Review – Thumpermonkey – Electricity – by James R Turner

Festivals, there’s no better way to get out the house for a day or two, or even longer, than spend time at one of the may prog festivals that happen across the country and tend to cater for most tastes.

The beauty of the festival is that it’s the live equivalent of the ‘sampler’ CD’s that are glued to the front of magazines, the chances are you’ve heard one or two of the bands, or the draw is a band you want to see live.

I can also guarantee (unless you can afford to go to every festival/gig/showcase out there, which sadly I can’t) that you’ll see names on the list that you have never heard of before.

Those are my favourite types of acts at festivals, because it’s a blank canvas, a total step into the unknown, and my definition as to how good a band is at a festival or support act used to be, have I walked away shelling out my festival spends on the bands back catalogue?

I’m sure there’s plenty of you out there who know exactly what I mean, and we end up with shelves full of CD’s from bands who we saw live but don’t quite dissect the Colmans when it comes to the record, so I updated my definition, as to are they someone who I would listen to again and again at home?

This is how I got introduced to Thumpermonkey, there I was back in Bristol in 2014 after the end of a marriage, in a one bed flat in Bedminster with a rare Saturday off in the next few days, and I spotted that Ian Fairholm’s Eppyfest was on in Stroud at the weekend. Henry Fool and The Fierce and the Dead were the draw bands for me, as I’d never seen Henry Fool, and I loved TFATD in Camden, so this was a great way for me to spend an afternoon. So I ordered my ticket, drove the scant 30 odd miles to Stroud, met Mike and Julie Kershaw and Brian Watson for the first time and renewed my acquaintance with Mike Whitfield, an old regular from my CRS days, to settleback for an afternoon/evening of great music.

Laura Kidd (She Makes War) had recommended Thumpermonkey to me, and I quote ‘They are da bomb’ and as Laura has superb musical taste, you don’t dismiss one of her recommendations.

She was right, they were ‘da bomb’ and I left exhilarated after an exciting and eclectic set clutching both their albums in my grubby palms, and they got listened to on the journey back (and on a regular basis here at Turner towers).

(Photo by Simon Kallas for Chaos Theory)

Released on 13th October on physical and download, ‘Electricity’ is the first release of new music from the band since ‘Sleep Furiously’ in 2012, and is packing more ideas in it’s 20 minutes of music than some bands get in a lifetime.

According to bandcamp this is a concept album around the story of human misadventure from Victorian MP Lord James Badger, who went to conquer the civilisations of Mesopotamia using electricity and covers the whole gamut of human foolishness.

I will start by saying that Thumpermonkey are never going to be everyone’s mug of Darjeeling, as there are some out there who prefer the mass produced generic sounds that lots of bands who get thrown into the ‘prog’ label produce, the aural equivalent of a Big Mac or Burger King that gives you a quick fix, but will never satiate your appetite, think of Thumpermonkey as your favourite secret restaurant, where you go but don’t want to tell anyone else about it case it becomes too popular too soon.

I will go have a sandwich, as I’m obviously hungry judging by all the food analogies going on above.

If like me you prefer your music to get you thinking, have some originality to it, a lot of quirk, strangeness and charm, then Thumpermonkey are your boys. If you want a crude idea as to where they fit into this crazy musical Pandora’s box of prog then, their EP launch party saw them supported by The Fierce and the Dead and Ham Legion.

The fact that they are only a four piece surprises me, as the sound that they make, and their intrinsic musical dexterity, always makes me think there’s more of them, this is as obvious live as it is on record.

The mix of musicianship and technicality is split beautifully here across the four tracks and it’s a pleasure to listen to.

The EP starts with Garmonbozia, which starts with some wonderful guitar work and vocals that build and build, as the music kicks it, with the vocals producing an excellent counter harmony, as Michael Woodman accompanies himself, his vocals and guitar work almost working against each other, producing a complex sounds that draws you in, and condenses the Thumpermonkey sound into a bite sized single.

This also shows another facet to their songwriting and performance, with the emphasis being fully on the song, and all intricate tricks and quirks that set them apart from the crowd are now part and parcel of their musical bag, giving them a stronger and more musical edge.

Tzizimime has some fantastically jaggy guitar riffs, and the beauty of the band as musically adept as this is that keyboard player Rael Jones is also a superb guitarist and their twin guitar effect is superb, like Wishbone Ash if they ever went into free form improvisation of the King Crimson stylee.

This is not a Fire is as different again, there is plenty of emphasis on guitar work here, the drum and bass of Sam Warren and Ben Wren provide the bedrock for the Thumpermonkey town of sound to be built upon, and throughout all this Woodman’s vocals (again something that polarises listeners) impress. Personally I think they are fantastic, and his range is superb, hitting both the higher and lower notes, and utilising his voice as a 6th instrument. Building the songs as much around the vocal lines as the riffs, and then setting them off against each other.

Woodscrivened see’s Rael’s keys to the fore, with some delicate and sublime piano work kicks off the final part of this quartet, rounding off the ‘Electricity’ story, one of those great concept pieces that are fitted together from disparate influences, as the guitars and full band kick in, and the vocal talents of Woodman again show their power.

Thumpermonkey live in top gear are a sight to behold, and here on this 20 minute EP you get a taster of them, they have successfully managed not to tame their live tiger, and instead let it roar throughout these tracks, managing to pull back when needed, and unleash their full power in controlled measured bursts, this is no mean feat, and it bodes very well indeed for the album due next year.

If you get the chance to see them live do so, they do not disappoint, and whilst we’re waiting for the new album, this EP is as perfect ‘tease’ as possible, whilst being a fully rounded piece of work.

To misquote Laura Kidd, ‘Thumpermonkey are still da bomb!’

Released 13th October 2017

Buy the ‘Electricity’ EP from bandcamp



Review – Gandalf’s Fist – A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer (Special Edition) – by Progradar

‘Cuprinol – It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’ – a now well known advertising slogan that can be equally as pertinent in real life. Describing how something doesn’t have to be complicated to work perfectly well and does the job that it was intended to.

This could be as equally a relevant term when it comes to music too. If you want a band that plays a particular type of music exceedingly well without over-complicating things then there will always be one that fits the bill.

If you’re want at ‘Medieval Space Rock’ (well, we all do at some point in our lives) then you need look no further than ‘your favourite time-travelling prog-warlocks’ (their words, not mine!) Gandalf’s Fist and their brand of Prog, Folk and Rock to get what you need.

This year has seen the band embark on a through revamp of 2013’s space-rock offering ‘A Day In The Life Of A universal Wanderer’.

The expanded album has been fully remixed and remastered from the ground up, utilizing new performance takes and bringing the release firmly in line with the sonic palette of 2014’s “A Forest of Fey” and 2016’s “The Clockwork Fable”.

The record also features new and re-recorded narrative tracks from British Actor Mark Benton, who had previously worked with the band on last year’s Triple-CD album release.

Completing the package is the brand new, exclusive track The Stowaway and the Endless Night, an 11 minute opus originally omitted from the original release, as well as brand new cover art commissioned from German artist Thomas Huth, the man reasonable for the band’s sleeves on the last two releases.

Gandalf’s Fist front man, Dean Marsh, commented:

“This is the album people seem to have been desperate for us to re-release on CD format and we were reluctant to do so until we could finally do it right and do it justice. This is not a pointless ‘CGI-Yoda’ retrospective tinkering, we’ve retained the main core of what we originally created, but now with a bit more sheen and more energy.  It now works as a cohesive piece. A real thrill for me was to hear the synth violin sections being re-recorded by orchestral musicians, It’s those little touches that have lifted the record to another level. I think we’ve finally got it to a stage where we’re proud to let it sit on the shelf next to our last two albums!”

Not only has the album been fully remixed and remastered, drummer Stefan Hepe has also re-visited and re-recorded the drums and percussion to all tracks and new violin and cello performances have been captured to elevate those songs and you can really tell…

‘The Universal Wanderer’ – who’s legend tells of a figure who has wandered the cosmos from the birth of existence to the end of time…

What Gandalf’s Fist have always been is brilliant storytellers, the duo of Dean Marsh and Luke Severn (now with the added teutonic skills of Stefan) have always been able to weave involving tales and set them to outstanding music and this revamped version of ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ is no exception. The opening Another Night On The Far Side Of The Universe sees the ship’s computer (voiced by Alicia Marsh) and the instantly recognisable dulcet tones of Mark Benton as The Captain, set the scene for the universal journey ahead. The Nine Billion Names Of God is a darkly bombastic track with doom-laden vocals and a slow metronomic beat that really gets under your skin. With a sound deeply rooted in early 70’s sci-fi it is eerie and disturbingly atmospheric and the chorus is an unexpected ear-worm that you find yourself singing in the most inappropriate places (like Church for instance!). Add in some ethereal flute, moody saxophone and some great twin-guitar work and you have a great start to the album. The next scene-setting interlude, Where’s A Bloody Escape Pod When You Need One?, segues straight into the powerful opening of Stowaway To The Mushroom Planet before things roll back into some seriously chilled space-rock with delightful female vocals. A serenity falls on the music, only broken by the superb melodramatic chorus, this is rather a fine track which is only enhanced by the excellent guitar solo.

There’s a pleading Message Home delivered in a disconcerting manner and then then wonderful Melissa Hollick arrives to deliver a wonderfully emotive vocal performance on the grandiosely anthemic Somewhere Beyond The Stars. Along with the utterly captivating piano, Melissa’s vocals entrance and captivate to leave you utterly bewitched. It’s as good a piece of music that you will hear this year and always brings a lump to my throat and a moistening to the eyes, just listen to the enchanting guitar playing and you’ll know what I mean! Seriously heavy space-rock infused prog makes an appearance on the mighty Orphans Of The Sky, a lengthy and intricate homage to the 70’s heavy rock acts. A slow-burning verse erupts into the monstrous chorus with no apology and delivers a powerful and compelling performance with the measured riff and dynamic drums adding to the forceful vocals. The spacey, far out guitar that plays across your mind before the track breaks back into the chorus is pure genius.

The alien A Visitation Of The Mushroom People leads the way into the forgotten opus The Stowaway And The Endless Night, omitted from the original 2013 release. A seriously intensive and inventive 11-minutes plus of progressive rock that builds its atmosphere slowly with some rather fine guitar and drums grabbing and holding your attention before a menacing voice over intrudes. All hell breaks lose with a twin guitar riff of monlithic proportions. The song ebbs and flows with some superlative and convoluted music and some excellent vocals, the female voice again supplied by the sublime Melissa Hollick. The band will have their reasons for not including this track on the original release but I do wonder why as I think it is rather good and fits in with the rest of the songs perfectly. Universal Wanderer is a great space-rock track that takes the listener on a wandering journey through space and time in their own mind. The song seems to bubble under for a while with barely suppressed urgency before a superb riff flares up and gives real potency to the hard-rock feel. The guitar sound lends itself to 80’s heavy metal and the whole song just rocks mightily.

There’s a more measured approach with Nexus, a thoughtful song with almost a folk edge to the vocals and guitar. You feel you are involved in something mysterious and perplexing as this pensive track continues. The keyboard and guitar break in the middle of the track really feels like it could be on a Wings album with its high spirited creativity, throw in the moody sax and you have a really mind opening piece of music. Wistful and nostalgic, North of Wall puts breathy vocals and laid back instrumentation to good use to give something almost Celtic in flavour. The voice-over tells an involving tale before the song segues straight into the whimsical brilliance of The Battle for Tannhäuser Gate. Violins, cello and the beauty of the female vocals bring to mind heroic tales sung in medieval times, “I will die in my boots..”, songs sung of great battles and comrades lost and this gives a melancholic atmosphere to everything. There’s also a Celtic influence to the song and it works superbly, the guitar solo fits perfectly into the song and I can imagine myself sat round a roaring fire in a village tavern, seduced by the music and the beauty of the voices. Ghosts of Spacetime sees The Captain bring the whole storyline together and it’s a credit to the vocal talents of Mark Benton that you are left hanging on every prophetic word before the spell is broken by the opening bars of the final track The Wanderer Goes South. Some exquisite flute work gives added gloss and sheen to another great piece of Gandalf’s Fist music. In the background there’s a reprise of the guitar riff and beat from The Nine Billion Names Of God before Melissa’s great vocals begin again. A song of space-rock whimsy that perfectly sums up what has gone on before, the songwriting skills of these excellent musicians are entirely evident as we are led along a twisting path of musical enigma. A brilliant guitar solo and the repeated mantra of ‘Nine Billion Names Of God’ close out the track and leave you smiling with appreciation.

This is a collection of songs that you can lose yourself in and forget the worries that are glaringly evident in our everyday life. Superb musical escapism with a inventive storyline that you’ll keep returning to again and again. Cinematic in feel and scope my next question is, when will you be releasing the sequel?

Released 18th September 2017

Order ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ direct from the artist



Review – CIRCU5 – CIRCU5 – by Progradar

“But, is it Prog?”, it may have started as an innocent question but, boy, has it become the bane of everyone’s existence who is involved in that particular music scene! Why anything actually has to be ‘Prog’ to justify listening to it is quite beyond me but there does seem to be a hardcore group who define their music listening by that mantra.

Let’s face it, that is quite a ridiculous question, what they should be asking is, “but, is it any good?”, don’t limit your listening experience to that one particular area, broaden your horizons and you really will find some excellent music out there.

One such intriguing proposition was put to me earlier this year by respected British multi-instrumentalist Steve Tilling who started talking to me about his solo project CIRCU5, which is a concept album that harnesses hard rock, punk and alternative influences to create its own unique sound.

A concept album? Oh that must be Prog then! Nae, nae and thrice nae, it doesn’t have to be, all it has to be is a bloody good piece of music!

A child raised as a psychopath. Could this be the subject of an album that rocks and intrigues in equal measures? The answer’s a sinister ‘yes’, if a new album called CIRCU5 is anything to go by.

Five years in the making, the debut album features guest performances from Dave Gregory (XTC, Big Big Train), Phil Spalding (Mike Oldfield), Matt Backer (Julian Lennon), Alan van Kleef (Rachel Stamp), Johnny Warman (Peter Gabriel) and Andy Neve (Steve Hackett).

“The album mirrors the ups and downs in my life while making it,” says Steve Tilling. “There were dark times, but everything ended positively. I wanted to make an album that’s fun to listen to but has a good story for those who like to dig deeper.”

Clues to the story are dotted throughout the album, but Steve is happy to give away the essence: “It traces the life of a child raised as a psychopath in a secret government organisation, which aims to cure the condition while harnessing positive traits for certain roles. The character discovers the truth as a dysfunctional adult – with catastrophic consequences.”

Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced ‘Circa-5’

It’s a relatively short album, coming in at 49 minutes but Steve certainly packs a lot into that time, the edgy opening track, Coming Home, is punk infused and almost anthemic and really sets the album up perfectly with its delicate guitar and intense but pared back vocal delivery. Keeping you on the edge of your seat ready for the staccato riff of My Degenerate Mind, this is where the touch paper is lit and everything goes off with a bang. Crashing guitars, dynamic drums and Steve’s excellent vocals give you a song that sounds like ska legends The Beat collaborating with The Clash and the end product is just over four minutes off perfectly judged punk infused alternative rock.

There’s been a lot of mention about the Foo Fighters as an influence on this album and Stars takes that influence and runs with it. Heavy riffing, punchy vocals and a superb rhythm section drive this rollercoaster of a track along at full speed ahead. There’s even a touch of Nirvana to the guitar sound and the drums have a nod to Dave Grohl in his days in that band too. Powerful and edgy alternative rock that’s not for the faint hearted. Days Erased is a brief musical interlude with hushed and haunting vocals that add to the tense atmosphere and leave you wondering what’s coming next.

A mournful piano tone introduces Strings, an absorbing song that draws immediate comparison to Radiohead yet Steve stamps his own authority on the track. A graceful acoustic guitar and the wistful vocals bring a feeling of nostalgia to proceedings yet there’s always a sorrowful undertone that leaves a feeling of rejection and loss in your heart as this contemplative piece of music comes to a close. The spirited alternative rock returns with the fiery Blame It On Me, another breakneck track that powers along to a modern punk-rock beat. A funky guitar riff joins some intense drumming to leave you breathless as this runaway train goes merrily on its way. Steve Tilling has a great voice for this sort of music and he leads the song perfectly with his slightly husky vocals, another potent and compelling slice of rock.

The next track is one of my favourites, The Amazing Monstrous Grady is funky hard-rock at its very best and is catchy as hell. A circus organ opens the song, meandering along in no particular direction before petering out and allowing a fine bass line and drums to get things going. The addictive guitar riff and Steve’s excellent vocal all add to the offbeat, fast-paced groove and the chorus is as hook-ridden as they come. Kings X influenced? hmm, I’m not sure, I just think it’s great songwriting. I tell you what though, there’s some superb bass playing on this song and the brilliant instrumental section in the middle of the song needs to be heard to be believed. A track that just about has it all!

The album concludes with the five parts of The Chosen One. Baptism is elegant and sophisticated with acoustic guitar and passionate vocals at its core, singer/songwriter music done perfectly. Transfiguration is bombastic and grandiose with a hyperactive guitar and sonorous bass joining with the commanding drums to deliver a superbly involving instrumental that is one of the more progressive (did I just use that word?) tracks on the album. Crucifixion is a short and yet intense piece of music where Steve’s vocal literally bleeds emotion as he sings over a stirring, pared back guitar. Resurrection is an involving, dynamic and edgy song that demands your attention with its insistent riffing and the demanding tone of the vocals. Dark and potent rock that brooks no argument, its slightly off-kilter feel leaves you on edge and unsure of where to turn next. Everything comes to a close with Ascension, literally the polar opposite to the previous track. Calm and collected and utterly sure of itself, the delicate guitar and graceful vocals lead you to a serene place of tranquility. Simple and elegant, the music washes over you leaving you utterly relaxed and is reminiscent of ethereal, hazy summer days, the album concluding on an uplifting and hopeful note.

Ambition can often be a downfall but Steve Tilling has taken his ambition and given us a musical spectacle that will stand the test of time. Great songwritng combined with superb musicianship and a concept that works, CIRCU5 is a triumph. Is it Prog? I’ve no idea but it’s bloody good!

Released 15th September 2017

Buy CIRCU5 direct from the artist’s website




Review – Comedy of Errors – House Of The Mind – by Progradar

Scottish progressive stalwarts Comedy of Errors followed up 2015’s ‘Spirit’ with new release ‘House Of The Mind’. I was a big fan of ‘Spirit’ so was really looking forward to this latest chapter in their musical history.

I love it when a band just seems to get better and better, maturing with every new record they produce and not treading water, resting on their laurels and past glories. Comedy of Errors follow this mantra perfectly, every time they release a new album it has progressed (see what I did there?) from the previous records and added something more to their varied portfolio.

The new album opens with Tachyon, a song that majors more on the electronic side of music and has a superb beat and melody. The vocals are subtle and subdued and work perfectly with the energy and insistence of the synthesiser and rhythm section with the drums being particularly impressive. it gives a whole nostalgic 80’s feel to the track and is a great opening to the record.

The second, and title, track is the first of two longer tracks on the release. House Of The Mind has everything you’d expect from an epic track, an inventive and evocative introduction sets the scene for a well constructed piece of music that takes the listener on an involving musical journey. The song draws you in with its understated keyboards and measured drums and bass and you find yourself waiting on every note. Again the vocals just add to the atmosphere without having to be the focus of attention. Comedy of Errors have perfected their sound to such a position where you know it is them from the first note, influences are clear but the band make their own statement with great songs like this.

A Moment’s Peace is exactly as it sounds, a song that transports you to a place of calm serenity with an elegant acoustic guitar being the superb focus of what is an utterly ethereal piece of music. Wistful and understated in equal measure, it is an instrumental that you can tell has been lovingly created. There’s a nostalgic, thoughtful atmosphere that pervades every note, it truly is a delightful track.

There’s a troubadour, medieval feel to One Fine Day, a song that, perhaps, does land itself right in the middle of Neo-prog territory and it’s all the better for it. Running at just under three minutes it’s not a long track at all but certainly makes its presence felt with a great piece of guitar work and some grand sounding vocals.

The last new track on the album is the rather extravagant sounding Song Of Wandering Jacomus and is the second ‘epic’ on the album. It’s a fantastic song and one where the band’s exemplary songwriting skills really come to the fore. Epic by name, epic by nature, it gives the music fan everything they need from a track of this nature. The extended introduction is really quite profound and sets the scene perfectly before there’s a lull in proceedings and the tension is ramped up. There’s a fantasy feel to the song, a whimsical, playful lightheartedness that gives it a real feel-good aura. The vocals are refined and the music is sublime and yet, at times, has real substance, especially on the extended guitar break that just leaves you smiling. It’s a track you will return to again and again.

The last track is a re-arranged and recorded version of Ever Be The Prize, the first ever Comedy of Errors recording as a demo in 1985 and it really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you are transported back to that decade where Neo-prog was born and first flourished. Keyboard heavy with some powerful guitars and a great drum sound, it has dated very well and the new arrangement has given it anew lease of life. It is actually good to able to compare the early song with the latest to see how the band have matured and developed over the years.

‘House Of The Mind’ sees Comedy of Errors on top form once again. A talented set of songwriters and highly accomplished musicians, they infuse every song with verve and flair to give us another superb album that will be on many Best of 2017 lists. I can’t wait to see them live at A Prog Before Christmas in December.

Released 16th June 2017

Buy ‘House Of The Mind’ direct from the band here




Review – Linus Kåse – I – by Progradar

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
― Clare Boothe Luce

Progressive music does seem to favour the long form when it comes to song writing, you know the 25-30 minute epics that sometimes seem to go on forever. I’m as guilty as the next man for listening to, and promoting, these types of tracks but they can become interminably boring if overplayed.

Every now and then it is really good and refreshing to have an album full of shorter tracks, even sub four minute ones, where the brevity is at the heart of what makes them good songs.

Swedish prog legends Änglagård are well known for their extended instrumental pieces so it did come as something of a surprise when I heard that band member Linus Kåse was releasing a solo album that concentrated on the art of the song, and short songs at that!

Now I know Linus and he does have a sunny disposition to be fair, I asked him about this solo release and this is what he had to say:

“The album includes a bunch of originals that I wrote and recorded a few years back and I decided to spend the last couple of months to finish it up. I think it’s a fun album, that’s the intention anyway. I believe it is mainly influenced by some of my favorite artists of the 60’s and 70’s pop/rock era so you will find some Beatles, Procol Harum and even Barry Manilow in there. To me the album is a labour of love for sure. If it wasn’t I would never release it to the world.”

Linus plays grand piano, saxophone, keyboards and guitars, provides the vocals and produced and mixed the album, which is no mean feat but he did have some help. Kristofer Eng Radjabi (bass, Guitars) and Daniel Kåse (drums) were heavily involved and there are guest appearances from Lasse Bjurhäll (guitars), Rickard Andrinsson (guitars), Benjamin Quigley (double bass) and Maria Kvist (backing vocals).

Just a few bars into opener Smile and you know you are in for a treat, a Creedence Clearwater Revival influenced track that just screams uplifting, feel good music at you. There’s a carefree attitude to the bouncing melody and to Linus’ sunny vocals. The jangling guitars and clear-cut precision of the rhythm section give a real 60’s/early 70’s atmosphere and you will find yourself smiling, job done methinks! Mary has a beautifully wistful tone to it and a nostalgic, sepia tinged joy at its heart. The song has a real summer of love, hippy feel throughout and is almost hypnotic in its delivery. Linus really does have a great voice and its used to superb effect on this track and you can hear the Manilow influence. There’s a great piano introduction to Winter Season, almost labyrinthian in its five minute length. A more serious overtone is at the core and it sounds like Wings heavily influenced the song. The pared back chorus is a gem and Linus is starting to prove he really is a talented songwriter when he can produce great rock tracks like this.

The singer/songwriter comes to the fore on the lilting piano-led Above The Line, another nod to the mercurial Mr Manilow. Quirky and idiosyncratic, it’s a real delight and a song where you find your head nodding and your foot tapping along to the excellent melody. In fact, you probably will find yourself singing along at the top of the voice, if you’re anything like me that is! A jazzy and funky piece of music, Do You Believe sees Linus’ voice on top form, surrounded by some rather stylish musicians. The organ and piano are the main components but that rhythm section is really proving to be the driving force behind the songs, the drums and bass are classy and polished and give this Supertramp feeling song a real edge. Fast paced and a bit left-field, All That Could Go Wrong is another three minute gem of a track, a catchy piece of music that never outstays its welcome and showcases the art of writing a short track to a tee. It’s almost like planting the early Beatles right in the middle of the 70’s with its combination of snappy chorus, elegant swathes of organ and short but sweet guitar solo.

(Photo by Kenth Wanglev)

The next five tracks all form the E minor suite, Fisherman’s Song is a laid back two minute instrumental with a large nod to the organ sound of Procul Harem. It’s a great piece of music that really gets under your skin, leaving a mark that stays long in the memory, the soaring music is quite inspirational at times. The track segues straight into the wonderful Modern Times which, to my ears, sounds like Linus’ audition to write a new Bond theme! I love its urgent and upbeat drive with the great backing vocals from Maria Kvist. Edgy, funky guitars and a ferocious drum beat dominate proceedings at a break neck speed leaving you breathless in admiration. Another segue into The Boat Is Sinking which is a forty-six second reprise of the melody from Fisherman’s Song. The piano driven brilliance of Egomania is my favourite track on the album and is a fantastic piece of songwriting that is synonymous with Scandinavian songwriters of modern times. If you’ve heard the latest Rikard Sjöblom album then you’ll know what I mean. An upbeat melody along with great lyrics are the heart of the song and Linus’ vocal delivery is, once again, perfect. It’s a piece of songwriting that just makes me smile with its inventiveness. The last part of the E minor suite is Fisherman’s Enda soaring close out that again reprises the earlier melody and finishes everything on a high note.

The album closes out with Linus farewell to the listener, Goodbye For Now. It’s a song that makes you feel you’ve been part of something and it feels like a wonderfully warm goodbye from this excellent musician and songwriter. Those of you who remember Gilbert O’Sullivan will hear him in the vocals. There’s almost an upmarket cabaret feel to the song and I can imagine myself in a great theatre somewhere in the world as Linus closes out his show with this memorable track and you feel a lump in your throat and moisture in your eyes as everything comes to an end.

One of the most surprising and impressive releases of the year and one that will leave a huge smile on your face. Linus Kåse has virtually reinvented the four minute song with this new album and ‘I’ is as impressive a listening experience as anything else you will hear in a long time.  

Buy ‘I’ from Itunes






Named as the ‘Event of the Year’ at this year’s Progressive Music Awards, Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend recently announced that Sons of Apollo, Pain of Salvation and Australian virtuoso Plini will play in 2018. Now the festival have added Gazpacho and Persefone to the line-up for next year. They comment:

Gazpacho have been one of the most requested bands to play the festival since we first started Be Prog! My Friend. Musically it’s not easy to classify them but some call them ‘art-rock’, others label them as ‘alternative’ and even the phrase ‘neo-progressive’ has been mentioned. Many say they sound similar to Radiohead or The Porcupine Tree. What we do know though is that we are honoured to finally have them at the festival. The tour to support their most recent album ‘Molok’ was a complete success with several sold out shows all over Europe. We are glad fans of Be Prog! My Friend will finally get to enjoy Gazpacho in 2018 and the band have also told us that they will be releasing a new album then too.

We are also pleased to add one of the most promising bands in the progressive scene, Persefone. The Andorra based outfit stylishly and powerfully combine prog and metal. With their fifth album ‘Aathma’ they have really strengthened their position as one of the best new bands around. Welcome!’

Be Prog! My Friend which has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ulver, Animals as Leaders, Ihsahn, Alcest, Jethro Tull and Marillion will take place on 29th and 30th June next year.

Held in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive artists. 

Tickets are on sale now priced at 130 Euros.
Gazpacho band pic by Justin Lambert.

Review – Constructs – Shapes – by Emma Roebuck

Constructs – ‘Shapes’ – well, where to start on this one? Foolishly my first run out of this was ill considered. I normally try out a to-be-reviewed album in the small hours around midnight in the thick silence of my bedroom; this is an EP but more of that later. My error is that I never check promo materials before hand or I would have parked this for a more appropriate time. This is not, I stress NOT, an album to help you chill and ease you towards the land of nod. My insomnia is bad enough but, by the end of track 1 – Tempest that was it, I had been hit by a shot of the musical equivalent of a double espresso. A deceptive electronica  intro drops rapidly into a bass and guitar battle not dissimilar to the war of the god that a see in a thunder and lightning storm. Thick solid sonic sound scapes abound with apparently chaotic but in reality a very disciplined musical approach.

Who are Constructs,

Trayen Burke – Guitars
Gordo Leete – Bass
Dennis Willoner – Drums

Constructs is a three-piece progressive metalcore band hailing from San Jose, California that formed in 2015. Their name comes from the idea that everything in our reality is in some way, shape, or form, a construct, whether it be thought patterns, society, or the way we interact with each other and the world. The band, consisting of Trayen Burke, Gordo Leete, and Dennis Willoner, have spent the past two years polishing and refining their sound while writing and recording. The band draws influence from metal titans such as Northlane, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, Dream Theater, and is focused on creating a precise, articulate, and stunning live performance.”

Ok to the EP/Album then I struggle here with what it actually is. This EP is 6 tracks long yet comes in at a length not far short of the albums I bought as a Teen back in the dark ages of vinyl, hang on are we not re-entering those days again? 30 minutes plus of  a Californian Trio that has its roots more in the 90s when Dream Theater, Kings X and Queensryche were pressing the metal button but being progressive in their attitude to composition structure and song length.  There is no reference directly to the Prog that served my teen years in the 70s. This actually cheers my heart no end rather than scares me. The ghost of prog bands past haunts way to many bands for my liking and is limiting what bthey do in their creativity and development.

Being an instrumental album, getting meaning from the music, is often very personal in the way you read a title and apply to the music. Atmospheres, the second track, feels like a flight to me through the varied weather systems of our planet from calm to threatening and destructive using the distorted thundering bass sound that reverts to softer textures of the electronic effects and the scaling solos of guitars.

Event Horizon, one of the most destructive things in the universe set to music, is never going to be a happy place for music and this is far from a light and fluffy track.  It implies chaos and obliteration but still within the rigid systems of physics and the music reflects this very well indeed. This track typifies a thing they do well yet some of their equivalents seem to forget. They do space and time where others do not and pummel the listener with constant double kick drum and bass without relief, saving the intensity for when it will have greater impact.

I always leave out tracks for others to discover for themselves on any album but be assured I have not cherry picked but given a flavour of what these guys deliver.

Rather than saying who should stay away from this I will say who would best appreciate this intense, dark and yet still uplifting product. Anyone looking beyond the mainstream of melody, verse, chorus, verse, solo, middle 8, chorus and then repeat. Fans of The Fierce & The Dead, Mars Volta, Animals As Leaders and the likes of Voyager and Ne Obliviscaris would sit very well along side of this EP.

It heartens me to think that there is music being made that has depth and power and retains an identity that pushes the boundaries. Many will not like this but many will see its merits and the true progressive spirit of some of the stuff that is out there.

Released 6th November 2017

Order ‘Shapes’ direct from the band

Mike Morton Announces Dates And Line-up For Resonate, The Follow-up To 2014’s Resonance Festival

The Gift’s Mike Morton has announced the dates and the majority of the line-up for 2018’s 2-day Resonate, the follow up to the Resonance Festival, an ambitious but ultimately rewarding 4 day musical extravaganza staged in 2014.

Taking place at the O2 Academy Islington on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September next years, Resonate will see some of the leading lights of the progressive music scene join forces with acts from wider musical genres to deliver an outstanding two days of live music.

About the festival Mike says:

Resonate (2018) will bring together a diverse group of acts, from progressive to hard rock with steampunk in between! Tickets will officially go on sale from October 31st, at which time the proper ticket link will be published. Also, our Sunday headliner had been confirmed…but they have asked us not to announce them until New Year’s Day!  Suffice to say they will be another jewel in the crown of this 2 day event. We’ll keep you updated.”

Saturdays Line-up will see Konchordat on stage at 1pm followed by Verbal Delirium, Comedy of ErrorsSon of ManThe Gift and headliners Lifesigns.

Sunday opens at the same time with the Tom Slatter BandHekzJumpCredo, the John Hackett Band and the mystery headline act, a world class progressive-metal act, to be confirmed.

Ticket prices are £25 per day advance or £30 on the door and £40 advance for the weekend or £45 on the door.

Tickets will be available, from October 31st, from:


James R. Turner Talks To David Palfreyman and Nicholas Pegg about ‘Decades’

A chat across the Decades with Nicholas Pegg and David Palfreyman.

Further to James’ review of ‘Decades’ he sat down with Nicholas and David to talk about the album and quite a lot of other things:

How did you two meet & where did the idea for ‘Decades’ come from?

Nicholas Pegg: David and I have known each other since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Or possibly longer. We can never quite remember exactly when we first met, but we know that it was something to do with a certain TV show that we both loved as kids.

David Palfreyman: Yes, Nick and I met through our mutual admiration for Doctor Who, back in the grainy, 16-millimetre days of the mid-1980s. I was running a Doctor Who fan group at the time, and I think that Nick may have come along to one of the meetings.

Nicholas Pegg: Or else we met at a Doctor Who convention somewhere, queuing up for Jon Pertwee’s autograph. Wherever it was, we’d have been about 16 or 17 at the time. Just two teenage Doctor Who fans, our memories now lost in the vortex.

David Palfreyman: It remains a mystery, waiting to be uncovered in a long-lost compartment of the mind. Actually, that’s a great idea for a concept album!

Nicholas Pegg: Ha! But getting back to your question, the idea for ‘Decades’ came initially from David. He’s the songwriter on the album, and he came to me one day with a pile of demos, and he asked me if I’d like to write a story to link the songs together. And three years later, here we are. Essentially, Dave wrote the songs and I wrote the story, but that’s a bit of a simplification. It was a very organic process from start to finish – we both creatively interfered with each other’s work in the most positive way, so the end result is a true collaboration between the two of us.

You have a fantastic cast of musicians, singers and actors involved, were the parts written specifically for the actors, or did you have the story in mind before you approached the individuals?

David Palfreyman: The basis of the story was already there before any of the actors and the majority of the musicians came on board. The whole thing then blossomed, grew and branched off in all directions, achieving different bursts of energy and sunlight as it went along on its journey.

Nicholas Pegg: That’s a lovely way of putting it! Yes, the initial ideas were in place before we started thinking about specific artists, but by the time I was actually writing the script, I certainly had some of the actors already in mind. When I’m writing dialogue, I often find it helpful to imagine a particular actor playing the role, just in my head – it helps to create a consistency of tone in the character you’re creating, even if you later end up casting a completely different actor. But on this occasion, we were lucky enough to attract the actual people I’d imagined, which was a fantastic bonus. I wrote the main part of Kelver Leash very much with David Warner’s voice in my head, so I was thrilled when he said he’d like to do it. The same goes for Jacqueline Pearce. I absolutely wrote that part for her, so again it was a magical moment when she said yes. I knew I was writing for Richard Coyle and Edward Holtom as well. The other actors were simply a case of getting the casting right, and fitting the right people to the right parts. Exactly the same principle with the musicians – fitting the right singers to the right songs.

What inspired Kelver’s story?

Nicholas Pegg: I suppose there are countless inspirations. We came up with a lot of detail that you don’t hear on the album, because the scenes themselves are deliberately impressionistic. It was always our intention to create something quite nebulous and elusive, which we hope will resonate with the listeners’ imaginations. Dave and I know the full story – or rather, we know our version of it, but we’re very happy for people to bring their own interpretations to ‘Decades’. It’s not as if it’s a crossword puzzle with a single correct solution. What’s that line from Douglas Adams? ‘What we demand is rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!’ I love that. As for the story itself – well, I wrote the script, but right from the beginning Dave already had the basic notion that he wanted a story about a man looking back on his life.

David Palfreyman: My initial idea behind ‘Decades’ was actually an idea for a short film I had been kicking around for a few years. A guy who has everything, a great life full of beauty, vibrant colour and conversation. However, cracks begin to appear, and the ‘reveal’ at the end is that he is sitting slumped in a stupor surrounded by empty wine bottles and takeaway wrappers. A damning juxtaposition to the glorious life he had been daydreaming about. Now of course, ‘Decades‘ has not ended up quite like that, and it has far more depth in storytelling since Nick came on board, but that was the spark that lit the flame. I’m not really sure what inspired that, but maybe I was writing about myself.

Nicholas Pegg: I was certainly writing about myself in places. Not in a direct autobiographical sense – ‘Decades’ is certainly not the story of my life, that’s for sure – but in terms of certain philosophical ideas that interest me, and certain preoccupations, and things that trouble me, and things that amuse me too. Some of what unfolds on ‘Decades’ is quite close to home, so it’s been lovely when people have come up and said that a particular line or a particular scene strikes a chord with them. Gosh, I’m making it sound terribly po-faced. Some of the subject matter ‘Decades’ is pretty grim, but I think it’s actually quite a funny album as well. You’re allowed to laugh!

Are you pleased with the reaction the album has received?

David Palfreyman: We have had some amazing reviews, quotes and accolades from all over the world. Websites, online magazines, Record Collector, people posting on the album’s Facebook page, and even the Irish Sun newspaper! Long may it continue. Absolutely wonderful stuff. Yes, we are chuffed to pieces.

Nicholas Pegg: Yes, people have been very kind. A lot of love has gone into ‘Decades’, so we’re thrilled that it’s getting such a positive reaction.

Nicholas – as an actor/writer, is moving into working in music something you always wanted to do?

Nicholas Pegg: All my life I’ve been dipping my toes into the music world in one-way or another. I’ve written song lyrics for theatre shows, and I play a couple of instruments, not with any great virtuosity, and I’m a pretty decent singer. I’ve sung on stage professionally on many an occasion and, as far as I know, nobody ever asked for their money back! I’ve also been heavily involved in writing about popular music for a long time – among other things, I’m the author of a great big book about David Bowie. So music has always played a big part in my professional life. But you’re right, in terms of actually co-writing and co-producing a rock album; this is new territory for me. I’ve loved every minute of it. Another great treat has been directing the videos for ‘Decades’ on location and in the studio – what a joy. I’ve directed plenty of other stuff before, but never a music video. The first day on location with Sarah Jane Morris and the crew for ‘We All Fall Down’, I was like a little boy with a new train set. Pure delight!

David, did you have the musical ideas before Nicholas got involved, or did the songs come together as part of the story?

David Palfreyman: When Nick first started to work on the drama segments, I think I initially sent him around 15 songs or so. And as Nick kept working on the script, I kept on sending new songs. I can’t remember how many tunes we eventually had in the ‘pool’, maybe 30 or 40, but I thought it best for Nick to choose which ones would fit within the story, as otherwise I would have used everything. It would have been a triple album! Giving Nick the final choice of track listing worked really well, as the songs fit in with his script seamlessly.

Any thoughts of performing ‘Decades’ live?

David Palfreyman: We are about to perform two songs from the album with Jessica Lee Morgan, one of our vocalists, in a live session for the Vintage TV channel. We’re recording that in November. As for performing ‘Decades’ as a whole – oh yes, I would love to do a stage version of it. In my mind, that’s always been the plan. Followed by a film. We managed to get the album done, which has been a huge undertaking. Anything else should be a piece of cake!

Any plans for a sequel?

David Palfreyman: I already have around 100 songs to sift through for the sequel. I’m ready. Nick? Niiiick?

Nicholas Pegg: This man can’t stop writing songs, you know. They pour out of him. Do you know the amazing statistic about Turner, that he left something like 400 oil paintings and 30,000 watercolours, which means that he must have averaged about two paintings per day? Well, Dave is like that with songs. Okay, Dave, here’s the deal. Just give me a couple of weeks’ holiday. And then we’ll get going…

You can order ‘Decades’ here:


Human Pyramids have announced their new album ‘Home’ will be released on the 10th of November via Three Mile Town Records.

Human Pyramids, the explosive and uplifting project from Scottish composer Paul Russell of instrumental outfit Axes have announced their new album ‘Home’ released on the 10th of November via Three Mile Town Records.

The new album “Home” takes punk energy and fuses electronic elements with soaring orchestral arrangements performed by a 16 strong ensemble whose jubilant live shows have has seen them make appearances at End of the Road, 2000 Trees and Glastonbury festival.

Raised in an old mining village in the central belt of Scotland and now based in Glasgow, Paul Russell has now expanded his Human Pyramids project to feature a number of handpicked musicians spread throughout the UK. The collectives debut album “Planet Shhh!” received glowing reviews across national press, frequent BBC 6music plays and sound-tracked countless documentaries, films and adverts.

‘Home’ is a collection of 12 pieces of music written by Paul Russell, each one a stunning and winding musical experience, the record moving seamlessly across genre and sounds all the while held together by Russell’s distinctive compositional voice. He said about the record: “Since the humble beginnings of the debut album, the band has ballooned. Live shows at End of the Road, 2000 Trees and Glastonbury Festivals saw the addition of a choir and filled the stage with almost 50 people. Writing a follow up was always going to be an ambitious undertaking!”

Very much a celebration of collaboration, the album was supported by Creative Scotland, which allowed Paul to assemble his favourite musicians, arrangers and producers to work on the record, explaining: “I flew up Danish drummer Allan Gunby to track drums with Graeme Young at Chamber Studios. I recorded guitars with Rod Jones from Idlewild in his beautiful Post Electric Studios. Pete Harvey taught me how to arrange for string quartet and we recorded his ensemble with Paul Savage at Chem19. I took a ferry across to a remote peninsula in Cornwall to work with Simon Dobson on brass arrangements and recorded Trumpet, Tuba and French Horn at his Dark Matter Studios.”

The album will be released on the 10th November on Three Mile Town Records (Worldwide) and on the Ricco Label (East/South East Asia)

Human Pyramids will be launching their new album with a release show at The Lexington in London on the 27th of October with the full 16 piece band in tow.