Review – Lifesigns – Altitude – by John Wenlock-Smith

Here it is then, after a long wait from 2018’s ‘Cardington’ comes this masterpiece, for there is no other word that can capture the magnificence of ‘Altitude’, Lifesigns’ third album, replete with another 8 pieces of sublime brilliance. Still entirely and fiercely independent, this recording has been realised by the faithful supporters of the band who have purchased this album en masse, before a note was even recorded.

That such a thing happens is well known with the crowd funding models set out and utilised by the likes of Marillion and many others. This album really is something incredibly special indeed, for Lifesigns have realised their potential with a recording that will elevate them and their standing in the progressive rock world to hitherto unknown heights and, hopefully, making them a far bigger draw than they have previously experienced.

‘Altitude’ is an album of top quality songs and fantastic musicianship from artists who, working together, have given us a bone fide classic to take us beyond the world of lockdown, into a whole new dimension and experience. Yes I know I am raving about this, however it is with good reason. Let’s  walk through the tracks and I’ll tell you just why these are such exceptionally fine songs.

We will start with the opener and title track of the album Altitude which this is the longest track at 15:17. All these minutes are used fully to craft and create a setting for the music to flex, progress and soar throughout the whole song. It contains some exceptionally fine soloing from both John Young on keyboards and Dave Bainbridge’s soulful guitar, both are exceptional on this song and, indeed, throughout the whole album. The song opens with airy keyboards, piano and bubbling sequencer type sounds before John’s vocals begin, “As far as the eye can see, clear as Daylight, spreads all in front of me now”, yearning for wide open spaces and for the open sky. This is followed by some fierce guitar chords that ripple across the soundscape giving rise to a faster paced section with a synth solo that takes the song rising up in the thermals before Dave lets rip with a fiery guitar break. As a statement of intent this opening salvo is highly effective and certainly captures the attention before we return, via John’s synth, to a slower pace and more cultured vocals accompanied by the glorious violin of Peter Knight. This then leads us back to the main vocals, combined with doubled synth and guitar lines, before Dave heads out on his own. Next we have some massed choir voices that are highly effective and lead to some great guitar lines from Dave, mention must also be made of Zoltán Csörsz whose powerful drums maintain a steady and distinct beat. Another brief solo follows from Dave that gives way to a final synth flourish from John and some cello from Juliet Woolf that bring this song to an atmospheric close. As an opener this is simply magnificent on every level and is very impressive stuff indeed.

Gregarious is a shorter, but equally as dynamic, song with a great backing and is very effective indeed. It contains a fine synth solo and some interesting syncopation between Zoltan and Jon Poole’s ever stylish bass. We are treated to another very fine solo from Dave who, it must be said, is really on form on this entire album. In my opinion, Lifesigns finally have a guitarist who can do their music justice and has brought something a little extra to the equation.

Third track Ivory Tower is a love song of sorts, very wistful and with some fabulous acoustic touches from Dave. It has a fabulous vocal from John as he sings of the perils of relationships, how he falls and wants to redeem himself and this is backed by some great little guitar fills from Dave. This is a fabulous song and a potential Lifesigns’ future classic. It is actually another old John Young song that has been reworked for this album and rightly so, as it is very fine.

Shoreline opens with lots of syncopated drums along with keyboard flourishes and makes it an impressive track before a word is sung. “Save me…” is the refrain as John is seeking salvation from emotions that are overwhelming him. This is another fabulous song with lots of moody sounds and effects that create a feeling of emptiness and sparseness.  Again, we have massed vocals in the background from Lynsey Ward whose voice is highly effective here, as are Dave’s soaring guitar lines combined with another fine synth solo from John and even more classy guitar breaks.

Fortitude is another Epic track that opens with keyboards, a steady drum backbeat from Zoltan, some decidedly strong bass lines from Jon and wonderfully fluid guitar from Dave, all floating over the velvety synths that John is laying down. This song has lots of space in it that allows each members contributions to be clearly heard and appreciated. Once again Lynsey’s backing vocals are essential to the whole sound of the song. I have to say the sound of this album is simply fabulous and is a real treat for the ears and there is so much more to listen to that is revealed the more you delve into it. We have a further sinuous synth solo and textures and more urgent bass from Jon before the sound opens out into a widescreen vista with some searing guitar lines offset against the excellent keys. A delightful guitar/ synth dynamic then plays out as the song fades, utterly magical!

I really think that Lifesigns have taken a massive step forward with this album, good as ‘Cardington’ was, this release is so very much better in my opinion.

A short and stylish keyboard and synth section called Arkhangelsk is then the precursor to another song that John has performed in an earlier incarnation (Quango) called Last One Home and in this track you can hear echoes of his former colleague John Wetton. Dave really makes his mark with a beautiful solo that just weeps with emotion and feeling. It is really impressive and will certainly be a favourite when performed live, hopefully soon! There are more impressive and impassioned vocals from John as he sings about the sea and the current therein.

The album finishes with a brief return to the title track Altitude in a reprise that re-emphasises just how good the opening track is.

Overall, I would say without any hesitation that this is an album you must hear and is really something very special indeed. It will be in my top 10 of the year and probably above the Transatlantic album that I loved. I am sure that ‘Altitude’ will be somewhere near the very top of my list even though it is only March and we have a long way to go yet.

Get it however you can but, preferably, purchase the album from the band themselves as you get a download of the album to enjoy right away. Simply fantastic, what more can I say, except get it for yourself right now!   

Released 8th March 2021 (CD), July 2021 (vinyl)

Order the album direct from the artist here:

Lifesigns – Lifesigns Merch (

Review – TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Tom De Wit may be one of those unique human beings who is a master of all trades and jack of none, being that he writes, produces and distributes all his own music as well as playing a plethora of instruments on each composition. Did I mention he performs the vocals on all these bombastic prog-metal creations too?

While I may delve more into the melodic side of progressive rock nowadays, especially those albums that have a more folk oriented hue, I do love myself a big old slab of powerful, majestic (and sometimes overblown) prog-metal and my old friend Tom certainly goes to 11 on all of those constituents parts!

Tom’s latest opus ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ is an intensely personal concept album that details a dark trip through the human mind and body that he went through 11 years ago fighting a deadly bowel disease. This album details what it is like to be stuck inside your body and what that does to your psyche.

Next toTom writing the music and lyrics and helming the project, Tom was assisted by a host of guest musicians on this record ranging from big names and newcomers alike to bring his vision to life. Most notably, the inclusion of Aeon Zen/Annihilator’s Rich Gray as bass player, coproducer and mastering engineer cannot be understated. As well as the massive drum performance by Fabio Allesandrini (Annihilator) who raised the album’s intensity to the next level.

The album is a seriously intense musical experience and it goes a long way to conveying the pain, confusion and despair that Tom went through while fighting this horrible and invasive disease, never mind the fact that he almost died twice!

Thunderous drums and dynamic bass are at the core of everything and the ever forceful, potent guitar drives the story along, often at a breakneck pace, conveying the confusion and anxiety that he was going through at the time.

Crashscape, Clockstop – Insight X and Code of Conduct open the album with powerful assiduity before the monumental brilliance of Clockstop – Insight 2 threatens to blow you away with its heavy hitting majesty. One of the definitive highlights of the whole album is Tom’s exceptional vocal performance which is defined further by the ever so slightly less frantic (but no less impressive) Sleepless Angels, a lesson in how to write a sympathetic prog-metal track, if ever I heard one.

The bombast and grandiloquence returns in spades on the super-heavy roller coaster ride of The Pulse, one of the best prog-metal tracks you will hear in a long while. Thunderous guitars and drums imbued with a high level of pomposity combine with Rich’s elegant bass (with steel right at its core) and Tom’s sometimes thoughtful, sometimes violent vocal delivery to deliver possibly the finest track on the album.

Things take a more laid back approach on the classy Clockstop – Insight 3 with it’s intelligent orchestral tones before Rich’s bass gives an almost haunting opening to Death and Her Brother Greg before the track opens up into something much more direct and influential.

No Can Do is that thing that can make or break a prog-metal album, an exceedingly long epic and I won’t keep you in suspense, it is superb and the backbone to the story. Eighteen minutes of musical give and take, it has everything that makes such tracks great. A deliberate introduction gives way to suspense and a slow burning build up to the main course. Soaring vocals, interplay with a harmonised choir, intricate guitar playing, double pedal drums, a wonderfully calming piano-led middle section, this track has the lot and is another highlight of this ever more imposing album.

The album comes to a close with the heartfelt, conclusive musings of Clockstop – Insight 4 and its fine synth/guitar combination and then the beautiful closing track, Epilogue – A String of Repeats, an at times calming but ultimately uplifting end to what has been a deeply personal and intensive trip through one of the darkest times of Tom’s life but one that, ultimately had a positive outcome.

I know seventy-five minutes of bombastic, powerful and dynamic progressive-metal interjected with a few fleeting, thoughtful moments may not be everyone’s cup of tea but when it is done with skill and a hell of a lot of personal attachment, like it is here, you get a privileged insight right into the soul of a musician. Tom de Wit and his impressive cast of fellow musicians have given us a wonderful musical highlight in a world of chaos where the light at the end of the tunnel is only just starting to dawn.

Released December 4th 2020

Order from bandcamp here:

The Days The Clock Stopped | TDW (

Review – Arc of Life – S/T by John Wenlock-Smith

Lockdown in the UK, and indeed across the world, has brought significant change to all of us. It has also decimated musicians from being able to perform live and has cost them in funds they would have expected to earn from touring and the merchandise sold at shows around the globe. This has meant that many artists have had to adapt to new ways of maintaining contact and, in many cases, using the downtime to work on new or hitherto abandoned projects.

 The upside to this time is the growing number of releases that have emerged and are really something of worth, Steve Hackett’s ‘Mediterranean Skies’ album, Transatlantic ‘The Absolute Universe’ , Lifesigns’ ‘Altitude’ and now this new offshoot from the Yes stable, Arc of Life, featuring current Yes members, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, along with some talented friends.

Going under the banner of ‘Arc of Life’ this new album is of interest to most Yes fans and to lovers of the band’s current output. In the continued absence of the full group and any new music from them, this is a more than adequate consolation and has great potential, showing much promise for possibly another band in a similar vein to, and influenced by, Yes.

I say influenced by because this is not a ‘Yes by numbers’ trip, this is a new band making its own way. Admittedly it wears its influences clearly on its sleeve and shows similar characteristics at times, but it is most definitely not a new Yes album under a different name.

This album has ten tracks and each of them have something worthy of listening to, some bearing similarities to Billy’s earlier work with Chris Squire on ‘Conspiracy’ and with Tony Kaye on the ‘Live in Japan’ album, although the presence of Jon Davison does makes a huge difference. Also noteworthy are the other band members, Jimmy Haun, Jay Schellan and Dave Kerzner, who are all vastly experienced and talented musicians in their own right and have all floated around the edges of Yes circles.

The album is a mixture of some shorter radio friendly AOR type songs and three longer tracks that allow for some stretching out. The album opens strongly with Life Has A Way which has a strong chorus to it and lots of keyboard flourishes from Dave Kerzner. It has echoes of a Yes type of sound but it is also subtly different. One thing I will say is that it sounds awesome in the car played at a decent volume, it fair powers along with great bottom end and a very unlike Steve Howe guitar solo from Jimmy Haun. As to be expected, Jon Davison is in fine voice here too.

The next song is a bit more laid back. Talking with Siri is about communicating on an i-Phone, an interesting comment on how we communicate these days but, overall, it is a little bit throwaway in my opinion. You Make It Real is far better with a fine chugging rhythm to it. The song is about nervousness when meeting a potential significant other and about when we can resume meeting face to face again, the song ends on a sustained keyboard tone and is highly effective.

Just In Sight is the first of the longer songs at 6:15, this one has lots of keyboards and sound used throughout with some Chris Squire-like bass lines along with a recurring guitar line and tone to it. This track shows the talents that these guys possess clearly. Especially good is the interplay between Jay Schellan and Billy Sherwood which impresses as you listen and there is a good guitar section at the 3:30 mark that harks back to Steve Howe’s playing before returning to the main song at 4:42 mark. This is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album.

I Want to Know You Better reminds me, sound wise, of Love Will Find A Way from Yes’ ‘Big Generator’ album with its marriage of prog and AOR tones. This is rather a catchy little number, all told with a great keyboard motif in the middle, the chorus also being memorable all making this track ideal for a good radio cut.

Locked Down is the second longer track at 9:46 with compelling Lyrics and a superb bass section running alongside a great guitar solo from Jimmy. It has great vocals from Jon and Billy with fine harmonies too. In fact throughout the entire album the contrast between Jon and Billy is incredibly special and enticing. The song also has very strong and prominent bass lines from Billy, all adding up to what is a very good track indeed.

The penultimate song, Therefore We Are, is a real classic number and one which stamps class all over its 9:30 running time. The bass is again very prominent and, in this song, there are lots of processed and layered vocals in this song but don’t worry, it all sounds excellent and is not overly compressed. The musicianship on this song is epic with another brief guitar flurry from Jimmy and some call and response vocals between Jon and Billy. I think this might be the best track on the album, along with Just In Sight.

The closing number on the album is The End Game which opens with some really strong guitar chords and more of Billy’s cultured bass as Jon sings about the endgame. This is quite a muscular track to conclude the album with and it works well overall and finishes what has been an interesting and varied listen.

Certainly musically this one is a very strong album with lots of good songs, memorable and well recorded and produced. Only Time will tell if this is a one-off or just the first outing of a new band, we will have to wait and see I guess.

Released 12th February 2021.

Order the album here:

ARC OF LIFE – Arc Of Life – CD Jewelcase | Frontiers Music Official Shop



Regarded as one of the most impressive experimental/progressive/psychedelic rock bands to emerge from the UK since its inception in 1991, Porcupine Tree enjoyed a successful recording career spanning over 15 years. The release of The Incident in 2009 was followed with a lengthy tour before the band entered a hiatus, giving band members Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison time to work on their various solo careers and other collaborations.

The Incident went top 30 in both the UK and USA, and the world tour climaxed with sold out shows at Royal Albert Hall in London and Radio City Music Hall in New York. The album marked another step forward in the incredible journey of the band from a solo studio project created by Wilson in the late eighties, to a multi Grammy nominated act and one of the world’s most revered live bands, selling out arenas across the globe and wowing fans with incredible shows.

Octane Twisted features The Incident album in its entirety, recorded in Chicago. The end of the album contains 5 classic PT tracks also recorded in Chicago along with 3 highlights from the band’s landmark show at Royal Albert Hall.

Octane Twisted really captures the atmosphere and energy of a Porcupine Tree live concert experience. Recorded at a time when the band had the set well ‘played in’, you can hear the interaction between the band members as well as the audience as they navigate their way through The Incident and many other older songs too.” Gavin Harrison

Originally released on 2CD+DVD in 2012, this release sees Octane Twisted on vinyl for the first time across 7 sides in a 4LP box set with a new etching from long term designer Carl Glover.

Porcupine Tree – Octane Twisted 4 LP set is due to be released on 16th April and is available to PRE-ORDER HERE

Kayak launch video for ‘Mystery’/ first single taken from ‘Out Of This World’

Legendary Dutch progressive rockers Kayak recently announced they will return with their 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ on the 7th May 2021. Now they are pleased to reveal the first single taken from that album, and you can watch the video for ‘Mystery’ here:

Founding member Ton Scherpenzeel comments: “This song is about the, in my view, unfathomable mystery and wonder that is the world around us. No matter what stunning progress science makes, and whatever religion wants us to believe, the essence will always be that: a mystery. Which doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to figure it all out.”The album is now also available for pre-order, arriving as a Limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP + CD, and as Digital Album. An exclusive blood red vinyl edition is available directly from the band. Pre-order now here:

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.     Out Of This World

2.     Waiting

3.      Under A Scar

4.     Kaja

5.     Mystery

6.     Critical Mass

7.      As The Crow Flies

8.     The Way She Said Goodbye

9.     Traitor’s Gate

10.   Distance To Your Heart

11.   Red Rag To A Bull

12.   One By One

13.   A Writer’s Tale

14.   Cary

15.   Ship Of Theseus

Watch a short teaser for the new album here: 

‘Out Of This World’, the band’s eighteenth studio album, with 15 new tracks, spanning 70 minutes of energetic and incredibly diverse material- though still very much recognizable as Kayak. It is clear that the new found energy has gained even more momentum since Hans Eijkenaar rejoined the group. Although they were forced to cancel all tours because Ton Scherpenzeel suffered a heart attack at the end of 2019, and immediately after that because of the Covid pandemic, we’re hearing a band that, since the demise of Pim Koopman in 2009, has not sounded more together, balanced and motivated. The current line-up of the band is as follows: 

Ton Scherpenzeel – Keyboards, lead and backing vocals 

Bart Schwertmann – Lead and backing vocals 

Marcel Singor – Guitar, lead and backing vocals 

Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass, lead and backing vocals

Hans Eijkenaar- Drums 

Kayak History:

KAYAK was formed in Hilversum, The Netherlands, back in 1972, by keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel and drummer Pim Koopman who struck up a friendship in their early teens after meeting at a local volley ball club. They were committed to writing original material. With loads of melodic, symphonic songs in their pocket they recruited fellow music conservatory student Max Werner (lead vocals) and Johan Slager (guitar). After bass player Cees van Leeuwen joined, the first lineup of KAYAK was complete with the new band being signed by EMI Records being launched as a new supergroup. Their debut album ‘See See The Sun’(1973) featured a minor hit single , ‘Lyrics’, with ‘Mammoth’ and the title track also reaching the top 40. The album sold well in Holland, earning the band significant critical acclaim and developing a growing army of passionate followers. 

After a series of successful albums and several hit singles in their homeland KAYAK was on the verge of an international breakthrough in 1977 when the single ‘Want you to be Mine’, from ‘Starlight Dancer’ achieved chart success in the U.S, peaking at #55 in the Billboard Charts. KAYAK was even voted Most Promising Band of the Year by the influential American music magazine Record World. Due to the fact that charismatic lead singer Max Werner wanted to fill the vacant position of drummer meaning the band was suddenly without a lead singer, making it impossible to embark on an American tour. KAYAK focused on finding a vocalist instead. The search began with advertisements placed in British magazine ‘Melody Maker’, spotted by Edward Reekers, a huge fan of the band since the early days. Passing the audition with flying colors he became the new frontman for KAYAK and with the addition of two female singers the band returned to the recording studio to create their 6th album, the award winning ‘Phantom of the Night, which turned out to be their commercial peak. The blend of progressive rock and immaculate pop brought them phenomenal success. The album went to number one on the charts, reaching platinum status and ‘Ruthless Queen,’ became their highest charting single, (#4 in the Dutch charts). 

The next album, ‘Periscope Life’ (1980), was similar in style and recorded in Los Angeles. It consolidated KAYAK’s position as one of Holland’s most popular bands.

With their next effort, ‘Merlin’ (1981), KAYAK returned to its original progressive and symphonic rock roots, with a suite about the legendary medieval magician on side A. Many music fans considered this a milestone in the bands career. Personal and musical struggles within the band however led to a break up in 1982. The first era of KAYAK ended after the release of the semi live album ‘Eyewitness’. 

The next chapter in KAYAK’s career began in 2006 with ‘Kayakoustic’, presenting the now seven-piece band in an intimate setting.In the new millennium KAYAK was resurrected after an 18 year pause and came back with the strong symphonic crossover album ‘Close to the Fire’ (2000) with again Pim Koopman on drums and Max Werner on vocals. Unfortunately, due to ill health Max was soon forced to leave, with ex- Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink, who already joined the band on stage, taking over. With Heerink three studio albums were recorded, including the rock opera’s ‘Merlin – Bard of the Unseen’ and ‘Nostradamus – The Fate of Man’, their most ambitious efforts yet. The rock opera’s, dominated by longer, prog-based compositions, also showed KAYAK’s theatrical side with an extended cast of singers and dancers contributing to an impressive first rate live experience. It also marked the return of Edward Reekers and introduced Cindy Oudshoorn as first female lead singer. 

2008 was an important year celebrating their 35th anniversary and embarking on a large tour taking the group to the theaters and clubs. ‘The Anniversary Box’, a DVD containing the Paradiso concert as well as a collection of fan chosen tracks is released. 

The tragic, unexpected death of drummer and composer Pim Koopman one year later in the middle of the ‘Letters From Utopia’ tour almost led to KAYAK’s downfall, but two years later the group re- emerged with Hans Eijkenaar on drums and the album ‘Anywhere But Here’, dedicated to Koopman. After a period of two years preparing and recording the new rock opera ‘Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis’ was released in 2014. Shortly before the tour, lead singers Reekers and Oudshoorn unexpectedly and inconveniently announced their departure, leaving the band in disarray. But as they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and like the proverbial cat with nine lives – in 2018 KAYAK came back with a vengeance and ‘Seventeen’. 

Look out for more information on the bands 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ in the coming months.

Review – Simon McKechnie – Retro – by John Wenlock-Smith

I must confess that until he was signed to Bad Elephant Music, I was not familiar with any of Simon McKechnie’s otherwise extensive back catalogue. This is perhaps a good thing, as one comes to his work without any preconceived ideas or expectations.

This new album ‘Retro’ is his debut for BEM and rather an interesting one it is, the album consisting of four main pieces, three long and the other one an abbreviated piece.

The longest track is The Origin of Species and is a piece inspired by the writings and recollections of one Charles Darwin made during the five years he spent in the southern hemisphere and how those journeys on The Beagle both affected and influenced his Theory of Evolution, encompassing such elements as survival of the fittest and natural selection.

If I were to sum this song up in a couple of words I would say it is expansive and intriguing, there are many facets and sections to the track that make it an impressive listening experience. The song uses the actual words written by Darwin and this gives weight to the lyrics as they espouse findings made by the great man himself. There are also some lively guitar passages in between The Beagle and Natural Selection segments of the song.

The Natural Selection and Struggle for Existence segments are accompanied by some often stark rhythmic elements which nicely offset the words being sung , the song then moving onwards into some keyboards before a strident guitar riff. These sections end with a part called The Struggle which is a drum solo but possibly not as you would expect, as it is in enclosed in keyboards and concludes with some excellent guitar that is wailing almost to the point of feedback. This ushers in what could be considered a more curious segment that is supported and accompanied by woodwind.

This is one album that you will appreciate the lyrics to hand to fully grasp what is going on and what is being sung.

The section called Contemplate features a recurring sound effect leading to the lyrics. These words speak of what Darwin has seen and his thoughts as a result. This leads into the final section of the piece, Laws of Nature, which seeks to draw his conclusions as he speaks of things created that are now being evolved and is backed by a great guitar motif and solo that bring the song to a close accompanied by a gentle piano. This track is certainly different, lyrically impressive and definitely worthy of consideration, a fine opener,

The shorter, title track, Retro opens with some distinctly odd keyboards and an early 1980’s drum program, the lyrics evoking days gone by. The song has a lively beat to its and vintage (i.e.. old!) keyboards and tones and a decidedly retro rock and roll type guitar section and solo, all of which work together to create an almost olde world sound to the piece. Simon has vocal phrasings that are reminiscent of one Freddy Mercury before that beat kicks in again with its strong guitar lines running through it before the song ends with massed voices singing the word Retro, again highly effective. It’s quite an excellent and catchy little number and I really like it.    

The third track is another longer Piece, The Enchantress of Number, which is a song about Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace. Ada was a mathematician who considered that pure calculation could have other applications beyond mathematics. She had a difficult upbringing, living in Byron’s shadow, beset with illness. At the age of 17 she went to a ball and meets Charles Babbage who introduced her to his ‘Difference Engine’, a trial design for a calculating machine.

So enthralled was she that she threw herself into the task of translating a paper about ‘The Analytical Engine’. In her notes she wrote examples of its use and in doing so introduced the world’s first computer program. All in all she was a remarkable woman and this song tells her tale eloquently and with true style.

The last song is called The Return of The Beagle and is an instrumental piece in which Simon imagines Darwin’s journey back home, going through his notes whilst the wind is blowing through the sails as the boat travels across the sea, homeward bound. This piece works as an excellent closer to what has been an imaginative and illuminating musical journey in the company of Simon and his friends.

This really is a fine album, and the future looks bright for Simon if he can keep delivering intelligent, articulate, and multi-faceted music like this here on ‘Retro’. It is one that will take time to digest, enjoy and ultimately appreciate but, in any manner, it is a very well-presented record with much to recommend to listeners.

Released 19th March 2021

Order the album on bandcamp here:

Retro | Simon McKechnie (

Nad Sylvan – “The Stolen Child” single & video release / “Spiritus Mundi” pre-order starts today

After a very successful release of the first single “The Fisherman”, Nad Sylvan is now proud to be presenting the second song “The Stolen Child” off of his new album “Spiritus Mundi”, to be released on April 9th 2021. The album’s lyrics are based on poems by W.B. Yeats. 

Nad comments on the new song as follows: 

”The Stolen Child” is one of W B Yeats’ most popular early poems first published in Irish Monthly in 1896. Like much of his early work, it is based on the myths and legends he heard from local people while growing up in County Sligo. 

I feel this song is a very captivating take on the lyrical content and will place you in a colorful dreamy landscape which will take you back to your own gullible childhood.

Let the fairies come and get you.”

You can watch the video for “The Stolen Child” here:

“Spiritus Mundi” is available as Special Edition CD Digipak (incl. 2 bonus tracks), 180g Gatefold LP Vinyl Edition (incl. the entire album on CD) and as Digital Download. You can pre-order the album here:

“Spiritus Mundi” tracklisting:

1. The Second Coming (7:00)

2. Sailing to Byzantium (6:41)

3. Cap and Bells (4:47)

4. The Realists (2:18)

5. The Stolen Child (4:58)

6. To An Isle In The Water (4:36)

7. The Hawk (4:09)

8. The Witch and The Mermaid (1:57)

9. The Fisherman (5:28)

Bonus Tracks

10. You’ve Got To Find A Way (5:55)

11. To A Child Dancing In The Wind (5:08)

Review – Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) by John Wenlock-Smith

This February sees a new album from the Neal Morse/Mike PortnoyTransatlantic realm of progressive activity entitled ‘The Absolute Universe’. This is a little different though in that this album exists in two main versions, this review covering ‘The Absolute Universe – Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

We are informed that each of the albums are different entirely. Rather than being just extended versions, these are different animals that share the same DNA. So it will be interesting to do what we used to do in English at school i.e., compare and contrast them.

This 2CD or 3 vinyl version has more tracks and an additional 30 minutes running time over the single CD/2 vinyl version titled ‘The Absolute Universe – The Breath of Life (Abrdiged Version), both are housed in Digipak sleeves with seriously impressive artwork and graphics. For Transatlantic money is apparently no object, seeing as they are a flagship group for InsideOut, one of their ‘jewels in the crown’ and a proven seller. This album will probably sell in copious amounts and I’m sure both versions will be highly sought by the faithful.

The album starts strongly with Overture, a thunderous 8-minute mini saga all on its own. Unsurprisingly it is everything that you would want and expect, it certainly impressive sounding and a good set up for all that follows. The album has several themes, Neal Morse states that some of it is autobiographical about his own ego in his early years and also comments about the state of America, along with thoughts about how the world is handling the current pandemic.

Heart Like A Whirlwind is a sprightly little number with a jaunty keyboard sound and some sweet guitar embellishments from Roine Stolt. Transatlantic really bring their choruses to life here and Neal Morse is also on great form, in fine voice and really belts this one out. This is a class song by any standard. Higher Than The Morning has Roine singing along with some great bass from Pete Trewavas and delivers another fine chorus along with some more great guitar from Stolt.

This release has a mixture of pieces, some longer, some shorter but all woven together in a symphonic Tour De Force, it is an album that needs time to appreciate all that it contains and is seeking to convey to you, the listener.

The tracks continue to impress with some seriously good playing throughout as things proceed. We come to the final track of Disc 1,The World We Used To Know, which is another lengthy workout track where the whole band can show off their fantastic ensemble playing, a sinewy snaking guitar line from Roine sitting perfectly alongside some powerfully evocative piano from Neal Morse. The song is looking back fondly to how things were and a yearning for those times to return once again, a sentiment that is probably common to us all at the moment!

Disc 2 opens with The Sun Comes Up Today, it offers stacked vocals before Neal offers some great Mellotron sounds for Roine Stolt to solo over. Exceptional, strong Hammond work from Neal is offset by elegant riffing from Roine, subtle running bass from Pete and energetic thunderous drums from Mike Portnoy who is spot on here. It has another strong chorus and is a fabulous shorter song. This leads into the brief prelude to Love Made A Way, that we will hear as the final track of the album, all propelled by acoustic guitar from Roine and some smooth keyboards from Neal. The interestingly titled Owl Howl then follows with a very meaty riff (that is not unreminiscent of Steve Morse’s work with Deep Purple), with Roine asking “Blackbird, Blackbird What Have You Done?”. Without lyrics, it’s hard to discern what the song is on about but it is certainly one of the harder hitting tracks on here with some interesting sounds and timbres deployed. All in all, a very interesting song with great growling bass and some odd keyboard moments. It actually makes for a song that is fairly odd overall but certainly entertaining, I must add!

Overall, the playing throughout the entire album is strong and impressive, I especially like the interplay between Neal and Roine and also enjoy the rhythm section who support all the fireworks that the others create so admirably. I’ll say one thing, this album is certainly musically challenging, like all the best albums tend to be.

Solitude is the next track, it is about being alone and appreciating the moments as the author is asking questions about how things are now. This song also includes a refrain of the Love Made A Way theme in it and very effectively used it is too. Belong opens with wailing and crying noises before Roine’s liquid guitar opens the music in tandem with Pete Trewevas’ elegant bass, strong organ sounds abound on this shortish track. Lonesome Rebel is next and is another acoustically led piece with Roine on vocals. This one is strong on imagery in the lyrics, politics are in a mess, Roine sings, as he assesses the state of the world.

Looking for The Light (Reprise) begins with an exciting organ solo, backed with some superb bass, powering the track along ferociously. This song is really an instrumental that gives rein for each member to play wildly and express their own talents. Having said that, there are vocals towards the latter part of the song but, mainly, this is soloing by all the band members. We lead into the penultimate track, The Greatest Story Never Ends, which carries on in a similar vein to Looking For The Light, although the vocals come in pretty much right from the off. There is more impressive organ on this one, sounding both full and epic and, again, some good guitar/keyboard interplay here too. It is all extremely exciting, one wonders how this album will translate to the live arena, it certainly has great promise for a lively and engrossing show.

The album closes with the full version of Love Made A Way, opening with gentle piano and guitar runs from Roine Stolt. This is a more ‘Christian’ Neal Morse composition as he sings about how God has changed his life for the better. I know that this might put some folks off, however, the whole song is full of optimism and gratitude. It also has more of that epic chorus and fine guitar runs from Roine whose instrument is wailing throughout the song, and indeed the whole album and he delivers a typically fine, histrionic guitar solo 2/3rds of the way through. This leads us to a very ELO sounding closing section with lots of climbing peaks and cymbals crashing, before everything ends on fading synthesisers and then silence…

This is an album that will make you smile and will definitely tide you over until lockdown has finished, giving you hope for the coming days, being Transatlantic to the max. You did not really expect anything else really, did you? You knew this was going to be wonderfully over the top excess surely? This is what we want and expect from the band and if that is what you get then it will not disappoint in any aspect!

If symphonic progressive rock is your thing, then this album, in whichever form you like, is most definitely for you. Get ready for a great listening experience, hopefully coming to a stage somewhere near soon too, very highly recommended indeed!

Released 5th February 2021

Order from Burning Shed (when back in stock!) here:

The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) (

DEVIN TOWNSEND – announces ‘Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds’

Launches pre-order and ‘Hyperdrive’ video

Devin Townsend is currently working on new material for upcoming albums, and for a current lack of touring possibilities and encounters with fans on the road he decided to do a series of live albums, quarantine albums, and generally interesting projects that keep people entertained while he’s busy on his next larger releases. 

Devin comments: 

“So we bring to you the ‘Devolution Series’: a grouping of oddities and interesting material that I would like people to hear, but don’t necessarily want to present as a ‘major release’.

The series will include all the quarantine songs and concerts, as well as various live shows from the past few years.

The first release is a remixed and remastered version of the ‘Live in Leeds’ show that was originally on the ‘Empath’ Ultimate Edition. It was a cool acoustic show that deserves to be heard I think, so we can use this as an introduction to the series.

I’m am currently deep in the writing of my new projects and am very excited to be doing so. Thanks for facilitating my ability to do that, and I hope you enjoy the ‘Devolution Series’.” 

The ‘Live in Leeds’ show has previously only been released in video format, and “Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds” now marks the audio release of said show. It will be released on March 19th 2021.

As a warm-up to this release, check out the ‘Hyperdrive (Live in Leeds 2019)’ video here: 

“Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds” will be available as Ltd. CD Digipak, 180g Gatefold 2LP (incl. the album on CD) and as Digital Album and as of now it is up for pre-order, so make sure to grab a copy here:

DEVIN TOWNSEND “Devolution Series #1 –

Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds” track listing:

1. Intro (06:30)

2. Let it Roll (03:48)

3. Funeral (08:17)

4. Deadhead (07:51)

5. Ih-Ah! (04:44)

6. Love? (08:06)

7. Hyperdrive (04:27)

8. Terminal (04:58)

9. Coast (04:37)

10. Solar Winds (03:25)

11. Thing Beyond Things (04:34)


Album Halcyon Hymns Out Now!

OUT NOW Downes Braide Association (DBA) fourth album Halcyon Hymns CD. DBA also launch the video and radio edit of the third track to be taken from the album entitled Today – today!

Buy Halcyon Hymns here:
CD/DVD OUT NOW – Pre-order the 2LP White Vinyl out 26th March:

Today is an anthemic celebration of life and making the most of what we have, here and now, something we have all come to appreciate in these unprecedented times.

Today’s a perfect day, so spend it with me. The sun is high, the wheel of time. It will turn. You know it goes by so fast. No time to dwell in the past. I wish today would never end..

“Today Is about being in love with a moment that can never last,” says Chris Braide, “and treasuring the feeling that fleeting moment, brings. The lyric is truly from the heart.”

Geoff Downes adds: “Today is DBA’s 21st Century take on the romance of spending a perfect day with someone you love. Here’s to more perfect days – today, together and beyond.”

Geoff Downes (keyboards, programming) and Chris Braide (vocals) are joined on the album and Today by Ash Soan on drums, Andy Hodge (bass) and Dave Bainbridge who provides a particularly tasty guitar throughout the track. Today sends out a positive message while the infectious melody promises to make this a radio delight.

Halcyon Hymns is the fifth DBA collaboration and follows their previous critically-acclaimed studio albums Pictures of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls (2017). The duo have also released Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018.

About Downes Braide Association
Downes Braide Association was formed as a studio-based project by Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and has already produced three acclaimed studio albums: Pictures Of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls (2017) together with a live album Live In England (2019). The project draws on Downes’ and Braide’s rich musical heritage to create a delightfully accessible brand of progressive rock.

Keyboard wizard Geoff Downes was thrust into the limelight with the worldwide success of Video Killed The Radio Star in 1979. The single topped the charts chart in 16 countries for The Buggles duo of Geoff and Trevor Horn (vocals, bass guitar). They briefly joined prog legends YES before Downes became a founder member of the supergroup Asia with YES guitarist Steve Howe, ELP drummer Carl Palmer and the late John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar).

The Wetton-Downes composition Heat Of The Moment became a world-wide hit in 1982 heralding many years of success for Asia with their FM radio-friendly brand of rock. Downes later returned to YES in 2012 and remains with the band alongside Steve Howe.

British singer-songwriter-pianist Chris Braide has recently returned to UK shores after many years based in California. He enjoys enormous success writing and producing music for film scores, advertising campaigns and working closely with artists including Toni Braxton, Sia, Lana Del Rey, Marc Almond, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears, David Guetta, Chris also co-wrote the music with Hans Zimmer and Sia for Seven Worlds One Planet – David Attenborough series.

Downes Braide Association release both the single Today and CD version of Halcyon Hymns, today 5th February.

Downes Braide Association: Halcyon Hymns buy it here:CD/DVD Out Now – Pre-order the 2LP White Vinyl out 26th March: