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See our DVDs page for new DVDs from Vangelis and Carl Palmer.
Cirrus Bay is led by American multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham. On Cirrus Bay’s 2008 debut The Slipping of a Day, Gillham is joined by a drummer/bassist, several singers (male and female), and two musicians providing tenor sax on two tracks. Gillham plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, mandolin, recorder, and percussion. Our opinion of Cirrus Bay’s first album changed completely about a third of the way through its 77 minutes, and that’s due to the fact the album was recorded in different sessions spanning a number of years. The first third of the CD contains a lot of pastoral, folky progressive, reflecting the fact that Cirrus Bay began as an acoustic duo. The CD then transforms into much more powerful, more instrumental symphonic prog. Gillham’s biggest influences are Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Jade Warrior, and Bo Hansson. We can state this confidently because it says as much in the booklet. (Among younger bands, he mentions a fondness for Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Watch.) There are tracks here that would have fit on Banks’ A Curious Feeling and have been the second-best track (after the song You, if you must know). Overall we’re reminded of Canadian Ken Baird.
The second Cirrus Bay CD A Step Into Elsewhere (2009, 55-minutes) is the CD they really wanted to make, a significant improvement over Slipping... and a cohesive musical statement. It’s female vocals only on this one, from two singers, and the easiest way to describe the album is a blend of Genesis circa Wind and Wuthering and Renaissance. Renaissance because the vocals are in an Annie Haslam style, and there is that breezy folkiness blended with classical piano. Genesis because Gillham is a musician who gets what Tony Banks does. It isn’t about how fast one can play scales, it’s about the chord progressions. There is plenty of electric and acoustic guitar in addition to keyboards, so it sounds closer to Genesis than a Tony Banks solo album, and there are influences of other progressive artists as well. Instrumentally, the appeal of this album is similar to the Willowglass albums, on top of which you get the beautiful vocals. “Had Genesis replaced Peter Gabriel with Annie Haslam instead of Phil Collins in 1975, the band might have sounded something like this. Cirrus Bay... so closely echoes the crisp prog sound of Wind and Wuthering-era Genesis it could double as a tribute band... Most tracks feature lush keyboard swells, delicate guitar-and-flute passages, strong soprano vocal melodies, tricky meter changes and classically-inspired instrumental breaks that would give Tony Banks and Steve Hackett a run for their money.” [Progression] Read the Prognaut review.
Whimsical Weather (2012, 62-minutes) picks up where A Step Into Elsewhere left off and further develops the Cirrus Bay style, essentially a combination of the breezy Renaissance style with beautiful female vocals and instrumental Genesis/Hackett style symphonic/pastoral prog. It’s a beautiful album with its soul in the early-to-mid 1970s, standing in stark contrast to the “sound and fury signifying nothing” of much modern music.
The Search for Joy (2014) features guest performances by Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thieves’ Kitchen, while classically-trained viola player Sarah Sanderson has signed on. Bill says the album has “more key changes than a drunken locksmith”. Listen to the track Learning to Fly on YouTube.
This CD was originally released in 2004 but has been out-of-print for years. The band are active again and nearing completion of a second album, so it made sense to re-release their debut Attack of the Martians. Behind the not-terribly-attractive cover lies a very good instrumental progressive rock album based around vintage analog keyboards (or samples thereof), especially Hammond and Mellotron, also Rhodes, clavinet, etc. Eccentric Orbit are a Massachusetts four-piece featuring keyboards, MIDI wind-controlled synths, bass, and drums and whose members have appeared on albums by Pye Fyte, A Triggering Myth, and two Gentle Giant tribute CDs. Some of the tracks on Attack of the Martians sport an ELP influence, while others suggest King Crimson, some of the Italian 1970s bands, and a bit of Happy the Man. It’s retro enough that it may fool people into thinking they’ve found a lost early-70s album. This 2014 edition comes in a jewel case and adds a 10-minute track, taking the total playing time to 56-minutes. The new song was written back in 2004 but only recorded recently by the current line-up. Listen to the tracks Star Power and Sputnik on YouTube. Read the Sea of Tranquility review of the first edition.
Darker (2014) is the second CD for Swiss prog band Dawn, who debuted in 2007 with Loneliness, an album that drew many comparisons to prime-period Genesis. From the press release: “Dawn formed in Montreux, Switzerland in 1996. Since then the band has performed at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival as well as prog rock festivals Progsol, Prog’Sud, and Montreux Prog Nights. The band has also opened for Kansas and Fish. After a series of lineup changes, the band began to focus on their sophomore release in 2010 and perform the songs in concert. Dawn’s music is riddled with vintage keyboard sounds and flowing guitar solos.” Listen to the album teaser.
The 2014 Ian Anderson album is a Jethro Tull album in all but name. As with Thick as a Brick 2, the billing is henceforth “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson”. If you’re curious about Ian’s reasoning for that, it’s explained in the booklet. Homo Erraticus continues the Gerald Bostock thing begun on Thick as a Brick and continued on Thick as a Brick 2. As Anderson says: “Bostock has returned once again to lyric writing,... and I have had the fun and frolics of setting all to music of folk-rock-metal stylings. But you can call it Prog.” Ian and his band will be playing the album in its entirety on their tours, followed of course by a selection of Tull classics. The standard edition CD comes in jewel box + slipcase, while the hardcover mediabook edition has a 32-page booklet and adds a DVD-V containing the DTS 5.1 surround mix (by Jakko Jakszyk), 24/48 LPCM (high-res) stereo, and a making-of video. Those fortunate enough to have heard Thick as a Brick on a decent surround system know there is no going back to 2-channel now. Mediabook counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Se Delan are a new signing for the Kscope label, a duo made up of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, leader of post-prog band Crippled Black Phoenix, and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, who previously recorded as Killing Mood. The Se Delan debut The Fall (2014, mediabook) sounds like a harder/heavier Cocteau Twins.
Philippe Luttun is a French musician whose main instrument is guitar, but he also plays keyboards, actually having learned piano first. He lists his main influences as Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Yes, Neal Morse, Pain of Salvation, Transatlantic, ELP, and Porcupine Tree. The Taste of Wormwood (2014, 67-minutes) is not Luttun’s first album; in fact he has quite a few dating back to 1996, independently released. But Wormwood came to Musea’s attention and they immediately picked it up. Subtitled Voices from Chernobyl, you now know the subject of this concept album. The mp3 icon above leads to Luttun’s YouTube videos for this CD, and you must have a look as there is a video for each of the eight tracks (some of which are very long). Particularly for an independent artist, this is really impressive as there is the equivalent of an entire movie there. The same obvious effort and professionalism that went into the videos also went into the music. This feels like a modern version of a concept album Pink Floyd might make if they were still active, though there are more styles at play than just Pink Floyd. It’s a dark masterpiece, and we don’t think Luttun can remain unknown now. “One can detect influences as diverse as Pink Floyd (for the great job on the sounds and atmospheres, the sampled saxophone and Gilmour-esque guitar), Pulsar’s Halloween for the more symphonic and desperate sections, the best Clearlight Symphony for crystalline flights of classical piano in weightlessness, and Liquid Tension Experiment for virtuoso aggressive parts. There are even a few electro/ambient sections as well as touches of Slavic folklore. But what is immediately striking is an incredible cinematic sense, tremendous energy and enthusiasm at all times... The contrast between quiet and explosive parts (often within the same song) gives this masterpiece an incredible power. A fabulous discovery!” [Clair & Obscur (translated from French, poorly)]
The self-titled Amenophis CD is Musea’s reissue of the 1983 debut LP by this German symphonic prog band, one of the best ever prog albums from Germany, a mostly-instrumental blend of Steve Hackett, Genesis, and Camel. Five bonus tracks recorded the same year have been added. This CD was released in 1992 but had been out-of-print for many years until Musea pressed more in 2014. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Amenophis added a female vocalist and released a second album in 1988 entitled You & I (currently out-of-print), which was somewhat of a disappointment relative to their debut, being more mainstream. After taking a quarter century to mull over their direction, Amenophis recorded a new album Time (2014), much of which was composed between 2011-2013, also containing some newly arranged and recorded, previously-unreleased songs that date to the late 1980s. And the good news is that Time is a return to form, with a commitment to longer, symphonic tracks. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the tracks You and Some Times on YouTube.
Classically trained at the University of Bologna in composition and piano, composer/arranger Alex Carpani continues the great Italian keyboard-centric prog rock tradition. On Waterline (2007, printed sleeve), his fluid and inventive keyboards are accompanied by an American rhythm section. Waterline is mostly instrumental but does feature Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme) on vocals and is between the Italian and British 1970s progressive rock styles. Dan Shapiro (Clearlight) and Ken Jaquess (K2, Atlantis) play bass, while Neil Bettencourt (Clearlight) plays drums. A number of guitarists contribute, among them Tony Spada (Holding Pattern). Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On The Sanctuary (2010, digipack), Carpani is assisted by two members of his live band: Ettore Salati on guitars and Fabiano Spiga on bass, while drums are handled by Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi (Mangala Vallis, Moongarden). Watch the album preview video. The cover art for the first two CDs is by Paul Whitehead. Read lots of reviews.
Alex Carpani’s live band is now his studio band too, and on 4 Destinies (2014, digipack) has one important additional member: David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) on saxes & flutes. The rest of the band is Alex on vocals & keyboards, Ettore Salati on guitars, Joe Sal additional vocals, GB Giorgi on bass, and Alessandro Di Caprio on drums. Cristiano Roversi produced and co-arranged. 4 Destinies has just four tracks averaging close to 14-minutes each. Watch the album trailer.
Yeah, we know, not the most enthralling band name, but for melodic prog fans who’ve gotten past the individual’s name bias and enjoyed the albums by, say, Sean Filkins or Lee Abraham, you’re going to enjoy this one too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Jeff Green was born in northern California to an American father and English mother, and now lives in Ireland after having spent years in England. Jeff had one earlier self-released CD, while Elder Creek (2014) is on the British Festival Music label, which has also released CDs by the aforementioned Sean Filkins and Lee Abraham. To further the association, Sean Filkins is responsible for the lead vocals on the title track. In fact, Elder Creek is loaded with British musicians. Other participants include drummer Pete Riley (Wetton & Downes Icon, Keith Emerson), keyboardist Mike Stobbie (Pallas, now works closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber), singer Alan Reed (ex-Pallas), guitarist Phil Hilborne (has played with Brian May, Glen Hughes, Keith Emerson, Steve Vai), and three others. Jeff Green plays all manner of guitars and guitar synth and provides both lead and backing vocals. It’s a wonderful melodic and lush prog album, with more classic prog/rock influences than either Abraham’s or Filkins’ albums. Camel, David Gilmour, Yes, and Big Big Train could all be mentioned. Watch the album promo video and the video for the instrumental Point Blunt Light. If you do that and listen to the clips on Soundcloud (mp3 icon above) and still won’t buy the album because you don’t like the band name, we give up.
If you haven’t heard of this Vermont-based band before, you would have eventually as they’re playing Rosfest 2014. Home Away from Home (2013, digipack) is the debut for Elephants of Scotland, a quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums, with the keyboardist on lead vocals and two others on backing vocals. They play symphonic prog with slight nods to ELP and Yes, but like many American prog bands, they eschew melodrama in favor of a more direct, Rush-like approach. Only on some tracks does the music actually resemble Rush, but as the keyboardist’s brother is in the Rush tribute band Blame Canada, it’s a genetic predisposition. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the video for the title track (the shortest song on the album).
Elephants of Scotland’s second CD Execute and Breathe (2014, digipack) arrives in time for Rosfest. This is all around a more powerful album, the natural result of the band’s greater experience in all facets of music creation and recording. “In sum, Execute and Breathe is a great sophomore release from a band who never stray from a songwriting mantra. They write prog with hooks and flavors, songs with loose thematic connections that can stand alone while still contributing to the whole. This is a solid album that will grow on you with subsequent listens.” [The Phantom Tollbooth]
Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Flaming Row is an international band project organized by German multi-instrumentalist Martin Schnella. His idea for the Flaming Row debut Elinoire (2011, 80-minutes) was to create a concept album with many different musicians, particularly singers, both male and female. Marek Arnold (keyboards, sax) of Toxic Smile and Seven Steps to the Green Door is one of the four core instrumentalists, while Elinoire has at least 17 singers and around 30 musicians total participating. Among those are Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman from Shadow Gallery (they play or sing on most of the songs), Billy Sherwood (Circa, Yes, World Trade), and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard). The results are impressive. The music is in the modern prog rock and prog-metal styles, so if that all sounds like Ayreon, then consider Flaming Row the German Ayreon, or as Music in Belgium described Elinoire in a very positive review, a cross between Ayreon and Caamora’s She. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the album trailer.
Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures (2014, digipack, 80-minutes) is the second Flaming Row CD. In addition to the Flaming Row core of Kiri Geile, Martin Schnella, Marek Arnold, and Niklas Kahl, participants include Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard, Enchant), three members of Shadow Gallery, Arjen A. Lucassen (Ayeron), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard), and members past or present of Seven Steps to the Green Door, Pain of Salvation, Haken, Neal Morse Band, Ayreon, and others. It’s a sci-fi concept album with ten singers taking on various roles or narrating. Again, Ayreon and Clive Nolan’s extravaganzas are the best reference points. Watch the official videos for the tracks Burning Sky and Aim L45.
Fromage are a Japanese band from the heyday of Japanese symphonic prog, the 1980s. Three members went on to form the band Cinema. Fromage have flute in the lineup in addition to female vocals, keys, guitars, bass, and drums. If you’re familiar with Magdalena, Marge Litch, Mizukagami, Pageant, Pale Acute Moon, Providence, Starless, Teru’s Symphonia, or Wappa Gappa (to name just a few), you know more or less what to expect from Fromage. These are the 2014 Musea editions of Ondine (1984) and Ophelia (1988). They have the same bonus tracks as the (much more expensive) Belle Antique CD editions, a 9:30 bonus track on Ondine and two long live bonus tracks on Ophelia. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Manning’s The Ragged Curtain was released in 2002 but had been out-of-print for years until this new edition, which adds a bonus live track and comes in a printed sleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping). The album is magnificent, ranging from intimate, heartfelt songs to Van der Graaf Generator-like intensity. Manning is at this point a full-fledged band with six members including ex-Parallel or 90 Degrees guitarist Gareth Harwood, plus guests Andy Tillison (The Tangent, Parallel or 90 Degrees) on keyboards and Angela Goldthorpe (Mostly Autumn) on flute and recorders. The music is full of Mellotron flute and strings, and culminates in the eight-part epic title track. The album was engineered and produced by John Spence, whose credits include Mostly Autumn and Castanarc.
Guy Manning and his band returned in 2013 with their 14th release in 14 years: The Root, the Leaf & the Bone. “So has Manning still got plenty to say? The answer, I think, is there for all to see and hear in The Root, The Leaf & The Bone – finely crafted and consistently original songs, intelligent and meaningful lyrics, and a keen ear for creating the right blend of instrumentation, mood, and sound. Many will argue that his 14th album is Guy Manning’s most pleasing and accomplished collection of songs yet, and I don’t think you’ll find me disagreeing too much with that view.” [Progressive Ears] Read the DPRP roundtable reviews and the Progarchy review. See our British page for the rest of the Manning catalog and much more info.
The self-titled CD is the 2011 debut CD (digipack) for Toronto’s Druckfarben, a superb band of accomplished musicians including American singer Phil Naro (who sounds like Jon Anderson) who’ve bonded over their mutual love of classic progressive rock. Their major influence is Yes (all periods), also ELP, Bruford, and others. Not to be too cynical, but it’s nice in this decade to hear a new band who can really play, who have songs, who have a real keyboardist, who don’t allow metal anywhere near their music, who aren’t terminally depressing, you know, the sorts of things that define progressive rock. Read reviews at Proggnosis, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives.
Druckfarben’s Artifact DVD (NTSC, all-region) is a recording of the first live performance of their entire debut album. It took place in 2012 at the Mod Club in Toronto and includes a cover of Yes’ Siberian Khatru. The DVD also contains a 25-minute documentary chronicling the history of the band, its working methods, and plans for the future. Read the Background Magazine review.
Second Sound (2014, digipack) is Druckfarben’s second studio CD, highlighted by the 19-minute title track that closes the album. Druckfarben sound even more self-assured here. Read the T-Mak World review.
When Lazuli first appeared on the scene more than ten years ago, Musea called them “the most promising new French band in years”. By now prog fans everywhere have figured out that Musea was right. Tant que l’herbe est grasse (2104, digipack) is Lazuli’s latest studio CD, which features Fish singing on one song. You can listen to the first song at least on Lazuli’s site. See our French page for all of Lazuli’s CDs and much more info, and see our DVDs page for Lazuli’s DVDs.
German band Shamall is one of the more closely-guarded secrets in progressive rock. If you’ll have a look at Prog Archives, you’ll see that there are Shamall albums stretching back to 1989. (You’ll want to visit Prog Archives anyway for reviews and ratings of these albums.) The early Shamall albums are apparently synth music, but after the start of the new millennium, the music turns to progressive rock. The albums offered here are the five most recent as well as the highest-rated: Turn Off (2CD, 2013, digipack), Is This Human Behavior (2CD, 2009, digipack), Questions of Life (2008, digipack), Ambiguous Points of View (2CD, 2006, digibook), and Who Do They Think They Are (2CD, 2003, jewel box). Ambiguous Points of View counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
We’re devoting most of this space to the latest album Turn Off, because that’s the one we’ve listened to. It seems that the major influence present on the Shamall albums has been Pink Floyd. But Turn Off sounds much closer to Eloy, themselves Pink Floyd influenced but quite distinct. Shamall doesn’t just sound a little like Eloy here -- if you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a new Eloy album. More specifically, it sounds like Eloy featuring special guest Edgar Froese. That’s one of the remarkable qualities of this album, how well Tangerine Dream style sequencers and synths are integrated into progressive rock. There are male and female vocals (in English), though the music is heavily instrumental. It turns out that Shamall is primarily the work of one man, Norbert Krueler, but you’d probably never guess. This is one amazing album, perhaps with slightly too narrow a style given its 150-minute length, but you won’t feel shortchanged on this or any of the other Shamall albums. Most are double-CDs, and each disc is nearly full. There is a lot of music here.
The self-titled 2010 digipack debut CD for female-fronted French prog band Delusion Squared is a 59-minute concept album sung in English. Through the early part of the CD, the impression is of an alt-rock band making a prog album, on a par with The Reasoning in terms of progressiveness. Partly this is because the vocals are often dry (little or no reverb), with that modern female vocal style that we like to call ‘slightly uninterested’. But one notices many elegant touches, how Delusion Squared leave more space in the mix and how both guitarist and keyboardist use their acoustic instruments more than their contemporaries. The album gets more progressive as it goes on, with the best material saved for last. The vocals become lusher and the metal-influenced guitar used on a couple early tracks vanishes, such that by the end it feels closer to Yes, Strawbs, or Renaissance than to contemporary bands.
“This is very Porcupine Tree,... the band settling into a steady groove with subtle variations of tones, textures and colours, and flourishes and embellishments rather than soloing... I found this a mesmerising listening experience, aural hypnotherapy, the trance only broken when the last track finished. This has the makings of a prog classic, 8.5/10” [Ravenheart Music]
“Take Porcupine Tree’s spacey elements as a base, augment them with a strong reliance upon clean acoustic guitar, then bind them all together with compellingly beautiful female vocals and you have a decent idea where neo-proggers Delusion Squared are coming from sonically. ...Delusion Squared ‘held back’ their very best material until last, for it is during the final trio of atmospheric, beautiful and compelling songs that they soar to their greatest heights, indelibly carving out such an infectious and unforgettable sonic presence that I find myself involuntarily, almost instinctively scrambling for the replay button each time the album draws to a close. [Progpositivity, Prog Archives] Read more reviews at Prog Archives and JerryLucky.com.
Delusion Squared II (2012, 60-minutes, digipack) follows a similar pattern in that the band get their more metal-tinged material out of the way early on, then the music becomes lusher and more elaborated, with more acoustic textures, more real symphonic rock. Unlike the first album, the listener doesn’t need to wait as long before the more refined stuff takes over the album. There are some official extracts on YouTube.
Delusion Squared complete the trilogy with The Final Delusion (2014, digipack). See the album mini-site for full info. Listen to the album preview.
RPWL’s 2014 album is available both as a standard CD and a limited edition that adds a DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix and one bonus track. Both editions are digipacks. RPWL’s music, like Steven Wilson’s, is well-suited to surround and should ideally be heard that way. Wanted sees the band continuing to expand their style, not simply rehashing what they’ve already done. Their core sound is intact, the lush, Floydian style with gorgeous choruses. The early tracks however feature extended instrumental breaks in which there is a strong classic prog and classic hard rock influence, with organ as the primary keyboard sound. Not the prettiest cover, but it’s part of the album’s concept, which you can read about on the band’s site. “RPWL have done it again; Wanted is a triumphant, confident statement that confirms just how good this band are.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Prog Sphere and Dangerdog reviews. See our German page for the rest of the RPWL catalog.
Demon (2014) is Gazpacho’s eighth studio album. This mediabook edition contains one bonus track. “...a captivating and intriguing album that is absolutely brilliant... Such experimentalism is proof that the Norwegian guys are really talented and deserve to be considered one of the best progressive rock bands on the scene today. Demon is an album that requires time and patience to be understood and will reward an open-minded audience. Play it in the dark to fully experience its great music.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review and the DPRP roundtable reviews (should keep you busy for a while). Watch the album trailer and the video for The Wizard of Altai Mountains. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho CDs.
KingBathmat are a British prog or alt-prog band that began with a cassette release in 1998. And they are a band that might restore one’s faith in the future of British progressive rock. Truth Button (2012) is something like their seventh album, not counting the cassettes. At present, the titles here are the only ones available on CD. KingBathmat are a modern prog band in that (on Truth Button at least) they rely a lot on grungy guitar, yet the vocals often feel like they’re from a much earlier era. The music is psychedelic in an early Porcupine Tree way, there are lush keyboards and gentle passages when KingBathmat want them, the arrangements are complex, and there is that quirkiness that many of the great UK prog bands have. Read the DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, and adequacy.net reviews. There’s an album montage on YouTube.
In contrast to Truth Button, which features long tracks, most of the songs on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival (2005) are relatively short. It begins with the songs that are more alt than prog, then a noticeable shift occurs with the track Sweet Iris, which has almost a pastoral Genesis feel. The rest of the CD is really proggy and really good, culminating in the fantastic 11:27 Soul Searching Song. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is not nearly as heavy as Truth Button, the grungy guitar much less prevalent. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Overcoming the Monster (2013) is the latest which, like Truth Button, features long tracks. “Kingbathmat are one of the most exciting bands that get labeled prog on the scene at the moment, and as this album proves, they are so much more than just a prog band. This is an album you need to listen to, on headphones, in one sitting, so you are immersed in its majesty. Faultless.” [Classic Rock Society] Read the PopMatters review and many more. See Prog Archives for reviews of all the KingBathmat albums. Watch the video for the song Sentinel.
The main force behind KingBathmat is John Bassett, who after seven KingBathmat albums is ready to do a Steven Wilson and step out under his own name with Unearth (2014). Bassett retains the services of a drummer while handling vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and Theremin himself. In many ways we like this album better than some of the KingBathmat output. Here there are a lot more acoustic textures, more heart energy, and none of the heavy or grungy guitar. Unearth lets Bassett’s songwriting shine like never before, with the dominant mood being melancholy, the songs lyrically dark but musically lush, uplifting, and life-affirming. “I’ve absolutely fallen in love with [Unearth], listening to it at what one might call an addictive level... If Kingbathmat ever released an album that combined the drive of Kingbathmat and the pauses and reflections of Unearth, the band would make an album that would not be just a great release of third-wave prog, but a worthy masterwork, an equal to the best of Genesis or Pink Floyd or Yes from the 1970s.” Read the full Progarchy review. Watch the album trailer video and the official video for Stay Away from the Dark.
Eve (2010) is the fourth studio album for Mary Jane, a band formed in Southampton, England in 1993. Mary Jane (who are related to the band Zaney Janey) are the current kings of progressive/psychedelic/electric folk-rock (or as they say, electrifying folk-rock), and by that we mean the style of Spriguns, Mellow Candle, and Spirogyra, and Eve is as good as any album by those bands. Except that with a playing time of 63-minutes, it’s as good as any two albums by those bands. Mary Jane have excellent female vocals, use lots of violin as well as flute, mandolin and recorders alongside electric & acoustic guitars, bass, and drums. About half the songs are traditional, half self-penned. One must mention Steeleye Span and Pentangle, though Mary Jane are proggier and have that psych-folk edge. This music brushes up against the folkier side of Renaissance and should appeal to many fans of Jethro Tull and Solstice. Watch YouTube videos of Eve, Twa Corbies, Clonakilty, and Let the Fire Begin.
Solstice (2014) is Mary Jane’s latest and is every bit as good as Eve. Be thankful a band making this music even exists in the present day.
Brigit’s Daughter is a 27-song double-CD compilation released in 2011, subtitled The Early Years 1996-2002. The tracks were chosen by the band and are drawn from the albums Hazy Days, Zaney Janey, The Gates of Silent Memory, Tacit (which contained live sessions), and To the Prettiest One, plus one previously unreleased track. The Mary Jane history may put these albums in some sort of perspective. Reviewers often compared Mary Jane’s earlier albums to those of the legendary band Trees.
Berlin school devotees, keep reading. Node is an electronic music supergroup of sorts whose first album appeared in 1995, but their day jobs have kept them busy in the interim. Node 2 (2014, 73-minutes) features three of the original members: maverick producer and sonic legend Flood, renowned producer and composer Ed Buller, and classically-trained doctor of music Dave Bessell. They are joined by new member, Hollywood composer Mel Wesson, who has most recently provided the soundscapes for Hans Zimmer’s film scores. This collective indulge their passion for all things analog, featuring what is quite possibly the largest collection of vintage analog equipment to have been assembled in a studio in recent times. Click the mp3 icon above for the full story and description. Read the Igloo Magazine review.
Sweden’s A.C.T play symphonic prog with the addition of strong pop songwriting along the lines of Queen, Kayak, Saga, City Boy, and early Split Enz. They marry English-style progressive and pop extremely well, with a lush, dense sound and plenty of complexity to go with a knack for catchy melodies. InsideOut reissued their first four CDs in 2006/2007 with bonus audio and/or video tracks and expanded booklets. Our stock of Silence (2006), Last Epic (2003), and Imaginary Friends (2001) is gone, but there is still a tiny number of Today’s Report (1999, 62-minutes) left.
After a wait of eight agonizing years, A.C.T released Circus Pandemonium (2014), which has more metal guitar but is otherwise similar. Watch the album teaser video and listen to the song A Truly Gifted Man on YouTube. Read the Stark Music Reviews review.
Supernatural Highways (2014, digipack) is the first new CD from Rocket Scientists since 2007. It is all-instrumental with a playing time of 30:13, dominated by the 26-minute, seven-part Traveler on the Supernatural Highways. The other track is an arrangement of the John Barry composition On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, written for the Bond film. In fact this CD is the first of two planned for 2014, with a full-length, conventional Rocket Scientists album with vocals due later in the year. The core of Rocket Scientists remains Mark McCrite (guitars), Erik Norlander (keyboards), and Don Schiff (NS/Sticks, cello), here joined by Gregg Bissonette (drums), Greg Ellis (percussion), Lana Lane (vocal pads), plus a trumpet player and a trombone player handling the Bond brass parts. This is Rocket Scientists at their (instrumental) best. The Bond piece is, like Rocket Scientists’ Space 1999 theme, much more fun than the original. The epic suite has much that is familiar to RS fans but sees the band stretching in new directions. Paramount is the integration of electronics. Norlander has already proven himself an excellent electronic musician, and here he incorporates sequencers and electronic sounds into driving progressive rock, something that a few have done (Ozric Tentacles, obviously) but that could be explored/exploited further. Other parts of the suite get fusion-y, and one has the feeling that, with a different mix, sections could be used as epic and thrilling Hollywood movie soundtrack material. See our dedicated Rocket Scientists section for the rest of their catalog.
Studio album number 14! All of Glass Hammer’s full-time singers past and present appear, including Jon Davison (Yes), Susie Bogdanowicz, Carl Groves (Salem Hill), Walter Moore, and Michelle Young. Guests include guitarist Randy Jackson (Zebra), keyboardist Rob Reed (Magenta), and violinist David Ragsdale (Kansas). Watch the album trailer and the video for the song Crowbone. See Page 2 for the rest of the Glass Hammer catalog.
To the Stars (2014, digipack) is the new studio CD from Steve Unruh’s band Resistor. Listen to the 3-minute audio trailer and the complete title track. See Page 2 for the rest of the Resistor and Steve Unruh CDs and more info.
Mind Portal are a Russian instrumental quartet (guitar/keys/bass/drums) debuting in 2010 with 1/1. They play heavy, fusion-tinged prog in a style similar to Planet X and Liquid Tension Experiment, with comparable technical skills. But Mind Portal earn high marks for melody and for concise, focused compositions, avoiding most of the excesses of those other bands. They have guitar melodies similar to what Joe Satriani comes up with, but not a lot of shredding for shredding’s sake. We would have liked some small degree of Russian flavor to give the music some distinctiveness -- this sounds entirely American -- but we understand that some of today’s progressive rock fans prefer a music monoculture. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
Using a proprietary numbering scheme, 1/2: Thought and Matter (2014) is Mind Portal’s second, even better than their first. The technical level of the musicians is quickly apparent, and while that’s the end of the story for so many bands who can play but not compose, Mind Portal’s music is a real pleasure to listen to.
We’ll be the first to admit that our Belarus section is a bit thin, but as a start, here is Belarus band 7 Ocean, a trio of experienced musicians. The band was originally called Seventh Ocean, founded in 1989, before starting fresh as 7 Ocean. The music on the 7 Ocean debut The Mysterious Race of Strange Entities (2008) is 1970s-style keyboard-centric symphonic prog with some influence of ELP, The Nice, Rick Wakeman, Greenslade; really an amalgam of all the keyboard prog from that era, with an Eastern European flavor. The vocals are in what could be Belarusian. (All those languages with Cyrillic characters sound the same if you can’t speak any of them.) The music is relatively vocal-heavy, but as the tracks are long -- 10 tracks totaling 80-minutes -- there is ample room for instrumental and vocal passages to share the stage. Read the Progressor review.
7 Ocean followed with two albums released only as digital downloads, so Diapause (2014, 67-minutes) is their fourth album but second CD. The music is in a similar vein but with more instrumental content, and benefitting from greater experience.
This is the 2014 debut CD (first released in 2012 or 2013 as a digital download) by a Russian prog quartet on the MALS label. “I think the description these guys provide on their PR release is very accurate: ‘The band is from the ancient Russian town of Vladimir, and we play music which is neo-progressive rock with elements of heavy prog and Russian traditional music.’ The neo-prog influence is clearly evident in all the compositions, each in the 5-6 minute range. I can hear strands of IQ, Twelfth Night, and Pendragon, coupled with a higher level of guitar virtuosity leaning toward a more prog-metal style of music. Every now and again a more clearly traditional prog element emerges, for example, the bass playing on The Chimney House is clearly based on Chris Squire and Yes, and the drumming on Secrets of the Sky contains the highly technical accuracy of a Neil Peart. If I have any concern, and it’s minor, it is that the songs tend to be of a similar style; they are similar in construction and engineering, and I feel a bit more varied approach would suit the band better. I also note that I cannot understand the lyrics, as they are in Russian, but this adds a bit of an exotic element to the songs.” [Sea of Tranquility]
The music scene is heating up in Uzbekistan. Flight 09 have existed since 1983 and are considered the dean of Uzbekistan rock bands. Signs of the Water (2014) is their fourth album. They had two releases on a U.S. label before moving to the Moscow-based MALS label for 2005’s Human Nature. That album was more or less hard rock dressed up with symphonic keyboards. Signs of the Water is definitely proggier, also more metal than hard rock per se, and more diverse. The vocals are in English.
Loving on Standby (2014, digipack) is the first CD of Vincent Leboeuf Gadreau, guitarist/singer of Québec City band Inner Odyssey. But this album is not in the style of Inner Odyssey, who are a prog-metal band. In fact we like Isos much more, as the music is more in the vein of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and the refined side of Riverside. Vocals in English.
This German quintet deserves to have “super” in their name, because for fans of classic British-style prog, Superdrama’s debut The Promise (2014, mediabook) may be the most exciting German prog release in a long time. One of very few other recent German bands making classic British-style melodic prog is Argos, and two of the four Argos members are in Superdrama! Superdrama was founded in 2004 though, so Argos may still be running in parallel. Superdrama’s primary influence is clearly Gabriel-era Genesis, though they are not overly derivative. There is a little Van der Graaf Generator resemblance, mainly because singer Robert Gozon can sound like Peter Hammill when he wants to, though he does so only on occasion. There are a few other prog influences sprinkled in, but the music doesn’t stray far from Genesis. This limited (and for the foreseeable future, only) edition comes in a hardcover mediabook with 60-page booklet. Watch the album sampler video.
Closed Doors to Open Plains (2014, 62-minutes, digipack) is the second CD for German prog quartet Seasons of Time, a mere 17 years after their debut, and far superior to it. They list their influences as Marillion, Pink Floyd, and Genesis. Watch the album sampler video.
It’s not like you can throw a rock today without hitting a band influenced by Pink Floyd (or by extension, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson), but the young Berlin-based band Osta Love are a rather good one, based on their second album Good Morning Dystopia (2013, digipack). Apparently worldwide stock of this CD is already down to double-digit quantities, so grab it if you want it, but expect to be hearing more from Osta Love, as fast-rising German prog label Progressive Promotion Records has signed them. Read the Background Magazine and Power of Metal.dk reviews. Watch Osta Love’s YouTube videos from this album.
Freedom to Glide is centered on English musicians Pete Riley and Andy Nixon who have played together for many years in the Pink Floyd tribute band Dark Side of the Wall. Their 2013 debut CD Rain (digipack) is, to quote the Sonic Abuse review, “the spiritual successor to The Final Cut, with its conceptual theme of the costs of war”, in this case with World War I as the subject matter. Freedom to Glide eschew high-energy instrumental excursions, focusing instead on the story and sustaining a profound and melancholy mood, equally beautiful and sad. The album has received plenty of accolades: also read the Prog Rock Music Talk, Get Ready to Rock!, and Progarchy reviews. Watch the official video for Rain (Part 1) and the unofficial video for When the Whistle Blows.
Canadian Rick Miller has been perfecting his soft, dark, and melancholy prog style with something like nine albums since 2003. Heart of Darkness (2014) is his latest. Rick has listed his influences as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards, assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era. Read reviews at Prog Archives. See our Canadian page for the rest of the Rick Miller catalog and more info.
Tracks from the Alps (2014, digipack) is the sixth studio album for Italian band The Watch, who are essentially a clone of Gabriel-era Genesis. You know what you’re going to get, and if you’re at all a fan of early Genesis, this is not a difficult buy decision. One Genesis cover is included, the rare Going Out to Get You. The Watch continue to provide a valuable service by recording obscure early Genesis songs for which a good recording doesn’t exist or that were recorded by Genesis before they had fully established their style. See our Italian page for the rest of The Watch CDs.
Hail (2012, digipack) is a 4-track, 27-minute CD-EP by a young Welsh prog band, released on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s WhiteKnight label. Rob Reed, Magenta’s keyboardist and leader, plays on two of the tracks. (Keyboards are used on the other two tracks too.) The EP is mostly instrumental; what vocals there are are low and distant in the mix. There’s a minute of metal that opens the album, but the next 26 minutes are excellent: spacey and actually proggier than a lot of the current UK prog bands, who as a group lean toward melodic rock.
Phases (2014, digipack) is Eden Shadow’s first full-length CD, and it does have vocals. Instrumentally, Eden Shadow are a guitar/bass/drums trio with the guitarist and drummer adding keyboards; like so many modern prog bands, they lack a true keyboardist. Nik Turner guests with a flute solo on one track.
This is the debut by a new British neo-prog band on IQ’s Giant Electric Pea label, produced by IQ’s Mike Holmes and engineered by Rob Aubrey. Expect something resembling IQ and Jadis blended with influences of Muse, Porcupine Tree, and Cardiacs. Read the Prog Archives and Lady Obscure reviews.
This is the 2013 debut by a classy Dutch neo-prog band made up of six experienced musicians. Watch their official videos. Read the Background Magazine and Prog Archives reviews.
Bavarian band Frequency Drift create atmospheric, melodic yet challenging music that they call ‘cinematic progressive rock’. Over (2014, 75-minutes, digipack) is Frequency Drift’s fifth, and they’ve found a home on RPWL’s Gentle Art of Music label. As part of that collaboration, RPWL’s Yogi Lang (mixing) and Kalle Wallner (bass) participate on this album. Former RPWL drummer Phil Paul Rissettio and guitarist Martin Schnella (Flaming Row) also guest. Beyond that, the Frequency Drift lineup is expanded with instrumentation that includes flute, cello, violin, viola, acoustic & electric harp, tin whistle, marimba, gemshorn (a type of ocarina), and duclar (an ethnic sort of clarinet). It’s impressive enough for a band today to manage nearly an album per year, but the progress Frequency Drift have made in a relatively short time is even more impressive, moving from the cold, urban sounds of their earliest work to the warmer, more organic sound of their recent albums, all the while adding depth and carving out a unique style. Watch the official video for the track Run. Read reviews at Prog Archives and The Progressive Aspect. See our German page for the rest of the Frequency Drift CDs.
25 Yard Screamer are a Welsh band signed to the WhiteKnight label, the label run by Magenta’s Rob Reed and Will Mackie of Hoggwash and Caerllysi Music. Something That Serves to Warn or Remind (2013, digipack) is the band’s fourth or fifth album. Initially a guitar/bass/drums trio, their earlier albums received some attention in prog rock circles, but to us the lack of a keyboardist made it somewhat problematic to consider them a prog band (though if Rush are near the center of your prog universe, you probably feel differently). For this album, 25 Yard Screamer added a keyboardist, though the music is still composed by the trio. While the keys play only a minor role, the additional tone colors do help, and the album has less of the hard rock of their previous efforts. There is enough subtlety, atmosphere, and mood variation to place this album solidly in the modern prog camp.
Alan Reed was until fairly recently the singer for Scottish neo-proggers Pallas. On his surprisingly good First in a Field of One (2012, digipack), Reed is assisted by original Pallas keyboardist Mike Stobbie, Pendragon drummer Scott Higham, guitarists Jeff Green and Kalle Wallner (RPWL), and Magenta’s singer Christina Booth. Karl Groom recorded the drums and mixed the album. Honestly, we expected this to be watered-down Pallas or not proggy at all, but it is so much more. Pallas are a band that can sometimes give bombast a bad name. Alan Reed’s album eschews overblown neo-prog in favor of a more classic approach and a more personal style. The album actually sounds closer to classic prog than Pallas, thanks in part to Stobbie’s organ, Mellotron, and other keys, and the space in the mix. We particularly like the Scottish Celtic touches (there could have been more!), and the songwriting is strong. In relation to the parent band, this is arguably more successful than Fish solo albums are to early Marillion. Fish didn’t get any proggier than his old band, but Alan Reed has made improvements. Watch the video for Kingdom of the Blind. (Note the version sold by amazon is an on-demand CD-R, ours is the real thing.)
The Live in Liverpool EP (digisleeve) was recorded during Alan’s 2013 tour as support act for Steve Hackett. It captures Alan in full flow in front of a capacity audience at The Philharmonic, Liverpool. The EP comprises Alan’s entire 26-minute set, warts, banter and all.
Lee Abraham was the bass player of Galahad for a time and has a couple CDs previous to these under his belt, one under his name, one as half of the duo Idle Noise. Black & White (2009) is a British neo-prog all-star project that includes John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena,...), Simon Godfrey (Tinyfish), Jem Godfrey (Frost), Gary Chandler (Jadis), Steve Thorne, Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train), and Dean Baker (Galahad). That cast leads to certain expectations, and this CD delivers on them. The music is melodic, mainstream, third-generation (unless we’re up to fourth generation now) British prog. Read the DPRP review.
Lee’s follow-up Distant Days (2014, 60-minutes) was recorded with the same core band that did the handful of gigs after the release of Black & White. Guests on Distant Days include Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Mandalaband, Nine Stones Close), Dec Burke (Frost, Darwin’s Radio), John Young (Lifesigns), Steve Thorne, Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf), and Karl Groom (Threshold). Jon Barry and Simon Nixon helped out on guitar. Pink Floyd is the dominant influence, though that’s true of most of the current generation of mainstream prog bands. The highlight is the 15-minute final track Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday, which sounds like it will be the concert finale. Watch the promo video.
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 progressive rock band assembled by Luley, and this self-titled digipack CD is their 2014 debut. Yes is still by far the dominant influence, especially the Steve Howe style guitar work, but the whole is more original and unique than Moth Vellum. The vocals contribute an introspective and melancholy aspect, while instrumentally the band bursts out in full Yes majesty and complexity. Very nice.
Despite Guardian Angels (2014, 73-minutes, digipack) is the debut by Montreal prog band Huis, composed of veterans of the Montreal music scene. Though not a founding member, Mystery bandleader/guitarist Michel St-Père joined Huis more recently, and Mystery is not a bad reference point. “Despite Guardian Angels incorporates all of the staples of a great prog rock album, including lush instrumentation, odd time signatures, sharp tempo changes, well balanced, omnipresent keyboards with Hammond, Moog and Mellotron tones, mesmerizing compositions impeccably interpreted, highly cohesive, never going overboard on the symphonic side, and with Michel St-Père’s elegant and tasteful guitar work throughout. The album as a whole flows incredibly well between the vocal and instrumental components.” [ProgMontréal] Read the Lady Obscure and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
The 2014 Transatlantic studio album comes in more formats than even this. The single CD is the 75-minute Kaleidoscope album in a jewel box. Click the mp3 icon above to read the allmusic review.
The digipack version adds two discs. The bonus CD contains Transatlantic’s covers of some classics: And You and I (Yes), Can’t Get It Out of My Head (ELO), Conquistador (Procol Harum), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John), Tin Soldier (Small Faces), Sylvia (Focus), Indiscipline (King Crimson), Nights in White Satin (The Moody Blues). The bonus DVD contains The Making of Kaleidoscope, a video for the song Shine, and behind the scenes Prog Awards footage. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Then there is the absolutely stunning artbook, which is a limited edition and seems to already be in short supply. It is a hardbound book that is just shy of LP size but thicker, weighing almost 2 lbs (0.9 kg). The cover is a hologram (maybe “lenticular printing” is the correct terminology), and bound inside are 36 large pages. It contains the two CDs and one DVD of the digipack edition and adds another DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix. So surround enthusiasts, barring a future standalone release, this is the only way to get the surround mix. The packaging doesn’t say, but one source says the surround mix is only Dolby Digital. All the DVDs are NTSC, all-region. Counts as 8 CDs for shipping.
Transatlantic is the prog rock supergroup of one-time Spock’s Beard leader Neal Morse, The Flower Kings’ Roine Stolt, Marillion’s Pete Trewavas, and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater). The Whirlwind (2009) is Transatlantic’s third studio album. The 2CD Special Edition comes in a digipack and includes the 77-minute The Whirlwind on disc 1 and a 56-minute second disc containing four new Transatlantic studio tracks and four new studio covers: The Return of the Giant Hogweed (Genesis), A Salty Dog (Procol Harum), I Need You (America / The Beatles), Soul Sacrifice (Santana). The 3-disc Deluxe Edition boxset (counts as 2 CDs for shipping) adds a 105-minute DVD (NTSC, all-region) containing The Making of The Whirlwind documentary and comes in a box.
SMPT:e (2000) is the album that started it all for Transatlantic. This is the Radiant Records / Metal Blade edition.
This is the 2013 reissue of the 1994 boxset that first issued Ozric Tentacles’ six 1980s cassette albums on CD. The individual albums are Erpsongs, Tantric Obstacles, Live Ethereal Cereal, There Is Nothing, Sliding Gliding Worlds, and Bits Between the Bits. This edition has been remastered and includes extensive new liner notes and photos in a 40 page booklet. Counts as 3 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Ozrics CDs.
Dream the Electric Sleep, or DTES for short, are a progressive rock band from Kentucky who debuted in 2011 with Lost and Gone Forever (77-minutes, digipack) and followed up with Heretics (2014, 73-minutes, digipack). DTES belong to that cadre of modern prog bands typified by Oceansize whose only strong connection to classic prog is to Pink Floyd, though DTES also mention Genesis and King Crimson as influences. This is music composed by guitarists, and they build up a big sound by layering guitars with different tones, while keyboards play a very minor role. OK, that last bit also describes some of Rush, and Rush is part of the DTES sound. There are also aspects of modern Marillion and Americana flavors (banjo is used sparingly). Within that framework, it is all quite ambitious and accomplished.
“[Lost and Gone Forever] gets an easy 5 out of 5 stars -- did I say epic? One of the best albums of the year and one of the best debuts I have heard in a while.” Read the entire Sea of Tranquility review. “Swollen with ambition, Lost and Gone Forever is a precocious first effort from a band who have clearly embraced four decades of progressive rock in their convoluted entirety. The main reference points here are more recent sonic explorers like Radiohead and Cave In, but there are flashes of everything from It Bites-style pomp right back to Floyd-esque space blues floating around in this colorful quagmire. First and foremost, DTES deal in huge melodies and arena-filling crescendos, and from the opening track onwards this album exudes a dogged desire to stir the soul and tug the heartstrings. The finest moments are simply beautiful.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog]
Read the Sea of Tranquility review of Heretics.
This is the 2013 debut CD by The Cosmic Remedy, an Internet-era transnational band headed by Transylvanian guitarist Bogáti-Bokor Ákos, known for his work in the Yes-influenced bands Yesterdays, Tabula Smaragdina, and You and I. The drummer is Finland’s Kimmo Pörsti, who also plays in Paidarion, Mist Season, Strandberg Project, and The Samurai of Prog. The male lead singer is Brazilian, the bassist is Italian. Then there are the guests, who include German Ulf Yacobs (Argos), the flute player from Yesterdays, the drummer and bassist from Tabula Smaragdina, and three female singers. One is the first lead singer of Yesterdays, one is the lead singer of German band Klima, and one is the lead singer of a Romanian Led Zeppelin tribute band. Everyone sings in excellent English; in fact the whole album sounds extremely English. The CD consists of 14 songs organized into four suites. The first suite is the really proggy one, Yes-influenced and close to the sound of Bogáti-Bokor Ákos’ other bands. The remaining three suites are more Beatles-influenced, lighter and more open, with an unmistakeable late-60s vibe. Mellotron strings are used to add proggy flavoring to these lighter songs. Read the Background Magazine and The Progressive Aspect reviews.
Jet Black Sea is a new project of Adrian Jones, leader of Nine Stones Close, joined on The Path of Least Existence (2013, digisleeve) by Michel Simons. As Adrian says: “The music is entirely instrumental, dark, ambient, progressive, and powerful. The album takes you on a complete journey through almost an hour of interconnected musical themes.” The music has commonality with Nine Stones Close but goes further afield; in Jet Black Sea, Jones is less constrained and perhaps more fully realizes his vision. It’s one of those albums you have to give yourself over to completely, perhaps using headphones and eliminating distractions. Watch the album overview video and the videos for The Law of Diminishing Returns and Northern Exposure on YouTube. Read customer reviews at amazon.co.uk. You may still find a few Nine Stones Close CDs on our British page. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The self-titled Skeem CD is the 2001 debut by a French neo-prog band with perfect English-language vocals and the symphonic keyboards and soaring guitars inspired by Marillion and Pendragon one has come to expect. The band has at its disposal an accomplished rhythm section, seeing as it’s Priam’s. There have been few French neo-prog bands after the now-forgotten Arrakeen; this is a good one. Prog Archives has mp3s and many reviews.
Just Suggesting (2CD, 2013) appeared 12 years later, so not surprisingly there have been some lineup changes. And if you let it go that long, a double CD is justified. It’s by-the-book neo-prog.
Siiilk can be viewed as the offspring of Pulsar. The five musicians are all from the French city of Lyon and include guitarist Gilbert Gandil and keyboardist Jacques Roman, the core of Pulsar. Way to Lhassa (2013, digisleeve) is sung in English, blending music and poetry. As the band says, it takes the listener from the lowlands of Flanders to the buttresses of the Himalayas by way of India. The music is dominated by the characteristic Floydian melancholy of Pulsar, but in Siiilk the Mellotron and other keyboards, flute, guitars, and drums are augmented by tampura, Armenian duduk, Indian santur and other ethnic instruments, brass, bass clarinet, and choir. Listen to the tracks Childhood’s Memories, Way to Lhassa, and Cathy’s Woods on YouTube.
Suono! (2013) is the second album for this Italian symphonic prog quartet singing in Italian. Their first album was released 12 years earlier only as a self-produced CD-R. But it reached the ears of PFM’s Franz Di Cioccio, who wanted Distillerie di Malto on his new label, and gave them the opportunity to open for PFM in 2003. Simply put, Suono! is classic progressive rock without compromises. Three of the eight songs were recorded some time earlier when Maurizio Di Tollo (drums) and Luca Latini (flute) were in the lineup. Listen to the track Il Guardiano on YouTube (which at the time of this writing has the wrong title listed).
Ogni Pensiero Vola is the 2001 debut by this Italian trio consisting of Gianluca De Rossi (keyboards, vocals), Davide Guidoni (drums), and Guglielmo Mariotti (bass, guitars, mandolin, lead vocals). Their music is 1970s-style progressive rock, about half instrumental and half vocal, with influences of Genesis, Le Orme, and ELP. The vocals on this album are in Italian.
Strigma (2013) is Taproban’s fourth album, and De Rossi is the only constant in the lineup, here adding flute and vocals in addition to keyboards. The music is 1970s-style Italian prog, which in addition to the aforementioned influences is also reminiscent of Balletto di Bronzo or Goblin at times. Watch the Strigma trailer and listen to the track Lo Sguardo di Emily on YouTube. (At 8:28, Lo Sguardo di Emily is by far the shortest track on the album.)
This is the same Orion responsible for the 1979 French prog classic La Nature Vit, L’Homme Lui Critique, which was reissued on CD by Musea but is out-of-print. 2013 sees the release of the second Orion album. Mémoires du Temps was originally planned for the beginning of the 1980s but had to wait a mere 33 years to see the light of day. Restored and remixed from the original tapes, these six studio tracks are augmented by four songs performed live. The live songs appear on neither studio album, so to our knowledge they are previously unheard compositions. Just when you think the last classic-era prog album has been unearthed, another gem is dug up. Listen to the album sampler and the title track on YouTube.
This digisleeve double-CD had previously only been available directly from the band. It is part of IQ’s “Archive Collection”, an occasional series of limited edition live and rare material. IQ30 was recorded live at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands on 23 October 2011, the second night of IQ’s 30th anniversary celebration weekend. On the first night, IQ played Subterranea in its entirety, so the contents of this 2CD cover the rest of their career with emphasis on Tales from the Lush Attic. See the Background Magazine review for the track list. See Page 2 for the rest of the IQ catalog.
Childhood’s End? (2013) is the debut of 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. Listen to the track Dream on YouTube.
Way of the King (2013) is the superior second Sunrise Auranaut CD, on which Kiselev comes closer to a more natural, full-band sound. Listen to the track Castle Walls Are Carried Way Up on YouTube.
The German neo-prog band ICU released three CDs all during the 1990s: Moonlight Flit (1993), Now and Here (1995), and ICU (1997). Guitarist and bandleader Thomas Glönkler has gone on to release solo albums, of which 2010’s Goldstadt is close to being a masterpiece. ICU sang in English and always included flute in the lineup, giving their music added class, while their main appeal is to fans of the usual neo-prog suspects (Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, Collage, Egdon Heath,...). See Prog Archives for reviews of all the ICU albums, as well as audio for two songs.
The ICU albums had been thought to be long out-of-print, but Glönkler still has a small cache of the original discs belonging to ICU’s self-titled third CD. The booklet and traycards are now gone though, so he’s created an inkjet-printed booklet and traycard and combined them with an original disc, which is what is offered here.
Now and Here is a concept album, the highest-rated of the ICU albums on Prog Archives and generally considered to be ICU’s best. It’s one of the best continental neo-prog albums ever though probably forgotten due to its long unavailability, which this Collector’s Edition should rectify. It contains three CD-Rs with the original album mix on Disc 1. Disc 2 contains the first live performance of the entire album, from February 1995 in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg. Disc 3 contains live recordings, rarities, and demos. The set includes a lyric sheet and detailed liner notes for each track.
Moonlight Flit contains two CD-Rs and a DVD-R. The first disc contains the original album mix. Disc 2 contains the live performance of the entire album from November 1993 plus the bonus track Themes from Brave, which was originally published only as a limited edition single. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) features ICU live in Neuweiler in 1993, with a playing time of just under 20 minutes. It’s a professionally-edited, multi-camera shoot, not the crystal-clear images one expects today but quite good, comparable to a television broadcast of that era.
Live 95-96 (2CD-R, 113-minutes) sounds very good and captures ICU’s best live performances. The first disc was recorded in Calw in 1996, while the second disc was recorded in Stuttgart-Sonnenberg in 1995. Included are the only recording of the previously-unreleased track Precipice (7:58), the previously-unreleased full length version of The Brave (14:27), and a 21-minute Now and Here medley.
Note these are boutique products, manufactured by Glönkler one at a time, and he’s made our stock special for North America, with English liner notes, an NTSC DVD, some changes in bonus material, and all copies numbered and signed. The discs (apart from the self-titled 3rd) are CD-Rs and DVD-Rs with labels printed directly on the disc; the booklets and inlays are inkjet-printed. It all looks good, and since the albums are unlikely to be reprinted as replicated CDs, and with the wealth of bonus material, we think you’ll appreciate these unique sets. They aren’t sealed -- we do put a plastic sleeve on them once we receive them, but expect some slight wear to the cases. The 3-disc sets come in special 3-disc jewel cases that are the same width as a single jewel case.
The German/Dutch band Subsignal was founded in 2007, originally intended as a side project of Sieges Even members Arno Menses (vocals) and Markus Steffen (guitars). But Sieges Even is no more, and Subsignal is now a fully functional quintet who can be viewed as Sieges Even goes to grad school. Sieges Even were at the height of their progressive powers when they disbanded, and Subsignal advance further in this direction on Touchstones (2011), using a full-time keyboardist, something Sieges Even usually lacked. The Yes influence that was introduced on the final two Sieges Even studio CDs is now much stronger.
This is the deluxe 2CD edition of Subsignal’s 2013 album Paraiso, which adds a second disc containing a complete live album: Live in Mannheim 2012. The CD was released in Europe in September 2013 but is just receiving U.S. distribution in January 2014. Better late than never though as Subsignal are scheduled to play at Rosfest 2014. Read the DPRP and Prog Archives reviews.
Sand is the solo project of Sam Healy, frontman and songwriter for Kscope band North Atlantic Oscillation. Now NAO have not set the prog world on fire, but the self-titled Sand debut (2013, digipack) has a somewhat different feel than NAO. As the press release says: “Melodic passages and conventional pop structures are framed by striking changes in dynamics to create a dramatic sonic palette which ranges from the barely audible to wildly loud and back again, often within the same track. The album also has a slightly warmer, less alien feel than NAO recordings, with instruments less likely to be heavily treated and distorted beyond recognition.” For that last reason in particular, prog fans may find they prefer Sand over NAO. The great vocal harmonies are still there, while the indie electronics of NAO are less prominent. Watch the album montage video.
Henry Fool are an eclectic band whose initial lineup comprised Tim Bowness (No-Man) on guitar and vocals, Stephen Bennett (LaHost) on keyboards, Brian Eno collaborator Peter Chilvers on bass, No-Man live guitarist Michael Bearpark, drummer Fudge Smith (Pendragon), and jazz session ace Myke Clifford on woodwinds. Their 2001 eponymous debut was originally released on the Cyclops label but had been out-of-print for years prior to this 2013 reissue on Kscope, which has been remastered by Andy Jackson, features new artwork, and has a new booklet with sleeve notes by Bowness and Bennett. Creating a distinctive combination of 1970s progressive influences (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine), contemporary textural experiments (Rain Tree Crow, Labradford), and hard-hitting group improvisations (King Crimson, Faust), Henry Fool created one of the most original progressive blends of that era. King Crimson is evoked often, both the Mellotron/flute symphonics of the first incarnation as well as the angular prog of the Red-era and the modern band. Two tracks were mixed by Steven Wilson. Henry Fool’s debut album will appeal to those into No-Man, early Porcupine Tree, and King Crimson.
It took until 2013 for the second Henry Fool album Men Singing, which despite the title is entirely instrumental. The lineup is almost the same, with the drummer now Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), the addition of a second keyboardist, a guest violinist, and none other than Phil Manzanera guesting on guitar. The music is a blend of progressive rock, Soft Machine style jazz-rock, and post-rock, ranging from symphonic to atmospheric to psychedelic and spacey. Read reviews. The gatefold mini-LP sleeve edition is now deleted, last copies.
This is the 2014 2CD digipack edition on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label of Magic Is a Child, Nektar’s 1977 studio album, which featured a young Brooke Shields as the cover model. By the time of this recording, guitarist Roye Albrighton had departed to be replaced by Dave Nelson. The drop in quality from the previous album Recycled is pretty drastic, but that’s due more to how great an album Recycled is. The audio on the first disc should be identical to the previous edition on Dream Nebula, which was the first time Magic Is a Child had been remastered for CD from the first generation master tapes. The bonus tracks on Disc One are a demo version of Away from Asgard, an alternate mix of On the Run, and most significantly, an alternate version of Train from Nowhere featuring contributions from Robert Fripp. Disc Two contains a live album: Live at Hofstra University New York 1977. The 8-panel digipack has extensive liner notes including new interviews with band members, rare photos, and more. See our British page for more Nektar CDs including their 2013 studio CD Time Machine, the latest reissues of their entire back catalog, and their covers album A Spoonful of Time.
Available for the first time on CD, this is the only album from the short-lived side project of Nektar’s leader Roye Albrighton, guitarist/bassist Derek Holt of Climax Blues Band, and drummer Brendan Day. The LP was released in 1983 and was the last thing heard from Albrighton until The Follies of Rupert Treacle at the end of the 1990s and the Nektar reboot that followed. This CD reissue adds one bonus track, House on Fire, which was the B side of a UK single and which can be heard on YouTube. This is a limited hand-numbered edition of 500.
Hopefully Bill Nelson is familiar to most prog fans, the one-time Be Bop Deluxe leader/guitarist who went on to release many albums under his own name, usually far removed from the Be Bop Deluxe style. This is the newly remastered edition on Esoteric of Iconography (1986), which was credited to Orchestra Arcana due to the contractual situation Bill found himself in with CBS Records. The music comprises recordings made at Bill’s Echo Observatory home studio in 1984 and 1985. While most of Nelson’s catalog is his peculiar brand of alt-pop, Iconography is one of his more experimental works: instrumental, predominantly synth/keyboard-based, using tape loops and found voices, a relic from the analog age. Bill reflected on the album thus: “Whilst these recordings are ‘lo-fi’ in nature, I have always been fond of them. These recordings serve as a reminder that expensive technology isn’t always the key to creativity.” This edition fully restores the original album artwork and features new notes by Bill Nelson. It also features two bonus tracks from the 1985 Sex Psyche Etc. EP.
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. Watch the promo video.
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 In The Last Waking Moments single EP is a CD containing five tracks. Two are the album and single edits of the title track. Through the Ages is a new song. The remaining two are live versions of A Million Miles Away and Spiraling professionally recorded during Marillion weekend in Montreal. 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. Watch the video for Final Breath.
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. 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 (digipack), released at the end of 2013, 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. See Page 2 for the Magus CDs.
Seems like a rather mundane name for a band, but The Yearning, the 2005 debut of Chilean symphonic prog band Aisles, is anything but. On this album the lineup includes two keyboardists, two guitarists, and a singer who also plays flute, and three of them are brothers. Their music is clearly connected to 1970s progressive rock, but they are not at all retro. They are highly original and yet somehow familiar, musically mature beyond their years. In stark contrast to the majority of today’s bands, Aisles’ music is delicate and refined. The closest comparisons would be early PFM and Shingetsu. Even if Aisles don’t sound particularly like those bands, they have the characteristic dreamy, gentle passages with lots of acoustic timbres, punctuated by energetic and majestic outbursts. Overall the music sounds more British though, and in the most general terms only, you could compare them to Camel and Genesis. The vocals are in English; the blend of lead and backing vocals is a highlight of their sound.
In Sudden Walks (2009) is their second, and while the elements are familiar (Genesis, Marillion, Yes and Pink Floyd could be mentioned), there is no direct comparison for the music of Aisles. Only a few elements strike the listener as Latin American. What does strike the listener is the production quality, how crystal clear the instruments are and the separation between them, and how refined the music is. The instrumental palette is rich and detailed, with no one instrument dominating. The result is an original yet accessible symphonic prog album, one of the best from Chile.
Reminding the listener never to judge an album by the first couple tracks, Aisles’ third 4:45 AM (2013) opens with shorter, upbeat tracks with a more mainstream sound. Maybe Aisles are even attempting to have a 1980s hit single, but the window of opportunity for a 1980s hit single has closed. After that they return to their nuanced, progressive style, with the tracks getting longer and longer, and all’s well that ends well.
The River (2013) is the debut solo album by veteran Italian composer, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, Stick, keyboards), engineer, and producer Marco De Angelis, joined by lead vocalist Marcello Catalano, drummer Cristiano Micalizzi, and five female backing vocalists. The River is a concept album with first-rate production, sounding completely professional. Musically we are in later Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Fish, and Alan Parsons Project territory, thematically-linked songs that are progressive by virtue of their arrangements, the layered sonics and attention to detail. Read the Exposé and Background Magazine reviews. Watch the video for Black Stare.
This Polish prog band (who sing in Polish) debuted in 1996 with W Galerii Czasu (In the Gallery of Time), which updates the tradition of some of the great East European progressive bands of the 1970s and 1980s such as Modry Efekt and Synkopy. This CD appears to be out-of-print, along with Lizard’s second and third studio CDs, Psychopuls (2004) and Tales from Artichoke Wood (2005). On Psychopuls, Lizard sound very influenced by King Crimson circa 1973-1974, while Tales from Artichoke Wood (2005) was, at least until Master & M, our favorite, a more original work with the King Crimson influence much less obvious than on Psychopuls, more lyrical, flowing and symphonic, with a subtle jazz-rock influence and some delicate passages worthy of Genesis.
Spam (2006) is another quality album from Lizard, though not simply a continuation of Tales from Artichoke Wood. This one returns somewhat to the sound of their earlier albums, but the writing and playing have matured. 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. As on their first album, Lizard sound like the successors to Synkopy, East, and other great first-generation East European prog bands.
Lizard had been working on Master & M (2013) since early 2008 but had to deal with some personnel changes along the way. (The violin of the previous couple albums 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. We’ll take this opportunity to say this about that. Plenty of indie rock fans happily listen to Sigur Ros sing in Icelandic or Dungen sing in Swedish, and folk/new age fans love hearing the likes of Clannad and Enya sing in Gaelic. Progressive rock fans are supposed to be more sophisticated listeners than fans of other genres, not less. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Vocanda 2013 Live in Studio is not a regular studio album of Millenium, although it could be, and it is not a concert recording. This material is a recording of one of the band’s rehearsals in the studio Lynx Music set up for the purpose of preparing for the concert Live Vocanda 2013, which took place in June 2013 in Kraków. Since the recording was done professionally on multi-track and the sound quality is very good, the band decided to publish the material on CD in a numbered, limited edition. (The concert itself was not professionally recorded for CD or DVD.) Millenium play all the material from the Vocanda album with their current lineup plus the guests from the Ego album: Karolina Leszko (vocals) and Darek Rybka (sax). Vocanda 2013 is how the original Vocanda album from 2000 might sound if it appeared now, incorporating fresh ideas and new vocal and instrumental arrangements. The CD includes a bonus video of excerpts from the live performance. Watch the official trailer. See our East European page for lots more Millenium CDs.
The Rockfield Files (digisleeve) is the first official live Frost DVD (NTSC, all-region), capturing a live performance at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, Wales. The lineup is Jem Godfrey: keyboards & vocals, John Mitchell (Arena, Kino, It Bites): guitar & vocals, Nathan King (Level 42): bass & vocals, and Craig Blundell (Dr oKtopUs): drums. The DVD main feature is a selection of tracks from the band’s first two albums captured on multiple cameras at Rockfield. There is an option to view the tracks with short introductions by Jem Godfrey. This is followed by two acoustic tracks performed by Mitchell and Godfrey at Mitchell’s home, including a new song Lantern. The bonus material is an in-depth interview in which Mitchell and Godfrey tackle a variety of topics ranging from chords to confectionery. The CD contains the audio of the Rockfield and acoustic sessions. See our British page for the Frost CDs and more info.
This was the Huge Giant Prog Release of 2012. The Kompendium project was organized by Restless Rob Reed of Magenta, who comments: “The genesis of the album was a conversation with a contemporary of mine over a glass of wine. We were talking about all the epic albums we loved from the 70s like Tubular Bells and War of the Worlds, and how nobody seems to make music like that anymore. He came up with a sort of ‘gentleman’s challenge’ to go ahead and make one, and like a fool, I said yes! Three years later, I now realise why they don’t make them anymore. I went back to my favourite albums and made a wish list of players from the 70s and a few contemporary artists as well that I wanted for the project. What I really love are albums that mix styles, so with all these great musicians, I was able to blend Celtic music with rock and classical to produce something which, although it was a huge undertaking, I really hope is unique.”
The impressive list of participants includes Steve Balsamo (Jesus Christ Superstar, ChimpanA), Steve Hackett - nylon guitar; Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) - drums; Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett Band) - stick; Troy Donockley (ex-Iona) - Uilleann Pipes, whistles; Nick Barrett (Pendragon) - guitar, Neil Taylor (Tears for Fears, Robbie Williams) - guitar; Jakko Jackzyk (21st Century Schizoid Band) - guitar; Francis Dunnery (ex-It Bites) - guitar, John Mitchell (It Bites) - guitar, Mel Collins (King Crimson, Camel) - sax, BJ Cole (Elton John, David Gilmour) - pedal steel guitar, Chris Fry (Magenta) - guitar, Christina Booth (Magenta) - backing vocals, and introducing the vocal talents of Angharad Bryn in the role of Lily. Adding to the epic quality of the album are celebrated vocal ensemble Synergy, The English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe, the London Session Orchestra conducted by Dave Stewart, and renowned opera singers Rhys Meirion and Shan Cothi. Read the Prog Magazine feature article: Page 1 • Page 2 (These are scans; you may need to zoom in.)
The CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) is the original edition, of which very few remain, a gorgeous package in a 7" gatefold sleeve with a 20-page large-format booklet bound in. The DVD contains a DTS 24/96 5.1 surround mix of the album (also Dolby Digital), music videos for three songs, and several ‘making of’ videos. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. The less expensive CD-only edition was released at the end of 2013 and comes in a digipack.
Also released at the end of 2013 is the double-CD Elements (digisleeve). The first disc is full of unreleased tracks, alternate versions and demos from Beneath the Waves, while the second disc contains an instrumental version of the entire album.
This remastered 2013 edition on Perseverance Records reissues Tangerine Dream’s 1981 soundtrack for the movie Thief, Michael Mann’s directorial debut. It actually reached No. 43 on the UK album charts on its initial release. While several versions of the album have been released over the years, this CD contains both Confrontation (composed by Hollywood film composer Craig Safan) and Beach Scene. Apparently no previous release had both of these missing tracks. See our Electronic Music page for more Tangerine Dream CDs.
The live album USA was recorded on King Crimson’s final U.S. tour in June 1974 and issued as an epitaph for the band in the spring of 1975. As with the 30th Anniversary edition, this 2013 40th Anniversary edition adds Fracture and Starless to the original vinyl version. This is the only album in the 40th Anniversary series not presented in surround (and not mixed by Steven Wilson). The CD contains a 2013 remix done by Robert Fripp, Tony Arnold, and David Singleton. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains high resolution LPCM stereo versions of four different album mixes: the 2013 remix (24/96), the 2005 mix (24/48), the 30th Anniversary remaster (24/48), and a transfer from the original UK vinyl (24/96). See Page 2 for the rest of the King Crimson titles.
Also Eden are one of the best of the modern-day British neo-prog bands. Their first two albums About Time (2006) and It’s Kind of You to Ask (2008) featured singer Huw Lloyd-Jones and are symphonic rock in the vein of Abel Ganz and, to a lesser extent, Marillion, Pallas, and IQ. On these first two CDs, the distinguishing characteristic of Also Eden’s music is an emotional warmth that made them the coziest of the British neo-prog bands.
Lloyd-Jones left prior to Also Eden’s 2010 EP Differences as Light, replaced by another fine singer in Rich Harding. That EP signaled the start of a slightly different direction for the band. Think of the Children! (2011) is the band’s third full-length album. The music is a bit heavier now, closer to recent Pallas, recent Galahad, and a modern take on early Marillion, though the blustery passages are sometimes alternated with delicate segments probably influenced by the Genesis pastoral 12-string sound. You can also hear references to Rush and Twelfth Night, among others. Overall, some of the charm and songwriting of the first two albums has been supplanted by an ambitious, serious-sounding and somewhat theatrical long-form approach that demands several listens. Listen to the album sampler mp3.
As for [Redacted] (2013), “Also Eden have significantly raised their game with this, their second album since Rich Harding took over as lead vocalist. Despite occasional echoes of Tangerine Dream, Porcupine Tree, and even Trespass-era Genesis in the album’s quieter moments, this is a harder-edged and more rock-orientated record than their previous work. The result is a powerful yet richly layered record, with Simon Rogers’ inventive guitar playing at the centre of the sound, and Rich Harding’s lyrics moving from the political to the personal.” [Where Worlds Collide] Also read reviews at Prog Archives and a compendium of reviews covering all the Also Eden albums.
This band from Northern Ireland claims to be Ireland’s only existing progressive rock band. After a 2004 debut, A Time of Shadow (2009) is their second album, while Everything Is Connected (2013) is their third. They have a very strong singer in Liam Campbell, who has something of a Peter Gabriel and Fish quality to his voice and sings with similar conviction. The music is in the Marillion vein, though often a better reference is Abel Ganz. An excellent band in the British Isles neo-prog tradition, emphasizing melody, strong songs and a singer who can carry them. Read reviews. Watch the promo video for Everything Is Connected.
Hoggwash is another band of Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild, AKKO), lord of progressive rock in Ukraine. Hoggwash though is a collaboration with Welsh musician Will Mackie. On their debut The Last Horizon (2007), Mackie and Kalugin have co-writing credits on all tracks, but the music was recorded in Ukraine by Kalugin with Karfagen members/collaborators and other Ukrainian musicians. And while Karfagen had been an instrumental band, Hoggwash has excellent vocals by Kalugin. The result is a beautiful melodic symphonic rock CD in the Genesis and Camel veins. Despite all the input from Ukraine, The Last Horizon sounds so British that it serves to remind us what it is that distinguishes classic British prog from most everything else. We now have the second edition in stock, which adds two bonus tracks to take the total playing time up to 75-minutes.
It took a while for the follow-up Spellbound (2013, digipack), but then there have been at least nine albums from Kalugin’s other projects in the interim. Kalugin again sings and plays keys, Mackie plays keys, and seven other Ukrainian musicians take care of electric & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, alto sax, and more vocals. Hoggwash is distinct from Kalugin’s other bands -- Hoggwash is the more familiar form of sympho-prog, the most song-oriented and British-sounding and therefore having the widest appeal.
AKP stands for Antony Kalugin Projects, a catch-all for the Ukrainian prog bands Sunchild, Karfagen, and Hoggwash, who have overlapping personnel and are all led by Kalugin. As the label says: With limited facilities, Antony Kalugin has recreated a real live band sound of his appearance at the 2012 Crescendo Festival in France. This “bootleg” DVD comes with a first class audio recording provided by the festival team. The 84-minute DVD is PAL, all-region and comes in a tri-fold CD-size digipack.
Peter Gee is best known as the bassist for Pendragon. Paris (2013) is Gee’s fifth album, not counting his gospel album. It features Steve Thorne’s vocals on most of the songs, while Damian Wilson sings two songs and Damian’s brother Paul (who sang on Gee’s first album 20 years earlier) returns to sing one. Steve Christey (Jadis, John Wetton) is the drummer. As always, the 12 songs and 3 instrumentals cover a variety of styles and moods, with most of the vocal songs in Gee’s soft symphonic rock style, with heartfelt lyrics. The two songs chosen to go up first on YouTube and Soundcloud though are poor choices as far as prog fans are concerned, not doing justice to what is a fine album. See our British page for the rest of Peter Gee’s CDs and more info.
The Handbook of the Acid Rider (2013, digipack) is the excellent debut by this instrumental Chilean band led by a talented Stick player whose name coincidentally is Francisco Rafart. He adds keyboards and electronics and is joined by the guitarist from the Chilean band Octopus and a drummer. While the musicianship is at a high technical level and the compositions are intricate, the music remains beautiful, even delicate at times. The sound is full and varied and the music is exciting, unlike other Stick-centric albums you’ve probably heard that are one-dimensional. While fusion is only part of what Rafart do, this handbook is recommended to fans of fusion that is on the rock side of jazz and that doesn’t sound like everything else. Note the version sold by amazon is an on-demand CD-R; ours is the real thing.
Bienvenida al Interior (2006) is a very good debut by a melodic symphonic prog band from Chile, singing in Spanish. For the most part, Astralis have the neo-prog directness on this CD, with some Yes influence apparent here and there. Vocally though they often remind one of Le Orme in the quality of the singer’s voice, the vocal melody lines, and the similar sound of the languages.
Voces del Bosque (2009) is their second and an improvement on their first. The neo-prog of the first CD is less prevalent, and there is a lot of instrumental content. Astralis now concentrate on flowing symphonic rock with melodic guitar leads, often reminiscent of Camel, also with some Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield influence. It’s a more original blend, and one of the better prog CDs to come out of Chile.
Though Fantasia de Invierno is a 2013 CD, these are actually the first songs composed by Astralis, between 1989-1995, but recently recorded, thus benefitting from the maturity and greater expertise of the band. There hasn’t been much symphonic prog coming from Chile of late, but Astralis are keeping it alive and may be the best such band in Chile now. Listen to the songs Después de la Lluvia and La Canción es Libre on Soundcloud.
Claudio Momberg is the keyboardist of the Chilean band SETI and before that Subterra and is also a member of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy project. These are new releases by a couple of Momberg’s other projects. Taurus is Momberg solo, a hybrid of classically-influenced electronic music and progressive rock, sort of Tony Banks meets Synergy meets Vangelis. Research (2013) is the third Taurus CD and the proggiest one yet. Read the Prog Archives review. Check our South American page for the first two Taurus CDs.
The Black Noodle Project are a Parisian prog band formed in 2001 who sing in English and are deeply influenced by Pink Floyd. Depending on what you count as a TBNP album, Ghosts & Memories (2013, digipack) is around their sixth. It sees TBNP moving closer to the Anathema style while also incorporating influences of old movie soundtracks, but it’s still all about Pink Floyd, who seem to be the only classic prog band many current-generation prog bands have listened to, or maybe the only one dark and depressing enough. Watch the official video for the track They Live, We Sleep. See our French page for the rest of The Black Noodle Project CDs.
7 (2013, digipack) is the latest from a German band, or really family of bands (with Seven Steps to the Green Door and Cyril), that we’ve been doing our best to turn prog fans onto, though all the bands remain seriously under-recognized outside of Germany. “Toxic Smile is a band from Germany that, in my opinion, is not quite progressive metal. They are too varied, creative, and simply genius to fall under any one umbrella. While they do have some seriously heavy moments, Toxic Smile is definitely focused more on melody and groove than on being heavy or technical for no real reason. They combine a groovy, active bass guitar with absolutely astounding drums, a plethora of keys with a huge range of styles, jazzy saxophone, gorgeous violin, and some unique vocals. So they seem to get really heavy when they feel the need, but they have so much else going on that they don’t need to do it all the time... Toxic Smile’s ‘7’ is one of the best albums of 2013.” Read the full review at Prog Archives. Watch the album trailer video and the official video for the song From Inside Out. See our German page for the rest of the Toxic Smile CDs.
Cyril started as a band project combining melodic and progressive rock that now includes the core members of Toxic Smile. Their first album Gone Through Years (2013, digipack) is thematically based on the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Keyboardist and woodwind player Marek Arnold has already released numerous albums with his bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row. Cyril also features the voice of Larry B. (Toxic Smile), plus guitar, bass and drums. Guitarist Ralf Dietsch interjects a little flamenco and classical guitar but otherwise plays in a conventional style. We admire Marek Arnold’s other bands, but Cyril has the best songs and is so polished, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. The grand, larger-than-life choruses with harmony vocals harken back to a time when rock was a happier music, and these songs have the hooks needed to lodge in your skull. While there is great emphasis on melodies and vocal arrangements, Cyril’s music is progressive rock first and foremost. It can get heavy but there’s no real metal, rather aspects of bombastic modern hard rock. The music is too upbeat and melodic in exactly the way that modern metal isn’t. While the music and words are credited to Cyril, it’s a good bet Marek Arnold is responsible for most of the music, because the difference between Cyril’s music and typical modern prog is the difference in how keyboardists and guitarists write and arrange. Keyboardists tend to have a stronger foundation in harmony and approach composition harmony-first, while modern prog is run almost exclusively by guitarists. Arnold’s sax and clarinet are great additions to the orchestration, and the production couldn’t be better. Maybe the band closest to Cyril is Unitopia. Both bands rely on their excellent singers, and fans of Unitopia can expect to find similar qualities here. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Yes, this is the same Solstice who were one of the leading lights of the 1980s UK progressive revival, still fronted by guitarist Andy Glass and also featuring Steve McDaniel (keyboards), Robin Phillips (bass), Pete Hemsley (drums), Jenny Newman (violin), and Emma Brown (vocals). The band’s iconic blend of soaring violin and guitar weaving around delicately passionate female vocals, underpinned by a driving rhythm section remains in force on their new studio album Prophecy (2013). The CD also includes three bonus tracks which are new remixes of songs from Solstice’s debut Silent Dance done by Steven Wilson, who is a long-time Solstice aficionado. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Watch the album promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Solstice catalog.
Barclay James Harvest split in two quite a few years ago, and in the meantime founding members Mel Pritchard and Woolly Wolstenholme passed away. North (2013), which features all new material, is dedicated to their memory, and it is John Lees’ BJH that is carrying on the 1970s progressive side of the band and returning to BJH’s roots. The rest of the band here is Craig Fletcher, Jez Smith, and Kevin Whitehead. This is a very strong album, certainly better than the BJH albums from the late 1970s on, when their music became mainstream/AOR. Yes, BJH are back. This is the limited 2CD edition, which comes in a digipack and adds a previously unreleased bonus CD featuring highlights of the band’s sold-out concert at Buxton Opera House in February 2011, which concentrates on classic BJH material. Read the DPRP reviews. Watch the album preview video. See our British page for more BJH CDs.
These are the 2013 digipack editions on Esoteric, all newly remastered and personally supervised by Vangelis himself, with booklets that restore the original album artwork. Vangelis’ time on the RCA label yielded his greatest albums. Those include Heaven and Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), and Spiral (1977). (His 1978 album Beaubourg was also on RCA, but it is radically different, pure musique concrète.) Heaven and Hell was the first album to be recorded at his personal studio in London. This epic work in two parts features the English Chamber Choir and Vangelis’ first collaboration with Jon Anderson, the beautiful So Long Ago, So Clear. Those only familiar with Vangelis’ later, lighter works may be in for a shock, as Heaven and Hell is dark and powerful. The follow-up Albedo 0.39 was used in the television series Cosmos and contains some of Vangelis’ most iconic works, while the album contains elements of rock and jazz. These two are our favorite Vangelis albums and are landmark albums of progressive music.
Spiral is just a notch below those two. It contains the song To the Unknown Man, one of Vangelis’ best-known pieces. After Spiral, Vangelis did make some very good albums, but his style was never quite the same. Of course, the same was true for any number of first-generation prog artists as the 1970s drew to a close. The Spiral CD includes a rare bonus track, previously unissued on CD: To the Unknown Man Part Two, which was a single B-side.
By the time of Direct (1988), which was recorded for Arista, Vangelis had moved to Athens. “Like most Vangelis, this defies categorization. It has strong elements of rock & roll, symphonic synth ambience, and new age instrumental aspects. At the same time, the bold synthesizer strokes and washes fit the Berlin school of electronica. Given Vangelis’ proclivity for soundtrack work, it is no surprise that this disc sounds like great film music. It is a great CD that will appeal to many different audiences.” [All Music] Note the mp3 icons above link to allmusic.com, which not only has audio samples for these albums but also a review of each. Lots more reviews can be found at Prog Archives. You’ll note the RCA albums have the most raters of any of the many Vangelis albums with the exception of his Blade Runner soundtrack, which has more to do with the movie than the soundtrack per se.
Vangelis was considered to replace Rick Wakeman the first time Rick left Yes. Vangelis turned it down but became friends with Jon Anderson, leading to four Jon & Vangelis albums, of which Page of Life (1991) is the fourth, released eight years after the third. Note this edition contains the same content as the original 1991 edition. (There was a 1998 U.S. release that messed with the tracks.) This edition contains a rare bonus track: Sing With Your Eyes, taken from the promotional Wisdom Chain CD single.
This is the 2013 newly-remastered and expanded edition on Esoteric of Jon Anderson’s 1994 album Change We Must. The album features extensive orchestral arrangements of both new compositions and material from Anderson’s past, including a new version of Hearts (from the Yes album 90125) and State of Independence (from the Jon & Vangelis album The Friends of Mr Cairo). Change We Must also features additional material co-written by Jon Anderson and Vangelis, including the title track, The Kiss, and Candle Song. The CD features two bonus tracks: a single edit of the title track and an interview with Jon Anderson. The booklet fully restores the original album artwork and includes new liner notes by Jon. Click the mp3 icon above to read the All Music review.
Airbag are a five-man prog band from Oslo, Norway. Classic Rock Magazine hit the nail on the head when they described their 2009 debut Identity as: “Prog at its most chilled, honeyed and soothing... reminiscent of Coldplay doing Pink Floyd covers. Believe us, that’s a recommendation.” Airbag are also reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at their most sensual, as well as Gazpacho, RPWL, modern Marillion and Anathema. The music is lush and dripping with atmosphere, with omnipresent synth pads and some of the guitar work sounding like EBow, plus top-notch vocals. Gorgeous, melancholy stuff.
All Rights Removed (2011) is their second. The current edition comes in a standard jewel box. Read the Background Magazine and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album preview video.
This is the limited digisleeve edition of Airbag’s third CD The Greatest Show on Earth (2013). “With The Greatest Show on Earth, Airbag have merely tired out the extended crescendoing solo formula and made room for further variation from their already newfound triumphs to help them reach that looming magnum opus and seat as one of prog’s modern heroes.” Read the full Sputnik Music review as well as the Prog Rock Music Talk review.
Trail Records is a label specialized in music that falls somewhere on the spectrum between psychedelic and progressive rock, and while we’ve stocked their proggier releases such as Barrett Elmore, In the Labyrinth, and Siddhartha, the titles here represent their more psychedelic, spacey, and trancey CDs. Sky Cries Mary are a Seattle-based trance rock band that have been around since the late 1980s. Beyond-o-Matic are a San Francisco-based space rock band that began in the early 1990s. Click the mp3 icons above not only for audio samples but for the label’s description of each CD and links to reviews. Also read the Exposé review of Beyond-o-Matic’s Relations...
Tripwave is subtitled A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music, and features bands you may have heard of such as Vespero, Decadence, or Disen Gage, and others probably unknown to you. Psychedelic World Music likewise features bands that aren’t exactly household names, this time from around the globe including even Belarus, Armenia, and China, so Trail Records have done their homework. Tripwave and Time to Get Up come in jewel cases, the others are digipacks.
Cosmos Inside (digipack) is the first release of 2014 for Trail Records. “Polska Radio One is a group from the cold and gloomy Ural city of Yekaterinburg that in just a year and a half has made its way from beginner garage combo to one of Eastern Europe’s most interesting and promising psychedelic bands.” Read the Mr. Atavist review.
This is the 2013 reissue of Lightdark (2008), Nosound’s second album. The Kscope label has started an annoying trend of reissuing their back catalog before the first edition has had time to go out-of-print. This edition is a CD+DVD that comes in a hardcover digibook and has been remastered. It contains all the audio tracks from the original 2CD (the track Clouds appears on the DVD only.) The DVD contains 24bit/48kHz stereo and 5.1 surround (DTS and Dolby) mixes, plus video extras. The packaging features reworked artwork, new photos, and new liner notes. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Nosound catalog and more details on this album.
This is a group of CDs with overlapping personnel that have been released before, been out-of-print for years, but have been reissued in 2013 by Gonzo Multimedia. 1976 was a busy year for woodwind player Jack Lancaster and keyboardist Robin Lumley, a year in which they produced both the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums and helped set Brand X in motion. Most of the arrangements on the Peter and the Wolf album were done by Lancaster and Lumley, though this version of the album is not credited to them per se. The album is a progressive rock reworking of Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf that also features such luminaries as Gary Moore, Manfred Mann, Phil Collins, Percy Jones, Bill Bruford, Gary Brooker, Stephane Grappelli, Alvin Lee, Cozy Powell, Brian Eno, Jon Hiseman, John Goodsall, Chris Spedding, and more. The music generally follows Prokoviev’s compositions but with rock instruments representing the characters.
The lineup on the instrumental Marscape album includes Jack Lancaster, Robin Lumley, John Goodsall, Percy Jones, and Phil Collins. It was released almost simultaneously with Brand X’s debut Unorthodox Behaviour, and in the minds of many fans, this is Brand X, though here Lancaster is the composer, which makes Marscape distinct from the Brand X albums, less fusion-y and more classically-influenced. Read the in-depth article on the Peter and the Wolf and Marscape albums at DPRP.
Missing Period represents the earliest known recordings of Brand X, from 1975-76. Recorded shortly before the release of their debut album Unorthodox Behaviour, the source tapes for this material were recovered by John Goodsall from family members in England, who presented John with a box containing all sorts of Brand X memorabilia. At the bottom of the box were some old reels of tape of unknown origin. Upon review, John and Percy Jones realized they had uncovered a long lost treasure, excellent quality recordings of Brand X’s classic lineup performing previously unreleased material.
The Brand X live CD is a soundboard recording of a performance at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles in September 1979, shortly after the release of the Product album.
Wild Connections (1979) is a collaboration between Jack Lancaster and Rick van der Linden, the keyboardist and leader of the Dutch band Trace. They are joined by a drummer and a choir, while Lancaster plays only Lyricon (the first electronic wind controller) and van der Linden plays only Yamaha GX-1. No bass player was necessary because van der Linden, being an organist, was very good at playing foot pedals. The GX-1 was Yamaha’s monstrous three-manual + bass pedals synth, weighing around 300kg/660lb and costing on the order of $60,000. Consequently, van der Linden was one of very few musicians to own one, the most famous being Keith Emerson, who used the GX-1 on Fanfare for the Common Man and Pirates. Wild Connections is an excellent album that contains van der Linden’s best baroque-rock outside of Trace.
Kerrs Pink are one of the most famous Norwegian progressive rock bands, having released their first album in 1980. In 2013, Kerrs Pink released their outstanding sixth album Mystic Spirit (68-minutes, digipack) on their own label. Their new singer is Eirikur Hauksson, on loan from Magic Pie. While the Kerrs Pink that recorded the early 1980s albums sounds somewhat tentative, the current band is bold and powerful as never before, and this will probably be regarded as their best album. It is loaded with vintage keyboards, the compositions still playing to Kerrs Pink’s strength, which is regal 1970s style symphonic prog with Norwegian folk melodies (with accordion used on occasion). With the contemporary production, this is an update of the classic Scandinavian symphonic prog style, close to Kaipa. Since it is sung in English, the reformed Kaipa is a better reference than 70s Kaipa. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Kerrs Pink catalog, including the last copies of some out-of-print titles.
Live in Stockholm - March 10th, 1975 (2013, digipack) is a recording of one of the final performances of the original Greenslade, released with the cooperation of Dave Greenslade. Click the mp3 icon above to see the track list. Extensive liner notes are included. See our British page for more Greenslade CDs.
Ultra Violins (2013) is the first solo album in over 20 years for violinist Darryl Way, known for his work in Curved Air and Darryl Way’s Wolf. Ultra Violins features Way’s interpretations of a number of a well-known classical pieces as well as a new version of the Curved Air show-stopper Vivaldi, all multi-tracked with some use of other instruments for a full sound. At least on Vivaldi, Way plays electric violin. Way says: “The motivating force behind creating Ultra Violins was to introduce some new material for solo violin that came from the vocal repertoire and the world of orchestral music, rather than music specifically for solo violin.” The CD includes a multimedia section with a music video and a video interview of Way. This album is a real pleasure, and you’ll get smarter just by listening to it.
Zenit are a Swiss band from the Ticino, the Italian-speaking Swiss canton, formed by members of or musicians who have worked with Clepsydra, Changes, and Shakary. That’s pretty much every progressive band in the canton. After CDs in 2001 and 2006, it took until 2013 for Zenit’s third CD The Chandrasekhar Limit. Zenit’s music relates to all the aforementioned bands. If you’re not familiar with them, think in terms of Marillion and Genesis. Zenit remind us at times of Flame Dream, who may still be the best symphonic prog band to come out of Switzerland. At least it sounds like what Flame Dream might produce today if they were active and wanted to make a prog album. (Like many bands of their era, Flame Dream’s final output was commercial.) Read the Prog Rock Music Talk, DPRP, and Jerry Lucky reviews. Listen to the album sampler on YouTube.
With Clearlight leader Cyrille Verdeaux living in California now for a long time, a collaboration with California space collective Spirits Burning was a natural. There are at least 35 musicians on this album, including Daevid Allen, Robert Rich, and members past and present of Hawkwind, High Tide, Gong, Universal Totem Orchestra, The Muffins, Thinking Plague, Cartoon, and others. Watch the album preview video. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Aural Innovations reviews. See our French page for the Clearlight CDs.
The first thing to clear up about this Belgian band is that they don’t have a violinist. The band name refers to Marc Chagall’s painting “Green Violinist”. More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings (2013) is their debut, published by the Swiss prog label Galileo. Born from the depression and personal transformation of bandleader Vincent Dufresne, the music is generally melancholy and sometimes grim (though the song Shy People is upbeat). The album is moving and poignant; whether it touches the listener deeply will of course hinge on whether the listener resonates with the emotions within the music or the demons Dufresne is exorcising. Read the Prog Archives, All About Jazz, and Dangerdog reviews.
Gringo was an early, obscure British quartet that included John G Perry, who would go on to Caravan, Quantum Jump, Curved Air, Gordon Giltrap, and Aviator. Gringo’s sole LP was released in 1972 and reissued on CD in 2000. This is the 2013 Gonzo edition, which includes the two bonus tracks of the 2000 edition, taken from a 1971 single. The music covers both proto-prog and period pop, with excellent harmony vocals and keyboard work emphasizing Fender Rhodes. Certainly a product of its time, it’s enjoyable so long as one isn’t expecting a Canterbury album. File alongside Kestrel, Capability Brown, Fantasy, etc.
These Pierre Moerlen’s Gong CDs are the 2013 editions on Gonzo Multimedia. Breakthrough (1986) and Second Wind (1988) are from a distinct period in the history of the band, five years having passed since the previous album Leave It Open. In 1985, Moerlen joined Swedish prog band Tribute and stayed on for three years. The Pierre Moerlen’s Gong that recorded Breakthrough features almost all of the Tribute members and is different from all the other PMG albums, much closer to being a Tribute album, a companion to Tribute’s Breaking Barriers album released the same year (if the similar names weren’t enough to clue you in). Since we like Tribute a lot, we like Breakthrough a lot, but of course the album gets badmouthed by those expecting it to sound the same as the earlier PMG albums. There’s only one Tribute member on Second Wind, which sees the return of Benoît Moerlen and is mostly a return to PMG’s fusion style or at least a late-80s update on it.
Full Circle Live 1988 wasn’t initially released until ten years later. It’s an excellent live album, the songs from Second Wind done with more energy and less studio slickness. It also features a good selection of tracks going back as far as Expresso II. See Page 2 for more Pierre Moerlen’s Gong CDs and the rest of the story.
These are the 2012/2013 digipack reissues on Sireena Records, who say that the albums were remastered. New Views is the 1984 debut by Swedish symphonic prog band Tribute. This is an album we’re very fond of, and though the band may have been forgotten in the past three decades, this album sold well upon its release, and the band toured western Europe. It was during their 1985 tour in Germany that their drummer bailed and Tribute managed to find a replacement in Pierre Moerlen, who became a member for three years. The music on New Views is instrumental with beautiful wordless female vocals. Even though Moerlen had not yet joined, there is a very strong influence of instrumental Mike Oldfield (Moerlen’s employer at the time) of the Incantations through Crises period. There are also elements of Camel, Genesis, instrumental Alan Parsons Project, and (in one track) Tangerine Dream. The 22-minute epic title track is the highlight of an album that is supremely melodic with just the right amount of grandeur. If this album is new to you and you’re a fan of Oldfield and the other artists mentioned, rejoice that there is still undiscovered music like this.
Moerlen was on board for the second Tribute album Breaking Barriers (1986) and contributes to the writing. The style of this album shifts toward the Pierre Moerlen’s Gong style of the same timeframe. Breaking Barriers has much in common with the similarly-named PMG album Breakthrough released the same year, which has almost all of Tribute in the line-up. “Breaking Barriers was Tribute’s second release and continued their exploration into commercial symphonic progressive space rock. This album has stronger electric guitar presence and a couple vocal tracks, but manages to sustain their positive musical explorations. The vocal harmonies are truly majestic with compelling voices used throughout. The great thing about this album is that they did not try to carbon copy the first and really gave way to some new leanings and genuine progression to follow through on. On this album, Tribute also dig more into the world music envelope with an African ditty (featuring Amadu Jarr on African percussion) and a Scottish Celtic influenced track. Overall a great album full of excellent musicianship and expressive positive songwriting.” [Prog Archives]
British band Legend formed in 1988 and released their first CD in 1991. They bill themselves as a pagan progressive rock band in that they draw upon the folklore and pre-Christian mysticism of the British Isles. They have always had a female lead vocalist, but each of the titles here feature a different one. Triple Aspect (1996) is their third and is the best of the CDs they released during their first era.
Cardinal Points (2011, 59-minutes) was the first new studio CD from Legend since Triple Aspect. It is divided into four long tracks in the 13-17 minute range, following an earth, wind, fire, and water theme. Legend sometimes integrate a heavy, plodding Hawkwind or early Rainbow approach, though ‘neo-prog’ best describes their music. As this CD progresses, the music becomes more nuanced and open, approaching Renaissance level in the last and longest track, maybe the best thing they’ve recorded. Read the JerryLucky.com review.
Spirit (2013) is heavier than Legend’s past work, and when all is said and done, we suspect it will rate higher than any Legend album to date. While only a tiny bit of it could qualify as prog-metal, there is an aesthetic at play that will attract symphonic metal fans. Legend are more keyboard-heavy than any metal band though, so heavy neo-prog it shall be. New singer Beck Siàn, who has an established solo career, steals the show. Beck has a pure yet powerful voice, with great range and articulation, and a haunting delivery when she wants it. In her upper range, she’s unmistakably Kate Bush-y, which is interesting because the two are actually related, and Kate was an inspiration for Beck. Beck’s voice is sometimes multitracked to sound like a choir, giving the music a big, epic, gothic feel. Similar to the previous album, the music opens up during the latter part of the album, with more space and nuance, an even better showcase for the vocals. Read reviews of all at Prog Archives.
Space-prog album of the year? Phoenix Rising (2013, digipack) is a collaboration between Japanese instrumental prog/jam band Rovo and Steve Hillage’s electronic band System 7. The album was performed and recorded live. Like most Japanese prog bands, Rovo have impressive instrumental skills, and they have an electric violinist. The dueling between Hillage’s electric guitar and Yuji Katsui’s violin are one highlight. The majority of tracks were written by Hillage and/or his partner Miquette Giraudy, while Rovo wrote some, and one is a cover of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Meeting of the Spirits. Read the Get Ready to Rock! and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Watch the album trailer and another short video.
Kscope’s 2013 reissue of The Pineapple Thief’s 2008 album Tightly Unwound has been expanded to a double CD and comes in a hardcover digibook. The audio has been remixed and remastered. The second disc contains eight more tracks taken from the Dawn Raids EPs and an acoustic version of Shoot First. The single CD edition is the original and comes in a super jewel box, now available at cost.
Kscope’s 2013 reissue of the second Pineapple Thief album One Three Seven (written “137” on its initial release in 2001) has been remixed and remastered and features new artwork. The older albums tend to benefit more from the reworking because of improved studio technology and the artist’s increased experience, and that is certainly the case with One Three Seven. We have a fondness for the early Pineapple Thief albums (when there was no definite article in the band name), and bandleader Bruce Soord is still quite proud of his older work, and as he says: “The sound is infinitely better and it has revealed a really strong album lurking beneath.” Now mathematicians may argue that for the sound to be infinitely better, there had to have been no sound at all on the first edition, but we vaguely recall there was some great melancholy prog on it. See Page 2 for the rest of the Pineapple Thief catalog and much more info.
This 2013 release is a collaboration between Bruce Soord, leader of The Pineapple Thief, and Jonas Renkse, lead vocalist of Katatonia. Soord wrote the songs with Renkse’s voice in mind. This is the jewel box edition; the limited edition mediabook is out-of-print. See Kscope’s mini-site for videos and more info. “It is a stunning album in both depth and range of emotion and music. It captures so many genres and yet defies labels. Part rock, part electronic, it’s all blended together to create and album that lifts you up, makes you think and most importantly makes you feel. There is a hypnotic use of space and dynamics from the frailest, most intimate ambience to bombastic guitar-driven sections that lift your spirits. It is everything you can want from an album and more.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review.
Oliver Wakeman (Rick’s eldest son) teamed with Steve Howe on The 3 Ages of Magick (2001), a concept album that continues the style of Rick Wakeman’s most grandiose albums. It is instrumental, with Wakeman and Howe assisted by Tony Dixon (Uilleann pipes, whistles, flute), Jo Greenland (violin), Tim Buchanan (fretted & fretless bass), and Landmarq’s Dave Wagstaffe (drums). This 2013 slipcased edition on Esoteric has been newly remastered and adds three previously unreleased bonus tracks from the album sessions. The expanded booklet contains notes by Oliver Wakeman.
Circles (2010) is the second album from Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison, and multi-instrumentalist, singer, and extended range bass player 05Ric. The extended range bass is an instrument 05Ric had a hand in designing, incorporating aspects of the Chapman Stick and a conventional electric guitar. These are two stellar musicians making full-sounding music mostly in the Adrian Belew-era King Crimson vein with a healthy dose of Allan Holdsworth added. We’ve all heard lots of bands influenced by 80s Crimson and by Holdsworth, but few if any as good as the originals. Circles however is right up there with them. The intricacy of it all is kind of mind-bending, yet it is musical, flowing naturally; it’s even soothing at times. Gavin is definitely holding back when playing with Porcupine Tree (which makes sense for PTree’s style). This edition includes a CD plus a DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) containing the album in surround, packaged in a super jewel box + slipcase. Thank you Kscope for a hi-res surround version with no increase in price! Those with DVD-Video-only players can listen to the DTS surround mix.
The Man Who Sold Himself (2012, digibook) is the third collaboration for Harrison and 05Ric. The DVD in this two disc set contains a 5.1 mix of the album. (There is no indication of DVD-Audio on the outside of the packaging. Kscope lists it as a DVD-A on their site, but one can never be sure labels understand the difference between a DVD-A and a DVD-Video disc containing only audio.) Read reviews at ThisIsNotAScene and Alternative Matter. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Drop is the first for the duo, originally released in 2007 and featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Dave Stewart, and Gary Sanctuary (Three Friends). Nine carefully crafted songs feature ground-breaking multi-layered guitars, vocal harmonies, and rhythms. This 2013 Kscope slipcased edition features new artwork by Carl Glover.
The new Ayreon album The Theory of Everything (2013, digipack) is a rock opera (imagine that!) that begins a new story line for the Ayreon universe. The two CDs contain four 20+ minute epics divided into 42 separate tracks. The DVD contains 2.5 hours of behind-the-scenes content, mainly a making-of documentary and interviews. An Ayreon album always has impressive participants, but this one outdoes the previous albums. To name just the biggest names: John Wetton, Steve Hackett, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Troy Donockley, and Jordan Rudess. This album is proggier (less metallic) and more instrumental than the previous album 01011001, in some ways returning to the early days. Read the Sea of Tranquility, The Monolith, and Dangerdog reviews. Watch the album trailer and the official video for the title track. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Dutch page for more Ayreon CDs.
Odyssice are a Dutch instrumental sympho-prog quartet founded in 1986. They are led by guitarist Bastiaan Peeters, whose style is close to Andy Latimer of Camel: soaring, lyrical guitar work that might also be compared to David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, or Nick Barrett, yet is distinct from all of them. Lush keyboards also play a major role. If you thought the best tracks on Camel albums such as Nude were the instrumentals, then any of these is like getting an entire album of the good stuff.
This 2013 double-CD edition of Moon Drive (digipack) remasters and expands Odyssice’s first album. It contains the remastered 1997 Moon Drive tracks, the remastered 2003 ‘Plus’ tracks (that appeared on Moondrive Plus), two previously-unreleased 1987 demo tracks, and an entire previously-unreleased 11-track live album recorded in 2001.
This is the 2012 remastered 2CD edition of Odyssice’s second album Impression (digipack), first released in 2000. This new edition adds a second disc containing over 50 minutes of bonus material from 1999-2001, mostly alternate versions, live versions, and outtakes. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Secret Showcase (2013, digipack) is a CD+DVD of a live performance at the studio of RTV Noord-Holland that took place shortly before the band began recording Silence. The CD contains about 60 minutes of music, including extra songs played during the concert that were omitted from the TV broadcast. The DVD contains the show as broadcast, a documentary, a promotional live video of the song Olympus, and some rehearsal footage. The DVD is all-region, but as there is no indication on the packaging, assume it is PAL.
Dutch prog quartet Cliffhanger stand apart from the other Dutch prog bands that appeared during the 1990s, as the others were virtually all pure neo-prog bands. Cliffhanger are more complex, with high-level musicianship and a 1970s sound that features vintage keyboard sounds, guitar, bass pedals, Rickenbacker bass, and drums. Cliffhanger’s music draws from Genesis, Yes, Van der Graaf Generator, and King Crimson. A couple Cliffhanger members went on to Knight Area.
This is the 2013 re-release of Cold Steel (digipack), Cliffhanger’s 1995 debut album remastered and expanded to a double-CD version. Disc 1 contains the original 68-minute album carefully remastered. Disc 2 contains 71 minutes of previously unreleased material from the same time frame. Of the 11 tracks on Disc 2, only three appear to be alternate versions of tracks on Disc 1. The digipack features new artwork and liner notes. Hopefully the other out-of-print Cliffhanger CDs will follow. Read reviews of the original at Prog Archives. Check our Dutch page for Cliffhanger’s Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001 DVD.
Desolation Rose (2CD, digipack) is The Flower Kings’ 2013 studio CD, featuring 18 new tracks. Watch the official video. See our Scandinavian page for more The Flower Kings CDs.
Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith (2013, big fat digipack) is a 5-disc (3 CDs + 2 DVDs) set recorded on Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited tour on May 10, 2013 at the sold-out Hammersmith Apollo in London. Guests include Nik Kershaw, John Wetton, Jakko Jakszyk, Steve Rothery, and Amanda Lehmann. 19 classic Genesis tracks are spread across the three CDs. The first DVD contains the full 2 hour, 41 minute show with 5.1 surround audio! The second DVD contains behind the scenes footage. Watch the promo video. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Steve Hackett’s live album The Tokyo Tapes was first issued in 1998 as a double-CD, followed by a DVD in 2001. This 2013 edition on Esoteric has been newly-remastered and combines the 2CD and the DVD (NTSC, all-region) into one box-set. Both the 2CD and DVD were drawn from two 1996 concerts in Tokyo. Hackett’s band was a progressive rock supergroup, with John Wetton, Chester Thompson, Ian McDonald, and Julian Colbeck. In addition to songs from the Steve Hackett repertoire, the set list features Genesis, King Crimson, John Wetton, and Asia songs. The second CD still includes the studio tracks Firewall and The Dealer but now also includes a new studio recording of All Along the Watchtower by Hackett and Wetton. The DVD includes bonus rehearsal footage. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
This is the best American symphonic prog by an artist you never heard of, unless you have heard of The Psychedelic Ensemble, in which case you don’t need to read this sentence. The band name is a bit of a misnomer as the music is symphonic prog, not psych. The noun ‘psyche’ is a better word than ‘psychedelic’ as far as the album concepts go, since it’s the human psyche that is often being examined. Essentially a solo artist, you’d never guess that was the case because the music sounds like a large ensemble. The man behind it all doesn’t reveal his identity and we’ll respect that, though we can say he has a career in contemporary classical music and a long composition resume. Maybe he doesn’t want his classical peers to learn he has an alternate life as a progger.
The debut The Art of Madness (2009, 54-minutes) is slightly different than what follows. The dominant influence on this album is DSotM-era Pink Floyd, though somewhat more introspective and brooding -- if you know the band Product, we’re reminded of their approach. But Pink Floyd is far from the only style here. There are instrumental passages that have nothing to do with Pink Floyd, fast-tempo and adventurous, while there is room for classical chamber music, prog-folk, ELP-style and more. There is great attention to detail, an uncommonly intricate sonic tapestry, all told quite an original and impressive work. This is the Musea edition, the only edition currently available.
On the following albums: The Myth of Dying (2010, 58-minutes), The Dream of the Magic Jongleur (2011, 64-minutes), and The Tale of the Golden King (2013, 72-minutes), Yes becomes the dominant influence while the Pink Floyd influence drops off. ELP/UK and Gentle Giant are also influences, but the music is generally darker and busier than those bands. The Tale of the Golden King features a female vocalist and an orchestra on some tracks. All the albums are more instrumental than vocal. Start with one of the more recent CDs. Read reviews of all.
Drive Home (2013) features unreleased Steven Wilson tracks, videos, live recordings, and high-definition audio. The video content of the Blu-ray (all-region) includes a new video for the title track, the video for The Raven That Refused to Sing, and four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour. Audio-only content includes two previously unreleased tracks. The first of these, The Birthday Party, was recorded in Los Angeles during the same sessions as The Raven... album. The second is an orchestral version of The Raven That Refused to Sing, a new mix that strips it down to just orchestra and vocals. These tracks are also featured on the CD along with the audio from the live tracks and an edit of Drive Home. All the songs on the Blu-Ray are mixed in both stereo and 5.1 surround. The audio on the Blu-Ray is lossless 96/24 throughout. Watch the promo video. See Page 2 for the rest of the Steven Wilson catalog.
Hawklords are a branch of the large Hawkwind family tree. The lineup on Dream (2013) has only Harvey Bainbridge in common with the lineup that recorded 1978’s 25 Years On, but just about every other current Hawklord has been in Hawkwind at some point. “With too convoluted a history to document here, the current incarnation -- Harvey Bainbridge from the original ’78 spin-off plus several other mothership veterans -- jettisons most of the laboured biker rock that marred last year’s We Are One for an airier dynamic. The closest comparison would be Levitation/Sonic Attack-era Hawkwind. Dream a Dream updates Motorway City with a heavy trance back end and Psychic Eyes is Coded Languages in a parallel reality. As persuasive as these are, the ante is upped on Dead Air -- a reverse-echoed slice of futuristic whimsy redolent of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman -- and the uplifting melody of Elemental Mind. An occasional touch of water-treading takes off a little of the shine, though the balance between looking back and forward is expertly struck.” [Classic Rock Magazine] Read what the non-paid guys think at amazon. Watch the promo video.
Hawkwind’s 1975 magnum opus gets the royal Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 2CD+DVD box set. The first CD contains the remastered original mix, the first CD ever of Warrior on the Edge of Time mastered from the original master tapes. It has eight bonus tracks (five previously unreleased). The second CD contains a new stereo mix by Steven Wilson from the multi-track masters, plus five bonus tracks (two previously unreleased). And most importantly, the DVD, which contains a 5.1 surround mix by the master of surround himself. Note this is a DVD-Video disc (NTSC, all-region), not DVD-Audio, which is boneheaded, particularly for Esoteric who you think would know better. So the surround mix is DTS 96/24 and Dolby Digital (the latter was never intended for music, so play the DTS). The DVD also includes Wilson’s new stereo mix in 24-bit/96kHz LPCM, and a flat transfer of the original stereo master in 24/96. So aside from the bonus tracks and ignoring portability concerns, you don’t actually need the CDs unless you prefer the lower resolution audio. The 16-page booklet features photos, memorabilia, and an essay. Don’t know this album? Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our British page for more Hawkwind CDs.
These are the 2013 newly-remastered editions on Esoteric. This British progressive folk-rock band featured Barbara Gaskin on vocals, who later sang for Hatfield and the North and teamed with Dave Stewart on several progressive pop albums under the name Stewart/Gaskin. Dave Mattacks played drums on all three Spirogyra albums but was never a member. St. Radigunds (1971), Old Boot Wine (1972), and Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973) are excellent albums that can be grouped with Trees, Comus, and Spriguns. In fact, their progressive content exceeds that of almost any of the 1970s folk-rock and psych-folk albums. Old Boot Wine adds four bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions. Bells, Boots and Shambles has one bonus track, a non-album single. The booklets contain a new essay. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
British band Quatermass made this one classic progressive rock album in 1970 that influenced Deep Purple at least. (There were connections between the Quatermass musicians and Ian Gillan, and the first Rainbow album includes a Quatermass cover.) The band consisted of keyboardist Peter Robinson, bassist/singer John Gustafson, and drummer Mick Underwood. Robinson went on to Brand X, while Gustafson became a session musician and found work with Roxy Music, Gordon Giltrap, Steve Hackett, and many others. Underwood had no trouble finding work either. For surround enthusiasts, this 2013 digipack edition on Esoteric is startling and unexpected. While the CD includes a new stereo mix by Peter Robinson and four bonus tracks (two previously unreleased), the DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a new 5.1 surround mix by Robinson! Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Awaking the Muse (2009) is the very strong debut by a Dutch symphonic prog band formed by members of Flamborough Head, Trion, King Eider, Nice Beaver, and Pink Floyd Project. Leap Day play upbeat, melodic neo-prog in the old Marillion, IQ, and Egdon Heath styles; The Flower Kings is not a bad reference point either. Simply ear candy for lovers of undiluted neo-prog. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Skylge’s Lair (2011) is their second, and it is less neo-prog than their debut, more of a sense of Kayak and to some extent Focus, less of Marillion. Well, Flamborough Head developed similarly, becoming more of a classic prog band on later albums, and King Eider and Trion always leaned more toward classic prog than neo. There are lots of vintage keyboard sounds -- enough Mellotron flute to suggest The Beatles, enough bouncy electric piano to bring Supertramp to mind. Greenslade is a good reference point since both bands have two keyboardists, and Camel must also be mentioned. Excellent melodic prog with a stately feel. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
From the Days of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (2013, digipack) follows on the heels of new albums by Trion and Flamborough Head, a very productive period for these musicians. Watch the album trailer video.
These are the 2013 editions on the Esoteric label, newly-remastered from the original tapes, with booklets that feature a new essay and interview with Giltrap. See the Gordon Giltrap section on our British page for full information and the rest of the essential Gordon Giltrap CDs.
This 2013 collaboration with Oliver Wakeman represents Gordon Giltrap’s return to rock, after 30 years away. Which means the UK’s leading acoustic guitarist has plugged in his electric again. Giltrap has worked with Rick Wakeman on several occasions, so the collaboration with Oliver is a natural. On Ravens and Lullabies, the two are joined by singer Paul Manzi (Arena), bassist Steve Amadeo, and drummer Johanne James (Threshold), while Threshold’s Karl Groom recorded and mixed the album. The album also features a special vocal appearance by Benoit David (Mystery, Yes). This is the limited edition digipack, which adds a second CD containing five live tracks from Giltrap and Wakeman’s acoustic duo tour, and three new studio recordings. Click the mp3 icon above for all the info on the album plus several reviews. More reviews at amazon.
Oceans of Time (2013) is the fourth full-length studio CD for this British prog band. The band says that “fans will enjoy a more guitar-orientated sound than previous albums due to the nature of the writing process.” Touchstone always had one foot in prog and one in melodic hard rock, and with each album they shift a little more weight onto the hard rock foot. Read the Dangerdog, RingMaster, and Sea of Tranquility reviews. See our British page for the rest of the Touchstone CDs and more info.
Berlin’s Crystal Palace have been releasing albums and EPs since 1995. We stocked their 2010 album Reset and wrote that it “contains everything one would expect from a neo-prog CD in 2010: melodic Marillion-influenced songs sung in English, skewed darker and heavier at times. Another quality German neo-prog band to join Martigan, Morphelia, Jack Yello, and others.”
With The System of Events (2013, 70-minutes), Crystal Palace joined RPWL on the latter’s Gentle Art of Music label. RPWL’s Yogi Lang and Kalle Walner guest, as does Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin, with Lang responsible for the superb sound of this recording. The System of Events follows the trends, the music now more atmospheric, a blend of Marillion-style neo-prog, the likes of Riverside and Anathema, and the uplifting, anthemic RPWL style. “The whole album is a top-notch effort. Much thought has gone into both the subject matter and the music to produce a magnum opus of colossal proportions with exceptional musicianship throughout, taken still further by the monumental title track. Jaw-droppingly good.” Read the full Get Ready to Rock! review. Watch the album trailer and listen to the title track.
This Esoteric Recordings 2CD anthology of pioneering Danish prog band Burnin Red Ivanhoe is drawn from their prime period albums on Sonet Records: M144 (1969), Burnin Red Ivanhoe (1970), W.W.W. (1971), 6 Elefantskovcikadeviser (1971), Miley Smile / Stage Recall (1972), and Right On (1974). The music has been newly-remastered from the original master tapes and features a booklet with fully restored artwork and a new essay. Burnin Red Ivanhoe’s early prog mixed jazz-rock with psychedelia, hard rock, folk, blues, and everything else that was going on in music at the time. The band evolved into the jazzier Secret Oyster. Read The Active Listener and Prog Archives reviews.
Energy (2013) is the third album for English quintet Mother Black Cap. If the prevailing trend in British prog at this time is represented by The Reasoning, DeeExpus, Touchstone, Tinyfish, etc., then Mother Black Cap run counter to it. For one, this CD has a live, underproduced sound, and the music is sometimes relaxed and flowing. With electric piano and Hammond organ the dominant keyboards, the sound is more oriented to 1970s prog and early-80s neo-prog. Camel could be mentioned, and the band have been known to play covers of other early 1970s bands including Pink Floyd and Focus. Some tracks are closer to the likes of Grey Lady Down and Grace. Energy features additional musicians on trumpet, flugelhorn, fiddle, and vocals. A few tracks bring to mind the great Horslips, and the final track borrows from the instrumental section of MacArthur Park (one of the earliest prog songs). Not copyists, and not entirely a retro band, but MBC make warm, inviting music for fans of very English-sounding (and since we mentioned Horslips, Irish-sounding) prog. Read the Background Magazine review.
English Electric Part One (2012, digipack, 60-minutes) continues Big Big Train’s meteoric rise to prog fame, as EE1 goes beyond even The Underfall Yard. Andy Tillison (The Tangent) guests. “Fragrant, mellifluous and, quite frankly, awe-inspiring.” [Classic Rock] “EE1 is a thing of absolute and intense beauty, truth, and goodness. It comes as close to reaching the Platonic ideal of the forms as any album can. It’s intense, hurried, lingering, pastoral, necessary, longing, bouncy, pleading, satisfying, answering, punctuated, loud, quiet, meaningful, and, over and above all, harmonious... BBT’s music transcends our day-to-day lives in ways that surpass words.” [The Imaginative Conservative] Watch the promo video. Read the DPRP reviews.
With English Electric Part Two (2013, digipack, 58-minutes), “Big Big Train continues its journey across the English landscape with an album of seven new songs which tell further tales of the men and women who work on and under the land. Along the way, stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a machine that burned its legend across the pages of the history books, of a keeper of abbeys and a curator of butterflies, and of a second chance at love.” Read the DPRP reviews.
English Electric: Full Power (2013) contains all of Parts One and Two plus four new songs and a 96-page book telling the stories behind the songs and the making of English Electric, bound into a hardcover digibook. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
Make Some Noise (2013, digipack) features the four new tracks from English Electric: Full Power. It exists so that those who already bought Parts One and Two (and there are a lot of you) can complete the English Electric set without having to purchase Full Power. Make Some Noise actually contains nine tracks, but the other five also appear on either Part One or Two. A high-resolution PDF of the 96-page booklet that comes with Full Power is available free to purchasers of Make Some Noise. We’ll email the link with your invoice, or if we forget, please bug us for it. See our British page for the rest of the Big Big Train CDs and much more info.
This Chris is Dutch multi-instrumentalist and singer Christiaan Bruin, who is also a member of the band Sky Architect and has recently joined Nine Stones Close. His 2009 debut A Glimpse Inside on Musea is nearly as good as Kayak (who Christiaan admits he’d never heard!), the gold standard for Dutch progressive rock with a strong pop element. Bruin has created excellent multi-tracked vocal arrangements, sometimes with Beach Boys type harmonies. He loves to use Mellotron strings and choir, lending a Genesis or IQ feel as well. A bouncy song or two reminds one of early Queen, but the piano and melodic lead guitar keep bringing back thoughts of Kayak. Bruin has since assembled a live band.
Making Sense (2010, 70-minutes, digipack) saw Chris move to the Swedish Progress label, who liken the album to IQ, The Beatles, Yes, and Klaatu, all of which can be heard at different times. The Kayak style is still present, but on balance there has been a shift toward the style of IQ or Carptree, the music somewhat darker and more intense. Christiaan is correct in saying that “the symphonic arrangements and typical vocal layers of the debut are still there, yet further developed into a richer, more versatile sound”. Listen to the track Eve of Destiny on YouTube, which will make that very evident. There aren’t many one-man projects of this caliber, and if you allow yourself to just fall under the spell of the music, you’ll forget one man is responsible for it all. Read reviews.
For City of Light (2012, digipack), Chris says he took a different approach and that this CD sounds more modern, energetic, and youthful. It’s not a huge departure -- it’s still symphonic prog. To his established style, Chris has added some elements that don’t fit with classic prog, namely the sound of the drums, processing on the vocals, occasional samples and whatnot, generally things that add an edgier sound and pull the music closer to Porcupine Tree. Listen to the songs Colours Come to Life and Blessings and Goodbyes on YouTube.
Snow Stories (digipack) is a winter-themed album that the Dutch FREIA label managed to release in time for Christmas 2012. The lineup includes a cellist and a violinist, while two lead guitarists guest. But this isn’t what most would consider a Christmas album. It’s a symphonic prog album with some quirky pop that sounds just as good in July. The prog is in a Yes/Genesis/Kayak vein, the quirky pop à la early Queen. The sonic allusions to winter are by way of orchestral textures and motifs that everyone associates with the season due to numerous soundtracks. In some ways, this is a return to the style of the first Chris album, and it makes it clear that Mr. Bruin is quite a talent.
The wintry Snow Stories is followed by the autumnal Days of Summer Gone (2013, digipack), which features a lot of acoustic textures courtesy of additional musicians on cello, violin, oboe, flute, trumpet, and trombone. Chris says the album “carries the melancholic atmosphere of autumn. At times dreamy, warm, and gentle, at other times twisted, strange, and dark.” He goes on to say: “This album is once again very different. After the electronic, modern City of Light, I wanted to go back to a more organic approach. The arrangements are pretty detailed and colorful I think, and in terms of composition I tried to write more extended compositions rather than songs.” That he has, as four of the six tracks exceed 11 minutes. The Progress label feels this album has more in common with Änglagård (in their more acoustic passages) than any of the styles heard on the previous Chris albums.
There aren’t many active prog bands in Germany who sing in German, but all the ones whose name begins with “Traum” (“Dream”) do. Traumhaus debuted in 2001 with a self-titled CD stylistically similar to neo-prog bands such as early Sylvan, but with German vocals reminiscent of the old East German bands such as Stern Meissen, Lift, and Electra. And some of the material was on the same level as those bands. After a 2005 EP and some personnel changes, Traumhaus returned in 2008 with Die Andere Seite which, though not currently in stock, is supposed to be issued in a new edition in the near future. About half that album is neo-prog and prog-metal, while half is classic prog that exceeds their earlier work. The keyboardist favors vintage sounds, and the album is chock full of Mellotron, Hammond, Minimoog, Fender, etc. In fact, it’s one of the most Mellotron-heavy albums in recent years. There are times when Traumhaus cause flashbacks to prime-period Stern Meissen and Novalis, with an even more powerful sound. Unfortunately, the guitarist switches to metal mode on some tracks, and the music becomes rather ordinary. Well, extraordinary for prog-metal, because the keyboardist does everything he can to keep the music symphonic, but ordinary relative to Traumhaus’s other material. On balance though, this is one of the most under-recognized progressive bands.
Das Geheimnis (2013, digipack) features Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on drums, rather unexpected for a band that sings in German! This album continues along the lines of Die Andere Seite, a combination of classic and neo-prog, some metal moments but loads of vintage keys, centered on the 27-minute epic Das Vermächtnis (The Legacy). The music is much richer for the German-language lyrics that give it character and distinctiveness, still evoking Stern Meissen vocally. English translations of the lyrics are included. (Those so-called prog fans who insist music be sung in English and have a generic Anglo-American sound will not know who Stern Meissen is anyway.) Strongly melodic with exciting instrumental passages, this CD is highly recommended. Watch/listen to the album sampler. Watch a bit of Jimmy Keegan recording his parts and hear more of the album.
The appearance of William Shatner on the recent The Prog Collective - Epilogue CD was just a taster for this album, based on a concept written by Shatner and featuring his spoken word poetry. Ponder the Mystery (2013, digipack) is another Prog Collective type project, organized by Billy Sherwood and featuring an all-star lineup, in this instance Rick Wakeman, Simon House, Edgar Froese, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Nik Turner, and several more. Shatner says he’s a prog fan, though to paraphrase Billy Sherwood: “well, he probably doesn’t have Gentle Giant on his iPod.” Read the Rolling Stone interview and Billboard article, which says that Shatner will perform the album live with Circa: as his band!
Ulver’s Messe I.X - VI.X (2013, jewel box + slipcase) was composed and recorded with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. As the Kscope label says: “The follow up to 2011’s acclaimed Wars of the Roses, Messe I.X–VI.X is a different entity, reverberating 2007’s somber and solemn Shadows of the Sun, with the band even going as far as to say it feels like a companion piece to it. The album also echoes the early electronic experiments of EPs Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing, and is furthermore said to invoke the ghost of an abandoned Nattens madrigal renaissance project... The Norwegian masters have evolved over the past two decades to cross an astonishing body of disciplines, taking in ambient, avant-garde, electronic, psychedelic, prog, and jazz influences. Now it is their electronic, atmospheric, and classical sensibilities which come to the fore.” See our Scandinavian page for more Ulver titles.
Deluge Grander sprung from the ashes of Baltimore progressive band Cerebus Effect. It was the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton that made the final Cerebus Effect CD their most symphonic, and on their 2006 debut August in the Urals, Deluge Grander continue in that same direction, more symphonic and, well, grander. Britton is the primary composer here, and he is a tremendous keyboardist. The pieces vary from long to really long, so that only five tracks comprise the 71-minute CD. No one will be able to digest this music in one go. It is complex symphonic prog in a 1970s style, with some vocals but no attempts at songs per se, as instrumental content clearly dominates. The 27-minute first track is the closest to Cerebus Effect, the most angular and dissonant of the pieces, though the dissonance is used more for contrast than as the sole style. The other tracks are more melodic and symphonic. There are many possible reference points, including Änglagård, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Fireballet, Genesis, and Yes, but the music rarely suggests any one band for long. There are times when Britton’s piano playing suggests John Tout and Renaissance, times when his organ playing suggests Rick Wakeman, and lots of times when he uses Mellotron strings. This album has turned a lot of heads among the fan base for classic progressive rock. Now out-of-print, last copies.
Birds and Buildings is Dan Britton’s other band and is fairly similar. The two bands also share a bass player. Bantam to Behemoth (2008, 69-minutes) has some vocals by Britton and a female singer on one track, but they are so buried in the mix that this still feels like an instrumental CD. The major difference between this and the first Deluge Grander is the presence of a woodwinds (sax, flute, clarinet) player. The flute tends to be used in the gentler, pastoral passages, while the sax is used in the more energetic passages. The sax style is similar to David Jackson or Mel Collins, ranging from melodic to frenzied. The presence of sax leads to comparisons with King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gong, and there is more of a Canterbury influence here than in Deluge Grander. There are still gobs of Mellotron strings and choir, and highly-skilled ensemble playing. The production is a little bass-shy, but overall this is a tremendous CD in the tradition of the complex side of British symphonic progressive.
Bantam to Behemoth was recorded between the two Deluge Grander CDs, and the second Deluge Grander CD The Form of the Good (2009) seems to have more in common with Bantam to Behemoth than August in the Urals, perhaps not surprising given that B&B’s woodwind player guests here. The Form of the Good is entirely instrumental and has more of the sonic maelstrom approach of the French band Clearlight. Here the core quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums in augmented by a large number of guests contributing clarinet, flute, sax, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and oboe. Clearlight had Didier Malherbe’s woodwinds and either David Cross’s or Didier Lockwood’s violin, so Deluge Grander usually have a sonic counterpart to those in the mix here. As with B&B, this is blended with a more symphonic style highlighted by Mellotron.
2013 and it’s Birds and Buildings’ turn again, with Multipurpose Trap (63-minutes). The lineup has changed but the instrumentation still includes violin, sax, flute, and clarinet. In the band’s words, B&B “play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on zeulh), complex symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness”. The band says that every song has up to six people singing, but only for a minute or less on most songs, mainly to confound ‘instrumental’ versus ‘vocal’ classification. Read the Exposé reviews.
Inner Firmaments Decay (2010) is the debut CD by All Over Everywhere, a musical collective based around the collaborative songwriting of Trinna Kesner and Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Birds and Buildings). Inner Firmaments Decay is a themed collection of songs featuring the vocals of Megan Wheatley (who also sings in Birds and Buildings) and a large ensemble of classical and rock musicians who float in and out of the songs. There’s flute, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, violin, viola, cello, hammered dulcimer, zither, piano, accordion, oboe, clarinet, vibes, bass, drums and percussion, and then there are Dan Britton’s keyboards, featuring loads of Mellotron. There is some similarity then to the British band Karda Estra, who also blend rock and classical instruments and use female vocals. Look upon All Over Everywhere as the marriage of dream-pop and symphonic rock. The first seven songs range from three to seven minutes in length, with the female vocals heavily-reverbed, the textures mostly acoustic apart from Britton’s symphonic keys. The mood is somewhat sad, languorous and dreamy. The final track Gratitude (10:35) begins in the same style but morphs seamlessly into majestic symphonic rock and a joyful mood, and may be the only piece of music that transitions from Cocteau Twins or various Projekt label bands into Genesis. Read the DPRP review.
That’s how Cerebus Effect spell their name, even though the three-headed watchdog Cerberus appears on the traycard of Acts of Deception (2005), the second studio CD for this Baltimore-area instrumental band. There is a small amount of “vocals”, but it is not singing as we understand it, and the vocals are very low in the mix. With the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton, Acts of Deception contains a unique blend of symphonic progressive and heavy fusion. Cerebus Effect like to play it fast and furious and in odd time signatures. They’ve been listening to their progressive rock, and you can catch influences of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Djam Karet, Volaré, Happy the Man, Kultivator, Van der Graaf Generator, Magma, and Genesis, to name just a few. Actually, the Genesis and Magma occur in the same song, which is typical of their eclecticism. The tracks that won’t allow you to catch your breath are broken up by a few more peaceful tracks, one suggestive of Steve Hackett’s acoustic pieces and another of Happy the Man’s slower tracks. There are enough bands that impress with technical skills while making for a fatiguing listen, but Cerebus Effect blend in enough structure and symphonic textures to make this an album to return to.
Sonus Umbra is a band whose incarnations have followed bandleader/composer/bassist Luis Nasser, from the band’s roots in Mexico City (the band then called Radio Silence), on to Maryland and now Chicago. Consequently the lineup of Sonus Umbra today has only Nasser and drummer Andy Tillotson in common with the Maryland band, the rest of the band consisting of Rich Poston (electric guitar), Tim McCaskey (acoustic guitar), Brian Harris (keys), Steve Royce (flute/vocals), and Roey Ben-Yoseph on lead vocals. There’s also a guest cellist on Winter Soulstice (2013, 71-minutes, digipack), the first CD for the Chicago edition, and it is the best Sonus Umbra CD to date. The band even call it a departure from their previous work, but the characteristic Sonus Umbra mood is present, as well as the acoustic moments that are a highlight of the early albums. This is clearly the best lineup Sonus Umbra have had. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Sonus Umbra’s debut CD Snapshots from Limbo was very well received, eventually getting re-released by Musea. Spiritual Vertigo (2004) is their second. Here Sonus Umbra produce a melancholy and brooding progressive rock with slight psychedelic or space-rock overtones, leaning towards dark and mysterious without sacrificing melody. Guitars have the edge over keyboards, but the liberal use of acoustic guitar keeps things sounding warm. Andres Aullet’s vocals have a slightly surreal quality to them, and he is aided briefly by guest vocalist Lisa Francis of Kurgan’s Bane. They have their own style; at different times you hear traces of Pink Floyd, Rush, and a host of other 1970s progressives. This is the MALS label edition; the U.S. edition is out-of-print.
Digging for Zeros (2005, 61-minutes) saw changes in the vocal department, the lead vocals here shared by Lisa Francis and Jeff Laramee, both of whom were at this time also members of Baltimore band Kurgan’s Bane, as was Luis Nasser. Sonus Umbra continue to be at their most compelling when they add acoustic guitar to the mix, which they do frequently. On this album, there are occasions when the acoustic guitar is absent, the keys drop out and the music becomes mere hard rock (like Kurgan’s Bane). But in addition to the acoustic guitar, there is plenty of piano and synth to keep things progressive. The dominant tone is again somber and dark but not to the point of ugliness, and there are many lighter, uplifting moments, particularly when Francis sings. Her vocals add a welcome dimension to Sonus Umbra’s music. This is the MALS label edition.
The musicians in this enigmatic U.S. band, led by Mr. Fright Pig himself, all use pseudonyms. If you attend Rosfest 2014, some of the mystery should be peeled away as Fright Pig are scheduled to play there. This is one of the most exciting new bands we’ve heard in some time, and their debut CD Out of the Barnyard (2013, digipack) never lets you catch your breath, nor can you anticipate what’s coming next. Mr. Fright Pig is keyboardist and main composer, and it’s refreshing to hear someone who can really play (keyboardists being in short supply these days), most often in ELP mode but Yes and Genesis influences are also present. Yet it’s a modern record in terms of the energy and that there is also a lot of guitar. Some of it is metal-ish, but usually at breakneck speed rather than the plodding dreck. The vocals are strong, while the album seems about half-instrumental. Artwork by Ed Unitsky. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
It’s probably better to refer to British band Haken as a prog-metal-and-rock band rather than simply a prog-metal band, because they do set themselves apart from typical prog-metal, especially on their third CD The Mountain (2013), which even has some Gentle Giant-isms. Read reviews at Prog Sphere, Sputnik Music, and Prog Archives. Watch the official videos for Atlas Stone and Pareidolia.
These two CDs are distant collaborations between American Jeremy Morris, known for his Pilgrim’s Journey and Celestial City CDs on the Kinesis label (see the Kinesis label section), and Progressor, aka Vitaly Menshikov of Uzbekistan. Vitaly is a member of the band X Religion and the guy who runs the Progressor website, which reviews progressive rock. The artwork for Searching for the Son (2013, 78-minutes) is misleading, suggesting late-60s bubblegum psych-pop, which this isn’t. Unlike its predecessor, Searching for the Son features vocals from Jeremy, whose singing voice resembles John Lennon’s. Guests include keyboardists John “Rabbit”' Bundrick (Jethro Tull, The Who) and Albert Khalmurzayev (X Religion, From.uz) as well as X Religion drummer Valery Vorobiov plus two American multi-instrumentalists. This is arguably the most progressive work to carry Jeremy’s name. The tracks are long and adventurous, with extended instrumental sections, and show a variety of prog styles such that the music doesn’t sound much like anyone other than the two guys whose names are on the CD, but goes beyond that as well. Those familiar with both Jeremy’s enormous body of work and with X Religion can probably sort the music according to who created it. The dark stuff can reliably be assigned to Progressor since Jeremy’s own output is rarely dark. There is a spacey element that runs through many of the tracks, sometimes similar to the spacey parts of Celestial City, sometimes another type of space-prog entirely. There is some Mellotron strings and flute. One track features sophisticated ambient-prog with trumpet in the mix, another resembles the medieval prog of Minimum Vital. There is some of the heavy, dark, classically-influenced X Religion style, not surprising given that all three of the X Religion musicians appear on those tracks, while many of the vocal passages have psychedelic undertones (or is it overtones?), due in part to the John Lennon resemblance.
The Pearl of Great Price (2005, 68-minutes) also features contributions from Brian Hirsch, which is a clue that this music was at least begun several years earlier because Hirsch passed away several years earlier. It is instrumental symphonic space rock and is fairly clearly a Jeremy CD, with the others in a contributing role. It is also the best thing Jeremy has released since his Kinesis-label CDs. Menshikov adds keyboards, bass, and percussion to three of the album’s seven tracks, and Hirsch contributes keys and drums. Jeremy plays guitar, bass, drums, and keys. It is Jeremy’s recognizable electric guitar leads that steal the show. His style is his own, a melodic and lyrical style that is what you might get if you blended Steve Hackett and Brian May (Queen). While you can call this space rock, it has little to do with Hawkwind, and while there is an influence of Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, the electronics are in a supporting role rather than being the main event. Jeremy’s Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett influences are usually evident. While three of the tracks are in the 10-11 minute range, the final track The Journey Home is a 21-minute epic that sounds like the final chapter of Pilgrim’s Journey. Note this CD is out-of-print, last copies.
Ensign of Fairies, Book 1 (2013), which you may also see referred to as The Banner Fey, Book 1, is a very British-sounding, early-1970s style progressive rock album from Russian band Lantinor. The origins of the band go back to 1992, and they have albums dating back to 1996. There is an Anglo-Celtic folk element to their music that makes it special, along the lines of Horslips, Jethro Tull, or Gryphon. Early Yes and Gentle Giant are likely influences too. Four of the five tracks are sung in Russian, one in English. Given how many people are still incapable of listening to music with non-English lyrics (apparently the music becomes inaudible as soon as someone starts singing in another language) and how serviceable Lantinor’s English vocals are, it would be great if the band made their next album for the international market and sang mostly in English. Listen to the audio samples -- we like this album a lot!
Little Victories (2013, digipack) is the debut CD for this instrumental quartet from Kiev, Ukraine. (There was a 2008 Krobak CD, but that was really a solo project of band leader Igor Sidorenko.) The lineup here is violin, guitar, bass, and drums. For the most part, Krobak play post-rock influenced primarily by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the violin providing the extra dimension that guitar-only bands can’t reach. Krobak’s sound is in transition though, shifting towards King Crimson of the 1973-74 era and expected to go further in that direction in the future. So as post-rock goes, this is about as good as it gets. Think of Krobak as a post-rock version of Polish band Ankh. Watch the video for the song Broken and listen to And There by the River I Lost My Glasses on YouTube. There’s even a band documentary there with English subtitles (which you may need to turn on first), and loads of live videos.
All Along This Land is the 2006 debut CD by The Source, a Los Angeles prog band whose surprising sound is in many ways very early-1970s retro, with elements that include early Yes, The Beatles, a little Pink Floyd and dreamy psychedelia. But beyond that, they don’t sound much like anyone else today. Much of their sound derives from the low-distortion jazz and country tones favored by guitarist Harrison Leonard, similar to Peter Banks and Steve Howe. Vocalist, principal songwriter, and keyboardist Aaron Goldich favors grand piano, with some Hammond and analog synth sounds. There’s a good balance of vocal and instrumental passages, and like any good prog album, there’s a five-part suite. Read the DPRP and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
All Along This Land was a good start, but Prickly Pear (2009) is a significantly proggier and more ambitious album, with three epic length compositions. The Source’s sound is still early-70s, with more Hammond and more electric guitar leads this time, everything taken up a couple notches. Amazing that this record came out of Los Angeles in 2009. Listen to the album medley. Read the DPRP review.
How active The Source is now is not known, but Aaron Goldich has another band called Ampledeed. A Is for Ampledeed (2013, mini-LP sleeve) retains some of the sound of The Source but goes for greater complexity while maintaining accessibility, shifting toward a Canterbury style. “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. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
American progressive rock band Canvas debuted in 2002 with the double-CD Avenues (currently available as digital download only), about which we wrote: The band has a quintessential American 1970s style, sometimes close to the U.S. Now or Under the Big Tree, though there are also occasional similarities to early Camel. You might even call some of this an American Canterbury style, in that it is slightly jazz inflected, has a generally relaxed vibe, and eschews bombast and drama. There is also a folk element in the vocal tracks, especially where acoustic guitar is prominent, probably owing something to both America and Kansas. Not all of the songs are out-and-out progressive, but at worst they are an intelligent, non-commercial pop with quality vocals, some reminiscent of the band Café Jacques. When Canvas do play out-and-out progressive, the results are very good, especially during instrumental passages. Perhaps if Steely Dan or Phish decided to play progressive rock, the result would sound something like this.
Digital Pigeon (2007) is a stronger sophomore effort, with more overt progressive stylings, though the essential style is the same, a blend of symphonic prog and a 1970s pop/rock aesthetic. The Alan Parsons Project is a good reference point on some tracks. The band is strengthened by the presence of Greg Lounsberry (Laserdogs) on several tracks, contributing both vocals and guitar, and the addition of brass on a few tracks. The album is 77 minutes long, and of the 14 tracks, one is a cover of Saga’s Catwalk and one a cover of Jaco Pastorius’s Teen Town.
Long Way to Mars (2013, digipack) continues to walk a line between light progressive rock and 1970s rock, with the Alan Parsons Project similarity even more pronounced on a couple tracks. Trumpet and flute are used on occasion, while organ is the dominant but not only keyboard sound. Greg and Tammy Lounsberry, the prime movers behind October Tree, are also members of Canvas now. As with the previous albums, the diversity of the material prevents (digital) pigeonholing the band. (We wouldn’t have minded just a tiny bit less diversity, specifically the song Brightest Star and its female soul vocals which may send some prog fans running for cover. But they will emerge to hear the rest of this fine CD.) Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the track Weather on YouTube.
After Chameleon, an album of shorter songs, Magenta’s sixth studio album The Twenty Seven Club (2013) sees them return in spectacular form with six progressive rock epics. “The new album has been five years in the making and I have tried to take the best elements of all the previous Magenta albums to craft the best collection of songs I could. I think this has been achieved and The Twenty Seven Club represents a return to our progressive rock roots” says Rob. “Only a few people have heard the album thus far but all have agreed that this is the best Magenta album to date”. The Twenty Seven Club refers to a large group of musician/singers (including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain) who all died at the age of 27, many from alcohol or drug abuse. Andy Edwards (IQ, Frost) is the drummer on this album. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album in DTS 24/96 and Dolby Digital, the 107-minute The Making of The Twenty Seven Club documentary, and the promo video for the song The Lizard King. Watch the promo video. See our British page for the rest of the Magenta catalog.
Karda Estra is a unique hybrid of progressive and classical music, using both rock and classical chamber instruments. Assisted by several musicians and employing classical & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, oboe, flute, violin, cor anglais, and heavenly wordless female vocals, composer Richard Wileman achieves a surreal melancholy and poignant beauty that has few parallels. After something like nine previous albums, Karda Estra are now doing it themselves. Mondo Profondo / New Worlds (2013) contains two albums on one CD. New Worlds was released in 2011 as a digital download; this is its first appearance on CD. It contains 12 instrumental tracks including collaborations with Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Knifeworld), Don Falcone & Bridget Wishart (Spirits Burning), and Stuart Rowe (Lighterthief, Andy Partridge). Mondo Profondo is a 2013 album that features four Richard Wileman compositions plus two collaborations: one with Matt Baber (Sanguine Hum) and another with Mohadev and Benjamin DeGain (Terraformation), Stuart Rowe, Kavus Torabi, and Phil Mercy (Thieves’ Kitchen). Marco Bernard (The Samurai of Prog) guests, and as usual, Wileman has many musicians on classical chamber and rock instruments assisting, plus the wordless vocals of Ileesha Bailey. This is progressive cinematic futurist nostalgia, or something like that, but one thing is certain -- Richard Wileman knows a lot of chords and is not afraid to use them. Listen to Mondo Profondo I on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives of Mondo Profondo and New Worlds.
Circa: is the band assembled by Yes alumni Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Alan White (drums, vocals), with Jimmy Haun (formerly of Lodgic) on guitars & vocals. The Circa: albums can be filed alongside the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy albums and the 1990s Yes albums that Sherwood played on. These are the 2013 reissues on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, which feature new artwork. The self-titled album is their 2007 debut; it comes with a DVD that appears to be the 2008 Circa: Live DVD. The DVD contains the entire album performed live plus a great 40-minute instrumental journey through three decades of Yes entitled Chronological Journey. Extras include behind the scenes footage.
HQ (2009) is their second, with Jay Schellen taking Alan White’s drum stool.
The double-CD And So On / Overflow reissues the little-known third Circa: album And So On (2011) plus the rarities collection Overflow, the first time on CD for the latter. Sherwood and Kaye remained for And So On, with Johnny Bruhns taking over on guitars and Scott Connor on drums. Listen to excerpts.
These CDs are all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. The Prog Collective is being touted as the biggest prog all-star project ever. The self-titled 2012 first Prog Collective CD features performances by John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman, Geoff Downes, Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Gary Green, Annie Haslam, Steve Hillage, John Wesley, Tony Kaye, and more.
The second Prog Collective CD Epilogue (2013, digipack) includes most of the same musicians plus Steve Morse, Jim Cuomo (Fireballet), Larry Fast, Patrick Moraz, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Mel Collins, Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Roye Albrighton (Nektar), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), the final appearance of the late Peter Banks, prog superstar William Shatner, and more. Listen to the track Shining Diamonds.
The Fusion Syndicate (2012) features Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Theo Travis, and many others. Read the Something Else! review.
The eighth studio CD for French prog band Nemo, Le Ver dans le Fruit (The Worm in the Fruit) (2CD, 2013, digipack), is their most ambitious, with 12 tracks spread across two discs. See Nemo’s YouTube videos for several from this album. See our French page for more Nemo CDs and much more info.
Sleeping with Fractals (2013, 63-minutes) is a surprisingly good debut from Manchester, England’s Ontofield. You can often hear Pendragon and early Marillion in the music, but it’s unlike the second-rate imitators of those bands that we all heard enough of during the 1990s. There are lots of other influences including more modern ones, and a distinct personality, while the British songwriting and melodic sense is much in evidence. For diehard neo-prog fans at least, Ontofield may be the best newcomer of the year. Read reviews at MuzikReviews.com and Prog Archives.
Himlabacken vol. 1 (2013) is the new Moon Safari studio album, sung in English despite the Swedish title. Listen to the album teaser. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Sea of Tranquility. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Moon Safari catalog and much more info.
This is the limited 2-disc edition of Blackfield IV (2013), which adds a DVD-Audio disc featuring the 5.1 surround (MLP Lossless and DTS 96/24) and 24-bit stereo mixes and comes in a digibook (hardcover). Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli star Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree begun in 2001. It has of late become more Geffen’s vehicle as Wilson has enough on his plate now, so while Geffen did the writing, Wilson added guitar and vocal parts and did both the surround and stereo mixes. Watch the videos for the songs Pills, Jupiter, and Firefly. See Page 2 for more Blackfield titles.
The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians, including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover (2011) includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo Pörsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruh’s band Resistor, Alfio Costa & Guglielmo Mariotti (Italy), Roz Vitalis (Russia), and Contrarian (USA).
Secrets of Disguise (2013) is a double-CD that contains some original compositions alongside the covers. But these are not the same old tracks that always get covered nor are they all covers of English bands. There is some depth here, with tracks from England, Crack, Sandrose, and Utopia, not to mention Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, PFM, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Rush. The guest musicians include Jon Davison (Yes), Roine Stolt, Guy LeBlanc, Robert Webb (England), David Myers, Mark Trueack (Unitopia), Phideaux Xavier, Kamran Alan Shikoh (Glass Hammer), Linus Kåse (Anglagård), Mento Hevia (Crack), Lalo Huber (Nexus), Andrew Marshall (Willowglass), and many others. Watch/listen to the album montage. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Last Battle (2013, 73-minutes, digipack) is the first new Haze studio album in over 20 years, and it does not disappoint. It’s the classic line-up of Chris and Paul McMahon and Paul Chisnell, with the assistance of sisters Catrin & Ceri Ashton on whistle, flutes, fiddle, cello, viola, and clarinet. With the drums recorded in a separate studio, it’s a big improvement in sonic quality over previous Haze recordings. The Haze sound is full of warmth, and the addition of more acoustic instruments adds a Blackmore’s Night aspect to a few songs. The British folk influence was always there, but the Haze musicians have had several more folk-oriented side projects (Treebeard, The Outlandish Knights, Jabberwocky) going for years now, so those influences are being reflected back into Haze. Among the highlights, we finally get studio recordings of two songs that had only been on CD as live recordings: the powerful The Red Room and the majestic The Edge of Heaven; the latter sounds like the sequel to Ophelia. The studio versions of both are superior. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
New low price. Haze celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2008 and recorded two shows at The Peel, Kingston and The Boardwalk, Sheffield to produce this commemorative live 2CD. For these gigs, the band tried to avoid playing too many of the obvious choices that had already been captured live on their 10th and 20th Anniversary CDs (not that those CDs were widely available) by including several new songs, some of their oldest (Turn Around, Portrait, Unto the Dawn, Mirage), and two tracks first played with Treebeard, in addition to Haze classics such as Ophelia, Last Orders, Seven Stones, and The Vice. In all there are 26 songs totaling 133 minutes. The trio of Paul Chisnell and brothers Paul and Chris McMahon are joined on many tracks by flautist Ceri Ashton, and by Rog Patterson for a cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb.
Haze were one of the bands responsible for the progressive revival in Britain in the 1980s, and their members carry on making music in one form or another (usually several forms) to this day. Stoat & Bottle (1987) was far and away Haze’s finest hour. The Cyclops label reissued Stoat & Bottle with new liner notes by Chris McMahon and five bonus studio tracks that Haze recorded as demos during August 1987 but never released. Most of these demos were re-recorded for the first World Turtle CD. The album has been remastered by Chris but not remixed. As Chris notes, remixing was impossible due to the state of the multi-track tapes. See our old Haze section for more info on this British prog band founded in 1978.
grantorinoProg (2011) is the debut by an instrumental Italian prog quartet (keys/guitar/bass/drums). The keyboards tie the music to classic prog, but while not prog-metal, the guitarist does play in a more contemporary style. The musicians come from more of a hard rock background but decided that prog was the one true path to enlightenment, so one can hear where Gran Torino are coming from in the music. It’s a quality prog album for the current generation though no threat to PFM, Banco, and the other great Italian bands. Read the Jerry Lucky review.
Gran Torino are much further down that path to enlightenment on their superior second album Fate of a Thousand Worlds (2013), a robust sympho-prog album with more refined compositions, more introspection as well as greater complexity. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the title track and the song Child of the Stars on YouTube.
This Greek band began very Marillion-influenced, right down to the logo on their first two albums. They eventually shed enough of the Marillion style to develop their own, and their fifth album Matricide (2013) shows La Tulipe Noire further developing an individual style. Watch the official video for the song Death Chamber and listen to the song A Letter from Patmos on YouTube. See our Greek page for more La Tulipe Noire CDs.
Yuka & Chronoship is a Japanese progressive rock band formed in 2009 by female keyboardist/vocalist/composer Yuka Funakoshi along with three leading Japanese studio musicians: bassist Shun Taguchi, guitarist Takashi Miyazawa, and drummer Ikko Tanaka. Water Reincarnation (2011) is mostly instrumental but does have lovely (English-language and wordless) vocals and vocal harmonies. The Japanese symphonic prog scene has been relatively quiet of late, but Yuka & Chronoship are in the same league as Kenso and Mr. Sirius, though distinct from either. Their music is highly reminiscent of late 1970s progressive rock, very European-sounding, but not retro. The key (pun accidental) is that they are led by a keyboardist who can play and who can compose, who is versed in classical as well as jazz. There is technical virtuosity, but it isn’t about technical virtuosity. This is a fantastic album and a necessary one in an era where what passes for progressive rock often lacks the classical foundation, depth and class of Yuka & Chronoship. Watch the album montage.
Dino Rocket Oxygen (2013) is Yuka & Chronoship’s outstanding follow-up. Read the Progressive Rock Central review. Watch the album trailer.
Motoi Sakuraba is the incredible keyboardist from Japanese progressive band Deja Vu. On What’s Up? (2013, 63-minutes), he also plays acoustic drums and is no slouch. This is simply one of the best instrumental keyboard-centric symphonic prog albums you will ever hear, most of which sounds like instrumental Danger Money-era UK, just like Deja Vu’s sole album. If you like UK and Eddie Jobson even a little, this album is gold. Listen to the song Stand Still on YouTube.
Water Blue is the CD reissue of the 1989 first album from the Japanese Renaissance plus four bonus tracks. By ‘Japanese Renaissance’, we don’t simply mean that Vermilion Sands had a female lead singer, because a lot of Japanese symphonic bands did, and most of those singers were not exactly Annie Haslam clones. On the other hand, Vermilion Sands’ singer Yoko Royama is first-rate, and Water Blue is a beautiful progressive album in the Renaissance and Camel style, one of the best Japanese progressive albums ever. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Unfortunately, Yoko Royama passed away in 2004 and the band broke up. Spirits of the Sun (2013) is a posthumous album finished by keyboardist/composer Masahiro Yamada, containing both studio and live tracks. The live tracks are not songs from Water Blue; they are previously-unreleased. There are a couple instrumentals, while the rest feature the voice of Royama. Akihisa Tsuboy of KBB guests on violin. A beautiful album that keeps Royama’s spirit alive. Listen to the song Innisfree on YouTube.
This is not a guy named Franc but a Catalan symphonic prog band whose name translates to ‘Free Will’. They’ve been in existence since the mid-1980s, and Hoc (2013) is their fourth album. The band say their influences come from classic British progressive rock but that they like to add hints of jazz, pop, and Mediterranean sounds. They are a sextet with two keyboardists and use flute and cello as secondary instruments. Vocals in Catalan. Listen to the song Nuria on YouTube.
Beyond (2013) is the debut album for Alms, the project of Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist Aitor Lucena. Musea describes the music as “pure symphonic progressive rock in which you’ll notice influences from ELP to Mike Oldfield, from classical music to heavy metal, and a strong influence from Italian progressive rock bands such as Il Balletto di Bronzo, Le Orme, or Banco.” Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the track Hypnos on YouTube.
Violent Silence is yet another impressive Swedish progressive rock band. The self-titled CD is their 2003 debut. Hard to compare this first album to anyone else; it might be heard as a mix of Landberk, King Crimson, and Echolyn, but without guitar. The six-string parts aren’t missed though. A quartet of vocals, keyboards, bass and drums, they do things a bit differently than the other Swedish bands. For one, the bass is way up front in the mix and is often very percussive, partially usurping the role normally played by guitar. They have a keyboardist who plays lead lines shaped with pitch bend and vibrato, something missing not only from the other Swedish prog bands, but somewhat of a dying art. The English-language vocals are competent and there is more in the way of songwriting than, for example, Anekdoten. Together, these four musicians successfully unite Nordic melancholia and Anglo-Saxon power.
On their second CD Kinetic (2005), Violent Silence expanded to a quintet with the addition of a second keyboardist (shades of Greenslade). Again, guitar is not missed, and yet the music doesn’t seem as keyboard-dominated as ELP or SFF. Kinetic has aspects of both 1970s progressive, with a lot of vintage keyboard sounds, and more contemporary rock, especially in the melancholy vocal lines. Liquid Scarlet does a similar blend, but the two bands sound distinct. This album is an improvement on Violent Silence’s debut, more energetic, featuring a stellar rhythm section, with several songs driven by fast mallet percussion (which could be coming from a keyboard). The 18-minute Quiet Stalker has a tremendous extended instrumental section in a style between Genesis and UK. This band is something special, having something in common with the other Scandinavian progressive bands while really being quite unique. Read reviews.
A Broken Truce (2013) consists of four tracks, all in the 10-15 minute range. Some of this album was written and recorded back in 2008 but not finished because the band split up. All the tracks have band co-founder Hannes Ljunghall as co-composer, and some of his keyboard playing from the 2008 sessions is used. More recently, Ljunghall formed the band Hidden Lands. Drummer Johan Hedman, the other co-founder of Violent Silence as well as composer and lyricist, had been working on rewriting some of the 2008 material and finding new vocalist Martin Ahlquist. The result is Violent Silence’s third album featuring both the new line-up and the previous one. In fact, both Hidden Lands’ CD and this third Violent Silence CD exceed the first two Violent Silence CDs, so in defiance of the laws of thermodynamics, one band has split into two even better bands. Watch the video for the track Prism Path.
Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the first line-up of Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as the Violent Silence that recorded Kinetic, with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs were completed with a new vocalist and appear on the Violent Silence CD A Broken Truce.
The main influence on In Our Nature is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as ‘no-prog’) before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Visions from Realities (2013, digipack) is the debut by an Italian band/project, the initiative of Umberto Pagnini who wrote the music and lyrics but used other musicians to realize the album. The music is song-oriented symphonic prog with a folk-pop overlay. The primary singer is Norway’s PelleK, who can also be heard singing on The Anabasis CD. He comes from a metal background, but you wouldn’t know it as he saves any oversinging for his own band. Additional vocals are provided by Mark Colton of Credo and Norwegian Marit Børresen (that’s a female name). There is electric guitar and symphonic keys, but most prominent are the acoustic and clean guitar tones in a Le Orme style. The best songs have that Italian romantic feel (Le Orme, Atons, etc.), but as the lyrics are in English, that feel is not as strong as it would be with Italian lyrics. But then none of the singers are Italian. This is an album where the second half is stronger than the first. Be sure to at least audition the song Usual Plays in Heaven - Be Kind and Talk to Me, which showcases most of Active Heed’s considerable strengths.
One of the UK’s top prog bands is back with their seventh studio album. Le Sacre du Travail (2013) features a new all-star lineup of Andy Tillison, Theo Travis, Jonas Reingold, Gavin Harrison, Jakko M Jakszyk, and David Longdon (Big Big Train). Guests include Guy Manning and Rikard Sjöblom (Beardfish). This is the jewel box edition, which includes the same three bonus tracks (~10 minutes) as the other more expensive editions. Read the Sea of Tranquility, Progarchy, and Background Magazine reviews. Watch the album trailer video. See our British page for more The Tangent titles.
Cinéma du Vieux Cartier (2013, gatefold mini-LP sleeve) is the sixth CD for Quebec’s Red Sand. As with 2012’s Behind the Mask, Red Sand have reverted to the Fish-era Marillion style of their first two albums Mirror of Insanity and Gentry. They still sing in English despite the French title of this CD. Two of the five tracks are instrumentals. See our Canadian page for the full Red Sand catalog and much more info. Note Red Sand are scheduled to play Rosfest 2014.
Sound of Contact is the new progressive rock band of Simon Collins, Phil’s son. Having grown up on tour with Genesis, Simon had a rare and unique perspective that inspired him to eventually pursue his own music career. After a decade of writing, producing and promoting his solo material, Simon kept in touch with a handful of musicians with whom he had a strong connection and a rare chemistry. Simon’s bandmates are co-producer/co-writer/keyboardist Dave Kerzner (Sonic Reality, Kevin Gilbert) and co-writer/guitarist/bassist Matt Dorsey, with studio collaborators Kelly Nordstrom (guitars, bass) and vocalist Hannah Stobart (Rocket Moth, The Wishing Tree). Among the live touring musicians are Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), and Jonathan Schang (District 97). Read the Sea of Tranquility review. The mini-LP is the import limited edition. Note Sound of Contact are scheduled to play Rosfest 2014.
This 2013 CD on Kscope is the work of Daniel Cavanagh of Anathema and Sean Jude, who wrote all the material. “Leafblade was born out of a calling, a calling to bring the writing of Sean Jude to a wider audience, or so thinks Mr. Cavanagh of Anathema, who originally formed Leafblade with Jude several years ago. Daniel and Sean are joined by Anathema’s Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Daniel Cardoso on drums, supported by Kevin Murphy (bass) and recorded by Mark Ellis, who worked on Anathema’s We’re Here Because We’re Here. The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh steps up the dynamics from their 2009 debut album Beyond, Beyond. Leafblade’s music has been described as artistic, poetic, even nature-mystical. The album is a musical and spiritual interweaving of Jude’s lute-like nylon strings, emotive and multi-layered vocals and poetic lyrics with Cavanagh’s own unique, clear musical vision and counter-melodies, signature heavy rock guitar tone, subtle and emotive lead playing and sweet keyboard refrains.” Listen to the album montage.
The Dutch band Plackband formed in the mid-1970s and were most influenced by Genesis. They took an 18-year holiday, reuniting in 2000. After 30 years, Plackband rebooted as PBII with three of the original members and the desire for a more modern sound. They had to find a new bass player, and keyboardist Michel van Wassem assumed lead vocal duties. Plastic Soup (2010, digisleeve, 69-minutes) includes guests John Mitchell and John Jowitt, two guys who never met a neo-prog band they didn’t want to play with, and singer Heidi Jo Hines. It’s not a radical change from Plackband, as the old Genesis influence is still present most of the time. PBII’s desire for a more modern approach has more to do with the use of modern sounds, modern production, and the sound of the mix than a change in musical style. Frost is not a bad comparison in terms of that marriage of classic prog and modern execution. In addition to a standard CD, this Dutch edition of Plastic Soup includes a DVD (PAL, all-region). (The U.S. edition lacks the DVD.) The packaging bears the DVD-Audio logo in two places, the only problem is that it is not a DVD-Audio disc. It is a DVD-Video disc containing a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix of the entire album, plus two videos. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
1000 Wishes is PBII’s most ambitious project. The CD (2013, digipack) features The Hague Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Steve Hackett guests. The story is about the fight of a young boy against cancer and more generally about cancer in children. This is certainly PBII’s best music, symphonic neo-prog that is often reminiscent of Yes due in part to the singer’s voice, while you may also flash back on Grobschnitt’s Rockpommels Land on occasion. Watch the promo video and the video for the song Evil Weed. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
PBII have performed 1000 Wishes as part of a rock opera with the orchestra and a theater group (actors and dancers). The performances of 30-31 March 2013 were captured on the 1000 Wishes DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack). While the lyrics are in English, the play portion is in Dutch, so you have been warned, but it is a unique spectacle. Watch the DVD trailer.
InFictions are an English band who for the most part belong in the post-prog genre, the kind of album you’d expect to find on the Kscope label. And maybe we will see InFictions on Kscope in the future, but their 2012 debut Maps of Revenge and Forgiveness is already better than many of the releases on that label. InFictions have an excellent lead singer, and the core of the band is augmented by a large number of guest musicians, the instrumentation including piano, synths, mandolin, violin, cello, brass, flute, and female backing vocals in addition to the expected guitar (acoustic too), bass and drums. While “post-prog” is the best descriptor for InFictions, their style is distinct, and there is more than a little in common with classic prog. They use passages of maximum intensity judiciously, for it’s what happens in the lower intensity sections that really distinguishes one post-prog band from another. InFictions create wonderful atmospheres, full of nuance and fragility, with exceptional detail in the background. Different time signatures are used without drawing attention to them, and the songs are all intriguing, mesmerizing, and exciting. Read the Echoes and Dust and ProgSphere reviews. The CD comes in novel packaging.
Bulbs is the new band of English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist Neil Campbell. Their debut On (2013, digipack) may be the best instrumental prog album you hear this year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Bulbs are very much a live band too. Note Campbell has been collaborating with Jon Anderson on a series of large scale choral works; hopefully we’ll see the result of that before long. Read the Seba Rashii Culture Zine review.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock.
Citizen Cain are a neo-prog band whose founding members come from the same Lothian region in Scotland that gave rise to Fish, though the band formed in London in 1982. Their music sounds heavily influenced by 1970s Genesis, though on the first album that influence is second-hand by way of early Marillion, becoming a more direct influence by the time of the second album, and on later albums, Citizen Cain establish a more distinct identity. The band’s sound is based around the vocals and lyrical tales of Cyrus, whose voice is a blend of Gabriel timbre and Fish delivery, over complex arrangements featuring Stuart Bell’s multi-keyboards, highlighted by guitar and flute solos.
These are the 2013 remastered editions of the first five Citizen Cain CDs on the Festival Music label: Serpents in Camouflage (1993), Somewhere But Yesterday (1994), Ghost Dance (1996), Raising the Stones (1997), and Playing Dead (2002). The band’s back catalog had been unavailable for many years, and the later CDs were pressed in very small numbers. The band say they were never very happy with the original sound and that on these remastered CDs, it’s nice to hear the music as it was intended to sound. Serpents in Camouflage is now a double-CD, with a bonus disc featuring the four tracks from Citizen Cain’s 1991 demo tape. It’s the first time on CD for these tracks, all remastered of course.
Skies Darken (2012) is their sixth album and first in ten years. Read the Progulator and DPRP reviews.
British prog band Mr. So & So was formed in 1989 by Dave Foster and Shaun McGowan, who shared a passion for Yes, Genesis, The Who, and The Beatles. They remain the band’s principal songwriters. They recruited the rest of the band and released three CDs during the 1990s, then went dormant until Dave and Shaun recruited new members and released their comeback album Sugarstealer in 2009. In the current Mr. So & So, vocal duties are divided between McGowan and Charlotte Evans. This band has been flying way too far under the radar given their talents. There has been a Yes influence in Mr. So & So’s music from the start, but many other influences as well. They supported Marillion on one tour, and Steve Rothery guested on 1998’s The Overlap and released it on his label. Read the Musical Discoveries, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives reviews of Sugarstealer.
Truths, Lies & Half Lies (2013, digipack) is their latest. Mr. So & So have the British songwriting DNA, a knack for infectious melodies that now seems to belong to an earlier era, given the trend toward cheerless, pseudo-serious dirge-prog. The music in this incarnation of Mr. So & So is more mature and polished, all class and quality, and instantly likeable.
Carptree keyboardist Carl Westholm goes the Ayreon route with his Jupiter Society project, creating epic space operas using different vocalists and musicians on different tracks. Most of the musicians have a metal background, and to some extent the music sounds like a heavier, more metallic Carptree. While Jupiter Society tends to stay more grounded in symphonic rock than similar prog-metal projects, the metal aesthetic still dominates in the doomy melodies, the invariant plodding tempo, and the generally ponderous feel. First Contact Last Warning is from 2008, Terraform from 2009. Read the Jerry Lucky reviews of First Contact... and of Terraform. (These two CDs are the U.S. editions.)
Released by the band, From Endangered to Extinct (2013, digipack) is the latest, most apocalyptic Jupiter Society CD, as Earth apparently loses this quarrel. Read the Proggnosis and Dangerdog reviews. (Don’t expect this one to ever be priced like the first two.) See our Scandinavian page for the Carptree CDs.
Out of the King Crimson camp and Discipline Global Mobile comes this enigmatic new artist. We don’t know who The Vicar is, but the other musicians on the album have names, and they include Tony Levin, Theo Travis, and Jakko Jakszyk among many others. Songbook #1 (2013, digipack) is an unexpected album. There are a variety of singers, but no drummers or electric bassists were invited. The music consists of very English sounding songs with acoustic instrumentation and string quartet/chamber music arrangements, like Giles Giles & Fripp and early King Crimson teaming with Penguin Cafe Orchestra, with assistance from 10cc, Stackridge, and Queen. (There is a Wolfman Jack voice introducing the songs. Unfortunately.) The Beatles did something like this; The Vicar takes it in a much more progressive direction. The music is so unlike anything else, you’ll just have to listen for yourself -- click the mp3 icon above to audition the entire album. This edition has a CD (standard res stereo) plus a DVD-Audio with hi-res stereo and lossless hi-res surround (and DTS and Dolby Digital if you must). The DVD-A also features the complete 38 episode videobook of The Vicar Chronicles - “The Mysterious Case of Billy’s G-String” as well as a video for the song Count Your Blessings.
Willowglass is an English act that is actually the work of one Andrew Marshall on electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, bass, keyboards, flute, recorders and drums, with the assistance of a drummer. The ten instrumental pieces on Willowglass’ 2005 debut are pure English 1970s-style progressive rock, with the main influences being Genesis, Camel, Anthony Phillips, and Pink Floyd, in that order. There is plenty of Mellotron strings, plenty of Hackett or Latimer-style electric guitar work, and plenty of the pastoral feeling missing from most modern progressive rock.
Book of Hours (2008) is again instrumental and continues in the same general style while expanding it slightly. In addition to Camel, Genesis, and Anthony Phillips, there are touches of Gryphon and Rick Wakeman. This music has an elegance and a sensitivity that contrasts sharply with the overblown and demonstrative style of so many current prog bands, and is a breath of fresh air after all the metal-dressed-up-as-prog being churned out today.
The Dream Harbour (2013) is also all-instrumental, the ‘Willowglass sound’ with a slightly heavier/darker sound in some places, still full of organ, synths, Mellotron, and 12 string guitars, plus the added talents of Steve Unruh (Resistor) on violin/flute/guitar and Hans Jörg Schmitz (King of Agogik) on drums/percussion. The beautiful artwork for the CD booklets is by Lee Gaskins. The artwork alone may tell you everything you need to know about these exceptional albums.
The self-titled album is the 2007 debut CD (56-minutes, digipack) by Days Between Stations, a Los Angeles band formed by guitarist Sepand Samzadeh and keyboardist Oscar Fuentes, with a large number of other musicians assisting. The music on the first CD is instrumental (with some wordless vocals), certainly influenced by mid-period Pink Floyd but more surreal, ambient, and cinematic. Some of the material could be compared to post rock bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, and there are many other progressive elements as well. The lush soundscapes and rich sonic detail reveal an uncommon talent. Read the Proggnosis and Sea of Tranquility reviews, or just see this compilation of reviews.
In Extremis (2013, 70-minutes, digipack) includes contributions from the late Peter Banks (Yes), the estimable Tony Levin, Colin Moulding (XTC), Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman. The artwork is by Paul Whitehead (Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, etc.). There are some vocals on this one courtesy of Sherwood and Moulding, and it is altogether a superior, more stirring and less somber album, more symphonic, varied, and energetic. The band’s expectations have been raised in the intervening years, as they employ a full orchestra on the opening overture and a string quartet on another track, while veteran engineers were hired for both recording and mastering. This could be called the new American classic prog (meaning no metal or alternative for miles around), with some help from the Brits. Watch the short video trailer. Read the Something Else! review.
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