Titles are arranged alphabetically with recent additions highlighted in yellow.
De Homine Urbano (1970) and Green Man (1971) are the first two albums by perhaps the top Danish progressive band of those years. These are the 2012 Esoteric editions, newly remastered from the original master tapes, with booklets that fully restore the album artwork and include a new essay. The music is mostly-instrumental proto-prog, with heavy Hammond organ and fuzz guitar and, as you might expect from the timeframe, still a bit of flower power flavor. It has similarities to The Nice extending forward to the first Beggar’s Opera album and early Van der Graaf Generator. The Ache website contains lots of info. The best review is Julian Cope’s (scroll down to Ache).
Sweden’s A.C.T. play symphonic prog with the addition of strong pop songwriting along the lines of Queen, Kayak, Saga, and ELO. 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 CDs in 2006/2007 with bonus audio and/or video tracks and expanded booklets. While our stock of Silence (2006) and Last Epic (2003) are gone, we still have a few Imaginary Friends (2001, 63-minutes) and Today’s Report (1999, 62-minutes).
Beacon of Light (2009, 73-minutes) is the second CD for Adventure, who are sort of the Norwegian counterpart to the Swedish band Black Bonzo in that they blend retro-style symphonic prog with the heavier Uriah Heep style. Adventure have two male lead vocalists, one of whom sings in a more pompous, affected style, and female backing vocals. Their sound features vintage keys, flute, and guitar that sticks mainly to early-70s tones. The sympho-prog side of their style is vaguely in the vein of The Flower Kings or Camel. Read reviews here.
The self-titled CD is Adventure’s 2000 debut. This is the 2006 re-edition on the MALS label.
Ageness is a symphonic neo-prog band from Finland singing in English and generally sounding very English. The band was founded in 1991, though it evolved out of the band Scarab, who released an album in 1983. Ageness was very active in the 1990s, releasing three CDs that decade, and was probably the best known Finnish prog band at that time.
After a long downtime, Ageness re-emerged with Songs from the Liar’s Lair (2009). Their sound is still somewhere between Genesis and early Marillion, often with similar melodrama, while new guitarist Speedy Saarinen’s style is at times more aggressive, taking some of the music closer to Arena. It’s an excellent comeback album that will appeal to a majority of symphonic prog fans. To aid in determining which tracks at Ageness’ MySpace page are from this CD, the track list is: Entering, Martial Arts, The Lie and the Liar, Why Don’t You Go Away, Sons of Madness, The Lament of Ghosts, Liar’s Lair.
Agents of Mercy began as a low-key acoustic project that Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings set out to do in 2008, but after getting singer Nad Sylvan of Unifaun on board to do a few ‘guest vocals’¯, it turned into a full-production prog album where Nad got more involved and did most of both lead and backing vocals. Songs got longer, more elaborate and more symphonic, and Roine and Nad’s common love of early 1970s progressive rock is all over The Fading Ghosts of Twilight (2009, 77-minutes, digipack). A few favorite drummers tracked drums: Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Tuner), Zoltan Csörsz (TFK, Karmakanic), and Jimmy Keegan (Santana, Spock’s Beard live). The eccentric Biggo Zelfries (Walrus Farm) did most of the piano and analog keyboards, and TFK bassist Jonas Reingold added some fretless bass.
Dramarama (2010, 72-minutes, digipack) is their second. As Roine says: “In its true retro-spirit, it was rehearsed and recorded ‘live’ in Varispeed Studios in Sweden, with very few overdubs. The concept was to find the roots of our inspiration and the sounds we love, so there’s an obvious late 60s and early 70s feel. 12 titles that focus more on melody, storytelling and drama than technical delivery, not withstanding the fact that the band houses some of the most skilled hi-profile musicians in the present prog scene. Huge rumble and swoosh from drums, fuzzy grinding & thunder bass, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond swirls and adventurous Moog ornaments, Telecaster twang and vintage Vox tubes, all there to support our swinging psychedelic-dramadelic 60s trip-back. Plenty of symphonic rewards for the diehard fans of TFK or Transatlantic style prog... The new album is a big leap towards a more complete classic (prog)rock band feel, whereas the first album stayed firmly in very pastel and mellow, contemplative yet demanding modes.”
The Black Forest (2011, 57-minutes, digipack) is a concept album, as Roine puts it: one mega-tune cut into easily-digestible slices. “The music this time is a more rock-oriented path we’ve taken, for good reasons - we are a R&R band at the core, but we sprinkle in bits of symphonic, ethno, jazz, medieval, and folk. Guitars and drums have moved forward in the soundscapes, but the gnarly Moogs and Mellotrons are still present, this time a bit more haunting and angular. The tunes are longer and more elaborated (prog) but sometimes with a iron fist of raw power riffage that resembles Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, or early King Crimson rather than Yes or Genesis. Don’t fret - in this 57-minute journey, there is plenty of symphonic bombast too - in fact, we think there is even more than on previous albums, so you’ll get your fix of that ol’ tron, Moog, and Taurus bass.”
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.
No, we can’t make sense of the title either. Maybe it’s something a software translator came up with. Ampera is a Norwegian progressive rock band and this is their 2007 debut. They are both instrumentally and alphabetically close to Anekdoten, a mix of King Crimson (Starless) and a more modern guitar style, overlaid with Mellotron strings and some Minimoog. They have a female vocalist (singing in English) with a cold, somewhat dispassionate style that is more often associated with alternative than progressive. It’s this juxtaposition that makes Ampera unique.
Viljans Öga (2012, digisleeve) marks Anglagard’s return after a long silence, featuring four instrumental tracks in the 12-16 minute range. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Archives reviews.
Antidepressive Delivery are a Norwegian band who debuted in 2004 with an album that alternated classic progressive rock and an aggressive metal style, and the less said about the latter style the better. But the band had at least demonstrated that they are quite capable of playing real progressive rock. Their second CD Chain of Foods (2008, digipack) jettisons the metal of their first album in favor of a more mature and cohesive musical approach. Chain of Foods is purely 1970s styled, a mix of early 70s progressive and hard rock with touches of early jazz-rock, with the bulk of the keyboard work on Hammond organ in a style similar to classic Deep Purple. Among the tracks is a short tribute entitled We Will Crimson You. On that first album, it was difficult to establish much in the way of melody and hooks when the band couldn’t go more than a couple minutes without inexplicably switching to tuneless metal. But the cohesive tracks of Chain of Foods allow for plenty of melody and hooks, so with this CD, Antidepressive Delivery can now stand alongside Magic Pie and Five Fifteen, two Scandinavian bands with a similar style. “ADD are not the only modern-day band that can play symphonic hard rock in a typically vintage manner, but their performance mastery as well as ability to overstep the limits of the idiom raises them quite far above most of their contemporary brothers in style.” [Progressor]
Finn Arild is a Norwegian multi-instrumentalist who lists his influences as Genesis, Yes, Marillion and Transatlantic. Testament (2010) is the proggier of these two CDs; Serendipity (2005) is mix of pop and prog. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews of Testament and Serendipity and the DPRP review of Testament.
Barrett Elmore is a Swedish psychedelic band founded in 2008. Their name is in part a reference to Pink Floyd, the most obvious influence on their debut CD Woodlands (2012, 46-minutes, digipack). First released as a digital download, this CD contains an additional 12-minute track, and it’s a beautiful package. The Pink Floyd influence extends as far forward as Dark Side of the Moon but is mostly Floyd’s earlier, more psychedelic style. Barrett Elmore use both female and male vocals, though not simultaneously, both suitably reverbed. The instrumentation includes guitars, organ, piano, synths, bass and drums. There is more to their sound than just Pink Floyd though. While there are outbursts of energy, the predominant mood is soothing and dreamy, with a nature mystique suggesting the vast Nordic woods (the theme of the album), and subtle elements of melancholy Swedish folk song. Nobody does retro like the Swedes.
We didn’t think anyone made records like this anymore. Beardfish are an outstanding Swedish progressive band blending many 1970s prog styles. There are elements of Swedish 70s bands (Trettioåriga Kriget, Bo Hansson, Made in Sweden, Kaipa), the great Dutch bands Supersister and Focus, Gentle Giant, the Canterbury Bands, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and much more. And yet there are contemporary elements too. There’s so much good stuff here, it’s hard to know where to begin when attempting to describe it all.
The double-CD The Sane Day (2005) is their second. This is the 2007 edition on Progress Records. Read reviews.
Sleeping in Traffic: Part One (2007, 66-minutes) and Sleeping in Traffic: Part Two (2008, 74-minutes) are their third and fourth studio CDs, while Destined Solitaire (2009, digipack) is their fifth.
Beardfish’s sixth studio CD Mammoth (2011) comes with a bonus DVD (NTSC, all-region) containing both an hour-long concert (Live at De Boerderij) and a 44-minute documentary (The Making of Mammoth) that also includes some live footage. “If you’re a fan of Beardfish, stop reading now and just go get this album... Mammoth is Beardfish at their creative peak. This is an album by a band that knows what they want and how they want to sound and know how to achieve it.” [Hanging Sounds] Read the full review, also the reviews at Prog Sphere and DangerDog.
The Void (2012, 76-minutes) sees the band adding some heavier material, a trend that began on Mammoth and is more pronounced here. “An album that mixes the old traditions of prog with gently controlled doses of modern heavy metal, The Void is not far from being extraordinary.” [MetalTalk.net] Read the About.com, Sputnik Music, and Sea of Tranquility reviews. The digipack edition adds one bonus track, a piano & voice version of one of the album tracks.
Check below for the related band Gungfly.
Black Bonzo are a melodic Swedish retro-prog band whose sound is locked into the early 1970s. Their 2004 debut Lady of the Light had a bit of the hard-rock-with-organ style of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, but the bulk of the album is progressive rock a la early Yes, the first King Crimson album, and The Moody Blues. Sound of the Apocalypse (2007, digipack) is even better. Here Black Bonzo are influenced by Jethro Tull (Thick as a Brick era) and Yes, among others. In fact, the result is close to The Flower Kings when TFK are going for the sound of that era. The keyboards are dominated by Hammond, with Mellotron and piano in support, and just a little synth. Good stuff!
Brighteye Brison are a melodic Swedish symphonic progressive band that you can file alongside The Flower Kings, Carptree, Twin Age, Ageness, Spektrum, and Magic Pie. Following a 2001 demo EP and a 2003 debut CD (out-of-print), Stories (2006) has much better production and every aspect of the music is improved. The primary influences are 1970s Genesis and Yes, a little Beatles and possibly Kayak, and they use only vintage analog keyboards. One of their signature sounds is their harmony vocals, something of a lost art in modern rock, progressive or otherwise. This really is an outstanding sympho-prog album. Their melodic sense is excellent and their overall sound unique enough that this should have great appeal to a large segment of the prog rock audience. Read reviews here.
Believers & Deceivers (2008, 68-minutes) is not only Brighteye Brison’s best album to date, this album alone could be used to argue that the Swedish progressive scene is the strongest in the world now. Their sound is pure classic symphonic prog with a solid melodic foundation. The commonality with The Flower Kings, Moon Safari, Maze of Time, etc. is immediately obvious, and yet all these Swedish bands have a distinct sound. On Believers & Deceivers, Yes is the major influence, and whether early Kayak is an influence or not, some of the music certainly has that style. The Genesis and Gentle Giant passages are easy to spot. Brighteye Brison have two keyboardists, and both stick to vintage keyboards. Three band members sing, and the Yes-like ensemble vocals are a big part of their sound. That is one thing the current crop of Swedish and Norwegian prog bands embrace while the rest of the world seems to have forgotten how. An essential CD. Read reviews here.
The Magician Chronicles Part I (2011) revisits the mythology of the character who shares a name with the band and who first appeared in The Battle of Brighteye Brison on the Stories CD. The story unfolds through three long tracks featuring Brighteye Brison’s symphonic sound of analog synths, Mellotron, intricate arrangements and dazzling harmonies.
Smorgasbord (2009, 55-minutes) is already the third CD for this Norwegian prog band. How can they be less than famous? As with Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers and other current Scandinavian bands, The BSRB do a modern, proggier take on classic early 1970s rock, with influences extending back into the late 1960s. The first cliché that comes to mind is ‘a breath of fresh air’, but that occurred to at least one of the reviewers linked to below, so no need to repeat it. Some of the music is what used to be called ‘rural rock’, with CSN&Y style vocals, but done up in proggy arrangements that result in what we’ll call ‘feel-good prog’ because of the sunny, summer mood. And some of the music is more overtly proggy; it feels even better than the ‘feel-good prog’. If none of that makes much sense, read the reviews at Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility.
Brother Ape are another great Swedish prog band that don’t sound like any of the other Swedish prog bands. On their debut On the Other Side (2005), they are a quartet (guitars/vocals, keys, bass, drums) with excellent vocals in English, somewhere between Saga/Rush and Genesis/Yes, but don’t take that too literally as Brother Ape don’t sound much like any of those bands, except on the title track that ends this album. This 8-minute track is the highlight, a wonderful slice of Yes and Genesis-inspired euphoria. Interestingly, this track was recorded ten years earlier than the others and excavated from the vault for this CD. Are there any others like this in there? Read reviews.
Brother Ape are a trio on their second album Shangri-la (2006, 58-minutes), and yet it is a significantly stronger album. There actually is a small amount of music here that could qualify as jazz-rock (and there is now fretless bass), but as on their debut, there is a jazz-rock flavor to some of the other instrumental work that is very refreshing and that sets Brother Ape apart from many other contemporary prog bands. Peter Dahlstrom, who sang 70% of the songs on the first album, has deserted and guitarist Stefan Damicolas has taken over lead vocals on all tracks. He’s a very good singer whose voice actually creates a proggier feel, as the frequently soft vocals (lead and harmony) give the music a solid 1970s flavor. And most of the influences heard here are 70s prog bands, including the pastoral side of Genesis, yet the music is not consciously retro as with a band such as Anglagard. This album is likely to give those who grew up with the original progressive rock bands a warm feeling that doesn’t always happen with contemporary bands. Read reviews. Here is an mp3 of the complete track New Shangri-la.
Brother Ape’s third CD III (2008) is just a brilliant album, cementing Sweden’s position at ground zero of the current progressive rock world. Brother Ape’s style has gelled. It is fresh, contemporary, full of energy, and distinct from other prog bands. They have excellent lead vocals as well as the harmony vocals that many of the current Swedish bands excel at. Their sound is symphonic but not retro, energetic but not heavy by today’s standards, full of that summer breeze quality one can also hear in Moon Safari. Can we say “brilliant” again?
With their fourth album Turbulence (2009, digipack), Brother Ape continue to develop a style that is both classic and modern at the same time, in a fairly unique way. Many of the tracks on this CD contrast the soothing vocal style with a very energetic, driving rhythm section. It’s actually the less frenetic tracks that are the standouts here, where everything meshes perfectly. All the styles heard on the previous three Brother Ape albums are present to some extent, but the band are still expanding their style and distinctiveness. Read reviews.
Brother Ape’s fifth album A Rare Moment of Insight (2010, digipack) was written shortly after Turbulence while the band was still on the same creative high, thus it is similar in style to Turbulence. Read reviews. Here is a full-length (9:06) mp3 of the track Echoes of Madness.
Force Majeure (2013, digipack) is Brother Ape’s sixth album. Watch the album trailer video.
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.
This 2005 release on Record Heaven’s Transubstans label is consistent with the label’s focus on bands with a retro and often psychedelic progressive sound and a 1970s production aesthetic. This Swedish band could be likened to Anekdoten minus the cello and Mellotron. Except on the 11-minute final track, they use no keyboards but they do use flute on occasion. After Anekdoten, one might mention a similarity to early Jethro Tull in spots. Because the two guitarists wisely avoid over-distorted metal tones and typical lead guitar wankery, the music flows beautifully and seduces the listener with its generally melancholic mood.
This Swedish band’s second CD Superhero (2003, 61-minutes) is a symphonic prog masterpiece. The core of the band is Carl Westholm on keyboards and singer Niclas Flinck, while seven other musicians in the ‘No Future Orchestra’ handle guitars, bass, drums, and backing vocals. Carptree’s lineage may be Genesis and Peter Gabriel (though one song, the excellent Host vs. Graft, has a chorus straight out of the Pendragon songbook), but unlike the 1990s Swedish bands, Carptree are not retro and in fact get high marks for inventiveness and all-around cleverness. The old Genesis melodrama is here, and every song is just a little bit quirky, which only increases Carptree’s appeal. Westholm generally plays in the classically-inspired styles of Tony Banks or Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak), and his arrangements and orchestrations are superb. Niclas Flinck’s vocals sometimes suggest Max Werner (Kayak). We thought this level of songwriting, melodic sensibility, and emotional impact had all but disappeared from progressive rock. This is the MALS label edition, produced under license from the band.
This is the 2012 digipack edition of Man Made Machine (2005), released by the band. Man Made Machine continued Carptree’s trend of making each CD darker, heavier, and more powerful than the last. Flinck’s singing style now sounds more like Fish. This is a stunning symphonic progressive album, more serious sounding than their previous albums, full of the old Genesis grandeur but not really retro sounding, at least not when compared to Swedish bands such as Anglagard or Anekdoten. But if you married the power of those two bands with the vocals and melodic sense of Galleon, Cross, or Twin Age (keeping this within Sweden for the moment), you’d have something like Man Made Machine, the best of both worlds. Read the Progplanet and Prog Archives reviews.
With their fourth CD Insekt (2007), Carptree cemented their position in the first echelon of active symphonic prog bands. In addition to the elements and influences on previous albums, there are some female backing vocals, and the final song is very Roger Waters / Pink Floyd influenced. It’s a testament to the Swedish progressive scene that, even though there are quite a few bands today and progressive rock is a mature style, the bands all have distinct styles. Read reviews.
What we said about Insekt applies to Nymf (2010, digipack). The music is comparable to Marillion circa Fugazi in terms of its weight and darkness, but it is more symphonic and classically-influenced, more brooding and even more dramatic. By ‘weight’ we mean that Pink Floyd quality; the music has weight but is not heavy (metallic). Amid the symphonic gloom there is always a ray of light, and the tension finally resolves beautifully on the final track, which calms the listener down and tucks him/her in for the night.
Check below for Carl Westholm’s side project Jupiter Society.
Crazy World is a Finnish supergroup assembled by Mika Järvinen, the crazy front-man from the band Five Fifteen, with keyboardist Esa Kotilainen (Wigwam, Jukka Tolonen Band, Tasavallan Presidentti), drummer Anssi Nykänen (Pekka Pohjola), bassist Lauri Porra (Stratovarius), and Timo Kämäräinen, a conservatory-trained jazz-rock guitarist who has solo albums and has recorded and performed with numerous Finnish bands. The Return of the Clown (2012, 80-minutes) is described as a rock opera. Five Fifteen had an album titled Death of a Clown, so this must be some sort of clown resurrection. Consider Crazy World the continuation of Five Fifteen, fun and catchy 70s-style rock that marries great Beatles-esque melodies to progressive hard rock inspired by the likes of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zep, and Jethro Tull. They’re the kind of songs you’re already singing along to by the second chorus on your first listen. The CD contains two bonus live tracks. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Cross is a Swedish neo-progressive/neo-symphonic band with excellent English vocals and an accessible style. The band says that with Wake Up Call (2012, digipack), “Cross deliver their most symphonic sounding work to date. The guys are partly back to the somewhat heavier sound found on Secrets and Playgrounds, with dashes of the softer approach of The Thrill of Nothingness. But there is also the fresh element of multilayered string sections and a true symphonic feel in the overall soundscape. This is not totally new to Cross, but this time they have pushed it to the fore and merged it deeper into their music.” Guests include Mats Bender of Introitus (keyboards), Jock Millgardh (lead and harmony vocals), and Hannah Sundkvist (electric violin). Listed as a bonus track is the 10-minute Now, a version of which appears on the Spektrum CD. This song was initially written for Cross back in 2001, but at the time drummer Tomas Hjort was living in New York, and the 9/11 incident forced them to postpone recording a new album, and Hansi Cross donated it to Spektrum instead. Hansi always wondered how it would have turned out had Cross recorded it, and now they have. Listen to the songs Human Resolution, Remembrance, Falling Beyond, and Racing Spirits on YouTube. “If you like me are a fan of the UK albums Danger Money, Night After Night, and the self-titled debut, or the Eddie Jobson/Zinc project The Green Album, then this should be a no brainer.” Read the full Prognaut review.
This is the limited double-CD digipack edition of The Thrill of Nothingness (2009). This edition adds the 42-minute bonus album The Thrill of Somethingness, containing songs recorded during the same sessions but which the band felt didn’t fit with the concept of the main album. Concept, schmoncept, we’ll take the extra songs. The band feels this album is a logical continuation of Secrets and Playgrounds, with a slightly more 1970s sound. The specter of late-70s Genesis is never far away, though often the feel is closer to Mike Rutherford’s Smallcreep’s Day or Tony Bank’s A Curious Feeling. Song tempos stay in the moderate, Pink Floyd range, and there is a Pink Floyd influence in other aspects as well. Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) guests, and while Cross’ style is distinct, most fans of The Flower Kings will enjoy this album too. Here are mp3’s of the tracks Universe Inside and Bläckfisken, the latter only on the 2CD. Read reviews.
Playgrounds (2004) further develops the style heard on Secrets (2000) but relates even more closely to the 2003 Spektrum CD, and all the Spektrum members guest on Playgrounds. The mid-to-late 1970s Genesis influence is present, particularly in the keyboards, and Cross’ style is now close to Galleon as well as Jadis and other melodic symphonic prog bands. Read reviews. This is the U.S. edition on ProgRock Records.
This is the 2008 remastered edition of Secrets, which was originally released in 2000. The music is quite similar to Jadis, maybe a bit heavier and more progressive, and a sure bet for neo-prog fans. Read reviews.
Visionary Fools is from 1998. Paradox is a 1994 CD-EP (18:13) in a digipack, containing a single track of excellent instrumental symphonic rock, using samplers and electric guitar. Changing Poison Into Medicine (1993) is their 77-minute long third CD. Uncovered Heart (1988) and Second Movement (1990) are the first two Cross CDs.
D’AccorD are a Norwegian quintet along the lines of Black Bonzo, trying to recapture the essence of early 1970s progressive rock, with an authentic sound. Amongst their weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, flute, Hammond, Mellotron and sax. The band mention Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Queen, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep as some of their influences. On their 2009 debut album D’AccorD, there is also an obvious Genesis influence on the first track, later a short section where Van der Graaf Generator comes to mind. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Helike (2011) is their second, containing just two ‘side-long’ pieces of music (20:44 and 23:30). “If this thing could reference vintage seventies prog any more than it already does, it would have a Roger Dean logo on the front... it is the collective sound of D’Accord summoning the ghosts of prog past that make Helike so likable.” Read the rest of the Sea of Tranquility review and the ProgNaut review.
Dungen was initially sold to the alternative crowd as ‘Nordic psychedelic rock’. On the earlier Dungen albums, that was accurate enough. The third Dungen album Ta Det Lugnt (2004) was their international breakthrough album, and while it had a lot of Hendrix-style freak-outs, it was progressive around the edges thanks to a lush palette featuring keyboards, fiddle, and flute.
Tio Bitar (2007) fits nicely between Ta Det Lugnt and Dungen’s 2008 album 4, with equal amounts of the psychedelic rock of the former and the early 70s prog style of the latter. Less freak-out, more focus.
Regardless of what the alternative press labels it, Dungen’s fifth album 4 (don’t ask us about the numbering scheme) is Swedish progressive rock (which by any other name wouldn’t sound as sweet). Sung in Swedish but heavily instrumental, 4 has some psychedelic elements, but by and large this is pastoral, organic-sounding, 1970s-style prog dominated by piano, flute, and strings. Digipack.
Dungen’s sixth album Skit I Allt (2010, digipack) continues to advance the progressive direction of 4. There’s nothing Hendrix-y here. There is some psychedelic flavoring blended with the dominant style of breezy, warm, pastoral early-70s Swedish prog. The instrumentation is guitars, flute, strings, piano, organ, bass and drums, plus Gustav Ejstes’ soothing Swedish-language vocals, with enough space in the mixes to allow the music to breathe. Wonderful stuff, and little short of amazing to see music with Swedish vocals selling in the U.S. -- it’s hard enough to find rock sung in Swedish in Sweden. Here is an mp3 of the track Marken Lag Stilla and a video of the title track.
Eldberg (2011, digipack) is the debut for this retro, early-1970s style prog band from Iceland. Eldberg sing in Icelandic. (Even the language is retro; it resembles 12th century Norse). The music is comparable to Trettioåriga Kriget on the self-titled album and Krigssang, though the Eldberg members are too young to have been around when those albums were made. Pretty incredible to hear younger musicians so successfully capture the spirit of that music, though the Scandinavians are unusually adept at it. YouTube has a video of the song Enginn frišur.
This Finnish band blends progressive with a 1970s style accessible hard rock (not metal) in a unique way. You’d never know they weren’t British. While borrowing their hard rock aspects from the likes of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, The Who, Led Zeppelin, or Jethro Tull, their vocal melodies are closer to The Beatles. You can’t help but be hooked by their majestic choruses, often over Mellotron chords; this is where the prog rock aspect of their music comes to the fore. The songwriting is excellent and their humor and enthusiasm is such that it’s really hard not to like these guys. This is the remastered second edition of ...Camembert (2000), which alters the track order and adds four bonus tracks (three studio, one live).
The Flower Kings - Banks of Eden 2CD digipack ($12.99) out-of-stock
Check our DVDs page for The Flower Kings’ DVDs. If you’ve been paying any attention to progressive rock for the past two decades or so, you know that The Flower Kings have established themselves as one of the most accomplished, prolific, and popular symphonic progressive bands currently working. Their style has remained fairly consistent over the years, so newcomers can safely start with just about any album. Back in the World of Adventures (71-minutes) is from 1995, Retropolis (69-minutes) is from 1996, Stardust We Are (2CD, 126-minutes) is from 1997, Flower Power (2CD, 142-minutes) is from 1999, Space Revolver (76-minutes) is from 2000, The Rainmaker (70-minutes) is from 2001, and Unfold the Future (2CD, 136-minutes) is from 2002. This limited edition of Unfold the Future has one bonus track and comes in digibook packaging.
Adam & Eve (2004, 78-minutes) is another great one, and you just have to marvel at how Roine Stolt and company can produce so much music of this caliber and still be involved in several side projects of comparable quality!
The Flower Kings’ ninth studio album Paradox Hotel (2006) is a 136-minute double-CD, officially making Roine Stolt and company the most prolific progressive rock force on earth, not to mention one of the best. It is brilliant as usual.
The Sum of No Evil (75-minutes) is the 2007 The Flower Kings studio CD. Roine Stolt and company continue to champion all that is good and holy in progressive rock against the rising tide of metal, darkness, pessimism and melancholy. Seriously though, The Flower Kings seem to be hosting the original spirit of Yes now.
After a five year hiatus, The Flower Kings returned in 2012 with Banks of Eden. This is the 2CD digipack edition, which adds a second disc with four more tracks and a 20-minute in-studio video interview. The material is classic Flower Kings, or as the band proudly proclaim in the album promo video, more of the same and nothing new! Banks of Eden was recorded with the band playing live in one room in a studio, like in the good old pre-Pro Tools days. “We aimed for the classic big warm vinyl sound of old records by Queen, Genesis, Zeppelin, or Deep Purple,” says Roine Stolt. Watch the album trailer.
Desolation Rose (2CD, digipack) is The Flower Kings’ 2013 studio CD, featuring 18 new tracks. Watch the official video.
Alive on Planet Earth is a 2CD recorded live in 1998 and 1999. The Flower Kings’ 2003 live double-CD Meet the Flower Kings is subtitled On Stage Playing Their Epics, and they aren’t kidding as there are only seven tracks across the two discs. The shortest is 11:18!
Roine Stolt’s Hydrophonia (1998, 68-minutes) is an instrumental album released between Stardust We Are and Flower Power. Here Stolt is assisted by Jaime Salazar on drums and Ulf Wallander on soprano sax. Stolt adds some keys in addition to handling both guitar and bass. It’s on the same high level as The Flower Kings albums, with Stolt more interested in showcasing his compositional abilities than simply his guitar playing. And the guy never runs out of melodies.
This massive 4CD set contains 34 The Flower Kings tracks interpreted by the likes of Abarax, Argos, Chris, Final Conflict, Flamborough Head, Forgotten Suns, Mist Season, Pandora, Phaedra, Roz Vitalis, Sky Architect, Soniq Circus, Tabula Smaragdina, Tinyfish, Unitopia, Yesterdays, and 18 more. See Prog Archives for the complete list of tracks/bands. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
Reissue of an excellent and rare 1984 Swedish melodic symphonic progressive album plus two bonus tracks. For those who know the Swedish band Tribute, this is similar. For those who don’t, The Foundation lean most heavily in the Genesis direction, but distinguish themselves through the use of Chapman Stick and occasional cello. The bonus tracks total over 21 minutes and are as good as the rest of the album.
This is the CD that White Knight Records (co-founded by Magenta’s Rob Reed) have been champing at the bit to let the world hear. The FreddeGredde debut Thirteen Eight (2011, 71-minutes, digipack) is the work of Swedish wunderkind Fredrik Larsson, assisted by a drummer. As the story goes, the young artist initially rose to prominence in the early days of the viral video revolution where his great musicianship gained attention on YouTube and generated millions of views on some of his most popular videos. Larsson’s YouTube channel quickly became the number one subscribed channel in Sweden. But Larsson’s real dream is represented by this CD. The first thing that strikes the listener is the voice. The first generation of prog bands had some great singers, but the best singers of later generations by and large did not join prog bands. So male vocals of this quality are not common in today’s prog. The music is energetic modern symphonic prog that is both complex and accessible. Larsson may be young, but he knows the 1970s bands -- watch his video cover of Queen’s Killer Queen on his YouTube channel. This is one of the best debuts by a prog artist this millennium, and assurance that the future of prog is in good hands. The fastest way to preview the CD is via this video.
“Bloody hell!!! How good is FreddeGredde??!!! Totally bloody amazing! What a voice!” [Jem Godfrey of Frost]
Hasse Fröberg is known to prog fans as singer/guitarist of The Flower Kings since 1997. With TFK taking most of 2009 off, Fröberg had the opportunity to assemble his own band, and Future Past (2010) is the result. The label’s description: “Hasse Fröberg has put together a stunning debut album, 72 minutes of stellar performance, top notch production and catchy songs within a progressive environment. Some would say it sounds like Yes, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Flower Kings. Some just say HFMC. Amazing guitar performance by young gunslinger Anton Lindsjö throughout the CD reveals the raw talent of this ‘new kid on the block’ from Sweden. A classy classic/progressive rock CD from the land of the midnight sun.”
“I’ve found it thoroughly entertaining and addictive from start to finish. The band play together like seasoned vets, but the tenor of the whole has a zest and freshness that’s impossible to deny or ignore. Admittedly, now I’ve spent some time with it, I would say there are five truly wonderful songs married with four good songs that have wonderful moments or sections, but taken as an entity, Future Past is peppered with breathtaking musicianship and songwriting that blends the best of the old with the best of the new to stand as a paean of what’s possible in modern rock. What’s more, the production is devastatingly good and creates a unique and original sound for the band to cohere around. I find it difficult to find fault with this wonderful piece of work that stands out as one of my albums of the year.” [DPRP] Read the full review.
Powerplay (2012, digisleeve) continues in a similar vein, prog with some hard rock attitude, a wilder, dare we say more American-sounding version of The Flower Kings. Read the Progulator and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Fruitcake is a Norwegian progressive band singing in excellent English. They write long tracks favoring an early 1970s sound close to Genesis, dominated by organ and featuring guitar, analog synths, bass pedals, piano, flute and more. A general straightforwardness to the arrangements puts them in the neo-prog category for most. Power Structure (1998) is their fifth album.
Their seventh and final album Man Overboard (2004) is a double-CD. They added a flute player to make it a seven-piece band, and there is more emphasis on instrumental content. There’s still a certain ‘clunkiness’¯ to their style which is their trademark. The second disc contains an excellent collection of 11 rare and unreleased tracks spanning 1988-2002 from Fruitcake, The Guardian’s Office (nearly the same band), bandleader Pål Sųvik solo, and three other related bands or side projects. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. YouTube has the songs Intelligence, I’ve Taken Nothing, and Backwards Sounds.
Galleon are a Swedish neo-progressive/neo-symphonic band whose music is derived from Genesis no doubt, and falls in the Pallas and Pendragon camps, keyboard-dominated, with strong, clear English vocals. From Land to Ocean (2003) is a 2CD set with the second CD taken up entirely by the 52-minute piece The Ocean. It goes without saying that this is their most ambitious album to date, and although Galleon haven’t changed their style all that much from album to album, this one improves on all their previous albums. To extend the Pallas reference, From Land to Ocean is Galleon’s The Sentinel. (The cover concept is rather similar too.) Beyond Dreams is from 2000. This is the 2005 remastered edition of Mind Over Matter (1998). King of Aragon (1995) is their third CD; this edition was remastered in 1999. Heritage and Visions (1994) is their second CD and Lynx (1992) is their first.
Galleon have had a fairly consistent style since their first album, and while Engines of Creation (2007) is not a radical departure, it is probably the biggest evolution in their sound between any two albums. It had been four years since From Land to Ocean, and in that time, they seem to have discovered a new energy. While Galleon’s core sound on Engines of Creation is still similar to Pallas, there is a new Rush-like energy, greater complexity, even a touch of fusion in a couple spots. It’s the least neo-sounding of Galleon’s CDs and shows that after 15 years, this band still may not have reached their peak. Here is an mp3 of the complete 7:04 title track.
For their ninth album In the Wake of the Moon (2010), Galleon have moved to Aerodynamic Records, a new Swedish prog label, who warn that parts of this album will give the listener ‘permanent goose bumps’. If that would be a liability in your professional or personal life, you should listen to this CD at a safe distance.
Jas Gripen (2007, digipack) is the debut CD by Norwegian band Gallery (who sing in English), and yet another example of the quality of progressive rock coming out of Scandinavia these days. The title refers to the fighter plane manufactured by Saab. Ultimately this falls in the modern prog category, but it isn’t clear cut, as there are also many aspects of early 1970s progressive rock. The melancholy vocal style feels contemporary, and the lead guitar style and tone is often in the grungier modern style, though this is balanced by cleaner, lyrical guitar lines in the classic mode of Andy Latimer and others. The keyboard sounds are all vintage: Mellotron, gritty Hammond, piano. All told, the result is fairly close to recent Anekdoten, though Gallery’s melodies are better. “The enthralling melodies move between solid guitars and flying keys, with a firm foundation of precise drums and flawless bass playing. Surprising, catchy and infinitely confident, the debut record of Gallery is an untouchable piece of progressive rock that would be a shame to miss out on.” [Monster Magazine]
Norwegian band Gazpacho originally allied themselves closely with Marillion. One can assume they took their name from the Marillion song and not from a love of cold soup, and the title of their first full-length album Bravo is only a vowel shift away from a well-known Marillion album. They were on Marillion’s label for a time and have supported Marillion on tour. Certainly their style shares a lot with Marillion from Brave on. Their music is in the serious-sounding, deliberately-paced modern progressive style that emphasizes atmosphere, texture and melody over demonstrative playing. Other bands frequently mentioned as reference points are Porcupine Tree and Radiohead.
Gazpacho made incremental improvements with each of their first three albums, but their fourth album Night (2007) was their breakthrough album that introduced the band to a larger audience. It is clearly their best album to that point and may still be their best album. The guest violinist of the previous three albums was promoted to full member, while another guest musician adds several acoustic instruments, further broadening Gazpacho’s sound. This is the 2012 2CD remastered digibook edition on Kscope, which adds a second CD of bonus live versions of some of the album tracks. There had always been a few small issues with aspects of the sound that bugged the band and other features of the songs that emerged through playing them live over the following five years. This new edition allowed the band to address these issues while still remaining faithful to the original. The band explains: “We re-recorded the drums and some of the vocals that were distorted in the original recording session. We also added some of the tracks that were left off the original version to add further depth to the sound. We also remixed and remastered it at Cutting Room Studios in Stockholm.” Read reviews at Prog Archives and DPRP. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Their fifth album Tick Tock (2009) is a natural evolution from Night and of equal quality. Read the roundtable DPRP reviews.
After initially releasing Missa Atropos (2010) in Germany, Gazpacho signed to Kscope who released this digibook edition. Missa Atropos is described as a concept album dealing with the ever-popular themes of death, fear and loneliness. Consequently the music is darker than their previous two albums, while still displaying the Gazpacho trademarks, including ambient passages, violin and classical influences, and elements of world music. Read the DPRP roundtable reviews.
The double-CD London (2011) captures Gazpacho’s gig on their Missa Atropos tour at the legendary Dingwalls venue in Camden. Classic Rock Presents Prog described the evening as “sublime”, going on to state, “with new album Missa Atropos to draw from as well as a catalogue of songs that draw favourable comparison with both Radiohead and a more sedate Muse, they fill the best part of two hours with invention and brio.”
The always punctual Gazpacho are back with their seventh album March of Ghosts (2012, digibook). “March of Ghosts is unlikely to disappoint one single, yearning soul and may even be the album to carry its creators to far greater heights of success.” [Classic Rock Presents Prog] Read reviews at Prog Archives, Ytsejam, Reflections of Darkness, and JerryLucky.com.
The GHO is a Finnish quintet with two guitarists, flute, bass & piano, and drums, plus guests on Moog, trumpet, and didgeridoo. On their 2004 debut, they play instrumental progressive psychedelic rock with two discernible styles, but some overlap between them. One style is Ozric Tentacles-type jams, while the other style is more laid back, closer to Snow Goose-era Camel with flute in the lead, but blended with the characteristic Scandinavian melancholic atmosphere.
This is the 2011 second release by Swedish band Ginger Trees. The label says it has influences of Porcupine Tree, Uriah Heep, Kula Shaker, Pink Floyd and everything in between. Sea of Tranquility says: “think The Doors, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, and the Vanilla Fudge, complete with haunting vocals, swirling Hammond organ, and bluesy hard rock guitar work.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility and JerryLucky.com reviews. Many more reviews should be found on the band’s MySpace page (mp3 icon above). This is the mini-LP (cardboard) sleeve edition on the MALS label.
Grand Stand make a huge leap forward on Tricks of Time (2002), their second CD. Grand Stand’s sound has moved much closer to The Flower Kings, though there are still passages directly inspired by Genesis. This album would sit comfortably alongside The Flower Kings’ CDs. Aside from one 4-minute track, the next shortest track is 9:34! Though still heavily instrumental, this album has English-language vocals, and with the energy level and production markedly improved from their debut, this CD should boost Grand Stand’s popularity significantly. Here is a 1:43 mp3 album sampler.
This Finnish prog band debuted in 2000 with Ultramarine (currently unavailable). That album was instrumental, full of long tracks, Groovector’s sound dominated by keyboards (piano, Rhodes, Hammond organ, synths) and flute, plus acoustic & electric guitars, bass and drums. There are influences of Camel (The Snow Goose), Kaipa, Focus, and early King Crimson, but the bulk of what they do is their own take on classic progressive rock. It all has a magical feel, suggestive of the Finnish forests. Enigmatic Elements (2003) is their second CD. Groovector added vocals on this album, though half the tracks are still instrumental. It is generally keyboard-dominated, with elements of fusion and space-rock, all executed with great finesse.
Darklubing at Tavastia (2005) is a 74-minute live album recorded in 2001 and 2002. At the time of these recordings, the band was a quintet with a dedicated flute player who left the band prior to the recording of Enigmatic Elements. This is an outstanding album, mostly-instrumental with vocals in English. The music comes closest to early Camel, with touches of Pink Floyd and early King Crimson. The way they employ flute is often closer to the way PFM did in their early days, so you’d be forgiven for thinking at times that Groovector is an Italian progressive band. Good sound quality too.
The Guardian’s Office is Fruitcake drummer/composer Pål Sųvik’s other band, but this time he leaves the lead vocals to Tony Johannessen. After the opening hard rocker, this sounds like Fruitcake with a better singer. Like Fruitcake, the instrumentation is decidedly of 1970s-vintage, dominated by a ‘dirty’ organ sound, bass pedals, and a dated electric guitar tone. Lots of references to early Genesis, but the arrangements are more straightforward (and it goes without saying that the songwriting is not on the same level), so call it neo-prog with 70s instrumentation. Interesting to note that Pål Sųvik was a member of Folque, who were Norway’s Fairport Convention. If you listen closely to The Guardian’s Office, you may detect some Norwegian folk melodies sneaking in. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Gungfly is the side project of Beardfish leader Rikard Sjöblom. Lamentations (2011, digipack) is the second Gungfly album, following the well-received Please Be Quiet. Lamentations comes with a DVD (PAL, all-region) of Gungfly in concert in 2009 (67-minutes). Gungfly is similar to the shorter, vocal-oriented Beardfish songs (but not all Gungfly songs are short). Watch the DVD concert opener on YouTube. Read the DPRP review.
On this 2001 album, Swedish band Hagen play an excellent fusion of old folk melodies and heavy rock, their sound centered around the electric violin of Anders Rosen, seemingly played through a fuzz box to achieve a guitar-like sound. They are also notable for having Kaipa keyboardist Hans Lundin as a member. The old guys are joined by several younger musicians for a rock band that spans a couple generations of progressive rock. Think of a modern, heavier version of Kebnekaise.
The Scandinavian prog scene shows no signs of letting up, as the Finnish band Half Apple are another impressive new entry. Hands That Held Up the Sky (2012, digipack) is their first full-length CD. On the majority of tracks, Brother Ape may be the band Half Apple are most similar to, in that most of the tracks are up-tempo and high energy, relatively relaxed vocals meshing with a driving rhythm section. Well, the Half Apple members are young enough that they can keep up this pace on stage. As with many of the other current Scandinavian prog bands, Yes appears to be a strong influence, and the music is similarly uplifting and positive. The final track has a Beatles thing going on. But those bands are just influences, not templates, and Half Apple’s approach is contemporary.
1977 fourth solo album for keyboardist Bo Hansson, who was one of the pioneers of progressive rock in Sweden. This was his final album before resurfacing in 1985 with an atypical album. Hansson collaborated with guitarist Kenny Håkansson (Kebnekaise) on Music Inspired by Watership Down (released as El-Ahrairah in Sweden), which also features a number of other excellent musicians on bass, drums, and flute. It is flowing, dreamy, instrumental symphonic rock that generally has a different feel than Hansson’s previous albums, in part because he uses synthesizers instead of organ. It still has that evocative Nordic atmosphere though. This remastered edition includes an 11-minute bonus track recorded live in the studio in 2004 by Hansson and Håkansson. The 12-page booklet includes an extensive biography by Mark Powell.
Swedish keyboardist Anders Helmerson first made his mark in the progressive rock world with his 1981 LP End of Illusion, which achieved cult status. He wasn’t heard from again until 2002’s Fields of Inertia, recorded with Brazilian musicians at a time when Anders was living in Rio de Janeiro. He calls London home now, and Triple Ripple (2010) was mastered at Abbey Road Studios, but it was recorded in Nashville and New York. Here Helmerson is joined by bassist Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, many more) and drummer Marco Minnemann (UKZ, Mike Keneally, many more). Triple Ripple is instrumental, and while Helmerson gets symphonic sounds from his synths, the music is closer to fusion than symphonic rock. The rhythm section is as good as it gets, and the sound quality is superb. Helmerson has his own style that can’t be compared to any one other keyboardist. There are aspects of Emerson, Moraz, Jobson, Sherinian, etc, but Helmerson also has some Vangelis-like sounds (think Albedo 0.39) in his arsenal.
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.
In the Labyrinth are a fairly unique Swedish band who mix Indian and Middle Eastern motifs with symphonic rock, medieval sounds, and elements of Swedish folklore. The instrumentation is diverse: Mellotron, sitar, flutes, mandolin, violin, accordion, woodwinds, zither, assorted ethnic percussion, not to mention vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, and bass. The music itself is still largely western and conventionally melodic, it’s just the instrumentation that’s unique. While the music is heavily instrumental, the warm male vocals in English and beautiful female vocals are a strong point. About the only reference that comes to mind is a more proggy Dead Can Dance. Mystical, melancholy, mesmerizing, magical stuff that will have you transfixed.
One Trail to Heaven (2011, 60-minutes, digipack) is a compilation, but the music has been remastered, resulting in significant sonic improvements, and about 40% of the CD is previously-unreleased. This CD draws from the previous ITL CDs: The Garden of Mysteries (1994), Walking on Clouds (1999), and Dryad (2002). Three of the tracks are actually different versions than what appeared on those CDs, and there are two previously-unreleased tracks plus a cover of The Moody Blues’ Cities.
Introitus are a superb Swedish progressive rock band centered on married couple Mats and Anna Jobs Bender, with two of their children in the band. There are quite a few other musicians appearing on their debut CD Fantasy (2007, 73-minutes), while the core lineup of seven persons recorded their second CD Elements (2011, 67-minutes, digipack). Anna sings lead vocals and has a lovely voice, though the music is about half instrumental. Mats plays keyboards and writes most of the music, and you can tell the music is written by a keyboardist because, with a few exceptions such as Steve Hackett, guitarists don’t create symphonic architectures like this. Fantasy is full of symphonic prog in the Genesis, Hackett, and Yes veins, though Introitus have a very distinct personality. On Fantasy, they add accordion, cello, fiddles, sax, flute, and Swedish bagpipes in spots, the pipes and fiddle adding Celtic melodies when they appear, and there are touches of Vangelis-style electronics. Some of Mats’ compositions are 30 years old, so the ties to classic prog are stronger than one might expect. Read the Progressive Land review. First released by the band, this is the 2011 remastered edition of Fantasy on Progress Records.
Fantasy caught the attention of the Progress Records label (Magic Pie, Brother Ape, etc.), who signed Introitus for Elements. Elements is also full of symphonic prog in the Genesis and Yes veins and a bit heavier than Fantasy; guess the youngsters in the band are asserting themselves. Elements still features flute and a small amount of cello, though we do miss those additional instruments found on their debut. On the other hand, two other band members are helping out with the keyboard workload, which features some skillful electronics touches. The final track is 17-minutes long and a grandiose conclusion to the album, sounding like a stirring movie soundtrack done up prog rock style. Read reviews.
One of the most important and adventurous Swedish progressive bands, Isildurs Bane released their first album at the beginning of the 1980s and haven’t stopped since, though their music has continued to evolve. The band believes their fifth album Cheval (1989) can be seen as the beginning of the second period of Isildurs Bane, but stylistically, it feels more like the start of a third period. Isildurs Bane’s first two albums were traditional Swedish symphonic prog, while their third and fourth were upbeat symphonic jazz-rock. Cheval features a chamber orchestra and guest appearances by Jan Schaffer and flute virtuoso Björn J:son Lindh and is more classically influenced and challenging. This is the MALS label edition, produced under license from the band.
The 2009 debut by this Norwegian instrumental band contains inventive progressive jazz-rock, at various times similar to Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa, Mats-Morgan, and King Crimson, but more modern, varied and experimental. One track features metal guitar pounding away on the same note for minutes on end; that explains Meshuggah being on the band’s list of influences. But with a playing time of 79-minutes, use the skip button and you still have a very long CD.
Jeavestone are the new Finnish prog sensation. They are a progressive rock band that start with a jam band sound palette, though Jeavestone’s songs are composed and structured. They add flute, terrific harmony vocals, other woodwinds and string arrangements here and there, an organic sound where acoustic instruments are important just as they were with the classic progressive rock bands. They have an obvious sense of humor and sound like they’re having great fun. Playful prog for when you just can’t take another melancholy band. Jeavestone have similarities to Magic Pie, Von Hertzen Brothers, Umphrey’s McGee, Wigwam, Moon Safari, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Zappa, Jethro Tull, Caravan, and Echolyn. They are closest to the first three in that list but on average are proggier.
This is the Presence Records re-edition of Jeavestone’s first full-length CD Mind the Soup (2005), which includes videos of two songs. Mind the Soup is more of a prog & roll album. Spices, Species and Poetry Petrol (2008) is more progressive and is a significant step forward, but Mind the Soup is no slouch. And Jeavestone’s third album 1+1=OK (2010, digipack) may be the proggiest of all. Read the DisAgreement review. This is the jewel box second edition of Spices...; the digipack first edition sold out.
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 and are bargain-priced because the label is going out-of-business.)
Released by the artist, From Endangered to Extinct (2013, digipack) is the latest, most apocalyptic Jupiter Society CD, as Earth apparently loses this quarrel. Read the Proggnosis and Dangerdog reviews. See our Scandinavian page for the Carptree CDs.
Kaipa was the top Swedish 1970s symphonic prog band, featuring keyboardist Hans Lundin and guitarist Roine Stolt, later of The Flower Kings. Relative to The Flower Kings, Kaipa’s music is more purely Swedish, their symphonic rock colored by the centuries-old Swedish choral and folk music traditions. Keyboardist Hans Lundin reformed Kaipa for 2002’s Notes from the Past (79-minutes), and as reunion albums go, this could hardly be any better, as it is faithful to the original Kaipa.
Keyholder (2003, 78-minutes) is the second and Mindrevolutions (2005, 79-minutes) the third album for the reformed Kaipa. In addition to Lundin and Stolt, the lineup is Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan) on drums, Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, The Tangent) on bass, and Patrik Lundström (Ritual) and Aleena Gibson on vocals. The results are very good, a mix of the Kaipa and Flower Kings styles, with lots of Hammond and Mellotron. The main difference between Kaipa and The Flower Kings is that Hans Lundin does all the writing in the current Kaipa. Aleena’s vocals are a new element of course -- she has a childish voice similar to Tracy Hitchings -- but otherwise this is very faithful to the original Kaipa, and more 70s-oriented than The Flower Kings.
Angling Feelings (2007, 64-minutes) sees one change in the lineup, with Per Nilsson taking Roine Stolt’s place on guitar. Kaipa’s mastermind and keyboard player Hans Lundin and Per are old friends and worked together recording the Hagen album Corridors of Time several years ago. Stolt is not missed, as this CD is every bit as good as the other Kaipa CDs from this decade, and still ends up inhabiting the same territory as The Flower Kings. Brilliant 70s-style progressive rock with fusion and folk touches.
On In the Wake of Evolution (2010, 70-minutes), Kaipa pick up where they left off, with the same lineup as on Angling Feelings plus guests on recorders and violin. It’s a fantastic sympho-prog album with many similarities to Yes. Read the peoples’ proclamations at Prog Archives.
Vittjar (2012, 69-minutes) is another exceptional album, the influence of Swedish folk music on the melody lines having much to do with Kaipa’s appeal. This is a very different beast than folk-metal, where two unrelated music styles are clumsily forced together with appeal mainly to metal fans. This is progressive rock created by experienced musicians who understand how to incorporate different musical threads into something greater than the sum of its parts. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prog Rock Music Talk reviews.
This is the 2008 remastered Definitive Edition of this triple-CD that was first released in 2003. It has not only been remastered, it has improved artwork and one bonus track from the band Viima.
The Finnish magazine Colossus asked 30 progressive bands from around the world to illustrate moments of Kalevala. Kalevala is the Finnish national epic, made up of old Finnish ballads and lyrical songs, a complex and diverse cycle of legends that inspired Tolkien as well as the composer Sibelius, among others. The idea of the project was to use vintage 1970s instruments to get the ‘old’ feeling needed by the story. (No programmed drums either.) The result is nearly four hours of progressive rock in all its glory. The bands: Haikara, Overhead, Simon Says, Sinkadus, Moongarden, Il Castello di Atlante, Magenta, Submarine Silence, Metaphor, Clearlight, Orchard, Greenwall, Revelation, Scarlet Thread, Mad Crayon, Museo Rosenbach, Leviathan, Malibran, Sofia Baccini, Elegant Simplicity, Qadesh, Cantina Sociale, Grand Stand, Germinale, Aardvark, Thonk, Groovector, Whobodies, Randone & Tempore, and Cafeine. This comes in a fat 2CD case and counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Who’s the Boss in the Factory is the 2008 third CD from the band led by the busy Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, ex-The Tangent). Guests include Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Theo Travis (The Tangent, Gong, Porcupine Tree), and Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings). The album is of the style and quality one would expect from the personnel involved. Most of it is in the Spock’s Beard and The Flower Kings styles, though the two-part Eternally that concludes the album is more personal and moving, Reingold’s eulogy to his late parents. After their first album which was marred by some metal, Karmakanic are now committed to progressive rock, and this is their best work to date.
The 2011 Karmakanic studio CD In a Perfect World includes some bonus material: a radio edit of one song and a 22:34 video of Send a Message from the Heart, the epic from the previous album. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Dangerdog reviews.
Kataya is a band formed by three veteran Finnish musicians. Their 2008 debut Canto Obscura is stunning, a very atmospheric progressive rock, instrumental with wordless female vocals and, on one track, male spoken word. As the band says: “The inspiration for this album comes from the deep, wild forests of Finland. Being amongst the last pure and clean, untouched spots of nature on our planet, the Forest is and has always been a church and sanctuary for us Finns. There are also numerous legends, myths and folklore about the creatures living in these woods. Although mostly instrumental, this album is a storyteller in the spirit of these old tales.”¯ Think of a collaboration between Ralph Lundsten, Mike Oldfield, and Camel. (Ralph Lundsten is a Swedish electronic musician who made a number of albums evoking the mystique of the Nordic forests, particularly his Nordic Nature Symphonies series.) Kataya occasionally incorporate folk instruments and melodies the same way Oldfield does, but lest you think this is an album of ambient or folk music, Kataya use electric guitar, bass and drums, and the music is frequently full-blown symphonic rock. The early albums of French band XII Alfonso are somewhat similar, otherwise this is quite a unique album, spellbinding and magical, one that can transport the listener to somewhere they’ve never traveled. Veteran prog reviewer John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg chose Canto Obscura as the best album of 2008!
“After almost 35 years of listening to prog rock, it still happens that I am pleasantly surprised by new, unique and genuinely progressive (rock) music; in this case it’s Kataya with their wonderful blend of folk, ambient and prog... What a beautiful and captivating effort to translate pure nature into pure progressive music!”¯ [Erik Neuteboom]
Voyager (2010, digipack), Kataya’s second, has all the charms of Canto Obscura without repeating it. For one, Voyager was composed in a different manner, and secondly, it has an outer space rather than a forest theme. Again almost entirely instrumental, Voyager is a bit spacier and a bit more Pink Floyd-ish while sacrificing little of the pastoral and magical feel of the first album. Not many modern prog bands can maintain this strong a connection to the first-generation progressive rock bands of their own country (or region) while simultaneously creating something new.
Kerrs Pink are one of the most famous Norwegian progressive rock bands. Their earlier albums are in the early Camel vein, blending in elements of Scandinavian folklore a la Kebnekaise or early Ragnarök. The CD reissue of their self-titled 1980 debut album adds the two tracks from their first single. Mellom Oss (1981) is the reissue of their second album plus six bonus tracks. The album tracks are re-recorded versions -- the originals were crudely recorded on only four tracks, so it is an improvement over the LP. The band was inactive for a time before resurfacing with A Journey on the Inside in 1993, followed by Art of Complex Simplicity in 1997. The mini-LP editions are the 2009 limited editions released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which come in heavyweight cardboard sleeves (gatefold for A Journey on the Inside).
Tidings (2002) is their fifth. The band added a new lead singer and female backing vocalist (both singing in English), plus a second keyboardist. The production and playing are now completely professional, yet the music retains its freshness and sincerity. Stylistically, we are in Camel and Kaipa territory, also Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd, melodic and flowing symphonic rock with long tracks and ambitious arrangements, beautiful melodies, lots of keyboards, and lyrical guitar solos. Kerrs Pink are at their best when they integrate Norwegian folk melodies -- the 8:30 Tidings from Some Distant Shore is sublime in that regard. Read the All Music review. Note both Tidings and Art of Complex Simplicity have been out-of-print for years, but the band let us purchase their last few copies.
After another suitably long break, Kerrs Pink released their outstanding sixth album Mystic Spirit (2013, 68-minutes, digipack) on their own label. Their new singer is Eirikur Hauksson, on loan from Magic Pie. While the Kerrs Pink that recorded the early 1980s albums sounds somewhat tentative, the current band is bold and powerful as never before, and this will probably be regarded as their best album. It is loaded with vintage keyboards, the compositions still playing to Kerrs Pink’s strength, which is regal 1970s style symphonic prog with Norwegian folk melodies (with accordion used on occasion). With the contemporary production, this is an update of the classic Scandinavian symphonic prog style, close to Kaipa. Since it is sung in English, the reformed Kaipa is a better reference than 70s Kaipa.
Aramed Forces of Simantipak (2006, 68-minutes) is the first official album for a Finnish quartet that excels at everything except maybe choosing band and album names. This is a wonderfully elaborate and inventive symphonic prog epic sung in English. The band is certainly influenced by classical music. There are lots of keyboards, some cello, and with all four members singing sophisticated choral parts, Khatsaturjan sound like the house band for a monastery of the Progressive order of monks. It’s definitely continental European; no English or American band could produce this album. It’s one of the great rock symphonies ever. Read the DPRP and Proggnosis reviews.
Disconcerto Grosso (2010, 63-minutes) is Khatsaturjan’s second, and if prog fans don’t start paying more attention to this criminally-underappreciated band, arrests will start to be made. The vocal arrangements continue to be the most outstanding feature of the music, which draws from the likes of Genesis, early Kayak, PFM, and so on, but it’s not mere mimicry. Read the DPRP and Proggnosis reviews, with which we wholeheartedly concur.
Klotet is a Swedish quartet in existence only since 2004, and yet their albums could have come straight out of the first generation of Swedish progressive rock, as Klotet’s music leaves few clues that it wasn’t made in the early-to-mid 1970s. Klotet are from Uppsala, the old university town that seems to be the birthplace of Swedish progressive rock. Their music is instrumental, the instrumentation restricted to vintage keys (mostly organ and Rhodes) and guitar tones. Those who know and love the music of Bo Hansson, Samla Mammas Manna, Kebnekaise, Trettioåriga Kriget, Fläsket Brinner, etc. already understand the special flavor of this music. The band even mention Harald Hedning; how’s that for an obscure reference? En Rak Höger is their 2008 debut, while Det Har Aldrig Hänt Och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen (2010) is their second. Much of Det Har... is played at breakneck speed -- imagine a Swedish B-52s or Devo playing instrumental prog (if those bands could play like this).
This is the 2010 debut by a young Swedish prog quintet along the lines of Liquid Scarlet. This is the Progress Records edition, which follows an initial release by the band. Koi belong to the legion of modern prog bands because mood and texture are paramount, while vocals and instruments are purposely somewhat indistinct, blended together into a wall of sound that makes Phil Spector’s seem like more of a thin veneer of sound. If you’ve heard Godspeed You Black Emperor, you know the aesthetic. Among the other influences Koi list are Gazpacho, Oceansize, Porcupine Tree and Radiohead, so there’s little debate about which prog camp Koi fall into. But their style overlaps some with the later Anekdoten albums, especially when the cello appears, and there are beautiful, nuanced passages of acoustic guitars that are borderline Genesis. It’s a lovely and lush noise Koi make, full of what sounds like Mellotron and other sustained keyboard pads, and of course distortion on the guitars and reverb on everything, filling up every possible frequency throughout the midrange. And it wouldn’t be Swedish without some attractive melodies. If pressed for time, at least audition the first two songs: The Rabbit and Woodnote. Read reviews.
Keyboardist Esa Kotilainen has been involved in the Finnish music scene since the 1970s, best known for his tenures with Wigwam, Tasavallan Presidentti, and Karelia, as well as his 1977 solo album Ajatuslapsi. Turquoise Planet (2009) and -51°C (2010, digipack) are his latest solo works and are in a symphonic/ambient style that would be perfect as the soundtrack to a non-narrative film of Nordic landscapes, varying from enchanted summer forests to ominous snow-swept vistas. There is a Scandinavian flavor that one can also hear in the work of Ralph Lundsten. Kotilainen uses electronic keyboards ranging from vintage (Moogs, ARP, Mellotron) to modern, but also accordions. One of these albums is colder and bleaker than the other; we leave determining which as an exercise for the reader. Read the Eurock review of Turquoise Planet. At the time of this writing, there is one track from -51°C on the Presence Records MySpace page.
This 1997 CD is by an offshoot of Holy River Family Band (itself an offshoot of the band Spacious Mind), in more of a fusion direction. Mellow Records’ description: “Jazz-rock, progressive rock, psychedelic and ethnic music go into the uplifting and mind-blowing works of Kundalini from Sweden. A guitar/bass/drums trio that goes beyond this format and introduces traditional instruments from India and Tibet into their music. Reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth without the keyboards.” 71-minutes.
“Kundalini is able to transcend the usual sonic realms of the progressive rock trio, creating an exotic soundscape with the augmentation of unusual instruments... Kundalini is a supergroup in the truest sense, a creative marriage of immense talent, innovative instrumental songwriting, and a willingness to explore uncharted musical terrain through breathtaking and inspiring improvisations. One wonders how future releases can live up to, much less exceed, this most promising beginning.” [Joe Pettit, Jr., All Music Guide]
A Giant’s Lullaby (2005, 64-minutes) is the second album for this Norwegian progressive band, and it’s a huge improvement over their first: more original, more diverse, more imaginative. The core trio employ a number of other musicians here and feature a lot of Mellotron, plus Rhodes, flute, sax, 12-string guitar, and mandolin. There are elements of Pink Floyd, early King Crimson, Anglagard, Camel and others, with a few jazzy sequences. This sounds like a lost gem from the early 1970s, a beautiful symphonic progressive album balancing lively instrumental interplay with an overall dreamlike or hallucinogenic feel. Vocals in English. Read the ProgPlanet and DPRP reviews. Here is a video of the track Choir of Life.
Another Mellotron-laden Swedish prog sensation. On their self-titled 2004 debut, Liquid Scarlet sound like a cross between Anglagard and Landberk, with influences of 1970s King Crimson and pastoral Genesis, but also some modern influences such as Radiohead. (The band members were all in their twenties at the time of this recording.)
II (2005) is a logical continuation from their debut, with plenty of typical Scandinavian melancholic atmosphere a la Anekdoten or Valinor’s Tree. They have expanded their sound with accordion and string arrangements, while a couple 10-minute tracks show early King Crimson influence. It is again a very appealing set of dreamy songs that are one moment soft and intimate and the next moment majestic, and although there are influences of vintage prog, this isn’t retro but rather something fresh and contemporary. Their songwriting and melodic sense sets them apart from the other Swedish bands mentioned above. Read reviews.
Killer Couple Strikes Again (2005, cardboard sleeve) is a 25-minute, five-track CD-EP containing one song from the II album plus four previously-unreleased and highly enjoyable tracks, one of which is a tribute to Fläsket Brinner. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Bjorn Lynne is a Norwegian musician who has a large catalog of music in both the progressive rock and electronic music genres. This is the 1996 Mellow Records edition of Witchwood, one of Bjorn’s earliest CDs, which Bjorn describes as “an album of calm, serene, and playful music inspired by the Nordic forests and mountains. Appearing on guitar is Ken Senior, who has often been complimented on his warm, melodic guitar style, and he fits perfectly into the melodic music on this album. Also some medieval inspired passages: pastoral, mystic and, well, just different.” The mp3 icon above also leads to numerous reviews and comments.
“Ihmeellinen Iltapäivä is a solo project by Kimmo Pörsti (with 17 different musicians) released in 1997. It includes both instrumental and vocal tracks with elements of symphonic progressive rock, jazz, country and bluegrass, etc. Besides guitars, drums, bass and keys, a wide range of instruments including cello, violin, accordion and woodwinds have been used. The music of Maahinen has been heard in some Finnish television programs even in recent years.” Kimmo Pörsti is a founding member of both Mist Season and Paidarion, and there are similarities between both those bands and Maahinen.
This is the newly remastered 2009 edition on Esoteric Recordings, known for their superb remastering jobs. Made in Sweden was a trio that featured Georg Wadenius (guitar, vocals, organ, piano), Bo Haggenstrom (bass, Mellotron, piano) and Tommy Borgudd (drums). Wadenius became a well-known guitarist in Sweden. This album was recorded in London in 1970, produced by Colosseum bassist Tony Reeves, and featuring some arrangements by Neil Ardley. This is Made in Sweden’s best album and is quite good, sounding very British. While not quite as advanced as what the first-tier progressive rock bands were doing that year, it is comparable to most of the early prog bands, those still retaining some flavor of the late 1960s. Read the Progressor review.
Norway’s Magic Pie quickly became one of the most talked-about progressive rock bands, especially after performances at both Rosfest 2006 and 2007. Motions of Desire (2004, 75-minutes) is their debut. Circus of Life (2007) is their equally good 64-minute second album. In true progressive fashion, its 46-minute title suite is divided into five parts, of which one part is further subdivided into four parts.
In addition to influences of early 1970s progressive rock bands, Magic Pie incorporate influences of early 70s melodic and hard rock bands, in the same manner as Finnish band Five Fifteen, though Magic Pie are much proggier. With Hammond organ as Magic Pie’s weapon of choice, Deep Purple and Atomic Rooster could be two of those influences. And with four vocalists, Magic Pie have those great harmony vocals, something that has largely been lost in modern rock. A lot of what Magic Pie do will appeal to fans of The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic. Ultimately, Magic Pie’s greatest success may be that they capture the spirit of earlier bands without copying the style of any of them, and their albums have a positive vibe that will restore the spirits of those whose hearts are in the 70s. Read reviews of Circus of Life and Motions of Desire.
Magic Pie’s third, The Suffering Joy (2011, digipack), is cause to rejoice. As Sea of Tranquility says: “If you can only get one prog-rock CD this year, The Suffering Joy should be that CD.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review, the USA Progressive Music review, and still more reviews.
Dulcima (2009, digipack) and The Fragile State of Inbetween (2008, digipack) are the first and second CDs by British expat singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Rhys Marsh, who now lives in Norway. He left of his own volition and therefore ends up on this page. Besides, his ‘multi-national orchestra’ The Autumn Ghost features members of Anekdoten, Wobbler, White Willow, Änglagård, and others. The first album is more introverted, while Dulcima is (in the words of the label) a surprisingly intense, at times heavy and very dark full-fledged prog album with tons of Mellotrons... the sound of David Sylvian fronting 1970s King Crimson. Read the DPRP reviews.
Flesh That Understands (1992) is the debut by a Swedish neo-progressive band with excellent English vocals who also have some of the early Saga style. Note their 1994 second CD Ten Ways is fairly different in style.
Damn if it isn’t another great symphonic prog band from Sweden. Tales from the Maze (2006, 62-minutes) is the first full-length album for Stockholm-based Maze of Time, and it’s full of strong melodies and that know-it-when-you-hear-it Scandinavian quality. There are influences of Genesis, Camel, Yes, Pink Floyd, Kaipa, some neo-prog and a bit of heavy rock. Like The Flower Kings, actually. Overall the style is more soothing than jarring, a lot of that having to do with the softer vocal style and the rich, luxuriant textures.
Lullaby for Heroes (2008, 64-minutes, digipack) is their second CD. It seems Maze of Time have made a conscious effort to make their music more accessible, but that no longer means bringing it closer to pop. Today in Europe, it means adding metal. Fortunately Maze of Time stopped well short of damaging the essential progressive character of their music, as there is only a modicum of metal guitar. Overall this is an excellent follow-up, and hopefully we’re not the only ones to hear a slight similarity to Grobschnitt circa Rockpommels Land in spots.
Masquerade Show (2012) is Maze of Time’s third CD. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Here is a Norwegian band singing in Norwegian and exploring retro-prog similar to the Swedish band Landberk and, to a lesser extent, Anekdoten and Anglagard. Mikromidas use a lot of Mellotron and Hammond organ. Their arrangements lack the extreme dynamics of Anekdoten and Anglagard though. Faunus (2005) is their second and is a more accomplished work than their debut. The compositions and playing here show greater maturity, and thus the emotional impact is greater. Read the DPRP review.
Mist Season is a Finnish quintet including former members of Kaamos and Tasavallan Presidentti, playing music between fusion and progressive rock that sometimes brings to mind Pekka Pohjola as well as Isildurs Bane during their jazz-rock phase (Sea Reflections, Eight Moments of Eternity). Read the reviews at Prog Archives of Mist Season (2004), Woodlands (2006), and Reflections (2011). If there aren’t any reviews there yet of Reflections, head to Sea of Tranquility. Mist Season can also be heard on a number of Musea’s various artists CDs such as Rökstenen, Tuonen Tytär II, Dante’s Divine Comedy: Purgatorio and Paradiso, Cani Arrabbiati, and A Flower Full of Stars.
This Swedish quintet debuted with one of the freshest, most likeable symphonic prog albums you’ll hear. The ‘summer’ in A Doorway to Summer (2005) is apt as Moon Safari display none of the long-dark-winter Scandinavian melancholy and gloom. Instead they have a warm, Yes-like positivism, though their sound here comes closer to England, Druid, or Sebastian Hardie. They have harmony vocals that sometimes reach Beach Boys level, and some Beatles flavoring (closer to Klaatu actually). They use all analog keyboards including Mellotron and lots of acoustic guitar. The openness of their sound and their outstanding melodic sense give the album a 1970s feel and set Moon Safari apart from most of the other current prog bands. Tomas Bodin (keyboardist of The Flower Kings) guests and co-produced, and Moon Safari will almost certainly appeal to fans of The Flower Kings, though their style is distinct. Just five long tracks, one of which is 24-minutes long. Here is an mp3 from the track Dance Across the Ocean.
Despite the Swedish title, the double-CD Blomljud (2008) is again sung entirely in English. The title apparently translates to “sound of flowers”, and so the CD title again gives a clue to the music. Or maybe it’s an oblique reference to The Flower Kings. The style is a continuation of the first CD, but those wonderful harmony vocals are even more striking here, reminiscent of Queen, Yes, The Beach Boys, and Fireballet (second album). It’s almost a lost art these days. The first disc has the lighter, vocal-heavy material, while the second disc tends to have the more energetic material, as if the first disc was warming the listener up for the second. It is all symphonic prog close to Yes with some Genesis influence, the latter felt particularly in the pastoral passages. Its sunny optimism is again in stark contrast to the prevailing mood of darkness, cynicism and metal in today’s music.
Lover’s End (2010) is Moon Safari’s third studio CD. Mike Holmes of IQ and The Lens wrote recently that no progressive bands make ‘summer’ albums anymore. Mike needs to hear Moon Safari, because Lover’s End sounds like vintage Yes infused with the endless summer spirit of The Beach Boys. Speaking of great harmony vocals, Moon Safari are now the new champions: Beach Boys, CSNY, Queen, fuggedaboudit! This is the most powerful anti-depressant you can buy without a prescription, but be forewarned, it is highly-addictive.
The Gettysburg Address (2012) is a live double-CD recorded in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Rosfest 2011 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the songs drawn from all three prior Moon Safari studio albums. The entire concert is included. “The recordings just left me speechless... This album probably is for Moon Safari what Yessongs was for Yes, Seconds Out for Genesis, Exit Stage Left for Rush and Two for the Show for Kansas... Currently Moon Safari undoubtedly belongs to the best live acts in the genre!” Read the full Background Magazine review. Watch Moon Safari videos.
Lover’s End Pt. III: Skellefteå Serenade (2012) contains a single splendiferous new track with a duration of 24:21 that completes the story begun on the Lover’s End CD. It was written at the same time but would have required Lover’s End to be expanded to a double CD. “As far as I’m concerned, Moon Safari is the best, or in any case currently belongs to the best Swedish bands. With this new mini-album they proved it again and therefore I have to rate it with the maximum of five stars. It’s well-deserved indeed!” Read the full Background Magazine review and the Prog Archives reviews. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Himlabacken vol. 1 (2013) is the new Moon Safari studio album, again sung in English despite the Swedish title. Listen to the album teaser. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Sea of Tranquility.
Moonwagon are an outstanding Finnish instrumental progressive space-rock quartet formed in 2008. Night Dust (2010, digipack) is their debut. Read reviews at DPRP, Background Magazine, and Prog Archives. Listen to the songs Super-Altar and Hoodoo Horizon on YouTube.
Foyers of the Future (2012, digipack, 62-minutes) is their second. Labeling Moonwagon simply ‘space-rock’ would be selling them short, as there is more to their music than what you might expect from that label, but their music does sound like a band playing together (and enjoying the hell out of it) as opposed to a studio construction, and the space-rock energy and flow is dominant. They have a rich sound palette; they have a dedicated keyboardist with an impressive arsenal, while the stringed things used include electric mandolin and dulcimer alongside the expected electric & acoustic guitars.
Time to Rest (2010) is the double-CD debut for Norwegian prog band Morild. This is the 2011 MALS edition, released under license from the band, which comes in a heavyweight gatefold cardboard sleeve. “Time to Rest is a truly magnificent and captivating musical statement from beginning to end, which certainly isn’t an easy feat considering that the total running time is around 100 minutes... Morild are... creating stellar music that can easily sit alongside today’s more established progressive rock bands... Basically if you love progressive rock in any shape or fashion, then you should definitely check out Time To Rest. This is one that is definitely going to be on my top ten list for 2010.” [Sea of Tranquility] Read the full Sea of Tranquility review and the Prognaut review.
Sintrinity (2012, digipack) is the debut CD by a Swedish band who describe their style as progressive/alternative rock. The Progress label says: “We find a great sense for combining the kind of almost catchy melodies found with bands such as Muse with more complex, heavier elements in the ‘near prog-metal style’ represented by Riverside or latter day Porcupine Tree.” Read the Progplanet review.
The Swedish band Nevärlläjf formed in late 2005, and two years later they won a national contest called Musik Direkt. The band then met Beardfish, an encounter that left a mark on their music. Nevärlläjf play an instrumental blend of fusion and progressive rock that, apart from some guitar using a more modern metal tone, is true to the 1970s progressive sound and spirit, not far from the style of Samla Mammas Manna. Nevärlläjf also have that characteristic Swedish style that can be heard from 70s Kaipa through to Änglagård. It’s hard to believe Klusterfloristen (2009) is the debut of a young band. They make the intricate feel effortless, they seem to be bubbling over with musical ideas, and the whole album is a 55-minute roller coaster ride that you’ll want to hop on again after you catch your breath. One of the best fusion-prog albums in many years.
The New Grove Project is a Swedish progressive rock band centered on Ingemar Hjertqvist. They recorded demos in 1983-84 and their first real CD Fool’s Journey in 1996, which included Roine Stolt, Pär Lindh, and Jode Leigh (ex-England, as in Garden Shed). Brill (2005) is their best work to date, again featuring Pär Lindh and Jode Leigh (who contributed one song), also Hasse Bruniusson (Samla Mammas Manna, The Flower Kings) and several others. The music is melodic symphonic progressive with a wealth of ideas and a good variety of instrumentation, vaguely in The Flower Kings vein. The only thing that keeps this from being on the same level as The Flower Kings are the vocals, which are passable but nothing to write home about. But there is a lot of instrumental content, and with all these great musicians involved, this is a gem that should not be overlooked. 62-minutes, finishing with the 24-minute title track.
Norwegians Nordagust are next in the lineage of Mellotron-drenched Scandinavian prog bands that includes Anglagard, Anekdoten, and Landberk. Originally released as a demo in 2007, this is the 2010 official (remixed/remastered) release on Karisma. “This is one of the best discoveries of 2010, and for suckers for alternating calm/tense, dark and emotional music, here enriched by orchestral and folk elements, In the Mist of Morning is an obligatory discovery. Superbly composed and played, I cannot recommend this enough.” [Proggnosis (with liberties and guesses taken in translating near-English into English)] “[I was] overwhelmed by the emotion and intensity of Nordagust’s music... In the Mist of Morning is the surprise of 2010.” [ProgVisions] Read the full Proggnosis and ProgVisions reviews.
Opus I is the CD reissue of a little-known record from 1983, one that we anxiously awaited. Opus Est could be considered the Swedish IQ. Given that Opus Est were contemporaneous with IQ, one has to wonder whether they had heard IQ. More likely both bands were inspired by Genesis and ended up in the same general area. In any event, Opus I can stand comfortably alongside or just a notch below Tales from the Lush Attic, though Opus I is not as dark as IQ can be. Singer Håkan Nilsson delivers the English lyrics in a voice with a quality similar to a young Peter Hammill. Three excellent bonus tracks (nearly 20-minutes) have been added.
Opus II is their second album, not released until the end of 2006. It’s comprised of a four-part suite composed between 1979-80, recorded partly in 1979 and partly in 2004. There are four more songs composed and recorded between 1983-84, bringing the CD length up to 74-minutes. This album sounds very much like the logical successor to Opus I, and the singer’s voice and certain signature keyboard sounds give Opus Est a clear identity. This album is more refined and sophisticated though, suggesting Genesis and IQ but standing on its own. Hopefully this is the beginning of the second career of Opus Est.
The debut CD by Finnish band Orne, The Conjuration by the Fire, was recorded in 2005 and released in 2006 by the Italian Black Widow label. In keeping with most of Black Widow’s releases, this CD has a somber, occult, psychedelic progressive sound straight out of the British early 1970s scene. There is some early Van der Graaf Generator influence. However, the music is more proto-progressive, that is, it isn’t as developed as many of the influences listed by the band (e.g., early Genesis, King Crimson). But it is not particularly heavy, and the flute and Hammond organ make for a refined sound that is often quite beautiful in a dark, melancholy way. It feels like a dark prog ritual. Read the DPRP review.
Alongside contributions to the Kalevala and both Tuonen Tytär projects, this Finnish quintet has released four CDs, beginning with Zumanthum (2002). Their second Metaepitome (2005) improves on Zumanthum. Overhead’s brand of symphonic progressive here is original and seductive. They tend toward long tracks with plenty of instrumental content that often emphasize 1970s sounds and styles. Something about the lead vocals (which are in English) makes the band sound contemporary, and there is some heavy guitar as is de rigueur today, though thankfully the music here is a long way from metal. For references, one might mention Pink Floyd, Eloy, Kaipa, and Jethro Tull (on the few occasions when flute is used). The highlights are the two long suites that open and close the album: the title track (19:40) and especially Dawn (16:22) with its majestic harmony vocals and generally spacey character.
And We’re Not Here After All (2008) is their third, and no major changes in style, just slightly more of a contemporary edge. Many different stylistic threads are woven into a modern progressive tapestry that puts Overhead in the league with the best Scandinavian progressive bands. Read the DPRP review.
Of Sun and Moon (2012, digipack) sees Overhead continuing to shift toward a more contemporary prog style, so that flute and Mellotron share the stage with light metal influences. This digipack is printed in 3D and (if we remember to include them) comes with little 3D glasses with which you should be able to amuse yourself for several minutes. Watch the album trailer video and the video for the song Aftermath. Read reviews of all Overhead’s CDs. Check our DVDs page for Overhead’s Live After All DVD.
Ozone Player is a loose musical collective centered on Finnish multi-instrumentalist Otso Pakarinen. Prior to Long-Range Influence (2011, 61-minutes, digipack), there have not only been five previous Ozone Player CDs, Ozone Player also contributed tracks to Colossus/Musea’s Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso extravaganzas, Finnish prog tribute Tuonen Tytär II, and Italian movie composer tribute Cani Arrabbiati. The music on Long-Range Influence is mostly instrumental and keyboard-centric, sometimes reminiscent of Bo Hansson if Bo was still making music in 2011. Symphonic prog at its core, it also includes space music, orchestral simulation, bits of synth pop, world music, and epic movie soundtrack styles. Pakarinen plays mostly keys and guitar, while other musicians from Finland, Italy, and the U.S. contribute drums, bass, vocals, hammered dulcimer, violin and viola.
This is the InsideOut release of Timeloss, the 2002 first album by this Swedish band formed by the founders of Landberk and picking up where Landberk left off, though Paatos have a female singer with a beautiful voice who also plays cello. This edition has a new booklet, extended from 8 to 16 pages, plus a bonus video featuring the album track Hypnotique as a QuickTime file.
Breathing (2011, digipack) is Paatos’ fourth studio album, following a 2008 live CD released only in Japan. This is Paatos’ most sophisticated album to date. They have integrated the more progressive aspects of their early work with the beautiful, song-oriented approach of the previous studio album Silence of Another Kind. There is some post-rock flavor, but the angelic vocals of Petronella Nettermalm now sound closer to Annie Haslam than to Bjork. That Scandinavian Mellotronic melancholy has never sounded so sensuous as here.
Paatos’ fifth studio CD V (2012, digipack) contains eight songs, four of which are brand new. Two (Tea, In Time) are older songs that have been completely re-recorded using only acoustic instruments, and two (Precious, Your Misery) are remixed older songs that have gone through major changes. These four hardly sound like the old tracks and show Paatos’ desire to grow and add new dimensions (acoustic, electronic) to their style. Watch the album teaser and Tea unplugged videos.
Hauras Silta is the 2009 debut by a 9-person Finnish prog band using both female and male vocals. This is one of Kimmo Pörsti’s bands; Kimmo is also in Mist Season, Maahinen, and The Samurai of Prog. The music of Paidarion is closely related to Mist Season and Maahinen. “It is somewhat retro, no question. I hear the echo of Renaissance, chiefly, but then also Jethro Tull, Holdsworth-era Gong, fusion, and even Steely Dan in some of the blistering, crafty, perfectly tailored guitar solos. But Hauras Silta is retro in the clean, appealing sense of the term as we might apply it to, say, Anglagard. In other words, Paidarion takes its genre tradition seriously, resides within it, but then also offers clever interpretations, subtle blends and bends, and the freshness of modern studio embellishment to end with a truly fine album -- the best new prog release I’ve heard in a very long time... If more contemporary prog rock scaled these heights, I’d be a bigger fan.” Read the full review at Progressive Ears.
Paidarion have a new line-up on Behind the Curtains (2011, 60-minutes), the band now a live act and not just a studio project. The lyrics have switched to English, the female vocals courtesy of new member Elina Hautakoski; there are also some male vocals from guest Rob Price (Supernal Endgame). Among the other guests are Americans Michael Manring (bass) and Steve Unruh (violin). The music is about half instrumental, where Paidarion can often be compared to early Isildurs Bane, between the symphonic rock with Scandinavian folk melodies of the first two Isildurs Bane albums and the upbeat symphonic jazz-rock of their third and fourth. There are also moments where an ELP influence can be heard, other moments that recall Pekka Pohjola, while some of the vocals tracks tend toward jazz song. Even with the switch to English, Paidarion sound like a Scandinavian prog band. Their music has a sense of place, of terroir, a quality far less common now than in the first generation prog bands. Read the Progmeister review.
Finnish prog band Pax Romana share keyboardist Matti Kervinen with the band Kataya. The band began in 1973 when everyone was considerably younger, but no albums came of that first incarnation. The members got back together in 2002. They have a 1970s/1980s sound, back when it was permissible to leave space in a mix. On And the Dance Begins Again (2010, mini-LP sleeve), their sound is a blend of Camel, Pink Floyd, later Wigwam, Trettioåriga Kriget, and... American southern rock. Yes, Pax Romana throw prog dogs off the scent by tossing in a bit of Allman Brothers style rock, and Pax Romana’s world-weary vocals actually fit OK with that style. (Pax Romana have two singers, both named Matti; one is not so weary.) Guest musicians add violin on one track, sax on another, hurdy gurdy and sitar on yet another.
Trace of Light (2005) doesn’t have the American southern rock, though there is a bit of something resembling Dire Straits filling the same role. There are more keyboards on this one, yielding a lusher, more symphonic sound that is closer to a pure Camel/Floyd hybrid, though still with unique aspects. Guests add violin, cello, flute, soprano sax, and more.
Let All Men Know This Is Sacred Ground (2012, digipack) is again primarily a blend of Stationary Traveller-era Camel, later Wigwam, and Dire Straits. The woodwind player who guested on the first two albums has been promoted to full member, making Pax Romana a sextet. Read reviews.
Reviews, the first official CD by Finnish prog band The Phase, was recorded between 1998-2007. For the most part, The Phase are very (1980s/90s) Rush-influenced. Without naming names, some Rush-influenced bands are quite tedious to listen to because, though they may be good instrumentalists, they aren’t nearly the songwriters Rush are, and their songs lack hooks. The Phase however, like Rush themselves, are a fun listen and have some catchy melodies. They write decent songs and have Rush’s upbeat energy. 53-minutes.
A Sleeper’s Awakening (2006) is the double-CD debut project of Norwegian musician Mattis Sųrum, who recorded the album while attending university. Sųrum enlisted the help of a large number of musicians for this concept album. The label calls it a symphonic progressive rock album, which it is, but it could as easily be called a prog-metal album. It isn’t as metallic as the average prog-metal album, but the heavy guitar appears often enough, and even when the music isn’t overtly metallic, it is often weighed down by the typical plodding metal aesthetic and melodic/harmonic restrictions. On the positive side, there are plenty of more refined passages featuring orchestral arrangements, Mellotron, organ, flute, cello, oboe, and violin. There are beautiful female vocals from three different singers, while the main character in this concept album is male and so most of the vocals are male. A more refined take on the Ayreon style perhaps, though less skillfully executed.
Face of Our Fathers (2009, 68-minutes) is the superior follow-up, the result of a few more years experience and musical maturity. Here Sųrum tones down the metal enough that the more refined and melodic elements can occupy center stage. Sųrum plays guitar, bass, and keys, assisted by other musicians on drums, keys, flute, violin and cello. Two male and two female vocalists are used, usually singing male/female duets that are a major part of the album’s appeal. With all the vintage keyboard sounds, the music has much of the magic of 1970s prog, even if the occasional incursions by heavy guitar yank the music back into modern times.
Pluto and the Planets is a Norwegian group based in Oslo and lead by the guitarist/keyboardist known as Pluto, a prog rock veteran with two solo LPs and one CD to his name. This band emerged for the first time in the mid-1980s as a guitar-based prog band with strong influences of Genesis, Vangelis, Yes and Pink Floyd. On 360° of Wonder (2011, 55-minutes), the current version of Pluto and the Planets maintains this tradition but with much more emphasis on vocal arrangements. The band consists of two guitarists, keyboards, bass and drums, with female and male lead singers and the rest of the band adding backing vocals. Tomas ‘Kobdzey’ Kaspar, a leading Czech prog rock drummer, joined the band while they were recording this album at Sono recording studio in the Czech Republic. With the female vocals as prominent as they are, the sound often suggests Renaissance/Illusion, blended with a style of symphonic prog with more emphasis on lyrical electric guitar leads. There are similarities to Kerrs Pink, Pink Floyd, Camel, and Genesis/Steve Hackett. We’ve long wished for a CD reissue of the Pluto LPs, but in most ways this new album is better. Try to at least audition the songs Wake Up, Ascension, Encounter, and Vacuum.
Pocketful is a new Swedish band, but they are really the continuation of the band Masque, ten years on. Sparkling (2005) picks up where Masque’s final album Ten Ways left off and improves on it. Call this art-pop if you will. Within that framework, there is a lot of innovation, great writing, and attention paid to texture and feel. Pocketful includes a cover of David Sylvian’s Before the Bullfight, and there is some similarity between the two artists on the more melancholy tracks, except that Pocketful are not minimalist as David Sylvian tends to be, and they’re not nearly as depressed. Vocals in English of course, with some lovely female vocals complementing the male lead vocals. Music like this gives pop a good name!
The most revered Finnish progressive rock musician, Pekka Pohjola was not simply a phenomenal bassist (he was also adept at several other instruments), but a composer extraordinaire, his work ranging from a Scandinavian Mike Oldfield style to progressive big band to classical and more. He passed away in 2008 at age 56. These are the 2010 remastered editions on the Esoteric label of his second and third albums, originally released in the UK by Virgin Records, with fully-restored artwork and a new essay. The Love Records release of B the Magpie (1974) was titled Harakka Bialoipokku; The Mathematician’s Air Display (1977) was titled Keesojen Lehto. The latter may be Pohjola’s best-known work because it features Mike and Sally Oldfield and Pierre Moerlen and was released under about five different names. Read reviews at Prog Archives of B the Magpie and The Mathematician’s Air Display. Here is a page with several YouTube videos embedded, including at least one track each from these albums.
Porcelain Moon is a Finnish band made up of seven young musicians with a common passion for early Pink Floyd and progressive rock. They have a female singer (lyrics mostly in English) and a live, early-1970s sound, with period guitar tones and the keys focused on organ first, synths and piano second. As It Were, Here and There (2011) features seven mid-length tracks with psychedelic and spacey aspects, a bit of wildness, and some of that characteristic 1970s Scandinavian prog style containing elements of Nordic folk music and a Camel or Focus-like flow. At times Porcelain Moon recall female-fronted, organ-heavy 1970s prog bands such as Octopus, Earth and Fire, Sandrose, or Analogy. The north countries have done it again, giving us an excellent retro-prog band that is distinct from other bands operating in the same musical territory.
Positive Wave (2010) is the first full-length CD by this seven-person Finnish band featuring female lead vocals in Finnish. They play a jazzy progressive rock with an organic, 1970s sound using mostly clean and lightly overdriven guitar tones, while the keyboardist favors electric piano. There is some sax, but it’s not a major part of their sound (and from the band’s MySpace page, it appears the sax player has since left). One might compare Positive Wave to early Edition Speciale (when the latter used vocals), as well as to the Canterbury bands and their 1970s Finnish equivalents. The music is light on its feet, often with a jaunty feel, full of positive vibrations (which now that we think about it, is in the band name). Very nice.
This is the third album for this Finnish band, though the first under their current name of PPRY. Their previous CD Name Stolen was released under the temporary band name ‘Project’. The long song titles of Raising the Skeletons of Fire by Hand (2008, 70-minutes) actually form a sentence when linked together, just not a terribly lucid one. PPRY play a unique style of mysterious and spacey progressive rock. On the one hand, there is a lot of early Pink Floyd influence, some early Tangerine Dream atmospheres and a dose of earlier Eloy as well. On the other hand, there is a refined and melodic progressive style close to early Camel, with both flute and guitar suggesting this association, as well as some of the characteristic Scandinavian prog style. What vocals there are are in English and low-key, again suggestive of early Camel. It all adheres to the early 1970s aesthetic. Without a melodic prog element, pure space rock albums can be one-dimensional; PPRY’s blend is far more satisfying.
This CD was originally released in 2002 and re-released in this 2005 edition. “Project” was a temporary name; this band is now known as PPRY. They are a Finnish progressive band singing in English. Name Stolen is a concept album with a little narration near the beginning of the album, though ultimately the album is more instrumental than vocal. The style blends Pink Floyd with the French band Asia Minor, generally dark and melancholy as is typical for Scandinavian prog bands. It may start a bit slowly, but the album grows on you and ends up being quite a unique one. 60-minutes.
Following a 1999 demo CD-R, the Finnish progressive rock band Prime Mover released the CDs Put in Perspective (2001), Alias Drivkraft (2004), and Imperfekt (2007). Read reviews.
This is a legitimate CD reissue of a rare 1978 privately-pressed LP of Swedish symphonic progressive rock with psychedelic and spacey aspects, mostly instrumental, with ethereal female vocals in a few spots. The music often relies on string synth pads performing slow chord progressions, something that suggests Pink Floyd, Pulsar, or maybe early Grobschnitt. That characteristic (OK, cheesy) 1970s string synth sound (courtesy of Elka, Crumar, Logan and others) brings to mind a number of other, mostly-obscure European 70s prog bands. Definitely recommended to fans of 1970s symphonic prog who’ve explored beyond the first and second-tier bands, Radiomöbel can be grouped with the likes of Akasha, Autumn Breeze, and Mr Brown. Note the master tapes were lost and this CD was mastered from vinyl. The label and every other retailer we’ve seen conveniently fail to mention this, and apparently every reviewer either has tin ears or didn’t think it was important enough to mention. And though it is almost trivial to do today, the label didn’t bother with any audio restoration. That said, the surface noise is really only noticeable during the quiet at the very beginning of each side of the LP. Note the mp3 icon above links directly to a single mp3, the complete second track of the album.
Ragnarök belong to the first generation of Swedish progressive rock, releasing their first album in 1976. Their instrumental music was typical of the Swedish progressive rock of the time, with some Scandinavian folk influences. After their 1983 fourth album, the band vanished, though its leader Peter Bryngelsson could be heard in the bands Triangulus and Urban Turban and as a solo artist. Ragnarök reformed in 1991 and released the album Well, but that album was in a different style. So Path (2008) is their real reunion album, with everyone in the lineup having played on at least one of their early albums; even the original engineer is back. Path includes eight instrumental tracks that are soft, low-key and impressionistic, with only sporadic outbursts. The music is based around the two and sometimes three guitarists, playing both electric and acoustic. Keyboards are listed, but you have to really listen to find them. Path does sound similar to Ragnarök’s classic albums but ultimately falls a bit short of them. Unfortunately, Ragnarök’s second, third and fourth albums have yet to see a legitimate CD reissue.
Let’s be clear that this Norwegian five-piece band are retro-prog-heads, and despite the album name, Retrospective is their debut, and may have been the best debut of 2005. The band does have a 1970s orientation, focusing their keyboard sounds on Hammond B3, Mellotron, ARP, Minimoog, and Taurus bass pedals. But they may be selling themselves short with the “retro” tag. They aren’t as self-consciously retro as some other Scandinavian bands, and they are so inventive that there are only a few passages where another specific band comes to mind. Their influences are probably Camel, Pink Floyd, and Genesis, in that order. At times they remind us of the German band P’Cock (probably not the most helpful reference), for the way they combine spaciness with sympho-prog. Also there are similarities to RPWL. Though heavily instrumental, there are male and some female vocals in English. 67-minutes.
Retroheads’ follow-up Introspective (2006, 64-minutes) sees changes in the band’s lineup, which now consists of three women and four men. Irishman Mike Mann takes over lead vocals, while Deborah Gurnius has joined on flute and backing vocals and Gry Anett Stordahl on keyboards. Now with an outstanding singer plus the female backing vocals, Retroheads have become stronger and probably even broadened their appeal. This album can’t help but sound different from its predecessor, but it’s just as good, and no point making the same album twice. About the only thing “retro” in Retroheads music now is the use of vintage keys, and when the sustained electric guitar is soaring over Hammond or Mellotron with these vocals and these melodies, it’s heaven.
The Garden of Delights (2013, digisleeve) is the debut for Finnish artist Rikk Eccent, and if that’s supposed to be a person’s name, it’s a made-up one. Most of the album is a hybrid of 1970s progressive and melodic hard rock and should have similar appeal to fellow Finns Five Fifteen, Crazy World, and Von Hertzen Brothers, though Rikk Eccent is darker and more Floydian. And several tracks are pure prog, showing little of the classic hard rock style, especially the 8:30 finale Nexus. There is plenty of keyboards to balance the electric guitar, and acoustic guitar is not forgotten. (It often is these days). A grower.
The self-titled CD is the 1995 debut album by Ritual, a great Swedish progressive rock band with an original style that includes elements of Yes and Gentle Giant and the Swedish penchant for melody. After an initial release on Musea, this CD was remastered and reissued jointly by Tempus Fugit and InsideOut in 2004. It now has a 24-page booklet.
Think Like a Mountain (2003) and The Hemulic Voluntary Band (2007) are Ritual’s third and fourth studio CDs. They got away from prog on their second album before deciding to be a progressive rock band again. These are their best albums. Hemulic owes a large debt to Gentle Giant and a little debt to pastoral Genesis. The band augment their sound with bouzouki, hammer dulcimer, recorders, whistles, and nyckelharpa (the Swedish keyed fiddle), while the keyboardist limits his rig to clavinet, harmonium, grand piano and Rhodes. Ritual are never actually playing folk music, but that influence is integrated into what is a very original and adventurous sound and a brilliant style of progressive rock. Note singer Patrik Lundström also sings for the reformed Kaipa, so if that voice sounds familiar... Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Live double-CD is from 2006 and serves as an effective overview of Ritual’s first three albums.
Riveryman is the band of Finnish guitarist Tony Riveryman, who also plays keyboards and bass and sings, joined by a drummer on the Riveryman debut CD Magic World (2009, 72-minutes). Tony grew up listening to the standard list of guitar heroes before discovering progressive rock (and good to see Pekka Pohjola on his list of influences, even if one can’t hear that influence here). Magic World is almost pure symphonic prog in the Yes and Genesis veins, with some heavier/busier guitar and a wall-of-sound approach. The vocals are multi-tracked in an attempt to produce Yes-like harmonies, but Tony ought to run his vocals through Auto-Tune as his pitch isn’t precise enough to pull it off. That aside, there is loads of bombastic Yes-derived sympho-prog here.
This 2010 triple-CD set is another Colossus/Musea various artists project. Here bands from around the globe cover songs by Swedish 1970s progressive bands such as Atlas, Blåkulla, Dice, Flasket Brinner, Bo Hansson, Kaipa, Made in Sweden, Ragnarök, Samla Mammas Manna, Trettioåriga Kriget, and many more. The full list of participating bands and songs/bands covered can be found at Proggnosis. Each disc is 77-80 minutes long, so at less than $12 per disc for a European import, it’s quite reasonable, and by now there are probably many prog fans (e.g., those who heard The Flower Kings before they heard 70s Kaipa) who could use an overview of this rich scene. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
1997 third CD by a Swedish psychedelic/space-rock band in the early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind vein.
Thirst (2011), Left to Burn (2007), and A Handful of Earth (2004) are the three CDs released by Swedish prog band Salva, now signed to White Knight Records, the label run by Rob Reed of Magenta and Will Mackie of Caerllysi Music who say: “Salva’s unique trademark sound combines symphonic prog, hard rock/metal and folk/singer-songwriter. The band’s influences range from the 70s prog of Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd to hard rock/metal by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Rainbow to Scandinavian and Celtic folk mixed with pop sensibilities and even the odd splash of jazz for good measure. On the new album, the symph has become grander, the riffs have become heavier, and the melodies are as elaborate and melancholy as always. The combination of compositional and thematic focus, great musicianship and seldom heard variety in both writing and sound makes this a must-have for all lovers of melodic, adventurous and at times heavy symphonic rock.” Read reviews at Salva’s site.
Scarlet Thread are a Finnish band featuring female violinist and flutist and male guitarist/mandolinist/bassist and drummer, with guest musicians on keyboards and bass. Recorded in 2002, Psykedeelisia Joutsenlauluja is an instrumental progressive rock album with its roots in Scandinavian folk and psychedelia. There are only a few passages where the band is actually playing folk-rock, but the melodies are derived from scales favored in northern European folk music. Given the fuzzed tone of the electric guitar, there is a lineage that traces back to Kebnekaise, the pioneering Swedish folk-rock band. The psychedelic influence is felt mostly in the rhythm section, with grooves that would work on an Ozrics record. But the arrangements are full of symphonic rock elements and classical influences as well, which sometimes brings to mind the instrumentals of the English band Solstice. This first album is only 35-minutes long. (Note how many people selling this record conveniently fail to mention that.) More flute would have been welcome, but the violin soaring over the guitar/bass/drums and the compelling melodies make this an outstanding album.
Scarlet Thread’s second, Valheista Kaunein (2006) has a lineup of two guitarists, violin, bass & drums, with two guests on flute. The style here is similar but this is the stronger and longer album. Scarlet Thread can also be heard on the various artists compilations Tuonen Tytär - A Tribute To Finnish Progressive and Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic.
The Danish band Secret Oyster was formed in 1973 by members of three other Danish progressive bands: Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe, Hurdy Gurdy, and Coronarias Dan. Their six albums are progressive jazz-rock classics. These are the 2005-2007 remastered versions on The Laser’s Edge. Each of these CDs features new liner notes from Karsten Vogel.
This is the first time on CD for Secret Oyster’s self-titled 1973 first studio album, which was released on LP in the U.S. as Furtive Pearl. From the press release: “At the time the band was hailed as a supergroup of sorts... This was a true fusion album – a marriage of rock and jazz. While later albums featured more of a jazz element, this first album featured wild psychedelic guitar leads from Claus Bohling. His frenetic solos were juxtaposed against the stunning sax work of Karsten Vogel and electric piano of virtuoso keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen. The album was recorded on a surprisingly low budget – direct to two-track in fact. There is a raw energy that pervades the album that reminds of their contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.” The CD features two non-album bonus tracks.
From the press release: “Sea Son was originally released in 1974 on CBS and is now considered by many to be the pinnacle of the band’s catalog. The fiery interplay between alto/soprano sax player Karsten Vogel, guitarist Claus Bohling and keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen parallel the work of their contemporaries Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra. With a new rhythm section of bassist Jess Staehr (Burnin Red Ivanhoe) and drummer Ole Streenberg (Coronarias Dans), the band found equal footing in the worlds of rock and jazz. The track Mind Movie offers 9-minutes of pure psychedelic guitar-driven fury from Bohling. In contrast, a string quartet appears on Painforest, presenting a mellower side to the band. Perhaps it’s the constant tension between the rock and jazz genres and the band’s ability to blend both seamlessly that is the reason for their success.” The CD features three previously-unreleased bonus tracks.
Secret Oyster’s 1975 third album Vidunderlige Kęlling was released on LP in the U.S. under the name Astarte. It was commissioned as music for a ballet. This CD includes three previously unreleased bonus tracks. While often compared to the likes of Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever (we’d add Shadowfax’s Watercourse Way), the music here is closer to progressive rock: more structured, melodic, and classically-influenced. The CD features three previously-unreleased bonus tracks.
From the press release: “Straight to the Krankenhaus (1976) is considered by many to be their masterpiece – a seamless blend of progressive rock and fusion. The fiery interplay between alto/soprano sax player Karsten Vogel, guitarist Claus Bohling and keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen parallel the work of their contemporaries Return To Forever, Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra.” The CD features two previously-unreleased bonus tracks.
The Swedish band Simon Says began their career very influenced by 1970s Genesis, adopting most of the same sounds and conventions. Tardigrade (2008, 74-minutes) is their third and is on an even grander scale than their previous CDs. This CD is in that category of “if you are a symphonic rock fanatic and can buy only one CD this year”. Simon Says have expanded their style well beyond the Genesis base to include influences of Yes, UK, and early King Crimson, plus that trademark Scandinavian organ-driven symphonic rock style. At one point they nearly launch into Holst’s Mars. Even if they nearly quote other pieces of music here and there, they’ve got so much good stuff crammed onto this disc that it’s still pretty amazing. One of the few survivors of the early 1990s Stockholm progressive scene, Simon Says may now be the best. Note Simon Says can also be heard on the Colossus/Musea various artists CDs Kalevala and Odyssey.
Swedish prog band Sinkadus picked up where Anglagard left off. For those who don’t know the style, it is pure 1970s symphonic progressive, sonically close to Genesis, Kaipa, and earliest King Crimson (Mellotron, flute), but predominantly instrumental and without much in the way of songwriting. Compositionally it owes more to King Crimson circa 1973-74, especially in the degree of dissonance and angularity of the melodies. Their debut Aurum Nostrum (out-of-print) was recorded in 1996 and consisted of four long tracks totaling 59-minutes. Live at Progfest ’97 was recorded prior to their second album Cirkus (also out-of-print). Sinkadus play all of Aurum Nostrum plus the long song that became the opening track of Cirkus. This set includes a second disc containing the demo version of Aurum Nostrum.
The self-titled CD is the 2007 debut album from Swedish quintet Soniq Circus. Consistent with other current Scandinavian progressive rock bands (Magic Pie, Beardfish, A.C.T., Carptree), Soniq Circus blend all sorts of mostly British, mostly 1970s influences in a timeless way. The music is symphonic prog with a bit of 70s hard rock and strong pop songwriting and melodies, sort of Yes meets City Boy, but with a distinct identity. Not only the vintage keys but also the production harkens back to the 70s -- instead of a hyper-real but sterile modern production, this has a welcome bit of grit to it. Here is an mp3 of the complete 9-minute track Chain of Consequences.
There were line-up changes for Reflections in the Hourglass (2011, 60-minutes), including singer. The Progress label says that, compared to this new CD, the first Soniq Circus CD sounds like a well-recorded demo. Musically, there is less of the Saga, A.C.T. or City Boy style now, a reduction of the pop side of the band without sacrificing too much melody. The CD is full of long tracks of fairly complex, melodic symphonic prog notable for guitar work that is often in an energetic hard rock style, not metal (at least not in the modern sense) but rather an upbeat, hard-edged style. It’s positive evolution for the band, and apart from a slight similarity to labelmates Brother Ape, Soniq Circus are distinct from the other Swedish prog bands, a reflection of the depth of the current scene. Soniq Circus now deserve some of the success of the better-known Swedish prog bands. Here is an mp3 of the complete track Actor (5:11), or watch the video. Read reviews of both CDs.
This is a 2003 CD by a Swedish all-star quintet, featuring Hansi Cross (the main man in the band Cross), key members of Galleon and Grand Stand, and a very good female singer in Lizette von Panajott. In other words, a lot of talent. And this album is one of the best neo-Genesis albums to appear in a long time, as Spektrum draw most of their inspiration from Genesis circa Wind and Wuthering. But the female vocals add a very different twist, and Spektrum manage to make it all sound fresh and exciting. You can hear influences of all three parent bands as well, so fans of those bands as well as fans of The Flower Kings, IQ, Twin Age, and melodic symphonic prog in general should be thrilled to hear this. Here is a 1.0 MB mp3 from the album. Read reviews.
The full artist name is Strandberg Project with Michael Manring & Friends. Jan-Olof Strandberg is one of Finland’s top bass-players, his career having begun in the 1970s playing with such names as Jukka Tolonen and Esa Kotilainen. Since then Strandberg has played on numerous albums and toured the world both solo and with Strandberg Project. Strandberg was also a member of The Fusion Project, who had a 2006 CD on Musea (check our French page). He is also a member of Paidarion. Made in Finland (2012) is Strandberg’s seventh album, the lineup including Michael Manring on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (Mist Season, Paidarion, The Samurai of Prog), two guitarists, a keyboardist, and sax player. The music is typically classy Scandinavian fusion: instrumental, balanced between energetic numbers with drums and airy, languid tracks without. The DVD (PAL, all-region) contains in-studio live performances of six songs that are not on the CD (about 41-minutes total). The first three are performed by a quartet that includes Jukka Gustavson (Wigwam) on keyboards, while the last three are just Strandberg and drummer. There is also a 39-minute documentary that includes live footage. Watch the album montage video. Read the Background Magazine review.
This 2004 release is a throwback to the early 1970s blues-based hard rock style of the band November, or if you’re looking for a British equivalent, Nazareth and Black Sabbath. The band uses just guitar, bass, and drums, with vocals in Swedish. Hard to find a Scandinavian band not singing in English these days.
Taipuva Luotisuora are a Finnish progressive space-rock band along the lines of Quantum Fantay, Ozric Tentacles, and Hidria Spacefolk. Both of these CDs are digipacks. IV is from 2009, 8 is from 2013. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Long psychedelic jams from this Norwegian band. Tangle Edge have been around since the early 1980s; this is a 2006 album. There are some electronic treatments, but otherwise it’s just guitar/bass/drums.
Taylor’s Universe is a superb Danish prog band headed by Robin Taylor, who plays guitar, grand piano, Hammond organ, and various analog synths. Joining Taylor on Terra Nova are sax player Karsten Vogel (Secret Oyster, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe) and drummer Rasmus Grosell, plus a few guests. Taylor has or had another project with almost the same name, Taylor’s Free Universe, but that project is entirely different, focusing on improvisation and experimental jazz. And for maximum confusion, Taylor also releases albums under his own name that tend to be more electronic/ambient. Terra Nova (2007) however contains classic 1970s style Scandinavian symphonic progressive, instrumental with some wordless vocals. The music is keyboard-dominated, with Vogel’s melodic sax adding spice. There is definitely appeal to fans of Secret Oyster and Canterbury music, but while there is jazz influence here, the music is not jazz or fusion. Rather, the music is the stately symphonic prog typical of Focus and the first generation of Scandinavian symphonic bands. Read the Aural Innovations review.
Return to Whatever (2009) is the new one and features a new band lineup that includes electric violin, sax, guitar, bass, drums, and Taylor’s keyboards, with guests providing Celtic harp, flute, and female voice. The music is again instrumental and 1970s-oriented, but not retro. As always, Taylor favors organ and piano, and there is jazz influence felt primarily through the sax (which is played melodically), but overall this is still stately symphonic prog with strong links to the first-generation Danish progressive and jazz-rock bands. Heavyweight gatefold mini-LP sleeve. Read the Bill’s Prog Blog and Progressive Ears reviews.
Somnia (2010) is the debut CD by Terraex, a Norwegian band led by Carlos Sanchez (guitar, bass, keyboards), with Maria Toresen (vocals, piano, violin), Gunvar Wie (drums), and Andrea Ummarino (guitar). They describe themselves as an alternative band with a progressive attitude, and at heart they are an indie-rock/pop band with female vocals. But they have a pronounced progressive side; most notably, they use a lot of Mellotron, and not just strings. Maria’s voice has a different character on different songs, sounding typically juvenile on the fast songs with the grungy guitars, sounding more mature when the music also sounds more mature, even taking on a Kate Bush quality when they slow things down. When Terraex do incorporate the progressive elements, as they do most of the time, the results are very good, highlighted by pretty female vocals and lush symphonic keyboards. Terraex are a rather unique band, and they’ve realized that Mellotron makes just about everything better! Check out the song (or video) Honesty, which may be all you need to hear. Read the Background Magazine review.
Three Seasons are a young Swedish band with a retro, early-1970s sound styled primarily on the blues-based hard and psychedelic rock bands of that time as well as the organ-based heavy and proto-prog bands such as Deep Purple. There are also pastoral passages featuring flute and violin. Amazing that these musicians can recapture the essence of a style of music made before they were born. This is the 2011 MALS edition, released under license, which comes in a mini-LP style cardboard sleeve. Read reviews.
Chapters I & II (2008) is an album out of Finland recorded as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Juhani Nisula, though he has since formed a quintet for live performance. Chapters I & II sounds like a full band as it is, with a great analog 1970s sound. This is exciting, energetic instrumental symphonic prog with the glory more from the accomplished 70s-style guitar work, but ably blended with an array of vintage keyboards: Hammond; Mellotron; Moog, ARP and Oberheim synths; Clavinet; Crumar string ensemble and more. The bass playing and drumming hold up their end as well, while a guest adds violin on one song. It is really amazing for a solo project to achieve the sort of live energy heard on this CD. The Time Traveller MySpace page used to list Nisula’s influences; suffice to say his knowledge of progressive rock runs deep. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Chapters III & IV (2011) is the follow-up, which features Nisula on most instruments, a drummer, and guests on keyboards, tenor sax and flute. “To date, Juhani Nisula’s Time Traveller project has yielded almost eighty minutes of fabulous music that is designed to take the listener back to a period in time (i.e. the 60s and 70s) when classic/progressive/psychedelic music of this nature really flourished. If you really want to find out what Time Traveller is all about, I encourage you to play both albums back to back for a truly mind blowing experience. Kudos to Juhani for once again delivering the goods. This is one reviewer who seriously hopes that Time Traveller continues well beyond the next chapters, because resplendent music of this nature should be considered an ongoing journey, with no destination.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review.
Trettioåriga Kriget (Thirty Years War) is one of the most important Swedish progressive rock bands, cited as a major influence by the 1990s Swedish bands Anglagard, Anekdoten, and Landberk. Trettioåriga Kriget have a progressive sound based on Swedish vocals, guitar, bass and drums, with Mellotron, organ, and piano adding spice.
These are all the latest digipack editions. The self-titled CD is the reissue of their 1974 first LP with three bonus tracks added, bringing the playing time up to 59-minutes. Here there is a hard rock influence that is less prevalent on subsequent albums. Krigsang (1976) is their classic, remastered for this 2004 CD release with three 1977 bonus tracks added. Here the hard rock is downplayed in favor of a more symphonic, melodic and melancholic approach, with more emphasis on dynamics and drama.
Their third album Hej På Er! (1978) found the band on a new label and beginning to streamline their sound, losing the melancholy in favor of a more upbeat sound, less heavy and more melodic. They had added a fifth member on keyboards and sax. Though not the place to start, it’s still a good Swedish progressive album. Four bonus tracks from 1978-79 have been added.
Elden Av År (2004) is Trettioåriga Kriget’s first album of new material since 1981, and amazingly, it is every bit as good as their self-titled album and Krigsang, more symphonic in fact. They followed with I Början och Slutet (2007), which is perhaps even better. The trilogy of albums from the reformed TK concluded with Efter Efter (2011), and it has to be said that TK are arguably making better music now than the first time around. And how many bands from the 1970s have done that? Read the DPRP reviews of Elden Av År, I Början och Slutet, and Efter Efter.
The double-CD War Years (2008) is the first ever live album from TK. The first CD covers the 1970s-1980s, while the second CD is divided between TK’s 2004 ProgDay appearance in the U.S. and a 2007 concert in Sweden. Read the DPRP review.
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 PM Gong 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]
Human Wheel (2009, 70-minutes) is the Rush-flavored third CD for Finnish prog rock band Trusties. Read reviews.
This is the debut CD (2012, 66-minutes) for Swedish quintet Tucana, who describe themselves as “a baroque prog band who mix progressive rock with classical orchestral arrangements, a bit rock opera-ish and sometimes on the heavy side.” It may come as news then to the band that this is prog-metal, not progressive rock. The vocals are of the overwrought, faux-operatic metal style, and the music is ponderous and never goes more than a minute without metal guitar. On the plus side, there are string arrangements. For a more balanced opinion, read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Both of these sets are tributes to Finnish progressive rock of the 1970s. The first Tuonen Tytär is a 2CD set from 2000 containing covers of 22 songs by the first generation of Finnish progressive artists such as Finnforest, Haikara, Pekka Pohjola, Wigwam, Kaamos, Jukka Tolonen, Tasavallan Presidentti, Piirpauke, and others. The participating bands include Haikara (who somehow cover themselves), Scarlet Thread, Holy Lamb, Man On Fire, Overhead, Five Fifteen, and more. See Prog Archives for the complete list of songs and bands, as well as reviews. The booklet includes interesting English-language liner notes about the history of the Finnish scene.
Tuonen Tytär II (2009) is a 3CD set with 31 bands contributing 31 tracks. Prog Archives has the list of participants and songs. Both sets come in the old-style fat case and count as 2 CDs for shipping.
Tusmųrke are a Norwegian quartet with ties to Wobbler playing vintage-prog with elements of psych and Norwegian folk, singing in both English and Norwegian. This is their 2012 debut. Tusmųrke use a lot of flute, keyboards, bass, drums, and no guitar. Jethro Tull is one band that comes to mind often, also Caravan, The Moody Blues, early King Crimson, Genesis, and others. Read the Prog Sphere and Progulator reviews. Watch the album montage video.
Signed to the Kscope label, Ulver are “Norwegian dark music legends”, apparently a one-time black metal band who outgrew that, as there is no metal in their music now. This is the digibook (hardcover) edition of War of the Roses (2011). See the War of the Roses mini-site for more info. Read reviews at Stereoboard.com and Prog Archives.
Ulver’s Messe I.X - VI.X (2013, jewel box + slipcase) was composed and recorded with the Tromsų 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.”
Unifaun is the band where Roine Stolt found singer Nad Sylvan for his Agents of Mercy project. As the Progress label says, Unifaun’s 2008 CD is the stunning 76-minute debut from a Swedish band whose goal is to “make the songs that Genesis never did.”¯ And they do it with great love and lots of talent. Other Genesis clones may mimic the sonic details perfectly but fall so far short of Genesis in songwriting terms that little of their music is memorable. Unifaun however have a knack for melodic hooks and understand that there was always a song (sometimes several) at the core of a Genesis track. This might have been our best seller of 2008 if we actually kept track of such things. This digipack is the 2013 re-release with new artwork by Canadian artist Claude Martin. The audio is the same as the previous jewel box edition; it’s just new packaging. Read reviews.
This is the band formed by Peter Bryngelsson, formerly of Ragnarök and Triangulus. Urban Turban have been described as “Captain Beefheart meets an Arabian big band in the desert”. Their self-titled first album (1994) featured blues-rock played with non-traditional instruments, laced with middle eastern flavors and a bit of Swedish folk. Overtime is from 1996 and is somewhat less bluesy, though it still features several John Mayall tunes.
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.
This Finnish band of brothers (currently a quintet with three brothers plus two others) is that rarest of phenomena, a progressive rock band who have topped their national charts. After a 2001 debut, their second album Approach (2006, 58-minutes) went gold in Finland and won the Finnish equivalent of a Grammy for best rock album of the year. Von Hertzen Brothers have a Scandinavian prog sound sometimes comparable to Magic Pie. They blend various 1970s melodic and hard rock influences into their prog rock, with catchy melodies and a fresh approach, which explains how they’ve crossed over to a wider audience. (Let’s give the Finnish public credit too.) But there is no doubt they are a prog band, with Yes and Pink Floyd as certain influences. Their three-part vocal harmonies are a big part of their sound, and they have a mystical side as well. “[Approach] is one of the best albums that I’ve heard in the category of progressive rock... they are one of the most important Finnish progressive rock bands ever.” [UltimateGuitar.com]
Wigwam was the best known Finnish rock band of the 1970s (Pekka Pohjola was a member early on), their albums ranging from progressive rock to intelligent pop-rock. These are all the remastered editions on the Esoteric label, with restored artwork, lavish booklets, and a new essay and recollections from Jim Pembroke. Tombstone Valentine is from 1970; this CD edition adds two bonus tracks, the A & B sides of a single. Fairyport is from 1971, Being from 1974, and Live Music from the Twilight Zone from 1975. Being is our favorite -- keyboardist Jukka Gustavson was largely responsible for this album, making it their most symphonic. Fairyport is their other great one.
The live album is 75% superb, but nothing from their then most recent album Being is played. The band split up at this time, a split which lasted less than a year. The unofficial Wigwam Nuclear Netclub site, which has a wealth of information, says that Live Music from the Twilight Zone “clearly shows the reasons for the split: there was simply too much divergent talent among the players, and they could not come up with a dynamic, cohesive repertoire of material. Most of the album consisted of cover versions (Beatles, The Band) that everybody could easily agree on... There was nothing from Gustavson, who had become self-critical to the point that the others gave up trying to practice his songs. In the end, the sum had become less than the individual parts.”
Nuclear Nightclub (1975) and The Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose (1976) were released by Virgin Records in the UK. These were the first two albums by what is usually considered the second era of the band, during which their English expat singer-songwriter Jim Pembroke became the dominant composer. During this phase, Wigwam were sort of the Finnish Steely Dan. The Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose has two bonus tracks from a 1975 single: Tramdriver and Wardance. Read the Wigwam overview at DPRP. Read reviews at Prog Archives of Nuclear Nightclub and The Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose, and the review of the latter at Music from the Other Side of the Room.
Wobbler is a Norwegian band singing in English and debuting with Hinterland (2005), showing a strong Anglagard influence. The instrumentation is similar, a consciously retro sound with loads of vintage keys, especially Mellotron and organ. Wobbler are slightly less dissonant and slightly more melodic and flowing, and they also toss in a bit of Gentle Giant here, a bit of ELP there. Even if Wobbler can’t have the impact Anglagard did, it’s still a very welcome album.
Afterglow (2009, 35-minutes) is their excellent if short second CD, which adds some renaissance music flavors to the mix (think Gryphon). This is the jewel box edition. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to In Taberna on YouTube.
Xinema is a Swedish melodic progressive rock band that evolved out of a mid-1980s band called Madrigal, so Xinema’s members have been at this for a while. Most of the songs on their debut Different Ways (2002) date from the Madrigal era, though they were recorded more recently. The music is generally in the early Saga style, with clear English vocals and lots of lush harmony vocals reminiscent of Asia.
Basic Communication (2006) could be considered the first genuine Xinema album as it contains all new material. It is again an accessible style of symphonic prog that emphasizes songs, melody, and lush textures. The Rush and Asia influences of the first album have given way to a more purely neo-prog style. Think classic Saga, Marillion old and new, and a symphonic version of U2. We recommend both albums to fans of Galleon, another Swedish band operating in similar territory.
This is the 1999 second album by a Swedish progressive rock band singing in excellent English. Their sound (and quality) is very close to early Kansas, dominated by violin and organ but without guitar. Mellotron, a few Swedish touches, and a 25-minute track make this an outstanding album.