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NEW AND FEATURED:
Lullabies in a Car Crash (2014, jewel case) is the debut solo CD by Airbag lead guitarist and main songwriter Bjørn Riis. While Riis sings backing vocals in Airbag, he is lead singer here. The album features Airbag’s Henrik Fossum on drums and Asle Tostrup providing loops and effects. Long-time Airbag collaborator Vegard Sleipnes co-produced the album along with Bjørn. Bjørn says the album is very much a personal statement, with lyrics dealing with fear of abandonment, alienation and loss, while also an homage to many of his musical influences. In case there’s any doubt who his biggest musical influence is, Riis is the creator of the website Gilmourish.com, which gets a lot of traffic. This should be an easy decision for Airbag and Pink Floyd fans. Listen to the album preview.
Bjørn Riis’s second Forever Comes to an End (2017, jewel case) features guest appearances from Airbag’s Henrik Fossum on drums and Asle Tostrup on programming, Simen Valldal Johannessen from Oak on piano, and vocals from Norwegian-Grenadian singer Sichelle Mcmeo Aksum. Watch the album preview video and listen to the title track and Winter. “Light on lyrics, heavy on atmosphere, Forever Comes to an End delivers an emotional story through music. Don’t expect a display of technical wizardry, guitar acrobatics or catchy tunes. Instead find a cohesive, gorgeously crafted story with few words, little excess, and so much depth.” Read the full The Prog Mind review, also the Progradar review. See our Scandinavian page for the Airbag CDs.
This is the 2017 remastered digipack edition of Snegs (1974), one of the classics of Brazilian symphonic prog. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Zé da Flauta is a Brazilian musician whose career began in the early 1970s, but Psicoativo (2016, digipack) is the first album under his name alone. Zé plays flute and leads a band of younger musicians on electric guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums, plus several guests. The music is instrumental psychedelic prog that owes a large debt to Jethro Tull while also displaying influences of Brazilian musicians such as Hermeto Pascoal.
We have only a few copies of the new Témpano CD Nowhere Now Here (digisleeve), first released on vinyl and download in 2016. The album was recorded in both Venezuela and the U.S. Watch the album promo video. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Check our South American page for more Témpano CDs and info on the band.
On the Raw are an instrumental prog quintet from Barcelona featuring sax/flute, keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums. The members have been in other prog bands: Harvest, Dracma, and Apple Smell Colour. On their 2017 debut Big City Awakes (digipack), they seamlessly blend progressive rock and fusion with touches of electronics, showing the eclecticism and sophistication we’ve come to expect out of Barcelona.
Hypatia (digisleeve) is a 2015 CD, but we just got a few copies in via a back channel, and the album probably isn’t as well known as it should be. Telergy is the Ayreon-like project of American multi-instrumentalist/composer Robert McClung, with a few dozen other musicians on this third Telergy album that include David Ragsdale and Oliver Wakeman. “Hypatia has so many brilliant moments that deserve to be heard by any self-respecting fan of modern prog. Telergy have once again delivered a complex, bombastic, no-holds-barred progressive rock epic with Hypatia.” Read the full Progarchy review, also the Prog Sphere and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Pendragon celebrated the 20th anniversary of probably their most successful album, The Masquerade Overture, with a special show at Teatr Slaski in Poland on May 18, 2016. They play The Masquerade Overture in its entirety (including bonus tracks) followed by additional songs drawn mostly from Men Who Climb Mountains, 17 tracks total. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) includes an interview with Peter Gee and Jan-Vincent Velazco among the extras, and surround as well as stereo audio. The double-CD comes in a fat digipack. Read the Prog Archives review. More Pendragon DVDs.
These are the 2015-17 digipack editions on Sireena Records of Eileen (1977), Dry (1979), and Sky Racer (1981), all mastered from the original tapes. Streetmark was a German prog band that released four albums on Sky Records, beginning with Nordland in 1976. Keyboardist Dorothea Raukes was a founding member and one of the first female figures of the German prog scene.
Eileen is the latest to be reissued. For this album, Wolfgang Riechmann joined the band on keyboards, guitar, and vocals. Riechmann would later release the electronic music album Wunderbar. He wasn’t around to see the release of that album as he died after being stabbed without reason by two drunks while on a walk in the Düsseldorf Altstadt in 1978. Sky Records later reissued Eileen under the artist name Wolfgang Riechmann and Streetmark and changed the name of the album to Dreams for maximum confusion. (Dreams is significantly higher rated than Eileen on Prog Archives with the same small number of raters, so the one bonus track on Dreams must be one heluva track.) Riechmann replaced the singer on Nordland that nobody likes, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs on Eileen. So Riechmann had a big impact on the sound of this album, which shows influences of Eloy and Genesis mixed with cosmic Teutonic electronics.
Streetmark went through constant lineup changes, and by the time of their third album Dry, Raukes had taken control of the band as well as most of the lead vocals. Streetmark are at their best in the vocals department on their last two albums. Dry is an underappreciated German prog album. With this album, the band moved toward a more melodic and rock-oriented prog style, while maintaining a good deal of spaciness. There is loads of organ and synths, with melodic guitar leads. The “Neue Deutsche Welle” (NDW), the German version of new wave, ran a few years behind punk and new wave in the UK, so though Dry is from 1979, it feels more like 1976. There is disco influence in one song, but it’s actually not a horrible track. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
After recording their first three albums in Conny Planck’s studio, Streetmark moved to Dieter Dierks’ studio for Sky Racer. Raukes was the only original member on this album, which continues along the same trajectory as Dry, the quality dropping off slightly as the level of commercialism increased a bit, unavoidable at that time. You’d think the short song Stick to Reggae would be one to skip, but it’s an instrumental done almost entirely on synths. The title track is also instrumental and a Genesis/Camel-inspired highlight, as Raukes plays fast and furious lead synth lines like you just don’t hear anymore. Fortunately Streetmark didn’t follow the emerging trend of the NDW, and overall Sky Racer is a decent prog album, certainly for 1981 when prog was at or near a low point. It would be their last. Listen to Settlers to the West.
This is the 2017 Angel Air edition of Through the Fire (2001), which adds two previously-unheard bonus tracks. After having recorded solo albums during the 1990s, Jim McCarty decided in 2000 to form Renaissance Illusion with his old bandmates Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo, and John Hawken to record this album. Thus Illusion (Renaissance Mark I minus Keith Relf) was reborn. Hawken’s presence is the difference between McCarty’s solo albums and Illusion, that is, the difference between soft rock and soft prog. This is a wonderful if not well known addition to the Illusion canon. Read reviews at Prog Archives. (Someone please explain to the one reviewer that the word is ‘mark’, not ‘mach’.) See our British page for more Illusion CDs.
Swedish prog band Moon Safari played Rosfest 2017, and they were selling this 2016 The Syn CD. They didn’t want to transport the unsold CDs back home so we obliged and bought the lot. Why is Moon Safari selling a The Syn CD? Because The Syn, which was Chris Squire’s band from 1965-67 and a precursor to Yes, is down to Steve Nardelli now, and Steve needed a band. That band here is five of the six Moon Safari members, with Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic) mixing, engineering, and contributing instrumental parts. Moon Safari co-wrote, co-produced, and co-arranged all the songs. Moon Safari’s vibe is very close to Yes, so this is a logical collaboration and as close to being a Moon Safari album as can be while still being under someone else’s name. Read The Progressive Aspect and Progarchy reviews. See our Scandinavian page for Moon Safari’s CDs.
This is the single CD edition of Sight of Day (2017, digisleeve); the 2CD limited edition is sold out. Angela Gordon (flute, keys) makes her long-awaited return, and with her some of the folk elements that made the early Mostly Autumn albums so special. Multi-instrumentalist/singer Chris Johnson makes his first appearance since Heart Full of Sky. Troy Donockley guests as he usually does, with first-time guest Anna Phoebe (violin). Sight of Day is much more upbeat than its predecessor and may be the best album of the Olivia Sparnenn era. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to Sight of Day and Tomorrow Dies. See our British page for the full Mostly Autumn catalog.
Eris Pluvia’s 1991 debut Rings of Earthly Light is one of the best Italian prog albums of its era. Ancient Veil is one of two bands to emerge from Eris Pluvia. The other continues to use the name Eris Pluvia, but Ancient Veil has the two founding members. The first Ancient Veil album appeared in 1995, and I Am Changing (2017) is the second, continuing with English-language vocals. Both are gentler and more delicate than Rings of Earthly Light. Watch the album sampler video. Read the progVisions review.
This is the 2017 digipack debut by U.S. prog band Troposphere, who share most of their members with the bands Canvas and October Tree. Not surprisingly, Troposphere sound similar to those bands, that is, melodic prog with a 1970s pop/rock aesthetic and organic sound, in the vein of Phil Manzanera/801, later Caravan, or The Alan Parsons Project. This album is probably the best yet from this group of related bands.
Argentina’s premier prog band, who played at NEARfest 2000 back when they had a female vocalist, are now an instrumental band. En el Comienzo del Topos Uranos is Nexus’s 2017 studio CD. Watch the album trailer. See our South American page for more Nexus CDs and more info.
We Are Legend (2017, digisleeve) is the new Magenta album. The DVD contains the 5.1 surround mix, video interview and promos. “Magenta have once again extended themselves beyond what any reasonable fan can expect, and have delivered something classic that will appease diehard fans, but also something new that might just conjure a new audience.” Read the full The Prog Report review. “In We are Legend, Magenta have created one of the best albums of their career by daring to stretch and express themselves with great integrity and dazzling imagination. This will be regarded as one of THE progressive rock albums of 2017.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review, and if still not convinced, the Progradar and Get Ready to Rock reviews. Watch the album promo and Trojan videos.
Chaos from the Stage (DVD+CD, digisleeve) presents Magenta live at The Assembly - Leamington in November 2015. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the entire 105-minute concert. The CD contains as much audio as would fit. Watch the promo video. See our British page for more Magenta titles.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium, Kiama). Sanctuary (2014, digisleeve) is a rather amazing work, as it is in essence an alternate-universe version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to right-thinking people everywhere one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. (If the current generation of prog fans sometimes seems clueless about Mike Oldfield in general, there is this perspective: Oldfield is one of only four individual artists to whom Paul Stump devotes a section of his The Music’s All That Matters book, the others being Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, and Anthony Phillips. The others owe much of their renown to the bands they were in.) Reed even secured the collaboration of Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (who co-produced) and Simon Heyworth (who mastered Sanctuary) after receiving their seal of approval. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the album in 24/96 stereo and DTS 5.1 surround for maximum bliss, plus the promo videos. Watch the videos for Sanctuary Part 1 and Sanctuary Part 2 (excerpt), the latter a great piece of comedy with a special guest star, and you should find a few more of the promo videos nearby.
Rob Reed cements his status as the second coming of Mike Oldfield with Sanctuary II (2016, digisleeve), a double-CD + DVD (NTSC, all-region) set. The first CD contains Sanctuary II Parts 1 & 2. The second CD contains two more songs, two tracks from the Marimba EP, and some alternate versions/mixes. The DVD contains a 5.1 surround mix and 24/96 stereo of Sanctuary II Parts 1 & 2 as well as promo videos. Simon Phillips (who played on several Oldfield albums) plays drums, Angharad Brinn handles lead vocals, Les Penning plays recorders, and Tom Newman adds bodhran in addition to being credited as executive producer. The women of Synergy Vocals do the nonsense-syllable vocal style that Oldfield invented (and which Karl Jenkins later ran with in Adiemus). As Reed is carrying on Oldfield’s legacy, this album also moves forward in time from the Tubular Bells style of the first Sanctuary album to the next Oldfield phase, using a drummer and increasing the majesty of the soaring guitar lines. Uplifting, to say the least. Watch album promo 1, promo 2, and promo 3.
English band Big Big Train began in the early 1990s as a soft neo-prog band, but steadily improving with each album, they have grown into one of the top progressive rock bands in the world, and one that is breaking new ground. The band that had already added drummer Nick D’Virgilio, former XTC and Peter Gabriel guitarist Dave Gregory, and best-singer-in-prog David Longdon, has now added Beardfish mastermind Rikard Sjöblom! Who doesn’t want to board Big Big Train now?
Big Big Train’s 10th album Grimspound (2017, digisleeve) follows swiftly after Folklore as the band found themselves with a wealth of new material and writing input from their newer members. They probably also realize that they’re at both a creative and popularity peak and are not taking the future for granted. Bassist Greg Spawton says: “There is some complex music on this album, with extended instrumental sections alongside vocal passages. We had a lot of fun making the album and have pushed ourselves as progressive rock bands should.” Judy Dyble adds vocals to “a song concerning the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” Nick and Rachel sing some lead parts on this album, further expanding the sonic palette. Watch the videos for As the Crow Flies and Experimental Gentlemen.
A Stone’s Throw from the Line (2CD, 2016, digisleeve) is Big Big Train’s first live album. The album was recorded at the three sold-out Kings Place, London shows in August 2015 that garnered the band the Live Event of the Year award at the 2016 Progressive Music Awards. Those shows saw Big Big Train return to the stage after a 17-year absence. The best performance of each song from the three gigs made it to the CD while maintaining the actual running order of the shows. A 40-page booklet is included.
See our British page for the rest of the Big Big Train CDs. Note the majority have gone out-of-print, so if we have those in stock, they are our last copies. See our DVD/Blu-ray page for Big Big Train’s Stone & Steel Blu-ray, also now out-of-print.
Every two years since 2002, Marillion have welcomed their fans to a Marillion weekend. During the March 2015 Marillion weekend in The Netherlands, the band recorded the Saturday night performance of their Marbles album (the complete 2CD version, in order) plus three more tracks. The Marbles in the Park Blu-ray (2017) contains that performance. The Blu-ray contains some minor extras, but more importantly it features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and hi-res PCM stereo audio. It runs 134-minutes, is all-region, and the video is 1080i/60, meaning no compatibility issues with North American Blu-ray players. Watch the trailer.
F E A R (2016), short for F*** Everyone and Run, is Marillion’s 18th studio album, containing five new tracks broken into 17 parts. Long tracks divided into sub-sections, your assurance that it’s prog! “It is an album jam packed with wonderful music, gorgeous melodies, complex and personal lyrics – everything that can be expected from 21st century Marillion, but boosted up a notch.” Read the full The Prog Report review. Listen to The New Kings, or listen to the band explain the album.
This SACD version comes in a hardcover digibook. It’s a hybrid SACD, meaning it also functions as a CD. But pop it into an SACD-capable player (these days usually a compatible Blu-ray player), and you not only get hi-res DSD audio, you get hi-res surround. The back of the digibook states “MULTICHANNEL 5.0”, so if that’s accurate, they decided to omit the LFE (subwoofer) channel from the mix. Which is OK. See our British page for some Marillion CDs.
Bring Me to the Water (2016) is a seven-track CD with a playing time of 34:34 by a Dutch prog quintet featuring powerful and beautiful female vocals somewhat similar to Magenta’s Christina Booth. While five of the tracks are listed as bonus tracks, they are actually remastered versions of the band’s earlier material. Nothing is repeated; they are different songs. The album was produced and mixed by Christiaan Bruin (Chris, The Black Codex). Read the Muzikman review. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Collision (2017, digisleeve) is Golden Cave’s first full-length CD, again mixed and mastered by Christiaan Bruin. The album contains reworked versions of their first two singles plus seven brand new songs. This is a talented young band making music that is undeniably prog but capable of drawing a wider audience into the fold. Songs with actual hooks that you want to hear a second time, imagine that! Read the Progradar review.
Dave Bainbridge was the main creative force in the band Iona. After reaching their peak in prog rock terms on 2006’s The Circling Hour and the subsequent departure of Troy Donockley, Iona returned to their early sound and de-emphasized the progressive rock aspect of their style to some extent. Well, energy cannot be destroyed and must go somewhere, and now it’s crystal clear where Dave Bainbridge’s progressive energies have gone. Celestial Fire (2014, digisleeve) is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece and an album Dave says he’s always wanted to make. Dave explains: “It’s an album which really draws upon the excitement and exhilaration I first felt, listening to many of my early musical heroes: Yes, Gentle Giant, David Sancious and Tone, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Hatfield and the North, Deep Purple, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Stivell, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, to name but a few! It was listening to all these great musicians and composers that first inspired me to become a musician and composer.” The album showcases some amazing playing from Dave on both guitar and keyboards, and though the music is heavily instrumental, there are vocals from numerous singers including Damian Wilson, Joanne Hogg, and Sally Minnear (daughter of Kerry). Dave is assisted by Troy Donockley, his Iona bandmates, Randy George (Ajalon, Neal Morse Band), and many more. For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and so did we. Also read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Dave Bainbridge formed a band to perform the complex and demanding music from his Celestial Fire album live, and naturally that band got named Celestial Fire. The band was also tasked with playing music from Dave’s first solo release Veil of Gossamer as well as anything from the vast Iona back catalog, along with Dave’s occasional unique twist on a traditional British folk tune. Dave enlisted Iona cohort Frank van Essen (probably unique in the world as an incredible drummer & percussionist as well as an amazing improviser on the violin), singer and multi-instrumentalist Sally Minnear, guitar virtuoso and composer Dave Brons (Top 10 Guitar Idol 2014), and bass & Chapman Stick genius Simon Fitzpatrick (Carl Palmer’s Legacy). In early 2017, Iona decided to call it quits as a touring and recording band. In many ways, Celestial Fire is the new Iona but is significantly proggier than where Iona left off. The Live in the UK DVD+2CD (2017, digisleeve) was recorded on Celestial Fire’s first concert tour and is their first release. It features a mix of Iona music (some rarely played live), music from Dave’s solo albums, even a Yes cover or two. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) and double-CD both feature the entire concert, filmed with multiple cameras by a television production company. The DVD also includes rehearsal footage and photos. Watch the promo video.
See Page 2 for Veil of Gossamer and the Iona catalog.
Calculated Risk (2017, digipack) is the debut for German instrumental sympho-prog quartet Force of Progress, led by keyboardist Hanspeter Hess, who has released several superb albums under the name The Healing Road. Watch the album sampler video and listen to a snippet from The Man Who Played God.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music. Using both rock and classical chamber instruments and heavenly wordless female vocals, composer Richard Wileman achieves a surreal melancholy and poignant beauty that has few parallels. “Infernal Spheres (2017) is another fine release from Richard Wileman who continues on the crest of a creative wave. His skill at taking chamber classical, jazz, and rock influences and turning them into something new is beyond reproach and he continues to give his audience fascinating and intelligent music of real depth.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review. “I have known Richard for more than twenty years now, and I have yet to hear anyone else achieve what he manages with Karda Estra. He still surprises me in so many ways, as he moves within so many different styles, yet all with a common theme of being visual -- I always ‘see’ his music as well as hear it. It may be his fourteenth album but he shows no signs at all of slowing down, and I actually think this is his finest yet.” Read Kev Rowland’s full Prog Archives review. See our British page for more Karda Estra CDs and much more info. If you didn’t pick up 2016’s Time and Stars CD, the band has sold out of it; we have some of the last copies.
Eye 2 Eye (formerly Eye to Eye) are a French prog band singing in English, formed in 2003 by former members of ADN and soon joined by other musicians. Their debut One in Every Crowd (2006) features intense symphonic rock, influenced somewhat by Pink Floyd but more by Marillion, though they sound distinct from either. The mood is consistently dark and dramatic. The keyboardist says he loves Banco’s Darwin album, and one can hear some of that classical influence. The CD includes two 16-minute tracks, two 8-minute tracks, and a cover of Ayreon’s Back on Planet Earth among the songs. A violinist guests on the final epic. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
After a minor change in spelling, Eye 2 Eye returned in 2009 with a new singer and new bassist and their 75-minute second studio CD After All. The style is essentially the same: dark, powerful symphonic rock influenced by Pink Floyd and early Marillion but more symphonic than either, with lots of massed strings and choir pads. The bombastic style recalls Arena at times. The violinist appears again on several tracks, a welcome addition. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
The Wish (2011) is a conceptual work based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s the band’s most ambitious and probably best work to date. Read the Background Magazine review. Already out-of-print, last copies.
The Light Bearer (2017) is Eye 2 Eye’s latest. Watch the album trailer.
Italian prog band Taproban debuted in 2002 with Ogni Pensiero Vola, followed with two albums on Mellow Records that are currently out-of-print, then Strigma (2013) on Musea. These albums contain 1970s-style progressive rock with influences of Genesis, Le Orme, ELP, Balletto di Bronzo, and Goblin. Per Aspera ad Astra (2017, digisleeve) is Taproban’s fifth. Watch the trailer and listen to Il Difficile Equilibrio Tra Sorgenti d’Energia and Outside Nowhere on YouTube. The latter is a new version of the title track of Taproban’s 2004 album. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
OK, we’ve totally failed to keep up with the Musea label, so while some of the next bunch of CDs are not new, they contain great prog that has received far too little attention and deserves much more.
Motis, whose first album is from 2005, have blossomed into one of the top current French (classic-style) prog bands. Live: Sur les Chemins (2016) was recorded between 2014-2016 during two years of performances across France at many venues and festivals. The live energy makes a difference, and now that Motis are seasoned live performers, you may prefer their live albums to their studio albums. Watch the album teaser and listen to Josquin Messonnier (live) on YouTube. See our French page for the entire Motis catalog and much more info.
Qantum are a French band initially formed by musicians from Ultime Atome and Lapsus Linguae. Their first album Les temps oubliés (2009) is excellent symphonic prog inspired by the classic French progressive bands (mostly Mona Lisa, Ange, and their ilk), with some Genesis influence and commonality with early Marillion or Galaad. One reviewer describes it as “feel-good symphonic prog”. That it is. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Le Passage (2016) is Qantum’s second and qualifies as “feel-even-better symphonic prog”, a more mature work and a beautiful addition to the canon of classic French symphonic prog. Listen to L’Or on YouTube.
Twenty Four Hours is a modern Italian band led by keyboardist-singer Paolo Lippe. On their third album Oval Dreams (1999), the quartet performs music close in spirit to early Porcupine Tree, elegantly and convincingly blending airy guitars with linear rhythm lines and energetic themes. Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles can also be mentioned (one track is named Twenty-Four-Pink-Hot-Tentacles). There are two covers that point to other major influences: Van der Graaf Generator’s Darkness (11/11) and The Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son. The album finishes with The Bastards, a nearly 20-minute suite. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Twenty Four Hours’ fifth album Left to Live (2016) is subtitled A Meditation on Past and Present Perfect Crimes. For the first time the band employed an external producer, Andrea Valfrè, whose production credits include Le Orme and Lunapop. Watch the album trailer.
T.Phan is the project of Stéphan Caussarieu, the drummer from the band Tai Phong. The two band names sound similar, and not by chance. For those who don’t know Tai Phong, they were a French progressive rock band from the second half of the 1970s signed to a major label; their singer Jean-Jacques Goldman went on to become one of the most respected singer-songwriters in France. They had a European hit with the song Sister Jane and created quality melodic prog sung in English, roughly a blend of Yes and Barclay James Harvest. Thirty years later, T.Phan continues the story with Last Warrior (2009). While it sounds distinct from Tai Phong, it’s close enough that it could be the follow-up album to Last Flight, given that 30 years have passed since that final album of Tai Phong’s initial phase. Maybe the best reference is Camel from Nude on. Last Warrior is not quite on the Camel level, but it is sung in English, features a similar balance between vocals and instrumental passages, has touches of jazz, some great melodies and fine playing. Read the DPRP review. Soon (2016) continues in a similar style.
Magnesis are a French prog band formed in 1987, in the style of Ange and Mona Lisa, with some influence of Genesis and early Marillion. In addition to the French-language vocals, the band has two keyboard players, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. While Magnesis can be considered to have followed in the footsteps of Ange, they have long since stepped out of Ange’s shadow, as there is much to their style that is distinct from Ange.
La Dame de Braise (2015) relates a tale from Burgundian history, the story of Catherine de Châteauneuf, last chatelaine of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. We won’t spoil the ending. This is Magnesis’ own brand of classic French symphonic prog. Watch the album teaser and listen to Catherine de Chateauneuf on YouTube. See our French page for more Magnesis CDs and more info.
Anaïd is a French band that released two albums in 1986 and 1989, influenced by both Zeuhl (Magma-esque) and Canterbury music. Libertad (2016, digipack) is their third, featuring Anaïd’s two founding members with two new musicians, adding to their unique legacy.
At last, Twice Bitten on CD! Twice Bitten is the duo of Rog Patterson and Greg Smith, who met at Nottingham University in 1982. A shared love of the work of Anthony Phillips and 12-string guitars led to them writing (in their words) ‘quasi-prog compositions’ and inventing the genre ‘heavy wood’ -- melodic music relying on electric and acoustic stringed instruments with no keyboards or drums. As Rog says: “Frequent appearances at the Marquee in London in support of various proggy luminaries (Twelfth Night, Solstice, Pendragon, and so on) had built Twice Bitten a loyal, if slightly baffled, following.” Twice Bitten released only two cassette albums: Dialogue in 1984 and No Third Man in 1985. Late Cut (2015, digipack) is the CD reissue of No Third Man with the audio cleaned up and remastered, plus two tracks recorded in 2015. One of these is the 12-minute, five-movement Crocus Point, a track Twice Bitten used to perform live but which had previously only been recorded in greatly abridged form. Fans of Anthony Phillips and early Genesis, this album will restore you spiritually. Watch the video for Crocus Point. Read the Progradar review.
Following the dissolution of Twice Bitten in 1986, Rog Patterson carried on in a similar style, releasing the cassette albums M25 (1986) and Talking to the Weather (1987), The Unexpected EP (1988), and the LP Flightless (1989). He toured extensively after Flightless, collaborated with Nigel Mazlyn Jones (whose style is similar) and Anthony Phillips, and became a member of Coltsfoot, appearing on the albums Action at a Distance (featuring a young Steven Wilson) and A Winter Harvest. By this time, Rog was touring regularly with Pendragon as sound engineer, which led to more sound engineering and tour management work. The Flightless CD (2017, digipack) offered here contains the six songs from the LP remastered plus three bonus tracks; one appears on Talking to the Weather and the other two are previously-unreleased. Stylistically, Rog describes his music as “gluten-free Jethro Tull”. Not overly keen on the phrase ‘singer-songwriter’, he regards himself simply as a lyricist who owns some guitars; he takes his lyrics very seriously, and himself not even slightly seriously. Thanks to the Bad Elephant label for rescuing this music! But we’re told only 200 were pressed, so you can only drag your feet to a point.
Gargoyles (2017, digipack) is the second album for this Glaswegian prog band. Big Hogg are one of the latest generation of UK prog bands that gravitate to the Bad Elephant label, bands who are simultaneously offbeat and accessible, clever and inventive yet catchy. Canterbury is a label you almost have to attach to Big Hogg, though it alone doesn’t explain them. There are male and female vocals, flute, and keyboards dominated by electric piano. Horns that suggest Chicago Transit Authority play a big role, and there are other flavors of late 60s psychedelia, but the music clearly belongs to the progressive era. “Big Hogg have really done it: Gargoyles is one of the more unique, fun, and singular releases I’ve heard in awhile. The album fully inhabits that 1967-1969 period without coming off as retro, and it’s at least as upbeat as it is offbeat. Don’t fear the strange and unfamiliar, folks; embrace the weird and the wonderful. There are plenty of sing-along hooks and smile-inducing horn breaks here to carry a new listener through the initiation, and once you’re in, you’ll have twice as much fun as your benighted friends. Recommended for fans of progressive music, jazz, Bob Fosse dance sequences, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore films, boozy Halloween parties, and Stonehenge.” Read the full Progradar review and The Progressive Aspect review. Watch the video for Solitary Way.
Alan Reed was until 2010 the singer for Scottish neo-proggers Pallas. On his surprisingly good First in a Field of One (2012, digipack), Reed is assisted by original Pallas keyboardist Mike Stobbie, Pendragon drummer Scott Higham, guitarists Jeff Green (Jeff Green Project) and Kalle Wallner (RPWL), and Magenta’s singer Christina Booth. Karl Groom recorded the drums and mixed the album. Honestly, we expected this to be watered-down Pallas or not proggy at all, but it is so much more. Pallas are a band that can sometimes give bombast a bad name. Alan Reed’s album eschews overblown neo-prog in favor of a more classic approach and a more personal style. The album actually sounds closer to classic prog than Pallas, thanks in part to Stobbie’s organ, Mellotron, and other keys, and the space in the mix. We particularly like the Scottish Celtic touches (there could have been more!), and the songwriting is strong. In relation to the parent band, this is arguably more successful than Fish solo albums are to early Marillion. Fish didn’t get any proggier than his old band, but Alan Reed has made improvements. Watch the video for Kingdom of the Blind. (Note the version sold by amazon is an on-demand CD-R, ours is the real thing.)
The Live in Liverpool EP (digisleeve) was recorded during Alan’s 2013 tour as support act for Steve Hackett. It captures Alan in full flow in front of a capacity audience at The Philharmonic, Liverpool. The EP comprises Alan’s entire 26-minute set, warts, banter and all.
Honey on the Razor's Edge (2017, digipack) again features Mike Stobbie (keys) and Scott Higham (drums) throughout, with Jeff Green and Christina Booth also returning. Claude Leonetti of Lazuli guest on leode (his custom instrument), along with a certain Steve Hackett on harmonica. Harvest’s Monique Van Der Kolk and Weendo’s Laetitia Chaudemanche also add their voices. The music here suggests that Reed is brimming with confidence, firmly establishing his solo voice as Fish did, and with the superb musicians behind him, Reed’s work could very well exceed what Pallas does from here on out. (Consider that a challenge to Pallas.) Watch the video for Razor. Read the Progradar and Get Ready to Rock reviews.
C Sides was formed in 2007 by Magenta members Martin Rosser, Allan Mason-Jones, and Dan Fry. Devitrification is their 2011 debut. C Sides combine modern rock elements with the Rush format, featuring layered guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. The band probably overstate the Rush influence in their sound as there isn’t all that much here that sounds like Rush. Or at least we’ve all heard bands copy Rush much more closely, while C Sides inject a lot of their own personality and vary things more. We have to draw the line somewhere, and our definition of progressive rock requires tone colors beyond just guitar, but this is very good progressive-ish rock with aspects of both classic and modern rock. Though uncredited, Rob Reed is believed to have lent a hand, while three other musicians add backing vocals, percussion, and guitar.
We Are Now (2017, digisleeve) is C Sides second album. Maybe the title means We Are Now C Sides when we used to be C-Sides. There are several other bands calling themselves C-Sides so the hyphen probably had to go. The band is now a four-piece: Martin Rosser (guitar), Allan Mason-Jones (drums), Jay MacDonald (bass), and Allen McCarthy (vocals). The majority of tracks exceed 8-minutes, allowing C Sides room to do lots of proggy (if not symphonic) things. Read the DPRP review.
Swedish sympho-prog band Carptree debuted in 2001 with a self-titled CD that leaned more toward progressive pop before hitting their stride with Superhero in 2003. The core of the band has always been Carl Westholm on keyboards and singer Niclas Flinck, assisted by other musicians in the ‘No Future Orchestra’. After 2010’s Nymf, many years passed before Emerger (2017, digipack) emerged, though Carl Westholm has been busy playing in several other bands. Carptree like to point out that the album was recorded exclusively on analog instruments and amplifiers apart from some software Mellotrons (which are very good these days). They still mix down to tape and master directly from tape, yielding a warm, organic sound. Listen to the album teaser and watch the videos for Between Extremes and Porous. See our Scandinavian page for more Carptree CDs and more info.
One of Norway’s best known and best loved prog bands, White Willow have managed a distinct sound on each of their albums, with lineup changes often a contributing factor. (From the press release:) Their seventh album Future Hopes (2017, digipack) sports a Roger Dean cover and sees White Willow exploring some of the most ‘progressive’ territory the band has ever ventured into, with several lengthy tracks and more instrumental passages than they are usually known for. Musically the album builds upon the foundation of its predecessor, with a modern approach to production. Future Hopes also features heavy use of synthesizers, including the vintage classic Yamaha CS80. The lineup, which as always is a loose constellation of musicians with multi-instrumentalists Jacob Holm-Lupo and Mattias Olsson at the core, sees the return of several White Willow stalwarts including flautist Ketil Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho), keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, Tusmørke), and bassist Ellen Andrea Wang (Pixel, Manu Katché Quartet). The singer however is new. Venke Knutson is best known in Norway for a string of Top 10 hits and is well established as a solo pop artist. She came into Holm-Lupo’s orbit as a guest singer with his other project, The Opium Cartel. Guesting on several tracks and putting a clear stamp on the album is Norway’s trailblazing guitar hero Hedvig Mollestad, known from her own Hedvig Mollestad Trio. Holm-Lupo felt the material needed a soloist who could navigate the tricky, almost jazz-influenced chord and time changes on the album while retaining a rock edge, and Hedvig fit the bill perfectly. Watch the video for the title track. See our Scandinavian page for more White Willow CDs and more info.
Resistor is the electric band formed by Steve Unruh, whose 2008 debut CD followed a large catalog of CDs Steve released under his name dating back to 1997. Steve calls Resistor his “high-energy rock/prog/jam band”, and it’s where much of his musical energy has been going in recent years. Resistor is a quartet of two guitarists, bass and drums, with Unruh singing lead and also adding flute and violin. The fifth Resistor studio album Underground (2017) comes in a tri-fold mini-LP style sleeve similar to the last couple Samurai of Prog CDs, with a 24-panel ‘Story’ booklet (full color, illustrated by Ed Unitsky) and 8-panel ‘Band’ booklet. Underground is a 77-minute concept album and the band’s best work. “I confidently predict that Underground will be one of, if not the album of the year in many December polls. It takes something special for an album lasting over 77 minutes to be totally gripping all the way through, and once it is over, to want to immediately play the whole thing again. Layers upon layers are to be discovered within the ten tracks, with an excellent mixture of musical dynamics, brilliant arrangements, and a tremendous variety of styles, making use of the band’s inherent musicianship as well as a more prominent use of vocal harmonies and even different lead vocalists... This is a very magical album that tops the already impressive Resistor catalogue of releases.” Read the full DPRP review. Listen to Arrival, Cathedral, and Wire on YouTube. See our U.S. page for more Resistor CDs, Steve Unruh’s CDs, and more info.
Stewart Bell is the keyboardist and main composer in Citizen Cain. It looks as though going forward, the Citizen Cain franchise is in his hands, as Bell plans the 74-minute The Antechamber of Being Part 1 (2014) to be only the first in a trilogy. It’s a prog rock opera featuring five vocalists: Simone Rossetti (The Watch), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), Bekah Mhairi Comrie, Phil Allen (Citizen Cain), and Bell himself. Allen also plays guitar, so two-thirds of Citizen Cain is present. Musically and even vocally, it sounds quite a bit like Citizen Cain, albeit slightly heavier, picking up where Citizen Cain left off with 2012’s Skies Darken. The Genesis and Peter Gabriel allusions still abound (if you don’t hear Genesis’ The Knife at one point, you’re just not listening), though the songwriting chops are not on the Genesis level. The music is complex and dense though not impenetrable; the same could be said of much of Citizen Cain’s music. Read the DPRP, Jerry Lucky, and Background Magazine reviews.
The Antechamber of Being Part 2 (2017) is subtitled Stories from the Antechamber and also runs 74 minutes. It features the same five vocalists each playing a different character in this second volume of the story. Watch the promo video and the video for Time Dilation. See our British page for the Citizen Cain CDs.
JPL is Nemo’s guitarist/singer/bandleader Jean-Pierre Louveton. With Nemo currently on indefinite hold, JPL is the new host of the spirit of Nemo, though more guitar-centric. Le Livre Blanc (2017, digipack) features Nemo’s Jean Batiste Itier and Guillaume Fontaine, as well as Ludovic Moro (Wolfspring), Dominique Léonetti (Lazuli), and Steph Honde (Hollywood Monsters). Watch the videos for L’étoile du Nord, Convoléances, and La peste et le choléra / l’antidote. See our French page for the rest of the JPL CDs and the Nemo catalog and more info.
This is the CD+Blu-ray digipack edition of Steve Hackett’s 2017 studio album The Night Siren. The Blu-ray (all-region) contains a surround mix in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and 24/48 5.1 LPCM, plus hi-res stereo (24/48 LPCM). The Blu-ray also features a behind-the-scenes video examining the creation of The Night Siren. In addition to the members of Hackett’s current band, there are many guests including Nad Sylvan, Troy Donockley, and Nick D’Virgilio. Watch the video for Behind the Smoke and listen to In the Skeleton Gallery on YouTube. Read the Echoes and Dust and Progradar reviews. See our British page for more Steve Hackett CDs and our DVDs page for Hackett’s DVDs.
Riding on the success of The Grand Experiment album, The Neal Morse Band (Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Eric Gillette, and Bill Hubauer) set out on a world tour in the spring of 2015. Alive Again shows them performing for an enthusiastic audience in The Netherlands in March 2015. “The Neal Morse Band are a force of nature. They have evolved into a great live band, one that is as good as there is in music and they really shine on this live set. The performances here are jaw-dropping and might have you giving a standing ovation from your couch. Take a bathroom break before you start too, because once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.” Read the full The Prog Report review. Watch the trailer.
Morsefest! 2015 is a two-disc Blu-ray set with each disc corresponding to one of the two nights of Morsefest 2015, running over five hours total. Disc 1 contains the ? album performed in its entirety plus an album’s worth of other Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard tracks and a cover of MacArthur Park. Disc 2 contains the performance of the entire Sola Scriptura album plus more Morse and Spock’s Beard tracks, with Nick D’Virgilio joining the festivities, culminating with a medley of songs from Transatlantic’s The Whirlwind. Read The Prog Report’s review of the festival and review of this set for more details. Watch the trailer.
See our U.S. page for a selection of Neal Morse CDs.
Cast’s 2017 CD Power and Outcome (digipack) is again sung in English, with both male and female vocals. Roberto Izzo of GnuQuartet, who became a permanent collaborator on the previous album Vida (both studio and live), remains in the lineup on violin. Watch the album teaser.
Sands of Time Live is Cast’s first Blu-ray, the culmination of a series of concerts to promote the Vida album, featuring the current Cast lineup. It was recorded in Mexicali, Mexico in April 2016. Watch the trailer and this longer medley. Note the disc is a BD-R, to be expected for a small run Blu-ray such as this. The disc label, insert, and booklet printing is fully professional.
See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and more info.
Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli star Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree begun in 2001. This is the Israeli edition of Blackfield’s 2007 second album II, with a slipcase for the jewel box.
Welcome to My DNA (2011) is the third studio album for Blackfield. This is the deluxe digibook (hardcover) edition that has been deleted for some time, so last copies. Read reviews.
Blackfield V (2017, digipack) sees Wilson return to being fully involved, and both musicians consider this to be their best collaboration to date. Written and recorded over an 18 month period in both Israel and England, Blackfield V contains 13 linked songs that form a flowing 45-minute ocean-themed song cycle. With the pair expertly handling vocals, guitars, and keyboards, they brought in Tomer Z from the Blackfield band on drums and Eran Mitelman on keys, while string arrangements were performed by the London Session Orchestra. Alan Parsons worked on three of the album’s key tracks. Watch the videos for Family Man / Sorrys / How Was Your Ride?, From 44 to 48, and Lonely Soul. Read The Prog Report and Sputnik Music reviews.
Blackfield is fleshed out by three other musicians for live performances. The Live in New York City DVD (NTSC, all-region) captures Blackfield live at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on 16 March 2007, performing 18 songs. The DVD also includes three music videos: Hello, Pain, and Blackfield. Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround audio. Originally a DVD-only release, KScope later repackaged it, adding the audio CD and lowering the price, then repackaged it again, now a digipack.
American drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Stick Men) and German touch guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Markus Reuter (Crimson ProjeKCt, Stick Men) are two of the busiest and most in-demand musicians in prog. The duo was formerly known as Tuner, last heard from ten years earlier with the album Pole (which we thought was great!). Face (2017, digipack) has been in the works ever since. Mastelotto & Reuter are aided by 16 illustrious guests including Steven Wilson, David Lynch collaborator Chrysta Bell, and The Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde. Face consists of one unbroken track which the duo describe as a roller-coaster prog epic. (If we may continue to crib from the press release...) With echoes of Mike Oldfield’s melodicism, Crimsonesque complexities, churning bass that wouldn’t be out of place in classic-era Yes, and even languid Floyd-like soloing, the progressive rock vocabulary is unmistakable. Canterbury and Gentle Giant deserve mention as well. For all the intensity, the music is melodic and structured. The orchestration is intricate; the instrumentation includes several singers, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitar and guitar synth, bass (fretted and fretless), and all manner of strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments. Markus says that Face represents the sum of all his musical experience to date, calling upon the entire body of compositional techniques. “Face is very much a special piece in the body of my work. I don’t think there’s anything else quite like this out there today”.
“Face is a true prog journey, but unlike some songs that rely on the abundance of notes, this one is about the right note being in the right place with the right rhythm and structure. Honestly, this is one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard in quite a while. Face renews my hope in truly progressive music. This is easily going to be a part of my best releases of 2017. Incredible. Not to be missed! Rating: 10/10” Read the full Progressive Music Planet review.
King of Agogik is a German instrumental prog band that has been flying way too far under the radar, maybe because of the obscure words in the band name and album titles. (The word is agogic in English and refers to accenting a note by increasing its duration.) King of Agogik is the project of Hans Jörg Schmitz, an accomplished drummer with much band and live experience. He was the drummer on Traumhaus’s Die Andere Seite and Willowglass’s The Dream Harbour albums, and there is a King of Agogik track on Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas - Part II.
The King of Agogik CDs thus far are: Morning Star (2017, digipack, 71-minutes), Exlex Beats (2014, digipack, 77-minutes), From A to A (2011, digipack, 77-minutes), The Rhythmic Drawing Room (2009, out-of-print), Aleatorik System (2008, digipack, 75-minutes), and Membranophonic Experience (2006, digipack, 74-minutes). Start with the later CDs and work backwards. All feature other musicians (see the list); among the many musicians on Exlex Beats are Steve Unruh (Resistor, The Samurai of Prog), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and Arne Schäfer (Versus X, Apogee). The instrumentation is extensive, and though it varies from album to album, there are keyboards including Mellotron, flute, violin, mandolin, Chapman Stick, sax, oboe, and female voices, not to mention guitar, bass, and drums. The music is generally symphonic prog/neo-prog but it is eclectic, with sections that range from metallic to jazzy to pastoral to cinematic to jamming and more. Head to Prog Archives for reviews and details, and see the band’s review compendium. Watch Exlex Beats trailer 2 and trailer 1 and that’ll probably be enough convincing without having to read anything.
The latest and greatest Morning Star is inspired by German poet and author Christian Morgenstern and again features Unruh and Marshall, plus Chip Gremillion (the U.S. Lift) among an international cast of musicians. This is an exceptional work; it’ll be a crime if King of Agogik isn’t better known after this album. Watch trailer 2 and trailer 1.
Moods (2009, digipack) is the second studio CD by this Dutch band playing in the Dutch neo-prog style exemplified by Egdon Heath, For Absent Friends, Sinister Street, and various bands on the defunct SI label, which operated during the 1990s. Silhouette’s music is very melodic and symphonic, closest to Egdon Heath’s style, and sounds like it could have been recorded in the early 1990s in that there are no concessions to more modern trends. It won’t convert any neo-prog haters but is easily recommended to fans of Marillion, Pendragon, et al. Moods was mixed and mastered by Gerben Klazinga of Knight Area, while guitarist Aldo Adema (Egdon Heath, Seven Day Hunt) guests. This is the 2013 digipack second edition.
Across the Rubicon (2012, digipack) is their third, Silhouette showing steady growth with each album. This is the 2015 second edition, which adds two bonus tracks. Read reviews at Sea of Tranquility, Background Magazine, and Prog Archives. Watch the video for When Snow’s Falling Down.
Kayak’s Ton Scherpenzeel guests on Beyond the Seventh Wave (2014, digisleeve), which puts Silhouette up there with the best continental neo-prog bands. Other guests add clarinet, flute, cello, and violin. Read the DPRP reviews. Watch the videos for In Solitary and Escape.
Staging the Seventh Wave (2017, DVD+CD, digipack) is Silhouette live at Parktheater Alphen, where they performed Beyond the Seventh Wave in its entirety plus some older songs. The CD contains all the live Beyond the Seventh Wave tracks plus two songs from Across the Rubicon live. The DVD adds another song (off Moods) from this concert, then adds video of three tracks from a concert in Utrecht. The DVD is PAL; make sure you can play it. Watch Web of Lies on YouTube.
Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me is the 2016 debut by The Mute Gods, a new band signed to InsideOut whose members are all renowned prog musicians. The band leader is bassist, Chapman Stick player, and vocalist Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Lifesigns, Lonely Robot,...). Beggs is helped most by long-time Steve Hackett collaborator and keyboardist Roger King. Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UK, The Aristocrats,...) plays the drums on most of the tracks. Guests include Adam Holzman, Frank Van Bogaert (Fish on Friday), Ricky Wilde, Rob Reed, Nick D’Virgilio, and Gary O’Toole. The label says the album is “a mercurial journey that seamlessly shifts between the realms of progressive rock and adventurous pop.” Watch the official videos for the title track, Feed the Troll, Father Daughter, Nightschool for Idiots, and Praying to a Mute God.
Unlike the debut album with its many guests, Beggs chose to keep Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth (2017) to the core trio, ensuring a laser focus and consistency throughout. Roger King, the album’s keyboardist and producer, also works with Beggs on Hackett’s sold-out world tours. King has long been Hackett’s right-hand man, serving in production, arrangement, and writing capacities. Marco Minnemann, considered one of the top drummers of our time, has worked with Beggs extensively on many Steven Wilson tours and recordings. Watch the video for We Can’t Carry On. Read The Prog Report review. Both of these titles are the U.S. jewel case edition.
Polish band Retrospective released their first full-length album Stolen Thoughts in 2008. That album contained dark, despairing modern prog sung in English, like a more depressed Riverside. While there is only a little actual metal, the aesthetic seems closer to the modern metal aesthetic, though there is some Pink Floyd and a little 1970s King Crimson influence.
Four years later and Lost in Perception (2012, digipack) was released on the German Progressive Promotion label. The model for Retrospective may still be Riverside, but this is a more self-assured effort, with the band playing more to their own strengths. Female vocals from the keyboardist complement the male lead vocals. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Ocean of a Little Thoughts and The End of the Winter Lethargy, which are the album’s two singles. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Five more years and we have Re:search (2017, digipack), Retrospective’s strongest album to date. Watch the album trailer and the video for Right Way.
Hopefully many of you are by now familiar with The Winter Tree, the Vermont-based band led by Andrew Laitres that evolved out of the band Magus and as such have been making music since at least 1987. For Mr. Sun (2017, digipack), Laitres took an Alan Parsons approach, using several different singers, and the music (a mix of vocal songs and instrumentals) often resembles the Alan Parsons Project. Watch the video for the title track, which features Alistair Gordon (Tony Banks’ Bankstatement) and Neil Taylor (Tears for Fears, Chris de Burgh). Those two appear on other tracks as well, and there are several other musicians on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, varying on a track by track basis, while Nashville’s Tom Dupree III plays drums throughout. The guests seem to inject extra energy and enthusiasm; beautiful packaging design too. See our USA page for the full The Winter Tree / Magus / Andrew Laitres catalog and more info.
Greyfeather is an American all-star prog band featuring Brian Coralian (IZZ) on drums & percussion, Kevin Jarvis (Farpoint) on acoustic guitar & vocals, Steve Katsikas (Little Atlas) on vocals & keyboards, Dennis Mullin (Iluvatar) on electric guitars, and Wade Summerlin (Cobweb Strange) on bass & vocals. Their 2017 debut CD was recorded over several years. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube. Read the story of how Greyfeather came about. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Awaking the Muse (2009) is the very strong debut by a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Nice Beaver, Trion, King Eider, and Pink Floyd Project. Leap Day play upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles; The Flower Kings is not a bad reference point either. Simply ear candy for lovers of undiluted neo-prog. Watch the video for Eyes Wide Open. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Skylge’s Lair (2011) is their second, and it is less neo-prog than their debut, more of a sense of Kayak and to some extent Focus, less of Marillion. Well, Flamborough Head developed similarly, becoming more of a classic prog band on later albums, and King Eider and Trion always leaned more toward classic prog than neo. There are lots of vintage keyboard sounds -- enough Mellotron flute to suggest The Beatles, enough bouncy electric piano to bring Supertramp to mind. Greenslade is a good reference point since both bands have two keyboardists, and Camel must also be mentioned. Excellent melodic prog with a stately feel. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (2013, digipack) followed on the heels of new albums by Trion and Flamborough Head, a very productive period for these musicians. Watch the album trailer video and listen to Insects on YouTube. “Taking little cues from the classic era of Genesis and the epic sound of Pink Floyd, but with a vocal personality all their own and little traces of humour, this atmospheric work is not only Leap Day’s crowning achievement to date, but one of the finest neo-prog albums in a long while... Tighter melodies, tastefully executed instrumental passages without the need for drawn-out showboating, warm production and a surreal subject matter showcase the band improving everything they already did very well, while also setting the bar very high for not only themselves, but the neo-prog sub-genre itself.” Read the full review and others at Prog Archives, also the Background Magazine review.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 2 (2015, digipack) is the second part of the concept album series. (Who knows how many chapters this thing has?) Watch the album trailer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Live at the Northern Prog Festival (2016, digipack) is a concert album from Leap Day’s 2015 appearance at the Northern Prog Festival, an annual Dutch festival that began in 2013. The six-man lineup performs songs from all four of Leap Day’s studio albums. Read the Background Magazine review.
Dreamcatcher (2015, digipack) is the first solo CD for Eddie Mulder, guitarist of Leap Day, Trion, and Flamborough Head. The album is pensive, peaceful, and largely acoustic guitar oriented, with accents from keyboards, flute, and electric guitar. Assisting are some of Eddie’s bandmates: Edo Spanninga (keyboards, production), Margriet Boomsma (flute), Gert van Engelenburg (keys), and Derk Evert Waalkens (keys). Watch the album sampler video.
Mulder’s second CD Horizons (2016, digipack) contains 12 new tracks plus five live bonus tracks. His bandmates Edo Spanninga and Margriet Boomsma again contribute keyboards and flute, respectively, alongside a guest violinist. The live tracks are performed by a five-person band.
Tales from the Silent Ocean (2015) is the debut CD for Steve Hughes. You may know Steve as the drummer for Big Big Train on four albums or the stand-in drummer for Kino in 2004. He also spent four years touring and recording with The Enid (1994-1998) and has had stints with countless other bands over the last 20 years. One of those was Rush tribute band The Spirit of Rush, which also featured vocalist Dec Burke (Darwin’s Radio, Frost, solo). Tales from the Silent Ocean features Sean Filkins on vocals, Maciej Zolnowski on violin and cello, Jamie C. Strand on electric & acoustic guitars, several additional singers and a couple guest guitarists. The music is superb symphonic prog that is fascinating throughout the album’s 79-minute length. In terms of the classic prog bands, it’s coming more from a Genesis direction than any other, but it has a more contemporary style closer to Frost, Kino, or Sean Filkins’ album. Watch the album preview video.
Once We Were: Part One (2016, digipack, 77-minutes) is Hughes’ second, which features contributions from Dec Burke, Maciej Zolnowski, guitarist Keith Winter (ex-Shakatak), and others. The monumental 33-minute track The Summer Soldier is the new high water mark for Steve. Watch the album trailer video and the video for Was I Wrong?. “It’s the originality of the material however that sets this album apart, as the 33-minute The Summer Soldier testifies. True, it references other artists and styles in places, but I can guarantee that you’ve never heard a long-form piece quite like it. Even the shorter songs mostly avoid the usual verse-chorus format. Moreover, the journey from the epic scale of The Summer Soldier to the intimacy of the album’s closing songs is breathtaking in its scope. Like its predecessor, this is a strong contender for my album of the year.” Read the full DPRP review, also the Background Magazine review.
The promised and now delivered Once We Were: Part Two (2016, digipack), featuring most of the same line-up, means that if Part One was contending for your album of the year, now you’ve got two to deal with. Watch the album trailer video.
Hauras Silta is the 2009 debut by a 9-person Finnish prog band using both female and male vocals. This is one of Kimmo Pörsti’s bands; Kimmo is also in The Samurai of Prog, Mist Season, and Maahinen. The music of Paidarion is closely related to Mist Season and Maahinen. “It is somewhat retro, no question. I hear the echo of Renaissance, chiefly, but then also Jethro Tull, Holdsworth-era Gong, fusion, and even Steely Dan in some of the blistering, crafty, perfectly tailored guitar solos. But Hauras Silta is retro in the clean, appealing sense of the term as we might apply it to, say, Anglagard. In other words, Paidarion takes its genre tradition seriously, resides within it, but then also offers clever interpretations, subtle blends and bends, and the freshness of modern studio embellishment to end with a truly fine album -- the best new prog release I’ve heard in a very long time... If more contemporary prog rock scaled these heights, I’d be a bigger fan.” [Progressive Ears]
Paidarion introduced a new line-up on Behind the Curtains (2011), the band now a live act and not just a studio project. The lyrics have switched to English, the female vocals courtesy of new member Elina Hautakoski; there are also some male vocals from guest Rob Price (Supernal Endgame). Among the other guests are Americans Michael Manring (bass) and Steve Unruh (violin). The music is about half instrumental, where Paidarion can often be compared to early Isildurs Bane, between the symphonic rock with Scandinavian folk melodies of the first two Isildurs Bane albums and the upbeat symphonic jazz-rock of their third and fourth. There are also moments where an ELP influence can be heard, other moments that recall Pekka Pohjola, while some of the vocals tracks tend toward jazz song. Even with the switch to English, Paidarion sound like a Scandinavian prog band. Their music has a sense of place, of terroir, a quality far less common now than in the first generation prog bands. Read the Progmeister review.
For Two Worlds Encounter (2016), the band name is extended as this time it’s a special project with international friends: singer Jenny Darren, Robert Webb (England), Kev Moore, Bogáti-Bokor Ákos (Yesterdays, The Cosmic Remedy), and Otso Pakarinen (Ozone Player). In 2015, Paidarion invited these musicians to play concerts with them in Finland. After the gigs, they decided to record the material in the studio and release a new Paidarion album. Since the songs had first been played live, the live feel carries over to the studio album. Two Worlds Encounter is sort of a cross between a Paidarion album and a The Samurai of Prog album. It includes a cover of the England song Yellow, from the famous Garden Shed album, and Horsemen to Symphinity, from Windchase’s Symphinity album (in effect the third Sebastian Hardie album). The CD comes in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve with 20-page booklet. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the Fragile Bridge and album overview videos.
Blue (2014, digipack) is the debut CD by German/English prog band Eyesberg, whose first period of existence was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All the compositions here date to that time but have been recently recorded. The drummer on this first album is Ulf Jacobs (Argos, Yacobs). Eyesberg’s singer Malcolm Shuttleworth has a voice a bit similar to Phil Collins, and Genesis is probably the band’s primary influence, but the end result may have greater appeal to fans of neo-prog. It’s really a case of one foot in classic-prog and one foot in neo-prog, always melodic and majestic. Watch the generous (10:46) album trailer.
Masquerade (2016, digipack) is Eyesberg’s superior second album. It contains new or mostly new compositions that continue in a Genesis vein, approximately Wind and Wuthering era, culminating in the five-part, 18-minute closing track Wait and See. Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) is the drummer. This is an outstanding album for Genesis lovers. “The seven tracks are well written, well performed, and offer the sort of prog that will be very at home at the annual circuit of Summers End, Night of the Prog, or Crescendo festivals. With their roots embedded in the soil of Genesis, the music on Masquerade wanders between classic symphonic prog and classic neo-prog. Its constant core of heavy rock energy and a dynamic, clear production prevent anything from sounding too dated.” Read the full DPRP review, also reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the album trailer and Faceless on YouTube.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. But Karfagen is the vehicle for his most ambitious work. After a tour of Europe, Kalugin returned reenergized to the studio to finish the amazing Spektra (2016, digipack), the eighth Karfagen album, with half the musicians in Ukraine guesting. This is 63 minutes of innovative symphonic prog that consistently surprises, and after absorbing it, you’ll be the one who’s reenergized. Will Kalugin ever receive the recognition he deserves? Listen to the album teaser and Terra Incognita on YouTube. See our East European page for the rest of the Karfagen CDs and the related bands.
The Ancient Tale (2013) is the second album for Norwegian quintet Fatal Fusion, following their 2010 private release Land of the Sun. They play classic style prog and progressive hard rock, naming Genesis, Camel, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Rainbow as some of their influences. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews. Watch the album teaser video and listen to Halls of Amenti.
Total Absence (2016) is their follow-up. Listen to Shadow of the King and Forgotten One. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Noi al dir di Noi (2016, digipack) is the debut by this Italian quartet from Genova, assisted by many guests. Promenade play a fantastic jazzy prog blending the Canterbury and Rock Progressivo Italiano (Italian sympho-prog) styles. The music eschews bombast in favor of a sophisticated harmonic vocabulary, while Promenade’s Italian DNA ensures the music is warm and seductive. Read the progVisions review (which also features an audio sample). Listen to the album teaser.
Per Questi e Altri Naufragi (2007, mini-LP sleeve) is the debut CD of former Germinale guitarist Salvo Lazzara. Germinale released four CDs between 1994-2005 before splitting up. This first album is different from what would come later, more of a solo album consisting of relaxing acoustic and clean-tone guitar instrumentals with overdubbed bass, some percussion and piano, similar to Riccardo Zappa’s mellower pieces: refined, dreamy, pastoral, and atmospheric. The use of found voices and sounds adds a slight avant-garde edge.
Pensiero Nomade eventually transformed into a full band with a bigger sound. There are seven musicians on their fifth album Da Nessun Luogo (2016, digipack), led by Lazzara on guitars, bass, and touch guitar, with the other musicians contributing female vocals in Italian, piano, synths, trumpet, flute, MIDI horns, bass, and drums/percussion. This is striking, innovative fare, balancing intelligent songwriting with challenging and creative instrumental work. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for Più lontano più forte and Niente, Finalmente.
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. Their third album All My Friends (2013) is nominally artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but this album remains 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 All My Friends 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. “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 Exposé, Progulator, and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Night Loops (2014) is noticeably darker and less folky, striking a good balance between RIO-style chamber music and progressive songs with soothing vocals. As the title suggests, this album is dominated by a nighttime mood, while All My Friends has more of a daytime feel. “This is some of the most stunningly original music that one is likely to hear, on this world or any other.” [Exposé] Read the Progulator review.
Maybe Jack O’ The Clock’s appearance at ProgDay 2015 had something to do with Repetitions of the Old City - I (2016) being a more conventionally progressive album, one that will be accessible to more mainstream prog fans without losing anything of their old style. Actually though these are the songs that have formed the backbone of Jack O’ The Clock’s live sets over the previous six years or so. Since then, they’ve been refining the mixes, doing overdubs, and bringing in some wonderful guest musicians including Fred Frith. The band says: “We are making a deliberate effort this time around to capture the intensity and immediacy of the live Jack O’ The Clock. This doesn’t mean there is absolutely no production, but there is a crisp, concise core and a unity to the sound that is true to all five of us and sounds more like the band than ever before. It took a few years and a lot of experimentation to find this sound, but we’ve learned how to put all the funny pieces together, how to make this unruly beast sing. This is our main sequence, our bright, rich, fully-cooked state.” It’s an outstanding album, and the fact there is a ‘I’ in the title means a second new album should be upon us soon. Listen to .22, or Denny Takes One for the Team on YouTube.
Delta Red is a Mexican guitar/bass/drums trio playing instrumental progressive rock and fusion partly influenced by Red-era King Crimson, but more varied than that. Varied in style that is, but as with any band with this lineup, the sound palette doesn’t vary much. Their first album was Gama de Espectros (2009). A lot of time passed between that album and Horror Vacui (2016, digipack), and the material here is definitely stronger, with less hard rock and a more convincing fusion side. It should please fans of Japan’s Baraka and Show-Yen or the electric side of Chile’s Tryo.
After a few years of inactivity, the ProgQuébec label returns in 2016 with a holy grail of 1970s Québec progressive rock. Unreleased and virtually unknown until now, Maelstrom recorded a full album in 1976, at the height of Quebec’s golden age of progressive rock. The band performed live and toured until 1978, notably opening for PFM, Van der Graaf Generator, and Strawbs. After failing to land a record contract, the master tapes were forgotten... for over 40 years! This is not an album of interest only to collectors, this is a masterpiece, among the top prog albums from Québec. That an album like this can be unearthed in 2016 is astounding. As the label says: “Melding unbridled virtuosity and exceptional creativity, the music and lyrics of the album Maelstrom will catapult you into a vortex of sounds and allegories that almost makes you giddy as you feel swept far away from everything. From the opening notes, the listener is immersed in a musical universe reminiscent of that of groups such as Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, but with a sound signature uniquely and truly Québécois... Comparable Québec peers include Et Cetera, Opus 5, Le Match, Maneige, and Harmonium. The six francophone pieces stretch out through long instrumental segments, permitting a demonstration of the band members’ talents.” Note this Maelstrom is no relation to the U.S. Maelstrom from the same era, other than that both played progressive rock.
Awake & Dreaming, the debut by London’s The Gift, is a 71-minute neo-prog opus consisting of two long song suites. The music relies heavily on the vocals of Mike Morton, which are front and center, very clear in the mix, while instrumentally it is mainstream symphonic neo-prog along the lines of Galahad, Tr3nity, Landmarq, etc., with just a touch of heavy riffing to let you know it’s a modern record. The jewel case is the original 2006 edition on the Cyclops label, who over-hyped it to call it the best prog album of that year; nevertheless it is a fine album that will probably require a few listens to get under your skin. The digipack is the 2016 remastered edition on the Bad Elephant label, which features all new artwork. Read the Prog Archives and DPRP reviews.
The follow-up Land of Shadows (2014) was a long time coming and finds The Gift on the Bad Elephant label. While in the same vein as their first, this is the superior album, slightly darker and showing progression in several areas. Tinyfish now strikes us as a decent reference, though unlike Tinyfish, The Gift have a keyboardist. We wouldn’t put The Gift alongside Big Big Train just yet, but they’re heading in that direction. Some of the songs are in that one-foot-in-prog, one-foot-in-serious-melodic-rock category, the focus on storytelling and thoughtful lyrics, the style not far removed from later Pink Floyd. But the Gift’s longer tracks are the proggy highlights, particularly the nearly 20-minute The Comforting Cold. Read the Lady Obscure and Prog Archives reviews.
The Gift have expanded their lineup to a six-piece on Why the Sea Is Salt (2016, digipack), now looking like a full band as opposed to a studio project. The music is still centered on the lyrics and vocals of Mike Morton. Guests include Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett, and Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazar). “Why the Sea Is Salt is a truly exceptional album and deserves to propel The Gift into the higher echelons of current British progressive rock music. Simple as that – it really is that outstanding. Very few albums indeed have the potential to attain the status of a ‘classic’ album, which will live long in the memory like Why the Sea Is Salt.” Read the full Progradar review. Listen to Tuesday’s Child, Sweeper of Dreams, and The Tallest Tree on YouTube.
Given the Impossible (2016, digipack) is The Far Meadow’s second album, following 2012’s Where Joys Abound. It’s their first featuring vocalist Marguerita Alexandrou and Brazilian guitarist Denis Warren. Where Joys Abound appears to have been available only as a digital download, so The Far Meadow will probably be a tremendous surprise to many. This is the most traditional symphonic prog band on the Bad Elephant label, for us the best period. The crystalline female vocals remind us of Solstice (just don’t ask us which Solstice singer we’re reminded of because they had several), and the music itself is somewhere between Genesis, Solstice, Renaissance, UK, and any number of modern prog bands rooted in classic prog but not pretending to be from another era. This is real prog, with a true pianist/keyboardist, and a guitarist who can play in multiple styles none of which is metal. Epic compositions with extended instrumental workouts, virtuoso playing all round, and superb production make this one of the best prog albums of the year. We’re in love; if you don’t like this album, you’re probably on the wrong site. “This album is an absolute standout that I hope you do not miss as I almost did. It is without reservation that I can recommend this album as one of the best of 2016.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review, also the Progradar review.
So Close & Yet So Far Away (2010) is a fine debut CD by this Greek prog band. There is undeniably some Fish-era Marillion influence on this album; one clue should be that the lead singer (who is also the keyboardist and composer) goes by a single made-up name, in this case, ‘Jargon’. But generally Verbal Delirium’s music has a distinct identity, a slight melancholy (and delirium?) characteristic of the Greek prog bands. Overall the music is more romantic than Marillion, partly because Mr. Jargon is more of a pianist than Mark Kelly and partly due to the contributions of a guest cellist, while on a few other occasions, it’s just heavier. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Proggnosis reviews.
The Imprisoned Words of Fear (2016, digipack) is Verbal Delirium’s third album. They are at times heavier now (one song is prog-metal), but overall more symphonic proggy, especially on the long tracks The Decayed Reflection and Fear. Read the Progressive Music Planet and ProgRocks.gr reviews.
Another find for the Bad Elephant label, Under a Banner is led by Adam Broadhurst on acoustic guitars and lead vocals, with other band members on electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, and backing vocals. A cellist guests on two tracks of The Wild Places (2016, digipack), which follows two full-length albums plus two EPs. This is at its core passionate and sophisticated Celtic-tinged folk-rock that crosses well into prog by virtue of the expansive arrangements and production, somewhat along the lines of Manning. This is a band that gigs a lot, and the album has a live energy.
Emmett Elvin is the keyboardist for Knifeworld, Guapo, and Chrome Hoof, but he is also a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Assault on the Tyranny of Reason (2016, digipack) is his first album of new material since 2014’s acclaimed Bloody Marvels. Sarah Anderson (Chrome Hoof), Anna Tam (Mediaeval Baebes), Chlöe Herington (Knifeworld), Beverley Crome (The Cesarians), and Daniel Friend reprise guest appearances, joined by drummer Alex Thomas (Chrome Hoof) who adds a new distinctive percussive edge. Other stellar musicians from Emmett’s circle also guest, including Knifeworld and Gong main man Kavus Torabi. Read the Progradar, The Progressive Aspect, and Music from the Other Side of the Room reviews.
Yes, RPWL’s main influence is Pink Floyd, but they clearly incorporated that influence into their own unique style. There would have been no point to another bunch of covers of the most obvious Pink Floyd tracks from DSotM on, but that’s not what RPWL do on Plays Pink Floyd. Instead they delve into the early, deep Pink Floyd catalog, playing in the spirit of Pink Floyd but in the style of RPWL. The tracks: Arnold Layne, The Embryo, Green Is the Colour, Atom Heart Mother, Fat Old Sun, The Narrow Way Part 3, Let There Be More Light. These were recorded live between 2010-2015 all over Europe, some songs greatly extended over the studio versions. This 70+ minute CD is a limited edition and comes in a digisleeve. (Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.) Watch the album trailer.
The RPWL Plays Pink Floyd’s ‘The Man and The Journey’ CD+DVD (2016, digisleeve) contains the audio and video recording of RPWL’s performance of ‘The Man and The Journey’ show at De Cacaofabriek in Helmond, Netherlands in February 2016. Wikipedia says “The Man and The Journey are two album-length suites of music performed in concert by Pink Floyd during their 1969 tour. They consist of several of their early songs, some unreleased songs, and material later included on Soundtrack from the Film More and Ummagumma.” It was a legendary conceptual show that included visual performance elements, and RPWL does the same. At the time of this release, there has been no official Pink Floyd audio or video release of this show. This is an extraordinary example of psychedelic prog. The DVD features DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio as well as stereo. The DVD is all-region, but assume it is PAL. There is no NTSC/PAL indication on the packaging, but RPWL were selling this on their late 2016 European tour, so PAL makes sense. Watch the album trailer. See our German page for the rest of the RPWL catalog.
AltaVia are an Italian prog quintet (vocals/keys/guitars/bass/drums, with four members singing) formed in 2007. Girt Dog (2011) is their debut. The band say that “their main influences can be found in both the classic and neo-prog scenes (Yes and Genesis, but also IQ and It Bites) while also featuring rich orchestral atmospheres and catchy melodies.” Their music mainly falls in the IQ and Jadis camps, with a bit more pomp, but if this isn’t the first really convincing British-style neo-prog to come out of Italy, it is the best. As far as non-UK bands playing this style, AltaVia are at least on the same level as Collage, Opus Est, or Martigan. Most of the continental neo-prog bands took their cues more from early Marillion, which often led to darker, pseudo-serious neo-prog. AltaVia however have the bright exuberance of Jadis or Magenta, and a very British melodic sense. It’s easy to see why Rob Reed of Magenta and Will Mackie of Caerllysi Music chose this as the first release on their White Knight label.
AltaVia’s second Kreosote (2016, digisleeve) is again sung in English except for one song which is sung in the ancient Etruscan language. (If you don’t know who the Etruscans were, it’s a good bet you’ve never been to Tuscany.) Watch the video for Road to Nowhere.
Materya are Italians Andrea Stagni (piano/keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals) and Betty Copeta (vocals), with the assistance of drummers Claudio Trotta (Deus ex Machina) and Marcello Bellina. There are drums on 7 of 12 tracks of Materya’s debut Case (2012, digipack). Stagni, Copeta, and Bellina are all members of AltaVia. Materya is to AltaVia as Aries is to La Maschera di Cera. Betty has a gorgeous, crystalline voice, delivering lyrics in both English and Italian. Stagni also sings, and as a keyboardist sounds influenced by Tony Banks / Genesis. It’s mandatory to mention Renaissance in all cases of prog with pure, female vocals, and we comply, but references to Magenta and Karnataka are also apt. This is a beautiful album, with Materya’s version of Stella Splendens the highlight. Stella Splendens is a late medieval song that appeared in a manuscript from 1399 or thereabouts. The song has been recorded by just about every artist doing medieval music, including Adaro, Blackmore’s Night, and Companyia Elèctrica Dharma, but Materya’s arrangement is the best we’ve heard, with a slab of Genesis sympho-prog inserted.
Eden Shadow are a young Welsh prog band on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s White Knight label. They debuted in 2012 with a mostly instrumental CD-EP called Hail. Phases (2014, digipack) is their first full-length CD, and it does have vocals. Instrumentally, Eden Shadow are a guitar/bass/drums trio with the guitarist and drummer adding keyboards; like so many modern prog bands, they lack a true keyboardist. Nik Turner guests with a flute solo on one track.
Melodies for Maladies (2016, digipack) is Eden Shadow’s second full-length CD and features Theo Travis guesting on flute and soprano sax. “I believe the term ‘the best band you’ve never heard of’ comes into play here, and with an album this good, it’s incredibly easy to say. In a scene where there are numerous clones and rehashes, this album is a breath of fresh air.” Read the full Progarchy review, also the Prog Sphere review.
25 Yard Screamer are a Welsh band signed to the White Knight label. Something That Serves to Warn or Remind (2013, digipack) is the band’s fourth or fifth album. Initially a guitar/bass/drums trio, their earlier albums received some attention in prog rock circles, but to us the lack of a keyboardist made it problematic to consider them a prog band (though if Rush are near the center of your prog universe, you probably feel differently). For this album, 25 Yard Screamer added a keyboardist, though the music is still composed by the trio. While the keys play only a minor role, the additional tone colors do help, and the album has less of the hard rock of some of their previous efforts. There is enough subtlety, atmosphere, and mood variation to place this album solidly in the modern prog camp. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Keep Sending Signals (2016) is the follow-up. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Get Ready to ROCK! reviews.
Ampersand Vol. 2 (2016) contains 12 brand new studio tracks. As with the first volume of Ampersand, these are orphaned IZZ tracks, tracks that haven’t found a home on a previous IZZ album or were recorded in between album sessions. If you’ve heard the first Ampersand then you know the quality is at IZZ’s usual high level. Watch the video for Fine. The CD comes in a simple printed jacket with no booklet, but you can download the booklet in PDF form. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See our U.S. page for all the IZZ CDs.
Paul Bremner is IZZ’s guitarist. His first solo CD Wombsong (2004) was a mellow affair, but his second The Witness (2016, digipack) is much more energetic. IZZ’s Tom Galgano, who sings lead vocals on several tracks and who engineered and co-produced the album with Bremner notes, “Every song on this album is different and yet they are all connected by Paul’s unique guitar sound and songwriting. It’s been an absolute pleasure working on this album – in fact in many ways it’s been like working on an ‘alternate’ IZZ record.” Yes, an alternate-universe IZZ is a fair description, as Bremner has written or co-written a number of IZZ songs. IZZ’s female vocalists Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade each get a song to sing lead on, while IZZ drummers Brian Coralian and Greg DiMiceli play on several tracks. The final track Last Exit Before Toll exceeds 20 minutes and features all of Bremner’s IZZ bandmates, taking the listener on a journey while encompassing the full range of Bremner’s style. Watch the promo video and listen to excerpts from Are You Ooh Yah? and Pilot Fish.
Lost World Band (initially just “Lost World”) was formed in 1996 by three Moscow Conservatory students. Their 2003 first album Trajectories was released in Russia but is currently out-of-print; however the band intend to reissue it soon. Bandleader Andy Didorenko now lives in New York City.
This is the 2014 second edition of Awakening of the Elements, the word revisited added to the title to distinguish it from the first edition released in 2006 on Musea. This new edition is released by the band and comes in a digisleeve with 12-page booklet. Not only was the entire album remixed and remastered, the drums and strings were re-recorded live. On the 2006 edition they were programmed. These changes make this version a great improvement over the Musea edition. Both Awakening of the Elements and the follow-up Sound Source (2009, 65-minutes) are all-instrumental. This is classical progressive rock of the highest order, with flute and violin featured prominently. Probably because they’re Russian, they sound unlike most of the other prog bands with heavy classical influence, so the music usually sounds quite original. Kansas, The Dixie Dregs, or Jethro Tull are fair reference points for some of the material. These guys can play and they can compose. Read the Proggnosis reviews of Awakening of the Elements and Sound Source and the Progressor reviews of Awakening of the Elements and Sound Source.
Solar Power (2013, digipack) features English-language vocals, though instrumental content dominates. The violin seems more prominent on this album, and this is some of the best violin-prog around. At times the music shows similarities to symphonic Kansas, King Crimson with David Cross, Atoll’s L’Araignee-Mal lineup, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and KBB. But much of the music defies easy comparisons, and as this is their fourth studio album, it’s time to acknowledge this as Lost World Band’s style.
Of Things and Beings (2016, digipack) was recorded in both New York City and Moscow and continues with the same lineup as Solar Power with the addition of a percussionist. Over time, Andy Didorenko has assumed an ever greater role in the band, in the studio handling all guitars, violins, keyboards, and vocals, and he is as talented a musician as you will find in prog.
The Anchoress is Welsh multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, PhD, and producer Catherine Anne Davies (who also plays in the live line-up of Simple Minds). Confessions of a Romance Novelist was released in January 2016 as a single CD. Now Kscope has issued this 2CD digipack edition, with a bonus disc containing five new acoustic tracks. The Anchoress was the winner of the 2016 Limelight Award (a reader-voted Best Newcomer category) at Prog magazine’s Progressive Music Awards. Prog magazine went so far as to proclaim her debut album “...Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love updated for the 21st century.” Or think of The Anchoress as a female Peter Gabriel and you’ll be in the ballpark. Catherine plays a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, flute, omnichord, Mellotron, wurlitzer, glockenspiel, and celeste, as well as multitracking up to 25 vocal harmonies on some of the songs. Some songs pack plenty of punch. Listen to Doesn’t Kill You on YouTube and Popular on Vimeo.
Norway’s Gazpacho have become one of the more prominent prog bands today, but there are probably quite a few fans who haven’t heard Gazpacho’s early work. These are the 2016 digipack CD reissues on Kscope of Gazpacho’s first three albums. Gazpacho used programmed drums on Bravo (2003), which doesn’t really detract much from the music. The music is spellbinding and dreamlike, with Mellotron strings used here and there and guests on violin and flute adding to the rich textures. Gazpacho added a full-time drummer beginning with their second album When Earth Lets Go (2004). Firebird (2005) was originally released on Marillion’s Racket Records label, with Steve Rothery guesting on one track. See our Scandinavian page for the full Gazpacho catalog and more info. You’ll see that Kscope has been reissuing several titles as mid-price digipacks while the mediabook editions disappear.
Rabbit in the Vestibule (2008) is the debut by Toronto’s Half Past Four, an excellent, eclectic prog band that with this album 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 talented female vocalist Kyree Vibrant (which is a pretty good name). The music is often arty and quirky, skirting Squonk Opera territory, simultaneously innovative and catchy. Read the DPRP review.
Good Things (2013, digisleeve) is Half Past Four’s second CD, showcasing songwriting and playing that has matured over the previous five years. “Three Russian emigrants to Canada join with two native Canadians to form one of the most unclassifiable bands to come along in some time. Half Past Four fuse aspects of The Police, Primus, Yes, King Crimson, Heart, and Kate Bush with Zappa-esque quirk and humor, the jazzy chording of Allan Holdsworth, and the sludge-heavy guitars of Porcupine Tree, sometimes all within the same song! Especially noteworthy is singer Kyree Vibrant... Good Things is a remarkable concoction of excellent musicianship and wildly inventive arrangements.” [Progression] Also read the Sea of Tranquility review. Be sure to watch this video advertising the CD, also the video for the title track featuring Goblin’s Maurizio Guarini as ‘the gardener’. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Land of the Blind (2016) contains five wildly-varying, eccentric, and intricate new songs totaling 26 minutes, so call it a mini-album. The songs Mood Elevator and Toronto Tontos (a Max Webster cover) are heavier, sometimes fusion-y, and Zappa-esque. They’re quite good, while the other three may be the best things Half Past Four have yet created, indicating that this band may still not have peaked. “As this absolutely jubilant and refreshing record comes to a close I just cannot help but smile. These are virtuoso musicians without a trace of smugness or superiority, they just play and sing for the love of the music and it shows, in spades. A joyous expression of love, hope, and humour all rolled into an incredible package that you just can’t resist.” Read the full Progradar review, also The Progressive Aspect review. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Sorceress (2016) is Opeth’s 12th full length release, their metal past not just in the rear view mirror now but effectively out of sight. This is the 2CD limited edition digipack which adds a second disc including two more brand new tracks plus three classics live. It was interesting to hear bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt praise Il Paese dei Balocchi’s 1972 sole album in a recent interview -- it’s encouraging to encounter that depth today when it seems many bands’ knowledge of prog consists of having heard a couple Pink Floyd albums. Read the Sputnik Music and The Prog Report reviews. Watch the videos for Will o the Wisp (hear Opeth sound like Jethro Tull!), The Wilde Flowers (named after the seminal Canterbury band), and the title track.
This is the 2016 U.S. edition on The End Records, which comes in a tall digisleeve. Deliverance and Damnation were originally released separately in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but the albums stem from the same writing and recording sessions and were originally intended as a double album, even if the two are dissimilar. This edition puts the two together on two CDs that contain new stereo mixes. More significant are the two DVDs (NTSC, all-region) which contain new 5.1 surround mixes (DTS 96/24 5.1 and Dolby AC3 5.1) as well as the new stereo mixes in 96/24 LPCM. Steven Wilson did the new mixes for Damnation, while Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) did the new mixes for Deliverance. The artwork was reworked by original designer Travis Smith, while the 32-page book features liner notes by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jerry Ewing of Prog magazine. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Dec Burke was the singer/guitarist of Darwin’s Radio and has also been a member of Frost and AudioPlastik. He released his first solo CD Destroy All Monsters in 2010, which had Carl Westholm of Carptree guesting on one song. The Carptree connection was much stronger on Dec’s second CD Paradigms & Storylines (2011), as Carl Westholm handles all the keyboards and keyboard arrangements, allowing Dec to concentrate on electric & acoustic guitars and lead vocals. Musically Paradigms & Storylines is a big step up from Monsters, blending Dec’s typically British songwriting and melodic sense with the later bombastic Carptree sound.
Dec was guitarist and singer for the band AudioPlastik on their 2015 debut In the Head of a Maniac. Book of Secrets (2016, digipack) is not as heavy as In the Head of a Maniac, but it is heavier than Dec’s previous two. It was mixed by Lee Abraham and mastered by Karl Groom. Carl Westholm returns on piano, Mellotron, and organ, while Kristoffer Gildenlow (ex-Pain of Salavation) handles bass and Steve Hughes drums. Watch the video for Everlasting.
This is the 2015 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ classic first album The Geese and the Ghost, which comes in a clamshell box. The big news here is the third disc, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo! The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1. There is also MLP stereo and 24/48 LPCM stereo. The first CD contains the remastered album. Esoteric call it the ‘2014 remaster’ and state that this edition was “newly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth”. Heyworth and Andy Myles did the surround mix. So it would appear that this is a newer remaster than the 2008 Voiceprint edition. The second CD contains demos and alternate versions, plus two versions of Silver Song (sung by Phil Collins). It appears to be identical to the second disc in the Voiceprint edition with the addition of one more bonus track, the previously unreleased 1973 song Only Your Love featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford. The box also includes a poster (so you can see the detail in one of the best album covers ever) and a very extensive booklet with a new essay, all in all a really nice job by Esoteric. The Geese and the Ghost was released in 1977, but the recordings for it had begun several years earlier and are representative of the pastoral early Genesis sound. As most Genesis fans know, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins play on this album, with Phil singing on two tracks and Mike co-writing three. Among the many guest musicians are John Hackett and Jack Lancaster. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
These are the 2016 4-disc editions of Anthony Phillips’ 1978 second album Wise After the Event and 1979 third album Sides, which come in a clamshell box. The main attraction here is the fourth disc of each set, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo. The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 (as you’d expect on any DVD-A). There is also MLP stereo and LPCM stereo. The first CD of each set contains a new stereo mix of the album. The second CD contains demos, outtakes, and extras. In the case of Wise After the Event, the bonus disc is not identical to the 2008 Voiceprint edition, as they went to the trouble of remixing some songs from the multi-tracks. The third CD contains a newly-remastered version of the original stereo mix. Simon Heyworth was responsible for the surround and new stereo mixes and the remastering. The box also includes a poster and an extensive booklet with a new essay, two more first class jobs by Esoteric. Each counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Ant took over vocals on Wise After the Event (1978), while the other musicians include Michael Giles, Mel Collins, John G. Perry, and Rupert Hine (who also produced). Giles and Perry form the rhythm section on Sides (1979), with many other musicians assisting including Mel Collins and John Hackett. The original album contained two instrumentals and eight vocal songs, with several different lead vocalists. The first side of the LP offers a charming pop style that is difficult to label ‘mainstream’ even if that was Phillips’ intent, because his version of pop never had a chance of radio airplay. The second side features Genesis-oriented progressive material and some of Phillips’ strongest tracks. Ant was under considerable pressure to make his music more commercial at this time, as was every other progressive artist on a major label. Sides was his way of only half giving in. Many of the bonus tracks on Sides are instrumental mixes that are proggier than the vocal versions on the album proper.
This is Esoteric’s 2016 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ 1984, which comes in a fat digipack. It features a new stereo mix on the first CD. The second CD contains alternate mixes and out-takes and appears to be identical to the second disc in the 2008 Voiceprint 2CD edition. Again, the highlight is the DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 5.1 surround mix and hi-res new stereo mix. The lavishly illustrated booklet fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay by Jon Dann (with brief foreword by Steven Wilson) and also includes a poster. 1984 was released in 1981 and finds Ant playing keyboards and only occasional guitar. Morris Pert and Richard Scott assist, but it’s mostly Ant. He uses the Roland CR-78 CompuRhythm, which was also used by Genesis, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Mike Oldfield and many others. It was never intended to sound like real drums, which is its appeal. 1984 is instrumental and bursting with great melodies, and perhaps Oldfield is not a bad reference for some of it. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
If you have no desire for surround or hi-res stereo, you may be happier with the cheaper 2008 Voiceprint editions, which were remastered at that time. They’re out-of-print but we may have some still in stock. See our British page for those and more Anthony Phillips CDs.
City of the Sun (2014) is the debut by a great jazzy, eclectic Norwegian prog band singing in English. The lineup is vocals/guitars, sax, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. The jazz elements enter primarily by way of the sax, which is played in a controlled but powerful style, sometimes bringing Van der Graaf Generator with David Jackson or Gong with Didier Malherbe to mind. Comparisons to Soft Machine, King Crimson, Zappa, or Out of Focus are all valid, but Seven Impale are definitely more modern. Their vocals are generally in a soft, dreamy style similar to Radiohead’s, and they inject contemporary heaviness. The tracks are long, varied, and complex. This is inventive, head-turning music, not the same old stuff. Some modern prog scenes and fanbases have a narrow range, seemingly unaware of vast sections of the prog universe. It’s refreshing then to hear a young band (Seven Impale’s members were in their early 20s at the time of this recording) creating something exciting and venturing beyond the mainstream. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Seven Impale push the envelope further on Contrapasso (2016). Read the Prog Sphere review and the Can This Even Be Called Music review and interview.
Cirrus Bay is led by American multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham. Gillham’s biggest influences are Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Jade Warrior, and Bo Hansson. We can state this confidently because it says as much in the booklet of their first CD. Among newer bands, he mentions a fondness for Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Watch. Overall we’re reminded of Canadian Ken Baird.
After their somewhat tentative 2008 debut Slipping of a Day, the second Cirrus Bay CD A Step Into Elsewhere (2009) is the CD they really wanted to make, a significant improvement over Slipping... and a cohesive musical statement. It’s female vocals only on this one, from two singers, and the easiest way to describe the album is a blend of Genesis circa Wind and Wuthering and Renaissance. Renaissance because the vocals are in an Annie Haslam style, and there is that breezy folkiness blended with classical piano. Genesis because Gillham is a musician who gets what Tony Banks does. It isn’t about how fast one can play scales, it’s about the chord progressions. There is plenty of electric and acoustic guitar in addition to keyboards, so it sounds closer to Genesis than a Tony Banks solo album, and there are influences of other progressive artists as well. Instrumentally, the appeal of this album is similar to the Willowglass albums, on top of which you get the beautiful vocals. “Had Genesis replaced Peter Gabriel with Annie Haslam instead of Phil Collins in 1975, the band might have sounded something like this. Cirrus Bay... so closely echoes the crisp prog sound of Wind and Wuthering-era Genesis it could double as a tribute band... Most tracks feature lush keyboard swells, delicate guitar-and-flute passages, strong soprano vocal melodies, tricky meter changes and classically-inspired instrumental breaks that would give Tony Banks and Steve Hackett a run for their money.” [Progression] Read the Prognaut review.
Whimsical Weather (2012) picks up where A Step Into Elsewhere left off and further develops the Cirrus Bay style, essentially a combination of the breezy Renaissance style with beautiful female vocals and instrumental Genesis/Hackett style symphonic/pastoral prog. It’s a beautiful album with its soul in the early-to-mid 1970s, standing in stark contrast to the “sound and fury signifying nothing” of much modern music.
The Search for Joy (2014) features guest performances by Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thieves’ Kitchen, while classically-trained viola player Sarah Sanderson has signed on. Bill says the album has “more key changes than a drunken locksmith”. Watch the videos for Song of the Wind, Waking Wild, Learning to Fly, and Cotton Skies.
Places Unseen (2016) is Cirrus Bay’s latest and greatest. Watch the video for the title track and listen to Horseback to Hanssonland.
These are the 2016 newly remastered editions on Esoteric’s Reactive imprint of Peter Baumann’s first two albums: Romance 76 (1976) and Trans Harmonic Nights (1979). Both had been unavailable on CD for many years. Both restore the original album artwork and include a booklet with new essay. Baumann of course was a core member of Tangerine Dream. He composed Romance 76 while still touring with the band and left TD in 1977. These two albums are his best and closest to the Tangerine Dream style, transitioning into something more distinct with Trans Harmonic Nights.
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, a Scottish early-70s prog band. Martin sang with his son on three songs on the previous PGM album A Day in June. Poor Genetic Material’s ninth album Absence (2016) sees Martin Griffiths, whose voice has lost nothing since his Beggars Opera days, join as a full member, so father and son will continue sharing PGM’s microphone. The seven-person band again includes flutist Pia Darmstaedter from Autumnal Blossom, who joined PGM on the previous album and plays an important role on this one. The 30-minute title track is split into two parts that begin and end the album. (Listen to a chunk of it.) All the elements of PGM’s distinctive musical style feature here: excellent musicianship combined with inventive songwriting, classy music ranging from delicate and melodious to intensely proggy, from accessible tunes to quirky, complex arrangements. There is more Pink Floyd influence than we recall hearing on the previous PGM albums. See our German page for more Poor Genetic Material CDs and more info, also the related band Alias Eye.
Autumnal Blossom is the band of classical flutist Pia Darmstaedter who, after playing in different orchestras, now works as a freelance musician. Due to her work with prog band Poor Genetic Material where she is now a full member, she also feels at home in prog and art-rock. PGM’s Stefan Glomb (guitars, bass) and Philipp Jaehne (keyboards) play on Against the Fear of Death (2013) and helped produce it. Darmstaedter sings and plays piano in addition to flute. On this album these different music worlds merge. Old acoustic instruments (flutes, cello, contrabass) are contrasted with electronic sounds. Songs with a chamber music approach alternate with tracks with a full band line-up. It’s a fascinating blend of prog, classical, and folk that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the lyrics, which are based on British and American poems written between 1600-1900.
Philipp Jaehne is part of the band on Spellbound (2016), along with a guitarist, bassist, drummer, string trio, and whatever you call someone who plays cor anglais (English horn). Pia sings and plays flute and keyboards. Spellbound is a concept album that further develops the style of Against the Fear of Death, an original progressive style with few easy comparisons. Spellbound is cheerier and more upbeat than its somewhat gloomy predecessor, so start here. See the related band Coarbegh.
Scintilla (mediabook) is Nosound’s 2016 studio album. Kscope is being magnanimous here, as the Scintilla CD not only comes in the hardcover mediabook format (with 24-page booklet), it includes a Blu-ray disc yet virtually no increase in price. The Blu-ray includes the album in 24bit/96kHz LPCM stereo and 5.1 surround, plus bonus video content. It’s laudable that Kscope considers HD and surround audio to be standard, not something you should pay twice the price for. Acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Chimenti cowrote and sings on the serene Sogno e Incendio, while Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh lends his distinctive vocals to two of the album’s tracks. Bandleader Giancarlo Erra considers Scintilla the beginning of the second phase of Nosound’s career, utilizing a more organic and acoustic sound palette. Watch several videos from this album. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for more Nosound albums and more info on the band.
In the preceding few years, The Pineapple Thief had to some extent begun to drift away from progressive rock and toward indie rock. On Your Wilderness (2016, mini-LP sleeve), bandleader Bruce Soord says he returned to the band’s progressive roots for inspiration. Assisting in this change of direction is Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), who plays drums throughout and clearly elevates the material. Guests include John Helliwell (Supertramp) on clarinet, Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) providing a string quartet, Darran Charles (Godsticks) on guitar, and a four-piece choir. “On this album, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output, and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead.” Read the full Progradar review, also the Heavy Blog Is Heavy review. Watch the videos for In Exile and No Man’s Land. See Page 2 for more The Pineapple Thief CDs.
This is the 2015 (2016 in the U.S.) debut CD (digipack) from the main man behind The Pineapple Thief. All the tracks were written and performed by Bruce Soord with Darran Charles of Godsticks playing additional guitar. Here Soord focuses on the more introspective and dreamier side of his songwriting. As the Crash and Ride Music review implies, this album relates to The Pineapple Thief in the same way Lunatic Soul relates to Riverside. Listen to the album teaser, Willow Tree, and Familiar Patterns on YouTube. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
Kotebel are a Spanish symphonic prog band that released their first CD Structures in 2000. That first CD was more of a solo project of bandleader Carlos Plaza, and Kotebel was initially only a studio project. Kotebel became a band that continued to grow with each new album, eventually becoming a powerful live act. This limited edition 2CD (2016, digipack) is a remastered version of the album released in 2014 only as a digital download, containing Kotebel’s complete concert at the 2013 Prog-Résiste convention in Belgium. The album features the complete Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble plus pieces from Ouroboros. As such, this is Kotebel’s modern style, which is challenging and complex, closer to the likes of Anglagard, as opposed to Kotebel’s earlier, more melodic/romantic prog style. This 2CD adds bonus tracks from Kotebel’s concerts at Portugal’s Gouveia Art Rock festival in 2007 and Madrid in 2011. See our Spanish page for more Kotebel CDs and much more info.
The Fringe is a new super-trio consisting of Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance), Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic, The Flower Kings), and Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard). This is their self-titled 2016 debut CD (digipack). The three met three years earlier, prompted by D’Virgilio’s desire to assemble a trio for a pair of shows in Poland. The three initially created new arrangements of songs from their respective catalogs, but the chemistry was such that they wanted to continue as a group and write new material. While modern recording technology would’ve easily allowed them to write and record their debut album from remote locations, the spark of working together in the same room was felt strongly during their initial sessions. So this album was recorded by the ancient method of having everyone in the studio together. The Fringe are a rock band -- maybe the name indicates they’re on the fringe of prog - but as you’d expect with these musicians, there is complexity in the arrangements. Of the members’ other bands/projects, The Fringe probably comes closest to Lo-Fi Resistance. Read The Prog Report review.
Your eyes do not deceive you, it is a new album by Welsh prog band Multi Story! Part of the British progressive revival, they released their first LP East/West in 1985. We must’ve liked it because it became the second CD released on the Kinesis label (or whatever we were calling the label in 1992). The key members of the quintet are writing partners Rob Wilsher (keyboards) and Paul Ford (vocals). There was a second Multi-Story LP (there used to be a hyphen in their name), 1987’s Through Your Eyes, with a different singer, but don’t fret too much if you’ve never heard it as it’s a fairly tepid AOR affair. More recently, Wilsher and Ford got the creative juices flowing again and started working on new material as a duo. The material was nearing completion when Rob met brothers Jordan and Aedan Neale on another music project, which sparked the idea of reworking the material to accommodate a full band and fire up the Multi Story machine again. Bassist Kyle Jones completed the new lineup, and the band began gearing up for live dates. With the key original members in charge, Crimson Stone (2016) resembles East/West except that while the latter contained mostly short songs, Crimson Stone has mostly long tracks, only one under five minutes. If you’re not familiar with East/West (it’s out-of-print), the music was closer to Yes than to Genesis/Marillion, which set Multi-Story apart from the other neo-prog bands. The Yes influence may be more imagined than real though, the similarity between Paul Ford’s and Jon Anderson’s voices having much to do with the perception. To rerun an old quote from CD Services: “The band actually sound similar to Yes but not in the clone way that Starcastle did, more like imagining that if Yes existed in a parallel universe, this might be the musical direction they could have taken. This is how they might sound, only with a bit more variation and less intensity, but still with a sound full of rich textures and excellent compositions plus good vocals from Paul Ford. This UK band had the potential to be big during the second phase of prog rock in the 1980s, but like many other excellent bands, it never quite happened.”
Having completed the massive Dante’s The Divine Comedy project, Finnish progressive rock association Colossus continues its excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs, digging deeper into Italian literature of the Renaissance with another classic: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. Each participating band created a new piece of music, generally in a vintage style and often lengthy. Musea released the 4CD Part I in 2011 and the 4CD Part II in 2014. The Seacrest label took over the franchise beginning with Part III (4CD, 2016), a logical fit as not only is Seacrest a Finnish label, they’re also home to The Samurai of Prog, featuring some of the same musicians and also focused on vintage prog. Just some of the bands on Part III: Latte e Miele, United Progressive Fraternity, Robert Webb, Ageness, Ellesmere, JPL, Willowglass, Trion, Nexus, Elephants of Scotland, Jinetes Negros, Interpose+, Court, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Rebel Wheel, Taproban, D’accord, Phoenix Again, Castle Canyon, Il Castello di Atlante, Faveravola, Cirrus Bay. Artwork for the album and its 64-page booklet is by Ed Unitsky. So much good prog here at only pennies per minute! Watch the 10-minute album overview video (where you’ll also find the full band/track list) and the teaser video for United Progressive Fraternity’s Mercenaries. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
The Rome Pro(G)ject is an international all-star project headed by keyboardist Vincenzo Ricca and including Steve Hackett (electric & classical guitar), David Jackson (sax, flute), and Billy Sherwood (bass, drums, electric guitar), with Mauro Montobbio and Luca Grosso of Narrow Pass, Riccardo Romano and Daniele Pomo of Ranestrane, Franck Carducci (two solo albums to date), and others. Of Fate and Glory (2016, digipack) is their second concept CD about the Eternal City, containing 66-minutes of instrumental progressive rock, a musical story about ancient Rome. Listen to the 10-minute album sampler and watch the video for S.P.Q.R. with Steve Hackett getting a lot of screen time.
In the Haze That Surrounds Us is the 2015 debut by this Québec prog band in the Haken vein, singing in English.
Dream the Electric Sleep, or DTES for short, are a modern prog band from Kentucky who debuted in 2011 with Lost and Gone Forever and followed up with Heretics (2014, 73-minutes, digipack). DTES belong to that cadre of modern prog bands typified by Oceansize whose only strong connection to classic prog is to Pink Floyd, though DTES also mention Genesis and King Crimson as influences. This is music composed by guitarists, and they build up a big sound by layering guitars with different tones, while keyboards play a very minor role. OK, that last bit also describes some of Rush, and Rush is part of the DTES sound. There are also aspects of post rock, modern Marillion, and Americana flavors (banjo is used sparingly). Within that framework, it is all quite ambitious and accomplished.
“[Lost and Gone Forever] gets an easy 5 out of 5 stars -- did I say epic? One of the best albums of the year and one of the best debuts I have heard in a while.” Read the entire Sea of Tranquility review. “Swollen with ambition, Lost and Gone Forever is a precocious first effort from a band who have clearly embraced four decades of progressive rock in their convoluted entirety. The main reference points here are more recent sonic explorers like Radiohead and Cave In, but there are flashes of everything from It Bites-style pomp right back to Floyd-esque space blues floating around in this colorful quagmire. First and foremost, DTES deal in huge melodies and arena-filling crescendos, and from the opening track onwards this album exudes a dogged desire to stir the soul and tug the heartstrings. The finest moments are simply beautiful.” [Prog magazine]
Read the Sea of Tranquility and Background Magazine reviews of Heretics.
After two self-produced, independently-released CDs, Beneath the Dark Wide Sky (2016, digipack) sees DTES moving up in the music world, now with a label and a producer. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Flight and Let the Light Flood In.
Pandora (2015, digipack) is the debut by a wonderful prog band from Manchester, England who use both female and male vocals in music that is heavily instrumental. “The best praise I can give We Are Kin is to say that, for the sixty-four minutes I listen to Pandora, my life is irrevocably a much better place to be.” Read the full Lady Obscure review. “Pandora is awash with melodic and varied compositions that are multi-layered and complex, plus there is an underlying narrative describing a potential future. You can get lost in it all... This is not music that has been written using a formulaic and predictable ‘prog’ blueprint. For me that will always keep me listening over the rehashing of well-known classic prog tracks.” Read the full The Progressive Aspect review. Listen to Tides of Midnight and Home Sweet Home.
And I Know (2016, digipack) is their sophomore effort, more difficult to describe than Pandora, which wasn’t easy to describe to begin with. It’s still under the progressive rock umbrella, but it’s even more quirky (and we like quirky). The album title and three of the song titles combine to form the sentence “And I know that one day we’ll have to say goodbye” and yes, there is poignant beauty here. We Are Kin have a unique vision, and their music fascinates in its balance of familiarity and unpredictability. “This is emotion and expression on a grander scale than a casual listening will allow. It is the complete package.” Read the full The Prog Mind review.
City of the Sun is the 2014 debut CD for Los Angeles based Heliopolis, a band made up of former members of Mars Hollow, Shaun Guerin’s band, Ten Jinn, and Genesis tribute band Gabble Ratchet. Half of Mars Hollow is here, and of those bands, Mars Hollow is who Heliopolis most closely resemble, actually surpassing them. Heliopolis play classic prog with Yes as the major influence, followed by Genesis and King Crimson. “These days there seems to be a disproportionate emphasis on darkness,” says bassist Kerry Chicoine. “We find exploring the balance between despair and optimism a more challenging and creatively satisfying approach.” Well said. These are mostly long tracks that take the listener on a journey, with the melodies, intricacies, and musicianship expected of classic prog, featuring vocal passages (some with four-part harmony) combined with sophisticated instrumental excursions. This album belongs in the (British-inspired) American progressive rock canon that also includes the likes of Cathedral, Mirthrandir, Lift, Pentwater, Netherworld, Starcastle, etc. One of our favorites of the year. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Epic at the Majestic (2016, digipack), released by the British label Bad Elephant, is Heliopolis recorded live at their 2015 RoSFest performance. They play their entire City of the Sun album but in extended versions. The venerable Mike Potter did the recording, while the mastering was done at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood, ensuring excellent sound.
Mike Kershaw is a British singer/songwriter who until 2011 recorded under the name Relocate to Heathrow. He attracted the attention of the Bad Elephant label, who released what is probably Kershaw’s strongest work to date: What Lies Beneath (2016, digipack). Most of Kershaw’s music is clearly progressive rock or influenced by it, and he finds himself in the lineage of British singer/songwriters such as Dave Cousins, Roger Waters, Roy Harper, and Guy Manning, to name a few (though Kershaw’s voice reminds us of Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs). In addition to singing, Kershaw plays keyboards and has a host of other musicians on the album including two-thirds of Fractal Mirror. Leopold Blu-Sky of Unto Us plays bass, guitars, keys, and pedal steel and produced and mixed the album. The longer tracks allow Kershaw to shift through different moods and tempos while retaining the sense of warmth that pervades his music. Read the The Prog Mind and Progradar reviews.
These are the 2016 digipack second editions released on the Polish Oskar label. The audio of Tales... and Bridge... was remastered in 2016.
Unspoken Whisper (1997) is the debut from this Dutch prog band singing in English. It is good neo-prog with a strong Genesis/Camel influence, felt predominantly during the instrumental sections of which there are many. Sweeping synths and piano from the two keyboardists give ample room for emotive guitar breaks in the Steve Hackett or Gary Chandler (Jadis) style.
Flamborough Head’s fourth album Tales of Imperfection (2005) continues with the same lineup as 2002’s One for the Crow, now with female vocals. This album is more instrumental though, with more flute and recorder and a very strong Camel influence. While guitarist Eddie Mulder doesn’t have quite the warm, smooth tone of Andy Latimer, his leads are otherwise Latimer-like, and the prominent flute will remind the listener either of Snow Goose-era Camel or, when paired with 12-string guitar, early Genesis. The vocal sections have a different feel of course, similar to early Quidam or Karnataka. Mellotron flavors some of the music, and there are four tracks around the ten-minute mark, so at least for those oriented toward 1970s prog, this is Flamborough Head’s strongest album to date.
Bridge to the Promised Land contains the first recordings of Flamborough Head. It was originally released in 1994 only on cassette and led to the band being signed by the British Cyclops label. After Cyclops released the Unspoken Whisper and Defining the Legacy CDs, they released a CD of Bridge to the Promised Land in 2001 in a limited edition of only 500 copies. The CD includes three previously-unreleased tracks plus three very different versions of tracks from Unspoken Whisper and Defining The Legacy.
See our Dutch page for the full catalog of Flamborough Head CDs currently in-print, along with more info.
Symphonic rock masters The Enid have been going for 40 years now and yet there are prog fans who remain unaware of the band. The current incarnation is really The Enid, The Next Generation, as founder/leader Robert John Godfrey repopulated the band with younger musicians. Dust (2016) completes the trilogy of albums begun with Journey’s End and Invicta. Dust takes a somewhat more theatrical approach, full of melodrama, with a greater role for lead vocalist Joe Payne who seems poised to be the next Freddie Mercury. Watch the video for Someone Shall Rise. Read the Sputnik Music and Progarchy reviews; the latter includes an interview with Robert John Godfrey. See our British page for many more The Enid titles and more info.
These are the 2012-2016 remastered digipack reissues on Sireena Records. 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.
Moerlen was on board for the second Tribute album Breaking Barriers (1986) and contributed to the writing. The style of this album shifts toward the Pierre Moerlen’s Gong style of the same timeframe. Breaking Barriers has much in common with the similarly-named PM Gong album Breakthrough released the same year, which has almost all of the Tribute members in the line-up. “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]
The mostly-instrumental live album Live: The Melody, The Beat, The Heart was compiled from different performances in late 1986, mostly in northern Germany. The recordings feature Pierre Moerlen on drums. This album is by no means redundant, as the majority of the material does not appear on a studio album. Tribute played over 300 gigs between 1983-86, so this is the sound of a seasoned band of seven musicians, and the recording quality is superb. The music is full of what the prog heart desires, with flute, sax, vibraphone, and tubular bells expanding the sound.
Terra Incognita (1990) is Tribute’s fourth and final album. The band had undergone significant restructuring, as Pierre Moerlen, Josef Rhedin, and Åke Ziedén had left the band. Those remaining were siblings Gideon, Lena, and Nina Andersson, and Dag Westling, joined by a huge number of guests. This album represents a return to a more epic symphonic style, and the tracks are characterized by long instrumental passages and orchestration on a grand scale. The overdubs were numerous, including various stringed instruments, vocals, synths, drum sets, orchestral percussion, and many other orchestral instruments played by members of the Norrköping Symphonic Orchestra, with which Tribute had collaborated on several earlier occasions. One song has Swedish lyrics, the rest English. At the time of this writing, it is the highest rated of Tribute’s studio albums on Prog Archives.
Erik Norlander is known as the keyboardist for Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane, and the John Payne version of Asia, not to mention numerous albums under his own name. Surreal (2016, digipack) is the follow-up to 2009’s The Galactic Collective album, a full-band, high-energy rock album with Norlander’s keyboards to the fore. While The Galactic Collective contained re-recorded existing compositions, Surreal is new material: five instrumental tracks plus one track with vocals by Lana Lane. The rhythm section is the same as on The Galactic Collective: Mark Matthews on bass and Nick LePar on drums. Another familiar face is percussionist Greg Ellis, who played on three other Norlander solo albums including his 1997 debut Threshold. Rocket Scientists members Don Schiff (cello, NS/Stick) and Mark McCrite (acoustic guitar) guest. Surreal also highlights the guitar work of Alastair Greene and Jeff Kollman, two of Los Angeles’ finest axemen and stellar musicians that Norlander has worked with on other projects. See our DVDs page for Erik Norlander DVDs and our bargains page for Erik Norlander and Lana Lane CDs at reduced prices.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998, then nothing until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. This album will get the blood of neo-prog fans pumping. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance. Read reviews at Prog Archives, The Progressive Aspect, DPRP, and Get Your Rock Out.
This is the limited edition of Safe Asylum (2016), which contains two additional instrumental tracks (that first appeared several months earlier on the download-only Alice EP). Safe Asylum is darker, more complex and serious sounding than Trip the Life Fantastic. Which you can tell just by looking at the covers. The mostly long tracks are quite involved, though the music remains melodic to be sure. The keyboardist is the bandleader, so the guitar/keys balance is enforced. At this point, Fugazi-era Marillion is only a distant ancestor, as Drifting Sun have ambitiously taken their music into other realms. Read the Progradar and Progarchives reviews.
Cyril began as a band project combining melodic and progressive rock that now includes the core members of Toxic Smile. Their first album Gone Through Years (2013, digipack) is thematically based on the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Keyboardist and woodwind player Marek Arnold has released numerous albums with his other bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row and seems to join another band each year; he has since signed on with United Progressive Fraternity. Cyril also features the voice of Larry B. (Toxic Smile), plus guitar, bass and drums. Guitarist Ralf Dietsch interjects a little flamenco and classical guitar but otherwise plays in a conventional style. We admire Marek Arnold’s other bands, but Cyril has the best songs and is so polished, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. The grand, larger-than-life choruses with harmony vocals harken back to a time when rock was a happier music, and these songs have the hooks needed to lodge in your skull. While there is great emphasis on melodies and vocal arrangements, Cyril’s music is progressive rock first and foremost. It can get heavy but there’s no real metal, rather aspects of bombastic modern hard rock. The music is too upbeat and melodic in exactly the way that modern metal isn’t. While the music and words are credited to Cyril, it’s a good bet Marek Arnold is responsible for most of the music, because the difference between Cyril’s music and typical modern prog is the difference in how keyboardists and guitarists write and arrange. Keyboardists tend to have a stronger foundation in harmony and approach composition harmony-first, while modern prog is run almost exclusively by guitarists. Arnold’s sax and clarinet are great additions to the orchestration, and the production couldn’t be better. Maybe the band closest to Cyril is Unitopia. Both bands rely on their excellent singers, and fans of Unitopia can expect to find similar qualities here. (Note we wrote that last bit prior to Arnold joining United Progressive Fraternity, the successor to Unitopia. So there.) Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Paralyzed (2016, digipack) is Cyril’s second, which bears the “Mastered by Eroc” quality assurance stamp. Larry B. shares vocal duties with Stern Combo Meissen singer Manuel Schmid for added variety, while Guy Manning contributed some lyrics. It often takes until the second album for a new band to get everyone’s attention, and as Cyril have continued with the same style as on their debut, we expect we don’t need to write much more and that the album will sell itself. Listen to the album trailer.
Some of you ought to remember the 1997 album Burning Banners, the debut by German neo-prog band Cromwell. But who expected to see a second Cromwell album in 2016? Black Chapter Red (digipack) picks up where Cromwell left off 19 years earlier, in a style close to Pallas and any number of continental neo-prog bands. Listen to the album trailer.
Thirst (2011), Left to Burn (2007), and A Handful of Earth (2004) are the first three CDs by Swedish prog quintet Salva, now signed to White Knight Records, the label run by Rob Reed of Magenta and Will Mackie of Caerllysi Music, who say: “Salva’s unique trademark sound combines symphonic prog, hard rock/metal, and folk/singer-songwriter. The band’s influences range from the 70s prog of Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd to hard rock/metal by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Rainbow to Scandinavian and Celtic folk mixed with pop sensibilities. On Thirst, the symph has become grander, the riffs have become heavier, and the melodies are as elaborate and melancholy as always. The combination of compositional and thematic focus, great musicianship, and seldom heard variety in both writing and sound makes this a must-have for all lovers of melodic, adventurous, and at times heavy symphonic rock.” Watch the video for Primoris Iugum from Thirst. Read reviews at Salva’s site and at Prog Archives.
Sigh of Boreas (2016, digisleeve) is the fourth Salva CD and one that should earn the band an even wider fan base. Watch the video for Gone II, which effectively showcases most of the Salva style. We especially like the folk touches and acoustic instruments when they appear and think Salva could do even more of this.
The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh of Resistor (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians on Undercover (2011), including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo 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 (Änglagård), Mento Hevia (Crack), Lalo Huber (Nexus), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and many others. Watch/listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The big change with The Imperial Hotel (2014) is that it is all original material. It is probably our second favorite CD of 2014, after Dave Bainbridge’s Celestial Fire. The core of the band remains Bernard, Unruh, and Pörsti, with major contributions from Robert Webb, Linus Kåse, David Myers, and Octavio Stampalia (Jinetos Negros). Guests include Yoshihisa Shimizu (Kenso), Kamran Alan Shikoh, Andrew Marshall, Martin Henderson (England), and more. All that talent and all that experience covering classic prog has translated to a fantastic album of classic-style prog. This is the real thing, with a lot of Yes and Genesis influence, Genesis style whimsy and Gentle Giant style intricacy, coming closest overall to England (Garden Shed). Well, that last statement has a lot to do with the fact that the title track and centerpiece of the album is the lost jewel of the band England, a 28-minute 1975 composition that finally sees the light of day. And it was worth the nearly 40 year wait. Despite the different composers, the entire album sounds remarkably cohesive. The CD comes in a beautiful (expensive) six-panel mini-LP style sleeve with 40-page booklet and artwork by Ed Unitsky. “The Samurai of Prog have outdone themselves with The Imperial Hotel and I can safely say this is one of the best prog releases of 2014. If you enjoy the likes of Genesis, Yes, Kansas, et all, I cannot recommend this album enough.” [Sea of Tranquility] Watch the album overview video.
Lost and Found (2016) is a double-CD in a gorgeous six-panel mini-LP style sleeve, full of Ed Unitsky’s incredible artwork, with a 32-page booklet. Working with original members of Pavlov’s Dog, Lift, Cathedral, Odyssey, and Quill, The Samurai of Prog have excavated lost prog epics from the 1970s by these bands. Because of dissolving record contracts, band line-up changes, and the shifting landscape of popular music, these amazing compositions were never properly recorded... until now! These songs had survived only as old cassettes containing demo recordings, band rehearsals, or live performances. The Samurai have recorded stunning, brand-new arrangements, and the result transcends a mere new prog album. This is living history, or revisionist history, rendered in audiophile quality. The Samurai of Prog remains the core trio of Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti, and Steve Unruh, plus Tom Doncourt and the late Stefan Renström (Simon Says). Special guests include Jon Davison (Yes), Mark Trueack (UPF, Unitopia), K. Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), David Myers (The Musical Box, solo), Linus Kåse (Änglagård), Chip Gremillion (Lift), Keith Christian (Quill), Johan Öijen (Brighteye Brison), and Steve Scorfina (Pavlov’s Dog). The album includes a 57-minute track The Demise written by Ken DeLoria and the other Quill members. Watch the album overview video.
Roine Stolt met Jon Anderson on the 2014 Progressive Nation at Sea cruise, which led to Invention of Knowledge (2016, digipack). The album also features Tom Brislin (who has played with Yes, Renaissance, and Camel, among others), Jonas Reingold and Felix Lehrmann from The Flower Kings, Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic), Michael Stolt, Nad Sylvan, Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), and more. The lyrics were written by Anderson while the music was created by Stolt and Anderson sending audio files back and forth online, then the production was done in Sweden with Stolt producing and Reingold mastering. “You might expect this album to sound like a mix of Tales from Topographic Oceans (one of Stolt’s cited influences) and a Flower Kings record, and indeed it does. It is even comprised of four long-form compositions, only this time with a good dose of Swedish melodic third-wave prog... An organic, majestic, mystical, wondrous, richly-woven tapestry of melodies, this album succeeds because Stolt’s experience as the third wave’s hero of long prog compositions blends beautifully with Anderson’s invention of the genre in the first wave. It succeeds not because of who they are, but because of what they have done with it.” [The Prog Report] Here are a few seconds of music to whet your appetite: teaser 1 ♦ teaser 2. Watch the video for Knowing.
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