Prog icons The Flower Kings are set to release their 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’ on the 4th March 2022. Now, the band are pleased to share the third single from the album, “Revolution”. Watch the video here:
“The songs on the new double album come from a whole lot of different places in time and space, often a combination of themes gathered from older ideas born before The Flower Kings emerged in 1994, mixed with brand new ideas.
’Revolution’ is that kind of a song; a mini epic that is reflecting a number of themes spanning this album, cinematic and sometimes bombastic. A celebration of creation and the evolution, making the world what it is, through the million years of fire, brimstone, ice ages, floods, devastation, pain and finally….. beauty, colors, flowers, the vast oceans of life and new life out of the darkness & raging volcanos. The miracle!
The song is yet another piece of the larger scale composition that is ‘By Royal Decree’ – a sort of modern 2022 Rock Opera if you will. A landmark album from this band that we’re all incredibly proud of!”
‘Revolution’ also features a guest appearance from Jonas Lindberg, who plays bass on this track.
The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers.
The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.
This year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows:
30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden
31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden
1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden
1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA
11th May 2022 – Imperial Bell, Quebec City, Canada
Progressive-rock band Lobate Scarp will release their second full-length studio album You Have It All on April 1. It serves as an expansion to their 2019 EP Spirals and Portals. Progressive rock fans will appreciate the 17-minute finale “Flowing Through The Change” and the 14 1/2-minute title track featuring guest vocalists Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood from Yes. Modern prog fans will also enjoy guest appearances from Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard) and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard, Pattern-Seeking Animals). Also drumming on both epic tracks is Eric Moore (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves).
Rich Mouser, whose mixing repertoire includes Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Neal Morse, has once again mixed the album, and has played even a bigger role as co-producer and additional musician on several tracks. Steven Leavitt, producer of Lobate Scarp’s debut album Time and Space, has also returned to co-produce and engineer. The album will be available in a high-res digital format as well as a limited edition glossy CD-booklet including 16-pages of lyrics, art, and liner notes. This is the third Lobate release with a front cover created by David A. Hardy, infamous space artist. The album is currently available to pre-order at Indiegogo / gotprog.com.
Lobate Scarp is a progressive opera-rock band based in Los Angeles. Their influences range from classic prog-rock of the 70’s such as Genesis and Yes, to 80’s pop such as Duran Duran and Tears for Fears, as well as strong ties to musical theater. Their debut Time and Space has had positive reviews published in numerous music publications and websites such as Prog Archives, Empire Music, and Yes Music Podcast. Online blog, Progarchy called Time and Space “one of the top 13 albums of 2013”. The band is scheduled to perform at this year’s RoSFest, one of America’s premiere progressive rock festival which will take place in Sarasota, Florida.
March/April 2022 sees the release of ‘K of A’ by Geoff Proudley. A musical portrait of the life of Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s Spanish Queen. K of A is an instrumental album, drawing on orchestral, classical, filmic and rock elements to paint some of the key moments and emotions in Katharine’s life.
As Geoff describes ‘It’s been a three-year labour of love. Starting with an original mysterious Spanish theme that came to me when I was reading about Katharine, I gradually started to write more, fleshing out episodes and moments of her life. I suppose it was a bit like writing for plays and getting inside the characters, what she was feeling and then painting musical pictures of events in her life’. It’s something I find I can do. It usually comes through in what I write, through my subconscious. For this album I think I wrote about 70% of the themes and main frameworks of the pieces in one weekend of piano improvisation. Again, thinking about the events in her life and capturing everything I played into Logic. Then going back and listening to what I had. I often write that way and I find it really productive.’
Geoff plans to release the album on CD at the end of March/early April with a 60 page booklet in a nice presentation package.
It will be available through his website: geoffproudley.co.uk and digital streaming platforms later on.
Why the Tudors and why Katharine?
“Well, I know they’ve been done to death (literally!). But it’s still fascinating five hundred years later. I mean you couldn’t write it could you? It’s easy to be appalled by the brutality of people and their thinking. But these people thought completely differently to us. Everyone was intensely religious. Kings and Queens had real power and the survival of their dynasties was a matter of life and death lest they be usurped by someone with an equally tenuous claim to the throne!
But I know what you might be thinking. Didn’t Rick Wakeman do Henry’s six wives back in the seventies? Well yes, but that was an album about all his wives. A whistle-stop tour of the matrimonial set. This is purely about Katharine and follows her life from leaving Spain as a teenager to marry Prince Arthur, through her subsequent widowhood and betrothal to Prince Henry. Then her coronation when Henry ascended to the throne and life as queen consort and then queen regent (when Henry was at war with France). It moves on through her fall from grace, her cruel banishment and divorce after failing to provide a male heir, the split with the Catholic church of Rome and her eventual death while under effective house arrest in 1536. It’s been a really interesting project. I learned a lot about her. I empathised with her plight too having been through a divorce myself. That might sound pretentious, but those sorts of emotions resonate through history. They are as real today as five centuries ago”.
Fans will be able to enter the guitar giveaway via a QR code, printed on a ticket inside one of the CDs in the Deluxe Edition of the debut album.
Created through extensive work with Alex Lifeson and Gibson™, Epiphone’s Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard similarly redefines the boundaries of the classic Les Paul™ in an accessible package. This guitar carries all of the traditional tones that have made the Les Paul legendary, along with unprecedented levels of sonic and performance versatility.
The Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard carries powerful Epiphone Ceramic Pro neck and ProBucker 3 bridge pickups with coil-splitting options via their push-pull volume controls and a Graph Tech Ghost Floyd Rose system that not only provides the world’s most efficient vibrato but is also loaded with Ghost piezo bridge saddles. Access traditional magnetic humbucker tones, mix it up with coil-split options, tap the Ghost’s realistic acoustic tones, or blend acoustic and magnetic voices — the sky’s the limit from this sonic chameleon, whose sound-shifting depths are virtually limitless. You can route it all through a traditional mono jack or use two cables for individual magnetic and piezo outputs. All this and the Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard still presents that timeless Les Paul look that has remained a classic for more than 60 years. An EpiLite™ case is also included.
Retailing at $899, this is a unique opportunity to win a high spec, unique instrument, developed by Alex Lifeson himself. The giveaway is open to a worldwide audience, and no purchase is necessary outside Great Britain.
Ltd Edition deluxe version – presented in a gatefold sleeve with a blue coloured vinyl LP, 2 CDs including a 5 track bonus disc, 28 page Booklet with exclusive content (plus QR Code Golden Ticket for giveaway entry)
CD – includes a 16 page poster booklet
LP – on black vinyl / baby blue coloured vinyl (North America exclusive) / white coloured vinyl
Having played with big neo-prog acts like Riverside, Playgrounded are no strangers to outer limits of the contemporary merging of rock and electronica. Their upcoming album “The death of Death”, released on 18th March, features compositions based from dynamic sound design structures by main composer Orestis. New single “The Swan” sees these glitchy synth textures seep through the negative space between languid guitar riffs and chugging bass grooves. The band comment,
“We share with you The Swan, the track that we have chosen as the opening of The death of Death. The lyrics set the premise for the rest of the album: desperate or fascinating, one’s relation to the world that surrounds us is grounded to the very matter of which we are made.”
Listen to “The Swan” now:
Greece has spawned countless instances of criminally underrated music acts in diverse genres ranging from black metal to electronic to avant garde pop music, and the sophomore album of modern progressive metal act Playgrounded titled ‘The death of Death’ is yet another striking example.
“Where did this come from?” you will find yourself wondering, while absorbing the stunning intensity and musical prowess on display. From the perfection of the production and the inherent innovation in defining heaviness by means of not only downtuned guitars, but also elements of electronica are the pillars of an intriguingly idiosyncratic, incredibly mature sound.
Hailing from Greece, but spending most of their time in the Netherlands, the musical pedigree of the members of Playgrounded is quite unprecedented in the metal/rock underground. Main composer and producer Orestis Zafeirou is a graduate from the Institute of Sonology of the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, a department focused on electronic music education and production research. Additionally, he works in a synth factory. Vocalist and co-producer Stavros Markonis graduated from the Amsterdam conservatoire and is an award-winning composer for film and TV. Bass player Odysseas Zafeiriou and guitar player Michael Kotsirakis both work as computer engineers, while drummer Giorgos Pouliasis is a graduate from the Rotterdam Conservatoire, as well as a drum teacher and a popular session musician in Greece as well as in the Netherlands.
Starting out in 2007, Playgrounded have been together for over 15 years, playing both national and international tours, while also opening for bands like Riverside and even Nine Inch Nails in Amsterdam. Their first EP Athens (2012, Casket Music) portrays an already mature band playing modern prog rock influenced by Tool and Deftones. Their debut full-length In Time With Gravity (2017) shows the band in full flux, experimenting with extended compositions as well as influences from influential contemporary electronic music acts like Modeselektor and Moderat.
Playgrounded’s sophomore album lives up to the aspiration of its lofty album title. The death of Death is music that results from mastery rather than lacklustre exploration and experimentation. The album was recorded at MD Recording Studios by Nikos Michalodimitrakis, long collaborator of Stavros in film productions. Mixing was handled by C.A.Cederberg (Leprous, Shining, and more) in Kristiansand, NO, while the album was mastered by George Tanderø (Madrugada, Satyricon, Jaga Jazzist, and more) in Oslo, NO.
Demonstrating a profound understanding of the glitches they produce, Playgrounded evoke a sense of the uncanny closely related to the cut-up movie fragments of sound artists like the German Orson Hentschel.
“We start with dynamic sound design structures, most of the times initiated by Orestis,” explains guitarist Michael Kotsirakis. “We then work in pairs expanding the musical space and creating variations and flourishes. Sometimes the lyrics and vocals will dictate a change in quality, other times it’s one of the instruments. After many ideas are on the table Stavros and Orestis sit together and propose a song structure. After this loop has been repeated over and over we have a very good idea of all the parts. That’s when we hit the rehearsal space and refine the details.”
The result is a collection of songs that reveal Playgrounded as composers in the act of decomposition. The memorable guitar riffs and vocal melodies serve as gateways to a deeper layer of glitchy synth textures and liquid drumming, until the perspective of radical decomposition consumes one whole.
“The shortest sound units become extended themes,” explains main composer Orestis Zafeirou. “Steady rhythmical blocks interact with unstable ones. Noise becomes tone and melody. Sonic grains gather to form masses, masses dissolve into a single entity. With every repetition, comes change.”
On The death of Death, Playgrounded analyse and take apart their surroundings, reducing reality to its smallest components, subsequently converting them into sound to create a new platform – a representation of reality from which they build their artistic vision. In essence The death of Death is dialectical, a study of unity in opposition. A disclosure of contradictory aspects of reality, an expression of their mutual relationship. From these contradictions the band manages to construct a brooding world of dark magnificence. The death of Death has the appeal of a film score that slowly starts to haunt you as the movie progresses. The more you listen to it, the more its sublime beauty becomes apparent.
“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
With ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’, Marillion release one of their most upbeat albums of their career while, at the same time, they once again do not shy away from uncomfortable topics, reflect on their own behaviour, and put their finger in the wounds of time.
The band’s 20th studio album, Like its predecessor, 2016’s critically acclaimed and chart-topping album ‘F*** Everyone And Run (F E A R)’, was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. But, whereas it’s predecessor was more a dark and condemning comment on the government and the bureaucrats who ran the country, this new release deals with the pandemic in a much more hopeful and enriching manner leading to the band calling it their most upbeat album in quite a while.
There’s no getting away from it, a new Marillion album is always a great occasion and a cause for celebration but the release of ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ coincides with us hopefully seeing the pandemic diminishing rapidly and a sense of normality returning to everyday life and mirrors this new found feeling of optimism and promise.
I’d been one of the lucky ones who saw the band on their ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour (in fact, I saw them on at the first gig in Hull) so my appetite had been whetted by already hearing the wonderfully dramatic Be Hard On Yourself, albeit in a live setting. Nine minutes of intense but fast paced music with Steve Hogarth’s distinctive vocals at the centre of this impressive track, it certainly opens the album in style. Reprogram The Gene delivers a powerful missive with the hard edged guitar and drums driving the song along, aided and abetted by a sharp suited bassline and keyboards. Steve Rothery has been given free reign to deliver some mighty power chords and Ian Mosley delivers an utterly mesmerising performance behind the drum kit. There’s a determined and catchy feel to this song and it resonates throughout the album as the short, sweet instrumental, Only A Kiss segues into the second single from the album, the irrepressibly infectious Murder Machines, a song that was born in the challenging times of lockdown and social distancing and has become so much more than just a mirror of our times, more than a song that deals with the precious as well as dark sides of human relationships. Steve Hogarth is in fine voice, especially on the buoyant chorus and Rothery’s guitar just sings perfectly.
Three songs into the album and I’m already hooked, it’s a record of, and for, its time, emotive and emotional and that is felt throughout the wistfully brilliant The Crow And The Nightingale, a nostalgic nod to Leonard Cohen and one of my favourite tracks on the album, one that just flows beautifully and shows the band’s thoughtful and contemplative side impeccably. That reflective tone carries on into the sublime Sierra Leone, another great song that sees the band in a storytelling frame of mind. This is a set of musicians who are playing at a ridiculously high level and delivering some of their best songs of a long and illustrious career, a band who are comfortable with themselves and their music and it is really obvious. This track builds gradually, the tempo increasing almost imperceptibly, before Rothery’s guitar breaks out, accompanied by Hogarth’s ever more dynamic voice. There are lulls as it ebbs and flows elegantly, always holding your attention, a fine piece of music indeed.
This superb and entrancing album comes to a close with one of Marillion’s finest ever tracks. In a long career of superlatives Care has to be right there at the top, a three part song that plumbs the depths of despair before rising through to end in promise and optimism. Pete Trewavas shows he is still one of the best bass players around and Rothery’s guitar is just transcendent, he really is at the top of his game. Mark Kelly delivers some bewitching keys throughout the album but none more so than here. This track really showcases the band’s impressive song writing abilities. Impassioned and passionate and, ultimately, uplifting, it is, possibly, the most perfect song they have ever written.
I have been a fan of Marillion for over three decades and, in a career of superlatives, ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ can truly be seen as one of their most accomplished albums. It is an outstanding piece of music that the band should be incredibly proud of and, even though we are only in February, it will take something amazing to knock it off the top of my album of the year list.
For those who don’t know, PsychoYogi are a jazz fusion / progressive rock band led by the incredibly talented Chris Ramsing who plays guitar, writes the songs and also sings them! Chris is clearly influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa and many other left-field musicians. He is a very skilled player and uses the band’s musicality to express his thought and viewpoints. The music can be a bit cerebral and clever and can take a while to get into as it requires the listener’s effort too, what can seem to be a bit obscure will eventually begin to feel familiar and friendly, if you are prepared to make the investment of time and effort.
PsychoYogi have joined the roster of artists that appear under the Bad Elephant Music label banner, which is a good home for them and should expose them to a far wider audience. Their talents should begin to get the recognition that they deserve, after several years of self-released albums like ‘Accident Prone’, ‘Consumption Wheel’ and ‘Chase the Bone’, along with last year’s ‘Dangerous Devices’.
The latter was a good template for this new album ‘Digital Vagrancy’, a release on which, you will be glad to hear, the band’s normal wackiness and weirdness continues unabated, which, in the madness of this present age, is certainly both a boon and a relief and is very welcome. This is music to challenge and to experience for yourself, in amongst the weird time signatures lurks a good sense of both humour and of the absurd. This is clearly shown on tracks like Wonderful Place with its strong bass lines and with Chris’s fluid guitar taking centre stage, its freewheeling form scoring highly. There is also a deft lightness of touch to many of these tracks which shows how well the band are gelling as a unit these days, brass, horns, bass and guitars are drawn together, all underpinned by the bass of IzzyStylish and the drums of Justin Casey.
The album opens with Guiding Light, all gentle noodling from Chris along with good syncopation from Justin’s drums, which splash gently across the muted tones of the sax of Toby Nowell. This is all very eloquently overseen by all concerned with a strong jazz fusion leaning and a jaunty tone, yet it’s still accessible listening and not just for jazz buffs. A Dangerous Path opens with some horn interplay, which sets the scene well for the languid jazzy rhythms at play. Here the music and vocals actually put me in mind of Greenslade for some odd reason but, if so, that’s a good comparison to have really, as they are nothing like each other at all but the mind is a strange thing at times and I guess years of stored music came to the surface there.
The River follows and has prominent bass to open followed by eloquent sax. Again, this mellow song works well hinged on bass and delicate drums with guitar chords at play and a brief jazzy guitar break from Chris really hits the mark. Wonderful Place is up next and opens with a long, fluid guitar line laid over busy drums and more of those strong bass lines. Shimmering guitar chords play over the track and are joined by more sax lines, add in an almost ethnic sounding percussion segment and it becomes very jazzy. This is sublime and superb at the same time, an enjoyable track with lots happening in its three-minute window.
Distant Bell follows with more delicate guitar lines and subtle bass lines, the horn and sax parts helping this sound really swing. This album gets better the more you play it and you begin to realise just what a joyfully crafted it really is as well as being imaginative and boldly creative. Everyone gets a chance to shine, and they all do throughout this fine track. Next Track Salvation has a smoky sounding opening, murky and effective sounding, before the vocals start. The song is all about faith and belief and the entire system of such things, it’s an interesting song that asks a lot questions land leaves you to your own conclusions.
Love and Sanity is about the lack of compassion in today’s world, how we are worse for its lack in society, and how we all avoid it as individuals today. It’s an honest, challenging and sobering song at times. Much to Dream About follows and is another questioning song about how yesterday’s dreams have gone and how those dreams have been replaced with negativity, fear and loathing with everybody affected by this change. This is social commentary about the world today and how it has not gotten better but has taken a step or more in the wrong direction.
Innocence for Fear is the last vocal track on the album and offers the observation that we exchange ‘Innocence for Fear’ in this modern age and that we all suffer as a result. Chris is quite forthright in his observations and questioning and why not , these things should be spoken of far more than the subservience and blind obedience that is expected of us these days!
It’s good that albums like this can offer a platform for such views to be considered and, as such, this is an important album and one that is worthy of consideration with its excellent musicianship and challenging lyrics and themes. This music could be described as left-field punk-jazz and I think that is pretty accurate.
Growing up as I did in Birmingham in the 1970s, I balanced my musical tastes between the hard rock and progressive music and held at bay the encroachment of the punk and new wave genres. It’s odd really, as there were some genuinely interesting things that were going on in that scene like Eddie and The Hot Rods and Racing Cars, to name just two, where energy and talent met head on.
A vast majority of these trod the boards of the stages of either the Birmingham Odeon or the Town Hall. One of the regular visitors being the Steve Gibbons Band, who were local lads who had landed the attention of record label Polydor. They were a band I was aware of but had no relevant knowledge about, neither of them or their music which, in hindsight, was to my detriment as their sound style and influences were so far removed from punk or new wave and being far more R &B or americana in style.
Well, my chance to remedy this issue came by means of this excellent new Polydor box set serving that era and issued by those good people at Cherry Red. This collection includes their entire output for the label of four albums (3 studio and 1 live album) along with a further BBC ‘Live in Concert’ to offer a comprehensive overview of their career. All alongside an informative booklet from the late Malcolm Dome.
I always like a live album as they often portray the more muscular live sound and allow for songs to be stretched out with some improvisation, where appropriate. On this score ‘Caught in the Act’ is a fine document of their live sound, capturing them in various settings, although the actual recording locations and information is not that clear. What the sound reminds me of is a far more organic version of Wishbone Ash as the two guitarists have a similar interplay and dynamic.
Also worthy of note is their debut album, especially the songs Rollin’ and Spark Of Love, both of which pack a punch and show what they were capable of to favourable effect. In addition, this underpins the Wishbone Ash comments, although I can also hear elements of bands like The Allman Brothers, such is the subtle musical interplay in the band.
The set also contains a further live album recording for the BBC from 1977, at the Shepherds Bush Empire, that captures the band in fine form once more and touring in support of their ‘Down In The Bunker’ album.
Steve Gibbons is a fine singer and also a good writer of songs, mostly that tell a story, especially as evidenced on the two live sets and tracks like Mr Jones and in Tupelo Mississippi Flash, about a hick town guitar player, when played live, these songs get time to gel fully and effectively.
I must say that time has treated these albums well and the remastering is beautifully done, giving the sound clarity and wallop where needed. In fact, I am really wondering quite why I never actually listened to these before and, as such, have really missed supporting these local lads when I had the chance, hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess?
Of the three studio albums, I think the first, ‘Any Road Up’, is possibly the best, as it is a band on the cusp of success and all their years of effort are starting to pay off. The album is relatively short though but it has power in the potential it offers, all of which was to find realisation on their second album ‘Rollin On” from 1977. The band were right in the midst of the onslaught of punk and yet still managed to deliver a fine sophomore album including its top 40 single Tulane and other such strong songs as Mr Jones, Tupelo Mississippi Flash and the acapella Right Side Of Heaven that segues brilliantly into Rollin On’. This album is further enhanced by 5 bonus tracks, including 2 songs from a session for John Peel, a man who knew good music when he heard it. Tulane was a big hit for the Steve Gibbons Band and it appears on this set four times in both studio, live and session takes and it’s always a worthy song to hear.
The final studio album, ‘Down In The Bunker’ was produced by Tony Visconti, of David Bowie and Thin Lizzy fame, and packs a good punch too. The album has eight bonus tracks to round it out, although details are scant about these.
What this set offers is a full overview of the band’s years as part of the Polydor label. The band continue today, albeit in a far simpler manner away from major label pressures and hassles, but this set offers a look into their legacy and history and shows them to be a band that Birmingham should be proud, of even today.
It’s a known scenario. One sits in their own studio in the lockdown and tinkers with ideas but has the mild impression of gradually losing it. After twenty years of full throttle, you’re feeling run down, yet the head is still racing. Well, it’s a known scenario if your name is Kalle Wallner at least. To take a break, however, that has never been an option. So the ideas, fragments and motifs piled up and on an indeterminate evening he took a step back and had to accept the fact that he had an instrumental album on his hands. That’s pretty much how ‘Voices’ came about, the now fourth solo album by the busy musician from Freising/Bavaria, perhaps better known as the guitarist in the perennial prog band RPWL.
Pragmatically numbered serially, the album is mainly an instrumental where the individual tracks are always related to and intertwined with each other. The one track out of the seven that contains vocals being Three, where Arno Menses of Subsignal lends his cultured vocal to proceedings.
Opulence has always been an integral part of Wallner’s solo work and that is ramped up to the max on this excellent work, thunderous riffing being another and that is present and correct in spades! There’s an energy infused in every note on the album, starting with the high-tempo momentum of One with Yogi’ Lang’s delicious keyboards lending some gravitas to Kalle’s powerful, monolithic sounding guitars. What you always get with this superb musician is tons of melody though, the often riotous and dynamic guitars giving every note an edge but a very tuneful one. Two is another plethora of monstrous riffs that combines with Marco Minnemann’s mighty drumming to deliver an all-encompassing, forceful track that has a definite thoughtful underbelly at times. The calming sections where Kalle’s guitar takes things back a notch are a touch of genius and lay a veil of refinement over things.
As already mentioned, Three is the one and only vocal track on the album but it opens with a stirring guitar from Kalle over Marco’s potent drumbeat. Arno Menses has a voice just made for tracks like this and he puts in a stellar performance on this pensive, slow burning song, especially on the electrifying chorus, it’s the emotionally intense guitar playing that is the highlight though. There’s a funky note to the opening of Four that gives it a vibe not unlike Faith No More, all staccato notes, fat grooves and a restless drumbeat. Kalle’s piercing guitar lends a contrast to that alt-metal feel, the guitar solo towards the end is inspired, it’s a clever and inventive piece of music.
Five basically sees all the musicians turn things up to 11 and is an incendiary four minutes of compelling and authoritative music where everyone just seems to be having an utter blast! I really like Six, Kalle Wallner has always been an excellent musician and songwriter but, here on ‘Voices’, he really seems to have gone up another level. The songwriting is superlative and his guitar playing just gets better and better. This piece of music is reflective and contemplative while also having the satisfyingly punchy foundation of guitar and drums when things start to get serious.
Seven.Out is a thoughtful almost melancholy eleven minutes of wistful serenity and closes ‘Voices’ perfectly. The most intimate and heartfelt piece of music on the album, Kalle gets to show his more softer and sensitive side on this track with piercing, fervent guitar lines that really touch your heart and soul. There’s a sombre and plaintive edge to his guitar work and the meditative drumbeat mirrors this, it really leaves you in a reflective and thoughtful mood as this exemplary record comes to a close.
‘Voices’ is fifty minutes of utterly immersive music that really gets under your skin, there is an immediate need to listen to this bewitching album again. At times mesmerising and at others thunderously magnetic, I’d say it’s possibly this enigmatic musician’s finest piece of work in his twenty-six year career, it really is that good!
Originally feted for release in November 2021, the second full length release from the Swedish Prog Rock project Jonas Lindbergh & The Other Side is now being released by InsideOut on February 18th.
This album has been in my possession for a very long time now so I have time to really get into it at every level and I feel I have really got to know it like a friend so feel eminently qualified to write this review. First, however, some history…
This Progressive rock project from Stockholm, Sweden was founded in 2012 by bass player, songwriter and producer Jonas Lindberg.
It all originates back to 2008 when the EP ‘In Secret Pace’ was recorded as an exam-project at the Music Academy in Piteå, Sweden. But, as term, ended Jonas moved to Stockholm to pursue a career as a freelance musician and the idea got put on hold. In 2012 ‘In Secret Pace’ was finally released on digital platforms as Jonas started to work on new material.
This time the lineup featured a 5 piece band and the second EP ‘The Other Side’ was finished and released in 2013. The project was named Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side from the title track of the album after its release. Jonas contributes bass, backing vocals, keyboards and guitars, Jonas Sundqvist (lead vocals), Jonathan Lundberg (drums), Calle Stålenbring (guitars) and Michael Ottosson (keyboards). Two more musicians, Nicklas Thelin (guitar) and Jenny Storm (vocal) later joined for the live shows.
In 2015 the band began working on their first full length album and released “Pathfinder” in 2016 to great reviews. Jonas immediately began writing new material in the following months. But due to heavy touring with lots of other commitments the project got put on hold until 2019, when the band finally started recording a follow-up album.
The new album features the same lineup as on previous albums along with a few more guest musicians. Returning on a few tracks is Simon Wilhelmsson (drums) who some may remember from the first EP, as well as Jonas’s brother Joel and Roine Stolt on lead guitars. Missing is the band’s keyboard player Michael Ottosson who sadly passed away in the summer of 2020, leading up to Jonas taking on full keyboard duties for the album.
So now you know the history of the band, let me tell you why you just have to buy this album…
‘Miles From Nowhere’ is one of those albums that just puts a huge smile on your face, there’s symphonic prog in the vein of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and The Flower Kings in absolute spades but it is all grounded on some seriously good hard rock foundations with guitars that Richie Sambora would be proud of and keyboards that just ooze quality like John Lord at his absolute best. It is a triumph of pomp and circumstance, overblown and bloody brilliant!
Staccato guitars open the seriously catchy Secret Motive Man and you first hear the elegant vocals of Jonas Sundqvist. A funky, folky song about a man who’s intentions aren’t entirely clear, odd time signatures combine with some seriously good drumming and harmonised vocals to die for. As opening album tracks go, this one is of the highest quality and the keyboards and guitars work beautifully in tandem. Short (in prog rock terms) but very sweet, Little Man is a refined slice of music with a rarefied air as it begins but it soon opens up with Jonas’ soaring vocal (harmonised to perfection, naturally) on the chorus and the tastefully strummed guitar just adds to the feel. There’s a brief lull punctuated by keyboards before the guitar rises up in a stunning 80’s hair metal solo that just blows you away, a fantastic track.
The second longest piece on the album, Summer Queen is an epic based on the four seasons, originally written in 2003 by classmates Jonas Lindberg and Joakim Wiklund. This song is an exciting thrill ride of peaks and troughs that never lets up and is graced by the wonderful lead vocals of Jenny Storm. A slow burning opening never hints at the headlong rush to come as Jenny’s ethereal voice is first heard, it’s jaunty and wistful but the energy is building up, bursting to get out and the fantastic keys finally let loose with vibrancy and intensity. What follows is pure brilliance, a song that leads you on a mysterious, primeval journey through nature with ardent guitars and mesmerising keyboards leading the dance. Oceans Of Time has an almost medieval feel to the opening keyboard strains before the music bursts out in a torrent of keyboards, drums and thunderous guitars. This compelling and potent track is highlighted by stunning guitar solos from Calle Stålenbring, which punctuate it with moments of pure intensity, and keyboards that just seem to have a life of their own. It’s a track about an ending of a relationship in the form of a ship on a stormy ocean and you feel drawn into the story as if you’re really there.
The simple, rarefied opening notes of Astral Journey lend a polished aura to the song, a relatively concise instrumental which is almost like a moment in calm after the marvellous maelstrom of the previous tracks. Restless, skittish keyboards then take over, aided and abetted by an edgy, restive guitar before the two blend together seamlessly to bring things to a close. Why I’m Here is the closest we get to mainstream track on the album and is a short progressive song in 7/8 time about stalking, sung by Lindberg. This song features lead guitar from Jonas’s brother Joel and its jaunty feel belies the subject nature. Fast paced and sprightly, it passes by in no time at all, leaving a wry smile on your face and has another blinding guitar solo that leaves you slack jawed in admiration.
While the first six tracks are exceptional in their own right, they lead us up to the utterly amazing final, title track. A twenty-five minute epic of such utter majesty, full of intricate instrumental progressive pieces in odd time signatures, intense rock in the style of Deep Purple, fusion inspired choruses, insane guitar solos and vocals that just have to be heard to be believed. The first near-seven minutes is an instrumental section where it seems everyone has just been told to go and enjoy themselves and just deliver some exceptional and impassioned music and, boy, do they ever! Part two sees Jonas Sundqvist’s voice centre stage and is more melodic, almost Beatles-esque section, more subtle, with some elegant guitar playing from Nicklas Thelin which adds to the more cultured mood. Not had enough harder edged rock for your money? Well hold on to your hats, part three sees us off and running with John Lord smiling over us as the keys provide the backdrop to some ridiculously good guitar playing (Calle Stålenbring take a bow please) and amazingly harmonised choruses. Lindberg himself steps forward to deliver an emotionally strung ballad, A sort of reflection upon what has happened lately in life, in part four and plays all the instruments, supported by Maria Olsson on percussion. The final course is to come and you are not left wanting, overtures, majestic anthems, memorable melodies and hooks abound everywhere. The build up to the finale leaves you bursting with anticipation, it’s done so well and then Jonas’ delivers his final coup de grace and probably the vocal performance of his life, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, it is really that good! Then, just when you think things surely can’t get any better, you are treated to an epic guitar solo from the ‘Flower King’ himself, Mr. Roine Stolt and the song just goes orbital. Holy cow! what a bloody fantastic and amazing finish, I’m left mentally exhausted and spent as what has been one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had comes to a satisfying close.
I have listened to this album so many times that I have actually lost count, it is the best example of symphonic progressive rock you are likely to hear in a very long time. I like it that much I have ordered the vinyl and the best compliment I can give is to say that, while I am not a musician and never will be, if I could have only ever made one album, I really wish it could have been this!