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Rog Patterson was half of the duo Twice Bitten. Following the dissolution of Twice Bitten in 1986, Rog carried on in a similar style, releasing the cassette albums M25 (1986) and Talking to the Weather (1987), The Unexpected EP (1988), and the LP Flightless (1989). He toured extensively after Flightless, collaborated with Nigel Mazlyn Jones (whose style is similar) and Anthony Phillips, and became a member of Coltsfoot, appearing on the albums Action at a Distance (featuring a young Steven Wilson) and A Winter Harvest. By this time, Rog was touring regularly with Pendragon as sound engineer, which led to more sound engineering and tour management work. The Flightless CD (2017, digipack) offered here contains the six songs from the LP remastered plus three bonus tracks; one appears on Talking to the Weather and the other two are previously-unreleased. Stylistically, Rog describes his music as “gluten-free Jethro Tull”. Not overly keen on the phrase ‘singer-songwriter’, he regards himself simply as a lyricist who owns some guitars; he takes his lyrics very seriously, and himself not even slightly seriously. Thanks to the Bad Elephant label for rescuing this music.
Ryan Parmenter was the leader of the band Eyestrings and is the nephew of Matthew Parmenter of Discipline. Clearly they share a lot of prog DNA as well as talent. One can hear songwriting chops and a melodic sense underlying Eyestrings’ dark, brooding progressive rock that is absent in many prog bands, and on The Noble Knave (2007), Parmenter makes that songwriting ability abundantly clear. The Noble Knave is a wonderful progressive pop album, a collection of songs written by Parmenter over the previous ten years. There is a strong Beatles influence, songs reminiscent of City Boy, some Beach Boys-level vocal harmonies, and much more. It is lively, fun, and very English. How a guy from Michigan can make such English-sounding music is a mystery. It’s all very clever and carried off with an obvious progressive sensibility, and the album is not as self-consciously retro nor as derivative as some other modern attempts at bringing the spirit of The Beatles forward. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews.
While The Noble Knave is best referred to as prog-pop, One of a Different Color (2018, digipack, 59-minutes) is very much in the progressive rock vein of Eyestrings. The guitar work of David Dawkins features on half of the tracks, and Matthew Parmenter makes a cameo on violin on the title track. The album seems to have been intentionally organized into a side 1 and side 2, with the bitter, more dissonant songs on side 1. Side 2 does a 180, containing hopeful, joyous, majestic symphonic prog, arguably the best music Parmenter has produced under any name. And what we’re calling side 2 is actually close to 60% of the album.
Part of the British progressive revival, Welsh prog band Multi Story released their first LP East/West in 1985. We must’ve liked it because it became the second CD released on the Kinesis label (or whatever we were calling the label in 1992). The key members of the quintet are writing partners Rob Wilsher (keyboards) and Paul Ford (vocals). There was a second Multi-Story LP (there used to be a hyphen in their name), 1987’s Through Your Eyes, with a different singer, but don’t fret too much if you’ve never heard it as it’s a fairly tepid AOR affair. More recently, Wilsher and Ford got the creative juices flowing again and started working on new material as a duo. The material was nearing completion when Rob met brothers Jordan and Aedan Neale on another music project, which sparked the idea of reworking the material to accommodate a full band and fire up the Multi Story machine again. Bassist Kyle Jones completed the new lineup, and the band began gearing up for live dates. With the key original members in charge, Crimson Stone (2016) resembles East/West except that while the latter contained mostly short songs, Crimson Stone has mostly long tracks, only one under five minutes. If you’re not familiar with East/West (it’s out-of-print), the music was closer to Yes than to Genesis/Marillion, which set Multi-Story apart from the other neo-prog bands. The Yes influence may be more imagined than real though, the similarity between Paul Ford’s and Jon Anderson’s voices having much to do with the perception. To rerun an old quote from CD Services: “The band actually sound similar to Yes but not in the clone way that Starcastle did, more like imagining that if Yes existed in a parallel universe, this might be the musical direction they could have taken. This is how they might sound, only with a bit more variation and less intensity, but still with a sound full of rich textures and excellent compositions plus good vocals from Paul Ford. This UK band had the potential to be big during the second phase of prog rock in the 1980s, but like many other excellent bands, it never quite happened.”
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998. Then nothing was heard from Drifting Sun until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance.
This is the limited edition of Safe Asylum (2016), which contains two additional instrumental tracks (that first appeared several months earlier on the download-only Alice EP). Safe Asylum is darker, more complex and serious sounding than Trip the Life Fantastic. The mostly long tracks are quite involved, though the music remains melodic to be sure. The keyboardist is the bandleader, so the guitar/keys balance is enforced. At this point, Fugazi-era Marillion is only a distant ancestor, as Drifting Sun have ambitiously taken their music into other realms. Read the Progradar and Progarchives reviews.
English band Big Big Train began in the early 1990s as a soft neo-prog band, but steadily improving with each album, they have grown into one of the top progressive rock bands in the world, and one that is breaking new ground. The band that had already added drummer Nick D’Virgilio, former XTC and Peter Gabriel guitarist Dave Gregory, and best-singer-in-prog David Longdon, has now added Beardfish mastermind Rikard Sjöblom! Who doesn’t want to board Big Big Train now?
Big Big Train’s 10th album Grimspound (2017, digisleeve) followed swiftly after Folklore as the band found themselves with a wealth of new material and writing input from their newer members. They probably also realize that they’re at both a creative and popularity peak and are not taking the future for granted. Bassist Greg Spawton says: “There is some complex music on this album, with extended instrumental sections alongside vocal passages. We had a lot of fun making the album and have pushed ourselves as progressive rock bands should.” Judy Dyble adds vocals to “a song concerning the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” Nick and Rachel sing some lead parts on this album, further expanding the sonic palette. Watch the videos for As the Crow Flies and Experimental Gentlemen. Read the Progradar, The Progressive Aspect, and The Prog Report reviews.
John Hackett is of course Steve’s younger brother and longtime sideman, known best as a flute player but he also plays guitar, bass, bass pedals, and keyboards. John’s newly-formed band features classical guitar specialist Nick Fletcher, Jeremy Richardson (bass, vocals, acoustic & 12-string guitars), and Duncan Parsons (drums). They debut with the studio album We Are Not Alone (2017, 2CD, digipack). Steve Hackett makes a token appearance. This is the deluxe 2CD edition. The second disc is titled Another Live, recorded at the Classic Rock Society in 2016 featuring live performances of 19 songs from Checking Out of London and Another Life. Check our British page for more John Hackett CDs.
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.
Bring Me to the Water (2016) is a seven-track CD with a playing time of 34:34 by a Dutch prog quintet featuring powerful and beautiful female vocals somewhat similar to Magenta’s Christina Booth. While five of the tracks are listed as bonus tracks, they are actually remastered versions of the band’s earlier material. Nothing is repeated; they are different songs. The album was produced and mixed by Christiaan Bruin (Chris, The Black Codex). Read the Muzikman review. The CD comes in a simple printed cardboard jacket (no booklet).
Collision (2017, digisleeve) is Golden Cave’s first full-length CD, again mixed and mastered by Christiaan Bruin. The album contains reworked versions of their first two singles plus seven brand new songs. This is a talented young band making music that is undeniably prog but capable of drawing a wider audience into the fold. Songs with actual hooks that you want to hear a second time, imagine that! Read the Progradar review.
Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 is a double-CD (2016, digipack) for Spanish prog band Kotebel, featuring a remastered version of the album released in 2014 only as a digital download, containing Kotebel’s complete concert at the 2013 Prog-Résiste convention in Belgium. The album features the complete Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble plus pieces from Ouroboros. As such, this is Kotebel’s modern style, which is challenging and complex, closer to the likes of Anglagard, as opposed to Kotebel’s earlier more melodic/romantic style. This 2CD adds bonus tracks from Kotebel’s concerts at Portugal’s Gouveia Art Rock festival in 2007 and Madrid in 2011. There may still be a couple more Kotebel titles on our Spanish page.
Unsongs (2016, digipack) is the debut CD for Mancunians Mothertongue, the most Cardiacs-like band to come out of England since the beloved Cardiacs. (Not that any other country could have produced Cardiacs.) ““Let’s hope they don’t notice how little sense it makes before they release it,” said Mothertongue drummer John Simm of their debut LP on signing to Bad Elephant. It was a fair point. Much of Unsongs makes no sense at all. Single songs span several different subgenres, and stated influences include imaginary numbers, science fiction, and dinosaurs. All of which is unsurprising, perhaps, for a ‘random collection of musicians’ with a collective propensity for hopping from gypsy cabaret to ska to indie prog to Sensational Alex Harvey Band-esque madness. A lot is crammed in, weaved into tight proggy timings that slickly change by the minute... For ears that relish glorious chaos, look no further than Unsongs.” [Prog magazine] Also read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
Maglev is a Dutch sympho-prog band coincidentally centered on talented singer and multi-instrumentalist Joost Maglev (which sounds like a made-up surname, but who knows), with Robby Valentine on piano, Sebas Honing on guitar, a violinist, and two backing singers. Joost has played in many bands and has released music under his own name in a progressive pop vein. He is amazing at Queen-style harmony vocals. (Listen to his earlier song Nymph.) Overwrite the Sin (2016, digisleeve) is Maglev gone full-on prog, featuring five tracks, the shortest 8:15. Each track emphasizes a different prog sub-style, with allusions to Yes, Queen, Kayak, A.C.T, City Boy, and maybe Cardiacs (the latter named by Joost as a musical hero). So there is exuberant pomp-prog, Yes grandeur, A Night at the Opera eccentricity, and modern heaviness, always melodic and grand scale. Overwrite the Sin is obviously the product of someone who learned how to write songs first before expanding the arrangements as required by prog. We were going to work magnetic and levitation into this blurb but didn’t want to force it. Watch the album trailer. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh of Resistor (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar).
Lost and Found (2016) is a double-CD in a gorgeous six-panel mini-LP style sleeve, full of Ed Unitsky’s incredible artwork, with a 32-page booklet. Working with original members of Pavlov’s Dog, Lift, Cathedral, Odyssey, and Quill, The Samurai of Prog have excavated lost prog epics from the 1970s by these bands. Because of dissolving record contracts, band line-up changes, and the shifting landscape of popular music, these amazing compositions were never properly recorded... until now! These songs had survived only as old cassettes containing demo recordings, band rehearsals, or live performances. The Samurai have recorded stunning, brand-new arrangements, and the result transcends a mere new prog album. This is living history, or revisionist history, rendered in audiophile quality. The Samurai of Prog remains the core trio of Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti, and Steve Unruh, plus Tom Doncourt and the late Stefan Renström (Simon Says). Special guests include Jon Davison (Yes), Mark Trueack (UPF, Unitopia), K. Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), David Myers (The Musical Box, solo), Linus Kåse (Änglagård), Chip Gremillion (Lift), Keith Christian (Quill), Johan Öijen (Brighteye Brison), and Steve Scorfina (Pavlov’s Dog). The album includes a 57-minute track The Demise written by Ken DeLoria and the other Quill members. Watch the album overview video.
Sorceress (2016) is Opeth’s 12th full length release, their metal past not just in the rear view mirror now but effectively out of sight. This is the 2CD limited edition digipack which adds a second disc including two more brand new tracks plus three classics live. It was interesting to hear bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt praise Il Paese dei Balocchi’s 1972 sole album in a recent interview -- it’s encouraging to encounter that depth today when it seems many bands’ knowledge of prog consists of having heard a couple Pink Floyd albums. Read the Sputnik Music and The Prog Report reviews. Watch the videos for Will o the Wisp (hear Opeth sound like Jethro Tull!), The Wilde Flowers (named after the seminal Canterbury band), and the title track.
Huis is composed of veterans of the Montreal music scene. Though not a founding member, Mystery bandleader/guitarist Michel St-Père joined Huis more recently, and Mystery is not a bad reference point. Neither in Heaven (2016, 68-minutes, digipack) is their second. Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) guests on keyboards, while other musicians guest on keyboards and flute. Arena might be the best comparison now. Read the Power of Prog review.
This is the U.S. jewel case edition of The Tangent’s eighth album A Spark in the Aether (2015), which contains the same bonus track as the European edition. This CD is subtitled The Music That Died Alone - Volume Two, a reference to The Tangent’s debut album. The lineup now is Andy Tillison, Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin, and new drummer Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan band, Kaipa, Frank Zappa). Tillison says: “This is an album that seeks to return to the core of what The Tangent means to me… After our big orchestral opus that we delivered in Le Sacre du Travail, we’re to an extent reining in the instrumentation to the 5-piece electric prog rock band and focusing a little more on that all-important second word of the genre name: rock. At least (grins with less than average teeth) for the first half!” This time around, The Tangent incorporate American influences, ensuring A Spark in the Aether has something new to offer. “This will probably be my album of the year for 2015... It is not every day that you hear an album for the first time and realise you are listening to an absolute masterpiece of writing, playing, and production. In this case it happened, and on subsequent listens gets even better.” Read the full Background Magazine review, also The Progressive Aspect review. Watch the videos for the title track and San Francisco.
See our British page for more The Tangent CDs.
Kind of surprising no one combined “progressive” and “fusion” for this band name before, even if there is little real fusion here. Profusion are an Italian heavy prog quintet (vocals in English, keys, guitars, bass, drums), who you might file alongside Subsignal. Profusion’s drummer is a native of Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), which explains the Georgian ethnic elements that appear in some songs. Phersu (2015, digipack) is Profusion’s third album and features well-known guests from outside Italy, including Mamuka Ghaghanidze from Georgian ethnic fusion band The Shin, Polish virtuoso accordionist Jakub Mietła, and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, originally from Georgia. (To see/hear Anita, watch the video for Wrinkled Maiden). A creative band like Profusion expands heavy prog beyond its usual restricted boundaries.
Stefano Panunzi is a key figure in that ambient & jazz inflected prog subgenre that may not yet have a name but can count musicians such as Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison, Tim Bowness (not to mention Henry Fool and No-Man), David Sylvian, and the late Mick Karn among its other leading lights. Panunzi is leader of the band Fjieri, who debuted in 2009 with Endless. All those musicians apart from Sylvian played on that album, alongside quite a few others. Words Are All We Have (2015, digipack) is Fjieri’s second, another Anglo-Italian project, the participants this time including Fjieri core member Nicola Lori, Bowness, Harrison, 05Ric, Jakko M. Jakszyk, Daniele Iacono (Ezra Winston), American expat trumpeter Mike Applebaum, and several others. Lori’s twisting fretless bass is a worthy successor to Mick Karn’s. Most of the songs have vocals, sung by Jakszyk except one by Bowness, and they are quality songs. Imagine the band Japan (at the end of their career) extrapolated into even more progressive realms, merging with King Crimson, No-Man, and the solo work of all these great musicians. Watch the album trailer. Check our Italian page for Panunzi’s solo CDs.
Dutch neo-prog quartet Nice Beaver debuted in 2002 with On Dry Land and expanded their style on Oregon (2004). For The Time It Takes (2015, digipack), Nice Beaver followed Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Trion over to the Polish Oskar label, not surprising given how intertwined these Dutch prog bands are. Nice Beaver take another step forward with this album, showing an even stronger kinship to Camel as well as to Rush and Marillion, with jazzy touches throughout. Listen to the album teaser.
Belgian band Neo-Prophet debuted in 2009 with Monsters. No points for guessing they’re a neo-prog band, but they are an uncommonly good one. There are Marillion-isms to be sure (the words misplaced childhood even appear in the lyrics), but Neo-Prophet are not simply Marillion/Arena imitators. They add touches of hard rock, while loads of symphonic keyboards maintain the guitars/keys balance. Ultimately, Neo-Prophet have the songwriting chops and the intangibles that distinguish the best neo-prog bands from the paint-by-numbers bands, resulting in music that is exciting and catchy.
The major change on T.I.M.E. (2015, digipack) is that the hyphen in the band name is gone. That and the fact that only bandleader/singer/bassist Hans Six remains from the previous lineup. The new guitarist and new keyboardist are both on loan from Quantum Fantay! Otherwise not too much has changed. The music is at times heavier and more bombastic, the album alternating between heavier, slightly metallic prog and purer melodic/symphonic prog. Which is how it is for most neo-prog circa 2015, and neo-prog fans will likely be thrilled with T.I.M.E. Frank van Bogaert (Fish on Friday) mixed and mastered. Watch the album preview video.
Remembrance (2015, digipack) is the third album for Maiden uniteD, an all-star project whose charter is to rearrange and perform Iron Maiden songs using mainly acoustic instrumentation. (Are they counting Hammond organ as an acoustic instrument? Because there’s a lot of Hammond.) Forget about that, this is symphonic prog. This is not some sort of unplugged, small, mellow music. There are bass and drums, and this is often big, dramatic, bombastic, and symphonic. You absolutely do not need to be an Iron Maiden fan to appreciate this. The 13 musicians include founder Joey Bruers, Damian Wilson as primary vocalist, Ruud Jolie and Mike Coolen (Within Temptation), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), and other established musicians. Watch the album trailer and all will become clear.
See our British page for the info on these CDs, plus more Mostly Autumn titles. See our DVDs page for Mostly Autumn DVDs.
Smorgasbord (2009) is the third CD for this Norwegian prog band. How can they be less than famous? As with Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers, and other contemporaneous Scandinavian bands, Brimstone do a modern, proggier take on classic early 1970s rock, with influences extending back into the late 1960s. The first cliché that comes to mind is ‘a breath of fresh air’, but that occurred to at least one of the reviewers linked to below, so no need to repeat it. Some of the music is what used to be called ‘rural rock’, with CSN&Y style vocals, but done up in proggy arrangements that result in what we’ll call ‘feel-good prog’ because of the sunny, summer mood. And some of the music is more overtly proggy, which feels even better than the ‘feel-good prog’. Read reviews at Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility.
Thankfully the band shortened their name to just Brimstone for their 2014 CD Mannsverk. (Don’t panic, they still sing in English.) Brimstone again deliver vintage prog using vintage instruments with crisp modern production. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Eden Shadow are a young Welsh prog band on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s White Knight label. They debuted in 2012 with a mostly instrumental CD-EP called Hail. Phases (2014, digipack) is their first full-length CD, and it does have vocals. Instrumentally, Eden Shadow are a guitar/bass/drums trio with the guitarist and drummer adding keyboards; like so many modern prog bands, they lack a true keyboardist. Nik Turner guests with a flute solo on one track.
Agnieszka Swita is the Polish (female) singer, songwriter, and other core member of Clive Nolan’s Caamora Theatre Company, responsible for Alchemy in 2013 and She in 2007. Agnieszka’s first solo album Sleepless (2014) features Clive Nolan on keyboards, orchestrations, and backing vocals; Steve Harris (Ark, Paul Menel Band) on guitars, Andy Faulkner (Jump, Twelfth Night) on bass; and Dave Mackintosh on drums. The music and lyrics are all Agnieszka’s apart from the title track which is Nolan’s. Nolan produced while Karl Groom engineered, mixed, and mastered at Thin Ice Studios, home to Pendragon, Arena, and other British neo-prog bands. This album has that bombastic Thin Ice sound and sounds a lot like Arena with female vocals, or Caamora without the histrionics.
Despite the Norwegian/Germanic looking name, Røsenkreütz are an Italian band led by Fabio Serra. Serra began as guitarist for the band Arlequin, who released a cassette at the beginning of the prog revival, then went on to Genesis tribute band Yellow Plastic Shoobedoo. (Both bands featured the late D.F.A. keyboardist Alberto Bonomi.) From 1989 on, Serra has worked as a producer and engineer in addition to musician and composer, which will explain the high production values on this CD. The genesis of Back to the Stars (2014) was a project Serra began long ago with Leviathan singer Alex Brunori. More recently, Serra assembled the Røsenkreütz band (both studio and live) and completed this album with the help of some guests that include a violinist and Cristiano Roversi (Moongarden, Mangala Vallis). Røsenkreütz sing in English and sport more Anglo influences than Italian, principally Genesis. The music is energetic with some Asia-style AOR mixed in and should hook most prog fans pretty quickly. As one Prog Archives reviewer says: “Back to the Stars is a near-perfect example of how good crossover bands can be when they get that balance of progressive technicality and melodic commercial appeal just right - no easy feat!” Read all the reviews at Prog Archives.
Sunchild is the Ukrainian prog band led by Antony Kalugin, who also runs Karfagen and a couple other projects in his spare time. Isolation (2012, digipack) is highlighted by the lengthy four-part title suite. Sunchild is no longer a studio project, as the band toured Europe in support of this CD. Read the Rocktopia and Background Magazine reviews.
As for The Wrap (2010): “Sunchild have produced a superb piece of orchestrated symphonic progressive rock, which appeals to fans of all genres of music including Camel and Marillion for two easy comparisons. I can see a huge leap forward musically for them on this release and hopefully it will be enjoyed by even more fans than his last release under the Sunchild moniker.” [Harmonic Lizard] Check our East European page for more Sunchild CDs and more info.
AKKO stands for Antony Kalugin’s Kinematics Orchestra. AKKO 1 (2013, 71-minutes, digipack) features Kalugin on keys, programming, voice; Max Velichko on guitars; Misha Sidorenko on alto sax; and Jacky Cat on violin and voice. AKKO is Kalugin’s vehicle for a more relaxing style of instrumental music than his other projects. If everything that uses a lot of electronic keyboards and samples, leisurely tempos, and not a lot of rock drums is new age, then this is new age-y. But it does feature quite a bit of electric guitar, and it does have low-key drums/percussion. The problem with the new age genre is that musicianship has often been lacking, and many of the artists lacked a rock background or experience in a band that might have given their music more depth. That’s not the case with Kalugin, so AKKO is more relaxed than his other work but never insipid. It is mellow music that can still be listened to with full concentration.
This amazing Pittsburgh ensemble have created a unique and contemporary progressive rock style. Even more impressive are their highly-imaginative stage shows, perhaps the best fusion of art-rock and performance art there is. Many reviewers have tried in vain to describe Squonk Opera’s music. One of our early attempts was “a collision between However, Clearlight, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Kate Bush, and Laurie Anderson”, though today that could be as misleading as it is helpful. Squonk Opera feature piano, synth and accordion; wind synth, flute and sax; female vocals; electric & double bass; drums & percussion; and electric & acoustic guitar. The music is full of odd meters and often a dark ambience, with Jackie Dempsey’s classical piano usually at the center of things. The woodwinds sometimes play Celtic flavored melodies, while the female voice is often used as another instrument. There is a sense of humor at play that is more obvious in their shows but does come through subtly on their CDs.
Pneumatica (2014, digipack) is the ninth CD but first purely instrumental album for Squonk Opera, and Squonk Opera may be even more alluring to prog fans as an instrumental band than they are with their usual female vocals. Take a minute and 26 seconds to watch this glimpse of Squonk’s fabulous Pneumatica show. You’ll see that Steve O’Hearn has a new toy: MIDI (electronic) bagpipes from Asturian piper and instrument maker Hevia. This adds a new dimension to Squonk Opera’s sound. You can find bands featuring pipes that play rock or add programmed beats, but none of them play in odd time signatures or have symphonic arrangements like this, none of them play progressive rock.
Go (2012, digipack) is the studio CD to accompany Squonk Opera’s Go Roadshow and to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Squonk Opera go through singers like Spinal Tap went through drummers (“bizarre gardening accident”), so you have to get used to a different female voice on each album. If you’ve followed Squonk Opera for a long time, it’s noticeable how their musicianship and ensemble playing continues to advance. It sounds effortless on this album, which has a higher energy level than past albums, serious chops balanced by serious wackiness.
Inferno (2002) is the music from an earlier production that applies Danté’s Inferno to the coal town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, where a mine fire simmers underground to this day.
Little Tragedies is a Russian symphonic prog band led by conservatory-trained composer/keyboardist/singer Gennady Ilyin. See our East European page for these and other Little Tragedies and related CDs, and all the info.
The Gift of Anxiety (2013, digipack) is the first full-length album for Dutch prog band Sylvium, following a 2012 EP. While that EP was instrumental and more a solo project of guitarist and band leader Ben van Gastel, Sylvium are a proper band now, and The Gift of Anxiety has some quality vocals. Their bassist is Gijs Koopman, formerly of Cliffhanger and Knight Area. The music covers symphonic, neo-, heavy, ambient and Floydian prog and more, probably falling primarily in the Anathema / Porcupine Tree / Riverside camp. Watch the album trailer and the video for Weathering. One copy left.
Sylvium further developed their sound on their second CD, the concept album Waiting for the Noise (2015, digisleeve). Watch the album trailer and the video for Signal to Noise. “I was suitably impressed by Sylvium’s debut album The Gift of Anxiety to say it was a brilliant progressive rock album, so how do you top that? You go one better with an album of exceptional songwriting and profoundly astute lyrics, where the musicianship is first-rate and the vocals become a definitive part of the story. There has been a lot of talk about how good Steven Wilson’s new release is, but for me, I think that this time David has slain Goliath. I doff my hat to Sylvium for producing one of this year’s most memorable albums so far.” [Progradar] Read the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
GnuQuartet are Italy’s Acoustic Asturias, a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute, with rock sensibilities. In fact Karma (2014) consists of five prog rock covers plus one original composition. The covers are Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa), Roundabout (Yes), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Hairless Heart (Genesis), and Concerto Grosso 1, Allegro (New Trolls), while the original Stereotaxis might just be the highlight. GnuQuartet are not entirely acoustic as there are occasional effects on the strings, and the percussive playing style is rock, not classical. Read the Exposé review. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art. The CD comes in a simple four-panel cardboard jacket (no booklet). Note GnuQuartet have collaborated with Mexican band Cast on recent Cast albums.
Carptree keyboardist Carl Westholm goes the Ayreon route with his Jupiter Society project, creating epic space operas using different vocalists and musicians on different tracks. Most of the musicians have a metal background, and to some extent the music sounds like a heavier, more metallic Carptree. While Jupiter Society tends to stay more grounded in symphonic rock than similar prog-metal projects, the metal aesthetic still dominates in the doomy melodies, the invariant plodding tempo, and the generally ponderous feel. First Contact Last Warning is from 2008, Terraform from 2009. Read the Jerry Lucky reviews of First Contact... and of Terraform. These two CDs are the U.S. editions.
Released by the artist, From Endangered to Extinct (2013, digipack) is the latest, most apocalyptic Jupiter Society CD, as Earth apparently loses this quarrel. Read the Proggnosis and Dangerdog reviews.
British band Legend formed in 1988 and released their first CD in 1991. They bill themselves as a pagan progressive rock band in that they draw upon the folklore and pre-Christian mysticism of the British Isles. They have always had a female lead vocalist, but they’ve gone through several.
Spirit (2013) is heavier than Legend’s past work, and when all is said and done, we suspect it will rate higher than any Legend album to date. While only a tiny bit of it could qualify as prog-metal, there is an aesthetic at play that will attract symphonic metal fans. Legend are more keyboard-heavy than any metal band though, so heavy neo-prog it shall be. New singer Beck Siàn, who has an established solo career, steals the show. Beck has a pure yet powerful voice, with great range and articulation, and a haunting delivery when she wants it. In her upper range, she’s unmistakably Kate Bush-y, which is interesting because the two are actually related, and Kate was an inspiration for Beck. Beck’s voice is sometimes multitracked to sound like a choir, giving the music a big, epic, gothic feel. The music opens up during the latter part of the album, with more space and nuance, an even better showcase for the vocals. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Sleeping with Fractals (2013) is a surprisingly good debut from Manchester, England’s Ontofield. You can often hear Pendragon and early Marillion in the music, but it’s unlike the second-rate imitators of those bands that we all heard enough of during the 1990s. There are lots of other influences including more modern ones, and a distinct personality, while the British songwriting and melodic sense is much in evidence. For diehard neo-prog fans at least, Ontofield may have been the best newcomer of that year. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The full artist name is Strandberg Project with Michael Manring & Friends. Jan-Olof Strandberg is one of Finland’s top bass-players, his career having begun in the 1970s playing with such names as Jukka Tolonen and Esa Kotilainen. Since then Strandberg has played on numerous albums and toured the world both solo and with Strandberg Project. Strandberg was also a member of The Fusion Project, who had a 2006 CD on Musea, and is a member of Paidarion. Made in Finland (2012) is Strandberg’s seventh album, the lineup including Michael Manring on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (Mist Season, Paidarion, The Samurai of Prog), two guitarists, a keyboardist, and sax player. The music is typically classy Scandinavian fusion: instrumental, balanced between energetic numbers with drums and airy, languid tracks without. The DVD (PAL, all-region) contains in-studio live performances of six songs that are not on the CD (about 41-minutes total). The first three are performed by a quartet that includes Jukka Gustavson (Wigwam) on keyboards, while the last three are just Strandberg and drummer. There is also a 39-minute documentary that includes live footage. Watch the album montage video. Read the Background Magazine review.
InFictions are an English band who for the most part belong in the post-prog genre, the kind of album you’d expect to find on the Kscope label. Their 2012 debut Maps of Revenge and Forgiveness is already better than many of the releases on that label. InFictions have an excellent lead singer, and the core of the band is augmented by a large number of guest musicians, the instrumentation including piano, synths, mandolin, violin, cello, brass, flute, and female backing vocals in addition to the expected guitar (acoustic too), bass and drums. While “post-prog” is the best descriptor for InFictions, their style is distinct, and there is more than a little in common with classic prog. They use passages of maximum intensity judiciously, for it’s what happens in the lower intensity sections that really distinguishes one post-prog band from another. InFictions create wonderful atmospheres, full of nuance and fragility, with exceptional detail in the background. Different time signatures are used without drawing attention to them, and the songs are all intriguing, mesmerizing, and exciting. Read the Echoes and Dust and Prog Sphere reviews. The CD comes in novel packaging.
Despite the French name (which at least over here refers to New Orleans’ French Quarter), this is an Italian quintet from Umbria. They released their debut CD Glispiriti Icorpi Elementi independently in 2008. Vieux Carré play in the classic Italian symphonic prog style of PFM, Le Orme, and Banco. One must also mention Genesis, because three of the songs are sung in English, and singer Marco Rambaldi reflexively switches to a Peter Gabriel style on those songs. (Or maybe it’s a Bernardo Lanzetti style.) The band’s first demo (when they were known as Chiaroscuro) contained covers of Firth of Fifth and The Musical Box, so the Genesis influence is not imagined. There is also some jazz influence, which the best first-generation Italian bands had as well. It’s mostly the songs sung in Italian that have that old magic; lovers of vintage Italian prog will understand.
Their second CD Eteronimie (2012) improves upon their first, with all songs sung in Italian. It’s all in the classic Italian romantic prog style, with excellent musicianship, but it doesn’t sound particularly retro. Not that there are any concessions to modern trends, it just doesn’t sound like it was made in 1972. At their most upbeat, Vieux Carré sound similar to Atons, but the mood varies more. The Genesis influence heard on their first CD is not really noticeable here. There is a little Yes flavor, some Emerson in the piano, but PFM is still a much better reference.
Veritas (2012, 70-minutes, digisleeve) is the second CD by this German prog band singing in English. This album seems to be in the lineage of the 1990s neo-prog bands that populated the SI Music and WMMS labels. Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile, etc.) guests on sax, a children’s choir appears on one track, and a female vocalist guests on three tracks including the 22-minute epic that concludes the album. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Scandinavian prog scene shows no signs of letting up, as the Finnish band Half Apple are another impressive entry. Hands That Held Up the Sky (2012, digipack) is their first full-length CD. On the majority of tracks, Brother Ape may be the band Half Apple are most similar to, in that most of the tracks are up-tempo and high energy, relatively relaxed vocals meshing with a driving rhythm section. Well, the Half Apple members are young enough that they can keep up this pace on stage. As with many of the other current Scandinavian prog bands, Yes appears to be a strong influence, and the music is similarly uplifting and positive. The final track has a Beatles thing going on. But those bands are just influences, not templates, and Half Apple’s approach is contemporary.
Laborator is a trio of multi-instrumentalists from the latest incarnation of Moving Gelatine Plates, the famous Canterbury-ish band of the French 1970s progressive scene, last reformed in 2006 for the album Removing. This is Laborator’s 2011 debut album (digipack).
The self-titled CD is the 2007 debut album from Swedish quintet Soniq Circus. Consistent with other contemporaneous Scandinavian prog bands (Magic Pie, Beardfish, A.C.T., Carptree), Soniq Circus blend all sorts of mostly British, mostly 1970s influences in a timeless way. The music is symphonic prog with a bit of 70s hard rock and strong pop songwriting and melodies, sort of Yes meets City Boy, but with a distinct identity. Not only the vintage keys but also the production harkens back to the 70s -- instead of a hyper-real but sterile modern production, this has a welcome bit of grit to it.
There were line-up changes for Reflections in the Hourglass (2011), including singer. The Progress label says that, compared to this new CD, the first Soniq Circus CD sounds like a well-recorded demo. Musically, there is less of the Saga, A.C.T. or City Boy style now, a reduction of the pop side of the band without sacrificing too much melody. The CD is full of long tracks of fairly complex, melodic symphonic prog notable for guitar work that is often in an energetic hard rock style, not metal (at least not in the modern sense) but rather an upbeat, hard-edged style. It’s positive evolution for the band, and apart from a slight similarity to labelmates Brother Ape, Soniq Circus are distinct from the other Swedish prog bands, a reflection of the depth of the current scene. Soniq Circus now deserve some of the success of the better-known Swedish prog bands. Read reviews of both CDs.
Rzeka Dam (2011, digipack) is the debut by a Polish prog band who demonstrate the maturity of the Polish prog scene in that their music is neither neo-prog nor prog-metal. Whereas most of the Polish prog bands fall somewhere along a short axis connecting Riverside and Satellite, Apple Bells are off-axis, with King Crimson their major influence. While you can’t call this album retro, it has a 1970s aesthetic: there is enough space for the music to breathe, and the production is not loudness-maximized and fatiguing. Sung in Polish, there is a connection here to the first-generation Polish, Czech, and Slovak prog bands that is refreshing to hear.
The Way Things End (2011, digipack) follows a 2001 debut CD and 2003 EP for this French band. Akin are definitely a contemporary prog band, i.e., the lead guitarist sometimes plays metal, there is nothing in the music to suggest they’re French, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they’d never heard of Atoll, Mona Lisa, Pulsar, Magma, etc. The core of the band is seven persons including female lead vocals (in English), keyboards, flute, guitars, bass and drums. What elevates this album above the pack is the presence of a string quartet, not used for a chamber music flavor but rather in the manner of any rock band that features violin, viola, or cello prominently. Other guests add third world instruments. File Akin somewhere in the vicinity of The Reasoning, though Akin are distinct. When they add metal to the mix, they begin to sound as pedestrian as any prog-metal band, but when they leave it out, they stand above their peers. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Seismic Cry is a unique progressive project, primarily the work of Philippe Gaudet, now residing in Montreal. The Hopeless Flare (2004) sounds like two different half-albums. The first half is taken up by the four-part Saint Laurent suite, a progressive instrumental with some French narration. It blends progressive rock and classical into something fanciful, theatrical, and bittersweet, like a collaboration between Karda Estra and Mike Oldfield. The second half of the album is more rock-oriented and features female vocals in English. Gaudet handles guitars, synth, glockenspiel, and voice, while other musicians contribute drums, recorder, French horn, trumpet, and vocals (including a choir trio). Read the Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Reverence (2006) is a conceptual work regarding the gold rush to Alaska and the Canadian northwest that makes use of poems by Robert W. Service. It features male and female vocals (in English) throughout. Gaudet again handles most of the instruments with the assistance of a drummer, the other vocalists, and a guest on accordion. It’s difficult to compare this to anyone else. The music occasionally breaks out into rock but is usually gentler, melancholy, evocative and surreal, with a slight folkiness but also an almost Genesis-like pastoral flavor. The music is as poetic as the lyrics, and some of the Karda Estra feel of the first album has carried over. Read the Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Fleeting (2011, digisleeve) features an expanded line-up that includes sax and flute. The music is again surreal and deliberately-paced, but whereas Reverence has an open, clear sound, Fleeting has a dense sound, atmospheric and somewhat psychedelic, with the vocals further back in the mix. There is a post-rock flavor, that combination of lush string sounds and the repetitive guitar style that traces back to Neu! and Harmonia.
Ozone Player is a loose musical collective centered on Finnish multi-instrumentalist Otso Pakarinen. Prior to Long-Range Influence (2011, digipack), there have not only been five previous Ozone Player CDs, Ozone Player also contributed tracks to Colossus/Musea’s Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso extravaganzas, Finnish prog tribute Tuonen Tytär II, and Italian movie composer tribute Cani Arrabbiati. The music on Long-Range Influence is mostly instrumental and keyboard-centric, sometimes reminiscent of Bo Hansson if Bo was still making music in 2011. Symphonic prog at its core, it also includes space music, orchestral simulation, bits of synth pop, world music, and epic movie soundtrack styles. Pakarinen plays mostly keys and guitar, while other musicians from Finland, Italy, and the U.S. contribute drums, bass, vocals, hammered dulcimer, violin and viola.
The Dutch band Plackband formed in the mid-1970s and were most influenced by Genesis. They took an 18-year holiday before reuniting in 2000. After 30 years, Plackband rebooted as PBII with three of the original members and the desire for a more modern sound. Plastic Soup (2010, digisleeve, 69-minutes) includes guests John Mitchell and John Jowitt, two guys who never met a neo-prog band they didn’t want to play with, and singer Heidi Jo Hines. It’s not a radical change from Plackband, as the old Genesis influence is still present most of the time. PBII’s desire for a more modern approach has more to do with the use of modern sounds, modern production, and the sound of the mix than a change in musical style. In addition to a standard CD, this Dutch edition of Plastic Soup includes a DVD (PAL, all-region) containing a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album, plus two videos. (There was a U.S. edition that lacked the DVD.) Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews. Check our Dutch page for more PBII titles.
Run (2008) is the second CD for Tenmidnight, released on the Mellow label following a self-released debut. The lyrics are split between Italian and English, and likewise this album is split between the Italian tradition and the North American one (Kansas, Saga). One track is listed as an homage to Kansas, which would explain why the central riff from Carry On Wayward Son is cloned; another track is an homage to Led Zep. Flute is used in addition to the usual symphonic rock instrumentation. This one is energetic sympho-prog with pomp and AOR flavoring.
The City of Angels (2010) is a marked improvement. Though the song titles are all in English, the lyrics are almost entirely in Italian, and the North American influence is limited to a suggestion of symphonic Kansas. The City of Angels often sounds close to an early 1970s Italian symphonic prog album. Guests add flute and violin in spots, and the vocals are strong, with characteristic Italian vocal harmonies. We could fill up a lot of space listing similar Italian bands, both first-generation and 1990s prog revival, so suffice to say the music is played with passion and conviction and should make most fans of Italian prog very happy. Watch the promo video. Read reviews of all of Tenmidnight’s CDs.
Jeavestone are a Finnish prog sensation. They are a progressive rock band that start with a jam band sound palette, though Jeavestone’s songs are composed and structured. They add flute, terrific harmony vocals, other woodwinds and string arrangements here and there, an organic sound where acoustic instruments are important just as they were with the classic prog bands. They have an obvious sense of humor and sound like they’re having great fun. Playful prog for when you just can’t take another melancholy band. Jeavestone have similarities to Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers, Umphrey’s McGee, Wigwam, Moon Safari, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Zappa, Jethro Tull, Caravan, and Echolyn. They are closest to the first three in that list but on average are proggier. Jeavestone’s third album 1+1=OK (2010, digipack) might be their best yet. Read the DisAgreement review. Check our Scandinavian page for the first two Jeavestone CDs.
OVNI is El Salvador’s top (OK, only) progressive rock band. Their name is the Spanish acronym equivalent to UFO. Simple (2015) sees OVNI putting more emphasis on songs, which is something they’ve gotten very good at. The progressive elements, the excellent work on both guitar and keyboards, is obvious during the instrumental breaks and merely shifted out of the foreground during the verses and choruses. The songs are retro in the sense that they are upbeat, with none of the modern darkness, melancholy, and moaning about life. There is one instrumental, three songs sung in Spanish, and five in English. The Spanish-language songs bring to mind South American bands such as Os Mutantes and 14 Bis (even though those bands sing in Portuguese), or even some of the Italian pop-prog bands. (And for those who don’t speak Spanish, there is the psychological effect where the brain believes the Spanish lyrics might be about something profound, whether or not they actually are.)
Hurry Hurry are so called not because they’re in a rush or like Rush but because they are two Australian brothers, Wayne and Rob Hurry. They first released Life (2010, 73-minutes) themselves as a CD-R, but this is the Musea CD edition. Life blends melodic/upbeat electronic music and symphonic rock like a combination of Mike Oldfield, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Gandalf, and Jade Warrior. Most of the sounds are from synths, with sampled drums/percussion and some electric guitar. The album plays as one continuous piece with female narration tying the tracks together. Since ‘new age’ became a marketing term back in the 1980s, there have been enough bland or amateurish works in this style to make listeners wary, but Life is exceptional. Read the Background Magazine review.
Taylor’s Universe is a superb Danish prog band headed by Robin Taylor, who plays guitar, grand piano, Hammond organ, and various analog synths. Joining Taylor on Terra Nova are sax player Karsten Vogel (Secret Oyster, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe) and drummer Rasmus Grosell, plus a few guests. Taylor has or had another project with almost the same name, Taylor’s Free Universe, but that project is entirely different, focusing on improvisation and experimental jazz. And for maximum confusion, Taylor also releases albums under his own name that tend to be more electronic/ambient. Terra Nova (2007) however contains classic 1970s style Scandinavian symphonic prog, instrumental with some wordless vocals. The music is keyboard-dominated, with Vogel’s melodic sax adding spice. There is definitely appeal to fans of Secret Oyster and Canterbury music, but while there is jazz influence here, the music is not jazz or fusion. Rather, the music is the stately symphonic prog typical of Focus and the first generation of Scandinavian symphonic bands. Read the Aural Innovations review. Listen to They Usually Come at Night.
Return to Whatever (2009) features a new band lineup that includes electric violin, sax, guitar, bass, drums, and Taylor’s keyboards, with guests providing Celtic harp, flute, and female voice. The music is again instrumental and 1970s-oriented, but not retro. As always, Taylor favors organ and piano, and there is jazz influence felt primarily through the sax (which is played melodically), but overall this is still stately symphonic prog with strong links to the first-generation Danish progressive and jazz-rock bands. Read the Bill’s Prog Blog review. Listen to Pink Island. Heavyweight gatefold mini-LP sleeve.
The concept album Faith (2009, mini-LP sleeve, 73-minutes) is the debut CD by maybe the second-greatest prog band in all of Belarus. (If you must know, 7 Ocean is the other Belarussian band we’re thinking of.) On their website, they brand themselves as ‘art rock / prog metal’, and that’s accurate as they switch between progressive rock and melodic prog metal such that you can’t simply say they are one or the other. The common attribute is that In Search For are bombastic in that Ayreon way whether playing prog or metal. The vocals are (mostly) in English, mostly male with some female vocals in support, and the band sound like they could be from just about any country. Most of it is very symphonic, with loads of keyboards and a little violin, viola, and flute. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This is the original 2009 edition of Gazpacho’s fifth album Tick Tock (2009), which was a natural evolution from their previous album Night and of equal quality. Read the DPRP roundtable reviews. See our Scandinavian page for lots more Gazpacho titles.
Panorama is the debut CD by Mahtrak, a Brazilian quartet of keys, guitar, bass and drums. Though Panorama was recorded in 2004, this digipack CD was released in 2009. As the band describe themselves: “Mahtrak is a jazz-rock ensemble, born in 2001. The band’s material sounds very original but at the same time true to the genre, yet mixing in a generous dose of progressive rock. On Panorama, they explore the vintage sounds of Hammond organ, Mellotron, and Fender Rhodes, assimilating influences from such seminal artists as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Caravan, Soft Machine, Jeff Beck, Return to Forever and Weather Report.” They’re closer to instrumental progressive rock than that list might suggest, halfway between the likes of Camel and the classic fusion style. The music is melodic and structured rather than relying on soloing and improvisation. Mahtrak made sure the entire production stayed true to a vintage 1970s sound. During the 70s, there were bands from Spain, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere making proggy fusion records like this, but these days it’s uncommon. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
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. 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.
Ixion is a project created by Dutch composer/bassist/keyboardist Jankees Braam. Braam also does live sound for Knight Area, S.O.T.E., Ulysses, and Illumion, and members of all these bands plus several other musicians play and sing on his albums. So Braam is following the Ayreon model, and similarly the third Ixion CD Garden of Eden (2009) is a concept album with an original story. The music is bombastic modern prog featuring a number of different vocalists, both male and female. There is some heavy guitar, and the music is generally dark, but it’s primarily richly-textured symphonic prog with classical touches at times, especially when violin and cello are used. Garden of Eden is the most fully-realized of the Ixion albums. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Place in Time is a fine 2009 debut by this Dutch melodic prog band. Intentions play the modern style of neo-prog (neo-neo-prog?), darker and melancholic while still lush and melodic, along the lines of later Sylvan, the darker RPWL songs, or most of the then-current crop of Polish prog bands (but without the metal). Read the DPRP review.
This is the 2009 debut CD (actually recorded 2005-2007) by a Brazilian symphonic prog quintet singing in English who list their influences as Yes, Camel, Kansas, Marillion, Pink Floyd, Genesis, ELP, Rick Wakeman, and O Terço. It’s classy symphonic prog that should have wide appeal as it is very melodic. While keyboards and guitar are in balance, bandleader Raphael Montechiari is a keyboardist, and keyboards are the main attraction here. Montechiari can’t be pinned down to one keyboard style, though Emerson is certainly one influence, and likewise Montechiari Project can’t be pinned down to a single influence. It is all prog though and all well done, ranging from a couple of the vocal songs that are as accessible as Asia, to more intricate pieces relying more (or entirely) on instrumental content. The Montechiari Project aesthetic is pure 1970s/1980s, positive and uplifting, refined and free of metal. Think of a less bombastic Apocalypse (after Apocalypse began singing in English); Tempus Fugit is also not a bad comparison.
Santiago, Chile’s Sol y Medianoche (Midnight Sun) are known to prog cognoscenti for their 1984 LP 33º 33 Latitud Sur, their most successful album, reissued on CD in 2007. They released a half dozen albums between 1982-1990, and they were an important national band in Chile. After a long absence, they returned in 2009 with Poeta y Cantor on the Mylodon label, still featuring their excellent female vocalist Soledad Dominguez and bandleader Jorge Soto (guitars and keys), with a new bassist (Soto’s and Dominguez’s daughter!) and drummer, plus several guest musicians. Their music is a 1970s style (early 80s in Chile but 70s for most of us) mixing symphonic prog, hard rock, pop and folk, probably encapsulating the Chilean rock scene during those years. Several of the songs on this CD are new versions of the band’s hits. Soto sings the album’s final song, which is one of the best. Listen to Arranca Arranca.
Direction are a Québec City band with strong vocals in French, playing progressive rock along the lines of Morse Code. A cross between later Ange and classic Rush is a fair approximation of much of their music. The Rush influence is easier to spot during the instrumental passages, as once the French vocals enter, the character of the music is changed considerably. For Est (2008), Direction joined the Unicorn Digital label and cranked the Genesis influence up to 11 on the first two tracks. For the remainder of the album, the Genesis influence is present to varying degrees, along with some Yes. The Rush influence is there but less prevalent than on their previous albums, so perhaps the significance of the title is that instead of looking west to Ontario for direction, Direction are looking east to England on this album. And of course to France, since the French-language vocals give the music a special character and invite the inevitable Ange comparison. This is Direction’s best and most symphonic album to date.
The Gift of Tears (2008) is the second full-length CD for this Dutch prog band, six years after their first CD, switching singers in between. Ulysses are between neo-prog and prog-metal, the typical case of a European band with a progressive keyboardist and a metal guitarist. Read the reviews at JerryLucky.com and Music Street Journal.
On their 1999 debut album Martelo, Brazilian prog band Cartoon sounded similar to Mutantes (a band who made some progressive albums in the 1970s, possibly Brazil’s first progressive rock band). All four of the musicians (bass, guitar, keyboards, drums) also sing. The closest English equivalent is early Yes, but the vocal style is unique to 1970s South American rock and has otherwise become far less prevalent in South American prog from the 1980s onward.
Estribo (2008, 65-minutes) is Cartoon’s third, following 2002’s Bigorna, which was significantly different from Martelo. For one, Cartoon began singing in English, which they continue to do on Estribo. Whereas sometimes Bigorna sounded like the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show staging one of Rick Wakeman’s grandiose 1970s albums, Estribo is not so crazy. Listening to this album, you’d probably never guess that Cartoon are Brazilian. They sound British or American. Early Yes is probably their biggest influence, but Cartoon sound like they know every important style of early-to-mid 1970s rock inside and out, as they like to throw in early-70s hard rock and blues rock (almost the same thing during that era), something resembling The Eagles and on and on, not really whole songs in those styles but rather passages in an ever-changing montage. With all the different voices, the music sounds a bit rock opera-ish, really more like the vocal styles of City Boy or Supertramp, bands with more than one lead singer. While a lot of current bands stretch three ideas into an hour of music in one basic style, Cartoon seem to be overflowing with ideas, always surprising the listener, making Estribo a very enjoyable album for fans of early-70s prog.
Cyber Neptune is a 2008 release on the Unicorn Digital label from Quebec’s Claire Vezina, her fourth album. From what we can gather, Vezina is a singer/songwriter who has been making increasingly progressive albums each time out, expanding well beyond the singer/songwriter universe with the assistance of other musicians and a co-writer. She is also a keyboardist, especially fond of Rhodes, also using piano, organ and Mellotron. When it comes to progressive music in Canada, the French-speaking areas have long been nearly the only areas that matter, both in terms of producing and buying it. This is reflected in the music of Cyber Neptune, which is very progressive-flavored, with full electric rock instrumentation on many tracks, impeccably performed and full of magical atmospheres. Vezina has a beautiful voice to deliver the lyrics, in French of course, essential to the feel of her music. Claire Vezina joins Emily Bezar and Kate Bush in the aristocracy of female progressive artists. Read the reviews at Proggnosis and JerryLucky.com.
Unicorn Digital followed in 2009 by reissuing Claire’s 2003 third album Alambic, which is nearly as good as Cyber Neptune. Here Claire collaborates with Jeff Grenier (co-producer, musician), Marc-André Dubé (cowriter, bass) and Olivier Couture (drums).
Emily Bezar’s music is breathtaking, magical, and defies categorization. As Exposé magazine said, “Bezar is a genre unto herself”. Emily is a northern Californian who spent time living in Europe. It’s impossible not to think of Kate Bush when hearing Emily sing. She is a classically-trained pianist, and her virtuoso piano playing is at the center of her music along with her incredible voice, which has similarities to Kate’s but is more operatic. While Emily’s music flirts with pop, it is more progressive and less pop-oriented than Kate’s. But each of her albums is distinct, making it difficult to generalize about them. Her 1993 debut Grandmother’s Tea Leaves was her most intimate and, at times, experimental, but the style established on that album is at the core of all her following albums. Emily formed a band (adding guitar/bass/drums) to record Moon in Grenadine (1996) and Four Walls Bending (1999). Her bandmates are also stellar players. Of her first four albums, Four Walls Bending is the most (progressive) rock-oriented.
Emily’s 2008 album Exchange (72-minutes) is stunning, merging all aspects of her previous work into her most progressive album and perhaps the most live-sounding. On this CD, Emily again has a more than capable band with her, including saxes, trumpet, trombone, violin, and cello in addition to guitar, bass, and drums. There is a lot of jazz influence in the sophisticated harmonic vocabulary, but the result is closer to Hatfield and the North than jazz per se. Emotionally these songs have a depth and intimacy that reminds one of Peter Gabriel, but with feminine rather than masculine energy. Kate Bush is the better pop songstress, but Emily’s work is musically more intricate and challenging. Read the Exposé review.
Little King, from El Paso, Texas, is a Rush-influenced band who really have their own distinct style. They do have the Rush trio format, and Rush remains the major influence, but vocally the feel is usually different, and they add different instrumental textures and styles. Their fourth CD Legacy of Fools (2008) features guests that add backing vocals, keyboards, violin and cello, making this their most satisfying release to date.
The Problem of Pain: Part 1 (2007) is the third CD by this U.S. band, consisting of five suites. Torman Maxt were initially influenced by Rush circa 2112, but like Rush themselves, they refined their music into a more sophisticated progressive rock. Though Rush remains the dominant influence, Torman Maxt diverged from Rush, adding some Yes influence and making good use of acoustic guitar. The vocals are in the mid-to-high range, with a passing resemblance to Geddy Lee. The vibe is positive, and the musicianship is sensitive rather than technical. Though the arrangements are complex, there is plenty of melody.
Point of View are an excellent Polish prog-metal quintet singing in English. Disillusioned is their 2007 debut. Reviewers have mentioned Fates Warning, Queensryche, and Dream Theater. Point of View have a good keyboardist, and there are times when they sound like Satellite, and times when they sound like Satellite with metal guitar overdubbed. Read the Proggnosis and Prog Archives reviews.
This is the 2014 digipack reissue on the Seacrest label of Yesterdays’ debut full-length CD Holdfénykert (Moonlit Garden), first released by the band in 2006, then by Musea in 2008. This new edition has improved sound, new artwork, and a new 16-page booklet with liner notes in English. Yesterdays are a progressive rock band formed by musicians belonging to the ethnic Hungarian minority of western Romania. This is why their female vocalist Jánosi Kinga sings most of the songs in Hungarian, though a few are sung in English. The founder of the band, Bogáti-Bokor Ákos, was also guitarist of the band You and I, one of the best Hungarian progressive bands. His bands and projects since have included Tabula Smaragdina and The Cosmic Remedy. From the band’s name, you’d be correct to infer a Yes influence, as there was in You and I, and a fleeting quote of a well-known Yes melody confirms that. But the Yes influence is minor, and there is as much influence of Camel, Renaissance, or Genesis. The music is beautiful symphonic prog, generally mellow, perfect for summer days. It is highlighted by female vocals, flute, and Mellotron, and much of the guitar work is acoustic. It often brings Magenta to mind, while the original liner notes referenced Harmonium’s classic Les Cinq Saisons. Read the DPRP review.
Cross is a Swedish neo-prog band with excellent English vocals and an accessible style. Playgrounds (2004) further develops the style heard on Secrets (2000) but relates even more closely to the 2003 Spektrum CD, and all the Spektrum members guest on Playgrounds. The mid-to-late 1970s Genesis influence is present, particularly in the keyboards, and Cross’s style is now close to Galleon as well as Jadis and other melodic symphonic prog bands. Listen to the album sampler. Read reviews. This is the U.S. edition on ProgRock Records. See our Scandinavian page for more Cross CDs.
No relation to the Belgian band, this Cos is a pseudonym for Mark Costoso, who handles nearly everything himself on this 2002 CD. Costoso lists his influences as Yes, Kansas, Genesis, King Crimson, UK, Gentle Giant, and Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, but it is the Rundgren and Utopia influence that dominates this album. While some of this is very derivative of Rundgren and Utopia, consider that the other bands mentioned have been mimicked ad nauseam, whereas there have been few Utopia imitators despite Utopia’s recognizable sound. Like a Utopia album, you get Rundgren-esque ballads, a few rockers, and a lot of proggy material incorporating strong pop songwriting and Utopia-trademark harmony vocals too. The CD is 72-minutes long so there’s room for it all.
In an era when it is nearly impossible to produce an original style of rock music, Chris Fournier carved out a unique style and sound under the Fonya banner. Call it (mostly-)instrumental sci-fi symphonic progressive electronic space rock, the marriage of progressive rock’s energy and sophistication with a wall of spacey synth sounds. Driving bass runs over dreamy keyboard washes alternate with intense electric guitar-propelled sympho-space-rock. Eddie Jobson hinted at this on his solo works, but Fonya mastered it. The first five Fonya CDs were released on the Kinesis label. The first four are out-of-print: Wanderers of the Neverending Night (1992), Soul Travels (1993), In Flux (1995), and Earth Shaper (1999).
After the artistic and critical success of Earth Shaper, one had to wonder whether Chris Fournier could continue to improve upon the Fonya formula. Perfect Cosmological Principle (1998, 71-minutes) makes it clear that he did. The music is instantly recognizable as Fonya: the prominent bass guitar propelling the music forward, the lush synthetic/symphonic sound, and the best MIDI drumming in the business. But now there are lots more of those soaring electric guitar leads that take the music out of orbit, plus the use of acoustic guitar to give greater warmth to the mix. The compositions demonstrate great complexity and nuance. As icing on the cake, there’s a remarkable version of portions of Yes’s Gates of Delirium. Read review quotes.
Upper Level Open Space (1999) sees a further refinement of the Fonya style, broadening the timbral palette to include more electric and acoustic guitar while also experimenting with some more obviously electronic sounds. Anyone still skeptical of programmed drums owes it to themselves to listen to this album, as the drums are nothing short of amazing. No matter how active and intense it gets, a relaxed vibe permeates the music, making this perfect for late-night listening. Read reviews.
Centric Jones is the latest permutation of Fonya. Chris Fournier teams this time with drummer Tobe London plus various guests. Chris plays bass, guitars, keyboards, and electronic percussion; Tobe plays drums, acoustic/electronic percussion, and keyboards. The Antikythera Method (2012, 70-minutes) is the new pinnacle of the Fonya style, still recognizable as such, but with more diversity due to the input of additional musicians. There are some stellar drum performances here, and this new intensity in the rhythm section means that Centric Jones can stand with any space rock band you care to name. But significantly, this is much more structured and symphonic than space rock, really a progressive rock/space rock hybrid that dips into Genesis and Yes territory. The Antikythera Method adds the vocal talents of Laurie Larson and Tessa Anderson, with Steve Unruh (violin) among the guests. It features an amazing interpretation of Yes’ Then, and the final track Antikythera Mechanism embodies all that is good, holy, and true in instrumental progressive rock. Two decades on from the beginnings of Fonya, and Chris Fournier’s music may still not have peaked. “This album was 70 minutes of sheer unadulterated, undiluted delight. From start to finish.” [AlternativeMatter.net] Read the Jerry Lucky and Prog Archives reviews.
This is the 2006 debut by a young Polish band singing in English. They mix and match many prog styles, one of which is prog-metal. When they do play metal, they achieve their apparent goal of sounding like a dime-a-dozen metal band. Fortunately the metal is only present in spots, and everything else they do is fairly inventive. Some of the album is as far away from metal as possible. There are many really intricate and tasteful arrangements and excellent musicianship. If they’d lose the metal, the album’s couple low points would be eliminated, but those are minor blemishes on a quality eclectic prog album.
Ring of Myth’s 1996 debut CD Unbound was released on the Kinesis label. One can’t discuss Ring of Myth without mentioning Yes. Guitarist George Picado sounds like an accomplished disciple of Steve Howe, while adding his own stylings. Singer/bassist Danny Flores’ voice is in Jon Anderson’s range and adds Chris Squire-like bass. Drummer Rick Striker is a great admirer of Bill Bruford. Ring of Myth are not nearly as polished as Yes, but they manage to harken all the way back to Time and a Word, The Yes Album, and Fragile, and pull it off without a full-time keyboardist. The lush vocal harmonies and Picado’s outstanding fretwork provide the necessary textures, while keyboards are used in spots for coloration. Fans of Rush who wish that band was a lot more adventurous should give Unbound (1996) a listen. Read extensive review quotes.
The follow-up Weeds (2005) was released on the Canadian Unicorn Digital label. As one reviewer of Unbound described the band: “When considered simplistically, Ring of Myth are sort of the perfect marriage of Yes and Rush, merging the classical symphonic sound of Yes into the trio format of Rush.” This still holds true for Weeds, though Ring of Myth have pushed their sound into a slightly more experimental and cacophonous direction. While one can still recognize the early Yes element in their style (Peter Banks’ band Flash is probably an even better comparison), Ring of Myth can hardly be called a Yes clone now. There probably isn’t another band around that sounds like them. They still use keyboards only in spots and in a supporting role; they are primarily a guitar/bass/drums trio with Danny Flores’ vocals still sounding like Jon Anderson, and improved since Unbound. They get an amazingly full sound, and much of the credit for that must go to guitarist George Picado. Read the Sea of Tranquility, Aural Innovations, and Progressor reviews.
Legacy are a U.S. symphonic prog band out of North Carolina with a fine 2000 debut. We’re reminded of early North Star especially in the vocal department, while instrumentally it leans more toward Yes, with lots of symphonic textures. Other good reference points might be Alaska and Glass Hammer in the same time frame.
This is the second CD edition on Sol & Deneb Records of this 1981 instrumental symphonic prog album, with five bonus tracks added. Caja de Pandora’s sole album is one of the top few from Mexico. It sounds somewhat like 1970s Italian prog but earthier (given the less polished production), resulting in a unique Mexican flavor that one can hear in other Mexican bands of that era: Chac Mool, early Iconoclasta, Delirium. “If you are familiar with the Mexican prog scene from the 1980s, you probably know that many of the bands produced music characterized by short but intense tracks ranging between 3 to 4 minutes in length. Caja de Pandora were no exception, and the band released an album of high-quality prog. For the most part, the music owed a lot to Iconoclasta’s first album, and the quality also reached the levels of that incredible album. Caja de Pandora rates up there with Iconoclasta’s first album and Delirium’s Primer Dialogo. The music here is quite intense and emphasizes energetic interplay between the guitarist and keyboardist. If you are a fan of any of the classic bands to come out of the Mexican prog scene, I’m sure you will enjoy this band.” [uk70sprogrock.com]
Trail Records is a label specialized in music that falls somewhere on the spectrum between psychedelic and progressive rock, and while we’ve stocked their proggier releases such as Barrett Elmore, In the Labyrinth, and Siddhartha, the titles here represent their more psychedelic, spacey, and trancey CDs. Sky Cries Mary are a Seattle-based trance rock band that have been around since the late 1980s. Beyond-o-Matic are a San Francisco-based space rock band that began in the early 1990s. Click the mp3 icons above not only for audio samples but for the label’s description of each CD and links to reviews.
Tripwave is subtitled A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music, and features bands you may have heard of such as Vespero, Decadence, or Disen Gage, and others probably unknown to you. Psychedelic World Music likewise features bands that aren’t exactly household names, this time from around the globe including even Belarus, Armenia, and China, so Trail Records have done their homework. Tripwave and Time to Get Up come in jewel cases, the others are digipacks.
That’s just a fraction of the titles with reduced prices. See the country/region pages for more.
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