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See our DVDs page for Steve Hackett’s The Bremen Broadcast DVD.
See our Bargain CDs page for some recently added titles including Shadowfax, Centric Jones, Akin, Greylevel, and Sky Architect. Look for the titles highlighted in yellow.
Also Eden are one of the best of the modern-day British neo-prog bands. Their first two albums About Time (2006) and It’s Kind of You to Ask (2008) featured singer Huw Lloyd-Jones and are symphonic rock in the vein of Abel Ganz and, to a lesser extent, Marillion, Pallas, and IQ. On these first two CDs, the distinguishing characteristic of Also Eden’s music is an emotional warmth that made them the coziest of the British neo-prog bands.
Lloyd-Jones left prior to Also Eden’s 2010 EP Differences as Light, replaced by another fine singer in Rich Harding. That EP signaled the start of a slightly different direction for the band. Think of the Children! (2011) is the band’s third full-length album. The music is a bit heavier now, closer to recent Pallas, recent Galahad, and a modern take on early Marillion, though the blustery passages are sometimes alternated with delicate segments probably influenced by the Genesis pastoral 12-string sound. You can also hear references to Rush and Twelfth Night, among others. Overall, some of the charm and songwriting of the first two albums has been supplanted by an ambitious, serious-sounding and somewhat theatrical long-form approach that demands several listens. Listen to the album sampler mp3.
As for [Redacted] (2013), “Also Eden have significantly raised their game with this, their second album since Rich Harding took over as lead vocalist. Despite occasional echoes of Tangerine Dream, Porcupine Tree, and even Trespass-era Genesis in the album’s quieter moments, this is a harder-edged and more rock-orientated record than their previous work. The result is a powerful yet richly layered record, with Simon Rogers’ inventive guitar playing at the centre of the sound, and Rich Harding’s lyrics moving from the political to the personal.” [Where Worlds Collide] Also read reviews at Prog Archives and a compendium of reviews covering all the Also Eden albums.
This band from Northern Ireland claims to be Ireland’s only existing progressive rock band. After a 2004 debut, A Time of Shadow (2009) is their second album, while Everything Is Connected (2013) is their third. They have a very strong singer in Liam Campbell, who has something of a Peter Gabriel and Fish quality to his voice and sings with similar conviction. The music is in the Marillion vein, though often a better reference is Abel Ganz. An excellent band in the British Isles neo-prog tradition, emphasizing melody, strong songs and a singer who can carry them. Read reviews. Watch the promo video for Everything Is Connected.
Hoggwash is another band of Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild, AKKO), lord of progressive rock in The Ukraine. Hoggwash though is a collaboration with Welsh musician Will Mackie. On their debut The Last Horizon (2007, 67-minutes), Mackie and Kalugin have co-writing credits on all tracks, but the music was recorded in the Ukraine by Kalugin with Karfagen members/collaborators and other Ukrainian musicians. And while Karfagen had been an instrumental band, Hoggwash has excellent vocals by Kalugin. The result is a beautiful melodic symphonic rock CD in the Genesis and Camel veins. Despite all the input from the Ukraine, The Last Horizon sounds so British that it serves to remind us what it is that distinguishes classic British prog from most everything else.
It took a while for the follow-up Spellbound (2013, digipack), but then there have been at least nine albums from Kalugin’s other projects in the interim. Kalugin again sings and plays keys, Mackie plays keys, and seven other Ukrainian musicians take care of electric & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, alto sax, and more vocals. Hoggwash is distinct from Kalugin’s other bands -- Hoggwash is the more familiar form of sympho-prog, the most song-oriented and British-sounding and therefore having the widest appeal.
AKP stands for Antony Kalugin Projects, a catch-all for the Ukrainian prog bands Sunchild, Karfagen, and Hoggwash, who have overlapping personnel and are all led by Kalugin. As the label says: With limited facilities, Antony Kalugin has recreated a real live band sound of his appearance at the 2012 Crescendo Festival in France. This “bootleg” DVD comes with a first class audio recording provided by the festival team. The 84-minute DVD is PAL, all-region and comes in a tri-fold CD-size digipack.
Peter Gee is best known as the bassist for Pendragon. Paris (2013) is Gee’s fifth album, not counting his gospel album. It features Steve Thorne’s vocals on most of the songs, while Damian Wilson sings two songs and Damian’s brother Paul (who sang on Gee’s first album 20 years earlier) returns to sing one. Steve Christey (Jadis, John Wetton) is the drummer. As always, the 12 songs and 3 instrumentals cover a variety of styles and moods, with most of the vocal songs in Gee’s soft symphonic rock style, with heartfelt lyrics. The two songs chosen to go up first on YouTube and Soundcloud though are poor choices as far as prog fans are concerned, not doing justice to what is a fine album. See our British page for the rest of Peter Gee’s CDs and more info.
Tompox is the new band of Solaris bassist Tamás Pócs. Hungarian Eclectic (2012) is their debut, The Dark Side of the Sun (2013) is their second. Tompox began playing Solaris songs exclusively, but as time went on, they wrote more and more songs, leading to a debut CD of mostly original material. (There is one King Crimson cover and a short homage to Solaris on Hungarian Eclectic.) Tamás says that the band aims to recreate the atmosphere that characterized the golden age of progressive rock, bearing in mind that we are well into the 21st century. The music is quite similar to Solaris and will appeal to the same fans, who by now are probably starving for more. And yes, there is flute.
The Handbook of the Acid Rider (2013, digipack) is the excellent debut by this instrumental Chilean band led by a talented Stick player whose name coincidentally is Francisco Rafart. He adds keyboards and electronics and is joined by the guitarist from the Chilean band Octopus and a drummer. While the musicianship is at a high technical level and the compositions are intricate, the music remains beautiful, even delicate at times. The sound is full and varied and the music is exciting, unlike other Stick-centric albums you’ve probably heard that are one-dimensional. While fusion is only part of what Rafart do, this handbook is recommended to fans of fusion that is on the rock side of jazz and that doesn’t sound like everything else. Note the version sold by amazon is an on-demand CD-R; ours is the real thing.
Bienvenida al Interior (2006) is a very good debut by a melodic symphonic prog band from Chile, singing in Spanish. For the most part, Astralis have the neo-prog directness on this CD, with some Yes influence apparent here and there. Vocally though they often remind one of Le Orme in the quality of the singer’s voice, the vocal melody lines, and the similar sound of the languages.
Voces del Bosque (2009) is their second and an improvement on their first. The neo-prog of the first CD is less prevalent, and there is a lot of instrumental content. Astralis now concentrate on flowing symphonic rock with melodic guitar leads, often reminiscent of Camel, also with some Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield influence. It’s a more original blend, and one of the better prog CDs to come out of Chile.
Though Fantasia de Invierno is a 2013 CD, these are actually the first songs composed by Astralis, between 1989-1995, but recently recorded, thus benefitting from the maturity and greater expertise of the band. There hasn’t been much symphonic prog coming from Chile of late, but Astralis are keeping it alive and may be the best such band in Chile now. Listen to the songs Después de la Lluvia and La Canción es Libre on Soundcloud.
Claudio Momberg is the keyboardist of the Chilean band SETI and before that Subterra and is also a member of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy project. These are new releases by a couple of Momberg’s other projects. Taurus is Momberg solo, a hybrid of classically-influenced electronic music and progressive rock, sort of Tony Banks meets Synergy meets Vangelis. Research (2013) is the third Taurus CD and the proggiest one yet. Read the Prog Archives review. See our South American page for the first two Taurus CDs.
Elemental (2013) is the debut by Quarks, a new project of Momberg with guitarist Alamiro Arias and keyboardist Ricardo Riadi. This is high-quality Berlin school electronics, pure and simple. Watch the album preview video.
♦♦ Our South American page has a few more Chilean CDs that we finally got around to stocking. Check out Cota Zero and Menú del Día.
The Black Noodle Project are a Parisian prog band formed in 2001 who sing in English and are deeply influenced by Pink Floyd. Depending on what you count as a TBNP album, Ghosts & Memories (2013, digipack) is around their sixth. It sees TBNP moving closer to the Anathema style while also incorporating influences of old movie soundtracks, but it’s still all about Pink Floyd, who seem to be the only classic prog band many current-generation prog bands have listened to, or maybe the only one dark and depressing enough. Watch the official video for the track They Live, We Sleep. See our French page for the rest of The Black Noodle Project CDs.
7 (2013, digipack) is the latest from a German band, or really family of bands (with Seven Steps to the Green Door and Cyril), that we’ve been doing our best to turn prog fans onto, though all the bands remain seriously under-recognized outside of Germany. “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. See our German page for the rest of the Toxic Smile CDs.
Cyril started 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 already released numerous albums with his bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row. 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. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Yes, this is the same Solstice who were one of the leading lights of the 1980s UK progressive revival, still fronted by guitarist Andy Glass and also featuring Steve McDaniel (keyboards), Robin Phillips (bass), Pete Hemsley (drums), Jenny Newman (violin), and Emma Brown (vocals). The band’s iconic blend of soaring violin and guitar weaving around delicately passionate female vocals, underpinned by a driving rhythm section remains in force on their new studio album Prophecy (2013). The CD also includes three bonus tracks which are new remixes of songs from Solstice’s debut Silent Dance done by Steven Wilson, who is a long-time Solstice aficionado. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Solstice catalog.
Barclay James Harvest split in two quite a few years ago, and in the meantime founding members Mel Pritchard and Woolly Wolstenholme passed away. North (2013), which features all new material, is dedicated to their memory, and it is John Lees’ BJH that is carrying on the 1970s progressive side of the band and returning to BJH’s roots. The rest of the band here is Craig Fletcher, Jez Smith, and Kevin Whitehead. This is a very strong album, certainly better than the BJH albums from the late 1970s on when their music became mainstream/AOR. Yes, BJH are back. This is the limited 2CD edition, which comes in a digipack and adds a previously unreleased bonus CD featuring highlights of the band’s sold-out concert at Buxton Opera House in February 2011, which concentrates on classic BJH material. Read the DPRP reviews. Watch the album preview video. See our British page for more BJH CDs.
Sand is the solo project of Sam Healy, frontman and songwriter for Kscope band North Atlantic Oscillation. Now NAO have not set the prog world on fire, but the self-titled Sand debut (2013, digipack) has a somewhat different feel than NAO. As the press release says: “Melodic passages and conventional pop structures are framed by striking changes in dynamics to create a dramatic sonic palette which ranges from the barely audible to wildly loud and back again, often within the same track. The album also has a slightly warmer, less alien feel than NAO recordings, with instruments less likely to be heavily treated and distorted beyond recognition.” For that last reason in particular, prog fans may find they prefer Sand over NAO. The great vocal harmonies are still there, while the indie electronics of NAO are less prominent. Watch the album montage video.
These are the 2013 digipack editions on Esoteric, all newly remastered and personally supervised by Vangelis himself, with booklets that restore the original album artwork. Vangelis’ time on the RCA label yielded his greatest albums. Those include Heaven and Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), and Spiral (1977). (His 1978 album Beaubourg was also on RCA, but it is radically different, pure musique concrète.) Heaven and Hell was the first album to be recorded at his personal studio in London. This epic work in two parts features the English Chamber Choir and Vangelis’ first collaboration with Jon Anderson, the beautiful So Long Ago, So Clear. Those only familiar with Vangelis’ later, lighter works may be in for a shock, as Heaven and Hell is dark and powerful. The follow-up Albedo 0.39 was used in the television series Cosmos and contains some of Vangelis’ most iconic works, while the album contains elements of rock and jazz. These two are our favorite Vangelis albums and are landmark albums of progressive music.
Spiral is just a notch below those two. It contains the song To the Unknown Man, one of Vangelis’ best-known pieces. After Spiral, Vangelis did make some very good albums, but his style was never quite the same. Of course, the same was true for any number of first-generation prog artists as the 1970s drew to a close. The Spiral CD includes a rare bonus track, previously unissued on CD: To the Unknown Man Part Two, which was a single B-side.
By the time of Direct (1988), which was recorded for Arista, Vangelis had moved to Athens. “Like most Vangelis, this defies categorization. It has strong elements of rock & roll, symphonic synth ambience, and new age instrumental aspects. At the same time, the bold synthesizer strokes and washes fit the Berlin school of electronica. Given Vangelis’ proclivity for soundtrack work, it is no surprise that this disc sounds like great film music. It is a great CD that will appeal to many different audiences.” [All Music] Note the mp3 icons above link to allmusic.com, which not only has audio samples for these albums but also a review of each. Lots more reviews can be found at Prog Archives. You’ll note the RCA albums have the most raters of any of the many Vangelis albums with the exception of his Blade Runner soundtrack, which has more to do with the movie than the soundtrack per se.
Vangelis was considered to replace Rick Wakeman the first time Rick left Yes. Vangelis turned it down but became friends with Jon Anderson, leading to four Jon & Vangelis albums, of which Page of Life (1991) is the fourth, released eight years after the third. Note this edition contains the same content as the original 1991 edition. (There was a 1998 U.S. release that messed with the tracks.) This edition contains a rare bonus track: Sing With Your Eyes, taken from the promotional Wisdom Chain CD single.
This is the 2013 newly-remastered and expanded edition on Esoteric of Jon Anderson’s 1994 album Change We Must. The album features extensive orchestral arrangements of both new compositions and material from Anderson’s past, including a new version of Hearts (from the Yes album 90125) and State of Independence (from the Jon & Vangelis album The Friends of Mr Cairo). Change We Must also features additional material co-written by Jon Anderson and Vangelis, including the title track, The Kiss, and Candle Song. The CD features two bonus tracks: a single edit of the title track and an interview with Jon Anderson. The booklet fully restores the original album artwork and includes new liner notes by Jon. Click the mp3 icon above to read the All Music review.
Live in Stockholm - March 10th, 1975 (2013, digipack) is a recording of one of the final performances of the original Greenslade, released with the cooperation of Dave Greenslade. Click the mp3 icon above to see the track list. Extensive liner notes are included. See our British page for more Greenslade CDs.
Airbag are a five-man prog band from Oslo, Norway. Classic Rock Magazine hit the nail on the head when they described their 2009 debut Identity as: “Prog at its most chilled, honeyed and soothing... reminiscent of Coldplay doing Pink Floyd covers. Believe us, that’s a recommendation.” Airbag are also reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at their most sensual, as well as Gazpacho, RPWL, modern Marillion and Anathema. The music is lush and dripping with atmosphere, with omnipresent synth pads and some of the guitar work sounding like EBow, plus top-notch vocals. Gorgeous, melancholy stuff.
All Rights Removed (2011) is their second. The current edition comes in a standard jewel box. Read the Background Magazine and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album preview video.
This is the limited digisleeve edition of Airbag’s third CD The Greatest Show on Earth (2013). “With The Greatest Show on Earth, Airbag have merely tired out the extended crescendoing solo formula and made room for further variation from their already newfound triumphs to help them reach that looming magnum opus and seat as one of prog’s modern heroes.” Read the full Sputnik Music review as well as the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
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. Also read the Exposé review of Beyond-o-Matic’s Relations...
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.
This is the 2013 reissue of Lightdark (2008), Nosound’s second album. The Kscope label has started an annoying trend of reissuing their back catalog before the first edition has had time to go out-of-print. This edition is a CD+DVD that comes in a hardcover digibook and has been remastered. It contains all the audio tracks from the original 2CD (the track Clouds appears on the DVD only.) The DVD contains 24bit/48kHz stereo and 5.1 surround (DTS and Dolby) mixes, plus video extras. The packaging features reworked artwork, new photos, and new liner notes. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Nosound catalog and more details on this album.
After hearing the band 5bridges, we didn’t expect to learn of another Dutch band playing classic progressive rock so soon, since for the previous 20+ years Dutch prog bands had taken their cues from Marillion or, more recently, metal bands. Excavations of the Mind (2010) is the debut for Sky Architect, a quintet of relatively young Dutch musicians including three from a Rotterdam conservatory. They come right out and state that they are interested in reviving the symphonic progressive style of the 1970s. While 5bridges are more Genesis-influenced, Sky Architect are a bit harder-edged, a bit darker, quirkier and more technical. Maybe more original too, because beyond a vague sense of King Crimson or Gentle Giant, they don’t really call to mind specific bands. There are lots of vintage keys including Mellotron. It would have been nice to hear some suggestion of Focus, Kayak, Supersister, Trace, Finch, or any other Dutch 70s progressive rock instead of only British influences, but it’s not uncommon today to find young European prog musicians unaware of their own heritage. (So is it any wonder music is more homogenized now?) Nevertheless, this is a very promising debut by a band who’ve gone back far enough in their listening to find the real, undiluted prog. Mark Wilkinson created the CD artwork. Note drummer and backing vocalist Christiaan Bruin is the guy responsible for the Chris CDs.
Probably just coincidence, but Sky Architect’s 2011 follow-up A Dying Man’s Hymn does at times sound like the great Dutch prog band Finch! And how many later bands have ever been compared to Finch? A Dying Man’s Hymn is quite an extraordinary album, more mature than their debut. It is more instrumental than vocal, not without some contemporary aspects but primarily classic prog with a dark, Van der Graaf Generator vibe. The band relocated to the woods of Sweden to record this album, woods known to be full of prog magic.
A Billion Years of Solitude (2013) is Sky Architect’s third, which they describe as “heavier, more daring and inventive”. They say the result is “a stunning outburst of creativity featuring surprising changes, crazy rhythmic devices, polyphonic arrangements, and complex song structures”. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the official video for Tides and listen to Elegy of a Solitary Giant on YouTube. Read reviews of all the Sky Architect CDs at Prog Archives.
This is a group of CDs with overlapping personnel that have been released before, been out-of-print for years, but have been reissued in 2013 by Gonzo Multimedia. 1976 was a busy year for woodwind player Jack Lancaster and keyboardist Robin Lumley, a year in which they produced both the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums and helped set Brand X in motion. Most of the arrangements on the Peter and the Wolf album were done by Lancaster and Lumley, though this version of the album is not credited to them per se. The album is a progressive rock reworking of Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf that also features such luminaries as Gary Moore, Manfred Mann, Phil Collins, Percy Jones, Bill Bruford, Gary Brooker, Stephane Grappelli, Alvin Lee, Cozy Powell, Brian Eno, Jon Hiseman, John Goodsall, Chris Spedding, and more. The music generally follows Prokoviev’s compositions but with rock instruments representing the characters.
The lineup on the instrumental Marscape album includes Jack Lancaster, Robin Lumley, John Goodsall, Percy Jones, and Phil Collins. It was released almost simultaneously with Brand X’s debut Unorthodox Behaviour, and in the minds of many fans, this is Brand X, though here Lancaster is the composer, which makes Marscape distinct from the Brand X albums, less fusion-y and more classically-influenced. Read the in-depth article on the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums at DPRP.
Missing Period represents the earliest known recordings of Brand X, from 1975-76. Recorded shortly before the release of their debut album Unorthodox Behaviour, the source tapes for this material were recovered by John Goodsall from family members in England, who presented John with a box containing all sorts of Brand X memorabilia. At the bottom of the box were some old reels of tape of unknown origin. Upon review, John and Percy Jones realized they had uncovered a long lost treasure, excellent quality recordings of Brand X’s classic lineup performing previously unreleased material.
The Brand X live CD is a soundboard recording of a performance at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles in September 1979, shortly after the release of the Product album.
Wild Connections (1979) is a collaboration between Jack Lancaster and Rick van der Linden, the keyboardist and leader of the Dutch band Trace. They are joined by a drummer and a choir, while Lancaster plays only Lyricon (the first electronic wind controller) and van der Linden plays only Yamaha GX-1. No bass player was necessary because van der Linden, being an organist, was very good at playing foot pedals. The GX-1 was Yamaha’s monstrous three-manual + bass pedals synth, weighing around 300kg/660lb and costing on the order of $60,000. Consequently, van der Linden was one of very few musicians to own one, the most famous being Keith Emerson, who used the GX-1 on Fanfare for the Common Man and Pirates. Wild Connections is an excellent album that contains van der Linden’s best baroque-rock outside of Trace.
Kerrs Pink are one of the most famous Norwegian progressive rock bands. Their earlier albums are in the early Camel vein, blending in elements of Scandinavian folklore a la Kebnekaise or early Ragnarök. After a self-titled 1980 debut and Mellom Oss in 1981, the band was inactive for a time before resurfacing with A Journey on the Inside in 1993, followed by Art of Complex Simplicity in 1997.
Tidings (2002) is their fifth. The band added a new lead singer and female backing vocalist (both singing in English), plus a second keyboardist. The production and playing are now completely professional, yet the music retains its freshness and sincerity. Stylistically, we are in Camel and Kaipa territory, also Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd, melodic and flowing symphonic rock with long tracks and ambitious arrangements, beautiful melodies, lots of keyboards, and lyrical guitar solos. Kerrs Pink are at their best when they integrate Norwegian folk melodies -- the 8:30 Tidings from Some Distant Shore is sublime in that regard. Read the All Music review. Note both Tidings and Art of Complex Simplicity have been out-of-print for years, but the band let us purchase their last few copies.
After another suitably long break, Kerrs Pink released their outstanding sixth album Mystic Spirit (2013, 68-minutes, digipack) on their own label. Their new singer is Eirikur Hauksson, on loan from Magic Pie. While the Kerrs Pink that recorded the early 1980s albums sounds somewhat tentative, the current band is bold and powerful as never before, and this will probably be regarded as their best album. It is loaded with vintage keyboards, the compositions still playing to Kerrs Pink’s strength, which is regal 1970s style symphonic prog with Norwegian folk melodies (with accordion used on occasion). With the contemporary production, this is an update of the classic Scandinavian symphonic prog style, close to Kaipa. Since it is sung in English, the reformed Kaipa is a better reference than 70s Kaipa.
Ultra Violins (2013) is the first solo album in over 20 years for violinist Darryl Way, known for his work in Curved Air and Darryl Way’s Wolf. Ultra Violins features Way’s interpretations of a number of a well-known classical pieces as well as a new version of the Curved Air show-stopper Vivaldi, all multi-tracked with some use of other instruments for a full sound. At least on Vivaldi, Way plays electric violin. Way says: “The motivating force behind creating Ultra Violins was to introduce some new material for solo violin that came from the vocal repertoire and the world of orchestral music, rather than music specifically for solo violin.” The CD includes a multimedia section with a music video and a video interview of Way. This album is a real pleasure, and you’ll get smarter just by listening to it. Also, it would make a good Christmas present for someone who is not necessarily a prog fan but would enjoy familiar classical pieces done in a contemporary way.
Ian Boddy is arguably the premier synthesist in the UK. Colour Division (2013, digipack) sees Boddy collaborating on an album with German composer/guitarist Markus Reuter for the fifth time. Reuter has recently been involved with The Crimson ProjeKCt and Stick Men (with Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto). In fact Colour Division does often sound like a marriage between electronic music and modern King Crimson, Reuter being adept at U8 Touch Guitar, Frippertronic-style loops and soundscapes, and a variety of fuzz tones and textures. Heavy electronic percussion drives some pieces into prog rock realms. Read the Star’s End and Igloo Magazine reviews. See our Electronic Music page for more Ian Boddy CDs.
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 on YouTube.
With Clearlight leader Cyrille Verdeaux living in California now for a long time, a collaboration with California space collective Spirits Burning was a natural. There are at least 35 musicians on this album, including Daevid Allen, Robert Rich, and members past and present of Hawkwind, High Tide, Gong, Universal Totem Orchestra, The Muffins, Thinking Plague, Cartoon, and others. Watch the album preview video. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Aural Innovations reviews. See our French page for the Clearlight CDs.
The first thing to clear up about this Belgian band is that they don’t have a violinist. The band name refers to Marc Chagall’s painting “Green Violinist”. More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings (2013) is their debut, published by the Swiss prog label Galileo. Born from the depression and personal transformation of bandleader Vincent Dufresne, the music is generally melancholy and sometimes grim (though the song Shy People is upbeat). The album is moving and poignant; whether it touches the listener deeply will of course hinge on whether the listener resonates with the emotions within the music or the demons Dufresne is exorcising. Read the Prog Archives, All About Jazz, and Dangerdog reviews.
Gringo was an early, obscure British quartet that included John G Perry, who would go on to Caravan, Quantum Jump, Curved Air, Gordon Giltrap, and Aviator. Gringo’s sole LP was released in 1972 and reissued on CD in 2000. This is the 2013 Gonzo edition, which includes the two bonus tracks of the 2000 edition, taken from a 1971 single. The music covers both proto-prog and period pop, with excellent harmony vocals and keyboard work emphasizing Fender Rhodes. Certainly a product of its time, it’s enjoyable so long as one isn’t expecting a Canterbury album. File alongside Kestrel, Capability Brown, Fantasy, etc.
These Pierre Moerlen’s Gong CDs are the 2013 editions on Gonzo Multimedia. Breakthrough (1986) and Second Wind (1988) are from a distinct period in the history of the band, five years having passed since the previous album Leave It Open. In 1985, Moerlen joined Swedish prog band Tribute and stayed on for three years. The Pierre Moerlen’s Gong that recorded Breakthrough features almost all of the Tribute members and is different from all the other PMG albums, much closer to being a Tribute album, a companion to Tribute’s Breaking Barriers album released the same year (if the similar names weren’t enough to clue you in). Since we like Tribute a lot, we like Breakthrough a lot, but of course the album gets badmouthed by those expecting it to sound the same as the earlier PMG albums. There’s only one Tribute member on Second Wind, which sees the return of Benoît Moerlen and is mostly a return to PMG’s fusion style or at least a late-80s update on it.
Full Circle Live 1988 wasn’t initially released until ten years later. It’s an excellent live album, the songs from Second Wind done with more energy and less studio slickness. It also features a good selection of tracks going back as far as Expresso II. See Page 2 for more Pierre Moerlen’s Gong CDs and the rest of the story.
These are the 2012/2013 digipack reissues on Sireena Records, who say that the albums were remastered. New Views is the 1984 debut by Swedish symphonic prog band Tribute. This is an album we’re very fond of, and though the band may have been forgotten in the past three decades, this album sold well upon its release, and the band toured western Europe. It was during their 1985 tour in Germany that their drummer bailed and Tribute managed to find a replacement in Pierre Moerlen, who became a member for three years. The music on New Views is instrumental with beautiful wordless female vocals. Even though Moerlen had not yet joined, there is a very strong influence of instrumental Mike Oldfield (Moerlen’s employer at the time) of the Incantations through Crises period. There are also elements of Camel, Genesis, instrumental Alan Parsons Project, and (in one track) Tangerine Dream. The 22-minute epic title track is the highlight of an album that is supremely melodic with just the right amount of grandeur. If this album is new to you and you’re a fan of Oldfield and the other artists mentioned, rejoice that there is still undiscovered music like this.
Moerlen was on board for the second Tribute album Breaking Barriers (1986) and contributes to the writing. The style of this album shifts toward the Pierre Moerlen’s Gong style of the same timeframe. Breaking Barriers has much in common with the similarly-named PMG album Breakthrough released the same year, which has almost all of Tribute in the line-up. “Breaking Barriers was Tribute’s second release and continued their exploration into commercial symphonic progressive space rock. This album has stronger electric guitar presence and a couple vocal tracks, but manages to sustain their positive musical explorations. The vocal harmonies are truly majestic with compelling voices used throughout. The great thing about this album is that they did not try to carbon copy the first and really gave way to some new leanings and genuine progression to follow through on. On this album, Tribute also dig more into the world music envelope with an African ditty (featuring Amadu Jarr on African percussion) and a Scottish Celtic influenced track. Overall a great album full of excellent musicianship and expressive positive songwriting.” [Prog Archives]
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 each of the titles here feature a different one. Triple Aspect (1996) is their third and is the best of the CDs they released during their first era.
Cardinal Points (2011, 59-minutes) was the first new studio CD from Legend since Triple Aspect. It is divided into four long tracks in the 13-17 minute range, following an earth, wind, fire, and water theme. Legend sometimes integrate a heavy, plodding Hawkwind or early Rainbow approach, though ‘neo-prog’ best describes their music. As this CD progresses, the music becomes more nuanced and open, approaching Renaissance level in the last and longest track, maybe the best thing they’ve recorded. Read the JerryLucky.com review.
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. Similar to the previous album, 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 of all at Prog Archives.
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 had a small cache of the original edition of ICU’s self-titled third CD, which is what is offered here.
Now and Here is a concept album, the highest-rated of the ICU albums on Prog Archives and generally considered to be ICU’s best. It’s one of the best continental neo-prog albums ever though probably forgotten due to its long unavailability, which this Collector’s Edition should rectify. It contains three CD-Rs with the original album mix on Disc 1. Disc 2 contains the first live performance of the entire album, from February 1995 in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg. Disc 3 contains live recordings, rarities, and demos. The set includes a lyric sheet and detailed liner notes for each track. These items proved to be very popular, so more will be on the way soon, but the German postal service is very slow with parcels.
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.
Note the 3-disc sets 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 are CD-Rs and DVD-Rs with labels printed directly on the disc; the booklets and inlays are ink-jet 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. Note the 3-disc sets are not sealed. We do put a plastic sleeve on them once we receive them, but expect some slight wear to the cases. They are special 3-disc jewel cases that are the same width as a single jewel case.
Eternal Movement (2013, digipack) is the third album from Poland’s top post-rock band, maybe one of the top post-rock bands in the world only we haven’t checked the standings recently. While adhering to the (rather narrow) conventions of post-rock, one might think of this as symphonic space-rock built around the guitar sound first developed by U2. This is wonderful music to lose oneself in, drift into that alpha state of consciousness, but it builds to peaks of great intensity and so sounds just as good wide awake. It would be fantastic to hear in surround -- we hear Steven Wilson is available for hire. As the band describes it: “It’s energetic, full of hope and light. It has a greater depth of sound as we used several more guitars, different drum kits, and far more keyboards than previous albums.” Read the Echoes and Dust review. Watch the official video for the song Only With Presence.
Kscope’s 2013 reissue of The Pineapple Thief’s 2008 album Tightly Unwound has been expanded to a double CD and comes in a hardcover digibook. The audio has been remixed and remastered. The second disc contains eight more tracks taken from the Dawn Raids EPs and an acoustic version of Shoot First. The single CD edition is the original and comes in a super jewel box, now available at cost.
Kscope’s 2013 reissue of the second Pineapple Thief album One Three Seven (written “137” on its initial release in 2001) has been remixed and remastered and features new artwork. The older albums tend to benefit more from the reworking because of improved studio technology and the artist’s increased experience, and that is certainly the case with One Three Seven. We have a fondness for the early Pineapple Thief albums (when there was no definite article in the band name), and bandleader Bruce Soord is still quite proud of his older work, and as he says: “The sound is infinitely better and it has revealed a really strong album lurking beneath.” Now mathematicians may argue that for the sound to be infinitely better, there had to have been no sound at all on the first edition, but we vaguely recall there was some great melancholy prog on it. See Page 2 for the rest of the Pineapple Thief catalog and much more info.
Oliver Wakeman (Rick’s eldest son) teamed with Steve Howe on The 3 Ages of Magick (2001), a concept album that continues the style of Rick Wakeman’s most grandiose albums. It is instrumental, with Wakeman and Howe assisted by Tony Dixon (Uilleann pipes, whistles, flute), Jo Greenland (violin), Tim Buchanan (fretted & fretless bass), and Landmarq’s Dave Wagstaffe (drums). This 2013 slipcased edition on Esoteric has been newly remastered and adds three previously unreleased bonus tracks from the album sessions. The expanded booklet contains notes by Oliver Wakeman.
Circles (2010) is the second album from Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison, and multi-instrumentalist, singer, and extended range bass player 05Ric. The extended range bass is an instrument 05Ric had a hand in designing, incorporating aspects of the Chapman Stick and a conventional electric guitar. These are two stellar musicians making full-sounding music mostly in the Adrian Belew-era King Crimson vein with a healthy dose of Allan Holdsworth added. We’ve all heard lots of bands influenced by 80s Crimson and by Holdsworth, but few if any as good as the originals. Circles however is right up there with them. The intricacy of it all is kind of mind-bending, yet it is musical, flowing naturally; it’s even soothing at times. Gavin is definitely holding back when playing with Porcupine Tree (which makes sense for PTree’s style). This edition includes a CD plus a DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround, packaged in a super jewel box + slipcase. Thank you Kscope for a hi-res surround version with no increase in price! Those with DVD-Video-only players can listen to the DTS surround mix.
The Man Who Sold Himself (2012, digibook) is the third collaboration for Harrison and 05Ric. The DVD in this two disc set contains a 5.1 mix of the album. (There is no indication of DVD-Audio on the outside of the packaging. Kscope lists it as a DVD-A on their site, but one can never be sure labels understand the difference between a DVD-A and a DVD-Video disc containing only audio.) Read reviews at ThisIsNotAScene and Alternative Matter. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Drop is the first for the duo, originally released in 2007 and featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Dave Stewart, and Gary Sanctuary (Three Friends). Nine carefully crafted songs feature ground-breaking multi-layered guitars, vocal harmonies, and rhythms. This 2013 Kscope slipcased edition features new artwork by Carl Glover.
Cinema is a new German electronic music project, but the man behind it is a veteran: Jürgen “Pöngse” Krutzsch, once the guitarist of the German 1970s prog band Tibet. On the Cinema debut The Magix Box, released in 2013 on the Sireena label, Pöngse is aided by two other musicians. The music is warm, melodic/rhythmic electronics that crosses over into progressive rock. It sounds like an updated blend of Vangelis and Ashra, also reminiscent of modern Mike Oldfield and modern Tangerine Dream. The prog rock crossover appeal is due to the use of electric guitar and the well-formed melodies. Eroc (Grobschnitt) did the mastering. Watch the official trailer.
Speaking of Ashra, check our DVDs page for Ashra’s Correlations in Concert DVD.
The new Ayreon album The Theory of Everything (2013, digipack) is a rock opera (imagine that!) that begins a new story line for the Ayreon universe. The two CDs contain four 20+ minute epics divided into 42 separate tracks. The DVD contains 2.5 hours of behind-the-scenes content, mainly a making-of documentary and interviews. An Ayreon album always has impressive participants, but this one outdoes the previous albums. To name just the biggest names: John Wetton, Steve Hackett, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Troy Donockley, and Jordan Rudess. This album is proggier (less metallic) and more instrumental than the previous album 01011001, in some ways returning to the early days. Read the Sea of Tranquility, The Monolith, and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album trailer and the official video for the title track. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Dutch page for more Ayreon CDs.
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 heavy prog, ambient and Floydian prog, symphonic prog and more, probably falling primarily in the Anathema / Porcupine Tree / Riverside camp. Watch the album trailer.
Odyssice are a Dutch instrumental sympho-prog quartet founded in 1986. They are led by guitarist Bastiaan Peeters, whose style is close to Andy Latimer of Camel: soaring, lyrical guitar work that might also be compared to David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, or Nick Barrett, yet is distinct from all of them. Lush keyboards also play a major role. If you thought the best tracks on Camel albums such as Nude were the instrumentals, then any of these is like getting an entire album of the good stuff.
This 2013 double-CD edition of Moon Drive (digipack) remasters and expands Odyssice’s first album. It contains the remastered 1997 Moon Drive tracks, the remastered 2003 ‘Plus’ tracks (that appeared on Moondrive Plus), two previously-unreleased 1987 demo tracks, and an entire previously-unreleased 11-track live album recorded in 2001.
This is the 2012 remastered 2CD edition of Odyssice’s second album Impression (digipack), first released in 2000. This new edition adds a second disc containing over 50 minutes of bonus material from 1999-2001, mostly alternate versions, live versions, and outtakes. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Silence (2010, 54-minutes) marks the return of Odyssice. Read the DPRP and Prog Archives reviews. Now out-of-print, last copies.
Secret Showcase (2013, digipack) is a CD+DVD of a live performance at the studio of RTV Noord-Holland that took place shortly before the band began recording Silence. The CD contains about 60 minutes of music, including extra songs played during the concert that were omitted from the TV broadcast. The DVD contains the show as broadcast, a documentary, a promotional live video of the song Olympus, and some rehearsal footage. The DVD is all-region, but as there is no indication on the packaging, assume it is PAL.
Dutch prog quartet Cliffhanger stand apart from the other Dutch prog bands that appeared during the 1990s, as the others were virtually all pure neo-prog bands. Cliffhanger are more complex, with high-level musicianship and a 1970s sound that features vintage keyboard sounds, guitar, bass pedals, Rickenbacker bass, and drums. Cliffhanger’s music draws from Genesis, Yes, Van der Graaf Generator, and King Crimson. A couple Cliffhanger members went on to Knight Area.
This is the 2013 re-release of Cold Steel (digipack), Cliffhanger’s 1995 debut album remastered and expanded to a double-CD version. Disc 1 contains the original 68-minute album carefully remastered. Disc 2 contains 71 minutes of previously unreleased material from the same time frame. Of the 11 tracks on Disc 2, only three appear to be alternate versions of tracks on Disc 1. The digipack features new artwork and liner notes. Hopefully the other out-of-print Cliffhanger CDs will follow. Read reviews of the original at Prog Archives. Check our Dutch page for Cliffhanger’s Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001 DVD.
Desolation Rose (2CD, digipack) is The Flower Kings’ 2013 studio CD, featuring 18 new tracks. Watch the official video. See our Scandinavian page for more The Flower Kings CDs.
Guy Manning and his band return with their 14th release in 14 years. “So has Manning still got plenty to say? The answer, I think, is there for all to see and hear in The Root, The Leaf & The Bone – finely crafted and consistently original songs, intelligent and meaningful lyrics, and a keen ear for creating the right blend of instrumentation, mood, and sound. Many will argue that his 14th album is Guy Manning’s most pleasing and accomplished collection of songs yet, and I don’t think you’ll find me disagreeing too much with that view.” Read the full Progressive Ears review, also the Progarchy and Prog Archives reviews. See our British page for the rest of the Manning catalog and much more info.
Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith (2013, big fat digipack) is a 5-disc (3 CDs + 2 DVDs) set recorded on Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited tour on May 10, 2013 at the sold-out Hammersmith Apollo in London. Guests include Nik Kershaw, John Wetton, Jakko Jakszyk, Steve Rothery, and Amanda Lehmann. 19 classic Genesis tracks are spread across the three CDs. The first DVD contains the full 2 hour, 41 minute show with 5.1 surround audio! The second DVD contains behind the scenes footage. Watch the promo video. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Steve Hackett’s live album The Tokyo Tapes was first issued in 1998 as a double-CD, followed by a DVD in 2001. This 2013 edition on Esoteric has been newly-remastered and combines the 2CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) into one box-set. Both the 2CD and DVD were drawn from two 1996 concerts in Tokyo. Hackett’s band was a progressive rock supergroup, with John Wetton, Chester Thompson, Ian McDonald, and Julian Colbeck. In addition to songs from the Steve Hackett repertoire, the set list features Genesis, King Crimson, John Wetton, and Asia songs. The second CD still includes the studio tracks Firewall and The Dealer but now also includes a new studio recording of All Along the Watchtower by Hackett and Wetton. The DVD includes bonus rehearsal footage. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
This is the best American symphonic prog by an artist you never heard of, unless you have heard of The Psychedelic Ensemble, in which case you don’t need to read this sentence. The band name is a bit of a misnomer as the music is symphonic prog, not psych. The noun ‘psyche’ is a better word than ‘psychedelic’ as far as the album concepts go, since it’s the human psyche that is often being examined. Essentially a solo artist, you’d never guess that was the case because the music sounds like a large ensemble. The man behind it all doesn’t reveal his identity and we’ll respect that, though we can say he has a career in contemporary classical music and a long composition resume. Maybe he doesn’t want his classical peers to learn he has an alternate life as a progger.
The debut The Art of Madness (2009, 54-minutes) is slightly different than what follows. The dominant influence on this album is DSotM-era Pink Floyd, though somewhat more introspective and brooding -- if you know the band Product, we’re reminded of their approach. But Pink Floyd is far from the only style here. There are instrumental passages that have nothing to do with Pink Floyd, fast-tempo and adventurous, while there is room for classical chamber music, prog-folk, ELP-style and more. There is great attention to detail, an uncommonly intricate sonic tapestry, all told quite an original and impressive work. This is the Musea edition, the only edition currently available.
On the following albums: The Myth of Dying (2010, 58-minutes), The Dream of the Magic Jongleur (2011, 64-minutes), and The Tale of the Golden King (2013, 72-minutes), Yes becomes the dominant influence while the Pink Floyd influence drops off. ELP/UK and Gentle Giant are also influences, but the music is generally darker and busier than those bands. The Tale of the Golden King features a female vocalist and an orchestra on some tracks. All the albums are more instrumental than vocal. Start with one of the more recent CDs. Read reviews of all.
Drive Home (2013) features unreleased Steven Wilson tracks, videos, live recordings, and high-definition audio. The video content of the Blu-ray (all-region) includes a new video for the title track, the video for The Raven That Refused to Sing, and four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour. Audio-only content includes two previously unreleased tracks. The first of these, The Birthday Party, was recorded in Los Angeles during the same sessions as The Raven... album. The second is an orchestral version of The Raven That Refused to Sing, a new mix that strips it down to just orchestra and vocals. These tracks are also featured on the CD along with the audio from the live tracks and an edit of Drive Home. All the songs on the Blu-Ray are mixed in both stereo and 5.1 surround. The audio on the Blu-Ray is lossless 96/24 throughout. Watch the promo video. See Page 2 for the rest of the Steven Wilson catalog.
Hawklords are a branch of the large Hawkwind family tree. The lineup on Dream (2013) has only Harvey Bainbridge in common with the lineup that recorded 1978’s 25 Years On, but just about every other current Hawklord has been in Hawkwind at some point. “With too convoluted a history to document here, the current incarnation -- Harvey Bainbridge from the original ’78 spin-off plus several other mothership veterans -- jettisons most of the laboured biker rock that marred last year’s We Are One for an airier dynamic. The closest comparison would be Levitation/Sonic Attack-era Hawkwind. Dream a Dream updates Motorway City with a heavy trance back end and Psychic Eyes is Coded Languages in a parallel reality. As persuasive as these are, the ante is upped on Dead Air -- a reverse-echoed slice of futuristic whimsy redolent of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman -- and the uplifting melody of Elemental Mind. An occasional touch of water-treading takes off a little of the shine, though the balance between looking back and forward is expertly struck.” [Classic Rock Magazine] Read what the non-paid guys think at amazon. Watch the promo video.
Hawkwind’s 1975 magnum opus gets the royal Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 2CD+DVD box set. The first CD contains the remastered original mix, the first CD ever of Warrior on the Edge of Time mastered from the original master tapes. It has eight bonus tracks (five previously unreleased). The second CD contains a new stereo mix by Steven Wilson from the multi-track masters, plus five bonus tracks (two previously unreleased). And most importantly, the DVD, which contains a 5.1 surround mix by the master of surround himself. Note this is a DVD-Video disc (NTSC, all-region), not DVD-Audio, which is boneheaded, particularly for Esoteric who you think would know better. So the surround mix is DTS 96/24 and Dolby Digital (the latter was never intended for music, so play the DTS). The DVD also includes Wilson’s new stereo mix in 24-bit/96kHz LPCM, and a flat transfer of the original stereo master in 24/96. So aside from the bonus tracks and ignoring portability concerns, you don’t actually need the CDs unless you prefer the lower resolution audio. The 16-page booklet features photos, memorabilia, and an essay. Don’t know this album? Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Hawkwind CDs.
These are the 2013 newly-remastered editions on Esoteric. This British progressive folk-rock band featured Barbara Gaskin on vocals, who later sang for Hatfield and the North and teamed with Dave Stewart on several progressive pop albums under the name Stewart/Gaskin. Dave Mattacks played drums on all three Spirogyra albums but was never a member. St. Radigunds (1971), Old Boot Wine (1972), and Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973) are excellent albums that can be grouped with Trees, Comus, and Spriguns. In fact, their progressive content exceeds that of almost any of the 1970s folk-rock and psych-folk albums. Old Boot Wine adds four bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions. Bells, Boots and Shambles has one bonus track, a non-album single. The booklets contain a new essay. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
British band Quatermass made this one classic progressive rock album in 1970 that influenced Deep Purple at least. (There were connections between the Quatermass musicians and Ian Gillan, and the first Rainbow album includes a Quatermass cover.) The band consisted of keyboardist Peter Robinson, bassist/singer John Gustafson, and drummer Mick Underwood. Robinson went on to Brand X, while Gustafson became a session musician and found work with Roxy Music, Gordon Giltrap, Steve Hackett, and many others. Underwood had no trouble finding work either. For surround enthusiasts, this 2013 digipack edition on Esoteric is startling and unexpected. While the CD includes a new stereo mix by Peter Robinson and four bonus tracks (two previously unreleased), the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a new 5.1 surround mix by Robinson! Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Peter Robinson and John Gustafson were also participants in this obscure project. This is the first ever release of this January 1972 recording that brought together seven progressive-minded musicians to create unique experimental music. Aside from Robinson and Gustafson, they included Martyn Ford, who had been an arranger for Barclay James Harvest; Paul Buckmaster, who had worked with David Bowie, Third Ear Band, and more; and Trevor Morais, who would go on to Quantum Jump and Rupert Hine’s albums. The Esoteric label says that the music touches on the styles later developed by Henry Cow or even Frank Zappa. The audio was remastered by Peter Robinson, who also wrote the essay in the accompanying illustrated booklet. Read the Let It Rock review.
Awaking the Muse (2009) is the very strong debut by a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Trion, King Eider, Nice Beaver, and Pink Floyd Project. Leap Day play upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles; The Flower Kings is not a bad reference point either. Simply ear candy for lovers of undiluted neo-prog. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Skylge’s Lair (2011) is their second, and it is less neo-prog than their debut, more of a sense of Kayak and to some extent Focus, less of Marillion. Well, Flamborough Head developed similarly, becoming more of a classic prog band on later albums, and King Eider and Trion always leaned more toward classic prog than neo. There are lots of vintage keyboard sounds -- enough Mellotron flute to suggest The Beatles, enough bouncy electric piano to bring Supertramp to mind. Greenslade is a good reference point since both bands have two keyboardists, and Camel must also be mentioned. Excellent melodic prog with a stately feel. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (2013, digipack) follows on the heels of new albums by Trion and Flamborough Head, a very productive period for these musicians. Watch the album trailer video.
These are the 2013 editions on the Esoteric label, newly-remastered from the original tapes, with booklets that feature a new essay and interview with Giltrap. See the Gordon Giltrap section on our British page for full information and the rest of the essential Gordon Giltrap CDs.
This 2013 collaboration with Oliver Wakeman represents Gordon Giltrap’s return to rock, after 30 years away. Which means the UK’s leading acoustic guitarist has plugged in his electric again. Giltrap has worked with Rick Wakeman on several occasions, so the collaboration with Oliver is a natural. On Ravens and Lullabies, the two are joined by singer Paul Manzi (Arena), bassist Steve Amadeo, and drummer Johanne James (Threshold), while Threshold’s Karl Groom recorded and mixed the album. The album also features a special vocal appearance by Benoit David (Mystery, Yes). This is the limited edition digipack, which adds a second CD containing five live tracks from Giltrap and Wakeman’s acoustic duo tour, and three new studio recordings. Click the mp3 icon above for all the info on the album plus several reviews. More reviews at amazon.
Oceans of Time (2013) is the fourth full-length studio CD for this British prog band. The band says that “fans will enjoy a more guitar-orientated sound than previous albums due to the nature of the writing process.” Touchstone always had one foot in prog and one in melodic hard rock, and with each album they shift a little more weight onto the hard rock foot. Read the Dangerdog, RingMaster, and Sea of Tranquility reviews. See our British page for the rest of the Touchstone CDs and more info.
Berlin’s Crystal Palace have been releasing albums and EPs since 1995. 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 and listen to the title track.
This Esoteric Recordings 2CD anthology of pioneering Danish prog band Burnin Red Ivanhoe is drawn from their prime period albums on Sonet Records: M144 (1969), Burnin Red Ivanhoe (1970), W.W.W. (1971), 6 Elefantskovcikadeviser (1971), Miley Smile / Stage Recall (1972), and Right On (1974). The music has been newly-remastered from the original master tapes and features a booklet with fully restored artwork and a new essay. Burnin Red Ivanhoe’s early prog mixed jazz-rock with psychedelia, hard rock, folk, blues, and everything else that was going on in music at the time. The band evolved into the jazzier Secret Oyster. Read The Active Listener and Prog Archives reviews.
Energy (2013) is the third album for English quintet Mother Black Cap. If the prevailing trend in British prog at this time is represented by The Reasoning, DeeExpus, Touchstone, Tinyfish, etc., then Mother Black Cap run counter to it. For one, this CD has a live, underproduced sound, and the music is sometimes relaxed and flowing. With electric piano and Hammond organ the dominant keyboards, the sound is more oriented to 1970s prog and early-80s neo-prog. Camel could be mentioned, and the band have been known to play covers of other early 1970s bands including Pink Floyd and Focus. Some tracks are closer to the likes of Grey Lady Down and Grace. Energy features additional musicians on trumpet, flugelhorn, fiddle, and vocals. A few tracks bring to mind the great Horslips, and the final track borrows from the instrumental section of MacArthur Park (one of the earliest prog songs). Not copyists, and not entirely a retro band, but MBC make warm, inviting music for fans of very English-sounding (and since we mentioned Horslips, Irish-sounding) prog. Read the Background Magazine review.
English Electric Part One (2012, digipack, 60-minutes) continues Big Big Train’s meteoric rise to prog fame, as EE1 goes beyond even The Underfall Yard. Andy Tillison (The Tangent) guests. “Fragrant, mellifluous and, quite frankly, awe-inspiring.” [Classic Rock] “EE1 is a thing of absolute and intense beauty, truth, and goodness. It comes as close to reaching the Platonic ideal of the forms as any album can. It’s intense, hurried, lingering, pastoral, necessary, longing, bouncy, pleading, satisfying, answering, punctuated, loud, quiet, meaningful, and, over and above all, harmonious... BBT’s music transcends our day-to-day lives in ways that surpass words.” [The Imaginative Conservative] Watch the promo video. Read the DPRP reviews.
With English Electric Part Two (2013, digipack, 58-minutes), “Big Big Train continues its journey across the English landscape with an album of seven new songs which tell further tales of the men and women who work on and under the land. Along the way, stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a machine that burned its legend across the pages of the history books, of a keeper of abbeys and a curator of butterflies, and of a second chance at love.” Read the DPRP reviews.
English Electric: Full Power (2013) contains all of Parts One and Two plus four new songs and a 96-page book telling the stories behind the songs and the making of English Electric, bound into a hardcover digibook. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
Make Some Noise (2013, digipack) features the four new tracks from English Electric: Full Power. It exists so that those who already bought Parts One and Two (and there are a lot of you) can complete the English Electric set without having to purchase Full Power. Make Some Noise actually contains nine tracks, but the other five also appear on either Part One or Two. A high-resolution PDF of the 96-page booklet that comes with Full Power is available free to purchasers of Make Some Noise. We’ll email the link with your invoice, or if we forget, please bug us for it. See our British page for the rest of the Big Big Train CDs and much more info.
This Chris is Dutch multi-instrumentalist and singer Christiaan Bruin, who is also a member of the band Sky Architect. His 2009 debut A Glimpse Inside on Musea is nearly as good as Kayak (who Christiaan admits he’d never heard!), the gold standard for Dutch progressive rock with a strong pop element. Bruin has created excellent multi-tracked vocal arrangements, sometimes with Beach Boys type harmonies. He loves to use Mellotron strings and choir, lending a Genesis or IQ feel as well. A bouncy song or two reminds one of early Queen, but the piano and melodic lead guitar keep bringing back thoughts of Kayak. Bruin has since assembled a live band.
Making Sense (2010, 70-minutes, digipack) saw Chris move to the Swedish Progress label, who liken the album to IQ, The Beatles, Yes, and Klaatu, all of which can be heard at different times. The Kayak style is still present, but on balance there has been a shift toward the style of IQ or Carptree, the music somewhat darker and more intense. Christiaan is correct in saying that “the symphonic arrangements and typical vocal layers of the debut are still there, yet further developed into a richer, more versatile sound”. Listen to the track Eve of Destiny on YouTube, which will make that very evident. There aren’t many one-man projects of this caliber, and if you allow yourself to just fall under the spell of the music, you’ll forget one man is responsible for it all. Read reviews.
For City of Light (2012, digipack), Chris says he took a different approach and that this CD sounds more modern, energetic, and youthful. It’s not a huge departure -- it’s still symphonic prog. To his established style, Chris has added some elements that don’t fit with classic prog, namely the sound of the drums, processing on the vocals, occasional samples and whatnot, generally things that add an edgier sound and pull the music closer to Porcupine Tree. Listen to the songs Colours Come to Life and Blessings and Goodbyes on YouTube.
Snow Stories (digipack) is a winter-themed album that the Dutch FREIA label managed to release in time for Christmas 2012. The lineup includes a cellist and a violinist, while two lead guitarists guest. But this isn’t what most would consider a Christmas album. It’s a symphonic prog album with some quirky pop that sounds just as good in July. The prog is in a Yes/Genesis/Kayak vein, the quirky pop à la early Queen. The sonic allusions to winter are by way of orchestral textures and motifs that everyone associates with the season due to numerous soundtracks. In some ways, this is a return to the style of the first Chris album, and it makes it clear that Mr. Bruin is quite a talent.
The wintry Snow Stories is followed by the autumnal Days of Summer Gone (2013, digipack), which features a lot of acoustic textures courtesy of additional musicians on cello, violin, oboe, flute, trumpet, and trombone. Chris says the album “carries the melancholic atmosphere of autumn. At times dreamy, warm, and gentle, at other times twisted, strange, and dark.” He goes on to say: “This album is once again very different. After the electronic, modern City of Light, I wanted to go back to a more organic approach. The arrangements are pretty detailed and colorful I think, and in terms of composition I tried to write more extended compositions rather than songs.” That he has, as four of the six tracks exceed 11 minutes. The Progress label feels this album has more in common with Änglagård (in their more acoustic passages) than any of the styles heard on the previous Chris albums.
There aren’t many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with “Traum” (“Dream”) do. Traumhaus debuted in 2001 with a self-titled CD 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 was on the same level as those bands. After a 2005 EP and some personnel changes, Traumhaus returned in 2008 with Die Andere Seite which, though not currently in stock, is supposed to be issued in a new edition in the near future. About half that 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.
Das Geheimnis (2013, digipack) features Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on drums, rather unexpected for a band that sings in German! This album continues along the lines of Die Andere Seite, a combination of classic and neo-prog, some metal moments but loads of vintage keys, centered on the 27-minute epic Das Vermächtnis (The Legacy). The music is much richer for the German-language lyrics that give it character and distinctiveness, still evoking Stern Meissen vocally. English translations of the lyrics are included. (Those so-called prog fans who insist music be sung in English and have a generic Anglo-American sound will not know who Stern Meissen is anyway.) Strongly melodic with exciting instrumental passages, this CD is highly recommended. Watch/listen to the album sampler. Watch a bit of Jimmy Keegan recording his parts and hear more of the album.
British neo-prog band Credo’s 2005 CD Rhetoric had been unavailable for a while, now reissued in this 2013 digipack edition with one bonus track. The music is solidly in the early Marillion vein, with Mark Colton’s very Fish-like vocals, also resembling Grey Lady Down, early Arena, and Pallas and of comparable quality. See our British page for more Credo titles.
The appearance of William Shatner on the recent The Prog Collective - Epilogue CD was just a taster for this album, based on a concept written by Shatner and featuring his spoken word poetry. Ponder the Mystery (2013, digipack) is another Prog Collective type project, organized by Billy Sherwood and featuring an all-star lineup, in this instance Rick Wakeman, Simon House, Edgar Froese, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Nik Turner, and several more. Shatner says he’s a prog fan, though to paraphrase Billy Sherwood: “well, he probably doesn’t have Gentle Giant on his iPod.” Read the Rolling Stone interview and Billboard article, which says that Shatner will perform the album live with Circa: as his band!
Ulver’s Messe I.X - VI.X (2013, jewel box + slipcase) was composed and recorded with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. As the Kscope label says: “The follow up to 2011’s acclaimed Wars of the Roses, Messe I.X–VI.X is a different entity, reverberating 2007’s somber and solemn Shadows of the Sun, with the band even going as far as to say it feels like a companion piece to it. The album also echoes the early electronic experiments of EPs Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing, and is furthermore said to invoke the ghost of an abandoned Nattens madrigal renaissance project... The Norwegian masters have evolved over the past two decades to cross an astonishing body of disciplines, taking in ambient, avant-garde, electronic, psychedelic, prog, and jazz influences. Now it is their electronic, atmospheric, and classical sensibilities which come to the fore.” See our Scandinavian page for more Ulver titles.
Deluge Grander sprung from the ashes of Baltimore progressive band Cerebus Effect. It was the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton that made the final Cerebus Effect CD their most symphonic, and on their 2006 debut August in the Urals, Deluge Grander continue in that same direction, more symphonic and, well, grander. Britton is the primary composer here, and he is a tremendous keyboardist. The pieces vary from long to really long, so that only five tracks comprise the 71-minute CD. No one will be able to digest this music in one go. It is complex symphonic prog in a 1970s style, with some vocals but no attempts at songs per se, as instrumental content clearly dominates. The 27-minute first track is the closest to Cerebus Effect, the most angular and dissonant of the pieces, though the dissonance is used more for contrast than as the sole style. The other tracks are more melodic and symphonic. There are many possible reference points, including Änglagård, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Fireballet, Genesis, and Yes, but the music rarely suggests any one band for long. There are times when Britton’s piano playing suggests John Tout and Renaissance, times when his organ playing suggests Rick Wakeman, and lots of times when he uses Mellotron strings. This album has turned a lot of heads among the fan base for classic progressive rock.
Birds and Buildings is Dan Britton’s other band and is fairly similar. The two bands also share a bass player. Bantam to Behemoth (2008, 69-minutes) has some vocals by Britton and a female singer on one track, but they are so buried in the mix that this still feels like an instrumental CD. The major difference between this and Deluge Grander is the presence of a woodwinds (sax, flute, clarinet) player. The flute tends to be used in the gentler, pastoral passages, while the sax is used in the more energetic passages. The sax style is similar to David Jackson or Mel Collins, ranging from melodic to frenzied. The presence of sax leads to comparisons with King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gong, and there is more of a Canterbury influence here than in Deluge Grander. There are still gobs of Mellotron strings and choir, and highly-skilled ensemble playing. The production is a little bass-shy, but overall this is a tremendous CD in the tradition of the complex side of British symphonic progressive.
Bantam to Behemoth was recorded between the two Deluge Grander CDs, and the second Deluge Grander CD The Form of the Good (2009) seems to have more in common with Bantam to Behemoth than August in the Urals, perhaps not surprising given that B&B’s woodwind player guests here. The Form of the Good is entirely instrumental and has more of the sonic maelstrom approach of the French band Clearlight. Here the core quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums in augmented by a large number of guests contributing clarinet, flute, sax, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and oboe. Clearlight had Didier Malherbe’s woodwinds and either David Cross’s or Didier Lockwood’s violin, so Deluge Grander usually have a sonic counterpart to those in the mix here. As with B&B, this is blended with a more symphonic style highlighted by Mellotron.
2013 and it’s Birds and Buildings’ turn again, with Multipurpose Trap (63-minutes). The lineup has changed but the instrumentation still includes violin, sax, flute, and clarinet. In the band’s words, B&B “play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on zeulh), complex symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness”. The band says that every song has up to six people singing, but only for a minute or less on most songs, mainly to confound ‘instrumental’ versus ‘vocal’ classification.
Inner Firmaments Decay (2010) is the debut CD by All Over Everywhere, a musical collective headquartered in College Park, Maryland and based around the collaborative songwriting of Trinna Kesner and Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Birds and Buildings). Inner Firmaments Decay is a themed collection of songs featuring the vocals of Megan Wheatley (who also sings in Birds and Buildings) and a large ensemble of classical and rock musicians who float in and out of the songs. There’s flute, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, violin, viola, cello, hammered dulcimer, zither, piano, accordion, oboe, clarinet, vibes, bass, drums and percussion, and then there are Dan Britton’s keyboards, featuring loads of Mellotron. There is some similarity then to the British band Karda Estra, who also blend rock and classical instruments and use female vocals. Look upon All Over Everywhere as the marriage of dream-pop and symphonic rock. The first seven songs range from three to seven minutes in length, with the female vocals heavily-reverbed, the textures mostly acoustic apart from Britton’s symphonic keys. The mood is somewhat sad, languorous and dreamy. The final track Gratitude (10:35) begins in the same style but morphs seamlessly into majestic symphonic rock and a joyful mood, and may be the only piece of music that transitions from Cocteau Twins or various Projekt label bands into Genesis. Read the DPRP review.
That’s how Cerebus Effect spell their name, even though the three-headed watchdog Cerberus appears on the traycard of Acts of Deception (2005), the second studio CD for this Baltimore-area instrumental band. There is a small amount of “vocals”, but it is not singing as we understand it, and the vocals are very low in the mix. With the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton, Acts of Deception contains a unique blend of symphonic progressive and heavy fusion. Cerebus Effect like to play it fast and furious and in odd time signatures. They’ve been listening to their progressive rock, and you can catch influences of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Djam Karet, Volaré, Happy the Man, Kultivator, Van der Graaf Generator, Magma, and Genesis, to name just a few. Actually, the Genesis and Magma occur in the same song, which is typical of their eclecticism. The tracks that won’t allow you to catch your breath are broken up by a few more peaceful tracks, one suggestive of Steve Hackett’s acoustic pieces and another of Happy the Man’s slower tracks. There are enough bands that impress with technical skills while making for a fatiguing listen, but Cerebus Effect blend in enough structure and symphonic textures to make this an album to return to.
Sonus Umbra is a band whose incarnations have followed bandleader/composer/bassist Luis Nasser, from the band’s roots in Mexico City (the band then called Radio Silence), on to Maryland and now Chicago. Consequently the lineup of Sonus Umbra today has only Nasser and drummer Andy Tillotson in common with the Maryland band, the rest of the band consisting of Rich Poston (electric guitar), Tim McCaskey (acoustic guitar), Brian Harris (keys), Steve Royce (flute/vocals), and Roey Ben-Yoseph on lead vocals. There’s also a guest cellist on Winter Soulstice (2013, 71-minutes, digipack), the first CD for the Chicago edition, and it is the best Sonus Umbra CD to date. The band even call it a departure from their previous work, but the characteristic Sonus Umbra mood is present, as well as the acoustic moments that are a highlight of the early albums. This is clearly the best lineup Sonus Umbra have had. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Sonus Umbra’s debut CD Snapshots from Limbo was very well received, eventually getting re-released by Musea. Spiritual Vertigo (2004) is their second. Here Sonus Umbra produce a melancholy and brooding progressive rock with slight psychedelic or space-rock overtones, leaning towards dark and mysterious without sacrificing melody. Guitars have the edge over keyboards, but the liberal use of acoustic guitar keeps things sounding warm. Andres Aullet’s vocals have a slightly surreal quality to them, and he is aided briefly by guest vocalist Lisa Francis of Kurgan’s Bane. They have their own style; at different times you hear traces of Pink Floyd, Rush, and a host of other 1970s progressives. This is the MALS label edition; the U.S. edition is out-of-print.
Digging for Zeros (2005, 61-minutes) saw changes in the vocal department, the lead vocals here shared by Lisa Francis and Jeff Laramee, both of whom were at this time also members of Baltimore band Kurgan’s Bane, as was Luis Nasser. Sonus Umbra continue to be at their most compelling when they add acoustic guitar to the mix, which they do frequently. On this album, there are occasions when the acoustic guitar is absent, the keys drop out and the music becomes mere hard rock (like Kurgan’s Bane). But in addition to the acoustic guitar, there is plenty of piano and synth to keep things progressive. The dominant tone is again somber and dark but not to the point of ugliness, and there are many lighter, uplifting moments, particularly when Francis sings. Her vocals add a welcome dimension to Sonus Umbra’s music. This is the MALS label edition.
The musicians in this enigmatic U.S. band, led by Mr. Fright Pig himself, all use pseudonyms. If you attend Rosfest 2014, some of the mystery should be peeled away as Fright Pig are scheduled to play there. This is one of the most exciting new bands we’ve heard in some time, and their debut CD Out of the Barnyard (2013, digipack) never lets you catch your breath, nor can you anticipate what’s coming next. Mr. Fright Pig is keyboardist and main composer, and it’s refreshing to hear someone who can really play (keyboardists being in short supply these days), most often in ELP mode but Yes and Genesis influences are also present. Yet it’s a modern record in terms of the energy and that there is also a lot of guitar. Some of it is metal-ish, but usually at breakneck speed rather than the plodding dreck. The vocals are strong, while the album seems about half-instrumental. Artwork by Ed Unitsky. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
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. See our German page for more RPWL CDs. Most were recently restocked.
The Alchemy double-CD (2013, digipack) is the studio recording of Clive Nolan’s (Pendragon, Arena,...) new prog rock musical, the successor to his Caamora project. The musical is set in 1842 (in case the year affects your buying decision). The album features Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq, Strangers on a Train), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night), Paul Manzi (Arena), Damian Wilson, Paul Menel (ex-IQ), David Clifford (Red Jasper), Mark Westwood (Neo), Scott Higham (Pendragon), Claudio Momberg (SETI), and more. Move over, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Listen to the song Anzeray Speaks.
The DVD (NTSC, all-region) captures the live performance of Alchemy in February 2013 at the Wyspiański Theater in Katowice, Poland. It’s a bigger production than Nolan’s previous musical She but sees the return of many actors from that production. They’re aided by singers Tracy Hitchings, Andy Sears, Paul Manzi, David Clifford, and Damian Wilson, and musicians Mark Westwood (guitars), Scott Higham (drums), Claudio Momberg (piano), Kylan Amos (bass), and Nolan himself. The DVD also contains The Making of Alchemy documentary plus interviews with Nolan, Clifford, Higham, Westwood, and Agnieszka Świta. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio, 180 minutes. The DVD comes with a hefty booklet and counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See the Alchemy website for more info. Watch the promo video.
It’s probably better to refer to British band Haken as a prog-metal-and-rock band rather than simply a prog-metal band, because they do set themselves apart from typical prog-metal, especially on their third CD The Mountain (2013), which even has some Gentle Giant-isms. Read reviews at Prog Sphere, Sputnik Music, and Prog Archives. Watch the official videos for Atlas Stone and Pareidolia.
These two CDs are distant collaborations between American Jeremy Morris, known for his Pilgrim’s Journey and Celestial City CDs on the Kinesis label (see the Kinesis label section), and Progressor, aka Vitaly Menshikov of Uzbekistan. Vitaly is a member of the band X Religion and the guy who runs the Progressor website, which reviews progressive rock. The artwork for Searching for the Son (2013, 78-minutes) is misleading, suggesting late-60s bubblegum psych-pop, which this isn’t. Unlike its predecessor, Searching for the Son features vocals from Jeremy, whose singing voice resembles John Lennon’s. Guests include keyboardists John “Rabbit”' Bundrick (Jethro Tull, The Who) and Albert Khalmurzayev (X Religion, From.uz) as well as X Religion drummer Valery Vorobiov plus two American multi-instrumentalists. This is arguably the most progressive work to carry Jeremy’s name. The tracks are long and adventurous, with extended instrumental sections, and show a variety of prog styles such that the music doesn’t sound much like anyone other than the two guys whose names are on the CD, but goes beyond that as well. Those familiar with both Jeremy’s enormous body of work and with X Religion can probably sort the music according to who created it. The dark stuff can reliably be assigned to Progressor since Jeremy’s own output is rarely dark. There is a spacey element that runs through many of the tracks, sometimes similar to the spacey parts of Celestial City, sometimes another type of space-prog entirely. There is some Mellotron strings and flute. One track features sophisticated ambient-prog with trumpet in the mix, another resembles the medieval prog of Minimum Vital. There is some of the heavy, dark, classically-influenced X Religion style, not surprising given that all three of the X Religion musicians appear on those tracks, while many of the vocal passages have psychedelic undertones (or is it overtones?), due in part to the John Lennon resemblance.
The Pearl of Great Price (2005, 68-minutes) also features contributions from Brian Hirsch, which is a clue that this music was at least begun several years earlier because Hirsch passed away several years earlier. It is instrumental symphonic space rock and is fairly clearly a Jeremy CD, with the others in a contributing role. It is also the best thing Jeremy has released since his Kinesis-label CDs. Menshikov adds keyboards, bass, and percussion to three of the album’s seven tracks, and Hirsch contributes keys and drums. Jeremy plays guitar, bass, drums, and keys. It is Jeremy’s recognizable electric guitar leads that steal the show. His style is his own, a melodic and lyrical style that is what you might get if you blended Steve Hackett and Brian May (Queen). While you can call this space rock, it has little to do with Hawkwind, and while there is an influence of Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, the electronics are in a supporting role rather than being the main event. Jeremy’s Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett influences are usually evident. While three of the tracks are in the 10-11 minute range, the final track The Journey Home is a 21-minute epic that sounds like the final chapter of Pilgrim’s Journey. Note this CD is out-of-print, last copies.
Jeremy Morris is best known to prog fans for the two instrumental CDs he released on the Kinesis label in the mid-1990s. But Jeremy has released many other albums, most with vocals, his main styles other than prog being psychedelic rock, space rock, and power pop. Jeremy’s vocals are reminiscent of John Lennon’s. On From the Dust to the Stars (2012, 72-minutes), Jeremy as usual plays most everything, assisted by a drummer on each track, plus guest Guillermo Cazenave on one song. The album combines a lot of Jeremy’s styles but is dominated by his psychedelic rock style, which feels rooted in the late 1960s (The Byrds’ Eight Miles High comes to mind). But Jeremy’s trademark guitar leads are usually from the progressive era, and there are elements of Hawkwind style space rock (Mellotron too), electronics, the rock side of Strawbs, and many proggy elements. The 15-minute track For Chosen Ones that concludes the CD is the highlight. Read the Something Else! review.
Ensign of Fairies, Book 1 (2013), which you may also see referred to as The Banner Fey, Book 1, is a very British-sounding, early-1970s style progressive rock album from Russian band Lantinor. The origins of the band go back to 1992, and they have albums dating back to 1996. There is an Anglo-Celtic folk element to their music that makes it special, along the lines of Horslips, Jethro Tull, or Gryphon. Early Yes and Gentle Giant are likely influences too. Four of the five tracks are sung in Russian, one in English. Given how many people are still incapable of listening to music with non-English lyrics (apparently the music becomes inaudible as soon as someone starts singing in another language) and how serviceable Lantinor’s English vocals are, it would be great if the band made their next album for the international market and sang mostly in English. Listen to the audio samples -- we like this album a lot!
Little Victories (2013, digipack) is the debut CD for this instrumental quartet from Kiev, Ukraine. (There was a 2008 Krobak CD, but that was really a solo project of band leader Igor Sidorenko.) The lineup here is violin, guitar, bass, and drums. For the most part, Krobak play post-rock influenced primarily by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the violin providing the extra dimension that guitar-only bands can’t reach. Krobak’s sound is in transition though, shifting towards King Crimson of the 1973-74 era and expected to go further in that direction in the future. So as post-rock goes, this is about as good as it gets. Think of Krobak as a post-rock version of Polish band Ankh. Watch the video for the song Broken and listen to And There by the River I Lost My Glasses on YouTube. There’s even a band documentary there with English subtitles (which you may need to turn on first), and loads of live videos.
All Along This Land is the 2006 debut CD by The Source, a Los Angeles prog band whose surprising sound is in many ways very early-1970s retro, with elements that include early Yes, The Beatles, a little Pink Floyd and dreamy psychedelia. But beyond that, they don’t sound much like anyone else today. Much of their sound derives from the low-distortion jazz and country tones favored by guitarist Harrison Leonard, similar to Peter Banks and Steve Howe. Vocalist, principal songwriter, and keyboardist Aaron Goldich favors grand piano, with some Hammond and analog synth sounds. There’s a good balance of vocal and instrumental passages, and like any good prog album, there’s a five-part suite. Read the DPRP and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
All Along This Land was a good start, but Prickly Pear (2009) is a significantly proggier and more ambitious album, with three epic length compositions. The Source’s sound is still early-70s, with more Hammond and more electric guitar leads this time, everything taken up a couple notches. Amazing that this record came out of Los Angeles in 2009. Listen to the album medley. Read the DPRP review.
How active The Source is now is not known, but Aaron Goldich has another band called Ampledeed. A Is for Ampledeed (2013, mini-LP sleeve) retains some of the sound of The Source but goes for greater complexity while maintaining accessibility, shifting toward a Canterbury style. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
American progressive rock band Canvas debuted in 2002 with the double-CD Avenues (currently available as digital download only), about which we wrote: The band has a quintessential American 1970s style, sometimes close to the U.S. Now or Under the Big Tree, though there are also occasional similarities to early Camel. You might even call some of this an American Canterbury style, in that it is slightly jazz inflected, has a generally relaxed vibe, and eschews bombast and drama. There is also a folk element in the vocal tracks, especially where acoustic guitar is prominent, probably owing something to both America and Kansas. Not all of the songs are out-and-out progressive, but at worst they are an intelligent, non-commercial pop with quality vocals, some reminiscent of the band Café Jacques. When Canvas do play out-and-out progressive, the results are very good, especially during instrumental passages. Perhaps if Steely Dan or Phish decided to play progressive rock, the result would sound something like this.
Digital Pigeon (2007) is a stronger sophomore effort, with more overt progressive stylings, though the essential style is the same, a blend of symphonic prog and a 1970s pop/rock aesthetic. The Alan Parsons Project is a good reference point on some tracks. The band is strengthened by the presence of Greg Lounsberry (Laserdogs) on several tracks, contributing both vocals and guitar, and the addition of brass on a few tracks. The album is 77 minutes long, and of the 14 tracks, one is a cover of Saga’s Catwalk and one a cover of Jaco Pastorius’s Teen Town.
Long Way to Mars (2013, digipack) continues to walk a line between light progressive rock and 1970s rock, with the Alan Parsons Project similarity even more pronounced on a couple tracks. Trumpet and flute are used on occasion, while organ is the dominant but not only keyboard sound. Greg and Tammy Lounsberry, the prime movers behind October Tree, are also members of Canvas now. As with the previous albums, the diversity of the material prevents (digital) pigeonholing the band. (We wouldn’t have minded just a tiny bit less diversity, specifically the song Brightest Star and its female soul vocals which may send some prog fans running for cover. But they will emerge to hear the rest of this fine CD.) Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the track Weather on YouTube.
The European leg of Anathema’s 2012 world tour began with a one-off show at the ancient Roman theater of Philippopolis with the Plovdiv (Bulgaria’s second city) Philharmonic Orchestra. Directed by filmmaker Lasse Hoile, known for his work for Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, Universal captures this event. The Blu-ray (all-region) includes the 30-minute encore plus the band’s acoustic show at London’s Union Chapel. Watch the trailer. Check our British page for an Anathema CD or two.
If you haven’t heard of this Vermont-based band before, you would have eventually as they’re scheduled to play Rosfest 2014. Home Away from Home (2013, digipack) is the debut for Elephants of Scotland, a quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums, with the keyboardist on lead vocals and two others on backing vocals. They play symphonic prog with slight nods to ELP and Yes, but like many American prog bands, they eschew melodrama in favor of a more direct, Rush-like approach. Only on some tracks does the music actually resemble Rush, but as the keyboardist’s brother is in the Rush tribute band Blame Canada, it’s a genetic predisposition. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the video for the title track (the shortest song on the album).
After Chameleon, an album of shorter songs, Magenta’s sixth studio album The Twenty Seven Club (2013) sees them return in spectacular form with six progressive rock epics. “The new album has been five years in the making and I have tried to take the best elements of all the previous Magenta albums to craft the best collection of songs I could. I think this has been achieved and The Twenty Seven Club represents a return to our progressive rock roots” says Rob. “Only a few people have heard the album thus far but all have agreed that this is the best Magenta album to date”. The Twenty Seven Club refers to a large group of musician/singers (including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain) who all died at the age of 27, many from alcohol or drug abuse. Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost) is the drummer on this album. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album in DTS 24/96 and Dolby Digital, the 107-minute The Making of The Twenty Seven Club documentary, and the promo video for the song The Lizard King. Watch the promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Magenta catalog.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music, using both rock and classical chamber instruments. Assisted by several musicians and employing classical & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, oboe, flute, violin, cor anglais, and heavenly wordless female vocals, composer Richard Wileman achieves a surreal melancholy and poignant beauty that has few parallels. After something like nine previous albums, Karda Estra are now doing it themselves. Mondo Profondo / New Worlds (2013) contains two albums on one CD. New Worlds was released in 2011 as a digital download; this is its first appearance on CD. It contains 12 instrumental tracks including collaborations with Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Knifeworld), Don Falcone & Bridget Wishart (Spirits Burning), and Stuart Rowe (Lighterthief, Andy Partridge). Mondo Profondo is a 2013 album that features four Richard Wileman compositions plus two collaborations: one with Matt Baber (Sanguine Hum) and another with Mohadev and Benjamin DeGain (Terraformation), Stuart Rowe, Kavus Torabi, and Phil Mercy (Thieves’ Kitchen). Marco Bernard (The Samurai of Prog) guests, and as usual, Wileman has many musicians on classical chamber and rock instruments assisting, plus the wordless vocals of Ileesha Bailey. This is progressive cinematic futurist nostalgia, or something like that, but one thing is certain -- Richard Wileman knows a lot of chords and is not afraid to use them. Listen to Mondo Profondo I on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives of Mondo Profondo and New Worlds.
Circa: is the band assembled by Yes alumni Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Alan White (drums, vocals), with Jimmy Haun (formerly of Lodgic) on guitars & vocals. The Circa: albums can be filed alongside the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy albums and the 1990s Yes albums that Sherwood played on. These are the 2013 reissues on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, which feature new artwork. The self-titled album is their 2007 debut; it comes with a DVD that appears to be the 2008 Circa: Live DVD. The DVD contains the entire album performed live plus a great 40-minute instrumental journey through three decades of Yes entitled Chronological Journey. Extras include behind the scenes footage.
HQ (2009) is their second, with Jay Schellen taking Alan White’s drum stool.
The double-CD And So On / Overflow reissues the little-known third Circa: album And So On (2011) plus the rarities collection Overflow, the first time on CD for the latter. Sherwood and Kaye remained for And So On, with Johnny Bruhns taking over on guitars and Scott Connor on drums. Listen to excerpts.
These CDs are all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. The Prog Collective is being touted as the biggest prog all-star project ever. The self-titled 2012 first Prog Collective CD features performances by John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman, Geoff Downes, Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Gary Green, Annie Haslam, Steve Hillage, John Wesley, Tony Kaye, and more.
The second Prog Collective CD Epilogue (2013, digipack) includes most of the same musicians plus Steve Morse, Jim Cuomo (Fireballet), Larry Fast, Patrick Moraz, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Mel Collins, Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Roye Albrighton (Nektar), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), the final appearance of the late Peter Banks, prog superstar William Shatner, and more. Listen to the track Shining Diamonds.
The Fusion Syndicate (2012) features Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Theo Travis, and many others. Read the Something Else! review.
The eighth studio CD for French prog band Nemo, Le Ver dans le Fruit (The Worm in the Fruit) (2CD, 2013, digipack), is their most ambitious, with 12 tracks spread across two discs. See Nemo’s YouTube videos for several from this album. See our French page for more Nemo CDs and much more info.
From.uz are a world-class, mostly-instrumental progressive rock and fusion band from Uzbekistan. We really wish the band would decide whether or not there’s a period in their name, as they’ve gone from Fromuz to From.uz and back again, though the names seem to correspond to two different lineups. The lineup on Sodom and Gomorrah (2013) has reverted to the original one, with the addition of a second keyboardist. No two Fromuz CDs have been the same, and Sodom and Gomorrah again shifts style. Mostly instrumental, Sodom and Gomorrah was originally composed by multi-instrumentalist Albert Khalmurzaev for a theatrical musical production of the same name. Fromuz originally performed this material live over a span of three years beginning in 2004. They recorded the material during this timeframe, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the decision was made to edit, mix, and master the tracks for an official release. “Majestic. Powerful. Grandiose. Melodic. Epic. These are just some of the words that describe what you are in store for when you first pop in the latest CD from Uzbekistan prog rock/fusion act Fromuz... more often than not, the band opt for soaring, melodic flights that bridge the gap between prog, jazz-fusion, and a world/classical mix that really is a joy to listen to.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to Black Feast I on YouTube. See our East European / Central Asian page for more Fromuz CDs and DVDs and more info.
Sleeping with Fractals (2013, 63-minutes) 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 be the best newcomer of the year. Read reviews at MuzikReviews.com and Prog Archives.
Himlabacken vol. 1 (2013) is the new Moon Safari studio album, sung in English despite the Swedish title. Listen to the album teaser. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Sea of Tranquility. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Moon Safari catalog and much more info.
This is the limited 2-disc edition of Blackfield IV (2013), which adds a DVD-Audio disc featuring the 5.1 surround (MLP Lossless and DTS 96/24) and 24-bit stereo mixes and comes in a digibook (hardcover). Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli star Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree begun in 2001. It has of late become more Geffen’s vehicle as Wilson has enough on his plate now, so while Geffen did the writing, Wilson added guitar and vocal parts and did both the surround and stereo mixes. Watch the videos for the songs Pills, Jupiter, and Firefly. See Page 2 for more Blackfield titles.
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 (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians, including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover (2011) includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo Pörsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruh’s band Resistor, Alfio Costa & Guglielmo Mariotti (Italy), Roz Vitalis (Russia), and Contrarian (USA).
Secrets of Disguise (2013) is a double-CD that contains some original compositions alongside the covers. But these are not the same old tracks that always get covered nor are they all covers of English bands. There is some depth here, with tracks from England, Crack, Sandrose, and Utopia, not to mention Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, PFM, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Rush. The guest musicians include Jon Davison (Yes), Roine Stolt, Guy LeBlanc, Robert Webb (England), David Myers, Mark Trueack (Unitopia), Phideaux Xavier, Kamran Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), Linus Kåse (Anglagård), Mento Hevia (Crack), Lalo Huber (Nexus), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and many others. Watch/listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Back in stock. The Last Battle (2013, 73-minutes, digipack) is the first new Haze studio album in over 20 years, and it does not disappoint. It’s the classic line-up of Chris and Paul McMahon and Paul Chisnell, with the assistance of sisters Catrin & Ceri Ashton on whistle, flutes, fiddle, cello, viola, and clarinet. With the drums recorded in a separate studio, it’s a big improvement in sonic quality over previous Haze recordings. The Haze sound is full of warmth, and the addition of more acoustic instruments adds a Blackmore’s Night aspect to a few songs. The British folk influence was always there, but the Haze musicians have had several more folk-oriented side projects (Treebeard, The Outlandish Knights, Jabberwocky) going for years now, so those influences are being reflected back into Haze. Among the highlights, we finally get studio recordings of two songs that had only been on CD as live recordings: the powerful The Red Room and the majestic The Edge of Heaven; the latter sounds like the sequel to Ophelia. The studio versions of both are superior. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
New low price. Haze celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2008 and recorded two shows at The Peel, Kingston and The Boardwalk, Sheffield to produce this commemorative live 2CD. For these gigs, the band tried to avoid playing too many of the obvious choices that had already been captured live on their 10th and 20th Anniversary CDs (not that those CDs were widely available) by including several new songs, some of their oldest (Turn Around, Portrait, Unto the Dawn, Mirage), and two tracks first played with Treebeard, in addition to Haze classics such as Ophelia, Last Orders, Seven Stones, and The Vice. In all there are 26 songs totaling 133 minutes. The trio of Paul Chisnell and brothers Paul and Chris McMahon are joined on many tracks by flautist Ceri Ashton, and by Rog Patterson for a cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb.
Haze were one of the bands responsible for the progressive revival in Britain in the 1980s, and their members carry on making music in one form or another (usually several forms) to this day. Stoat & Bottle (1987) was far and away Haze’s finest hour. The Cyclops label reissued Stoat & Bottle with new liner notes by Chris McMahon and five bonus studio tracks that Haze recorded as demos during August 1987 but never released. Most of these demos were re-recorded for the first World Turtle CD. The album has been remastered by Chris but not remixed. As Chris notes, remixing was impossible due to the state of the multi-track tapes. See our old Haze section for more info on this British prog band founded in 1978.
grantorinoProg (2011) is the debut by an instrumental Italian prog quartet (keys/guitar/bass/drums). The keyboards tie the music to classic prog, but while not prog-metal, the guitarist does play in a more contemporary style. The musicians come from more of a hard rock background but decided that prog was the one true path to enlightenment, so one can hear where Gran Torino are coming from in the music. It’s a quality prog album for the current generation though no threat to PFM, Banco, and the other great Italian bands. Read the Jerry Lucky review.
Gran Torino are much further down that path to enlightenment on their superior second album Fate of a Thousand Worlds (2013), a robust sympho-prog album with more refined compositions, more introspection as well as greater complexity. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the title track and the song Child of the Stars on YouTube.
This Greek band began very Marillion-influenced, right down to the logo on their first two albums. They eventually shed enough of the Marillion style to develop their own, and their fifth album Matricide (2013) shows La Tulipe Noire further developing an individual style. Watch the official video for the song Death Chamber and listen to the song A Letter from Patmos on YouTube. See our Greek page for more La Tulipe Noire CDs.
Journey of the Shaman (2010) was first released by the band before being released by Musea in this edition. It’s the debut by a Turkish prog band whose leader is a close friend of Eloy leader Frank Bornemann. Not surprisingly, Nemrud’s music bears a strong resemblance to Eloy, specifically Eloy’s early years (Inside, Floating) as opposed to Eloy’s peak when they achieved a more symphonic sound and had honed their writing skills. But this darker, spacier, more psychedelic style, derived from Pink Floyd, has great appeal for many. Perhaps Turkey should be admitted to the European Union based on Nemrud’s albums alone.
Ritual (2013) is Nemrud’s superior second album, more solidly progressive and improved in most aspects. Read reviews at Prog Archives of Shaman and Ritual.
Yuka & Chronoship is a Japanese progressive rock band formed in 2009 by female keyboardist/vocalist/composer Yuka Funakoshi along with three leading Japanese studio musicians: bassist Shun Taguchi, guitarist Takashi Miyazawa, and drummer Ikko Tanaka. Water Reincarnation (2011) is mostly instrumental but does have lovely (English-language and wordless) vocals and vocal harmonies. The Japanese symphonic prog scene has been relatively quiet of late, but Yuka & Chronoship are in the same league as Kenso and Mr. Sirius, though distinct from either. Their music is highly reminiscent of late 1970s progressive rock, very European-sounding, but not retro. The key (pun accidental) is that they are led by a keyboardist who can play and who can compose, who is versed in classical as well as jazz. There is technical virtuosity, but it isn’t about technical virtuosity. This is a fantastic album and a necessary one in an era where what passes for progressive rock often lacks the classical foundation, depth and class of Yuka & Chronoship. Watch the album montage.
Dino Rocket Oxygen (2013) is Yuka & Chronoship’s outstanding follow-up. Read the Progressive Rock Central review. Watch the album trailer.
Motoi Sakuraba is the incredible keyboardist from Japanese progressive band Deja Vu. On What’s Up? (2013, 63-minutes), he also plays acoustic drums and is no slouch. This is simply one of the best instrumental keyboard-centric symphonic prog albums you will ever hear, most of which sounds like instrumental Danger Money-era UK, just like Deja Vu’s sole album. If you like UK and Eddie Jobson even a little, this album is gold. Listen to the song Stand Still on YouTube.
Water Blue is the CD reissue of the 1989 first album from the Japanese Renaissance plus four bonus tracks. By ‘Japanese Renaissance’, we don’t simply mean that Vermilion Sands had a female lead singer, because a lot of Japanese symphonic bands did, and most of those singers were not exactly Annie Haslam clones. On the other hand, Vermilion Sands’ singer Yoko Royama is first-rate, and Water Blue is a beautiful progressive album in the Renaissance and Camel style, one of the best Japanese progressive albums ever. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Unfortunately, Yoko Royama passed away in 2004 and the band broke up. Spirits of the Sun (2013) is a posthumous album finished by keyboardist/composer Masahiro Yamada, containing both studio and live tracks. The live tracks are not songs from Water Blue; they are previously-unreleased. There are a couple instrumentals, while the rest feature the voice of Royama. Akihisa Tsuboy of KBB guests on violin. A beautiful album that keeps Royama’s spirit alive. Listen to the song Innisfree on YouTube.
This 2013 CD is the debut by a Japanese band playing instrumental violin-led progressive rock with fusion aspects. No one does this style better than the Japanese now. Listen to the album montage on YouTube.
This trio (keyboards/bass/drums), formed in the early 1980s, is the oldest Japanese prog band still active. Keyboards Triangle II (2002/2013, 43-minutes) contains covers of 21st Century Schizoid Man, Danger Money, Knife Edge, Alaska / Time to Kill, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part Two, and In the Dead of Night, and if we have to tell you whose songs those are, you probably shouldn’t be buying this yet. Any question now who Gerard’s biggest influences are? This is the 2013 Musea edition; the 2002 first edition did not include In the Dead of Night. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Japanese page for more Gerard CDs.
This is the 2013 reissue of the 1996 second album by Japanese band Providence. With a new singer, guitarist, and bassist, only the keyboardist/composer and drummer remain from the lineup that recorded their 1989 debut. Providence could be filed alongside Pageant, who along with Vermilion Sands represented the best of the Japanese female-vocals symphonic prog bands of that era. Read the Exposé review. Listen to the song In the Moonlight on YouTube.
This is Musea’s 2013 CD reissue of Ataraxia’s 1986 sole album, from the heyday of Japanese symphonic prog. The music is in the Genesis and Camel veins. Listen to the song Low Value Counting Clock on YouTube.
Doppler 444 (1997) is believed to be the only official album from Japanese prog band Mongol. This 2013 edition adds over 30 minutes of live bonus material. The music is instrumental, mostly in the high energy prog/fusion style, while the final long studio track is in the Zeuhl (Magma) style. Read the Under the Radar CDs and Prog Archives reviews. Listen to the song From the Beyond on YouTube.
This is not a guy named Franc but a Catalan symphonic prog band whose name translates to ‘Free Will’. They’ve been in existence since the mid-1980s, and Hoc (2013) is their fourth album. The band say their influences come from classic British progressive rock but that they like to add hints of jazz, pop, and Mediterranean sounds. They are a sextet with two keyboardists and use flute and cello as secondary instruments. Vocals in Catalan. Listen to the song Nuria on YouTube.
This talented band from Barcelona released their first album in 1997, followed by an album of King Crimson covers amusingly titled The Great Red Lament in Aspic. The original guitarist Alberto Diaz was a student of Robert Fripp in Guitar Craft courses. Dificil Equilibrio’s fourth album Simétricanarquia (2003, digipack) reveals an evolution in their music. The King Crimson influence is still present, but through these 11 mostly instrumental pieces, Alberto Diaz (guitar/vocals), Joan Francisco (bass), and Luis Rodriguez (drums) travel through other musical worlds, with some peaceful acoustic moments and Spanish folk influences, the sound fleshed out by guests on cello, trumpet, and sax.
Flood (2006) is their fifth album, all previously-unreleased tracks recorded live in the studio. These eleven instrumental pieces continue the evolution away from King Crimson into more original territory, though the influence of Fripp is still easily heard. You have to wonder about the track sequencing though. Dificil Equilibrio open this album with the most experimental improvised piece, perhaps a strategy to drive away any tentative listeners. The rest of the album covers a wide range of intensity, from structured melodic compositions with clean guitar tones to dark, angular pieces using distorted tones. Like King Crimson, Dificil Equilibrio strike a balance between musical experimentation and structured progressive rock.
Quite a few years passed, and only the drummer remains on Dificil Equilibrio’s sixth album La Perdua (2013), with a new guitarist and bassist and guests on viola, flute, clarinet, sax, and more. And there are vocals on this album. The style has expanded, with more references to classic prog other than King Crimson, guitar leads that sometimes sound more like Hackett than Fripp. Listen to the songs Fuegos en el Sol and Reacción en Cadena on YouTube.
Crisálida are a Chilean symphonic prog/prog-metal band with a very good female vocalist singing in Spanish. When Crisálida play symphonic prog, it’s quite good -- dramatic and powerful, though of course it’s the more modern, streamlined variety. And when they add the metal guitar, it’s... prog-metal. The self-titled CD is their 2006 debut. Raco (2009) is their second.
Solar (2012, digipack) is their third, on which the progressive parts show greater maturity and refinement (and the metal parts are still metal). Read the Exposé review. Listen to the song Araucana on YouTube.
Improvviso (2013) is the second album by Italian prog band Prophexy. Recorded live in March 2012, Improvviso contains brand new songs as well as new versions of tracks from their 2009 album Alconauta. Musea says: “Crazy time signatures, enchanting flute melodies and style contaminations are the genuine trademarks of the band.” As bonus tracks you get Disassociation and Golf Girl, two Caravan classics performed with Richard Sinclair himself. Listen to the track La Rotonda della Memoria on YouTube.
Yiannis Glezos is an Athenian musician who released his first album in 1968. The Roses of Pieria is an almost entirely instrumental prog album that was first released in 2008 with Greek cover and titles, then reissued by Musea in this edition with English titles. In addition to rock band instrumentation, there is trumpet, violin, viola, oboe, clarinet, and traditional Greek instruments such as the lyre. Listen to the song The Lament on YouTube.
Beyond (2013) is the debut album for Alms, the project of Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist Aitor Lucena. Musea describes the music as “pure symphonic progressive rock in which you’ll notice influences from ELP to Mike Oldfield, from classical music to heavy metal, and a strong influence from Italian progressive rock bands such as Il Balletto di Bronzo, Le Orme, or Banco.” Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the track Hypnos on YouTube.
2013 debut CD by a Swiss prog band. Watch the video for the song Back to Saskatchewan on YouTube.
Jean Pascal Boffo is a French progressive artist of prodigious talent who has consistently explored new directions over the course of his career. His first album dates from 1986, and he was in fact the first artist signed by Musea. On his ninth album Le Chant des Fleurs (2013, digipack), Boffo has something like 23 other musicians helping out. Watch the album teaser video and the video for the song Zephyrus and Chloris. See our French page for more Jean Pascal Boffo CDs.
The first Symphonic Slam CD had been unavailable for several years, so time to feature it again. It’s the reissue of a 1976 Canadian prog rock LP by a trio led by Timo Laine, a native born Finn. He pioneered the use of the guitar synthesizer, and this album features it heavily. Timo also plays standard guitar and sings, while the other musicians add keys and drums. The album has a few moments of a slightly commercial, dated 1970s rock sound, but overall this is a fine symphonic rock album that hopefully a few of you remember from its vinyl incarnation.
There was a second album by the group, SSII (1978). Less renowned but deserving of a better fate, this second album still highlights the instrument dear to Timo Laine, the guitar-synth. The band personnel varies on a track-by-track basis, featuring several musicians such as the famous bassist Jimmy Haslip (Allan Holdsworth, The Yellowjackets) on three tracks. Mostly instrumental, the CD adds four bonus tracks.
Violent Silence is yet another impressive Swedish progressive rock band. The self-titled CD is their 2003 debut. Hard to compare this first album to anyone else; it might be heard as a mix of Landberk, King Crimson, and Echolyn, but without guitar. The six-string parts aren’t missed though. A quartet of vocals, keyboards, bass and drums, they do things a bit differently than the other Swedish bands. For one, the bass is way up front in the mix and is often very percussive, partially usurping the role normally played by guitar. They have a keyboardist who plays lead lines shaped with pitch bend and vibrato, something missing not only from the other Swedish prog bands, but somewhat of a dying art. The English-language vocals are competent and there is more in the way of songwriting than, for example, Anekdoten. Together, these four musicians successfully unite Nordic melancholia and Anglo-Saxon power.
On their second CD Kinetic (2005), Violent Silence expanded to a quintet with the addition of a second keyboardist (shades of Greenslade). Again, guitar is not missed, and yet the music doesn’t seem as keyboard-dominated as ELP or SFF. Kinetic has aspects of both 1970s progressive, with a lot of vintage keyboard sounds, and more contemporary rock, especially in the melancholy vocal lines. Liquid Scarlet does a similar blend, but the two bands sound distinct. This album is an improvement on Violent Silence’s debut, more energetic, featuring a stellar rhythm section, with several songs driven by fast mallet percussion (which could be coming from a keyboard). The 18-minute Quiet Stalker has a tremendous extended instrumental section in a style between Genesis and UK. This band is something special, having something in common with the other Scandinavian progressive bands while really being quite unique. Read reviews.
A Broken Truce (2013) consists of four tracks, all in the 10-15 minute range. Some of this album was written and recorded back in 2008 but not finished because the band split up. All the tracks have band co-founder Hannes Ljunghall as co-composer, and some of his keyboard playing from the 2008 sessions is used. More recently, Ljunghall formed the band Hidden Lands. Drummer Johan Hedman, the other co-founder of Violent Silence as well as composer and lyricist, had been working on rewriting some of the 2008 material and finding new vocalist Martin Ahlquist. The result is Violent Silence’s third album featuring both the new line-up and the previous one. In fact, both Hidden Lands’ CD and this third Violent Silence CD exceed the first two Violent Silence CDs, so in defiance of the laws of thermodynamics, one band has split into two even better bands. Watch the video for the track Prism Path.
Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the first line-up of Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as the Violent Silence that recorded Kinetic, with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs were completed with a new vocalist and appear on the Violent Silence CD A Broken Truce.
The main influence on In Our Nature is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as ‘no-prog’) before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Visions from Realities (2013, digipack) is the debut by an Italian band/project, the initiative of Umberto Pagnini who wrote the music and lyrics but used other musicians to realize the album. The music is song-oriented symphonic prog with a folk-pop overlay. The primary singer is Norway’s PelleK, who can also be heard singing on The Anabasis CD. He comes from a metal background, but you wouldn’t know it as he saves any oversinging for his own band. Additional vocals are provided by Mark Colton of Credo and Norwegian Marit Børresen (that’s a female name). There is electric guitar and symphonic keys, but most prominent are the acoustic and clean guitar tones in a Le Orme style. The best songs have that Italian romantic feel (Le Orme, Atons, etc.), but as the lyrics are in English, that feel is not as strong as it would be with Italian lyrics. But then none of the singers are Italian. This is an album where the second half is stronger than the first. Be sure to at least audition the song Usual Plays in Heaven - Be Kind and Talk to Me, which showcases most of Active Heed’s considerable strengths.
Trion is a project made up of members of Flamborough Head, Odyssice, and Leap Day (see our Dutch page for all). The name Trion is a contraction of the words trio and tron (short for Mellotron). On their well-received first CD Tortoise (2003), keyboardist Edo Spanninga decided to use only Mellotron sounds. The idea was to record some 1970s-styled progressive music. “The Mellotron is the pre-eminent prog keyboard of the seventies and dominated a lot of my favorite albums. So therefore all the flute, choir, strings, organ, cello and vibe sounds are from the Mellotron tapes”. Eddie Mulder’s guitar work recalls not only Hackett, Gilmour, and Howe, but also Jan Akkerman, and at times Focus is evoked by particular chord progressions. Menno Boomsma of Odyssice provides his usual great drum and percussion work. Dutch artist Jasper Joppe Geers completes this package with one of his Roger Dean inspired artworks. This is an album for those interested in 1970s-styled instrumental work in the Floyd/Genesis/Yes/Focus vein and all those that love the sounds of the Mellotron. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. After being out-of-print for years, the Oskar label reissued Tortoise in this digipack edition with two bonus tracks (13-minutes total).
On Pilgrim (2007), there is still a lot of tron, but also Hammond and pipe organ, piano, and vintage synth sounds. The result is a superior album, and a 76-minute one at that. This is 1970s-style instrumental symphonic prog whose strongest influences are Camel, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Focus. There is also a smattering of Yes and Renaissance, the latter felt in the piano parts. Read the DPRP review.
Trion return in 2013 with Funfair Fantasy, which as expected is an album of sublime instrumental prog with the same major influences as on Pilgrim. Head to YouTube for the album trailer video and the songs Song for Canada, In the Distance, and Secret Matter.
One of the UK’s top prog bands is back with their seventh studio album. Le Sacre du Travail (2013) features a new all-star lineup of Andy Tillison, Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, Gavin Harrison, Jakko M Jakszyk, and David Longdon (Big Big Train). Guests include Guy Manning and Rikard Sjöblom (Beardfish). This is the jewel box edition, which includes the same three bonus tracks (~10 minutes) as the other more expensive editions. Read the Sea of Tranquility, Progarchy, and Background Magazine reviews. Watch the album trailer video. See our British page for more The Tangent titles.
Cinéma du Vieux Cartier (2013, gatefold mini-LP sleeve) is the sixth CD for Quebec’s Red Sand. As with 2012’s Behind the Mask, Red Sand have reverted to the Fish-era Marillion style of their first two albums Mirror of Insanity and Gentry. They still sing in English despite the French title of this CD. Two of the five tracks are instrumentals. See our Canadian page for the full Red Sand catalog and much more info. Note Red Sand are scheduled to play Rosfest 2014.
KingBathmat are a British prog or alt-prog band that began with a cassette release in 1998 but have maintained a low profile on the prog scene. Yet they are a band that might restore one’s faith in the future of British progressive rock. Truth Button (2012) is something like their seventh album, not counting the cassettes. At present, the titles here are the only ones available on CD, though that may change with a new distribution deal. KingBathmat are a modern prog band in that (on Truth Button at least) they rely a lot on grungy guitar, yet the vocals often feel like they’re from a much earlier era. The music is psychedelic in an early Porcupine Tree way, there are lush keyboards and gentle passages when KingBathmat want them, the arrangements are complex, and there is that quirkiness that many of the great UK prog bands have. Read the DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, and adequacy.net reviews. There’s an album montage on YouTube.
In contrast to Truth Button, which features long tracks, most of the songs on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival (2005) are relatively short. It begins with the songs that are more alt than prog, then a noticeable shift occurs with the track Sweet Iris, which has almost a pastoral Genesis feel. The rest of the CD is really proggy and really good, culminating in the fantastic 11:27 Soul Searching Song. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is not nearly as heavy as Truth Button, the grungy guitar much less prevalent. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Overcoming the Monster (2013) is the latest which, like Truth Button, features long tracks. “Kingbathmat are one of the most exciting bands that get labelled prog on the scene at the moment, and as this album proves, they are so much more than just a prog band. This is an album you need to listen to, on headphones, in one sitting, so you are immersed in its majesty. Faultless.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the PopMatters review and many more. Watch the video for the song Sentinel.
Chaos Out of Order (1988/2013, digipack) is the 25th anniversary reissue of a 1988 album that we didn’t know existed and which must have gone out-of-print shortly after its initial release. This recording was Discipline’s first full-length release, a concept album that “presents an emergent rock artist experimenting with its sound and musical influences”. This CD includes the original songs remastered and an extra 10-minute track recorded by the same lineup in 1987.
This is our lowest price ever on Live Days (2010), a superb double live set that originally sold for $20. The Cyclops label went through Discipline’s collection of live concerts to choose the best performances, which include all their classics along with rare versions and tracks never recorded in the studio (at least to that point). All are taken from top quality recordings and mastered for excellent sound quality. Highlights include Mickey Mouse Man, which was regularly played live but never recorded in the studio; the nearly 20-minute Before the Storm; Circuitry, another lost track; the epic Canto IV; the unreleased Homegrown; a rarely-played live version of Systems; the unreleased Wrists, which shows Discipline did listen to early Genesis; the tour de force Into the Dream; another unreleased track Diminished and several more, over 150 minutes total. The detailed booklet contains many unreleased photos. For those not familiar with Discipline, you couldn’t ask for a better introduction. See Page 2 for the rest of the Discipline catalog and more info.
No, we don’t know why the first ‘n’ in SyNphonic is capitalized. We do know that this is the late 2012 entry in the popular series of Colossus/Musea thematic various artists prog extravaganzas. H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. A pioneer of ‘weird fiction’, he influenced Stephen King and helped create the subgenre which includes The Twilight Zone, The X Files, and Fringe. This triple-CD set with 64-page booklet pays homage to Lovecraft’s legacy with 20 original compositions. Each participating band chose a different Lovecraft tale, then composed a musical piece based on or inspired by the story. Lovecraft’s weird tales proved to be a great launching pad for the bands’ imaginations, as this project contains track after track of creative progressive rock. The bands include The Samurai of Prog, Glass Hammer, Karda Estra, Unitopia, Simon Says, Jinetes Negros, Blank Manuskript, La Coscienza di Zeno, Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), Ciccada, D’Accord, Sithonia, Daal, Nexus, Aether, Goad, and more. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
This is the 2013 2CD, 8-panel digipack edition on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label of Nektar’s Sounds Like This. This album was recorded in 2-3 days in 1973 live in the studio, with no overdubs and little editing, so next to the other Nektar albums it sounds rather raw. This is Nektar as a (psychedelic) rock band and sounds close to their live shows of the era. The album offered Nektar an opportunity to record some of the songs they had written in the earliest months of the band, and songs such as A Day in the Life of a Preacher and Good Day have remained in their live set. Originally a 75-minute 2LP, the audio of the album proper is probably the same as the previous CD edition on Eclectic. The bonus material however is different, consisting of rare radio versions of two songs and 1971 live performances, early versions of six songs from Sounds Like This.
This is the 2013 2CD digipack edition on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label of Nektar’s 1972 classic. The audio on the first CD is most likely identical to the 2004 edition on Eclectic/Dream Nebula, which was taken from the original master tapes. It contains both the original 1972 German mix of the album plus the 1976 U.S. mix. The bonus disc contains previously-unreleased live recordings from November 1971 in Darmstadt, Germany. Nektar perform all the tracks from Tab apart from King of Twilight in longer versions than what would end up on the studio album. Additionally, there is a 1973 live in the studio version of Desolation Valley / Waves.
Time Machine (2013) is the first new Nektar album in over four years. Roye Albrighton says it is “by far the best album we have ever made”. (But then he would say that.) Billy Sherwood produced. “This time out Nektar have done it right. The songs are well thought out, complex and just as freaky-deaky as any good prog should be. However, they have achieved that odd prog rock counterbalance where the music, despite being complex, is easily accessible. The band, while retaining their classic sound, also give a nod to early Genesis on the title track. Nektar really open it up on Tranquility and Diamond Eyes. Destiny is a musical and emotional tune while Talk to Me may be one of the best they have ever written. Opening number A Better Way is breathtakingly good. Time Machine lives up to its name, as it really is like stepping back to the prog heyday of the early 1970s, yet the songs still sound fresh and impressive in 2013.” [Classic Rock Revisited] Listen to the tracks Juggernaut and A Better Way. See our British page for more Nektar CDs including the latest reissues of nearly the entire back catalog and their covers album A Spoonful of Time.
Available for the first time on CD, this is the only album from the short-lived side project of Nektar’s leader Roye Albrighton, guitarist/bassist Derek Holt of Climax Blues Band, and drummer Brendan Day. The LP was released in 1983 and was the last thing heard from Albrighton until The Follies of Rupert Treacle at the end of the 1990s and the Nektar reboot that followed. This CD reissue adds one bonus track, House on Fire, which was the B side of a UK single and which can be heard on YouTube. This is a limited hand-numbered edition of 500.
Sound of Contact is the new progressive rock band of Simon Collins, Phil’s son. Having grown up on tour with Genesis, Simon had a rare and unique perspective that inspired him to eventually pursue his own music career. After a decade of writing, producing and promoting his solo material, Simon kept in touch with a handful of musicians with whom he had a strong connection and a rare chemistry. Simon’s bandmates are co-producer/co-writer/keyboardist Dave Kerzner (Sonic Reality, Kevin Gilbert) and co-writer/guitarist/bassist Matt Dorsey, with studio collaborators Kelly Nordstrom (guitars, bass) and vocalist Hannah Stobart (Rocket Moth, The Wishing Tree). Among the live touring musicians are Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), and Jonathan Schang (District 97). Read the Sea of Tranquility review. The mini-LP is the import limited edition. Note Sound of Contact are scheduled to play Rosfest 2014.
Price reduced from $17.99. Xang is an instrumental guitar/keys/bass/drums French quartet playing symphonic prog. The Last of the Lasts (2006) is their second CD, a more mature work than their debut. There is still some of the heavy style of their first CD, and while it has a modern feel, this album is more diverse, with stronger classical and jazz influences and more sophisticated textures and atmospheres. It’s a concept album about World War I with an excellent booklet in English, and so the music is frequently melancholy to reflect the tragic nature of the war and the enormous human cost. Xang are from Cambrai, which was one of the battlefields. Read reviews at Progressor and Prog Archives. Check our French page for Xang’s first CD.
Marc Spooner, keyboardist for American sympho-prog band Metaphor, has recorded an all-synthesizer (and some Mellotron) version of Stravinsky’s masterpiece in time for the 100th anniversary of the famous riotous premiere of the ballet. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the Wendy Carlos, Tomita, and Synergy albums, and no one had ever done an electronic version of the entire score of The Rite, so I figured I’d do it myself! It was created with a collection of vintage Moog, ARP, and Roland synths with a dash of a modern Kurzweil plus a generous helping of Mellotron.” 2013, digipack.
Maybe all you need to know about this San Francisco-area band is that Metaphor spent two years as a classic-era Genesis tribute band. Their second CD Entertaining Thanatos (2004, 57-minutes) is a finely-crafted 1970s-style symphonic prog album with Genesis as the primary influence, replete with vintage keyboards (including Mellotron) and long dramatic tracks. Relative to their out-of-print debut Starfooted, the music incorporates a wider range of proggy influences (Gentle Giant, for one), expanding beyond the Genesis base. Fans of the Ad Infinitum CD especially should take note.
Metaphor’s 2007 third CD The Sparrow is a 71-minute rock opera about the first Jesuit mission to another planet, based on the best-selling novel by Mary Doria Russell and with the author’s cooperation. The music continues within the territory mapped out by the previous two CDs, with an even stronger individual identity emerging. Read reviews.
This 2013 box-set 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.
This 2013 CD on Kscope is the work of Daniel Cavanagh of Anathema and Sean Jude, who wrote all the material. “Leafblade was born out of a calling, a calling to bring the writing of Sean Jude to a wider audience, or so thinks Mr. Cavanagh of Anathema, who originally formed Leafblade with Jude several years ago. Daniel and Sean are joined by Anathema’s Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Daniel Cardoso on drums, supported by Kevin Murphy (bass) and recorded by Mark Ellis, who worked on Anathema’s We’re Here Because We’re Here. The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh steps up the dynamics from their 2009 debut album Beyond, Beyond. Leafblade’s music has been described as artistic, poetic, even nature-mystical. The album is a musical and spiritual interweaving of Jude’s lute-like nylon strings, emotive and multi-layered vocals and poetic lyrics with Cavanagh’s own unique, clear musical vision and counter-melodies, signature heavy rock guitar tone, subtle and emotive lead playing and sweet keyboard refrains.” Listen to the album montage.
The Dutch band Plackband formed in the mid-1970s and were most influenced by Genesis. They took an 18-year holiday, reuniting in 2000. After 30 years, Plackband rebooted as PBII with three of the original members and the desire for a more modern sound. They had to find a new bass player, and keyboardist Michel van Wassem assumed lead vocal duties. 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. Frost is not a bad comparison in terms of that marriage of classic prog and modern execution. In addition to a standard CD, this Dutch edition of Plastic Soup includes a DVD (PAL, all-region). (The U.S. edition lacks the DVD.) The packaging bears the DVD-Audio logo in two places, the only problem is that it is not a DVD-Audio disc. It is a DVD-Video disc containing a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix of the entire album, plus two videos. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
1000 Wishes is PBII’s most ambitious project. The CD (2013, digipack) features The Hague Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Steve Hackett guests. The story is about the fight of a young boy against cancer and more generally about cancer in children. This is certainly PBII’s best music, symphonic neo-prog that is often reminiscent of Yes due in part to the singer’s voice, while you may also flash back on Grobschnitt’s Rockpommels Land on occasion. Watch the promo video and the video for the song Evil Weed. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
PBII have performed 1000 Wishes as part of a rock opera with the orchestra and a theater group (actors and dancers). The performances of 30-31 March 2013 were captured on the 1000 Wishes DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack). While the lyrics are in English, the play portion is in Dutch, so you have been warned, but it is a unique spectacle. Watch the DVD trailer.
TumbleTown are a Dutch neo-prog band led by guitarist/producer Aldo Adema (Seven Day Hunt, Egdon Heath, Silhouette) and singer-songwriter Han Uil (Seven Day Hunt, Antares, solo). Their debut Done with the Coldness (2013, digipack) includes performances by Erik Laan (Silhouette), Marcel Copini (Seven Day Hunt, Egdon Heath), and Carola Magermans (Seven Day Hunt). So TumbleTown has the lineage of two previous generations of Dutch neo-prog bands, but in keeping with the times, TumbleTown is both harder and darker, though not relentlessly so. Watch videos for songs from this album.
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. And maybe we will see InFictions on Kscope in the future, but 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 ProgSphere reviews. The CD comes in novel packaging.
Watching the Closing Sky (37-minutes) is the 2009 debut CD for Dutch neo-prog band Profuna Ocean, who won the 2013 Dutch Exposure, a battle of the bands to win a recording contract with prog label FREIA. So while waiting for the band to finish that second CD, here is their first, which reviewers have likened to Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Rush, Pink Floyd, Riverside, Saga, and others. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
No epic is too epic in scope for the epic lads of Glass Hammer, and they pulled out all the stops on their 2005 double-CD The Inconsolable Secret. It had been unavailable for several years until this 2013 triple-CD Deluxe Edition, which adds a disc of remixed tracks mastered by audiophile Bob Katz and featuring new performances by Jon Davison (Yes, Glass Hammer), Alan Shikoh, David Wallimann, and other names familiar to GH fans. The remixes include all four of the epic length tracks plus one sensible length track. The core of the band has always been Fred Schendel (keys, guitars, vocals) and Steve Babb (keys, bass, vocals), this time with the classic lineup of Walter Moore and Susie Bogdanowicz on vocals and Matt Mendians on drums. This album features a lot of guest musicians including a symphony orchestra, a string trio, and a choir. While the first disc stays pretty much in Glass Hammer’s familiar ELP-meets-Yes style, things really open up on the second disc where Glass Hammer explore then-new territory, including some dark orchestral material, and make good use of the choir. Roger Dean provided the artwork. Watch the trailer. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Glass Hammer catalog.
As heard on Progstreaming.com! The Garden of Delights (2013, digisleeve) is the debut for Finnish artist Rikk Eccent, and if that’s supposed to be a person’s name, it’s a made-up one. Most of the album is a hybrid of 1970s progressive and melodic hard rock and should have similar appeal to fellow Finns Five Fifteen, Crazy World, and Von Hertzen Brothers, though Rikk Eccent is darker and more Floydian. And several tracks are pure prog, showing little of the classic hard rock style, especially the 8:30 finale Nexus. There is plenty of keyboards to balance the electric guitar, and acoustic guitar is not forgotten. (It often is these days). A grower.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other side projects. The Sula Bassana material consists of long, mostly-instrumental psychedelic space-rock excursions dominated by heavily-fuzzed guitar, with synths and Mellotron strings in support. Schmidt also handles bass and drums, with occasional help from other musicians on drums and vocals. Dark Days (2012) is the latest and was mastered by Eroc (Grobschnitt). 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 review and many more reviews on the Sula Bassana site.
Finally distributed in the U.S. is this 2005 collaboration between Strawbs’ Dave Cousins and veteran German composer/prog rocker Conny Conrad. Rick Wakeman guests. The Strawbs site says High Seas “contains some of the best new songs from Dave for a while, and some heavier than usual progressive, almost orchestral, instrumentation taking the listener back to the orchestral splendour of Down By the Sea.” “This collaboration seemed to have brought out the most original genuine new material from Cousins in quite some time. The songs and production bear all the hallmarks of his Strawbs work: serious, stately observations on matters romantic, celestial, and earthly, with touches of both the urgent folk troubadour and the slightly bombastic prog rock adventurer.” [allmusic] See our British page for the Strawbs and Dave Cousins CDs.
Bulbs is the new band of English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist Neil Campbell. Their debut On (2013, digipack) may be the best instrumental prog album you hear this year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Bulbs are very much a live band too. Note Campbell has been collaborating with Jon Anderson on a series of large scale choral works; hopefully we’ll see the result of that before long. Read the Seba Rashii Culture Zine review.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock.
Elora are a prog band from Marseille (France) along the lines of Nemo or a hard-edged Ange, with male and female vocals in French (thankfully), which gives the music that special character. The long title track of their debut Crash (2013, digipack) finishes very Floydian. Elora already have invitations to four renowned European prog festivals. Watch the album trailer.
Citizen Cain are a neo-prog band whose founding members come from the same Lothian region in Scotland that gave rise to Fish, though the band formed in London in 1982. Their music sounds heavily influenced by 1970s Genesis, though on the first album that influence is second-hand by way of early Marillion, becoming a more direct influence by the time of the second album, and on later albums, Citizen Cain establish a more distinct identity. The band’s sound is based around the vocals and lyrical tales of Cyrus, whose voice is a blend of Gabriel timbre and Fish delivery, over complex arrangements featuring Stuart Bell’s multi-keyboards, highlighted by guitar and flute solos.
These are the 2013 remastered editions of the first five Citizen Cain CDs on the Festival Music label: Serpents in Camouflage (1993), Somewhere But Yesterday (1994), Ghost Dance (1996), Raising the Stones (1997), and Playing Dead (2002). The band’s back catalog had been unavailable for many years, and the later CDs were pressed in very small numbers. The band say they were never very happy with the original sound and that on these remastered CDs, it’s nice to hear the music as it was intended to sound. Serpents in Camouflage is now a double-CD, with a bonus disc featuring the four tracks from Citizen Cain’s 1991 demo tape. It’s the first time on CD for these tracks, all remastered of course.
Skies Darken (2012) is their sixth album and first in ten years. Read the Progulator and DPRP reviews.
British prog band Mr. So & So was formed in 1989 by Dave Foster and Shaun McGowan, who shared a passion for Yes, Genesis, The Who, and The Beatles. They remain the band’s principal songwriters. They recruited the rest of the band and released three CDs during the 1990s, then went dormant until Dave and Shaun recruited new members and released their comeback album Sugarstealer in 2009. In the current Mr. So & So, vocal duties are divided between McGowan and Charlotte Evans. This band has been flying way too far under the radar given their talents. There has been a Yes influence in Mr. So & So’s music from the start, but many other influences as well. They supported Marillion on one tour, and Steve Rothery guested on 1998’s The Overlap and released it on his label. Read the Musical Discoveries, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives reviews of Sugarstealer.
Truths, Lies & Half Lies (2013, digipack) is their new one. Mr. So & So have the British songwriting DNA, a knack for infectious melodies that now seems to belong to an earlier era, given the trend toward cheerless, pseudo-serious dirge-prog. The music in this incarnation of Mr. So & So is more mature and polished, all class and quality, and instantly likeable.
Rick Miller has been composing, producing, performing and recording since the early 1980s, gaining a great deal of production experience while working at Sound Design Studios in Toronto and later in his own studio in Lakefield, Ontario, all the while honing his skills as a singer and songwriter. Early this century, Miller turned his attention to progressive rock, the music he grew up listening to. Rick lists his influences succinctly as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can easily be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards (lots of Mellotron), assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era.
Immortal Remains (2013) still features Rick’s trademark soft, dark and melancholy prog style, but Rick says it is “rather angry and even darker than my previous ones”. See our Canadian page for many more Rick Miller CDs.
Invicta (2013, digipack) is the second album for The Enid: The Next Generation, the second part of a planned trilogy that began with Journey’s End. It fully utilizes the talents of the new members including new lead singer Joe Payne. The Enid finally have a singer of a talent level that matches their instrumental and compositional abilities. At a time when bands with metal guitarists, no true keyboardist, and little understanding of classical music pass for progressive rock, the music world needs The Enid more than ever. See our British page for lots more The Enid CDs and more info.
Little Atlas are a Miami-based progressive rock band. On their first couple albums, their lineage is Genesis, Yes, or Kansas, but they aren’t retro. Their songs on these early albums seemingly are built up around a core of piano and voice, giving the music that organic, natural sound of the 1970s prog bands. Songcraft is one of Little Atlas’s strong points. Surface Serene (2003) is an engaging musical journey that harkens back to those classic progressive songs, but with lots of new twists and energy. Wanderlust (2005) represents a more adventurous and mature work than Surface Serene, which was already quite a good prog CD. All the songs on Wanderlust were fully co-written by the four band members, the compositions filled with vocal-driven melodic passages punctuated by thrilling instrumental flights. If Surface Serene led some to dub Little Atlas as “Spock’s Beard Jr.”, then Wanderlust puts the two bands on an equal footing. Frogg Cafe’s Bill Ayasse contributes violin to the final track.
Hollow (2007) was Little Atlas’s breakthrough album. Their sound has evolved significantly. While the music still resembles Spock’s Beard or Echolyn at times, here it is more intense and moody. And yet the dark passages are in perfect balance with the uplifting passages, and the contemporary prog style is balanced by classic prog stylings and vintage keyboard sounds. An exceptional record.
Automatic Day (2013) is their fourth, the music having gone almost completely over to the dark side. The music has evolved tremendously from Little Atlas’s beginning ten years previous, now closer to Porcupine Tree and classic Anekdoten, and having little to do with Spock’s Beard or Kansas. Yet there is still some classic prog grandeur that sets Little Atlas apart from other modern-style prog bands. As for other references, King Crimson deserve a mention, there are lots of passages featuring acoustic guitar that evoke a more pensive Genesis, and other songs with Yes elements, but again darker. Mellotron strings or choir are blended with dark, moody, more aggressive prog to great effect, and the production quality has improved with each CD. All told, this is Little Atlas’s masterpiece. Watch the official videos for the tracks Automatic Day, Oort, and Apathy.
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 band, 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. (Don’t expect this one to ever be priced like the first two.) See our Scandinavian page for the Carptree CDs.
Out of the King Crimson camp and Discipline Global Mobile comes this enigmatic new artist. We don’t know who The Vicar is, but the other musicians on the album have names, and they include Tony Levin, Theo Travis, and Jakko Jakszyk among many others. Songbook #1 (2013, digipack) is an unexpected album. There are a variety of singers, but no drummers or electric bassists were invited. The music consists of very English sounding songs with acoustic instrumentation and string quartet/chamber music arrangements, like Giles Giles & Fripp and early King Crimson teaming with Penguin Cafe Orchestra, with assistance from 10cc, Stackridge, and Queen. (There is a Wolfman Jack voice introducing the songs. Unfortunately.) The Beatles did something like this; The Vicar takes it in a much more progressive direction. The music is so unlike anything else, you’ll just have to listen for yourself -- click the mp3 icon above to audition the entire album. This edition has a CD (standard res stereo) plus a DVD-Audio with hi-res stereo and lossless hi-res surround (and DTS and Dolby Digital if you must). The DVD-A also features the complete 38 episode videobook of The Vicar Chronicles - “The Mysterious Case of Billy’s G-String” as well as a video for the song Count Your Blessings.
Flash was the post-Yes band of the late Peter Banks, who continued the early Yes style. The band reformed this millennium without Banks, headed up by original members Ray Bennett and Colin Carter. We remember watching the current Flash at Progday 2010, at which they promised a new CD soon, so it’s been a bit of a wait for Flash featuring Ray Bennett & Colin Carter (2013, 59-minutes), but worth it. Joined by three more musicians including a keyboardist, this new Flash pick up where they left off 40 years ago, with a few new tricks up their collective sleeve. And that is very good news for prog fans. The keyboardist is critical, because the original Flash tried to make do without keys after Tony Kaye left, and the second and third albums suffered because of that. Flash are back to full strength now. See our British page for the earlier Flash CDs.
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. PGM’s eighth album A Day in June (2013) strikes us as their best and most complete work. If their previous album Island Noises (a 2CD) 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 and Martin Griffiths 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 the album 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. See our German page for the rest of the PGM CDs and for the related bands Coarbegh and Autumnal Blossom.
Willowglass is an English act that is actually the work of one Andrew Marshall on electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, bass, keyboards, flute, recorders and drums, with the assistance of a drummer. The ten instrumental pieces on Willowglass’ 2005 debut are pure English 1970s-style progressive rock, with the main influences being Genesis, Camel, Anthony Phillips, and Pink Floyd, in that order. There is plenty of Mellotron strings, plenty of Hackett or Latimer-style electric guitar work, and plenty of the pastoral feeling missing from most modern progressive rock.
Book of Hours (2008) is again instrumental and continues in the same general style while expanding it slightly. In addition to Camel, Genesis, and Anthony Phillips, there are touches of Gryphon and Rick Wakeman. This music has an elegance and a sensitivity that contrasts sharply with the overblown and demonstrative style of so many current prog bands, and is a breath of fresh air after all the metal-dressed-up-as-prog being churned out today.
The Dream Harbour (2013) is also all-instrumental, the ‘Willowglass sound’ with a slightly heavier/darker sound in some places, still full of organ, synths, Mellotron, and 12 string guitars, plus the added talents of Steve Unruh (Resistor) on violin/flute/guitar and Hans Jörg Schmitz (King of Agogik) on drums/percussion. The beautiful artwork for the CD booklets is by Lee Gaskins. The artwork alone may tell you everything you need to know about these exceptional albums.
This Toronto-based prog band should be enormously popular once enough people hear them, at least people who like prog with pop songwriting skills in evidence, vocals front and center, and infectious energy. Bolus seem able to crank out catchy songs in much the same way 1980s Rush did, and Rush is certainly a major influence. But Bolus also remind us of early IZZ, when IZZ were more playful and less serious-sounding, also early Ambrosia and Genesis. Genesis get mentioned because Bolus like to add Mellotron strings and other proggy keyboards, and Mellotron strings can change the character of any music. While the Rush similarity is obvious on some tracks, especially in the upbeat energy, Bolus are a lot stronger in the keyboard department, since when Rush did use keys, Geddy Lee played pretty basic parts. Bolus also have harmony vocals that Rush lack. Watch Your Step was originally released in 2005 but was re-recorded and rereleased in late 2011 in this digipack edition. Delayed Reaction (2010, digipack) is their second. Triangulate (2013, digisleeve) is their new one, released just in time for Bolus’ appearance at Rosfest 2013. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The name of this Romanian band is a misnomer for two reasons. One, this is 1970s-style symphonic prog, pure and simple, so have no fear of an atonal headache. The band does date to the 1970s, so the name made more sense then. Two, there are only four band members on Atlantis (2012, digipack). They originally had a flute player as the fifth member, but as he couldn’t be located today, the flute parts on this album were played on a keyboard, though it isn’t obvious. Given that they’re now a quartet, the band sometimes use the shortened name Experimental Q. They did record material during the 70s but never released an LP. Atlantis is a new album but contains re-recorded material written during the 70s. Three of the musicians are original members, with a new young drummer. The music is almost entirely instrumental, with both keyboards and guitar sharing center stage. The keyboardist favors organ, so the organ-prog bands of the 70s come to mind, sometimes ELP, though less flashy, while instrumental Greenslade is sometimes a better reference. But Experimental Quintet have a guitarist who sometimes plays angular leads, then the music is something different. And when both flute and guitar are present, the music leans toward Solaris. The recording is faithful to 1970s sounds such that it not only sounds like a lost album from the classic era, it probably would have pushed Phoenix and Progresiv TM off the top spots in Romanian prog had it been released back then. Listen to the long track Quintet no. 2 on YouTube.
The self-titled album is the 2007 debut CD (56-minutes, digipack) by Days Between Stations, a Los Angeles band formed by guitarist Sepand Samzadeh and keyboardist Oscar Fuentes, with a large number of other musicians assisting. The music on the first CD is instrumental (with some wordless vocals), certainly influenced by mid-period Pink Floyd but more surreal, ambient, and cinematic. Some of the material could be compared to post rock bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, and there are many other progressive elements as well. The lush soundscapes and rich sonic detail reveal an uncommon talent. Read the Proggnosis and Sea of Tranquility reviews, or just see this compilation of reviews.
In Extremis (2013, 70-minutes, digipack) includes contributions from the late Peter Banks (Yes), the estimable Tony Levin, Colin Moulding (XTC), Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman. The artwork is by Paul Whitehead (Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, etc.). There are some vocals on this one courtesy of Sherwood and Moulding, and it is altogether a superior, more stirring and less somber album, more symphonic, varied, and energetic. The band’s expectations have been raised in the intervening years, as they employ a full orchestra on the opening overture and a string quartet on another track, while veteran engineers were hired for both recording and mastering. This could be called the new American classic prog (meaning no metal or alternative for miles around), with some help from the Brits. Watch the short video trailer. Read the Something Else! review.
White Clouds is the 2008 debut CD by British prog band Vienna Circle. On this first album, they operate in Pendragon and Marillion territory, but the band they really remind us of is Castanarc, the soothing lead vocals having much to do with that. Vienna Circle tend to be more atmospheric than those bands and are more serious and profound-sounding than Castanarc, without getting bogged down in it as some modern bands do. That is, the music remains uplifting, with a spiritual quality. So this is what Castanarc would and should sound like in 2008 in an ideal world. Read the DPRP review.
With Silhouette Moon (2013, 8-panel digipack), it’s time for Vienna Circle to emerge as the next star in the UK prog scene. On this concept album, they build on the strengths of White Clouds, with greater ambition in both music and production. They are no longer very reminiscent of Castanarc or confined to neo-prog. There is more of a Pink Floyd or 1990s Porcupine Tree feel, but the breadth of style and level of originality makes it difficult to assign references. However, it should all sound comfortable and familiar to symphonic prog fans. What we’re trying to say is that a lot of people are going to like this. As Prog Magazine said: “Vienna Circle are one of the most ingenious and compelling bands our homegrown scene has to offer.” The DVD (PAL, all-region, 70-minutes) includes the feature length “Making of Silhouette Moon” plus bonus footage. Watch the album trailer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This is Spock’s Beard’s 11th studio album. We deduced that because the previous one was called ‘X’. This hardcover mediabook edition has a second disc containing four more tracks: three new songs and one alternate mix. With Nick D’Virgilio gone, Enchant’s Ted Leonard is now the singer, while touring drummer Jimmy Keegan assumes studio duties as well. Notably, two songs were co-written by Neal Morse. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See Page 2 for more Spock’s Beard and related CDs. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Henry Fool is an eclectic British band whose eponymous debut CD was released in 2001 on the Cyclops label (and has been out-of-print for a long time). The primary force behind Henry Fool is Tim Bowness, best known as the half of No-Man that isn’t Steven Wilson. That debut album was a distinctive combination of 1970s progressive influences (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine), contemporary textural experiments, and hard-hitting group improvisations. It took until 2013 for the second Henry Fool CD Men Singing (gatefold mini-LP sleeve), which despite the title is entirely instrumental. The lineup is almost the same, with the drummer now Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), the addition of a second keyboardist, a guest violinist, and none other than Phil Manzanera guesting on guitar. The music is a blend of progressive rock, Soft Machine style jazz-rock, and post-rock, ranging from symphonic to atmospheric to psychedelic and spacey. Their debut never received the recognition it deserved, but this impressive second album will. Read reviews.
Echo Street (2013, 61-minutes) is the fourth album for Manchester’s Amplifier, but their first for the Kscope label. Originally a trio, Echo Street is their first with their new four-man lineup. They have often been compared to Oceansize, and in fact new member Steve Durose was in Oceansize. The band says that the new lineup “has delivered a subtle shift in style, allowing them to mix their epic space-rock jams with accessible pieces boasting three-part vocal harmonies”. This is the mediabook (hardcover) edition, with 28 page booklet. Watch the official video for the song Matmos.
Rabbit in the Vestibule (2008, 63-minutes) is the debut by Toronto’s Half Past Four, an excellent, eclectic prog band that could be grouped loosely with Echolyn and IZZ in that they have a modern, energetic sound that is nevertheless respectful of the classic progressive rock bands, with some nimble playing and complex arrangements. Likewise, Half Past Four have a true keyboardist (who favors piano), the essential element missing from too many modern so-called prog bands, so the balance between keys and guitar is what it should be for a prog band. Half Past Four’s songs are centered around their talented female vocalist Kyree Vibrant (which is a pretty good surname). The music is often arty and quirky, skirting Squonk Opera territory, simultaneously innovative and catchy. Read reviews here and especially the DPRP review for more in-depth descriptions.
Good Things (2013, digisleeve) is Half Past Four’s second CD, showcasing songwriting and playing that has matured over the past five years. Be sure to watch this video advertising the CD. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Jack O’ The Clock are a band from Oakland, California who, like many of the Bay Area bands, are adventurous and outside the mainstream. Like most truly inventive bands, Jack O’ The Clock are difficult to describe, but there is something special going on here. Nominally this is artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but they remain dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth. They “take us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity.” [Bluesbunny, Glasgow] Their sound has elicited comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Henry Cow/Art Bears, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. We’re sometimes reminded of However’s gentler songs, or even an American counterpart to Stormy Six circa L’Apprendista. The thirteen pieces on their third album All My Friends (2013) showcase the band’s core of voices, violin, guitar, hammer dulcimer, bassoon, bass, and drums, plus an expanded woodwind/brass section (eight guest musicians) and found objects such as wine glasses, corrugated pipes, heating grates, and more. “There’s an amazing amount of originality, and those looking for some intrepid, barrier-breaking music would do well to start here.” [Exposé]. “Jack O’ The Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer... some of the freshest and most surprising music I’ve heard.” [Fred Frith] “The perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.” [Prognaut] Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Glasgow’s Comedy of Errors had been known (if they were known at all) as the other Scottish neo-prog band, after Pallas and Abel Ganz. Though the band formed in 1984, their time had not yet come. Now their triumphant comeback continues with Fanfare & Fantasy (2013, digipack), a CD that every self-respecting fan of neo-prog will need. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Fanfare & Fantasy montage.
Comedy of Errors are calling Disobey (2011, digipack) their debut, but the band released a vinyl mini-album in 1986 that compiled their demos to that point. These tracks were later combined with 1987 demos to form the eponymous CD released in 1988 by the French UGUM/MSI label. (Good luck finding that now.) The 2011 reformed Comedy of Errors features the three core members from those days, a new drummer, and a bit of assistance from Hew Montgomery (ex-Abel Ganz). Rob Aubrey did the final mixing and mastering for both CDs, almost a requirement for a UK neo-prog CD. If you’re a fan of UK neo-prog and didn’t know of Comedy of Errors before, you are in for a treat. And if you do know Comedy of Errors, you are in for a treat. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Disobey montage.
Back in stock. Released at the end of January 2013, this may already be the British prog album of the year. Lifesigns is a new band formed by John Young (composer, keyboards, lead vocals), Nick Beggs (bass, Chapman Stick, backing vocals), and Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle (drums), a project that had been in development for six years. There have been precious few modern British bands making albums on the same level as the classic symphonic bands, you know, the ones who invented progressive rock. Which makes Lifesigns nearly a national treasure. But then these are veteran musicians, and they’re joined by three guests on electric & acoustic guitars: Steve Hackett, Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson), and Robin Boult (Fish, John Young Band), plus Thijs van Leer (Focus) on flute. You’ll hear similarities to Peter Gabriel, Yes, Genesis, National Health, Happy the Man, Bruford, and a couple others we’re overlooking, but it doesn’t sound retro or derivative. We don’t often write “must have”, but there, we’ve done it. Check our British page for John Young’s CDs.
Sanguine Hum is the continuation of the band Antique Seeking Nuns, with the exact same lineup but a slight change in direction. Their debut Diving Bell was first released on CD in 2011 on the band’s own label, later reissued in this Esoteric Antenna label edition with three bonus tracks added. If you listen to the ASN CDs in chronological order, then the transition to Sanguine Hum appears relatively smooth. It’s the same singer and a similar sound palette. ASN’s Canterbury pedigree can be heard, but the music feels more modern. Now often there is a pejorative context to ‘modern’ in front of ‘prog’, but not here. There is no metal, this isn’t glorified alt-rock, and Sanguine Hum can hold a candle to the classic bands. While probably widening their appeal to the Radiohead and Muse crowd, Sanguine Hum restore some of the essential elements of progressive rock often missing from modern prog. They leave out the most angular and demanding instrumentals of ASN, and in their place is a sensuous, even soothing style of prog that retains the intricacies and stellar ensemble work but moves them slightly out of the foreground. The result is that the listener may not notice the odd time signatures and sophisticated arrangements because the music is so melodic and captivating. The music does what prog is supposed to do -- transport the listener somewhere that transcends everyday life. Read reviews, plus the Prognaut review which may not yet be on that first list of reviews.
The Weight of the World (2013) is Sanguine Hum’s second, with Andrew Booker from No Man taking over on drums. The limited edition (LE) comes in a digipack and adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) which contains The Making of ‘The Weight of the World’. The standard edition is just the CD and comes in jewel box + slipcase. The band says: “The Weight of the World sees Sanguine Hum expand their musical horizons on all fronts with a seven-track collection of diverse compositions – technically challenging and exciting yet always melodic and direct. Songs such as From the Ground Up and System for Solution pursue the Porcupine Tree meets Radiohead approach of Diving Bell, with powerful yet intricate riffs propelling the songwriting that continues to make ever more inventive use of surprising twists and turns in the arrangement. Surprises are to be found as well in the instrumentation, as the band open up the sound and more explicitly reference a love of electronica and the music of artists such as Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin, best heard in the song Day of Release as synthetic percussion and rumbling synths give way to chiming acoustic guitar and a soaring vocal melody. Perhaps even more exciting for a band that perhaps held some of their prog influences in check on their debut album is the 15-minute title track that manages the task of combining effective and emotional songwriting with thrilling musical developments that push the band to the limit.”
These are all the newly remastered 2013 Esoteric editions, the first time on CD for all except Black Noise. If you don’t have Black Noise yet, stop what you’re doing. Black Noise (1977) is the debut by a Canadian trio who never again reached these heights (excluding Direct to Disc from the discussion for the moment), but this one album is for our money better than any Rush or Saga album and should represent English-speaking Canada at whatever award ceremony occurs at the end of time. FM had their own sound, partly because their instrumentation was keyboards, electric violin & mandolin, and drums. The violin and mandolin fill the guitar role, and most of the bass is done on pedals, yielding a synth-heavy symphonic progressive sound, with science fiction based lyrics and multi-part vocal arrangements. You might think of a high-tech version of Yes adapted to the UK Danger Money format, but FM were unique. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Direct to Disc is the album not all FM fans are aware of. It was recorded in 1977 shortly after Black Noise and released on a small label. On one of the LP editions, it was titled Head Room. The lineup was Cameron Hawkins (keyboards), Martin Deller (drums), and Ben Mink (electric violin, electric mandolin), the latter replacing founding member Nash the Slash. The album was in fact recorded direct to disc, a process that bypasses tape, and so there is no multitracking, no overdubs, and the mix is done live. The band had to play each LP side live without stopping, about 15-minutes each. Direct to disc recordings were usually recorded simultaneously to two-track tape, which is presumably what Esoteric had to work with. The result is a mostly-instrumental recording showcasing a more adventurous, somewhat fusion-y side of FM, and their second best record (for some, their best). Read reviews at Prog Archives.
FM’s output decayed linearly in quality from there, with each new album a noticeable drop-off from the preceding, until by 1987’s Tonight you wondered if it was the same band. Surveillance is still very good, almost essential, and the song Seventh Heaven (in 7/8 of course) one of their very best. That song and two other excellent songs were in FM’s live set at NEARfest 2006, the others being Shapes of Things, their arrangement of the Yardbirds song, and the instrumental Sofa Back. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
And then City of Fear (1980), and you can safely stop there. Still a worthwhile album, just the same old story of a 1970s prog band who tried to continue into the 1980s, and you know how that decade went. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarq’s comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarq’s career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarq’s Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
This band from Sardinia began under the name Eclisse, sounding close to Genesis and Marillion with a Gabriel-style vocalist singing in both English and Italian. The band then changed their name to the unpronounceable Yleclipse and decided to go English-only beginning with their 2006 CD Opus. Songs from the Crackling Atanor is Yleclipse’s 2012 album. Since your first question is likely to be “What is an atanor, and why is it crackling?”, we found this definition: Atanor - In medieval alchemy, the oven where natural, mystic and spiritual transformation takes place. Their style remains a hybrid of Genesis and Fish-era Marillion, not far from The Watch. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Italian page for more Yleclipse CDs and more info.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, an under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and strings. These tracks supposedly deal with the voices we hear in our head in various life situations, and Thielen’s voice has a distant quality that evokes that. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
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. It is majesty without bombast.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack) 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.
Veteran prog reviewer Jurriaan Hage had this to say about Naive, the first t CD from 2002, and t has only gotten better since then: “This extremely intimate and seemingly very personal catharsis is one of the most original and, I feel, timeless albums to grace progressive rock in some time. I have to admit this may not be everyone’s cup of tea; that is simply a question of what you expect in music. Main references are Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Hogarth’s Marillion (Brave era) and No-Man. The quality and expressiveness is apparent throughout with maybe a bit of experimentation, but never without purpose. Do yourself, the label and the artist a favor and let the emotions and melodies that haunt me now haunt you too.”
Head (2000) is the debut by British prog band Thieves’ Kitchen, who on this CD sound vocally very much like Jadis. Instrumentally it’s a bit more diverse than that, with lots of proggy things going on throughout five long tracks spanning 63-minutes. The final 20-minute track T.A.N.U.S. is worth the price of admission alone, as they add a National Health or Bruford feel to their otherwise more neo-prog style, foreshadowing the direction they would head (pun unavoidable) in.
On Argot (2001), Thieves’ Kitchen continue with the style established on T.A.N.U.S., with four extremely long tracks totaling 65-minutes. There is little if anything neo-progressive on this CD. Keyboardist Wolfgang Kindl favors organ, often with the sound and style of Dave Stewart/National Health, while guitarist Phil Mercy, like Phil Miller, plays in an angular style. Overall the music is more rock-oriented and less jazz-influenced than National Health (and it almost goes without saying that there is no writer in the band on the level of Dave Stewart). Despite the neo-prog background of some of the members, T.K. de-emphasize melody, as the complexity of the music leaves little room for melodic vocal lines. Echolyn offshoot Finneus Gauge is a good reference point.
Shibboleth (2003) is their third CD and it trumps the previous two. The band now take their cues more from Hatfield and the North and National Health than from the symphonic bands. Since their previous album, Thieves’ Kitchen swapped their male singer for Amy Darby, and her voice fits the music better. While organ is still his main keyboard, Wolfgang Kindl plays some Mellotron on this album, in case you wondered what a Canterbury band would sound like with Mellotron. So here is a current British prog band carving out their own identity, creating music to satisfy cravings for complex arrangements and instrumental interplay, and finally getting everything right.
For The Water Road (2008, 73-minutes), Thieves’ Kitchen’ have a new keyboardist: Thomas Johnson, formerly of Änglagård. The rest of the lineup remains the same, but there are guest musicians. Änglagård alumnus Anna Holmgren contributes numerous flute passages, original TK bassist Paul Beecham plays sax and oboe, and cello makes an appearance courtesy of Stina Pettersson. Furthermore, vocalist Amy Darby also plays recorders, clarinet, harp, and Theremin. The album was recorded at Rob Aubrey’s studio, with the keyboards recorded at Mattias Olsson’s studio in Stockholm. Johnson was very much involved in the writing, and for the first 25 minutes or so, the Änglagård style is dominant. After that, Thieves’ Kitchen’s Canterbury style reasserts itself, with guitarist Phil Mercy still responsible for much of the writing. This is the best-sounding TK CD so far, and with the blend of the Änglagård and Canterbury styles, the best TK CD to date period.
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (2013, digisleeve, 57-minutes) is well worth the long wait. The core of Thieves’ Kitchen remains singer Amy Darby, guitarist Phil Mercy, and keyboardist Thomas Johnson. Flutist Anna Holmgren returns, while the rhythm section on this album is Sanguine Hum’s: Paul Mallyon (drums) and Brad Waissman (bass). Other guests include cellist Tove Törngren and trumpeter Paul Marks. TK’s well-established jazzy Canterbury style dominates (Bill Bruford’s Feels Good to Me is another good reference), with the Mellotron and secondary instruments adding important extra dimensions. Darby’s vocals remind us of Squonk Opera. The busy Rob Aubrey again engineered. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
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