawn (2004) is 64-minutes of excellent psychedelic-tinged, liquid progressive rock. Read the DPRP reviews. Watch the videos for Hide Inside and A New Atlantis and listen to New Day and Tartaros.
These are the 2005-2008 remastered editions on Revisited Records. Each comes in a digipack with an enhanced booklet and liner notes, and most have several bonus tracks. Amon Düül II was one of the pioneering Krautrock bands. Even when singing in English, they were uniquely German, playing a light progressive style with avant-garde elements.
Yeti (1970) was Amon Düül II’s second album, originally a 2LP and now a 68-minute CD. It is a definitive Krautrock album, containing some structured songs but mostly long improvised psychedelic jams.
Tanz der Lemminge (Dance of the Lemmings) followed in 1971, another 2LP now a 69-minute CD. It’s probably the best of their first three albums, which are definitely products of their time.
After this the band started focusing more on structured songs and less on drugs. Wolf City (1973) was their fifth studio album and may be the best introduction to Amon Düül II for those coming from the symphonic prog side of things. The songs here are more concise, as opposed to the long improvisations of the earlier albums. It is an excellent and unique blend of progressive rock, psychedelic rock, and psych-folk.
Their seventh studio album Hijack (1974) is not one of their best, but despite some misfires, it’s not a bad listen.
Lemmingmania (1975) was a compilation of the band’s shorter acid rock classics and included four tracks that had only been available on singles. This reissue adds four bonus tracks plus a bonus video.
Made In Germany (1975) was originally a double-LP; this CD contains all of it. This album is usually considered to be the last absolute classic in the Amon Düül II catalog. In a few short years, Amon Düül II had become a completely different band than the one that recorded their first album Phallus Dei. Made In Germany is a conceptual work, almost a musical, a tongue-in-cheek look at German history. It features solid songwriting that is uniquely German, with orchestrations, lovely vocals from Renate Knaup, and spacey instrumental breaks.
Pyragony or Pyragony X (1976) immediately faced mixed criticism from the press and the loyal Amon Düül II fanbase. Here Amon Düül II began to attempt more conventional symphonic prog, which fans of the early albums considered to be too commercial. Maybe if they had changed the name of the band at this point to Amon Düül III, these later albums would have been reviewed more even-handedly.
While Almost Alive (1977) and Only Human (1978) may be considered to be after the classic period of the band, prog fans more interested in symphonic rock than Krautrock or psych may like these more. The significant change is the addition of keyboardist/vocalist Stefan Zauner, who joined the band for their 1976 album Pyragony X. While Only Human is their most mainstream record, incorporating styles not typical of the Amon Düül II sound, it is also their most symphonic. It still manages to remain experimental, comical, and unique, sounding quite a bit like Zauner’s excellent Prism & Views solo album, recorded around the same time. The bonus tracks on both Almost Alive and Only Human are in the older Amon Düül II style.
Zauner is in a guest role on Vortex (1981), which was an attempt by Chris Karrer to reform the band, and the only album they recorded in the 1980s. While the reformation didn’t last, the album itself is successful.
The German Amon Düül II ended after Vortex, but a British incarnation followed that included Hawkwind’s Dave Anderson, who had been a member of Amon Düül II prior to his tenure with Hawkwind. Advertised as a “best of”, this is actually a collection of previously-unreleased tracks from that early 1980s UK line-up. This is the Abstract Sounds USA edition.
These are the remastered editions on the Tempus Fugit label, which add bonus material and unseen photographs. For melodic, Genesis-style symphonic rock, Anyone’s Daughter were Germany’s best. They sang their first two albums in English, then switched to German for the last three (of the original lineup). Why this band isn’t much better known among prog fans is a mystery as there are few newer bands producing music on this level.
Adonis (1979) is Anyone’s Daughter’s first, an excellent album in a symphonic rock style close to Grobschnitt circa Rockpommel’s Land and Merry-Go-Round, though Anyone’s Daughter would develop a more distinctive and personal style on their German-language albums. This edition comes in jewel box + slipcase with a booklet that includes new liner notes and adds two long live non-LP bonus tracks plus a video track, about 27 minutes in all.
The self-titled album is their second, from 1980. This remastered edition adds three bonus live tracks from AD’s 1980 tour. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Piktors Verwandlungen (1981) is their third, based on the Herman Hesse fairy tale. It was their first German language album, though on this album it is primarily spoken word, and the album is heavily instrumental. It was recorded live but sounds like a studio album. It’s common to take longer to get into this Anyone’s Daughter album as it’s not song-based like their others, but it is the favorite of many. It is widely considered a masterpiece of German progressive rock, packed with grandiose atmospheric music and magical passages. This edition comes in jewel box + slipcase and has a 27-minute bonus track, a 1977/78 demo version of what would become the Piktors album.
For us, In Blau (1982) is Anyone’s Daughter’s best album, and the long, three-part track Tanz und Tod (15:12) their masterpiece. That track’s going to the desert island. This remastered edition adds two live bonus tracks from AD’s 1982 tour, 17:29 total.
While Neue Sterne (1983) has a couple of Anyone’s Daughter’s most commercial-sounding songs (the 1980s were well under way), it also contains some fantastic progressive tracks as well, with several instrumentals. Anyone’s Daughter were able to make a more mainstream album without sacrificing integrity, something very few prog bands succeeded at. This remastered edition adds three bonus live tracks from AD’s 1983 tour.
Anyone’s Daughter’s 1984 live album was originally a 2LP. The first CD edition was a single-CD, but this 2013 remastered edition is expanded to a double-CD. Not only is this great live album an excellent overview, but at least three songs don’t appear on any studio CD. Here you’ll find both English and German vocals. The bonus tracks are four videos of AD live in Magstadt 1983.
The full artist name for the Calw Live 2CD is Anyone’s Daughter mit (with) Heinz Rudolf Kunze. With more than 30,000 copies sold, Piktors Verwandlungen is Anyone’s Daughter’s most successful release and an unforgotten classic. In the summer of 2002, on the 125th anniversary of Herman Hesse’s birth, Anyone’s Daughter performed Piktors Verwandlungen in Hesse’s birth town of Calw in the Black Forest region. They performed the entire concept album, framed by three older songs and a few tracks from their latest release Danger World. German master poet Heinz Rudolf Kunze, himself a fan of Hesse and with his charismatic timbre destined to recite Hesse’s text, joined the band for this concert. A rapt audience of over 9000 witnessed this historic spectacle on the market square of Calw. Kunze spoke Hesse’s words which had been fluidly woven into the piece. The unforgettable concert reached its finale with the John Lennon song Imagine. This 2011 double-CD contains the entire concert.
The 2CD Requested Document Live Vol. 1 features live material from Anyone’s Daughter’s heyday. The sound is superb, the band sounds better live than in the studio, and the long playing time allows inclusion of just about every important track the band recorded, including their tour-de-force Tanz und Tod, played at a noticeably faster tempo than the studio version, yet at 16:23 manages to be longer.
Requested Document Live 1980-1983 Vol. 2 is a CD plus a DVD. The CD includes 13 live tracks from Anyone’s Daughter’s heyday, four of which are previously-unreleased. One of those is a cover of UK’s In the Dead of Night translated into German! The DVD is of the band preforming in Frankfurt in 1981, over two hours long. It’s not the best quality, but the material is priceless, including a complete 40-minute Piktors Verwandlungen, 28-minute Adonis I-IV, Moria, an early version of Tanz und Tod, and much more.
Arne Schäfer is the leader, along with keyboardist Ekkehard Nahm, of the German band Versus X. Apogee is 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, and now that there are twice as many Apogee albums as Versus X albums, Apogee can’t be called a side-project.
On The Garden of Delights (2003, 70-minutes), Schäfer is assisted by Versus X drummer Uwe Völlmar. The five ambitious symphonic pieces express Schäfer’s thoughts on the human race, conscience, and perception. Schäfer’s lyrics and vocal style are in the verbose Peter Hammill style, and there is a strong Van der Graaf Generator influence as well as Genesis, also some King Crimson. Apogee offer complex, sophisticated structures and musical themes, shifting atmospheres, airy acoustic and intense electric passages, enveloped by Mellotron (lots of Mellotron!), organ, and other keyboard sounds, and enhanced by subtle dissonances.
The Border of Awareness (1995, 76-minutes) and Sisyphos (1998, 64-minutes) are earlier albums in a similar style. On the Aftertaste (2006, 68-minutes) is not actually a new Apogee album but rather contains material recorded during the sessions for The Border of Awareness and Sisyphos.
The drums on Mystery Remains (2009, 69-minutes) are divided between Völlmar and new Versus X drummer Thomas Reiner. This album is not a departure in style except that the lyrics, though still verbose, flow more naturally as does the music itself. The sophisticated orchestrations are one of the things that distinguishes Apogee from Versus X, and they are very good here.
Finally given an official release on the MALS label in 2012, the double-CD Die Gläserne Wand & Schleifen contains two 1989 works that had previously been available only on cassette and later CD-R. The music (sung in German) predates both the other Apogee albums and Versus X. Read the Progressor review. Here is an mp3 excerpt from the First Movement of Die Gläserne Wand.
Waiting for the Challenge is Apogee’s 2012 studio CD. Listen to The Hidden Path. Read the Progressive Rock Central review.
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.
Argos’ self-titled 2008 debut CD and 2010 follow-up Circles may be the most British-sounding prog records to come out of Germany. The music is keyboard-dominated and 1970s-styled, with vocals in English from a singer who sounds sort of like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Pye Hastings. The music displays influences of Genesis, Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and Stackridge. Argos’ MySpace page lists other influences as well, of which Fruupp and England are also good references. When Argos do Peter Hammill, there’s no mistaking it -- it’s almost better than the real thing. One of the characteristics of much classic British prog is whimsy, which Argos have understood. To some extent, you could call Argos the German equivalent of The Tangent, in that it’s all about classic British progressive rock done extremely well. If your first love is 1970s British prog, this music provides that magical feeling -- you can’t say exactly what it is, but you know it when you hear it. Part of it is emotional warmth, an accusation rarely leveled at modern-style prog. Unfortunately, Musea let both of those CDs go out-of-print after about two years.
Now on Progressive Promotion Records, Cruel Symmetry (2012, digipack) is another fantastic album for Argos, often emphasizing their Canterbury side. The 20:43 title track is the centerpiece. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Background Magazine.
A Seasonal Affair (2015, digipack) includes guest spots for Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile, United Progressive Fraternity, Flaming Row, Cyril), and Andy Wells (Pilgrym). For what it’s worth, we compared Argos to The Tangent years ago, and now Andy Tillison is guesting. See the related band Yacobs below.
Arilyn are a German band mixing rock, space rock, and prog, with vocals in English. They debuted in 2002 with Tomorrow Never Comes and followed with Virtual Reality (2005). Their third album Alter Ego (2007) is an improvement over their past work. On a couple tracks, Arilyn sound similar to RPWL, though not quite as luxuriant, while on other tracks they do a very good Hawkwind. Still other tracks carry on with the style found on their previous CDs, modern rock with spacey and progressive touches.
Autumnal Blossom is the band of classical flutist Pia Darmstaedter who, after playing in different orchestras, now works as a freelance musician. Due to her work with prog band Poor Genetic Material where she is now a full member, she also feels at home in prog and art-rock. PGM’s Stefan Glomb (guitars, bass) and Philipp Jaehne (keyboards) play on Against the Fear of Death (2013) and helped produce it. Darmstaedter sings and plays piano in addition to flute. On this album these different music worlds merge. Old acoustic instruments (flutes, cello, contrabass) are contrasted with electronic sounds. Songs with a chamber music approach alternate with tracks with a full band line-up. It’s a fascinating blend of prog, classical, and folk that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the lyrics, which are based on British and American poems written between 1600-1900.
Philipp Jaehne is part of the band on Spellbound (2016), along with a guitarist, bassist, drummer, string trio, and whatever you call someone who plays cor anglais (English horn). Pia sings and plays flute and keyboards. Spellbound is a concept album that further develops the style of Against the Fear of Death, an original progressive style with few easy comparisons. Spellbound is cheerier and more upbeat than its somewhat gloomy predecessor, so start here. See the related band Coarbegh.
Blind Ego is the side project of RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner. Among the musicians assisting on Mirror (2007) are John Jowitt, John Mitchell, Clive Nolan, Paul Wrightson (Arena), and RPWL’s Yogi Lang. Mitchell and Nolan are present as vocalists only. Surprise, the album is guitar-oriented. There is David Gilmour/Pink Floyd influence (RPWL’s main influence), and most of the album is decent Floydian neo-prog, but the inclusion of some modern rock/metal means this falls a bit short of the average RPWL album. Read the DPRP review. Watch the album teaser video.
Brainstorm was a German Canterbury-style fusion band offering complex songs full of sax, flute, and distorted organ, recommended to fans of Soft Machine, Supersister, Caravan, and Frank Zappa. While instrumental content dominates, there are some vocals in English. Smile A While (1972) was their first release under the name Brainstorm. The CD includes three bonus tracks recorded for German radio in 1971.
The Scarlet Sea (2002, 59-minutes) is the debut by a German duo of a female singer and a male instrumentalist providing electronic textures, with help from three other musicians on electric and acoustic guitars. This is moody, low-key, atmospheric art-folk-pop, like a female David Sylvian, though not quite that melancholy. The English-language vocals sound a bit like Barbara Gaskin, and there are arrangements of two English traditional songs among the 11 tracks.
Clepsydra are a Marillion-influenced band from the Swiss city of Lugano, an Italian-speaking city, though Clepsydra sing in English. They are one of the most accomplished of the second-generation neo-prog bands (or third-generation prog bands, however you want to look at it), meaning bands that came to prominence in the 1990s and appear to have taken their inspiration directly from Marillion, only indirectly from Genesis.
Hologram is Clepsydra’s 1991 debut, followed by More Grains of Sand (1994), Fears (1997), and Alone (2002). Start with the later albums and work backwards. Those marked ‘remastered’ are the 2014 editions on Galileo Records, which were “meticulously remastered”. Each CD has 1-4 bonus tracks: live recordings, demos, and unreleased alternate versions totaling about one hour across the four CDs. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The less expensive version of Hologram is the original edition.
M. C. is Clepsydra guitarist Marco Cerulli. This relaxing 2001 instrumental album is primarily solo acoustic guitar, with some electric guitar and keyboards.
The Colour of Happiness (2013) is the work of five musicians from different fields of music: Jutta Brandl – renowned jazz-singer who has worked with some of the most respected German jazz musicians; Pia Darmstaedter – classical flutist who is busy working with Poor Genetic Material and recording with her own band Autumnal Blossom; Rabin Dasgupta – best known from his time with Germany’s big alt-prog hope The Amber Light; and Philipp Jaehne and Stefan Glomb, the creative core of Poor Genetic Material. The idea for this collaboration came during the sessions for the Poor Genetic Material album Island Noises, which Brandl and Darmstaedter guested on. Jaehne and Glomb had a lot of material that didn’t quite fit into the context of PGM but which would be realized by Coarbegh. Secluding themselves in a remote cottage on Valentia Island off the Irish coast, they recorded these ten songs, an intriguing trip into new territory. This is much more than a simple combination of styles. It is beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric, contemporary music with lovely female vocals that we’re calling art-pop with elements of prog and electronica. See the related band Autumnal Blossom.
The Curt Cress Clan was nearly the same band as Snowball, and this 1975 album the predecessor to the Snowball albums. Curt Cress (Passport, New Triumvirat, many others) is often considered to be the most accomplished drummer in Germany of that time. The rest of the clan comprised keyboardist Kristian Schultze (Passport, solo, Cusco), bassist Dave King (many sessions and tours), respected guitarist Volker Kriegel, and Ack van Rooyen on flugelhorn. The music is high-quality jazz-rock. This is the digipack CD on Sireena Records.
Some of you ought to remember the 1997 album Burning Banners, the debut by German neo-prog band Cromwell. But who expected to see a second Cromwell album in 2016? Black Chapter Red (digipack) picks up where Cromwell left off 19 years earlier, in a style close to Pallas and any number of continental neo-prog bands. Listen to the album trailer.
Berlin’s Crystal Palace have been releasing albums and EPs since 1995, though most of those appear to be out-of-print. We stocked their 2010 album Reset and wrote that it “contains everything one would expect from a neo-prog CD in 2010: melodic Marillion-influenced songs sung in English, skewed darker and heavier at times. Another quality German neo-prog band to join Martigan, Morphelia, Jack Yello, and others.”
With The System of Events (2013, 70-minutes), Crystal Palace joined RPWL on the latter’s Gentle Art of Music label. RPWL’s Yogi Lang and Kalle Walner guest, as does Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin, with Lang responsible for the superb sound of this recording. The System of Events follows the trends, the music now more atmospheric, a blend of Marillion-style neo-prog, the likes of Riverside and Anathema, and the uplifting, anthemic RPWL style. “The whole album is a top-notch effort. Much thought has gone into both the subject matter and the music to produce a magnum opus of colossal proportions with exceptional musicianship throughout, taken still further by the monumental title track. Jaw-droppingly good.” Read the full Get Ready to Rock! review. Watch the album trailer.
Personally we wish prog bands would stop naming their albums things like “Dawn of Eternity” or “Beyond the Realms of Infinity”, but at least you know it’s a prog album. Crystal Palace’s Dawn of Eternity (2016, digipack) is a significant step forward for the band, revealing more focused songwriting while scaling back some of the heaviness of the previous album to free up space. This album was again mixed and mastered by Yogi Lang, while Markus Reuter plays touch guitar on three tracks. Watch the album overview video and the video for Hearts on Sale.
Cyril began as a band project combining melodic and progressive rock that now includes the core members of Toxic Smile. Their first album Gone Through Years (2013, digipack) is thematically based on the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Keyboardist and woodwind player Marek Arnold has released numerous albums with his other bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row and seems to join another band each year; he has since signed on with United Progressive Fraternity. Cyril also features the voice of Larry B. (Toxic Smile), plus guitar, bass and drums. Guitarist Ralf Dietsch interjects a little flamenco and classical guitar but otherwise plays in a conventional style. We admire Marek Arnold’s other bands, but Cyril has the best songs and is so polished, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. The grand, larger-than-life choruses with harmony vocals harken back to a time when rock was a happier music, and these songs have the hooks needed to lodge in your skull. While there is great emphasis on melodies and vocal arrangements, Cyril’s music is progressive rock first and foremost. It can get heavy but there’s no real metal, rather aspects of bombastic modern hard rock. The music is too upbeat and melodic in exactly the way that modern metal isn’t. While the music and words are credited to Cyril, it’s a good bet Marek Arnold is responsible for most of the music, because the difference between Cyril’s music and typical modern prog is the difference in how keyboardists and guitarists write and arrange. Keyboardists tend to have a stronger foundation in harmony and approach composition harmony-first, while modern prog is run almost exclusively by guitarists. Arnold’s sax and clarinet are great additions to the orchestration, and the production couldn’t be better. Maybe the band closest to Cyril is Unitopia. Both bands rely on their excellent singers, and fans of Unitopia can expect to find similar qualities here. (Note we wrote that last bit prior to Arnold joining United Progressive Fraternity, the successor to Unitopia. So there.) Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Paralyzed (2016, digipack) is Cyril’s second, which bears the “Mastered by Eroc” quality assurance stamp. Larry B. shares vocal duties with Stern Combo Meissen singer Manuel Schmid for added variety, while Guy Manning contributed some lyrics. It often takes until the second album for a new band to get everyone’s attention, and as Cyril have continued with the same style as on their debut, we expect we don’t need to write much more and that the album will sell itself. Listen to the album trailer.
This Swiss band’s second album Vision in the Dark (1987), originally a 3-sided double-LP, was perhaps the best symphonic prog album of that era to come out of continental Europe. Much of it is Marillion and IQ-inspired neo-prog (the vocalist is named “Jester”), but the 17-minute title suite that concludes the album is mostly-instrumental and harkens back to Genesis and Steve Hackett, a fantastic and thrilling side 3.
Deyss’ first album At-King (1985) is weaker, but it does have a colorful cover with a jester on it. Which should give you a good idea who their major influence was. The singer here is a guest, not the guy named Jester who took over on Vision in the Dark. As with that album, the strongest track is the title track, which again concludes the album. Both albums put their weaker material up front, then build from there to finish strong. This CD is the 2015 MALS edition, produced under license from Musea, which comes in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve.
This is the 2010 edition on Esoteric’s Reactive imprint, newly remastered from the original master tapes. One Niter (1976) was the second album by Eela Craig, Austria’s best-known progressive rock band. Their self-titled 1971 debut was more of a psych-prog, Krautrock album, but by the time they released One Niter five years later, they were a keyboard-centric, spacey symphonic prog band. Three of the six members were keyboardists! Pink Floyd is certainly a reference point, but it’s really a unique style they developed. For many, this is the best progressive rock album to come out of Austria. Read reviews at VintageProg.com and Prog Archives. The two main members of Eela Craig, Hubert Bognermayr and Harald Zuschrader, went on to form Blue Chip Orchestra, a more electronic music oriented band that released several albums on the Erdenklang label in the 1980s and 1990s.
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.
These are the remastered digipack editions released circa 2005. Eroc (Joachim Ehrig) was the drummer for Grobschnitt, leaving that band in 1983. But he was much more than a drummer, adding electronics to Grobschnitt’s live shows and having a successful solo career, releasing the albums Eroc 1 (1975), Eroc 2 (1976, 67:30), Eroc 3 (1979, 79:10), Eroc 4 (1982, 79:10), and Changing Skies (1986, 79:10). The times shown are for these CD editions, which contain a huge number of bonus tracks.
The music on his first two outings is full of electronic effects and musical cut-ups that Eroc created for Grobschnitt’s live shows. Some are sound collages, others lunatic jokes, but for the most part they are beautiful, harmonious instrumental pieces that technical wizard Eroc turned in to clever gems.
“The third solo release from Joachim Ehrig is a compilation of assorted curiosities; some, such as Falke Whips It Out, with its Keith Emerson/Rick Wakeman-like organ solo, recorded as early as 1968. The collection also features live Grobschnitt cuts such as About My Town and eccentricities such as the audience participation drum solo of Euer Lied, as well as previously unreleased pieces by Grobschnitt’s predecessor, Crew Blues Session, that prefigure the later band’s spacey, improvisational feel.” [Muze]
“The normally extrovert German prog rock musician Eroc created an uncharacteristically reflective set of instrumentals for his fourth solo effort. But though the album features such meditative, almost ambient keyboard and guitar pieces as Tausendwasser and Vogelfrei, the bonus tracks included in this re-release feature enough of the Grobschnitt drummer’s distinctive eccentricities, including the manic disco of Alles Inordnung and the accordion-laced Die Kinder Ziehen Fort, to keep diehard prog rock fans amused.” [Muze]
Changing Skies might have been named Eroc 5, but having left Grobschnitt, things were different and Eroc was free to concentrate on his solo work. The music on Changing Skies is as diverse as should be expected. There are a lot of instrumental pieces with the typical Eroc charm and wistfulness, reflective of the Scandinavian landscape where he composed much of this album. There are also humorous pieces and demented fairground music. But there are also new styles for Eroc, including a collaboration with a medieval group called Consortium Terpsychore using bombard and crumhorns. Eroc reworked some of the material more recently and feels that this CD is the first proper release of the album.
Esthetic Pale is a German neo-prog sextet of keys, guitar, bass, drums, and two female vocalists singing in English. They favor long tracks and sometimes come across as a modern version of Octopus (the German prog band from the 1970s that also featured female vocals). Hope is from 2000.
Shackleton’s Voyage (2009) is the excellent, mostly-instrumental fourth album from German multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert’s Eureka project. The album tells the true story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1916 Antarctica expedition, with the songs connected by narration from British actor Ian Dickinson, and the cover art taken from photographs from the expedition. Billy Sherwood (Yes) guests on vocals on two songs, the female vocal trio Kalema sings on one track, and Troy Donockley (Iona) plays Uilleann pipes and low whistle on one. Another guest adds Uilleann pipes on another track. Yogi Lang (RPWL) adds synths here and there and mixed and mastered the album. Shackleton’s Voyage operates at the interface of progressive rock, symphonic electronic, and Celtic music. While there is some mainstream symphonic prog in the later Yes mold, two of the biggest influences one hears are Mike Oldfield and Vangelis, while the couple tracks with pipes and whistle are in Iona territory.
The Full Circle is the second Eureka album, first released in 2002, later reissued in this 2008 edition. The third Eureka album The Compass Rose (2005) features over a dozen guest musicians. These are musts for Oldfield and Celtic-rock fans.
The compilation Silverware: The Best of Eureka 1997-2010 is drawn from the four previous Eureka albums and includes a new song and three re-recordings. Bossert put a lot of effort into this retrospective, as the 20-page booklet guides the listener through Eureka’s history, providing a story and background information for each track.
Great Escapes (2015) is what Bossert had been working on since 2010, and it is a different beast, the first full-blown rock album for Eureka and the first on which Bossert is the only lead singer. Yogi Lang of RPWL makes his presence felt by mixing and mastering as well as adding some keyboards, while a drummer, guitarist, and four backing singers guest. The album is Rush-influenced and song-oriented, as the album trailer and the video for Animated World will make apparent. Read the Ytsejam.com review.
Blue (2014, digipack) is the debut CD by German/English prog band Eyesberg, whose first period of existence was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All the compositions here date to that time but have been recently recorded. The drummer on this first album is Ulf Jacobs (Argos, Yacobs). Eyesberg’s singer Malcolm Shuttleworth has a voice a bit similar to Phil Collins, and Genesis is probably the band’s primary influence, but the end result may have greater appeal to fans of neo-prog. It’s really a case of one foot in classic-prog and one foot in neo-prog, always melodic and majestic. Watch the generous (10:46) album trailer.
Masquerade (2016, digipack) is Eyesberg’s superior second album. It contains new or mostly new compositions that continue in a Genesis vein, approximately Wind and Wuthering era, culminating in the five-part, 18-minute closing track Wait and See. Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) is the drummer. This is an outstanding album for Genesis lovers. “The seven tracks are well written, well performed, and offer the sort of prog that will be very at home at the annual circuit of Summers End, Night of the Prog, or Crescendo festivals. With their roots embedded in the soil of Genesis, the music on Masquerade wanders between classic symphonic prog and classic neo-prog. Its constant core of heavy rock energy and a dynamic, clear production prevent anything from sounding too dated.” Read the full DPRP review, also reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the album trailer and Faceless.
Flaming Row is an international band project organized by German multi-instrumentalist Martin Schnella. His idea for the Flaming Row debut Elinoire (2011, 80-minutes) was to create a concept album with many different musicians, particularly singers, both male and female. Marek Arnold (keyboards, sax) of Toxic Smile and Seven Steps to the Green Door is one of the four core instrumentalists, while Elinoire has at least 17 singers and around 30 musicians total participating. Among those are Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman from Shadow Gallery (they play or sing on most of the songs), Billy Sherwood (Circa, Yes, World Trade), and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard). The results are impressive. The music is in the modern prog rock and prog-metal styles, so if that all sounds like Ayreon, then consider Flaming Row the German Ayreon, or as Music in Belgium described Elinoire in a very positive review, a cross between Ayreon and Caamora’s She. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the album trailer.
This is the single-CD edition of the second Flaming Row album Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures (2014, 80-minutes, digipack). (There exists a more expensive 2CD edition where the second disc contains an instrumental mix of the entire album.) In addition to the Flaming Row core of Kiri Geile, Martin Schnella, Marek Arnold, and Niklas Kahl, participants include Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard, Enchant), three members of Shadow Gallery, Arjen A. Lucassen (Ayeron), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard), and members past or present of Seven Steps to the Green Door, Pain of Salvation, Haken, Neal Morse Band, Ayreon, and others. It’s a sci-fi concept album with ten singers taking on various roles or narrating. Again, Ayreon and Clive Nolan’s extravaganzas are the best reference points. Watch the official videos for the tracks Burning Sky and Aim L45.
Calculated Risk (2017, digipack) is the debut for German instrumental sympho-prog quartet Force of Progress, led by keyboardist Hanspeter Hess, who has released several superb albums under the name The Healing Road. Watch the album sampler video and listen to a snippet from The Man Who Played God.
Frames are a young German instrumental band. On their first full-length album Mosaik (2010, digipack), they play a blend of progressive and post-rock. Frames use loads of keyboards including Mellotron, yielding lots of lush textures and atmosphere. One can hear the ghosts of the original Krautrock bands such as Neu! and Kraan underlying the music. It often has the hypnotic quality of Neu! or La Dusseldorf, but rather than those bands’ more minimalist approach, Frames’ sound often builds to bombastic and powerful climaxes. “A smidgen of Oceansize, a tadge of Steven Wilson, and a healthy smattering of Pure Reason Revolution (The Dark Third). This certainly is to be recommended as a sterling debut from an exceptionally talented young band.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Bavarian band Frequency Drift create atmospheric, melodic yet challenging music that they call ‘cinematic progressive rock’. Personal Effects part one (2008, 61-minutes) is a concept album set in a dystopian future. The band say they are influenced by movies or television series such as Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, and Cloverfield, and their music aims for similar moodiness. The Musea label compares this album to Marillion’s Brave or Sylvan’s Posthumous Silence, if those two bands had a female singer as Frequency Drift does. It isn’t as accomplished as those two albums, nor would one expect that of a debut album. Personal Effects part one has a somewhat sparser sound, with most of the keyboard work done on piano, which is essential to the mood. The album has compelling atmospheres, a solemnity and melancholy that are maintained even through the heavier passages, with Floydian tempos and deliberate pacing. The booklet contains a storyboard-like picture for each song that helps illustrate the story.
Frequency Drift drifted over to the Cyclops label for Personal Effects part two (2010, 64-minutes). The promise of the first CD is fulfilled here, with the band showing the hoped-for growth and a unique style emerging. The surreal atmosphere here is fantastic, spacier and denser than Part One. The music is more intricate, with more musicians involved. The use of classical musicians on violin, harp, and woodwinds adds new dimensions to the sound, while the female vocals keep the music grounded -- these are extended arrangements of songs rather than abstract soundscapes. Now we’re completely won over.
Ghosts followed in 2011 but is currently out-of-print. Laid to Rest (2012, digisleeve, 70-minutes) is the fourth album and fourth label for Frequency Drift, on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. “A tour de force that will consecrate this fine band once and for all as a prog leader... Fans of Iona, Karnataka, Mostly Autumn, and folk/symph prog will LOVE this!” [Prog Archives] “‘Cinematic’ and ‘wide-screen’ have been used to describe Frequency Drift’s sound and whilst I wouldn’t disagree, I feel ‘life-affirming’ should also be added. This is exceptional music, composed and played by consummate musicians all of which combine to give the listener a truly uplifting experience. My album of the year thus far.” [Get Ready to Rock]
Over (2014, 75-minutes, digipack) is Frequency Drift’s fifth, and they’ve found a home on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. As part of that collaboration, RPWL’s Yogi Lang (mixing) and Kalle Wallner (bass) participate on this album. Former RPWL drummer Phil Paul Rissettio and guitarist Martin Schnella (Flaming Row, Seven Steps to the Green Door) also guest. Beyond that, the Frequency Drift lineup is expanded with instrumentation that includes flute, cello, violin, viola, acoustic & electric harp, tin whistle, marimba, gemshorn (a type of ocarina), and duclar (an ethnic sort of clarinet). It’s impressive enough for a band today to manage nearly an album per year, but the progress Frequency Drift have made in a relatively short time is even more impressive, moving from the cold, urban sounds of their earliest work to the warmer, more organic sound of their recent albums, all the while adding depth and carving out a unique style. Watch the official video for the track Run. Read reviews at Prog Archives and The Progressive Aspect.
To allay fears, Last (2016, digipack) doesn’t seem intended to signal the end of Frequency Drift. There have been more lineup changes, and they have a new female singer in Melanie Mau, who contributed to Seven Steps to the Green Door’s Fetish, while Martin Schnella is now a full-time member. The electric harp plays an important role, and there is Mellotron and Theremin, while the strings and unusual instruments found on Over are gone (the Mellotron covering for some of them). There is a narrative to the songs, and Last is another impressive album of melodic and epic progressive rock. “They have created what may be their best album to date, full of innovation, abstraction, emotion, and projection. Last is cinematic and masterful, yet also gritty, dark, and very personal. It honestly doesn’t get much better than this for me.” Read the full The Prog Mind review. Watch album teaser 1, album teaser 2, and the video for Merry.
Fuchs is the band led by Hans Fuchs, not really a new name as he contributed to the albums recorded by his wife Ines under her name. The second Fuchs album The Unity of Two (2014) is a huge improvement over Leaving Home (2012). “The Unity of Two is a brave attempt by Hans-Jürgen Fuchs with the help of great singers and musicians to put to music a story in the vein of (Hermann Hesse’s) Narziss und Goldmund. Whilst not hiding he was inspired by Genesis and, yes, Peter Gabriel as well, Hans-Jürgen has succeeded in writing songs that can very much hold their own and that are clearly modern day prog songs. And he has the musicians to his side that can truly deliver. There is plenty of room for the singers and musicians to shine and for the story to develop in this musical journey. Revisiting this album after a couple of weeks of not listening to it felt like a sort of homecoming. The way the whole album flows and with the compositions being much more than taking a song and flavouring it with some Genesis powder or some Gabriel spice, I feel this might just be one of the best five prog albums to come out this year.” Read the full DPRP review.
Galaad is a Swiss neo-prog band with a charismatic vocalist singing in French. While their debut was very Ange-influenced, their second album Vae Victis (1995) is heavier, like a meeting between Ange and Dream Theater, while maintaining the lyricism and melodrama.
These are the 2016-2017 Esoteric editions of Journey to an Imaginary Land (1980), To Another Horizon (1982), and Magic Theatre (1983), the first, third, and fourth Gandalf albums respectively. Unavailable for some years, all have been remastered for the first time from the original master tapes. The booklets feature an exclusive new interview with Gandalf and fully restore the original album artwork. Gandalf is the name adopted by Austrian composer and multi-instrumentalist Heinz Strobl. He has released many albums in the new age vein, but his early albums are prog. Journey to an Imaginary Land was recorded entirely by Strobl at his home studio, at a time when that wasn’t common. To Another Horizon and Magic Theatre feature a full lineup with other musicians contributing flute, keyboards, bass, and drums, while Strobl plays guitars, keys, percussion, and anything else he could lay his hands on. The music is in a Mike Oldfield and Bo Hansson vein, at times similar to the gentler side of Steve Hackett (who would guest on a later Gandalf album). Read the Prog Archives reviews of Magic Theatre, To Another Horizon, and Journey to an Imaginary Land.
Thomas Glönkler was the guitarist for the German band ICU, who released three CDs during the 1990s. Goldstadt (2010) is a large-scale work that exceeds all the ICU albums. On this atmospheric concept album, Glönkler is joined by singer Ralf Grossmann (ICU), drummer Patrick Fiedler, and Eva-Maria Baumann (ICU) on flute, plus guests. This is a major progressive rock work, but one that is in danger of being lost in the shuffle. Sung in German (though heavily instrumental), the subject of this album is the city of Pforzheim on the edge of the Black Forest, nicknamed ‘Goldstadt’ (Golden City). On the evening of 23 February 1945, 369 aircraft of the Royal Air Force destroyed the city in minutes, killing one quarter of the population. (Many of the Allied air raids late in the war had more to do with retribution than real military targets; it was Britain’s policy to destroy German cities.) Think of Novalis performing one of Camel’s later conceptual albums with help from Anthony Phillips, then update that so that the music sounds more profound, with richer ambiences. This is Glönkler’s Brave (the Marillion album). Given the serious subject matter, much of the album is permeated by a feel of sadness, though the second half of the album is frequently hopeful and uplifting. It is often quite moving, and even at its saddest, the music is warm, elegant, and beautiful. Even if you don’t understand German, the power of the music is such that you can easily forget about the literal meaning of the lyrics. Great music transcends that and is what separates progressive rock from more vocal-centric styles. For us, having works of progressive rock in languages other than English only enriches the musical landscape.
Grobschnitt were one of the top few German progressive rock bands, quite possibly the best. Though they began as more of a Krautrock band, by the time of their 1975 third album Jumbo, they had become a very refined, melodic symphonic progressive band singing mostly in English, Germany’s counterpart to Genesis, with a sense of humor usually evident. A string of great symphonic prog albums followed before it all went horribly wrong, as with so many other 70s prog bands who didn’t make it out of the 80s.
This is the digipack edition on SPV’s Revisited Records label of Illegal. Unfortunately, the others have been unavailable since SPV’s bankruptcy filing. Illegal (1981) was the last good Grobschnitt album. Those who relish the jamming style of Solar Music won’t find much like that here, but Illegal does contain some excellent songs in Grobschnitt’s unique style (as did the previous album Merry-Go-Round). In fact this is the best-selling Grobschnitt record after Rockpommel’s Land and Solar Music Live. We all know what was happening in popular music at this time, so while Grobschnitt were forced to modernize some, Illegal is better than one might have expected. This CD edition was remastered by drummer Eroc in 2008 and contains three bonus tracks: an 11:30 live version of the title track and two alternate mixes.
Eroc remastered live material from throughout Grobschnitt’s career into a series of 2CDs (and one 3CD) called Grobschnitt Story. These didn’t receive wide distribution. The International Story compiles material from that series into a double-CD with each CD over 79-minutes long, plus a 16-page booklet in English. One track, Magic Train (10:15), is a previously-unreleased version, and there is an entire performance of Solar Music. The sound quality of this set is excellent.
The original Grobschnitt gave their last concert in 1989. The band reunited nearly 20 years later for a series of concerts, with the original members sometimes joined by their sons! 2008 Live 2010 is Sireena Records’ digipack double-CD that combines the Live 2008 and Live 2010 albums they’d released previously on vinyl. A new studio single Another Journey was added as a bonus track. Live 2008 is taken up mostly by Sonnentanz 2008, a new interpretation of Solar Music, while Live 2010 is a performance of the complete Rockpommel’s Land, Grobschnitt’s masterpiece.
Harlis was an offshoot of Jane whose first album became the first release on Sky Records. The superior second Harlis album Night Meets the Day (1977) is a pirate-themed rock opera of sorts, proggier than their debut and approximately in the style of Jane or Omega. This is the 2009 digipack edition on Sireena Records.
The Healing Road (the name taken from Neil Peart’s book) is a studio project led by German keyboardist Hanspeter Hess with a number of other musicians contributing drums, bass, guitars, and more keyboards. Timanfaya is the second The Healing Road album, initially released independently in 2007 before being picked up by Musea in 2008. This is instrumental keyboard-dominated symphonic rock with aspects of both classic and neo-prog. Hess lists Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Spock’s Beard, and Rush as influences. Of those, Genesis is the strongest, followed by Oldfield, the others not so much. Camel should probably be included -- isn’t the track Crater Camels a reference to Moonmadness? These are tasteful compositions full of nuance, a very exciting and satisfying progressive rock record. Read the Progressor and Background Magazine reviews. Note the third The Healing Road album Tales from the Dam was released only as an inseparable CD+vinyl LP package, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Backdrop (2011) consists of two long pieces of music. To create something different from the previous albums, Hess set certain guidelines: less piano, less synths and Hammond; the album should have an acoustic, rural, pastoral atmosphere and contain as many acoustic instruments as he could get and play. Guests include a guitarist, keyboardist/singer, and accordionist. Simply put, this is Mike Oldfield’s Incantations Parts 5 & 6, and the fact that Oldfield was not involved in no way diminishes the beauty of this work. Sublime, mesmerizing and, for 2011, quite unexpected. And for those who enjoyed Robert Reed’s Sanctuary, you need Backdrop to compare and contrast. Watch the official promo videos: Clip 1 and Clip 2. Read the Background Magazine review.
The fifth The Healing Road album Birdbrain’s Travels (2014) again consists of two long instrumental suites. While some Oldfield influence remains, this album rocks a lot harder than Backdrop, with greater dynamics, and is darker in parts. This is top-notch melodic symphonic prog that, like most of Musea’s releases, will probably receive less exposure than many less deserving albums. Ignore this one at your own peril. If you like to watch beautiful photography panned and zoomed while listening to the music, then head to YouTube.
Check above for Hanspeter Hess’ new band Force of Progress.
With the exception of Back from the Void, these are Progress Records’ 2007 remastered reissues of the studio CDs from High Wheel, a German symphonic progressive band who improved with each CD. Back from the Void (2002, 64:30) is their fourth studio album and was good enough to get High Wheel invited to NEARfest 2003. (Back from the Void has not been reissued by Progress; this is the original edition.)
There (1996, 76-minutes) is their third CD, Remember the Colours (1994, 75-minutes) their second, and 1910 (1993, 56-minutes) their first. Call it neo-prog if you must, but High Wheel’s reliance on organ and analog keyboards gives them a 1970s-oriented sound. There’s a little Gentle Giant influence and a little spaciness. At times they touch upon the style of early Kayak or Anyone’s Daughter, though darker, more aggressive and not as strong melodically. (Few bands are.) On a few tracks, Marillion or Echolyn are better references, and other tracks have a hard edge to them, though still a long way from prog-metal. The lyrics are in English. The sound on the original editions of the earlier CDs was a bit dull, so it’s good to have the improved sound on these remastered editions.
The double live CD Live Before the Storm (2006) not only serves as a 2 hour, 17-minute greatest hits, but the recording quality is better than their studio albums. This is the obvious place for newcomers to start. Here is an mp3 of the song Void. Read reviews.
The German neo-prog band ICU released three CDs all during the 1990s: Moonlight Flit (1993), Now and Here (1995), and ICU (1997). Guitarist and bandleader Thomas Glönkler has gone on to release solo albums, of which 2010’s Goldstadt is close to being a masterpiece. ICU sang in English and always included flute in the lineup, giving their music added class, while their main appeal is to fans of the usual neo-prog suspects (Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, Collage, Egdon Heath,...). See Prog Archives for reviews of all the ICU albums, as well as audio for two songs.
The ICU albums had been thought to be long out-of-print, but Glönkler still has a small cache of the original discs belonging to ICU’s self-titled third CD. The booklet and traycards are now gone though, so he’s created an inkjet-printed booklet and traycard and combined them with an original disc, which is what is offered here.
Moonlight Flit contains two CD-Rs and a DVD-R. The first disc contains the original album mix. Disc 2 contains the live performance of the entire album from November 1993 plus the bonus track Themes from Brave, which was originally published only as a limited edition single. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) features ICU live in Neuweiler in 1993, with a playing time of just under 20 minutes. It’s a professionally-edited, multi-camera shoot, not the crystal-clear images one expects today but quite good, comparable to a television broadcast of that era.
Live 95-96 (2CD-R, 113-minutes) sounds very good and captures ICU’s best live performances. The first disc was recorded in Calw in 1996, while the second disc was recorded in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg in 1995. Included are the only recording of the previously-unreleased track Precipice (7:58), the previously-unreleased full length version of The Brave (14:27), and a 21-minute Now and Here medley.
Note these are boutique products, manufactured by Glönkler one at a time, and he’s made our stock special for North America, with English liner notes, an NTSC DVD, some changes in bonus material, and all copies numbered and signed. The discs (apart from the self-titled 3rd) are CD-Rs and DVD-Rs with labels printed directly on the disc; the booklets and inlays are inkjet-printed. It all looks good, and since the albums are unlikely to be reprinted as replicated CDs, and with the wealth of bonus material, we think you’ll appreciate these unique sets. They aren’t sealed -- we do put a plastic sleeve on them once we receive them, but expect some slight wear to the cases. The 3-disc sets come in special 3-disc jewel cases that are the same width as a single jewel case.
Led by female keyboardist/composer Ines Fuchs, Ines has always been a project involving many talented musicians and singers from Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Probably most influenced by Tony Banks, her music is complex, keyboard-oriented prog rock with strong English-language vocals. She has always chosen high-quality singers, including Harald Bareth of Anyone’s Daughter on the first two Ines albums, and Asgard’s Chicco Grosso on all four albums. Two other members of Asgard also joined Ines, so there is much in common between the Asgard and Ines styles. Hunting the Fox is Ines’ 1994 debut CD, in the neo-prog style with a noticeable IQ influence. Eastern Dawning followed in 1996, where a more original style began to emerge. (These two are currently out-of-print). 1999’s The Flow is where Ines really matures, and Slipping Into the Unknown (2002) picks up where The Flow left off. There’s a palpable Peter Gabriel feel to a number of tracks, and she has spiced the mix with folk instruments such as accordion, violin, hurdy-gurdy, flute, and bagpipes, some courtesy of Christoph Pelgen of Adaro. Read the DPRP reviews of Slipping Into the Unknown and The Flow.
Melancholia (2003, 94 minutes) is the third album by this German progressive band. It is comprised of two albums: the first CD is a concept album about Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel La nausée. The second CD rearranges parts of an organ symphony by the French composer Louis Vierne, created at the beginning of the 20th century, and a forerunner of rock and roll. Inquire play a carefully written and arranged music, a generally dark progressive à la Pink Floyd or the German band Versus X, with influences from classical composers such as Mussorgsky. One might also liken Inquire to some of the darker French progressives such as Pulsar or Halloween, though Inquire are a bit less lyrical and more heavy-handed. Vocals are used sparingly. The sound and production are excellent (with mastering by Grobschnitt’s Eroc).
This is the MALS label edition of Inquire’s first CD Inquire Within (1999). Read the DPRP review.
Next Stop Vertigo (2010, digisleeve) is the debut CD by a German quintet singing in English. InVertigo play the contemporary version of neo-prog, the descendant of Marillion’s and Pendragon’s style of melodic symphonic rock, close to Alias Eye, the current Dutch bands (Knight Area, Silhouette, Seven Day Hunt, etc.), and at times, Spock’s Beard. The six tracks, all in excess of seven minutes, are balanced between complexity and catchiness. Despite the length of the compositions, the song and the melodies remain paramount, without the excessive melancholy or metal that is almost unavoidable these days. InVertigo had been performing these songs live for some time, resulting in a very polished debut that is almost certain to have wide appeal. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Veritas (2012, 70-minutes, digisleeve) is their second. While essentially similar, this one seems even more in the lineage of the 1990s neo-prog bands that populated the SI Music and WMMS labels. Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile) guests on sax, a children’s choir appears on one track, while a female vocalist guests on three tracks including the 22-minute epic that concludes the album.
Jack Yello is a German quintet that includes former members of German neo-prog bands Darius and Jagiello. No one in the band is named Jack though. Thorns of Anger is their 78-minute 2003 debut. The departure point for Jack Yello’s style is the first two Marillion albums, with the larger sound of typical modern production and the addition of some metal guitar. If that suggests Arena, that may be the best reference. Singer Dirk Bovensiepen has a fair amount of Fish in his voice, and the lyrics are also in that typically verbose style. They may be heavier and more bombastic, but as Marillion-influenced bands go, Jack Yello are among the most complex and interesting.
The self-described German “fusion trio from hell” consists of a keyboardist (favoring organ), guitarist/singer, and drummer. The band has metal roots, so Ugly Little Thing, their 2007 second CD, is heavy rock/fusion with a strong progressive flavor, much more rock than fusion. Like prog-metal, this is music that is something-else first and progressive rock second, but for the most part it is really well done. Junk Farm shift gears rapidly, playing an appealing mash-up of styles with great finesse, comparable to the band Mörglbl.
Didn’t Come to Dance (2009) is not a radical change, but the songs and melodies here are much stronger and Junk Farm have put more work into the vocal arrangements, sometimes adding a Zappa feel to the proceedings. Start here.
German melodic neo-prog band Karibow won the 2014 German Rock & Pop Award in the category Best Progressive Band. Karibow have a discography stretching back to 1997 or 1998 that few outside Germany know about, and bandleader Oliver Rüsing had previously been a member of Last Turion. From Here to the Impossible (2017, digipack, 72-minutes) features Jim Gilmour (Saga), Monique van der Kolk (Harvest), Sean Timms (Unitopia, Southern Empire), Mark Trueack (UPF), Marek Arnold (countless prog bands), Daniel Lopresto (Southern Empire), and other guests. Karibow have toured with Saga, and with the presence of Jim Gilmour here and Michael Sadler on the previous album, Saga is a fair reference point as is the whole Unitopia family of bands. Watch the album trailer and the earlier sneak preview. Read the Progradar review.
King of Agogik is a German instrumental prog band that has been flying way too far under the radar, maybe because of the obscure words in the band name and album titles. (The word is agogic in English and refers to accenting a note by increasing its duration.) King of Agogik is the project of Hans Jörg Schmitz, an accomplished drummer with much band and live experience. He was the drummer on Traumhaus’s Die Andere Seite and Willowglass’s The Dream Harbour albums, and there is a King of Agogik track on Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas - Part II.
The King of Agogik CDs thus far are: Morning Star (2017, digipack, 71-minutes), Exlex Beats (2014, digipack, 77-minutes), From A to A (2011, digipack, 77-minutes), The Rhythmic Drawing Room (2009, out-of-print), Aleatorik System (2008, digipack, 75-minutes), and Membranophonic Experience (2006, digipack, 74-minutes). Start with the later CDs and work backwards. All feature other musicians (see the list); among the many musicians on Exlex Beats are Steve Unruh (Resistor, The Samurai of Prog), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and Arne Schäfer (Versus X, Apogee). The instrumentation is extensive, and though it varies from album to album, there are keyboards including Mellotron, flute, violin, mandolin, Chapman Stick, sax, oboe, and female voices, not to mention guitar, bass, and drums. The music is generally symphonic prog/neo-prog but it is eclectic, with sections that range from metallic to jazzy to pastoral to cinematic to jamming and more. Head to Prog Archives for reviews and details, and see the band’s review compendium. Watch Exlex Beats trailer 2 and trailer 1 and that’ll probably be enough convincing without having to read anything.
The latest and greatest Morning Star is inspired by German poet and author Christian Morgenstern and again features Unruh and Marshall, plus Chip Gremillion (the U.S. Lift) among an international cast of musicians. This is an exceptional work; it’ll be a crime if King of Agogik isn’t better known after this album. Watch trailer 2 and trailer 1.
These are the 2005 remastered digipack deluxe editions on SPV’s Revisited Records, with bonus tracks and enhanced booklets with new liner notes and photos. Kraan is an influential and legendary German krautrock and jazz-rock band that formed in 1967, continued into the 1980s, then took the 1990s off before reforming for both recording and gigging.
Wiederhören (1977) foregoes the psychedelic and experimental tendencies of the earlier Kraan albums to concentrate on a mostly-instrumental jazz-rock that is melodic, light and quick. It includes the 19:28 bonus track Ein Wiederhören mit einem Bass Solo (Live at Fellbach), which is an extended live version of the title track.
Flyday (1978) features a unique mélange of melodic jazz rock with some Eastern elements. It includes a 9:26 live version of Gayu Gaya as a bonus track.
Nachtfahrt (1982) includes one bonus track.
Kraan’s 1989 studio album Dancing in the Shade features Peter Wolbrandt’s idiosyncratic, beautiful songs and cinematic instrumentals. Kraan entered the 1990s using samplers and sequencers integrated into their sound cosmos. The three bonus tracks on this CD are all demo versions of tracks from the album.
Live 88 was recorded by a newly reunited Kraan, along with trumpeter Joo Kraus. It focuses on melodic instrumental jazz-rock, plus a few vocal rock numbers. It includes the bonus track Ausflug (6:39), recorded live in Munich in 1987 on the same tour, taking the total length up to 79:33.
Live 2001 reflects back on Kraan’s 1970s fusion era, with mixes of spacey, jam-oriented tracks played by an excellent group of musicians.
No Decoder (2010, digisleeve) is the first solo album for RPWL’s singer and leader and is not only a sure bet for RPWL fans, it’s a sure bet for Pink Floyd fans as well. It is full of that lush, Floydian feel that is the hallmark of the RPWL sound, but the Pink Floyd influence is even more pronounced than in RPWL. Lang sings and plays keyboards, assisted by Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd) on bass, Thorsten Weber on guitar, ex-RPWL member Manni Müller on drums, and Carmen Meier on percussion. Lazuli’s singer Dominique Leonetti, RPWL’s guitarist Kalle Wallner, and violinist Anne de Wolff are among several guests. Here are videos for the songs Can’t Reach You and Sacrifice.
When we first began stocking the CDs of German band Martigan, we wrote that they will be the best neo-prog band you’ve never heard. They were founded in 1994 and made steady progress with each album until 2009’s Vision saw them on a par with Collage and Deyss at their peak, arguably ahead of any other continental band who play or played a style similar to early Marillion or IQ. Which is exactly what Martigan play, the original neo-prog style without metal or excessive melancholy. The music is melodic, exuberant, dramatic and majestic, with soaring Rothery-style guitar leads and excellent vocals. Distant Monsters (2015, 75-minutes, digipack) shows no major change in style, just a very enjoyable album in the classic neo-prog style. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the album trailer.
Metamorphosis is a Swiss band headed up by Jean-Pierre Schenk (vocals, keyboards, drums). Schenk founded the progressive rock band Nature in 1971 with Giovanni Esposito, who is the guitar player in Metamorphosis. Nature began very Pink Floyd influenced, then evolved towards Genesis. Metamorphosis, which began circa 2000, also began very Pink Floyd influenced. Dark (2009) is the fourth Metamorphosis CD. Here the music is an intoxicating blend of Pink Floyd and early Marillion, full of great melodies. The vocals (in English) remain in the Pink Floyd style, that is, the Marillion influence is instrumentally only. There always was a bit of David Gilmour in Steve Rothery’s guitar style, so the blend feels quite natural. Good stuff that will probably appeal to a large segment of the Porcupine Tree fan base as well.
Drummer Flavio Mezzodi was a member of the Swiss prog band Thonk, though his experience goes far beyond that. Elements (2009) is his first CD under his name, containing symphonic prog with fusion touches. Mezzodi also plays piano and synths and contributes backing vocals, while numerous other musicians appear on vocals, guitars, bass, soprano sax, and more drums. There are two songs with English-language vocals and six instrumentals. This is really brilliant. Mezzodi’s masterful drumming is something to behold. No matter how complex the drum parts become, he maintains the groove and doesn’t turn the songs into drum solos. Except for the last track that is, which is a drum and percussion workout with three drummers playing at once. The music is carefully composed and arranged, and the immaculate production makes it especially powerful. In addition to the audio, there is an 8-minute video set to a medley of the Elements songs.
Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz is known to most for his stint in Yes on the Relayer album, where his playing style had a large impact on Yes’ sound, and for his 1978-1991 tenure with The Moody Blues, which paid the bills. Moraz also recorded two studio albums and a live CD with Bill Bruford: check our British page for those. The CDs here are all the 2006 or later editions on Voiceprint, many appearing on CD for the first time. Patrick personally remastered them all.
Mainhorse’s 1971 album was their sole release and might have been forgotten had their keyboardist not gone on to some fame. Which would have been unfortunate as it’s a very good heavy progressive rock album with similarities to The Nice, early Deep Purple, Ekseption, and Quatermass. The use of violin and cello is a welcome touch.
The Story of i was Moraz’s debut solo album, recorded in late 1975 during a period when all the Yes members recorded solo albums. The album is a concept piece based around a story Patrick had written. The album features Brazilian musicians and rhythms, demonstrating that progressive rock musicians were doing world music before it became fashionable, and doing it better. Other featured musicians on the album are jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon and bassist Jeff Berlin. This is without a doubt Moraz’s best solo album. Not only that, it is unique and is a progressive rock classic. Two bonus tracks.
Out in the Sun (1977) is Moraz’s second solo album, a good album though not as progressive as The Story of i. It was recorded in Switzerland and Brazil, shortly after Patrick left Yes. As with The Story of i, Moraz uses Brazilian percussionists, giving the album a very percussive feel throughout, but it is made up of eight individual pieces rather than one thematic piece. One bonus track.
The self-titled third album from Patrick Moraz (which we’re calling III) is widely considered to be one of his best solo recordings. The album has a theme running through it of primitive culture versus modern culture. The album is largely instrumental and features performances from Bill Bruford on the track Temples of Joy. Moraz again employs a large number of Brazilian percussionists. One bonus track.
Coexistence was Moraz’s 1980 release. At the time, it was considered a very forward-thinking album. The musician going by the name Syrinx plays pan pipes. The music blends most of Moraz’s influences: pop, classical, jazz, and ethnic percussion. Note the album was reissued in 1989 under the title of Libertate. Two bonus tracks are included.
1984’s Timecode is the most (synth-) pop-oriented release from Moraz, possibly influenced by the likes of Thomas Dolby and other then-current trends. The album features Bill Bruford on electronic percussion on one track. No Latin influences on this one. Moraz uses lead vocalist John McBurnie, who was also on Out in the Sun, and some female vocalists. The two bonus tracks are remixes of album tracks.
After reissuing the Future Memories I and Future Memories II LPs on separate CDs just months earlier, Voiceprint has released them both on one 73-minute CD logically titled Future Memories I and II. There are some slight differences, bits of the LPs that did not make it onto this CD, but the important stuff is here. Actually, there was a CD called Future Memories I and II released in 1985 on the French Carrere label, and Voiceprint’s version is almost identical -- it omits the 2:30 After the Year After but adds the 5:04 Here Comes Christmas Again, which is a remake of a Mainhorse track. Future Memories was considered a brave experiment at the time (1979). The music was performed live in Moraz’s studio for a Swiss television program and recorded directly to tape as the program was broadcast. It was all new material however, not appearing on any of Moraz’s studio albums. Future Memories II followed five years later. The two combined are more of an electronic music CD than Moraz’s other albums, though there is also piano and drum machine, and vocals on one track. It ranges from synthetic classical to Vangelis to horror movie soundtrack to keyboard-rock comparable to Wakeman and Emerson, but featuring Moraz’s trademark lead sounds and style.
Moraz decided at the beginning of the 1990s to compose and perform music strictly for piano. Windows of Time was first released in 1994, the music drawn from 14 hours of performance material, edited down to the best of it. Moraz briefly revisits a couple songs from his earlier albums. The audio has been remastered by Moraz for this 2007 CD.
After years of solo piano music, Patrick Moraz finally returned to rock and his progressive roots with Change of Space (2009, 60-minutes). The CD is a collection of songs and instrumental pieces composed, recorded, mixed and polished between 1989-2003. Moraz then spent the two years prior to this release assembling and mastering it with engineer Jean Ristori at MTX Mastering Studios in Switzerland. Other musicians on this album include Alex Ligertwood (ex-Santana) on lead vocals, Bunny Brunel (ex-Chick Corea) on bass, Kazumi Watanabe (Japanese guitarist extraordinaire), and many others. Given that the material was recorded in different years with different musicians, there is more diversity here than on any other Patrick Moraz album. Read the Music Street Journal and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Check our DVDs page for Moraz’s DVDs.
Morphelia are a German heavy neo-prog band who, while not ready to displace Martigan at the top of our list of German neo-prog bands, are providing healthy competition. They debuted in 2003 with Prognocircus (72-minutes) and followed that with the ambitious Waken the Nightmare (2009, 117-minutes), a double-CD in a fat digipack. To oversimplify their style, take the first two Marillion albums and add some metal, with a predominance of darker moods and epic length tracks. There is also some Pink Floyd influence, especially on the 27-minute final track. The second disc is actually stronger than the first, where Morphelia slide into metal less frequently, yielding more unadulterated progressive rock. Read the ProgressiveWorld.net and Background Magazine reviews.
Prognocircus is similar, though Morphelia honed their playing and production skills in the time between their two albums. One criticism that could be leveled at Waken the Nightmare is that, for an album of its length, it sticks pretty closely to the same script (for a jester’s tear). Prognocircus has a Saga influence heard right off the bat, and overall feels a bit more varied.
Mythos emerged from the Berlin underground scene in 1969. Their first two LPs, from 1972 and 1975, were released on the Ohr label and are in a Krautrock/space-rock vein. A new lineup produced albums in 1977 and 1978 that blended progressive rock with spacey synths. This is the first time on CD for Quasar (1980), reissued in a digipack by Sireena. It was the last good Mythos album before a final 1981 album of electro-pop. (Mythos reemerged circa 1990 as a brand name for bandleader Stephan Kaske’s new age and electronic music.) Originally released on the Sky label, Quasar features yet another new lineup and relies heavily on synths, including vocoder and electronic percussion, though there is a human drummer and some flute and guitar. It is a transitional album that has one foot in 1970s progressive rock while beginning to move toward the synth-pop of Ultravox, sometimes similar to Jethro Tull’s Under Wraps. The result is arguably superior to the previous two albums. As bonus material, this CD adds a 10-minute montage of Mythos jingles created for film, television, and radio. Read reviews at Mythos’ site and at Prog Archives.
Battlement is the CD reissue of the 1979 album by Neuschwanstein, remixed in 1992 for improved sound. This is essentially a clone of Gabriel-era Genesis, but so well done that it is rightly considered a minor classic of German progressive rock. Vocals in English.
Alice in Wonderland is a virtually unknown album recorded in 1976, appearing on CD in 2009. It predates the arrival of singer Frederic Joos, so the music here is almost entirely instrumental, with brief narration auf Deutsch tying pieces together. (The inspiration for this album was Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.) There is some Genesis influence present, but here the music is closer to Snow Goose-era Camel, flowing and nimble, with lots of flute in addition to keys, guitar, bass, and drums. There is audible distortion at times, but in Machiavellian terms, the end easily justifies the condition of the master tapes. The booklet provides the history of the band (in English) with several period photos. A fantastic relic from the golden age when prog was prog, played by great bearded men in strange clothing.
Hamburg’s ‘romantic rockers’ Novalis were one of the best German symphonic progressive bands of the 1970s, and actually achieved some success. After singing in English on their debut Banished Bridge, they switched to German lyrics beginning with their 1975 self-titled album. Many of the lyrics were actually poems of the band’s namesake, Novalis, the most important German poet of early romanticism (also author and philosopher). As a rough approximation, Novalis were musically between Camel and Pink Floyd.
Novalis’ sixth album Flossenengel was released in 1979, late for UK and U.S. prog bands, but fortunately there were prog bands in continental Europe still going strong at this time, and others such as Anyone’s Daughter just getting underway. Though for the first time Novalis used shorter tracks, this album is a conceptual one about man and nature, with each song building on the previous. Some band members and some fans consider this to be Novalis’ creative peak. Read reviews at Prog Archives. This is the 2012 digipack reissue on the Made in Germany label.
Augenblicke (1980) was the last good Novalis album before the band succumbed to the Neue Deutsche Welle. It cements the shift to shorter songs, but about half of them are instrumentals, the result being an album on a par with Flossenengel, the two albums linked in the minds of many fans. Read reviews at Prog Archives. This is the 2012 digipack reissue on Made in Germany.
Neumond (1982) and Sterntacher (1983) followed, both markedly less progressive than Augenblicke. Bumerang (1984) was Novalis’ last album with singer Fred Mühlböck. The album does at least have a few instrumentals, but the end was near for Novalis. This is the 2012 reissue on Made in Germany.
The double-CD digipack Letztes Konzert 1984 contains the last concert performed by Novalis, with a song selection spanning their career. The live versions sound more energetic and raw than the studio versions.
Check below for the solo CD by keyboardist Lutz Rahn.
Nucleus Torn is quite a unique progressive band from Switzerland, whose leader Fredy Schnyder has been a member of Thonk and New Grove Project. The band has always been eclectic and difficult to describe, and their style has continued to evolve significantly. You’ll may still see Nucleus Torn categorized as some sort of metal and reviewed on metal sites, but there is no metal on Andromeda Awaiting (2010), Nucleus Torn’s third full-length album. There are both male and female vocals, part of a larger lineup that includes flute, cello, violin, drums/percussion, and Schnyder playing piano, organ, electric/acoustic/classical guitars, bass, recorders, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, saz baglama, oud, and mandolin. So there are a lot of acoustic textures, and the music is a blend of dark folk, medieval flavors, and progressive rock. Popol Vuh is one reference point, and there are suggestions of the pastoral, early Genesis sound. Andromeda Awaiting always feels close to the natural world. This is an album that starts gentle and becomes more intense later on, but it remains calmer than the band’s previous work, with no harsh outbursts. It manages to tie early music, classical, and progressive music together in an unexpected way, with an almost sacred feel throughout. The CD comes in non-standard packaging: a 7.5" x 5.5" tri-fold cardboard sleeve.
These digipacks are the first legitimate CD reissues of the first two CDs by German progressive rock band Octopus. The Boat of Thoughts (1977) is their best. An Ocean of Rocks (1978) is in the same style; after these albums it went downhill rapidly. Octopus’s music here is similar to early Camel, while the booklets also mention Beggars Opera, not a bad reference either. Most of the keyboard work is done on organ. What alters the character of Octopus’s music most are the vocals of Jennifer Hensel. She has a unique voice with a more masculine timbre than most, close to the singers for Frumpy, Babe Ruth, Earth and Fire, or a smoother Janis Joplin. We’ve always been fond of these albums, though they are very much a product of their time and place. The booklets contains previously-unseen photos and new liner notes in both German and English. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Testimony (2004) is a magic carpet ride of mostly-instrumental ethno-prog and space-dub with some similarities to Peter Gabriel’s world music or a mellower, slower Korai Öröm. The main musician in the group is Dirk Schloemer, who played guitar for Ton Steine Scherben. Generally long tracks taken at a leisurely pace, relying on hypnotic percussion grooves with guitar, keyboards, and voice layered on top.
This is the 2007 digipack reissue of one of the most highly-prized Brain label albums. This 1972 album was the second for Berlin’s Os Mundi and very different from their first. 43 Minuten (the CD runs a couple minutes longer than the album title) blends progressive rock, fusion, classical, folk, and psych in a unique way, an under-recognized gem of the German early progressive scene. File next to Kraan, though Os Mundi may have been better. The CD comes with a 16-page booklet with extensive liner notes in both German and English.
It’s not like you can throw a rock today without hitting a band influenced by Pink Floyd (or by extension, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson), but the young Berlin-based band Osta Love are a rather good one, based on their second album Good Morning Dystopia (2013, digipack). Read the Background Magazine and Power of Metal.dk reviews.
Osta Love added new members on keys/vocals and bass, and The Isle of Dogs (2015, digipack) goes in a different direction, brighter and more upbeat than the melancholy Good Morning Dystopia, with vocal harmonies made possible by the addition of another singer. While Osta Love and RPWL have distinct styles, the RPWL audience is the natural one for Osta Love now. “The addition of two more minds here has had quite an effect on the music. The band has veered away from the cold insecurity of their debut and sprinted toward a lovelier, brighter, and more whimsical sound. The Isle of Dogs is in every way better than its predecessor. It is an album of serene journeys, featuring earthy and intuitive passages that make you feel connected and at peace... The Isle of Dogs feels exactly like a collision of Pink Floyd with The Moody Blues... It truly is an album that allows you to take flight and view the vistas in your mind. Ultimately, it feels like home.” Read the full The Prog Mind review.
For the past several years, bands influenced by medieval music have been very popular in Germany. Adaro was one of the most important, and Blackmore’s Night, though not German, are often included in this genre. The bands cover a broad spectrum from folk to progressive rock to metal. It’s a fascinating movement, but the father of all the current German medieval bands is Ougenweide, a folk-rock band whose initial period of activity was 1970-1984. Their impact in Germany is comparable to that of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Gryphon, and Pentangle in the UK, or Malicorne in France. Both of these CDs are collections of unreleased tracks, mostly live, compiled by the band. Here are reviews of Wol Mich der Stunde and Ouwe War.
The Kuckuck label was responsible for releasing many great albums in Germany in the early 1970s, including the three by Munich-based band Out of Focus, whose members included Moran Neumuller (vocals, sax, flute), Remigus Dreschler (guitar), Hennes Hering (keyboards), Stephan Wisheu (bass) and Klaus Spori (drums). The double-LP Four Letter Monday Afternoon (1972) was the band’s final album and saw Out of Focus look towards acts such as Soft Machine or Colosseum for some of their inspiration, heading in more of a jazz-rock direction and adding a brass section. The lengthy piece Huchen 55 took up both sides of the second LP in the set. This is the 2010 remastered edition on Esoteric. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Currently out-of-print, last copies.
Parzivals Eye is the band of ex-RPWL bassist Chris Postl. They debuted in 2009 with Fragments (currently out-of-print), a first-rate melodic prog album. Among the musicians supporting Postl are singers Christina Booth (Magenta) and Alan Reed (Pallas), guitarist Ian Bairnson (Alan Parsons Project), and RPWL’s Yogi Lang on keys. This is the second RPWL spin-off, after Blind Ego, but Parzivals Eye are more progressive and RPWL-like than Blind Ego. In fact it is more traditional than RPWL, often recalling Genesis and Alan Parsons Project in addition to Pink Floyd.
Christina Booth and Ian Bairnson have been promoted to full band members on Defragments (2015, digipack). Postl tacitly acknowledges two of his music heroes with covers of Long Distance Runaround (Yes) and Two of Us (Supertramp). As with the first album, the RPWL majesty and catchy melodies are here, with The Beatles as a mutual influence. But RPWL’s dominant Pink Floyd influence is supplanted by a more pronounced Genesis influence (not to mention Yes and Supertramp). Postl says he very consciously steered clear of the typical sound of today’s prog and went instead for the smooth and warm sound of the 1970s and 1980s. Nothing was to disrupt the music’s dream-like feel. You know we’re onboard with that. Watch the album trailer.
The 2013 box-set The Entire Collection houses the complete work of Germany’s famous classical-progressive rock band Pell Mell, who featured vocals, violin, flute, keys, guitar, bass and drums. (There apparently was a 1990s U.S. band using the name Pell Mell, so don’t confuse the two.) 1000 of these box-sets were manufactured with only 150 available in the U.S. The box contains seven albums on four CDs, five by Pell Mell and two by their successor Skyrider. The second Skyrider album is previously unreleased. The albums are Marburg (1972), From the New World (1973), Rhapsody (1975), Only a Star (1978), Moldau (1981), Skyrider (1980), and Skyrider II (1981?). All the music has been remastered. Apparently all or most of the first side of the original Moldau album was mastered at the wrong tape speed, too fast and raised in pitch by a tone. It’s corrected here for the first time. A 24-page booklet with unpublished photos and new liner notes completes the package. A concise overview of Pell Mell is here, and Prog Archives contains many reviews. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
The Only a Star and Rhapsody CDs are the digipack editions on Spalax. The Marburg CD is the Bellaphon edition. These are all out-of-print.
This is the 2012 MALS label reissue of For the Love of Ghosts (49-minutes), the 2011 debut by Austrian modern/heavy prog band Phi. Like many modern bands, Phi use keyboards in the studio but currently have no keyboardist -- the music is written by guitarists and is a case of a guitar/bass/drums trio expanding their sound and style toward progressive realms. Phi seem to take some cues from modern Porcupine Tree. Read the Progressor review.
Poor Genetic Material are a German symphonic prog band with an exceptional lead singer from the UK in Philip Griffiths, whose father Martin was the singer for Beggars Opera. The music on their 2001 CD Summerland (out-of-print) is melodic and atmospheric, in the direction of bands such as Saga or Jadis. Their 2002 CD Leap Into Fall (out-of-print) was certainly a step forward from their debut, an outstanding symphonic rock album for fans of Pendragon or Jadis, though PGM don’t strongly resemble either. Their 2003 CD Winter’s Edge (out-of-print) was yet another step forward for a band that by this time can no longer meaningfully be called neo-progressive. The compositions here are quite sophisticated and richly-textured. Spring Tidings (2006) completes the seasons series and continues the trend of steady improvement with each album, making this the best of the series.
Having run out of seasons to use as album themes, PGM focused on songwriting on 2007’s Paradise Out of Time. While there may be no 20-minute tracks on this CD, the sound of the band is much the same, symphonic rock with strong vocals in service of more concise songs. A lot of other prog bands could stand to hone their songwriting skills as PGM have done.
Island Noises (2011) is a double-CD concept album based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Martin Griffiths provides recitations, while other guests include Pia Darmstaedter on flute and former member Martin Lengsfeld on piano. This is the least immediate of the PGM albums, which in progressive rock is often a point in the music’s favor. Island Noises is expansive and has great depth, the yin to Paradise Out of Time’s yang, and requires multiple listens. One of the highlights is the 20-minute title track, containing many Genesis-isms. It’s not surprising that it took nearly four years for this album to manifest. Read the DPRP reviews.
PGM’s eighth album A Day in June (2013) strikes us as their best and most complete work to date. If Island Noises takes a long time to digest, A Day in June grabs the listener immediately with the band’s best writing. The album brings together Phil Griffiths and his father Martin (of Beggar’s Opera fame) as lead singers on one album. Martin shares the vocals with Phil on three songs, while each sings lead on two others, the two voices sometimes resembling each other and at other times covering entirely different parts of the vocal spectrum. Together they give PGM some of the strongest vocals in modern prog. A Day in June is based on James Joyce’s Ulysses. The entire very long novel is set on 16 June 1904, thus the title of this CD. The Mellotron strings and the flute of Pia Darmstaedter (now promoted to full member) add elegance, and there are some of the sophisticated ambiences PGM first explored on Free to Random, used here in support of symphonic rock rather than as an end in itself. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews.
Poor Genetic Material’s ninth album Absence (2016) sees Martin Griffiths, whose voice has lost nothing since his Beggars Opera days, join PGM as a full member, so father and son will continue sharing PGM’s microphone. The seven-person band again includes flutist Pia Darmstaedter (Autumnal Blossom), who joined on the previous album and plays an important role on this one. The 30-minute title track is split into two parts that begin and end the album. (Listen to a chunk of it.) All the elements of PGM’s distinctive musical style feature here: excellent musicianship combined with inventive songwriting, classy music ranging from delicate and melodious to intensely proggy, from accessible tunes to quirky, complex arrangements. There is more Pink Floyd influence than we recall hearing on the previous PGM albums.
Read reviews of all albums at Prog Archives. See the related bands Alias Eye and Coarbegh.
Note the cheaper versions you may see on amazon or CDBaby of some of the PGM CDs are on-demand CD-Rs. Ours are the real thing of course.
Popol Vuh was founded by mastermind Florian Fricke in Munich in 1970 and are known as pioneers of sacred rock, world music, new age, and electronic music, as well as predecessors of the 1990s ambient and trance genres. With a huge discography, their music can’t be easily categorized, but they were undoubtedly pioneers in a number of areas. These are the latest reissues on SPV, all in digipacks with bonus tracks.
The first two Popol Vuh albums, Affenstunde (1970) and In den Gärten Pharaos (1971), are electronics albums centered around the modular Moog synthesizer and percussion.
Hosianna Mantra (1972) represents the sea change in Popol Vuh’s music, as Fricke sells his Moog to Klaus Schulze and creates the blueprint for Popol Vuh music to come: a spiritual, introspective music using many acoustic instruments.
Seligpreisung (1973) is the beginning of Popol Vuh’s best period. Amon Düül II’s drummer and guitarist Daniel Fichelscher joined Popol Vuh for this album. This was the first album of a mystic trilogy devoted to holy books: Seligpreisung, Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, and Das Hohelied Salomos. Simultaneously pastoral and celestial, this is peaceful, uplifting prog. The bonus track Be In Love is a special performance enhanced with violin and oboe from the same line up as 1972’s Hosianna Mantra.
Einsjäger & Siebenjäger (1974) is a sterling example of Popol Vuh’s sound in their prime, and one of their most energetic and melodic albums. The side-long title track, featuring the infrequent but beatific vocals of Djong Yun, is a sophisticated composition and a gorgeous piece of music. This edition adds two bonus tracks.
Das Hohelied Salomos (1975) is arguably one of Popol Vuh’s two best albums. Here they play a near-acoustic progressive: contemplative, mellow, and mostly instrumental, with Indian percussion adding an eastern element. There is plenty of electric guitar, just not the usual type of rock guitar. Three bonus tracks are included.
Letzte Tage Letzte Nächte (1976) is probably the closest that Popol Vuh came to straightforward progressive rock, though still shrouded in a mysterious and enchanting atmosphere. The sound is loud, dominated by electric guitar and drums plus Djong Yun’s majestic (female) voice, and there are none of the ambient, meditative pieces of earlier albums. Three bonus tracks are included.
Brüder des Schattens - Söhne des Lichts (1978) is the previously unreleased “demo” version of the Nosferatu soundtrack and is among Popol Vuh’s most beautiful and most melodious albums. The bonus track Sing, For Song Drives Away the Wolves is a 1993 version of the original song from the Werner Herzog film Herz aus Glas, revised and rearranged by Guido Hieronymus with powerful guitars and a full sound.
Die Nacht der Seele / Tantric Songs (1979) is more of a world music album than a rock album, largely acoustic, with influences of Indian music and a pervading sense of the ancient, the mysterious, and the sacred. The CD includes four bonus tracks.
Coeur de Verre (Herz aus Glas, Heart of Glass) is the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s 1976 film and is one of Popol Vuh’s better works. It easily stands on its own without the film. It blends some traditional East Indian classical music with progressive rock, and from there Florian Fricke takes the listener on a blissed-out trip that one might compare to Mike Oldfield circa Ommadawn or Incantations, though less English and more eastern. The lineup is Florian Fricke (piano), Daniel Fichelscher (electric & acoustic guitar, drums & percussion), Al Gromer (sitar), and Mathias von Tippelskirch (flute). The CD contains two previously-unreleased bonus tracks.
The soundtrack to yet another of Werner Herzog’s films, Fitzcarraldo (1982) is fairly bizarre. The film is the story of an opera house being built in the South American jungle for an appearance by Enrico Caruso. The soundtrack is a mixture of typical atmospheric Popol Vuh music with a lot of opera music. So if you wanted to hear Enrico Caruso singing alongside Popol Vuh...
Cobra Verde (1987) is the soundtrack to the Werner Herzog film. It sees Fricke using synthesizer again after a long time away, specifically the Synclavier, in addition to piano, guitar, vocals, and percussion.
For You and Me (1991) is the last album with the Renate Knaup-Aschauer / Daniel Fischelscher / Florian Fricke line-up, while Guido Hieronymus (who would play a larger role on the next two albums) guests.
City Raga (1995) and Shepherd’s Symphony / Hirtensymphonie (1997) are Popol Vuh’s attempts at a Deep Forest or Cirque du Soleil style. Each song is driven by drums loops and programmed rhythms, the sound much more synthetic than earlier albums, reflecting the ambient dance music popular at the time in Europe.
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.
This 2012 reissue is the first time on CD for the 1978 solo album by Lutz Rahn, keyboardist of Novalis. The album contains eight short instrumental tracks of progressive electronic music. There are lots of analog synths including string ensemble, but it’s not just a synth album as Rahn also employs Hammond, Mellotron (choir, flute), Clavinet, Rhodes, and grand piano. There is a guest drummer, though analog drum machines are used more often. The tracks with drum machine might be compared to Yellow Magic Orchestra or occasionally Jean Michel Jarre, and there were other German and French solo artists around this time or shortly after (Serge Blenner, for example) making a similar type of melodic/rhythmic, pop-influenced electronic music. But few had Rahn’s prog credentials, and his keyboard playing makes Solo Trip proggier than most. The booklet contains a 2012 interview with Rahn. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Lepidoptera II: The Book of Flight (2012, digipack) is the second CD for Swiss symphonic prog band RAK. The band list their influences as King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Deep Purple, Dream Theater, and Marillion, and similarly, the music crosses the lines of both classic and contemporary prog. Read the Grande Rock review.
Phoenix (1982) is the sole album from Rebekka, a German romantic progressive band with female vocals, close to Renaissance or Illusion. A 12-minute bonus track from the same sessions is included.
Zarah (2005) is an ambitious 72-minute concept album, the second release by a German prog-metal quintet along the lines of Threshold, Queensryche, and early Dream Theater. Vocals in excellent English of course. To find the band’s mp3’s, click the mp3 icon above, then click on “discography".
Victor was released as a lavish double-LP in 1975 on the German Bacillus label, though Rigoni and Schoenherz were Austrian. This 2011 digipack CD reproduces the 24-page book that was part of the gatefold 2LP. Victor was an ambitious work that attempted to combine progressive rock with a symphony orchestra. As with many such early attempts (e.g., The Moody Blues’, Deep Purple’s), the orchestra and the rock band were never fully integrated, nevertheless this is quite good. Peter Hauke (producer for Nektar and many others) produced this album, and it does resemble Nektar at times. You can find two chunks of the album on YouTube here and here.
Andrew Roussak is a Russian expat keyboardist/composer living in Germany, where he has risen to some prominence. On No Trespassing (2007), he leads a full rock band. The instrumentals are classically-influenced and often give the impression of a Rick van der Linden album. Two pieces are arrangements of Bach compositions; another excellent classical-rock instrumental was written as a tribute to Keith Emerson. The instrumentals share the CD with English-language vocal songs that are similar to things found on Rick Wakeman albums. The album is rich in melody, with Roussak’s classical piano a frequent highlight. Read the DPRP review.
Rousseau are a German band that released three well-regarded albums between 1980-1987. Flower in Asphalt (1980) is the first of those albums, Retreat (1983) the second, and Square the Circle (1987, currently out-of-print) the third. These albums feature a flowing, melodic, romantic style of symphonic prog close to Camel. The band was primarily instrumental during this phase, their style based on layers of fluid keyboards, airy guitar, and lots of flute. These mini-LP editions of Flower in Asphalt and Retreat are the 2009 editions released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which come in heavyweight cardboard sleeves.
Rousseau reformed to release At the Cinema in 2002, and though the flute player is gone, guest musicians on oboe, viola, and accordion compensate. The album’s instrumentals remain close to the band’s old style, and fortunately they dominate the album. You do have to put up with a few vocal ballads that have more in common with The Eagles than with prog, but on balance this is a fine album.
The concert movie A New Dawn documents the last stop of RPWL’s tour in support of their Wanted album, playing in their hometown of Freising, Bavaria in October 2015. The show is an elaborately assembled combination of elements of a rock concert, a multimedia event, and a play. This was the first and only time that the mammoth production was brought to the stage. In addition to the musicians themselves, the cast comprised around 50 actors and extras. This Blu-ray (digipack, all-region) contains both stereo and surround mixes of the two-hour concert, each with audio tracks in both English and German. For the English version, the lines from the German-language live show were dubbed by the narrator and the actors. Extras include a 15-minute “Making of” featurette, the recording of the encore Unchain the Earth, and a previously unreleased video clip of the long track The Fisherman from Beyond Man and Time. Notably, this is the first progressive rock Blu-ray we’re aware of with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Non-Atmos systems can select Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Watch the trailer and Misguided Thought.
The double-CD (digipack) contains all songs of the show including the encores Unchain the Earth and Hole in the Sky.
* IMPORTANT! This Blu-ray is not guaranteed to play on all players outside the PAL zone (Europe, Australia, New Zealand), and returns are not accepted due to player incompatibility. Your player must be capable of playing and converting 1080i50 (50 Hz, 25 fps) video. If you own an Oppo, you should be set; owners of other brands and especially older players should check their manuals. We refer you to Big Big Train’s technical briefing.
RPWL’s 2014 album is available both as a standard CD and a limited edition that adds a DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix and one bonus track. Both editions are digipacks. RPWL’s music, like Steven Wilson’s, is well-suited to surround and should ideally be heard that way. Wanted sees the band continuing to expand their style, not simply rehashing what they’ve already done. Their core sound is intact, the lush, Floydian style with gorgeous choruses. The early tracks however feature extended instrumental breaks in which there is a strong classic prog and classic hard rock influence, with organ as the primary keyboard sound. Not the prettiest cover, but it’s part of the album’s concept, which you can read about on the band’s site. “RPWL have done it again; Wanted is a triumphant, confident statement that confirms just how good this band are.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Prog Sphere and Dangerdog reviews.
RPWL made their second appearance at the Wyspiański Theatre in Katowice, Poland in 2013, the show captured on this DVD (NTSC, all-region) and double-CD (digipack). It was the final time they performed their 2012 album Beyond Man and Time in its entirety, using a multi-media presentation. The set also includes some RPWL classics and a surprise or two. Ex-Genesis singer Ray Wilson performs with RPWL on one song. The DVD has Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio and include interviews with the band members. Watch the preview.
RPWL are probably the best known German prog band of their generation. RPWL traces its roots to the band Violet District but was originally formed as a Pink Floyd cover band. They soon turned to writing their own songs, leading to their acclaimed first album God Has Failed in 2000. Some of the tracks on this album are very Pink Floyd-influenced and very symphonic, while others are lighter and playful, with a Beatles influence at times. Throughout the album, the dominant feature is RPWL’s exceptional songwriting. Put all that together and you have an end result close to Porcupine Tree of that same era. Their second, Trying to Kiss the Sun (2002), sees them developing more of their own sound. The 9-minute Home Again is very Floydian, but otherwise the Floyd influence is not quite as obvious as on their debut. There’s at least as much Beatles influence, which leads to comparisons with another Beatles-influenced prog band, Spock’s Beard.
Stock, RPWL’s third, is a collection of previously-unreleased tracks, but it doesn’t sound at all like a bunch of leftovers. It’s a very strong album containing more traditional progressive content than before, including a Genesis influence that is not present on their first two albums. Note this is the CD-only version. Stock originally included a DVD containing surround mixes, but that edition is out-of-print.
World Through My Eyes (2005, 70-minutes) is their brilliant fourth album. Here they seem to integrate the two main aspects of their style more effectively than ever before: the symphonic Pink Floyd style and the lighter, playful Beatles style. There is also a little early Genesis influence, which was previously only apparent on their Stock CD. RPWL’s songwriting is exceptional, and the end result is often close to Porcupine Tree. Ray Wilson guests on vocals on one track. The Special Edition Hybrid SACD version includes SACD surround, SACD stereo, and CD stereo audio. It adds a slipcase and a 7-minute bonus track.
Live - Start the Fire is the first live album from RPWL and contains highlights from their 2005 European tour. This double-CD features several songs that have not appeared on previous RPWL studio albums. The Pink Floyd covers Cymbaline and Welcome to the Machine are included, as well as Not About Us, a Genesis song with Ray Wilson appearing here on vocals. There is a bonus studio track, the previously-unreleased 13-minute New Stars Are Born.
This is the special edition of RPWL’s 2008 fifth studio album The RPWL Experience, which adds two bonus tracks and a slipcase. RPWL continue their remarkably high level of creativity here. RPWL are usually considered alongside Porcupine Tree and Riverside, and while they do belong in that contemporary progressive camp, RPWL are the most traditionally-progressive of the lot and the most melodic. RPWL’s original Pink Floyd influence is still easy to hear, and their playful Beatles side is still present in spots. Mellotron strings add to the lush textures, while metal intrudes only infrequently. The second bonus track on the special edition, the 7:33 Reach for the Sun, is very Genesis-like. (For some reason, RPWL’s Genesis-influenced songs tend to end up as bonus material -- most of the rest are on Stock.)
RPWL’s sixth studio album Beyond Man and Time (2012) is their first concept album, one that finds RPWL in an ambitious and more exploratory mood without straying far from their roots. Read reviews at Prog Archives and watch the video of Unchain the Earth. This is the single CD version (jewel box + slipcase).
Check above for Yogi Lang’s No Decoder CD. Check our DVDs page for RPWL’s DVDs.
CD reissue of a 1981 record from a German band with a taste for Genesis and Yes plus more conventional rock influences (Queen, Styx), close to Machiavel at times. Good instrumental sections, fairly Anglo sounding. Listen to A Cloud in the Sky. This is the MALS edition, manufactured under license from Musea.
The instrumental trio of drummer Eduard Schicke, keyboardist Gerd Führs, and guitarist/bassist Heinz Fröhling, otherwise known as SFF, made three classic German progressive rock albums in the 1970s, while the duo of Führs & Fröhling made three more excellent albums. These are the newly remastered 2010 Esoteric editions on their Reactive imprint, dedicated to reissues of classic German and Austrian rock. The booklets feature restored artwork, photos and liner notes. Symphonic Pictures was released on the Brain label in 1976, followed by Sunburst in 1977 and Ticket to Everywhere in 1979. The consensus is that Symphonic Pictures is SFF’s best, followed by Sunburst, with Ticket to Everywhere bringing up the rear, but all are worthwhile. This edition of Symphonic Pictures includes an entire live album on a bonus CD, a 1975 live performance. It appears to be the same recording as the SFF - Live 1975 CD released in 2002. Ticket to Everywhere includes three 1978 live bonus tracks. Note these are all currently out-of-print, last copies.
German symphonic prog band Schwarzarbeit began with a self-titled debut LP in 1979, followed by Traum oder Wirklichkeit in 1982. Neither of these has been reissued on CD. James Gordon’s Story (1994) is their third, containing instrumental sympho-prog approximately in the later Camel style. Three bonus tracks are included. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight gatefold cardboard sleeve.
Closed Doors to Open Plains (2014, 62-minutes, digipack) is the second CD for German prog quartet Seasons of Time, a mere 17 years after their debut, and far superior to it. They list their influences as Marillion, Pink Floyd, and Genesis. Watch the album sampler video.
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. “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. Check below for the related band Toxic Smile.
These 2009 digipacks include the first-ever CD reissues of the two studio albums by German progressive rock band Shaa Khan, who debuted in 1978 on Sky Records with The World Will End on Friday. On this album, Shaa Khan sound very close to Grobschnitt circa Rockpommel’s Land. There may be a bit of Solar Music in there too, but the guitar style especially is reminiscent of Rockpommel’s Land. Shaa Kahn followed in 1979 with Anything Wrong?, which includes two live bonus tracks from their 2009 comeback concert. Anything Wrong? is more polished than their debut, as the band had more studio time to work with. The music is similar enough to their debut but with a broader progressive style, taking a step closer to Jane and Eloy. Both booklets contain previously unseen photos, with new liner notes in both German and English.
The Live 2009 CD is the live recording of one of the unlikeliest progressive rock reunion concerts ever, featuring 10 tracks, 66-minutes total.
This German band released the CD The Dawn of Time in 1998, a very good and definitely overlooked symphonic neo-prog album. From Dusk till Dawn (2007) comprises tracks originally recorded in 1994 on 16 tracks. Work began in 2003 to rework and enrich those recordings with additional overdubs, with four songs from that period entirely re-recorded for this CD. The result is a symphonic rock album influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Camel, and Genesis, or to choose some German bands, Eloy, Novalis, Ramses, and Jane. It’s significant that Shades of Dawn don’t seem to be influenced by Marillion but only directly by the 70s bands. You can still call it neo-prog because it is derivative of the 70s bands and generally not on the same level, but the same was true for many of the earlier German symphonic bands, most of whom remain obscure. This is very melodic music with little darkness or tension, often led by lyrical guitar and including many dynamic and lively instrumental sequences as well as spacey atmospheres.
Graffity’s Rainbow (2011) is the band’s most symphonic and ambitious output thus far. This third album consists of four long tracks, while the epic 25-minute title track features themes by Schubert and Mussorgsky perfectly woven into Shades of Dawn’s own sound. Listen to The Eternal Recurrence of the Same (Pt. 1).
German band Shamall is one of the more closely-guarded secrets in progressive rock. If you’ll have a look at Prog Archives, you’ll see Shamall albums stretching back to 1989, and there is actually Shamall music from as early as 1986. (You’ll want to visit Prog Archives anyway for reviews and ratings of these albums.) The early Shamall albums are synth music, but after the start of the new millennium, the music transitions to spacy progressive rock. The Shamall albums offered here are after the band’s transition to progressive rock and so are their highest-rated on Prog Archives: Turn Off (2CD, 2013, digipack), Is This Human Behavior (2CD, 2009, digipack), Questions of Life (2008, digipack), Ambiguous Points of View (2CD, 2006, digibook), Who Do They Think They Are (2CD, 2003, jewel box), and The Book Genesis (2CD, 2001, jewel box). Ambiguous Points of View counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
We’re devoting most of this space to the latest album Turn Off, because that’s the one we’ve listened to. It seems that the major influence present on the Shamall albums has been Pink Floyd. But Turn Off sounds much closer to Eloy, themselves Pink Floyd influenced but quite distinct. Shamall doesn’t just sound a little like Eloy here -- if you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a new Eloy album. More specifically, it sounds like Eloy featuring special guest Edgar Froese. That’s one of the remarkable qualities of this album, how well Tangerine Dream style sequencers and synths are integrated into progressive rock. There are male and female vocals (in English), though the music is heavily instrumental. It turns out that Shamall is primarily the work of one man, Norbert Krueler, but you’d probably never guess. This is one amazing album, perhaps with slightly too narrow a style given its 150-minute length, but you won’t feel shortchanged on this or any of the other Shamall albums. Most are double-CDs, and each disc is nearly full. There is a lot of music here.
German band Sieges Even began as a thrash metal band during the late 1980s before evolving into a heavier, more technical version of Rush by the early 1990s. Sieges Even broke up after their 1997 album Uneven but returned in 2005 with The Art of Navigating by the Stars, their most sophisticated and progressive album to date, and with a new singer in Arno Menses, the best they’ve had. The music is less busy than before, with only a few vestiges of their metal past remaining. It adds some Yes influence and places a lot of emphasis on melody and vocals, both lead and harmony. Sieges Even don’t have a keyboardist, but they get a very full, rich sound from varying guitar tones. They continued in the same direction on 2007’s Paramount.
Playgrounds (2008) is Sieges Even’s first live album, the ten songs drawn primarily from The Art of Navigating by the Stars and Paramount. Those are the two studio albums with vocalist Arno Menses, who joined Sieges Even three years earlier. See also Bonebag, a side-project of Arno Menses.
This is the digipack reissue on Sireena Records of the 1978 album by Anglo-German band Snowball, their first and best. On this album, Snowball comprised drummer Curt Cress (New Triumvirat, Passport, many others), keyboardist Kristian Schultze (Passport, solo, Cusco), bassist Dave King (many sessions and tours), and singer/guitarist Roye Albrighton (Nektar). Cress was often considered to be the best drummer in Germany at the time. The music is a melodic, accessible 1970s style jazz-rock with lots of electronic keyboards, close to Passport’s style at that time (minus the sax), while the tracks featuring Albrighton’s familiar voice are more rock and song-oriented. The booklet has new liner notes in both German and English. Check above for the related Curt Cress Clan.
The German band Solar Project are well-known for their Pink Floyd-influenced concept albums. They sing in English and build mid-tempo Floydian atmospheres, with floating organ and keyboard sounds, expressive guitar solos, and a mix of instrumental and vocal passages. Five is from 2000, another conceptual work again influenced primarily by Pink Floyd, but not overly derivative. With only six tracks spanning 75-minutes, they love the long pieces.
Chromagnitude (2007, 64-minutes) is their seventh. The lineup is nearly the same as on Force Majeure, and no major changes to their style other than that they remind us more than ever of Eloy on this album. Solar Project continue to make steady improvement with each album, and this one is exceptional in the varied and subtle details in the mix.
These are the 2015-17 digipack editions on Sireena Records of Eileen (1977), Dry (1979), and Sky Racer (1981), all mastered from the original tapes. Streetmark was a German prog band that released four albums on Sky Records, beginning with Nordland in 1976. Keyboardist Dorothea Raukes was a founding member and one of the first female figures of the German prog scene. For Eileen, Wolfgang Riechmann joined the band on keyboards, guitar, and vocals. Riechmann would later release the electronic music album Wunderbar. He wasn’t around to see the release of that album as he died after being stabbed without reason by two drunks while on a walk in the Düsseldorf Altstadt in 1978. Sky Records later reissued Eileen under the artist name Wolfgang Riechmann and Streetmark and changed the name of the album to Dreams for maximum confusion. (Dreams is significantly higher rated than Eileen on Prog Archives with the same small number of raters, so the one bonus track on Dreams must be one heluva track.) Riechmann replaced the singer on Nordland that nobody likes, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs on Eileen. So Riechmann had a big impact on the sound of this album, which shows influences of Eloy and Genesis mixed with cosmic Teutonic electronics.
Streetmark 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. Streetmark are at their best in the vocals department on their last two albums. 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. Listen to Settlers to the West.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other projects. Most of 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. It appears this CD has gone out-of-print, so last copies.
Shipwrecked (2016) is an electronic krautrock album (think Harmonia, Neu!, Kraftwerk, early Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze), allowing Schmidt/Sula to employ all the vintage electronic gear he’d been stockpiling. The album features synthesizers, organs, drum machines, sequencer, Mellotron, guitar, bass, and toy mandolin. Eroc mastered as usual. Read the Aural Innovations review.
This German quintet deserves to have “super” in their name, because for fans of classic British-style prog, Superdrama’s debut The Promise (2014, mediabook) may be the most exciting German prog release in a long time. One of very few other recent German bands making classic British-style melodic prog is Argos, and two of the four Argos members are in Superdrama! Superdrama was founded in 2004 though, so Argos may still be running in parallel. Superdrama’s primary influence is clearly Gabriel-era Genesis, though they are not overly derivative. There is a little Van der Graaf Generator resemblance, mainly because singer Robert Gozon can sound like Peter Hammill when he wants to, though he does so only on occasion. There are a few other prog influences sprinkled in, but the music doesn’t stray far from Genesis. This limited (and for the foreseeable future, only) edition comes in a hardcover mediabook with 60-page booklet. Watch the album sampler video.
Sylvan and RPWL are the leaders of the current German prog scene, 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. This limited edition comes in elaborate mediabook packaging (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.
German progressive rock band Sylvan began in the late 1990s as a prototypical neo-prog band, but while so many others who derived their sound from Marillion have disbanded, Sylvan have persevered, becoming more professional and their music much stronger. Sylvan have a tremendous singer in Marco Glühmann. Their fifth CD Posthumous Silence (2006, 70-minutes) is considered their breakthrough album, their first concept album and absolutely their best work to that point. With this album, one could no longer call Sylvan a neo-prog band, as their music no longer relates strongly to the 1980s British prog bands. Rather, they are a modern prog band with moody, melancholy vocals similar to Riverside and other recent bands sharing this aesthetic. The music is dark and somewhat heavy but only metallic in a few spots. It is really sumptuous, emotionally intense and heartfelt, amazingly powerful and majestic without crossing over into bombast. Based on Sylvan’s earliest albums, few anticipated that they would one day create this masterpiece.
Presets (2007, 62-minutes) was actually recorded and produced in parallel with Posthumous Silence. It is amazing how far this band has come, and the music here is every bit as sumptuous, majestic, and emotionally intense as on Posthumous Silence. Relative to Posthumous Silence, the songs on Presets are shorter and more direct. In traditional prog-speak, that is usually a negative, but not here. Presets showcases Sylvan’s songwriting and Marco Glühmann’s vocal talents like never before. With this album, Sylvan are now easily on the same level as Porcupine Tree and Hogarth-era Marillion, yet listening to Presets makes one wonder, have P.Tree or Marillion ever put this many great melodies on one album?
Sylvan returned in 2009 with their seventh studio CD Force of Gravity (69-minutes). Sylvan have continued to gradually transform themselves from their beginnings as a Marillion-influenced neo-prog band into a modern art-rock band of the top echelon. With a new guitarist, this album adds more me-too metal guitar, but not enough to diminish the overall result of a worthy successor to Posthumous Silence and Presets. A string quartet appears on four tracks, a female vocalist on one. Keyboardist Volker Söhl impresses with some classical piano that John Tout would be proud of. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Sceneries is Sylvan’s 2012 studio work, a double-CD. “With Force of Gravity, the band celebrated their first decade as a band. Sceneries is a bold and visionary look at where they may be taking their sound in the next ten. Sceneries is an incredible way to launch the next ten years, with an over 90-minute double album full of epic songs drenched in emotion, full of deep lyrics brought to the stage with powerful vocals, brilliant piano and keyboards, amazing new guitar sounds, warm bass, and powerful drums.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review.
These are the 2010 re-editions of the first two Sylvan albums: Deliverance (1998) and Encounters (2000). The early Marillion influence is more evident on these. Encounters is centered on the 12-part title suite. Deliverance has five tracks that exceed 9 minutes, the best of which is the 16:44 A Fairytale Ending (reworked for this edition), an ambitious musical story with narration, similar to things Glass Hammer did on their earlier albums. This new edition adds a bonus CD with the 12:26 epic The Lie, a song recorded in 2010 but based on unreleased material from the Deliverance writing sessions.
Artificial Paradise (2002) and X-Rayed (2004) are both 69-minutes long. Both are strong albums, with X-Rayed showing more influences of modern rock, a transitional album with a more serious and moody sound. The more contemporary influences are blended with Sylvan’s original neo-prog style, notable for the Rothery-like lead guitar lines, and it all comes together most effectively on their epic length tracks.
In September 2007, Sylvan performed a big production concert in Hamburg, Germany, which included a guest guitarist, cellist, and three-woman choir. Leaving Backstage is a double live CD audio recording of that performance. Disc One is their performance of the complete Posthumous Silence album, their magnum opus. Disc Two is a nine track greatest hits live from Sylvan’s other albums dating back to 1998, concluding with the 19-minute title track from Artificial Paradise. The companion DVD (NTSC, all-region) includes just the Posthumous Silence portion of this set plus Artificial Paradise, in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio. Bonus features include In the Studio 2005-2006 (behind-the-scenes footage of the recording of Posthumous Silence and Presets), 34 Days (behind-the-scenes footage of the production of the live show), interviews with Sylvan and their main technicians, and a slide show. There are English subtitles for the interviews. Everything from the lightshow to the audio and video quality is excellent.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, an under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic, and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and real strings. It is majesty without bombast. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
Four years in the making, Anti-Matter Poetry (2010, 65-minutes) is stunning. What we said about Voices is just as applicable here, but everything has been perfected. Some bands in the ‘modern progressive’ category are not capable of playing convincing classic symphonic prog, but parts of Anti-Matter Poetry are exactly that, with the largest debt owed to Pink Floyd (as is also the case with Porcupine Tree and many of the other modern prog bands). And some bands are in the modern prog category mainly because they’ve diluted and dumbed down the music with metal, grunge, etc., but that’s not the case with t. What does put t in the modern prog category is the prevailing mood of melancholy and alienation, the skillful use of samples and loops to augment but not form the basis of the music, and the finely-detailed atmospheres.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack, 66-minutes) is t’s fourth. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Fragmentropy (2015, digipack, 77-minutes) and Epistrophobia (2016, digipack, 78-minutes) continue an amazing string of albums for Thielen, with t now getting the recognition this music deserves. Read the Progradar and Sea of Tranquility reviews of Fragmentropy. “Thielen’s music has always demanded your time and attention when listening to it in return for the rewards it eventually yields. It is a hugely impressive and deliciously complex weaving of lyrical poetry and philosophy with musical inspiration and hard fought creativity to form a sombre yet highly melodic set of heartfelt explorations which are intellectually intense and emotionally provocative in equal measure... Profoundly brilliant.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review of Epistrophobia, also the Sea of Tranquility review.
2013 debut CD by a Swiss prog band. Watch the video for the song Back to Saskatchewan.
Recorded in 2000, 101 is the second studio album for German neo-prog band Tea for Two, following their 1993 debut and a 1996 live album Snapshots. Neither of their previous albums was anything to write home about, but they made great strides with 101. Sung in English, this is similar enough to Clepsydra or just about any of the Marillion-derived European neo-prog bands to appeal to the same fans. There are plenty of 1970s-inspired passages as well, suggesting Machiavel and others. There is a lot of excellent symphonic prog on an album that has been overlooked in the U.S.
Tea for Two take their time between albums, but each has improved significantly on the previous, and Twisted (2006) is their best yet. After opening with a prog-flamenco song, there are many medieval/renaissance touches from recorders, mandolin, and acoustic guitar (think Jethro Tull), plus guest musicians adding fretless bass, cello, female vocals, and more. The music is no longer in Marillion territory but is more original, high-caliber melodic progressive rock.
Michael Schumpelt is the keyboardist of Tea for Two, and Mirror of My Soul (2006) is a solo grand piano album. It’s hard for many prog fans to get tremendously excited about solo piano albums, but this one is quite entertaining because the songs sound like piano arrangements of rock songs. Well, that’s what at least some of them are, since there are Tea for Two songs here. Schumpelt is influenced by Tony Banks, though that is only one aspect of his style. “Michael Schumpelt’s Mirror of My Soul is in many ways a remarkable album of rather extraordinary piano music and should be essential listening for anybody having respect for any kind of good symphonic music, as well as those art-rock fans who are able not only to recognize their beloved music in the absence of a rock component, but also to accept it in such a form”. [Progressor.net]
This is the CD reissue of a 1971 LP that had been a real collector’s item, as only 400 copies were pressed on vinyl. The CD adds a 14-minute bonus live track from 1972. Read reviews at Prog Archives. (There is an audio sample there.) The mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Earth Vision Impact is the 2001 debut by a Swiss trio of keys, bass/guitars, and drums, engineered and produced by Pär Lindh. This is solid keyboard-dominated progressive rock, ELP and Pär Lindh Project being obvious references, but with many other influences incorporated. There is a bit of Anekdoten-style darkness and dissonance here, and plenty of power. Here is an mp3 sampler from the CD. See also Flavio Mezzodi’s CD above.
Toxic Smile is the other band of keyboardist/composer Marek Arnold of Seven Steps to the Green Door. Toxic Smile is the longer-running band, but given that the two bands have the same composer and some overlapping personnel, they sound quite similar, and all the good things we’ve said about Seven Steps apply to Toxic Smile.
I’m Your Saviour (2011, 62-minutes) displays a more mature Toxic Smile than on their earlier albums. There is metal guitar present at times, but to call this prog-metal is selling Toxic Smile short. The music mixes many influences but overall is closer to Martigan or Pallas than to Dream Theater, and Toxic Smile singer Larry B. has a voice much better suited to progressive rock than to metal; that is, he sings in his natural, unaffected voice and doesn’t over-sing, posture, or growl. The bulk of the material here has little to do with metal, and even on the tracks with metal guitar, the music is too melodic, arty, and tasteful to be saddled with the prog-metal tag. After all, Toxic Smile’s leader is a keyboardist. This may not be Genesis or Yes, but it is classy neo-prog with plenty of clever bits and 1970s flavors from Marek Arnold’s keyboards making it an excellent CD. Listen to The Abyss, Liquid Wall, I’m Your Saviour, and Endless Cycle. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
7 (digipack) is their 2013 studio CD. “Toxic Smile is a band from Germany that, in my opinion, is not quite progressive metal. They are too varied, creative, and simply genius to fall under any one umbrella. While they do have some seriously heavy moments, Toxic Smile is definitely focused more on melody and groove than on being heavy or technical for no real reason. They combine a groovy, active bass guitar with absolutely astounding drums, a plethora of keys with a huge range of styles, jazzy saxophone, gorgeous violin, and some unique vocals. So they seem to get really heavy when they feel the need, but they have so much else going on that they don’t need to do it all the time... Toxic Smile’s “7” is one of the best albums of 2013.” Read the full review at Prog Archives. Watch the album trailer video and the official video for the song From Inside Out.
The track list for Farewell (2015, digipack) is concise: there’s the title track (42:11), and that’s it. Like Echolyn’s Mei, another one song album, Farewell features a string ensemble, which provides a distinctive atmosphere for this concept album. Hopefully “farewell” is part of the concept and not Toxic Smile saying goodbye, as after almost 20 years of honing their craft, this may be the band’s strongest statement. Their trademark style is close to perfection here, a musical maelstrom of different colors and textures, shifting tempos and moods, magnificent melodies and themes reappearing in different guises.
Overdue Visit (2009) is a four song, 23-minute CD-EP with two excellent energetic songs and two mellower songs; the latter are arguably where Arnold’s songwriting is best displayed.
M.A.D. is Toxic Smile’s debut. Cold war veterans probably assume that M.A.D. stands for Mutual Assured Destruction, but it’s actually short for Madness and Despair. The album was originally released in 2000 in Germany and picked up by Sony/BMG Korea for a 2001 release in Asia. This is the 2011 digipack reissue on Progressive Promotion Records, limited to only 500 copies. The audio has been remastered and includes the two additional tracks on the Asian edition, 63-minutes total. This album overall is a bit heavier, but when it is prog-metal, it is a very melodic prog-metal with as many aspects of classic progressive rock as metal. Saga deserve mention as an influence, and as the CD includes an energetic cover of Owner of a Lonely Heart, put Yes in there too. On the ballads, singer Larry B. starts to sound like Phil Collins, while the 13-minute Arirang will leave few prog fans wanting. M.A.D. is a very strong debut where Arnold’s writing skills and the musicianship of the band members is immediately apparent. And they would only get better...
See the related band Cyril.
There aren’t many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with “Traum” (“Dream”) do. Ausgeliefert (digisleeve) is the 2014 remastered reissue of Traumhaus’s 2001 debut, which was originally self-titled and had a different cover. The music is stylistically similar to neo-prog bands such as early Sylvan, but with German vocals reminiscent of the old East German bands such as Stern Meissen, Lift, and Electra. And some of the material is on the same level as those bands. This new edition adds two 2004 instrumental bonus tracks that were originally slated for the 2005 Hinaus EP, but were instead heavily modified and added to Die Andere Seite. Listen to the album sampler.
After the Hinaus EP and some personnel changes, Traumhaus returned in 2008 with Die Andere Seite (The Other Side). This is the 2014 second edition, which has been partly remixed and fully remastered, comes in a digisleeve and adds two bonus tracks, one from 2009, the other an English-language version of a song from Das Geheimnis. About half this album is neo-prog and prog-metal, while half is classic prog that exceeds their earlier work. The keyboardist favors vintage sounds, and the album is chock full of Mellotron, Hammond, Minimoog, Fender, etc. In fact, it’s one of the most Mellotron-heavy albums in recent years. There are times when Traumhaus cause flashbacks to prime-period Stern Meissen and Novalis, with an even more powerful sound. Unfortunately, the guitarist switches to metal mode on some tracks, and the music becomes rather ordinary. Well, extraordinary for prog-metal, because the keyboardist does everything he can to keep the music symphonic, but ordinary relative to Traumhaus’s other material. On balance though, this is one of the most under-recognized progressive bands. Listen to the album sampler.
Das Geheimnis (2013, digipack) features Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on drums, rather unexpected for a band that sings in German! This album continues along the lines of Die Andere Seite, a combination of classic and neo-prog, some metal moments but loads of vintage keys, centered on the 27-minute epic Das Vermächtnis (The Legacy). The music is strongly melodic with exciting instrumental passages, and is much richer for the German-language lyrics that give it character and distinctiveness, still evoking Stern Meissen vocally. English translations of the lyrics are included. (Those so-called prog fans who insist music be sung in English and have a generic Anglo-American sound will not know who Stern Meissen is anyway.) Watch/listen to the album sampler. Watch a bit of Jimmy Keegan recording his parts and hear more of the album.
Traumpfad are that rarity today among German progressive rock bands, one that sings in German. Serious prog fans are familiar with bands such as Novalis, Stern Meissen, Lift, etc., German bands who sang in German. There were more during the 1970s and 1980s, but as part of the homogenization of progressive rock, non-English vocals were outlawed in many countries. Now you commonly find Americans (and probably Brits) who call themselves progressive rock fans even though they’ve only ever listened to bands that sing in English. So we find a band such as Traumpfad refreshing because the German vocals do change the character of the music, but that’s not the main reason. While Traumpfad’s members are young, and their second CD Die Kreise schließen sich (2006, digipack) was recorded in RPWL’s studio, it is mostly in the classic German symphonic prog style, or at least an update of that style. The keyboards are piano, organ, Mellotron, and analog synth, including Teutonic electronics on one track. Their singer is very good, and the vocals bring to mind the old DDR prog bands (e.g., Stern Meissen, Lift, Electra), but Grobschnitt, Novalis, and Anyone’s Daughter are also good references. Given how many classic-style German prog records have been recorded in the previous 20 years (approximately none), this for us may be the best German prog album since the first generation bands packed it in. (Yes, bands such as RPWL and Sylvan have made some great albums in a more modern style, but they may as well be British. There is nothing in their music per se that suggests they’ve ever listened to the prog bands from their own country.)
RPWL’s Yogi Lang produced Aufbruch (2011, digibook), Traumpfad’s third. Relative to Die Kreise schließen sich, Aufbruch is heavier, with guitar more to the fore. The vintage keys and powerful Teutonic vocals still tie the music to the classic era, the end result being a more contemporary sounding variation on the style of Die Kreise schließen sich.
Traumpfad’s 2004 self-titled debut CD (64-minutes) is more varied and a bit wilder, not as symphonic nor as melodic as their later albums. It is still 1970s-styled, a mix of progressive rock, period hard rock, and Krautrock. Those who prefer the numerous 1970s Krautrock bands to the symphonic German bands will prefer the first CD, which comes in non-standard packaging that resembles a hardcover book.
This is the CD reissue of the 1979 album from a German ELP-style progressive rock band, with one bonus track. Trilogy were a quintet however, featuring two keyboardists, guitar, bass, and drums. They also have a melodic/romantic side comparable to Rousseau. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve. Read the Exposé and Prog Archives reviews.
Tritonus is the German prog band that was led by keyboardist Peter Seiler, who went on to make a name for himself in synth music and soundtrack work. Tritonus was a classical-rock trio in the ELP format and style. They released two studio LPs: their self-titled debut in 1975, and Between the Universes in 1976. The three Germans played a gig at Stagge’s Hotel in Osterholz-Scharmbeck in October 1977, documented on this 2015 digipack CD on the Sireena label. The CD contains seven long-to-very-long live tracks: four songs from the first album and three from the second, some greatly expanded from the studio versions.
These two CDs are compilations featuring the artists on the German Sireena label. Jazzkraut (2011, digipack) features tracks from German jazz-rock bands Moira, Embryo, Real Ax Band, Aera, Uli Trepte, Annexus Quam, Kraan, Klaus Doldinger, Holde Fee, Munju, Missus Beastly, Guru Guru, Volker Kriegel, and Wolfgang Dauner’s Et Cetera.
The Spirit of Sireena Vol. 5 (2010, digisleeve) covers a wider range of styles and features tracks from Snowball, Curt Cress Combo, Out of Focus, Mott the Hoople, Gillan, Grobschnitt, and ten others. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Versus X is a German band led by guitarist/singer Arne Schäfer (who also has numerous albums under the name Apogee) and keyboardist Ekkehard Nahm. They are most inspired by Van der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill; additionally the darker side of Genesis can be heard, also King Crimson and Pink Floyd could be mentioned. It’s an original and complex music with long tracks, dark atmospheres, and philosophical lyrics (in English). The instrumental sections are beyond reproach, while opinion will probably be divided on the vocal sections. Schäfer’s voice is fine, but the lyrics can be verbose even by Hammill standards.
Live At The Spirit (2002) is the recording of a memorable show given by Versus X in Belgium. The result is four long tracks taken from their three previous studio albums.
Primordial Ocean (2007) is a 73-minute CD with five tracks, and if you ignore the short piano piece, the remaining four tracks are all over 15-minutes long. It is again classic 1970s-style symphonic prog, with references to the aforementioned bands, and should have great appeal to fans of Anglagard as well.
After being unavailable for years, Versus X’s eponymous 1994 debut was remastered from the original tapes and reissued by Musea in 2010 with one bonus track.
Vinc Project is primarily the work of Vincent Zermatten (Vinc for short) of Switzerland. His regular job is guitarist in the band Ever Since, who apparently are one of the three million metal bands in Europe. But My Story (2008) has very little to do with metal. Vinc plays just about everything here: keys, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals, and is assisted by a violinist, a cellist, and two singers. The music is melancholy, full-sounding symphonic rock that sounds very much like a full band. Some tracks are sonically dense, featuring Mellotron strings sometimes in combination with violin and cello, a fairly unique approach. In contrast, some passages are airy and delicate. The vocals (lyrics in English) are processed to sound somewhat disembodied, and while there are vocals with real melody lines, a few are more spoken than sung, altogether adding a psychedelic flavor. The music is lush and atmospheric, with varying climates that are often quite lovely, yet underlined with sadness. The album is accessible and especially appealing to those who love the Mellotron. Now give those MySpace audio samples a listen so this description begins to make sense.
If you asked us to name the most under-recognized artists in progressive rock, Yacobs would be near the top of the list. Yacobs is the side project of Argos’ drummer Ulf Jacobs, so now that Argos are finally getting some of the attention they deserve, hopefully that carries over to Yacobs. Time Machine (2011) is the fourth Yacobs album. Jacobs sings (in English) and takes care of drums and keys, while other musicians play bass, flute, acoustic and electric guitars. The music is lush, melodic, Genesis-derived symphonic rock with understated vocals. Along with the Mellotron, Taurus bass pedals, and other vintage keyboard sounds, this belongs in the classic prog genre. On a couple tracks, Jacobs includes an analog sequencer playing a simple ostinato that will remind you of the German band P’cock (unless you’ve never heard P’cock, in which case it won’t.) Listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Clouds (2012) is the fifth Yacobs album. The songwriting chops here are not common in prog today. While Clouds doesn’t sound overtly like either, one can’t help but think of Peter Gabriel and of Genesis. The music is instantly likeable and yet quite inventive. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This Zara-thustra (with the hyphen) is not to be confused with any other German band named Zarathustra (there are several). This Zara-thustra is a Munich-based symphonic rock band formed in 1982 by Hermann Weindorf (keyboards, vocals), who had previously played with Doldinger’s Passport, along with his brothers Berthold (vocals, saxophone, clarinet), Alfons (vocals, drums), and Clemens (vocals, horn, keyboards), plus Walter Black (vocals, drums) and Max Sprenger (vocals, keyboards). They released three LPs between 1983-1985 from which this 2015 compilation CD (digipack) draws 16 songs selected by the musicians themselves, all with German lyrics, giving the music a flavor seldom heard today. Some of the music sounds like 1980s radio fare, albeit with classical flourishes and some unlikely elements. It is very melodic, full of hooks, and much more (new) romantic than the NDW (German new wave) bands prevalent at that time.
Zenit are a Swiss band from the Ticino, the Italian-speaking Swiss canton, formed by members of or musicians who have worked with Clepsydra, Changes, and Shakary. That’s pretty much every progressive band in the canton. After CDs in 2001 and 2006, it took until 2013 for Zenit’s third CD The Chandrasekhar Limit. Zenit’s music relates to all the aforementioned bands. If you’re not familiar with them, think in terms of Marillion and Genesis. Zenit remind us at times of Flame Dream, who may still be the best symphonic prog band to come out of Switzerland. At least it sounds like what Flame Dream might produce today if they were active and wanted to make a prog album. (Like many bands of their era, Flame Dream’s final output was commercial.) Read the Prog Rock Music Talk, DPRP, and Jerry Lucky reviews. Listen to the album sampler.
Berlin-based prog quintet Zenobia debuted in 1999 with the 70-minute October, an entertaining if unspectacular neo-prog work. After a seven year hiatus, Zenobia returned with Delayed (2006). This is a much-improved 74-minute neo-prog opus including a very long multi-part epic. “The German Spock’s Beard” might not be far off the mark. There are touches of prog-metal as is required these days, but the exciting keyboard-dominated instrumental passages are more the highlight. English-language vocals of course. Read the ProgNaut and Prog-Nose reviews.