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NEW AND FEATURED:
♦♦ John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest - North and Claire Hamill - Touchpaper have been added to our Bargain CDs page. ♦♦
Shortly after the release of their eighth studio album The Unquiet Sky, Arena embarked on their 20th anniversary tour and played an outstanding show in Poland at Katowice’s Kinoteatr “Rialto” in April 2015. The show was filmed/recorded for XX, a live DVD (NTSC, all-region) and companion double-CD (both are digipacks). Bonus video includes interviews with Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer. The DVD features Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio and runs 140 minutes. The 2CD contains the same 18 songs as the DVD.
The Unquiet Sky (2015) is the latest studio CD for Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell, Paul Manzi, and new bassist Kylan Amos. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Check our British page for more Arena CDs and our DVDs page for more Arena DVDs.
Beardfish leader and multi-instrumentalist Rikard Sjöblom has established his main band as one of the most important contemporary prog bands. He has also been active in other music projects, including becoming a part of English band Big Big Train. One side project is Gungfly, which began as his solo project but evolved into more of a band. Lamentations (2011, digipack) is the second Gungfly album, following the well-received Please Be Quiet. Lamentations comes with a DVD (PAL, all-region) of Gungfly in concert in 2009 (67-minutes). Gungfly is similar to the shorter, vocal-oriented Beardfish songs (but not all Gungfly songs are short). Watch the DVD concert opener on YouTube. Read the DPRP review.
Sjöblom decided to release his 2016 solo CD The Unbendable Sleep (digipack) under his own name, because while he has Gungfly and Beardfish members playing on the album, he knew he wanted to record most of the instruments himself. He recently acquired a 12-string electric guitar, a Clavinet, and an Arp Odyssey, all of which get a lot of use on this album. Rikard poured his heart and soul into this one; Beardfish fans will love it. Watch Rikard working on Love and War Part Two: Lucky Star on YouTube.
See our Scandinavian page for the Beardfish CDs. Their first album Frĺn en plats du ej kan se is now back in stock.
When Lazuli first appeared on the scene, Musea called them “the most promising new French band in years”, and they were right. It took a few years for prog fans over here to come up to speed. After appearing at Baja Prog 2006 as a virtual unknown, Lazuli were immediately invited back for a more prominent slot at Baja Prog 2007. They then headlined the first day of Rosfest 2009, and critical mass was achieved. Lazuli use Warr Guitar, marimba, vibraphone, percussion, guitars, vocals, and a custom-designed instrument called the Léode. The Léode is, among other things, an electronic device, so it is responsible for sounds that might otherwise be handled by keyboards. It produces a strange but beautiful sound for lead lines. Lazuli added a keyboardist to the lineup beginning with 4603 battements. Lazuli play an atypical progressive rock that comes close to early Halloween in the generally dark atmospheres, symphonic power, and surreal, bewitching nature, and the Léode does to some extent play the same role as the violin in Halloween. Lazuli combine this with a Peter Gabriel style, but their melodies and textures are different enough to make them unique. They have electrifying instrumental power, more explosive than Halloween or Gabriel, matching King Crimson in that regard, while they also have a singer who is as emotionally expressive as Christian Décamps.
Lazuli’s 2007 second CD En avant doute (currently out-of-print) was their breakthrough, a beautiful collection of sophisticated songs, succeeding in combining the suggestive power of French words and the sophistication of the instrumentation. Amnésie (2003) is Lazuli’s first CD, reissued by Musea in 2006. The style here is similar, overall closer to being a French Peter Gabriel, seemingly influenced most by atmospheric Gabriel tracks such as San Jacinto.
Réponse incongrue ŕ l’inéluctable (2009, digipack) has Jean Pascal Boffo guesting on one track. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
4603 battements (digipack) is Lazuli’s 2011 studio CD. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Tant que l’herbe est grasse (digipack) is Lazuli’s 2014 studio CD, which features Fish singing on one song. You can listen to the first song on Lazuli’s site.
Nos âmes saoules (2016, digipack) is Lazuli’s sixth studio CD and includes a 20-page booklet.
Check our DVDs page for Lazuli’s DVDs.
Aaron Goldich, keyboardist for U.S. prog band The Source, formed a newer band called Ampledeed. A Is for Ampledeed (2013, digisleeve) retains some of the sound of The Source but goes for greater complexity while maintaining accessibility, shifting toward a Canterbury style. “This is indeed a very good album, a uniquely creative and energetic piece, very hard to describe but very easy to listen to even though this is not the most digestible platter I have come across. No, this is quite an exercise in complexity and I wouldn’t want it any other way... While the ’70s influence is strong -- I hear bands like Caravan, The Beatles, Gentle Giant, and Happy the Man -- there are also modern elements to be found. Accessibility and complexity do not often go hand in hand, but Ampledeed have found a way to make it work. I for one cannot wait to hear what they come out with next.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Exposé review.
BYOB (2016, digisleeve) is their outstanding follow-up, with everything sounding more polished than on their debut. Ampledeed are accessible and song-oriented one moment, then the next moment head off in unexpected directions, the music full of twists and turns. Think of a marriage of Happy the Man, Echolyn, and Thieves’ Kitchen, then think some more. It would be hard for this album to be any proggier, so if Ampledeed were somewhat overlooked before, that won’t continue after BYOB. (Each CD counts as only one-half CD for shipping.)
Dutch heavy neo-prog band Profuna Ocean debuted in 2009 with Watching the Closing Sky (37-minutes), which reviewers likened to Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Rush, Pink Floyd, Riverside, Saga, and others. The band went on to win the 2013 Dutch Exposure, a battle of the bands to win a recording contract with prog label FREIA. In Vacuum (2016, digisleeve) is the result of that recording contract, a new full-length album. It improves upon their first album while the music takes a step toward Anathema. Read the Progradar review. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Kiama is a new all-star prog band formed by Rob Reed (Magenta), Andy Edwards (Frost, IQ), Luke Machin (Maschine, The Tangent), and Dylan Thompson (The Reasoning). Kiama’s prog leans to the classic rock side. As the band says: “We drew musical references from the early 70s bands who were primarily thought of as rock bands, but to us were responsible for some of the greatest prog epics. Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Stairway to Heaven, Rainbow’s Stargazer, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody were the order of the day. It was all about the melody, groove, and the songs, not musical widdle. There was no point in doing what each of us had done previously in our respective bands; the goal was to do something different. One ingredient that you find with these classic albums of the 70s was that the bands were not afraid to mix the styles of music up from track to track. On a Zeppelin or Queen album, each track would have a different feel: rock, folk, jazz, blues. This is something we were not afraid to do. We just did what we liked, so each track ended up with a different feel. These days albums are very linear, stay in one style, and can be a little monotonous.” Sign of IV (2015, digisleeve) was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio, with the band playing together in the same room for that authentic feel. Listen to Tears, Slip Away, and Cold Black Heart on YouTube.
This Zara-thustra (with the hyphen) is not to be confused with any other German band named Zarathustra (there are several). This Zara-thustra is a Munich-based symphonic rock band formed in 1982 by Hermann Weindorf (keyboards, vocals), who had previously played with Doldinger’s Passport, along with his brothers Berthold (vocals, saxophone, clarinet), Alfons (vocals, drums), and Clemens (vocals, horn, keyboards), plus Walter Black (vocals, drums) and Max Sprenger (vocals, keyboards). They released three LPs between 1983-1985 from which this 2015 compilation CD (digipack) draws 16 songs selected by the musicians themselves, all with German lyrics, giving the music a flavor seldom heard today. Some of the music sounds like 1980s radio fare, albeit with classical flourishes and some unlikely elements. It is very melodic, full of hooks, and much more (new) romantic than the NDW (German new wave) bands prevalent at that time.
Solaris’ Martian Chronicles Live CD and DVD were recorded live at the Palace of Arts in Budapest in October 2014. Solaris play all of their classic Martian Chronicles album, a subset of the Martian Chronicles II Suite, plus a few songs from their second album 1990. Due to space limitations, the 80-minute CD omits three songs. Read the DPRP review. No indication is given; assume the DVD is PAL and all-region. See our Hungarian page for more Solaris and related CDs.
One of the most famous Hungarian progressive rock bands, East celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2015 with this special edition symphonic concert album. Symphonic (2CD/DVD, digipack) was recorded live at Budapest’s Palace of Arts in April 2014 with the Hungarian Radio Symphonic Band. The two CDs contain the entire concert, during which East played their Hüség, A Szerelem Sivataga, and Játékok albums in their entirety! The DVD (PAL, all-region) omits some songs. A 12-page booklet is included. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Hungarian page for more East CDs and our DVD page for another East DVD.
Andy Jackson is probably best known for his role as Pink Floyd engineer and co-producer, but he is a musician and composer in his own right, having recorded the albums On the Surface, Obvious, and Mythical Burrowing Animals*. (Apparently selling CDs was not the goal of those albums, as Andy mostly hoarded them.) Signal to Noise (2014, digipack) is, not surprisingly, quite Floydian. This deluxe edition adds a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing a 96kHz / 24-bit quad (4.0) mix in your choice of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, both of which are lossless, plus a hi-res LPCM stereo mix. Read the Mediaversal review. Watch the album preview video and the video for The Boy in the Forest.
73 Days at Sea (2016, digipack) sees Jackson fully assuming the mantle of Pink Floyd. David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator) and Anne-Marie Helder (Panic Room, Mostly Autumn, Karnataka) guest. The DVD features a 5.1 surround mix and 96 kHz / 24-bit stereo. The widescreen, cinematic music blossoms in surround. Watch the album preview video.
* Described by the one (and only) amazon reviewer as “Easily the best record ever made. This could be the basis for a whole new religion that could one day topple Christianity.”
Hopefully most prog fans are now familiar with British band Sanguine Hum, one of our favorite contemporary prog bands. What We Ask Is Where We Begin (2CD, 2016) is subtitled The Songs For Days Sessions. This material actually dates to 2006 and is a lost album of sorts. For convoluted reasons, Songs For Days was released under the name Joff Winks Band, though it was the same four guys in Joff Winks Band, Antique Seeking Nuns, and Sanguine Hum. Adding to its obscurity, Songs For Days was only released as a digital download. The first disc of this double-CD contains the Songs For Days album, its first appearance on CD. The gestation period of Songs For Days covered many years of writing and recording sessions, as evidenced by the second disc, which begins with three singles remixed in 2015. These are followed by eight previously-unreleased songs (40 minutes), then five session out-takes (20 minutes). Several instrumental pieces were newly finished by the band for this release. Included is the band’s faithful cover of Steely Dan’s Here at the Western World. The booklet includes extended liner notes, interviews, rare photos, and memorabilia from the era. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Sanguine Hum catalog.
The First Cosmic (2015, digisleeve) is the third and strongest album to date from Sunrise Auranaut, an instrumental sympho-prog project of Russian multi-instrumentalist Vitaly Kiselev, who cites Genesis, Yes, Camel, ELP, Uriah Heep, Eloy, Van der Graaf Generator, Hawkwind, and Blue Oyster Cult as his major influences. The music is synth-heavy but does frequently include guitar, both electric and acoustic. “The First Cosmic is an hour-long journey overloaded with enough endless ideas and great playing to fill numerous albums. This is proudly symphonic-styled prog in the regal manner of modern groups like Karfagen, Trion, or Willowglass, with Snow Goose-era Camel, perhaps Rick Wakeman’s solo works, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and a hint of Jethro Tull thrown in for good measure, but also given a frequently spacey spin.” Read the full Prog Archives review. Listen to Amazing Universe on YouTube. (Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.)
This 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 and Feed the Troll. This is the U.S. jewel case edition.
This is Esoteric’s newly-remastered late-2015 edition of this highly-collectible 1971 album. Esoteric remastered this from the original master tapes under the supervision of bandleader Tony Durant, and the original album artwork is fully restored. The booklet features a new essay. If this isn’t the first CD release of this album from master tapes, it is certainly the best sounding. The earliest CD editions of this album were bootlegs. This is a very good British prog-rock cum folk-rock album with psychedelic overtones, produced by David Hitchcock. The sextet comprised a rock trio plus an all-female string trio. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
4˝ (2016) is Steven Wilson’s interim release between Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the next studio album. Of the six tracks, four originated during the sessions for Hand. Cannot. Erase. and one from the The Raven That Refused to Sing sessions. The last track is a version of Don’t Hate Me, a song originally recorded by Porcupine Tree in 1998, and is based on a live recording made on the recent European tour with additional recording done later in the studio. The vocals on this new version are sung as a duet between Steven and Ninet Tayeb. Also appearing on the album are current and former members of Steven’s band: Adam Holzman, Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Dave Kilminster, Craig Blundell, Marco Minnemann, Chad Wackerman, and Theo Travis. The CD is a digipack in a die-cut sleeve. The Blu-ray features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 96/24 5.1 LPCM, and 96/24 stereo LPCM audio, plus six bonus instrumentals and alternate mixes including a 5.1 mix of the 2015 version of Lazarus. The Blu-ray includes mp3 and FLAC download codes, so you are covered. (If you have never experienced Steven Wilson in surround, our heart goes out to you.) Listen to the album trailer (all 15 seconds of it) on YouTube. See Page 2 for more Steven Wilson titles.
This is the 2015 (2016 in the U.S.) debut CD 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. See Page 2 for The Pineapple Thief CDs. Digipack.
If you’re wondering about the odd title of the 2016 Ulver CD, it contains the first letter of the twelve signs of the zodiac. It’s the spaciest, most hallucinatory album to date from this Norwegian band, consisting of multitracked and studio-enhanced live recordings of a flowing progressive rock, electronic, post-rock and krautrock nature. Read the Sputnik Music and PopMatters reviews. Check our Scandinavian page for more Ulver CDs.
Thrak (double-digipack + slipcase) is the latest King Crimson album to receive a hi-res surround mix and new hi-res stereo mix, with Jakko Jakszyk and Robert Fripp taking over mixing duties from Steven Wilson (who has enough on his plate). The CD contains the 2015 stereo mix. The DVD-Audio contains MLP lossless 24/96 5.1 surround, with DTS 96/24 as the fall-back for DVD-Video-only players. The DVD-A also contains the 2015 stereo mix in 24/96 plus the original stereo mix (from the 2002 30th Anniversary remaster) in 24/48. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld studios, Thrak was originally released in 1995. (Can it really be over 20 years old now?) It was the first full-length album with the double-trio format, with newcomers Trey Gunn (Stick and Warr guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion) joining Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford. “The newly mixed stereo of Thrak was described as ‘transformative’ by Robert Fripp. It’s also no exaggeration to state that this band can’t be fully appreciated and understood until you hear the roar of Thrak emerging from six speakers.” See Page 2 for the rest of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary editions.
Nash the Slash was the alias of the late Canadian musician Jeff Plewman. Not only did Plewman use the pseudonym, beginning in 1979 he performed with his face covered in surgical bandages, making for one enigmatic artist. Nash the Slash may be best known to prog fans as the original electric violinist and electric mandolinist in FM. He didn’t stick around long after Black Noise but did rejoin FM for the forgettable Con-test (1985) and Tonight (1987) albums. The first recorded output of his solo career was the 1978 Bedside Companion EP, followed by Dreams & Nightmares (1979) and Children of the Night (1981), continuing to release studio albums through 2008. Bedside Companion and Dreams & Nightmares are instrumental, while Children of the Night was the first to feature vocals.
This 2016 2CD reissue of Dreams & Nightmares comes in a DVD-size tall digipack with booklet (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). The second CD in the set is Bedside Companion, which Nash claimed was the first EP that could be played at two speeds (45 and 33-1/3). Both speeds are included on this CD. (Really it was a 45 rpm record, but a radio DJ mistakenly played the whole thing at 33-1/3 when it was first released.) Children of the Night was Nash’s most popular full-length album. This 2016 reissue comes in a 6-panel digipack and adds six bonus tracks: three live, one previously unreleased, and two alternate versions. All the audio on both titles has been remastered and the artwork restored to the best possible quality. Nash combined synth music with his signature electric violin and mandolin, the results being generally eerie and dark on Dreams & Nightmares, more accessible on Children of the Night. Among his acknowledged influences are classical music, Hawkwind, and lots of Krautrock pioneers: Neu, Michael Rother, Ash Ra Temple, Amon Duul, and Kraftwerk, which should give you a good idea where his music is coming from.
This is the U.S. edition on The End Records, released 1-1-2016, 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 Akerfeldt and Jerry Ewing of Prog magazine. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Swedish neo-prog band Cross originally released Gaze in 1996, and it had been out-of-print for a few years. Gaze 2015 is the new reworked edition. Cross recorded overdubs between 2012-2015, then remixed the album in 2015. The band says this is a richer sounding mix with some discretely added instruments and harmony vocals. This is how the band originally envisioned Gaze to be, but the 1995-1996 recordings were limited to 16-track analog equipment. Listen to the new mix of Take Off on YouTube. See our Scandinavian page for all the Cross CDs.
When we first began stocking the CDs of German band Martigan, we wrote that they will be the best neo-prog band you’ve never heard. They were founded in 1994 and made steady progress with each album, such that with Vision (2009, 79-minutes) they are at least on a par with Collage and Deyss at their peak, arguably ahead of any other continental band who play or played a style similar to early Marillion or IQ. Which is exactly what Martigan play, the original neo-prog style without metal, excessive melancholy, or other modern downgrades. The music is melodic, exuberant, dramatic and majestic, with soaring Rothery-style guitar leads and excellent vocals, and like the best neo-prog bands, the ‘neo’ tag is not always necessary. The 23-minute track that opens Vision will hook any fan of the style immediately.
Distant Monsters (2015, 75-minutes, digipack) shows no major change in style, just a very enjoyable album in the classic neo-prog style. Watch the album trailer.
Amarok are a Catalan prog band whose first CD dates to 1994, but after 2007’s Sol de Medianoche, the band fell silent for eight years. The first disc in the double-CD Hayat Yolunda (2015, mini-LP sleeve) is Amarok’s new studio concept album, the title translating to Path of Life or The Way of Life. On this album, Amarok decided to omit the world music elements that had been a hallmark of their sound for a long time, in order to make a pure symphonic prog album. Their style is still rich with Mediterranean folklore though, still very much their own. Hayat Yolunda is a masterpiece, full of the lyricism and sensitivity that escape many prog bands today, endowing the music with an aura of magic. The second disc in this 2CD is Archivos 2009-2015, a full-length collection of rarities and archive recordings. Watch the album overview video.
Sol de Medianoche (Midnight Sun) is Amarok’s seventh album. On the one hand, Amarok are capable of playing pure Anglo-prog, and on various tracks you can hear influences of Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, Banco, the Canterbury bands, and Genesis/Steve Hackett. But they also mix in Mediterranean, Celtic, and renaissance music influences, and they use a lot of instruments. The seven-piece band consists of female vocals (in Spanish), drums and percussion, bass, electric guitar, flutes, soprano & alto sax, and keyboards. The keyboardist also plays various ethnic instruments: saz, kanun, charango, santour, accordion, marimba, and more. The songs are sung principally in Spanish, but there are some in Catalan and in English. The variety of instruments used on this release exceeds even Amarok’s previous album, but the arrangements are precise, the instruments employed in an intelligent fashion. The album concludes with a unique version of ELP’s Abaddon’s Bolero that fans of the original really need to hear. 65-minutes.
Retrospectiva (2007) is an 80-minute compilation CD covering only Amarok’s first four albums: Els nostres petits amics (1994), Canciones de los mundos perdidos (1995), Gibra’ara (1998), and Tierra de especias (2000), plus four previously-unreleased tracks. These first four Amarok CDs have seen limited distribution and (apart from the reworked second edition of Canciones...) are hard to come by now.
Gouveia 2005 (2011, 65-minutes, mini-LP sleeve) is an excellent-sounding live CD recorded at the Gouveia prog festival held in Portugal. Note it’s spelled Gouevia on the CD sleeve, which appears to be a glaring error. Read reviews at Progressor and Prog Archives.
Toxic Smile is the other band of keyboardist/composer Marek Arnold of Seven Steps to the Green Door. Toxic Smile is the longer-running band, but given that the two bands have the same composer and some overlapping personnel, they sound quite similar, and all the good things we’ve said about Seven Steps apply to Toxic Smile. The track list for the eighth Toxic Smile album Farewell (2015, digipack) is concise: there’s the title track (42:11), and that’s it. Like Echolyn’s Mei, another one song album, Farewell features a string ensemble, which provides a distinctive atmosphere for this concept album. Hopefully “farewell” is part of the concept and not Toxic Smile saying goodbye, as after almost 20 years of honing their craft, this may be the band’s strongest statement. Their trademark style is close to perfection here, a musical maelstrom of different colors and textures, shifting tempos and moods, magnificent melodies and themes reappearing in different guises. See our German page for more Toxic Smile CDs and more info.
Memorias do Tempo (2008) is the first solo CD by Gérson Werlang, the guitarist and singer of the Brazilian progressive rock band Poços & Nuvens. Other Poços & Nuvens members guest, and this is as good as or better than the Poços & Nuvens CDs. The lineup varies from track to track, as Memorias do Tempo is a mix of large-lineup symphonic rock pieces with an instrumental emphasis, and smaller scale songs that are more vocal, more intimate, and more acoustic. Werlang sings in Portuguese. In addition there are beautiful female vocals, sometimes wordless, sometimes in duets with Werlang. The violinist from Poços & Nuvens appears on two tracks; other musicians add keyboards, bass, and drums, while Werlang plays electric and classical guitars. There are high-energy passages, but more often the atmosphere is warm, slightly spacey, and affective. The artwork in the booklet also deserves praise.
Sistema Solar (2015) is Werlang’s second, again a mix of larger-scale progressive pieces and smaller scale songs. Listen to Anéis de Saturno, O Último Tango em Plutăo, and Noites de Inverno on YouTube. Check our South American page for the Poços & Nuvens CDs.
This is the 2015 40th Anniversary edition of Klaatu’s debut album, which is fully remastered and comes in a digisleeve with a full-color booklet including lyrics, in-depth liner notes, and interview. We believe the mastering is the same as the 2011 edition released by Klaatu on their own label but not widely distributed. The 1976 LP was simply titled Klaatu in the U.S., but the Canadian LP was titled 3:47 E.S.T. after the exact time the alien Klaatu landed in the 1951 classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Most of you, or at least those in North America, should be familiar with this prog-pop album engineered and produced by Terry Brown, which is bookended by the two best songs. The 7:18 opener Calling Occupants (of Interplanetary Craft) was famously covered by The Carpenters, and much later by Unitopia on their Covered Mirror album. The 8:18 Little Neutrino that closes the album is the other highlight. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This is the CD reissue of an Argentine prog classic and rarity. Rodolfo Mederos is a bandoneonist (accordionist). He formed the band Generacion Cero in 1976 and created a unique instrumental fusion of progressive rock, jazz, and the music of Buenos Aires. The instrumentation also includes piano and synths, electric guitar, electric bass, and drums. Mederos dropped “Generacion Cero” from the name for his third album Todo Hoy (1978), though it is still a band album. Whether there is any real tango here is debatable, but the bandoneon evokes it, so if not taken too seriously, ‘tango-prog’ is a fair label. The music is complex, with real compositional and arranging skills in evidence. The word ‘unique’ gets bandied about a lot, but suffice to say you probably don’t have anything in your collection quite like this. This CD is a joint release of three prog labels in three countries and comes in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve. It adds an 8:48 bonus track. Listen to Últimos días de marzo on YouTube.
Ed Bernard is the guitarist of Toronto prog band Druckfarben, in which he also plays violin and mandolin and contributes backing vocals. On his first solo album Polydactyl (2015, digipack), Bernard also takes care of keyboards, bass, and vocals, while two drummers split drum duties. Polydactyl is every bit as proggy as Druckfarben and on the same high level. The album features guest vocalists Cameron Hawkins of FM and Druckfarben bandmate Phil Naro. William Hare (Druckfarben keyboardist) plays piano on one song, while two other musicians guest on piano and bass. Maybe the band we’re most frequently reminded of is Kansas, but the album also contains a lot of high-energy rock-fusion as well as influences of Genesis, Yes, and others. Like Druckfarben, this is classic progressive rock surpassed by few today. The virtuosity is obvious but never obscures the melodies and songs. And the acoustic instruments are not forgotten. Read the Progressive Music Planet review. See our Canadian page for the Druckfarben CDs and DVD.
Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! is the latest Tull album to receive the deluxe Steven Wilson 5.1 surround and 96/24 PCM stereo remix treatment. It comes in hardcover book-size packaging with an 80-page book. Subtitled The TV Special Edition, this set features a previously-unreleased re-recorded version of the album for a 1976 UK TV special as well as the TV film itself. The set also includes the original album flat transfer, a flat transfer of the original 1976 quad LP production master, and loads of previously-unreleased archive tracks that even Ian Anderson can’t remember recording. There’s so much here that you’re advised to head to JethroTull.com to see all the details. The DVDs are NTSC, all-region. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
Klubkin’s Voyage is the 79-minute 2011 debut by a Russian symphonic prog band in the vein of Kansas, Yes, Genesis, and Camel. The lyrics are in Russian, though the music is heavily instrumental. The audio was mastered at Masterdisk in New York City, and the artwork is gorgeous. Read the Prognaut and DPRP reviews. Klubkin’s Voyage was April 2011 Record of the Month at Progressive Rock BR (read review).
Another World (2015, digipack) is Quorum’s second, but the compositions date to a decade earlier, before Klubkin’s Voyage, during the earliest days of the band. This album consists of six songs with vocals and one instrumental. Five of these songs along with two others were recorded and released as a demo CD in 2006. The band decided to postpone the final release, having already begun work on Klubkin’s Voyage. The material that appears on Another World was revised and recorded again almost from scratch. The audio was again mastered at Masterdisk in New York City. Klubkin’s Voyage is very good, but taking stock now after Another World, we can’t think of a better Russian band ever in the melodic symphonic prog mainstream of 1970s Genesis and Yes. (If we’re talking ELP, then it’s Little Tragedies.) There is some fantastic Genesis-inspired material here, and the fact Quorum’s music has its own character, due in part to the Russian vocals, makes it far more than derivative or copyist. It is certainly highly recommended to those who believe the first, golden era of progressive rock was cut way short by a hostile industry.
Popular Québec prog band Mystery are back with a new studio album Delusion Rain (2015, digipack), the first with new singer Jean Pageau. The rest of the line-up now is Benoit Dupuis on keyboards, François Fournier on bass, Sylvain Moineau on guitar, Jean-Sébastien Goyette on drums, and bandleader Michel St-Pčre on guitars, plus guests Antoine Michaud of Monochrome Seasons (also touring guitarist for Mystery) and Sylvain Descoteaux (Huis). Listen to teaser 1, teaser 2, and the title track on YouTube. See our Canadian page for all the Mystery CDs and more info.
Crisálida are a Chilean symphonic prog-metal band with a very good female vocalist singing in Spanish. When Crisálida play symphonic prog, it’s quite good -- dramatic and powerful, though of course it’s the more modern, streamlined variety. And when they add the metal guitar it’s, well, prog-metal. The self-titled CD is their 2006 debut. Raco (2009) is their second.
Solar (2012, digipack) is their third, on which the progressive parts show greater maturity and refinement, and the metal parts are still metal. Read the Exposé review. Listen to the song Araucana on YouTube.
Crisálida took the next step with their fourth album Terra Ancestral (2015), engaging the services of Anathema’s Daniel Cardoso to produce, mix, and master the album. The music does move closer to Anathema’s style. Watch the video for Morir Aquí.
Ossicles are a Norwegian prog band who initially self-released their debut Mantelpiece as a double-CD digipack at the end of 2012. We briefly sold that edition before it went out-of-print. However, Karisma Records (Airbag, Magic Pie, Nordagust,...) took notice and reissued Mantelpiece as a single CD in a jewel case in 2015, which is the edition for sale here. In reducing it to a single CD, it looks like only the final song Miracle Worker (4:34) was omitted. On the strength of this album, Ossicles were invited by Mike Portnoy to appear at the Progressive Nation at Sea Festival in 2014, though the band had to decline for financial reasons. The music on Mantelpiece is more or less in the Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree vein, though Ossicles’ own personality shines through. “Sometimes an amazing album comes your way that you wonder how the rest of the world missed it. Over a year ago, two 20 year old guys from Norway produced a breathtaking CD called Mantelpiece. It’s a rich and accomplished piece and it deserves to be noticed.” [Progarchy] Read the DPRP review. Watch the official video for Watersoul II.
Karisma then released the second Ossicles CD Music for Wastelands (2015, digipack). Listen to Halfway Homes and watch the official video for Family Tree. Read the Exposé and Soundscape reviews.
Galahad’s Solidarity: Live in Konin (DVD+2CD, 2015, digipack) was recorded in Konin, Poland in October 2013, one of a few selected live shows promoting the Battle Scars and Beyond the Realms of Euphoria albums. This live album includes Mark Spencer in the line-up on bass guitar as well as Neil Pepper’s bass and guitar parts on a couple tracks. Both the 2 CDs as well as the DVD (PAL, all-region) concert film contain the complete show. The DVD adds a band documentary/interview and photo gallery. View the track list.
Sleepers (1995) is Galahad’s third studio album, which made great strides from the previous two. The Avalon Records edition is the 2005 second edition on the band’s own label, which comes in a jewel case. The remastered digipack is the 2015 20th anniversary edition on the Oskar label. It was recently remastered and generally spruced up by Karl Groom at Thin Ice Studios. This digipack edition also adds two bonus tracks: Suffering in Silence, which we believe had been a Japan-only bonus track, and a new orchestral/vocal re-recording of Pictures of Bliss. See our British page for lots more Galahad titles and more info.
Lizard are a Polish prog band featuring powerful vocals in Polish. They debuted in 1996 but their earlier CDs have gone out-of-print. At times Lizard have been very influenced by King Crimson circa 1973-1974 (so that’s where they took their name), while they also update the tradition of some of the great East European progressive bands of the 1970s and 1980s such as Modry Efekt and Synkopy.
Spam (2006) is the last Lizard album to feature violin. Some King Crimson influence is present, but there is more UK influence, specifically the UK tracks with Jobson on violin. With violin used on every track, one is also reminded of Ankh, but Lizard are more refined and complex.
Lizard had been working on Master & M (2013) since early 2008 but had to deal with some personnel changes along the way. (The violin is gone). This concept album is one of their two best, some King Crimson influence still showing but the style overall quite different from KC. It’s still easy to think of a contemporary (heavier) version of Modry Efekt or Synkopy, given the similar sound of the West Slavic languages. Most of the Polish prog bands that emerged during the 1990s (Lizard, Collage, Quidam, Abraxas, etc.) sang in Polish, but since then laws were passed mandating all vocals be in English, and so there are too many today who would rather miss out on great progressive rock with great vocals than come to terms with the existence of other languages. Those so-called prog fans won’t know Modry Efekt and Synkopy anyway and probably stopped reading this already. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Live: Destruction and Little Pieces of Cheese (2015) is a recording of Lizard’s concert in Łódź, Poland in late 2014. It draws primarily from Master & M and finishes with a rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man. Watch the official video of Lizard performing Chapter I from this album. (So is there a Blu-ray in the works?)
Reingold Records, the Swedish label run by Jonas Reingold, now has U.S. distribution, so while the following titles aren’t new, they are less expensive now. Hopefully more will follow.
The Tour Kaputt DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack) and double-CD (digipack) each contain 13 tracks (143 minutes) recorded live at De Boerderij in The Netherlands in 2007, featuring the line-up of Roine Stolt, Tomas Bodin, Hasse Fröberg, Jonas Reingold, and special guest Pat Mastelotto. Each has a 20-page booklet. See our Scandinavian page for The Flower Kings’ CDs.
Karmakanic’s double-CD Live in the US (digipack) was recorded in May 2012 at RoSfest in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Karmakanic played all their epics. Watch the album trailer. See our Scandinavian page for more Karmakanic CDs and more info.
Keyboardist Lalle Larsson has played on numerous albums, probably best known for his work in Karmakanic and Agents of Mercy. Nightscapes (2012, digipack, 69-minutes) is the final CD in Larsson’s Weaveworld trilogy, three instrumental albums built around the same concept with the same band. That band includes the fretless bass wizardry of Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic), the jazz/fusion guitar mastery of Richard Hallebeek (One Spirit, RHP), the heavy guitar sounds of Stefan Rosqvist (Cloudscape, Fullforce), and the high energy drumming of Mickael “Walle” Wahlgren (Agents of Mercy). Read the Prog Archives and Background Magazine reviews.
Leap Day are a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Trion, Nice Beaver, King Eider, and Pink Floyd Project. They debuted in 2009 with Awaking the Muse and followed in 2011 with Skylge’s Lair. The first album was full of upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles, while the second showed Leap Day leaning a bit more toward classic prog.
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.
Hyperlive (2015, digipack) is the first live DVD (NTSC, all-region) for popular Dutch neo-prog band Knight Area. An audio CD is included. Hyperlive was filmed in Katowice, Poland on 9 April 2015, with Knight Area performing 12 tracks including almost all of their most recent album Hyperdrive. Bonus features include interviews with Mark Smit, Gerben Klazinga, Mark Bogert, and Pieter van Hoorn, plus a photo gallery. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio, 100 minutes. Watch the DVD trailer. See our Dutch page for Knight Area’s CDs.
Transfiction (2015, digipack) is the second CD for Elleven, a German melodic neo-prog quintet with female vocals, along the lines of Breathing Space. The band began circa 2001 as an offshoot of Chandelier (one of the earliest German neo-prog bands), though by the time this album was recorded, the Chandelier guys had moved on. Watch the video for Try . With purchase of the CD, we’re supposed to include a download card for an instrumental mix of the album. If we forget, please bug us.
Nad Sylvan first appeared on the prog scene as singer in the Genesis-inspired Swedish duo Unifaun before joining Roine Stolt in Agents of Mercy. More recently, Nad has been Steve Hackett’s singer. Nad’s solo album Courting the Widow (2015, 70-minutes) features an impressive cast of guests including Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Lifesigns,...), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard), Gary O’Toole and Rob Townsend (Steve Hackett), Doane Perry (Jethro Tull), Annbjřrg Lien, and others. Rooted in classic prog, Nad considers Courting the Widow “very much a symphonic album... I feel that I have delivered an album that’s true to myself and my values in life. It’s heartfelt, passionate, emotional, and full of dramatic passages.” Read The Prog Mind review. Listen to the album teaser and the title track on YouTube.
Molok (2015, mediabook) is Gazpacho’s ninth studio album. World-renowned Norwegian accordion player Stian Carstensen from Farmers Market guests, as well as Norwegian music archaeologist Gjermund Kolltveit who plays some stone age instruments including our favorite, moose jaws. “Molok is, in its own right, a deeply impressive piece of work. Conceptually intriguing, instrumentally beguiling and emotionally powerful, it’s beautifully composed, played and produced – another practically flawless entry in one of the most consistent back catalogues in modern progressive rock... History will record this band as one of the most relentlessly adventurous and eclectic progressive rock bands of recent years, but for now Gazpacho remain one of the best-kept secrets of modern progressive rock, and Molok numbers among their finest achievements.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review, also the Sputnik Music review. Listen to Know Your Time on YouTube.
Night of the Demon (2015, digipack) was recorded when Gazpacho embarked upon the Demon album tour in spring 2014. They brought in Dutch filmmaker Jon Vis to film their show at Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. Gazpacho played songs from Firebird, Night, Tick Tock, Missa Atropos, March of Ghosts, and the majority from Demon. The 80-minute audio CD features nine tracks while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) features the full 14 track performance. Watch the DVD trailer. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho titles and info on the band.
Directed by Lasse Hoile, A Sort of Homecoming is the concert film of Anathema’s performance on 7 March 2015 in the spectacular setting of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. That month, Anathema played an acoustic tour of cathedrals that culminated in this sold-out show in their hometown. While billed as acoustic, that only really affects the guitarists as there are drums and there are electronic keyboards. Having worked previously with Anathema on Universal, Lasse Hoile captured the 100-minute set against the sensational backdrop of the cathedral. Featuring 15 songs selected from the albums Distant Satellites, We’re Here Because We’re Here, Hindsight, and Weather Systems, the band are accompanied throughout by David Wesling on cello, while violinist Anna Phoebe guests on a haunting rendition of the song Anathema. Bruce Soord mixed the 5.1 surround audio. The Blu-ray features 24/48 stereo LPCM and DTS 5.1 Master Audio options and includes a bonus behind-the-scenes film titled A Temporary Peace. “A once in a lifetime experience that words can barely do justice.” [Prog magazine] Watch the trailer. Check our British page for some Anathema CDs.
This is the 2015 Kscope edition of Stone to Flesh, originally released in 1995. This edition comes in a digipack with new artwork and a brand new studio track. With all the tracks exceeding seven minutes, Stone to Flesh contains some of the best examples of Jansen and BarbieriŤ’s trademark style of progressive rock that is both atmospheric/ambient and percussive, with nods to Japan at their most experimental. Guests include David Torn, Steven Wilson, and Colin Edwin. Watch the video for Mother London.
Different Strings are a heavy neo-prog band from Malta. Following a 2007 debut, The Sounds of Silence Part I: The Counterparts (2011, digisleeve) and Part II: The Counterfeits (2015, digisleeve) were originally intended to be a double-album. Finances probably had something to do with the passage of years between the two, but the band also played live quite a bit in the interim. Those well-versed in Maltese prog may recall the band Different Light and their 1996 CD All About Yourself and wonder if the two bands are related, given that there may not be any other prog bands from Malta. Despite the similar names, they aren’t really related except that Different Light bassist Trevor Catania plays on two tracks on The Sounds of Silence Part I. Watch the promo video for Part II, listen to Selfishness part I and Fatal Chronic Damage on YouTube and Let Me Out of Here on Prog Archives.
American Jeremy Morris is best known to prog fans for his Pilgrim’s Journey and Celestial City CDs released on the Kinesis label in the mid-1990s. He has released many other albums on his own label, most with vocals, his main styles other than prog being psychedelic rock, space rock, and power pop. Across its 77 minutes, Not of This World (2015) covers most of Jeremy’s styles, concentrating on his progressive and late-60s psychedelic rock styles. The CD features mostly long tracks, both vocal and instrumental, concluding with the 17-minute progressive highlight The Other World. The most pop-sounding material suggests an alternate universe where The Monkees got a Mellotron and started to go prog. Read the Something Else! review. Listen to mp3s of What Planet Are We From?, The Other World, and Clouds are Lifting. See our U.S. page for more Jeremy CDs.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
Perfect Beings is the new prog band assembled by Luley. Perfect Beings I is their 2014 debut, while Perfect Beings II is their 2015 second CD; both are digipacks. Yes is still the dominant influence, but it is less overt than in Moth Vellum or on Sheepfather’s, as Perfect Beings have a more original and unique style. The soothing vocals establish a serene baseline from which the music expands in symphonic splendor or bursts out in intricate instrumental passages. Read reviews.
Glasgow’s Comedy of Errors had been known (if they were known at all) as the other Scottish neo-prog band, after Pallas and Abel Ganz. Though the band formed in 1984, their time had not yet come. Comedy of Errors are calling Disobey (2011, digipack) their debut, but the band released a vinyl mini-album in 1986 that compiled their demos to that point. Those tracks were later combined with 1987 demos to form the eponymous CD released in 1988 by the French UGUM/MSI label. (Good luck finding that now.) The 2011 reformed Comedy of Errors features the three core members from those days, a new drummer, and a bit of assistance from Hew Montgomery (ex-Abel Ganz). Rob Aubrey did the final mixing and mastering for all these CDs, almost a requirement for a UK neo-prog CD. If you’re a fan of UK neo-prog and didn’t know of Comedy of Errors before, you are in for a treat. And if you do know Comedy of Errors, you are in for a treat. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Disobey montage.
Comedy of Errors’ triumphant comeback continues with Fanfare & Fantasy (2013, digipack). Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Fanfare & Fantasy montage.
Spirit (2015, digipack) is Comedy of Errors’ latest, their best sounding CD yet and one that every self-respecting fan of neo-prog needs. Listen to the Spirit sampler.
Heavy on the Beach (2015, digipack) is the debut CD from Glasgow’s Grand Tour, a new band featuring some not-so-new musicians. Grand Tour’s leader is keyboardist Hew Montgomery, a founding member of Abel Ganz. Grand Tour had its genesis in 2005. Hew says he’d begun to feel the need to take more direct control of his own material as Abel Ganz moved off in a slightly different musical direction from his. In fact, the current Abel Ganz has no full-time members in common with the band that recorded the first two Abel Ganz albums; it appears only current bandleader Denis Smith has any connection to Abel Ganz of the 1980s or 1990s. The second member to sign on to Grand Tour was local guitarist Andrew Young. The two were joined in 2007 by Joe Cairney, vocalist with then-dormant Comedy of Errors. The lineup was completed with the addition of drummer Bruce Levick (Comedy of Errors) in 2009. In 2010, Young was replaced by Comedy of Errors guitarist Mark Spalding, who agreed to join after a brief listen to the existing demos. So with the keyboardist/composer of the original Abel Ganz and three Comedy of Errors members, you ought to have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get. This is Glasgow-prog!
This is the U.S. digipack edition of Riverside’s 2015 studio album Love, Fear and the Time Machine, which sees Riverside moving closer to the style of singer Mariusz Duda’s solo project Lunatic Soul. “The band once again altered their sound and have stripped the heaviness of the last album for a new refined and more organic sounding Riverside. The results are outstanding, making it one of the top albums of the year.” Read the full The Prog Report review, also the Sputnik Music review. Watch the videos for Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching) and Discard Your Fear on YouTube.
The Oblivion Particle (2015, digipack) is Spock’s Beard’s 12th studio album. David Ragsdale guests. This U.S. edition does include the bonus track, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. Read The Prog Report review. Listen to Tides of Time, Bennett Built a Time Machine, and Minion on YouTube.
John Hackett is of course Steve’s younger brother and longtime sideman. Another Life (2015, digipack) is John’s long-awaited new rock album, the follow-up to 2005’s Checking Out of London, with most of the same people involved. Nick Clabburn again provides lyrics, and John is again joined by brother Steve on lead guitar, while Anthony Phillips guests. The whole project was produced and mixed by Nick Magnus, who again takes care of keyboards, drums, and programming.
Yuka & Chronoship are a Japanese progressive rock band formed in 2009 by female keyboardist/vocalist/composer Yuka Funakoshi along with three leading Japanese studio musicians: bassist Shun Taguchi, guitarist Takashi Miyazawa, and drummer Ikko Tanaka. Water Reincarnation (2011) is mostly instrumental but does have lovely (English-language and wordless) vocals and vocal harmonies. The Japanese symphonic prog scene has been relatively quiet of late, but Yuka & Chronoship are in the same league as Kenso and Mr. Sirius, though distinct from either. Their music is highly reminiscent of late 1970s progressive rock, very European-sounding, but not retro. The key (pun accidental) is that they are led by a keyboardist who can play and who can compose, who is versed in classical as well as jazz. There is technical virtuosity, but it isn’t about technical virtuosity. This is a fantastic album and a necessary one in an era where what passes for progressive rock often lacks the classical foundation, depth, and class of Yuka & Chronoship.
Dino Rocket Oxygen (2013) is Yuka & Chronoship’s outstanding follow-up. “Yuka & Chronoship have really hit one out of the park with Dino Rocket Oxygen. Finely crafted retro-prog for all to enjoy. I hope you dig it as much as I do.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Progressive Rock Central review.
With The 3rd Planetary Chronicles (2015), Yuka & Chronoship are making some of the best symphonic prog on the planet. Newcomers should start with this one and work backwards. “The music is melodic and powerful, with echoes of past progressive rock but with a fresh attitude. Yuka’s keyboards are in the forefront, with piano often at the core, augmented by organs, synthesizers, Mellotrons, and more; but the band is outstanding, whether supporting her or stepping forward to lead for a time. Takashi Miyazawa’s guitar is frequently an integral part of the arrangements, with some outstanding lead lines. Yuka’s vocals are a much more prominent presence than on previous releases, mostly in the form of lush choruses; this is most definitely not a case where vocals detract from great instrumental music. This third album continues the growth seen over the first two – they just keep getting better. The 3rd Planetary Chronicles is one of the highlights of 2015.” Read the full Exposé review. Be sure to listen to the album montages (mp3 icons above).
It’s possible the title of The Enid’s 13th studio album The Bridge (2015, digipack) alludes to bridging the gap between the old The Enid and the current generation of the band. The band state that on this album, they wanted to further explore the classical elements of their music in finer detail. The orchestral arrangements and vocals are bolstered by symphonic/ambient guitar textures and huge choral arrangements. The majority of the songs are re-imagined arrangements of songs from The Enid’s back catalog, with vocals added to formerly instrumental pieces. “When you listen to The Bridge, the merely good is transformed into the sublime and exalted. The Enid have delivered a set of songs that enable you to take time away from your hectic life and give you a melodic treat of great magnitude, the closest thing to a legal high, an oasis of calm in a world of chaos. Yes, it will not appeal to all with its delicate sensibilities, but for me it is something that, once heard, I cannot ever do without.” Read the full Progradar review. There are lots more The Enid CDs on our British page along with much more info, while our DVDs page should have some The Enid DVDs.
These are the 2015 digipack editions on Sireena Records of Dry (1979) and Sky Racer (1981), both mastered from the original tapes. Streetmark was a German prog band that released four albums on Sky Records, beginning with Nordland in 1976, followed by Eileen in 1977. Keyboardist Dorothea Raukes was a founding member and one of the first female figures of the German prog scene. The band went through constant lineup changes, and by the time of their third album Dry, Raukes had taken control of the band as well as most of the lead vocals. The singer on the first Streetmark album was awful, and the singer on their second had been murdered by this time (not on account of his singing), so Streetmark are at their best in the vocals department on the two albums here. Dry is an underappreciated German prog album. With this album, the band moved toward a more melodic and rock-oriented prog style, while maintaining a good deal of spaciness. There is loads of organ and synths, with melodic guitar leads. The “Neue Deutsche Welle” (NDW), the German version of new wave, ran a few years behind punk and new wave in the UK, so though Dry is from 1979, it feels more like 1976. There is disco influence in one song, but it’s actually not a horrible track. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
After recording their first three albums in Conny Planck’s studio, Streetmark moved to Dieter Dierks’ studio for Sky Racer. Raukes was the only original member on this album, which continues along the same trajectory as Dry, the quality dropping off slightly as the level of commercialism increased a bit, unavoidable at that time. You’d think the short song Stick to Reggae would be one to skip, but it’s an instrumental done almost entirely on synths. The title track is also instrumental and a Genesis/Camel-inspired highlight, as Raukes plays fast and furious lead synth lines like you just don’t hear anymore. Fortunately Streetmark didn’t follow the emerging trend of the NDW, and overall Sky Racer is a decent prog album, certainly for 1981 when prog was at or near a low point. It would be their last.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other projects. The Sula Bassana material consists of long, mostly-instrumental psychedelic space-rock excursions dominated by heavily-fuzzed guitar, with synths and Mellotron strings in support. Schmidt also handles bass and drums, with occasional help from other musicians on drums and vocals. Dark Days is from 2012, The Night from 2009. Both were mastered by Eroc (Grobschnitt). This is the 2015 jewel case edition of The Night.
Dreamer is the first Sula Bassana album, originally released in 2002. This “10 Years Anniversary” edition has been remastered with two bonus tracks added. Read the Aural Innovations reviews of Dark Days and The Night, and many more reviews on the Sula Bassana site.
Live at Roadburn Festival 2014 is the recording of a one-off concert by Sula Bassana, who normally never plays live under this moniker, accompanied by a full band assembled for this event. Of the four (mostly long) songs, only one (Dark Days) appears on a previous Sula Bassana studio album, but the live version is extended and includes some improvised parts. Eroc again mastered.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If the Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet Quantum Fantay’s CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog that take this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Terragaia (2014, digipack) is a 70-minute concept album featuring guest appearances by members of Anima Mundi, Neo Prophet, and others. Despite the passage of nine years since the first Quantum Fantay CD, we’re still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
With four long tracks of almost exactly the same length, Dancing in Limbo (2015, digipack) showcases a new Quantum Fantay lineup, which only adds fresh angles to the band’s trademark style. Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles guests, which makes perfect sense.
Kind of surprising no one combined “progressive” and “fusion” for this band name before, even if there is little real fusion here. Profusion are an Italian heavy prog quintet (vocals in English, keys, guitars, bass, drums), who you might file alongside Subsignal. Profusion’s drummer is a native of Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), which explains the Georgian ethnic elements that appear in some songs. Phersu (2015, digipack) is Profusion’s third album and features well-known guests from outside Italy, including Mamuka Ghaghanidze from Georgian ethnic fusion band The Shin, Polish virtuoso accordionist Jakub Mietła, and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, originally from Georgia. (To see/hear Anita, watch the video for Wrinkled Maiden). A creative band like Profusion expands heavy prog beyond its usual restricted boundaries.
Flor de Loto (Lotus Flower) are at present the biggest prog band in Peru. The band began as an instrumental quartet with their first CD released in 2005. The current lineup is bigger now, with lead and backing vocals (in Spanish) and instrumentation consisting of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, flute, Andean woodwinds, tenor sax, bass, and drums. Initially Flor de Loto were more jam-based and psychedelic. Their music continued to evolve, becoming carefully-composed, more European and less Andean sounding and closer to the prog mainstream, with a slight metal influence eventually creeping in but also some fusion. They added vocals while the psychedelic aspect vanished. There has always been a folk element that is central to the band’s identity, calling to mind an Andean version of Tempest. The flute has always suggested Tull and Solaris, maybe early Camel when the flute playing is more pastoral. The earlier Flor de Loto CDs are more or less sold out. The Mexican Azafran label has released Flor de Loto’s sixth album Nuevo Mesías (2014) in a factory-sealed, 8-panel foldout mini-LP style sleeve. The CD contains nine new songs, while the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains six videos (two live), the Making of Nuevo Mesías documentary, and a photo gallery. The videos are all songs from previous albums, so no redundancy with the CD content.
Medusa: En Vivo en Buenos Aires is Flor de Loto live in Argentina in November 2014. This two-disc set is housed in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve. Both the CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contain the 12 tracks of the concert. The DVD also includes two song videos, three live videos from other concerts, and a 2015 documentary.
Peruvian band Supay play instrumental flute-led prog, with (initially) two woodwind players in their lineup in addition to keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums. The woodwinds include the quena (a traditional Andean end-blown flute), the quenacho (a bigger quena), the tarca (another traditional Andean wooden flute), the zampońa (double panpipes), and the toyo (another bunch of bundled pipes). The music is symphonic prog enriched by Andean folk music. Not surprisingly, that folk element is generated mostly by the Andean flutes while the rest of the band is playing in a symphonic rock style, though the guitarist and keyboardist occasionally slip in a folk-based melody. Think of Los Jaivas at their most progressive.
Supay’s second El Viaje was also first released by the band in 2007, again with a different cover, then by Mylodon in this 2009 edition. (The El Viaje album was preceded by an EP of the same name; this is the full-length CD.) There were some line-up changes and only one woodwind player remains, so there is slightly more guitar and less flute, but Supay’s style is largely unchanged.
Seńales was first released by the band at the end of 2013, followed by this Mylodon edition in 2014. It sees Supay becoming increasingly symphonic and is their best album, easily accessible to most prog fans. There are some vocals (in Spanish) though the music remains predominantly instrumental. This album deserves far more attention than it has received so far. Watch the videos for the Seńales and Seńales Parte II. More info at Prog Archives.
Vly is a distant collaboration between British-based guitarist Karl Demata (Crippled Black Phoenix) and New York singer Keith Gladysz, Italian keyboardist Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio delle Clessidre), bassist Chris Heilmann (Crippled Black Phoenix), and Swedish drummer Mattias Olsson (Änglagĺrd, White Willow). The musicians never met face-to-face, instead relying on the now common method of sending files over the Internet. The band says the sound of I / Time (2015, digipack) includes “elements of progressive rock, classic rock, folk, early-Floydian psychedelia, intimate pop melodies, massive walls of epic guitar riffage, post-classical, post-rock, and electronic music.” The music is in the mainstream of the modern prog style that has Steven Wilson as its patron saint, with that slightly psychedelic, dreamy, indie-rock atmosphere. The retro elements include some Beatles references, the aforementioned Floyd influence, and some vintage keys, but otherwise there is little connection to classic prog or Änglagĺrd or Il Tempio delle Clessidre. Just so that’s clear. Watch the album trailer and the video for Circles.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. The seventh Karfagen album 7 (2015, digipack) is centered around the nearly half-hour epic Seven Gates. Kalugin says: “I’ve done my best to create it with the variety of being both dynamic and also allowing the music to breath, to recreate the late 70s prog ‘tone’ that I still enjoy so much today.” The label says that Kalugin stays true to his love of Camel, Focus, and The Alan Parsons Project, to name just a few. Watch the album teaser video. See our East European page for the full Karfagen catalog and more info.
Antony Kalugin has half the musicians in Ukraine on the Sunchild albums, with the vocals in English. Synesthesia (2015, digipack) turns over lead vocals to John Sleeper, who we know little about other than that he is the best singer Sunchild have had. With a true lead singer on board, Synesthesia puts more emphasis on vocals, evolving in a Peter Gabriel direction, with the distinction between Karfagen (more instrumental and more challenging) and Sunchild now clearer. Sunchild have taken the next step toward international stardom (such as it exists in the prog world). See our East European page for the now extensive Sunchild catalog, as well as Kalugin’s other bands.
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, an under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic, and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and real strings. It is majesty without bombast. These tracks supposedly deal with the voices we hear in our head in various life situations, and Thielen’s voice has a distant quality that evokes that. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack) is the fourth t album. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic, and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Fragmentropy (2015, digipack) continues an amazing string of albums for Thielen, with t now getting the recognition this music deserves.
Seven Steps to the Green Door consistently produce one of the most intriguing modern takes on progressive rock. In true postmodern fashion, this German band integrate many different styles into a cohesive whole, but there is little doubt that it is symphonic prog at its core. The classically-influenced piano playing of Marek Arnold is a key feature of the music, and he also adds some woodwinds. They have excellent male vocals (and some female vocals) in English. Their albums are sophisticated and very well recorded.
Step in 2 My World (2008, 66-minutes) is their second. Where the band have really taken things to the next level are the vocals. They use one female and two male singers, both in lead and harmony roles, plus a guest spot for Larry B., the singer from the current Stern Combo Meissen and Toxic Smile.
The? Book (2011, digipack) was first released as a hardcover digibook with 52-page booklet, but that edition is gone, replaced by this less expensive and less elaborate digipack. Larry B. again guests, as well as Flaming Row leader Martin Schnella (who would become a full band member). This concept album is the band’s most ambitious to date, more intense than the first two. “The conclusion this time is simple: the best (retro)-progressive album of the year. Melodic but never dull, diverse without being unstructured, both gentle and fierce, sustained by an elaborate story that focuses on what seems for a lot of people to be currently burning in their soul.” [Musikreviews.de, translated from German] “...the album offers everything the proggies’ heart desires: springy melodies, complex rhythms, delicate vocal harmonies, fast-paced keyboard and guitar riffs, and a pinch of metal for seasoning here and there... Certainly one of the best German (prog) rock releases of recent years.” [Babyblaue Seiten, translated from German] “Seven Steps to the Green Door have clearly reached the premier league of the German prog scene... My absolute buy recommendation!” [proggies.ch, translated from German]
Among the guests on Fetish (2015, digipack, 78-minutes) are Arno Menses (Subsignal), Dan Mash (United Progressive Fraternity, The Tangent), and Steve Unruh (Resistor, United Progressive Fraternity). Seven Steps are at their best on this album, which has everything a fan of contemporary prog could want. Fetish is so nimble, melodic, and playful, and yet it is inventive, always pleasantly surprising the listener, compositions full of complexity that still come across as prog ear candy because the band have a knack for making everything flow effortlessly. Watch the album preview video, the video for Porn!, and listen to Inferior on YouTube. “Seven Steps to the Green Door has crafted a magnificent album with Fetish, it’s as easy as that. The sheer diversity of this album will perhaps alienate some, but the generally easy-flowing compositions are easier on the ears than you would imagine from a band incorporating such a great diversity into their material. And a top quality mix and production also ensure that these fairly challenging compositions are easy to enjoy. An eclectic recording well worth inspecting, and on my personal shortlist as a strong contender for album of the year for 2015.” Read the full Prog Archives review. See our German page for the related band Toxic Smile.
Project: Patchwork is the large-scale project of German multi-instrumentalist Gerd Albers, featuring at least 27 other musicians, not counting the choir. The more recognizable names include Martin Schnella (Flaming Row, Seven Steps to the Green Door), Kalle Wallner (RPWL), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door, Toxic Smile), Yossi Sassi (Orphaned Land), and David M. Scholtz (Orpheo, Eisenhower). There are several female and several male vocalists, with the lyrics in English except for the beautiful song Bau’ Dir ein Schloss. There is some heavier material that may suggest Ayreon and Flaming Row, but Tales from a Hidden Dream (2015) is more colorful than that, covering more stylistic ground while staying within the boundaries of progressive rock. Maybe that’s the ‘patchwork’ in the name, but the producers have blended the contributions from all these musicians into a cohesive whole, and the fact that the album is not overproduced and overblown makes it a very successful debut. Watch the album trailer and the videos for Oblivion and Land of Hope and Honour. “All I can say is this album is as close to perfection as any I have heard this year. It is clearly progressive in nature, but many genres are touched upon such as folk, hard rock, metal, funk, and orchestral music. One would think that the album would sound like a hodgepodge of styles but nothing could be further from the truth. The music is cohesive and brilliantly played with beautifully soaring guitar, lush keyboards, and strong lead vocals.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review.
Edison’s Children is Marillion’s Pete Trewavas and American musician Eric Blackwood. Their 2011 debut In The Last Waking Moments (71-minutes) includes guest appearances by Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley, Steve Rothery, Steve Hogarth, Andy Ditchfield (DeeExpus), and Robin Boult (Fish). The music is closer to Porcupine Tree than Marillion, darker and more psychedelic, with Pink Floyd the dominant influence. Vocals are somewhat low-key but are an important part of the music. This is very much music composed by guitarists, with keyboards/synths used only for texture, but what a difference those textures make. The album builds to the long penultimate track, which is majestic in that Floydian way and is probably the one that remains in memory after the disc has finished spinning; the short final track is an aftermath and wind-down. Pink Floyd’s melancholic and dystopian view seems more in line with the current zeitgeist than the utopian view of Yes or the more positive energy of the other classic prog bands; In The Last Waking Moments is another example of that, and an excellent album in its own right.
A Million Miles Away (2012) is a limited-edition 29-minute, 7-song CD-EP. The title track and one other are from the In The Last Waking Moments album, and there is also a single edit of the title track. The main attraction here is four new songs, all mixed and/or mastered by John Mitchell. The CD comes in a cardboard jacket and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The Final Breath Before November (2013, digisleeve, 79-minutes) is Edison’s Children’s very impressive second full-length album, which no one is able to describe without using the word “haunting”. Henry Rogers (Touchstone, DeeExpus, Final Conflict) is the drummer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Edison’s Children’s third album Somewhere Between Here and There (2015, digisleeve) features seven new tracks, then the 80-minute CD is maxed out with several alternate mixes of other songs plus a live track. The celebrity mixers include Jakko M Jakszyk, John Mitchell, and Robin Boult. Among the guests are Chris Mack (Iluvatar) on drums and the son of Neil Armstrong (yes, that Neil Armstrong) on guitar. Not a giant leap for Edison’s Children, but a sizeable step.
Nemo have probably done more to popularize French-language prog than any other band of their generation. This is the limited 2CD digipack edition of their ninth album Coma (2015). The title is likely a reference to the fact that Nemo had previously announced they would be quitting at least temporarily. Not long after that, Nemo announced they were recording one final album, or at least their last for a long time. The second disc in this edition contains five bonus tracks: a Deep Purple cover, a Led Zeppelin cover, and the three long tracks Nemo contributed to Colossus/Musea’s The Divine Comedy (Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) series. Watch the video for Comaďne and listen to the album sampler on YouTube. See our French page for all the Nemo and related CDs.
This is the same New Jersey-based progressive rock band whose self-titled 1997 CD was released on Mellow Records. Advent’s second release Cantus Firmus (2006, 69-minutes) improves on their debut in just about every way. The band is heavily influenced by Gentle Giant, which is apparent within the first few seconds, even more so on this album than on their debut. But while Advent have some of the medieval feel and similar-sounding vocals, Gentle Giant isn’t the end of the story. There is some Genesis influence present, maybe a little Yes as well, so Advent’s style is often more majestic and regal than Gentle Giant. The album features wonderfully elaborate arrangements, beautiful guitar work (including a substantial amount of classical and acoustic guitar), and tight vocal interplay. The CD also includes previously unreleased 24-track recordings of two songs from the band’s debut CD as bonus tracks. As explained in the liner notes, Advent recorded 24-track versions of five songs in 1992, but due to various constraints, only one received a proper mix and appeared on their debut CD. The other four songs from those sessions ended up on the album in their original four-track cassette versions. So as you can imagine, the improvement in the 24-track versions is immense, and one of the bonus tracks also had new drumming added.
After a long silence, Advent return in 2015 with the remarkable Silent Sentinel (digipack, 78-minutes), picking up right where they left off but with larger arrangements and expanded instrumentation that includes a real choir. Certainly Gentle Giant remains the dominant influence, and maybe However should be added to the reference list, but Advent have used such influences as a springboard to a personal style, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another band today that sounds like this. Just listen to Voices from California on YouTube. “I really can’t exaggerate or overstate how much Silent Sentinel grabs and intrigues me. It’s the kind of release that makes me not only proud to be a prog fan, but it actually makes me proud to be alive, to live at a time that produces such artists. This is the equal of Big Big Train and The Tangent in terms of quality, innovation, and beauty... Silent Sentinel is something truly special.” Read the full Progarchy review.
The self-titled Eldberg CD (2011, digipack) is the debut for this retro, early-1970s style prog band from Iceland. Eldberg sing in Icelandic. (Even the language is retro; it resembles 12th century Norse). The music is comparable to Trettioĺriga Kriget on TK’s self-titled album and Krigssang, though the Eldberg members are too young to have been around when those albums were made. Pretty incredible to hear younger musicians so successfully capture the spirit of that music, though the Scandinavians are unusually adept at it. Listen to Enginn friđur, Hliđarlif vor tíma, and Sunnan viđ sól, austan viđ mána on YouTube.
Eldberg’s second Ţar Er Heimur Hugans (2015, digipack) continues in a similar style and is even better. Listen to Nćturljóđ on YouTube.
El Color de las Cosas (2014, digipack) is the debut for Chilean prog-fusion band Zeptelar, who should draw comparisons to Congreso, Fulano, and Hatfield and the North. Wordless female vocals are an important facet of their sound. Read the Prog Sphere review.
Aquí y Afuera is the 2009 debut by an symphonic prog band from Chile, instrumental on this first album. Being a young band, the drummer and especially the guitarist play in the metal idiom half the time, but it is keyboardist Alonso Quijada that distinguishes Anachronos from your garden variety prog-metal band. The guitar may be mixed as loud or louder than the keys even when doing nothing more than chugga chugga as metal guitarists are wont to do, but the music is dominated by Quijada’s classically-influenced keyboards, primarily piano. Everything of harmonic interest is in the keyboard parts, and Quijada uses samples for occasional touches of South American folk that add spice. Recommended to fans of modern bombastic prog.
The self-titled Anachronos CD is actually their second, released in 2014. But it does represent a new beginning for the band, as they added female lead singer Ingrid Contreras (singing in Spanish). Now Anachronos’s music has two stellar components: Quijada’s keyboards and Contreras’s vocals. Yes, the guitarist still plays metal half the time, but when he plays sympathetically to the keyboards, Anachronos are at their best.
The Winter Tree is the return of Magus under a new name, owing to the fact there are too many other bands with ‘Magus’ in their name, but there is also a shift in style. The name ‘The Winter Tree’ is taken from the Renaissance song. The self-titled CD (2011, digipack) is the debut, and it shows that Andrew Laitres’ songwriting skills have matured a lot in the past nine years. (Andrew Laitres and Andrew Robinson are the same person, all names being subject to change with this band.) The Steve Hillage-like space-rock style that was a major component of the Magus sound is present here in one of the instrumental tracks but is otherwise used more as coloration. This is lush, understated, song-oriented symphonic prog with an affinity for the likes of later Camel and Colin Bass, Ken Baird, Maestoso, Mandalaband, and the Alan Parsons Project. Listen to Guardian Angel and A Twilight in Middle March on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility and ProgressiveWorld reviews.
Guardians (2012, digipack) is proggier than the first CD, but we’ll keep the list of reference bands mostly the same, just throw Genesis and Pink Floyd in there now. The Winter Tree have their own style, but it’s clear that Laitres’ loves are the first-generation British melodic prog bands, tending toward the softer side of the genre. Guardians is a beautiful prog album that doesn’t sound retro, but on the other hand ignores the direction taken by what is usually considered the modern prog movement, a direction that generally runs counter to most of the bands mentioned here. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews. Watch the video for Beautiful World.
Twilight of the Magicians (2013, digipack) is a mostly-instrumental album performed by Laitres with the assistance of several guests. The nine songs were inspired by the late Rudolf Steiner’s writings about the lost continent of Atlantis. It’s distinct from the first two The Winter Tree CDs, representing a return to the Magus style to some degree. The music varies from semi-relaxed, rhythmic, groove-oriented space rock to more overtly symphonic tracks to synthetic soundscapes, all exceptionally well executed. Watch the video for the title track.
In contrast to the mostly-instrumental Twilight of the Magicians, Earth Below (2015, digipack) contains all vocal songs, returning to the style of the first two The Winter Tree albums, and also sees guitarist/vocalist Mark Bond return to the fold. Earth Below features Mattias Olsson (White Willow, Änglagĺrd) on all the drums, while Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel) mixed the album and added some guitar and keyboards. Latvian Baiba Kranate contributes some backing vocals.
See our U.S. page for the Magus CDs.
Even after so many albums, top Mexican prog band Cast have found a way with Vida (2015, digipack) to take their music to a new level. Roberto Izzo, violinist of GnuQuartet as well as orchestra director and violinist of New Trolls, is now a permanent collaborator both in the studio and live. The full GnuQuartet (violin, viola, cello, flute) plays on much of the album, as does woodwind player Pepe Torres, a longtime collaborator. Now with members from Mexico, Chile, and Italy, vocals in English, and cover art by Paul Whitehead, Vida introduces Cast as an international band who are supporting the album with concerts in England and Germany. Watch the album teaser on YouTube. See our Mexican page for more Cast CDs and much more info.
GnuQuartet are Italy’s Acoustic Asturias, a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute, with rock sensibilities. In fact Karma (2014) consists of five prog rock covers plus one original composition. The covers are Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa), Roundabout (Yes), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Hairless Heart (Genesis), and Concerto Grosso 1, Allegro (New Trolls), while the original Stereotaxis might just be the highlight. GnuQuartet are not entirely acoustic as there are occasional effects on the strings, and the percussive playing style is rock, not classical. Read the JustIn Case Prog Radio and Exposé reviews. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
I Heard You Listening (2015, digipack) is the new Echolyn studio CD, their first in three years. We’ve been Echolyn fans from the early days -- seeing them in small clubs at the time of their first CD, attending the release party for Suffocating the Bloom -- so their early material is hard to displace as our favorite. Echolyn say that for I Heard You Listening, they went back to their musical roots and resurrected the original sound that made them famous, now with better production values, writing, vocal melodies, and musicianship. We couldn’t be happier! Listen to Different Days and watch the interview video. See our U.S. page for the rest of the Echolyn catalog. Collect them all!
This is the 2015 second CD (digipack) for Swedish prog band Agusa, following their 2014 debut Högtid. Their sound is straight out of the early 1970s, a mostly-instrumental, organic, psychedelic-flavored style of prog, with Hammond organ as the sole keyboard. For this second album, which consists of just two long tracks, they added a flute player. The music is in the Kebnekajse, Bo Hansson, and Flasket Brinner veins. Read The Obelisk review where you can also listen to the entire 20+ minute first track.
Italian Stefano Panunzi is a key figure in that ambient & jazz inflected prog subgenre that may not yet have a name but can count musicians such as Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison, Tim Bowness (not to mention Henry Fool and No-Man), David Sylvian, and the late Mick Karn among its other leading lights. Panunzi is leader of the band Fjieri, who debuted in 2009 with Endless. All those musicians apart from Sylvian played on that album, alongside quite a few others. Words Are All We Have (2015, digipack) is Fjieri’s second, another Anglo-Italian project, the participants this time including Fjieri core member Nicola Lori, Bowness, Harrison, 05Ric, Jakko M. Jakszyk, Daniele Iacono (Ezra Winston), American expat trumpeter Mike Applebaum, and several others. Lori’s twisting fretless bass is a worthy successor to Mick Karn’s. Most of the songs have vocals, sung by Jakszyk except one by Bowness, and they are quality songs. Imagine the band Japan (at the end of their career) extrapolated into even more progressive realms, merging with King Crimson, No-Man, and the solo work of all these great musicians. Watch the album trailer.
The CDs Stefano Panunzi has released under his own name are quite similar to the Fjieri CDs. A Rose (2010, digipack) is his second and features Mick Karn, Tim Bowness, Giancarlo Erra (Nosound), Theo Travis, Markus Reuter, Robbie Aceto, and many more musicians. It downplays the ambient jazz of Panunzi’s first CD and features more songs: seven songs using seven different singers, plus three instrumentals. The production is immaculate, the music mesmerizing and seductive; this is a masterpiece of ambient progressive rock. Read the Prognaut and DPRP reviews.
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Englishman Peter Jones, who has a background writing and performing adult contemporary music but went full-on prog with Cocoon (2014, 69-minutes), released on Rob Reed’s White Knight label. Well, most of our customers are adults and many of them are contemporary, so maybe this still is adult contemporary music. Jones cites his influences as (from the classic side) Genesis, Steve Hackett, and Queen, and (from the modern side) Frost, Big Big Train, and Haken, also Roine Stolt (who Jones may not have heard until recently, but as Stolt was a founding member of Kaipa, he can straddle both camps). The artist name is itself an allusion to Steve Hackett. If you have the love we do for Genesis and English whimsy, this album will make you drop what you’re doing and just listen and smile. This is the best release so far on White Knight. Read the Progarchy review.
What could be better than the best recent new prog artist turning out a fantastic second CD in a short time? Story Tellers Part One (2015, digisleeve) is just that. That Pete Jones wrote and recorded this new album in 28 days (because there wasn’t much else to do during February) indicates a singular talent at work. Pete lost his sight as an infant to Retinoblastoma, making his story quite amazing and inspiring. “Peter Jones has delivered what is, to my ears, an album that is even better than the delights of Cocoon. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm, and allure of Story Tellers Part One. It takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood. Peter is one of the pre-eminent songwriters out there today and has given us a little piece of wonder to enjoy.” Read the full Progradar review. Watch the videos for Beauty Falls and The Quest for Beauty.
The Singles Complete (2015, digisleeve) is a 2CD set containing 24 tracks and over 120 minutes of Magenta material. Included for the first time on CD are Magenta’s versions of the Yes song Wonderous Stories and the ELP classic Lucky Man. This collection includes some brand new remixes, alternate arrangements, and extended versions of classic Magenta songs. This 2CD replaces and supersedes the out-of-print 2007 single CD entitled The Singles, though that first edition contains a couple tracks that don’t appear on this 2CD. You may still find a copy of the original at a big discount on our British page, along with the rest of the Magenta catalog. The songs on that first edition were drawn from Magenta’s four previous EP/singles, but most of them appeared in new re-recorded versions, and none had previously been available on a full-length CD. So this 2CD adds the songs from Magenta’s two post-2007 EPs plus the aforementioned new mixes and such.
New Jersey prog band 3rdegree first appeared with a 1993 cassette release, followed by their first CD in 1996. They disbanded in 1997 but reformed more recently. Ones and Zeros Volume 1 (2015, digisleeve) is 3rdegree’s first full-fledged concept album, released in time for the band’s first-ever European tour beginning in September 2015, culminating with an appearance at the UK Summer’s End festival. With Ones and Zeros Volume 1, 3rdegree have taken the next step beyond their 2012 album The Long Division (digisleeve), itself a great album that exceeds 3rdegree’s earlier work. The music is drawn from 1970s influences such as City Boy, Genesis, Crack the Sky, Greenslade, and Utopia. It belongs in the same camp as Echolyn and IZZ and is on the same level. There are touches of jazz here and there as was common during the 70s, and 3rdegree really honed their vocal arrangements, which include those high-pitched harmony vocals that were outlawed after the 70s. The recording and arrangements follow the aesthetic of leaving space in the mix such that listening to the music is actually pleasurable rather than fatiguing. 3rdegree have come a long way from their beginnings and are now firmly among the top few U.S. prog bands, and vocally they are doing things that none of the others are. If you haven’t got on board with 3rdegree yet, it is time. Read the Progarchy and Prog Archives reviews of Ones and Zeros Volume 1. Watch the video for The Best & Brightest.
Narrow-Caster (2008, digisleeve) is a contemporary-sounding prog rock record, with some similarities to Echolyn or IZZ. While lead singer George Dobbs has a voice that reminds us of Dave Lawson of Greenslade (though Dobbs is a better singer), 3rdegree’s greatest strength may be their Yes-like harmony vocals. The result is sometimes similar to the band Ring of Myth -- 3rdegree use more keyboards and are more melodic but lack the Howe-like guitar. Read reviews at DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, USA Progressive Music, and Rock Report.
Human Interest Story (1996, 72-minutes) is also an excellent album of Ameri-prog, sounding like a cross between Rush and Echolyn. This is the last of the original jewel case edition.
3rdegree played their first live shows in over ten years at the New Jersey Proghouse in 2007. The Reunion Concerts double DVD (NTSC, all-region, digisleeve) contains 3rdegree’s traditional electric show plus an unplugged show. The show was recorded in 1080i HD (downres’d for the DVD). The discs are DVD-Rs. Included are five songs that do not appear on any other CD or DVD plus covers of Gentle Giant’s Peel the Paint and Sarah McLachlan’s Elsewhere. Bonuses include behind-the-scenes and interview footage.
Hailing from the northeastern U.S., Zen Carnival debuted in 1999 with Inheritance, instantly-likeable 1970s-style prog in a Genesis/Camel direction. Zen Carnival’s second CD Bardo (67-minutes) is a much more mature and original work, and one of the best modern prog albums of 2006. While Inheritance was a more traditional progressive rock album, Bardo took a step in the direction of Porcupine Tree, and sounds quite contemporary. There is a suggestion of later Marillion, which has a lot to do with singer Ken Pfeifer’s voice, but there is also that sensuousness. There is also a jazzy ambience at times, overall a greater breadth than on their debut, with fewer stylistic limits. The constants are the excellent songwriting, the rich sound palette, and the exciting instrumental excursions. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews.
Writing for Lucid Dreamer (2015, digipack) commenced shortly after Bardo was released, and recording began in 2010. So though a long time has passed, Lucid Dreamer picks up where Bardo left off, carving out territory not too far from IZZ. The fusion-y instrumental work that appears in many songs is one of Zen Carnival’s trademarks, as they deftly incorporate it into a set of art-rock songs. A proggier Sting or Steely Dan may come to mind. The great instrumental Medieval Suite could be Dixie Dregs (minus the bluegrass), while Lullaby is the song that comes closest to later Marillion, with Ken Pfeifer sounding similar to Steve Hogarth here. If there is such a thing as adult contemporary prog, Lucid Dreamer should reach the top of that chart.
With their 2009 self-titled double-CD debut, IOEarth became one of the most talked-about new British progressive rock bands. IOEarth are not just another melodic rock band in symphonic clothing. This is an astounding debut: expansive, cinematic, eclectic, and technologically current (which progressive rock originally was but today more often is not). The music is heavily instrumental while featuring two female vocalists on several tracks and Steve Balsamo (ChimpanA) singing on three.
While the IOEarth debut was the work of Dave Cureton & Adam Gough plus several guests, they needed to assemble a band for live performances. Thus Moments (2012, 62-minutes, digipack) sees three of those guests promoted to full members and another musician added such that IOEarth is a sextet here, with guests on trumpet, spoken word, and percussion. Among the promotions is singer Claire Malin, who has a larger presence here. There are somewhat more vocals on Moments, and on the vocal tracks, the album can feel closer to the current progressive rock mainstream. But with the samples, the genre-bending, the expansive arrangements and detailed atmospheres, there is no mistaking IOEarth for another band. “IOEarth have delivered a progressive masterwork, clearly demonstrating significant artistic growth from their debut. Clearly one of the most rapidly emerging progressive bands of this decade, these musicians are sure to broaden their following with Moments. Bravo!” Read the full Musical Discoveries review and the Prog Archives reviews.
Live in the USA (digipack) is the recording of IOEarth’s performance at RoSfest 2012. It contains 11 tracks drawn from both previous studio albums. Read reviews of all the IOEarth CDs.
IOEarth returned in 2015 with another ambitious double-CD studio album: New World (digipack). The supporting cast to Cureton & Gough has been shuffled a bit, with a new singer and drummer and the addition of violin to the arsenal. We think the first album, when IOEarth was purely a studio project, may remain their most unique. Each subsequent album pushes IOEarth closer to the prog mainstream, slightly heavier, more bombastic, and a reflection of their experience as a live act, all the while increasing their popularity. Yet their distinctiveness persists as they manage great variety and stitch it all together into music that no one else is making. “A band which has always impressed and excelled in the live arena, but which for me hasn’t quite captured that spark on record. This new double album, their third, puts all of that to right, and manages to match its ambition with delivery. There is so much variety on this disc, it’s impossible to categorise, but the ethereal cinematic, new age, and mid-eastern influences give it a truly distinctive sound, as do the heavenly vocals of Linda Odinsen and the judicious use of sax, flute, and violin. New World is an album that all fans of progressive music should listen to.” [Something for the Weekend] Watch the official video for the title track. Note IOEarth are booked to play the 2015 Cruise to the Edge with Yes and others.
City Boy were an English progressive pop or art-rock band along the lines of 10cc, Stackridge, Be Bop Deluxe, Quantum Jump, early Queen, Supertramp, and ELO. They released seven LPs between 1975-1981. Like Supertramp, City Boy had two lead vocalists, one high-pitched and the other low-pitched. They added a third lead vocalist (also their new drummer) on their fourth album. Prior to their first LP, they had been a folk band, and this carries over slightly onto their self-titled 1975 debut, where there are some more acoustic-flavored tracks, especially the gorgeous Haymaking Time. This first album was City Boy’s best: it shows the strongest identification with progressive rock, and has a couple longer tracks that are outstanding, 5000 Years / Don’t Know Can’t Tell for one. Dinner at the Ritz (1976) displays a bit of the English music hall influence, as Queen did early on, and also includes excellent hard rocking songs (Queen were pretty good at that too). Peter Hammill and David Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator guest on the title track!
Beginning with Young Men Gone West (1977), the albums became less arty, more a set of quirky and sophisticated rock/pop songs. Like every band operating during the late 1970s, pressure increased every year to produce hit singles and more commercial rock. In City Boy’s case, they were probably also pressured to make music insipid enough to break them in the USA. Book Early (1978) yielded the band’s first hit single, and while we’re sure there are a lot of pop fans who consider this album City Boy’s best, none of those people ever shop at this site. Well-known producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange produced the first five City Boy albums and was an adjunct member of the band.
The City Boy fan site has a good overview of their albums, actually taken from the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock.
The single CD of Young Men Gone West is the U.S. edition on Renaissance Records. The 2-in-1 double-CDs are the 2015 UK editions, which have been remastered from the original tapes and include new booklets with new sleeve notes. As a bonus, the City Boy / Dinner at the Ritz 2CD adds a 1975 BBC In Concert recording featuring live versions of five great tracks from the first album. The bonus tracks on the Young Men Gone West / Book Early 2CD are two non-LP tracks: Medicine and Turn On to Jesus.
Arne Schäfer is the leader, along with keyboardist Ekkehard Nahm, of the German band Versus X. Apogee is nominally the solo vehicle for Schäfer, where he handles keyboards, guitars, and vocals, always assisted by a drummer. In practice Apogee and Versus X sound pretty similar, but now with twice as many Apogee albums as Versus X albums, we’d say that the Apogee albums contain the better music. Schäfer’s vocal and lyric style resemble Peter Hammill’s, and while there is a strong Van der Graaf Generator influence, there is just as much Genesis as well as some King Crimson.
The eighth Apogee album The Art of Mind (2015, digipack) sees Apogee move to the Progressive Promotion label, who must be doing something right because a lot of top European prog talent has done the same. Watch the video teaser. “While long suites are a progressive rock trademark, some artists do it better than others. Apogee does a magnificent job with the orchestrations, arrangements, and transitions, delivering a notable work of symphonic progressive rock that takes you back to the classic years of the early and mid-1970s.” Read the full Progressive Rock Central review. See our German page for the full Apogee catalog.
The Receiver is a new signing for the Kscope label, home of Steven Wilson and all things post-prog. The Receiver is an American duo whose music Kscope calls symphonic dream-prog. All Burn (2015, digipack) is the duo’s third album, after two on other labels. The music fits the Kscope aesthetic and is overflowing with tremendous melodies and symphonic/synthetic textures. This is what pop music should sound like in 2015 in an ideal world, though the really proggy bits ensure that that alternate reality will never intersect this one.
In Vaults (2015) is the third studio album for Chicago prog band District 97. Read the Prog Metal Zone review. See our U.S. page for more District 97 CDs and more info on the band.
Please Come Home (2015) is the debut CD for Lonely Robot, the project of songwriter/guitarist/vocalist/producer John Mitchell (Kino, It Bites, Frost, Arena). Mitchell is backed by Nick Beggs (Lifesigns, Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Iona,... ) on bass and Craig Blundell (Pendragon, Frost) on drums. Steve Hogarth (Marillion) performs on two songs on piano and backing vocals. Touchstone’s Kim Seviour sings on one track. Heather Findlay (ex- Mostly Autumn) sings a duet on one track, in more of a Kate Bush style than her usual delivery, while Peter Cox (Go West, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) sings on another track. Nik Kershaw contributes a guitar solo to one track, and keyboardist Jem Godfrey (Frost) plays on two tracks. English actor Lee Ingleby (Master & Commander, Harry Potter) provides some narration to link tracks together. This comes closest to Kino and Frost and will certainly be one of the top modern prog albums of the year. Watch the album teaser and the videos for Are We Copies? and God vs. Man. This is the U.S. edition, which comes in a jewel case and includes the same three bonus tracks as the European special edition. The three bonus tracks are alternate mixes of album tracks.
No points for guessing that Belgian band Neo-Prophet are a neo-prog band, but they are an uncommonly good one. They debuted in 2009 with Monsters, and there were Marillion-isms to be sure (the words misplaced childhood even appear in the lyrics), but Neo-Prophet are not simply Marillion/Arena imitators. They add touches of hard rock, while loads of symphonic keyboards maintain the guitars/keys balance.
The major change on T.I.M.E. (2015, digipack) is that the hyphen in the band name is gone. That and the fact that only bandleader/singer/bassist Hans Six remains from the previous lineup. The new guitarist and new keyboardist are both on loan from Quantum Fantay! Otherwise not too much has changed. The music is at times heavier and more bombastic, the album alternating between heavier, slightly metallic prog and more pure melodic/symphonic prog. Which is how it is for most neo-prog circa 2015, and neo-prog fans will likely be thrilled with T.I.M.E. Frank van Bogaert (Fish on Friday) mixed and mastered. Watch the sneak preview video.
Kaipa were the top first-generation Swedish prog band, featuring guitarist Roine Stolt, who would later form The Flower Kings, and keyboardist Hans Lundin, who would reboot Kaipa in 2002. Kaipa sing in Swedish on these albums, while both The Flower Kings and the second incarnation of Kaipa switched to English-language vocals. Relative to The Flower Kings, Kaipa’s music is more purely Swedish, their symphonic rock colored by the centuries-old Swedish choral and folk music traditions. The self-titled first album (1975) and Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976) are for us the best albums to have come out of Sweden (along with Atlas - Blĺ Vardag). By now a lot of prog fans will have discovered the later bands first and need to work their way backwards to these albums. Prog fans old enough to have listened in chronological order or who simply have a 1970s orientation (and have not limited themselves to albums sung in English) may consider the 1970s Kaipa albums superior.
These are the 2015 editions on the Tempus Fugit label. The audio was remastered in January 2015. The first album has two bonus tracks, while Inget Nytt Under Solen has four. Last we knew, Tempus Fugit intends to also reissue Kaipa’s Solo (1978), Händer (1980), and Nattdjurstid (1982) on CD. Interestingly, three of the four original members (all except Hans Lundin) are touring in 2015 as Kaipa Da Capo, playing the original Kaipa music. Fleshing out the band are Roine’s brother Michael Stolt on lead vocals, and keyboardist Max Lorentz. See our Scandinavian page for the later Kaipa CDs.
The Black Codex is the most ambitious project yet for Dutchman Christiaan Bruin, who has a number of excellent prog CDs under the Chris name (that you ought to hear) and is also a member of the bands Sky Architect, Nine Stones Close, and a couple others. The Black Codex is based on an original story of Bruin’s. The series was first released as downloads by subscription, 52 “episodes” over a period of 52 weeks throughout 2014. The series is now available on four double-CDs, packaged in mini-LP style sleeves. You can hear excerpts from each episode at The Black Codex website. The music is a very cinematic, epic, orchestral progressive rock, using vocals on some episodes, not only a unique concept but rather unique musically too, and very impressive. That this music is different from Bruin’s other projects (and that his other albums are all different from each other) and yet still very much progressive rock speaks to the man’s creativity and range. Watch the series trailer and listen to A Dot on the Horizon and Silhouette in the Window on YouTube.
Remembrance (2015, digipack) is the third album for Maiden uniteD, an all-star project whose charter is to rearrange and perform Iron Maiden songs using mainly acoustic instrumentation. (Are they counting Hammond organ as an acoustic instrument? Because there’s a lot of Hammond.) Forget about that, this is symphonic prog. This is not some sort of unplugged, small, mellow music. There are bass and drums, and this is often big, dramatic, bombastic, and symphonic. You absolutely do not need to be an Iron Maiden fan to appreciate this. The 13 musicians include founder Joey Bruers, Damian Wilson as primary vocalist, Ruud Jolie and Mike Coolen (Within Temptation), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), and other established musicians. Watch the album trailer and all will become clear, also listen to Still Life ’15, which features violin from Marcela Bovio, and Aces High.
Obsidian Desert (2015, digipack) is the debut by Dutch prog/prog-metal quintet Armed Cloud. On the metal side, their major influences are Queensryche and Fates Warning, and as they’re Dutch, it’s hard not to think of Ayreon. The mp3 icon above leads to the band’s website and all the info. “With Obsidian Desert, Armed Cloud has released the perfect album that will help them climb the ladder of progressive rock music. As a statement, they show what they are capable of and are ready to participate on the highest level of the Dutch progressive rock scene.” Read the full Background Magazine review.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarq’s comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarq’s career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarq’s Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
The double-CD Origins is an anthology covering 1992-2014. The upper year in that range is because this set contains one new song. Since the four studio and two live Landmarq CDs on the Cyclops label have been out-of-print for years, Origins is not superfluous as most anthologies are. Disc One (73-minutes) is titled The Tracy Years, while Disc Two (74-minutes) is titled The Damian Years. Damian Wilson was Landmarq’s singer on their first three studio albums (1991-1995), after which Tracy Hitchings took over. Landmarq’s 1990s CDs are recommended to fans of Pendragon and Clive Nolan’s various projects of that era.
Roadskill (2015) is a live CD and DVD (NTSC, all-region) recorded during Landmarq’s 2013 tour at De Boerderij in the Netherlands. The DVD features two additional songs that couldn’t fit on the 78-minute CD, plus interviews with the band.
This is the 2015 Esoteric remastered and expanded edition of this oft-issued (occasionally even on legitimate labels) album. Spring’s 1971 album is a classic of British progressive rock, or at least proto-prog. The album owes its status to the heavy use of Mellotron. Strip the Mellotron out of the mix and what remains is about as progressive as The Moody Blues, nonetheless possessing the charm of the place and time in which it was made. Slather on the Mellotron and there you have it. Esoteric have newly remastered the album from the original master tapes, then added a second disc containing 12 bonus tracks from 1971. These tracks were intended for a second, unreleased album, and Esoteric state that these tracks are released officially for the first time. Note many of these tracks appeared on the Second Harvest CD released several years earlier on the Italian Akarma label. You can draw your own conclusion about the legitimacy of that Akarma release and whether it used the original tapes. The booklet features fully-restored artwork, previously unseen photographs, and a new essay. Read the AllMusic review.
Box of Shamans is a new Los Angeles prog band closely related to Heliopolis. Box of Shamans are led by multi-instrumentist Michael Matier (Heliopolis, Ten Jinn), with singer Scott Jones (Heliopolis); the two have been writing together for many years. Drummer Jerry Beller (Heliopolis, Mars Hollow) joins them for their debut Belief and Illusion (2015, digipack). As you might expect from members of Heliopolis and Mars Hollow, the music comes closest to Yes, but with a distinct style. It balances complexity and accessibility, angularity and melody. It is an extrapolation of 1970s progressive rock that does not follow the paths of neo-prog, metal-prog, or other problematic paths prog has since gone down. Or as we wrote about the Blue Shift album that preceded this by a couple months, it sure is good to hear the real thing now and again. We’d file this alongside Perfect Beings, if only to demonstrate how Los Angeles currently leads the Yes division of progressive rock. Read the Progradar review.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998, then nothing until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. This album will get the blood of neo-prog fans pumping. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance. Read reviews at Prog Archives, The Progressive Aspect, DPRP, and Get Your Rock Out. Note Trip the Life Fantastic apparently first appeared as a CD-R, but this new pressing is a CD.
OVNI is El Salvador’s top (well, only) progressive rock band. Their name is the Spanish acronym equivalent to UFO. Humans But Not Terrestrials (2004), also known as Humanos Pero No Terrestres, featured a new lineup for OVNI and was a huge step forward for the band. This 79-minute sci-fi concept album is sung mostly in English, with a few songs in Spanish. OVNI come closest to Yes on this album, though that’s only an approximation. The songs sung in Spanish tend to have a slightly different feel, sometimes suggesting Italian progressive rock, and some of it could probably be called neo-prog. One might spot ELP, Jethro Tull, or Pink Floyd here and there, but OVNI have their own melodic prog style. There are some epic statements here, the longest track a 23-minute suite. The usual keys/guitar/bass/drums instrumentation is augmented by mandolin, flute, and various South American stringed things. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The True Purposes of God / Los Verdaderos Propósitos de Dios (2006) is a 74-minute concept album which is also sung in both English and Spanish, with the majority in English. The description of Humans But Not Terrestrials also applies here, though this album seems to emphasize the pop side of OVNI’s songwriting a bit more, an aspect of the band that has been present from the beginning. OVNI’s melodies tend to sound more British than those of other Latin American prog bands, from a Beatles influence on some tracks to a 1980s neo-prog influence on others. Another very good album. Watch the videos for Friendship?, Against Nada, and ElectroElle y RockyKate.
Salvadoreńo / Alien is OVNI’s ambitious 2011 studio double-CD. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the videos for the title track, The Monseigneur, Himno Nacional de El Salvador, Traffic in San Sivar, and Un Nińo Tenaz.
Simple (2015) sees OVNI putting more emphasis on songs, which is something they’ve gotten very good at. The progressive elements, the excellent work on both guitar and keyboards, is obvious during the instrumental breaks and merely shifted out of the foreground during the verses and choruses. The songs are retro in the sense that they are upbeat, with none of the modern darkness, melancholy, and moaning about life. There is one instrumental, three songs sung in Spanish, and five in English. The Spanish-language songs bring to mind South American bands such as Os Mutantes and 14 Bis (even if those bands sing in Portuguese), or even some of the Italian pop-prog bands.
La Experiencia (2001) is a 72-minute live CD that includes concerts from 1987, 1989, and 2000. This is the first lineup of OVNI playing melodic symphonic prog with a standard guitar, keys, bass & drums lineup, plus vocals in Spanish. It’s prog all right, though there’s also a bit of an AOR feel, like a Spanish-language Asia. There are songs, the vocals are prominent, but there are also long tracks with plenty of instrumental work.
Samsara (1998, 60-minutes) is the debut for Numen, a five-piece Spanish band that present an effective amalgam of the Camel and Marillion styles, the latter felt particularly in the ringing, bell-like clean guitar tone that is one of Steve Rothery’s trademarks. Singer César Alcaraz delivers the English lyrics in a clear voice with only a slight accent. The occasional appearance of flute is most welcome. The tracks are generally long with a good balance of instrumental sections and vocals, and though this will be called neo-prog by most, it avoids those tendencies that can give neo a bad name. The only ethnic Spanish element is the use of some Spanish guitar, otherwise they sound British. Read this Prog Archives review. This is the remastered 2015 digipack edition on the MALS label.
Numenclature (2014, digipack, 62-minutes) is their second, and despite the passage of 16 years, the lineup remains the same. Watch the official video for The Camel’s Back and listen to Out of the Earth on YouTube.
Since they began in the mid-1980s, Ozric Tentacles have been the premier progressive psychedelic space-rock band. Technicians of the Sacred (2CD, 2015, digipack) is Ozric Tentacles’ first studio outing since 2011’s Paper Monkeys and their first double album since the classic Erpland in 1990. Listen to the album montage. See our British page for more Ozrics CDs.
Yes, this is the same U.S. band that released Not the Future I Ordered in 1997. The only lineup change on Levels of Undo (2015) is at singer, with Denise Chandler replacing Stewart Meredith. Meredith was a high tenor, so not much of a change, and as Yes remains Blue Shift’s primary influence, the vocals in Jon Anderson’s range work well. There is one track of solo jazz guitar and one track that sounds like Hawkwind. The rest, especially the two epic tracks, is 1970s style prog in the Yes vein with forays into ELP, King Crimson, and fusion territory. For Yes fans, Drivetime (10:25) and the title track (20:41) are as good as anything you’re likely to hear this year (or ever again from Yes). After listening to a lot of modern and neo-prog, it’s refreshing to hear the undiluted product again. Progressive rock is not a flavor nor cousin of metal or pop or alt-rock; ideally it stands above and apart with no mistaking the difference. If a reminder of that is needed, Levels of Undo should do it.
Minimum Vital are one of the very best second-generation French symphonic prog bands, and one of the few from their era still going. Pavanes (2CD, 2015, digipack) expands the style of their previous album Capitaines, which represented something of a return to the style of their 1990 album Sarabandes, emphasizing Minimum Vital’s singular form of medieval progressive rock. On Pavanes, Minimum Vital have created a unique fusion of progressive rock and folk, but the folk is mostly of their invention, a fanciful folk music from an imaginary time and place. Watch the official video for Javary & Montago and listen to Folkish on YouTube. See our French page for the other Minimum Vital CDs still in print.
Progression by Failure is the band of French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Piveteau, who is primarily a keyboardist. While Progression By Failure’s 2009 debut CD was a one-man project, Piveteau added a guitarist and drummer for Sonic Travelogue (2015, digipack). The improvement is significant, as Sonic Travelogue is a classic-style instrumental sympho-prog album displaying great range and sophistication. Listen to extracts from the album on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Percept From… (2013) is the debut CD by a Japanese band playing instrumental violin-led progressive rock with fusion aspects, perhaps inspired by KBB. No one does this style better than the Japanese now. Listen to the album montage on YouTube.
What Is Constant (2015) is their second, in the same style. Listen to Cloud 9 on YouTube.
Ad Hominem (2014) is the debut by a young Venezuelan prog quintet. It’s great to see new prog life in Venezuela, a country with a history of excellent progressive rock by Tempano, Vytas Brenner, Equilibrio Vital, Aditus, and others. We’re also glad Calle Santiago sing in their native tongue. Calle Santiago lean toward the harder-edged modern prog style but feature many classy elements that give their music distinctiveness. Listen to Resistencia and Libertad on YouTube.
Before Englishman Rhys Marsh moved to Norway, he’d formed his first band Mandala in London in 1997, playing guitar and singing, with Francis Booth (bass) and Will Spurling (drums) and, at times, a string section. They were together for nine years and played hundreds of concerts, though they never recorded an album. They got back together in 2014 to record their debut album Midnight Twilight (2015, digisleeve, 50-minutes), an album 18 years in the making. They chose ten songs from the more than 40 in their repertoire. The main tracks were recorded live in Marsh’s studio in Norway, with a few overdubs added. They then went to London to record their original string section (violin, cello) with the same recording engineer they’d worked with ten years earlier. There is much in common with the music Marsh would later develop under his own name using Norwegian musicians, and it is not far removed from the Anekdoten style. The music is on the melancholy and dark side, blending progressive rock with folk-noir (both western and eastern), retro-style psychedelic rock, and more. Marsh describes it as all being “wrapped in an early-seventies glow”. In addition to the real strings, Marsh adds a dollop of Mellotron strings. The 16-page booklet includes a brief history of Mandala and recording session photos. Watch the videos for Fire Is Mine and a live-in-studio performance of Sun (the first song Marsh ever wrote).
Transformation (2015) is the new and very long awaited studio album from FM, the Canadian progressive rock legends. The Esoteric label says: “With its roots firmly planted in late seventies progressive rock -- complex rhythms, driving bass lines, soaring melodies -- the music on Transformation is symphonic in scope with not one but two violinists on board.” FM co-founder/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins is joined by drummer Paul DeLong (Roger Hodgson), viola/mandolinist Edward Bernard on loan from Druckfarben, and violin virtuoso Aaron Solomon. Terry Brown (Rush) did the mixing.
It took until 2014, but here finally is the audio and video record of FM’s performance at NEARfest 2006. This CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) set comes in a digipack. The 12 tracks include six from Black Noise, three from Surveillance (all the best ones), one from City of Fear, and two new compositions. FM reformed and rehearsed for months for this show, and it showed as they were tight and polished. See our Canadian page for more FM CDs and more info on the band.
This is the 2015 3-disc edition of Anthony Phillips’ classic first album The Geese and the Ghost, which comes in a clamshell box. The Geese and the Ghost was released in 1977, but the recordings for it had begun several years earlier and are representative of the pastoral early Genesis sound. As most Genesis fans know, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins play on this album, with Phil singing on two tracks and Mike co-writing three. Among the many guest musicians are John Hackett and Jack Lancaster.
The big news here is the third disc, a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround as well as hi-res stereo! The surround options are MLP 5.1 (lossless), DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 (as you’d expect on any DVD-A). There is also MLP stereo and 24/48 LPCM stereo. The first CD contains the remastered album. Esoteric call it the ‘2014 remaster’ and state that this edition was “newly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth”. Heyworth and Andy Myles did the surround mix. So it would appear that this is a newer remaster than the 2008 Voiceprint edition. The second CD contains demos and alternate versions, plus two versions of Silver Song (sung by Phil Collins). It appears to be identical to the second disc in the Voiceprint edition with the addition of one more bonus track, the previously unreleased 1973 song Only Your Love featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford. The box also includes a poster (so you can see the detail in one of the best album covers ever) and a very extensive booklet with a new essay, all in all a really nice job by Esoteric. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Anthony Phillips CDs. (If you have no intention of listening to the surround or hi-res audio on the DVD-A, you may be better off with the less expensive Voiceprint 2CD.)
Toccata (2015, digipack) is a limited edition 2CD anthology covering the highlights of Sky’s recording career, taken from the newly-remastered Esoteric editions below. The track selection was approved by the band and includes one single B-side previously unreleased on CD. For Sky fans who have the other CDs, the highlight of this set may be the DVD (NTSC, all-region), which contains Sky’s entire 1979 performance in Bremen for the German TV show Musikladen, including five tracks omitted from the original TV broadcast and previously unreleased on DVD. The illustrated booklet contains an essay and interviews with Tristan Fry and Herbie Flowers. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Sky were an instrumental classical-rock band whose members included John Williams, often considered the best classical guitarist in the world at that time, keyboardist Francis Monkman (Curved Air), Australian guitarist Kevin Peek, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummer/percussionist Tristan Fry. Sky 1 (1979) reached #2 in the UK charts, rather unbelievable for a classical-rock album during the punk and new wave era. But then Sky 2 (1980) trumped that and reached #1. Sky 2 was originally a double-LP and is their best, with Sky 1 second. Read reviews of Sky 1 and Sky 2 at Prog Archives, where you’ll also find some mp3s.
These 2014 editions of Sky 1 and Sky 2 on Esoteric have been newly remastered, with original album artwork fully restored and a new essay. And they each add a DVD (NTSC, all-region). The Sky 1 CD includes the bonus tracks Dies Irae, the single version of March to the Scaffold (previously unreleased on CD), and a previously unreleased live version of Where Opposites Meet recorded by BBC Radio One at a charity concert at Wembley Arena in November 1979. The Sky 1 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1979 BBC TV appearances, seven tracks from five different shows, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. The Sky 2 DVD features all of Sky’s surviving 1980 BBC TV appearances, all previously unreleased on video or DVD. These include 12 tracks from Sky’s concert at Hammersmith Odeon in 1980 plus Sky’s performance of Toccata on Top of the Pops in April 1980. Note some earlier CD editions of Sky 2 omitted two tracks, but this Esoteric edition omits nothing.
Francis Monkman then departed, replaced by Steve Gray. Monkman was the best composer the band had though, and no subsequent album reached the quality of the first two. Still, the band had a lot of momentum, and Sky 3 (1981) reached #8 on the UK charts, while Sky 4: Forthcoming (1982) reached #7. That would be the last studio album to chart in the UK, though the double-LP Sky Five Live (1983) would reach #24. Successful tours of the UK, Europe, Australia, and Japan followed the release of Sky 3 and Sky 4.
As with Esoteric’s reissues of Sky 1 and Sky 2, these 2015 editions of Sky 3 and Sky 4 on Esoteric feature the original albums newly remastered on the CD, and each includes a DVD (NTSC, all-region). Sky 3’s DVD features Sky’s memorable concert at Westminster Abbey in London from February 1981, which was recorded and broadcast by BBC Television and later released on VHS and Laserdisc. This is its first time on DVD. Sky 4’s DVD features Sky’s live set for the BBC TV program Night Music, broadcast in July 1982. This is its first ever release in any format.
In 1982, this lineup embarked on an extensive tour of Australia. A mobile recording unit captured concerts in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, which were mixed at Abbey Road studios and released as Sky Five Live in January 1983. Unavailable for nearly twenty years, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered and adds the 20-minute piece The Animals, originally featured on the vinyl double-LP but omitted from the 1996 CD release. The Animals does not appear on any studio album, and there are more tracks that are exclusive to this album, so though it is recorded live, it really does qualify as the fifth Sky album. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay.
Sky’s sixth album Cadmium was released in 1983. Unavailable on CD for over two decades, this Esoteric reissue has been newly remastered, adds three bonus tracks to the CD, and also features a DVD (NTSC, all-region) of the previously-unreleased BBC TV recording of Sky at Drury Lane in December 1983, along with a performance of the piece Troika on the Val Doonican Show that same month. The original album artwork is fully restored and the booklet features a new essay. “The last album to feature John Williams, its pre-Christmas release was not only an attempt to capture the gift-buying market, but reflected the content of perhaps the most accomplished work the band had done since Francis Monkman’s departure. Opening with an interpretation of a Christmas classical music stalwart (including sleighbells!), with track titles like Mother Russia and A Girl in Winter, how can one not associate this with cold, wet nights (preferably snow instead of rain)? Most of Sky’s classical reworkings leave me cold, but Troika is one of the exceptions. Herbie offers his almost-contractual ‘silly’ piece in the shape of Telex from Peru, and the album’s quiet piece comes courtesy of a rare Fry composition, Then and Now. Eminently listenable, full of good tunes, and more occasions than most for the individuals to display prowess with their chosen instruments, not to mention a replacement for Hotta as the encore piece when playing live, the aptly-named Son of Hotta.” [Richard Sliwa, creator of the unofficial Sky site]
John Williams departed Sky in December 1983 and the band continued as a quartet, with Kevin Peek assuming a greater role. In 1985 they recorded the album The Great Balloon Race at studios in Australia and London, with several guest musicians adding some instruments not previously used by Sky (flute, pan pipes, sax, spoken word). This album gets overlooked because of where it falls on the Sky timeline, and because it had been out-of-print for a long time. In 1987 Sky recorded their final album Mozart (called The Mozart Album on its U.S. release, which also had a different cover). It saw Sky arrange Mozart compositions, and it features (heavily) the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (an English chamber orchestra) conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Both The Great Balloon Race and Mozart had been unavailable for over 20 years until these Esoteric reissues, which are newly remastered from the original master tapes, fully restore the original album artwork, and feature a new essay. (No DVD with these two, just a CD.)
This is the U.S. jewel case edition of The Tangent’s eighth album A Spark in the Aether (2015), which contains the same bonus track as the European edition. This CD is subtitled The Music That Died Alone - Volume Two, a reference to The Tangent’s debut album. Joining bandleader Andy Tillison this time are Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, and Luke Machin, all of whom have played on previous The Tangent albums, plus new drummer Morgan Ĺgren (Mats/Morgan band, Kaipa, Frank Zappa). Tillison says: “This is an album that seeks to return to the core of what The Tangent means to me… After our big orchestral opus that we delivered in Le Sacre du Travail, we’re to an extent reining in the instrumentation to the 5-piece electric prog rock band and focusing a little more on that all-important second word of the genre name: rock. At least (grins with less than average teeth) for the first half!” This time around, The Tangent incorporate American influences, ensuring A Spark in the Aether has something new to offer. “This will probably be my album of the year for 2015... It is not every day that you hear an album for the first time and realise you are listening to an absolute masterpiece of writing, playing, and production. In this case it happened, and on subsequent listens gets even better.” Read the full Background Magazine review, also the Progradar review. Watch the videos for the title track and San Francisco. See our British page for more The Tangent CDs, a DVD, and much more info.
The Gift of Anxiety (2013, digipack) is the first full-length album for Dutch prog band Sylvium, following a 2012 EP. While that EP was instrumental and more a solo project of guitarist and band leader Ben van Gastel, Sylvium are a proper band now, and The Gift of Anxiety has some quality vocals. Their bassist is Gijs Koopman, formerly of Cliffhanger and Knight Area. The music covers symphonic, neo-, heavy, ambient and Floydian prog and more, probably falling primarily in the Anathema / Porcupine Tree / Riverside camp. Watch the album trailer and the official video for Weathering.
Sylvium further develop their sound on their second CD, the concept album Waiting for the Noise (2015, digisleeve). Watch the album trailer and the official video for Signal to Noise. “I was suitably impressed by Sylvium’s debut album The Gift of Anxiety to say it was a brilliant progressive rock album, so how do you top that? You go one better with an album of exceptional songwriting and profoundly astute lyrics, where the musicianship is first-rate and the vocals become a definitive part of the story. There has been a lot of talk about how good Steven Wilson’s new release is, but for me, I think that this time David has slain Goliath. I doff my hat to Sylvium for producing one of this year’s most memorable albums so far.” Read the full Progradar review.
Everlasting Instant (2015) concludes IZZ’s three-part series of albums that began with The Darkened Room in 2009 and continued with 2012’s Crush of Night, “with a fresh palette of sounds all the while maintaining the sharp and memorable melodies that have become a hallmark of the band”. The band regards Everlasting Instant as the culmination of the musical themes presented on the two preceding albums: “Many of the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics on Everlasting Instant began as seeds on the two previous albums and have come to fruition on this release. Listeners will recognize these subtle variations on prior themes and will also be presented with an exciting new collection of musical ideas.” Watch the video for Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV. See our U.S. page for all the IZZ CDs and much more info.
Wolflight is Steve Hackett’s 2015 studio album, and Steve seems to be taking this progressive rock fad seriously, as this is his best record in a long time. He is joined by long time collaborators Roger King (keyboards, programming), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (sax, duduk), Nick Beggs (bass, Stick), and Amanda Lehmann (harmony vocals). Among the guests are Chris Squire and Hugo Dagenhardt. Read the Blogcritics review. Watch the videos for The Wheel’s Turning, Love Song to a Vampire, and the title track.
The jewel case edition contains just the CD. The digipack adds a Blu-ray containing the album in DTS Master Audio 5.1, 24/48 5.1 LPCM, and 24/48 stereo LPCM (all are lossless). The Blu-ray also contains two bonus tracks in 24/48 stereo, and interviews with Hackett. See our British page for more Steve Hackett CDs and our DVDs page for some Steve Hackett DVDs.
Aviator was a sort of second-tier British supergroup who released these two albums in 1979 and 1980. The band was formed by Jack Lancaster and Mick Rogers, joined by John G. Perry and Clive Bunker, with Robin Lumley producing. Lancaster is known for his Marscape and Peter and the Wolf albums with Robin Lumley and his Wild Connections album with Rick van der Linden. The second Aviator album Turbulence was recorded without Lancaster, but then Lancaster’s 1980 album Skinningrove Bay featured all of the Aviator lineup, so they must’ve still been getting along. Mick Rogers is best known as the singer/guitarist of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Clive Bunker is best known for his time as Jethro Tull’s drummer, and John G. Perry was in Caravan, Quantum Jump, Anthony Phillips’ band, and others. The self-titled first Aviator LP was not hard to find in the U.S., but Turbulence was. Both reflect the fact that, the band UK excepted, it was difficult to make progressive rock in the UK during those years, and so these two albums are a mix of jazz-tinged prog and more straightforward rock and pop-rock. Read reviews at Prog Archives and the GloryDazeMusic.com reviews of Turbulence and Aviator.
This 1989 album was the first of two released by Fire Merchants, a trio of John Goodsall (Brand X) on guitar, Chester Thompson (Genesis, Weather Report) on drums, and bassist/percussionist Doug Lunn. The music is rock-fusion, like a heavier, more aggressive and rock-oriented Brand X. This is the 2014 edition on Gonzo, which includes three bonus tracks.
Castle Canyon are an unknown early-1970s American instrumental progressive rock band. Two short tracks on Gods of 1973 (2009) actually were recorded in 1973-74. Four were composed in 1973-74 but not recorded until 2008, and three are new but sound consistent with the others. There is some guitar, but this is keyboard-dominated symphonic prog using vintage sounds. While ELP is the most frequently-heard influence and Trace is often a good reference point, the music ranges wider than that and is fairly original, including some excellent impressionistic soundscapes. Close your eyes and imagine it’s a lost classic from 1973, because in a way it is.
Criteria Obsession (2015, digipack) is the second Castle Canyon CD, again emphasizing 1970s-style vintage keyboard dominated prog instrumentals. The trio of keyboards, guitars, and drums has the assistance of different bass players on different tracks, and a guest saxophonist on one. There are two short ARP 2600 solo works recorded in 1974, while the band’s 1972 tour de force Criteria Obsession / The Mushroom Song (14:35) finally sees the light of day in 2015. (There are brief vocals on this track.) The 13-minute Disaster is a studio recording of a piece the band used to play live; it juxtaposes carefully composed elements with sections of wild abandon, showing a fusion side to Castle Canyon. Though you might never guess, My Lady Carey is a rock arrangement of one of the earliest surviving renaissance musical pieces. They just don’t make albums like this anymore.
Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts (2010) is the debut solo album for Magenta’s front-woman Christina Booth. Christina co-wrote all 10 tracks with Rob Reed, who also mixed and produced the album. Guests on the album include John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost), Steve Balsamo (The Storys, ChimpanA), Troy Donockley (ex-Iona), and Chris Fry (Magenta), with a remix of Deep Ocean by Jem Godfrey (Frost). Says Christina of the album: “Although it’s not Prog, it’s pretty varied and I hope that Magenta fans will find plenty to like. It’s certainly been a labour of love, and I really believe it’s the finest set of songs I’ve ever written.” Read the Musical Discoveries review.
Christina’s second CD The Light (2015, digisleeve) features contributions from Andy Tillison (The Tangent), John Mitchell, Theo Travis, Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost), Dan Nelson (Godsticks), and Magenta bandmates Chris Fry and Rob Reed. As on her first album, Christina worked closely with Rob developing the tracks, Christina coming up with the melodies and lyrics, Rob taking care of the arrangements as well as producing and mixing. The songs are linked lyrically, most inspired by Christina’s recent battle with breast cancer, with the natural melancholy of the music balanced by a sense of hope. Watch the video for Disappeared.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium). Sanctuary (2014, digisleeve) is a rather amazing work, as it is in essence an alternate-universe version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to right-thinking people everywhere one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. (If the current generation of prog fans sometimes seems clueless about Mike Oldfield in general, there is this perspective: Oldfield is one of only four individual artists to whom Paul Stump devotes a section of his The Music’s All That Matters book, the others being Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, and Anthony Phillips. The others owe much of their renown to the bands they were in.) Reed even secured the collaboration of Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (who co-produced) and Simon Heyworth (who mastered Sanctuary) after receiving their seal of approval. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains the album in 24/96 stereo and DTS 5.1 surround for maximum bliss, plus the promo videos. Watch the videos for Sanctuary Part 1 and Sanctuary Part 2 (excerpt), the latter a great piece of comedy with a special guest star, and you should find a few more of the promo videos nearby.
Willow’s Song (2015) is an 11-track CD with a playing time of 35:29 containing material recorded for Sanctuary but omitted. The centerpieces are two vocal tracks featuring singer Angharad Brinn that were left off so as not to disrupt the feel of the all-instrumental Sanctuary. If you’ve seen the movie The Wicker Man (the 1973 original), then you can’t forget Willow’s Song, a haunting psych-folk song (which is accompanied by Britt Ekland dancing naked.) Reed does a great rendition of this song, which you can hear in Reed’s video to accompany it. The second vocal song is a brilliant version of the traditional Scarborough Fair, given the full Mike Oldfield treatment, transforming it into majestic prog. Willow’s Song is repeated in an extended version, while Scarborough Fair is repeated in an instrumental version. There are two very Oldfield-esque instrumental pieces not used on Sanctuary, while the remaining songs are remixes and demo versions of parts of Sanctuary. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Though Nosound began as the solo studio project of Giancarlo Erra, they grew into five piece live band. In the summer of 2014, Nosound were invited to perform at an extraordinary festival: the Starmus Festival at the Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). It was here that Nosound recorded Teide 2390 (2015, mediabook with 24-page booklet), featuring songs from their entire career. (The ‘2390’ in the title is the altitude of the location in meters.) In addition to a 70-minute CD, this set includes a hybrid DVD-Audio/Video disc. DVD-Audio players will play the 5.1 surround 24/96 MLP lossless mix of the album. DVD-Video players can play the DTS 24/96 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround versions. The DVD also contains the stereo mix in 24/48 LPCM. In addition, there is a video featurette that includes the performances of several songs plus behind-the-scenes footage. Watch the video for I Miss the Ground. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for all the Nosound CDs and much more info.
The best orchestra in the world, recorded in the best studio in the world (Abbey Road), playing some of the best songs in the world. Guests include Thijs Van Leer (Focus), Richard Harvey (Gryphon), Patrick Moraz, Ian Bairnson (The Alan Parsons Project), Gavin Harrison, Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson band), and the late Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboardist of Three Dog Night). The tracks: ELP Suite: Tarkus / From the Beginning / Tarkus (reprise), Comfortably Numb, Thick as a Brick, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Focus II, Nights in White Satin, Think of Me With Kindness, Roundabout, Watcher of the Skies, Red Barchetta. If your favorite song did not make the cut, lobby hard for a Volume 2. Watch the educational/motivational video.
The Gentle Storm is a collaboration between mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and vocalist/lyricist Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering). It’s a given that this is an epic concept album. The interesting aspect of The Diary (2015, digipack) is that the two CDs in this set feature two contrasting interpretations of the same songs, with disc 1 ‘Gentle’ containing the “acoustic/folk” arrangements and disc 2 ‘Storm’ containing “a full-on metal assault”. Of course the latter is as much symphonic prog as it is metal. Watch the official videos for Shores of India and Heart of Amsterdam and listen to the Gentle version of Shores of India.
Glacier are a prog band from Durham, England who have been around in one form or another since 1979. Their CD debut was Monument in 2001, essentially a compilation of older material. And it isn’t nearly as good as their second CD Ashes for the Monarch (2015, mini-LP sleeve). It’s safe to consider Glacier alongside Comedy of Errors, Abel Ganz, and Cyan, but Ashes for the Monarch is to a greater extent loaded with Genesis and Steve Hackett style symphonic splendor, some Yes influence as well. A guest on violin adds a Kansas or Solstice feel to some tracks, in particular the 11-part, 23-minute epic One Man Alone. This CD should be on the shopping list of any fan of melodic prog. It sounds very British, and is utterly free of metal or other impurities. “This is an album that should be enjoyed for what it is intended to be, a celebration of a genre that simply refuses to fade and as such represents an example of the highest calibre. For those seeking nostalgia with a contemporary twist, look no further. Glacier’s new work fourteen years in the making is a joy and well worth the wait. Traditional prog at its very best.” Read the full Progmeister and DPRP reviews.
This four track CD (20:11, slimline case) contains new versions of Steve Hackett’s anthem and signature track Spectral Mornings. The release is the brainchild of Magenta’s Rob Reed, who wanted to reimagine the instrumental track with its beautiful melody as a song. Rob asked Big Big Train’s David Longdon to write lyrics for the new version. Spectral Mornings 2015 features guitars by Steve Hackett, vocals by Longdon and Magenta’s Christina Booth, drums by Big Big Train’s Nick D’Virgilio, keyboards by Rob Reed, and bass from ever-in-demand Nick Beggs. Longdon also adds flute. The main version Spectral Mornings 2015 is followed by an acoustic version, an instrumental version, and the “Classic Mix”. The four versions are for the most part quite different from each other, not the usual alternate mixes but entirely different arrangements. For instance, the instrumental version features recorders played by Peter Jones, which combined with harp sounds from Reed opens the track in orchestral Celtic territory before the familiar soaring Hackett guitar enters and the song bursts into full-bandwidth splendor. Take one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and uplifting instrumental pieces ever written, add high-quality lyrics and two of the most recognizable voices in contemporary prog singing a male/female duet. Let cream-of-the-crop musicians add new elements and ideas in a spirit of complete respect. Get that Hackett guy to ensure the guitar is done properly. The result is pure bliss. The musicians are donating their profits to the Parkinson’s Society UK. Watch the video.
Dutch neo-prog quartet Nice Beaver debuted in 2002 with On Dry Land and expanded their style on Oregon (2004). For The Time It Takes (2015, digipack), Nice Beaver followed Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Trion over to the Polish Oskar label, not surprising given how intertwined these Dutch prog bands are. Nice Beaver take another step forward with this album, showing an even stronger kinship to Camel as well as to Rush and Marillion, with jazzy touches throughout. Listen to the album teaser and Rainbow’s End on YouTube.
Sylvan and RPWL are the leaders of the current German prog scene, both bands having been releasing CDs for about 15 years now, so it’s good to see them working together on the business end, as Sylvan’s 2015 studio album Home is released on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. The less expensive version is the standard jewel case edition. The limited edition has the same 78 minutes of audio but comes in elaborate mediabook packaging for not much more (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). Home is Sylvan’s first full-on concept album since Posthumous Silence. Epic in every sense, Home could unseat Posthumous Silence as the band’s meisterwerk. Watch the album preview video and the video for Shine; listen to In Between. See our German page for the rest of the Sylvan CDs.
Neil Campbell is an English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist. Like Oldfield and Hackett before him, Campbell is more interested in composing and creating than simply showcasing his guitar skills. Despite the varying band/artist name, these are all full-on progressive works featuring a full band lineup. There is some overlap in the musicians, but the albums are distinct from one another. Campbell has an outlet for his solo guitar work (you can find his solo CDs on his website), so these band CDs receive his progressive energies. Emergence (2015, digisleeve) is an uncommonly good instrumental prog album, on which Marty Snape (Bulbs) makes important contributions. Campbell employs wordless female voices here in a manner between Karda Estra and The Northettes. Combined with Campbell’s classical guitar and keyboard/electronic embellishments, these more relaxed pieces will have you floating blissfully downstream. That is until Campbell cuts loose with electric guitar while a tight rhythm section plays energetically in odd meters, sending energy up your spine. There is fusion, majestic symphonic prog, even Philip Glass style melody lines if you listen for them, just some of the best instrumental music being made. Listen to an mp3 of Morphogenic Fields. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On (2013, digipack) is the debut for Campbell’s band Bulbs, and it may have been the best instrumental prog album of that year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy, and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Read the Prog Archives reviews.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock. Read the Exposé review.
We would’ve stocked this British CD just for the band name, but it turns out to be an amazing album. It’s a homemade project that doesn’t sound homemade, but it does have the charm of an authentic, hand-knitted prog album. The music was written by father-son team Kevin and Bruce McDade, who play most of the instruments with help from a few others, while father Kevin wrote the lyrics. They did the smart thing in hiring drummer Gareth Roberts, a veteran of London’s West End, then recorded the drums and had the album mixed in a professional studio. The result is an excellent sounding production named Grak (2014, digipack). Paradoxically, it is familiar-sounding enough to make classic prog fans feel all warm and fuzzy, yet it’s also unlike anything you’ve heard before. There are influences of Genesis and Jethro Tull, among others. There are folk instruments including violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and bodhran (Irish heritage on display). There are synths and French horns and Mellotron, but there is also heavy guitar sprinkled throughout, and some crazy electronic beats. The 22-minute closer A Sense of Texture has a middle section of manic electronic beats (challenging Mike Oldfield’s Guilty for best prog dance bit), yet it never stops sounding like prog. The music can be quite complex (the 150 tracks of audio on A Sense of Texture crashed the studio’s Pro Tools system), and the mix engineer contributed this useful review quote: “This is flippin bonkers!”. But for all the complexity, there are songs here. If it seems as though modern prog bands are unable to write an actual chorus (you know, something that occurs more than once, makes you want to sing along, and sticks in your head after the music has stopped), Twombley Burwash will remind you how British bands of yore wrote choruses. The band says that the idea of the album was to take the listener on such an enjoyable and challenging journey that, at the end, you’d want to start all over. Sounds like the mission statement of the best prog bands. Read the DPRP review; they gave it 10 out of 10.
Things are heating up in Luxembourg, first TNNE and now Light Damage, who began as a Genesis and Pink Floyd cover band. Their Pink Floyd tribute was under the name Brain Damage. Now writing their own material, this 2015 digipack CD is the quintet’s debut. Light Damage’s sound has much of the old Marillion, or actually the continental European take on Fish-era Marillion that one hears in Clepsydra, early Sylvan, and others. And of course there is a Pink Floyd component as well. Read the Background Magazine review. Listen to The Supper of Cyprianus and Empty on YouTube and Heaven on SoundCloud.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music, using both rock and classical chamber instruments. Six of the eight tracks on their 12th(?) album Strange Relations (2015) were jointly composed by Karda Estra mastermind Richard Wileman and Paul Sears (The Muffins) and also feature Sears on drums. It looks as though this collaboration will continue in the future. As usual, many other musicians flesh out the unique Karda Estra sound. Listen to Strange Relations 5 on YouTube. “Karda Estra continue to revise and fine tune a sound that is expressive, angular, and uncommonly beautiful. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Wileman has chosen a path that eschews all of the common trappings of the rock idiom, perfecting a profile that lies midway between symphonic rock and a modern chamber sound, lushly orchestrated with violins, double-reeds, flute, clarinet, saxes, voice and more, in addition to Wileman’s guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, kalimba, and percussion... a seriously enjoyable listen that’s in a class of its own.” [Exposé] See our British page for many more Karda Estra CDs and much more info.
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