“Love Is All” is the second track to be taken from ‘Door One’, David Longdon’s posthumous solo album, which will be released on October 14th, 2022 on CD via Big Big Train’s label English Electric Recordings and white and black vinyl editions via their vinyl partner Plane Groovy. The album will also be available on all digital streaming platforms.
Door One, borrowing the nickname for a recreation ground in Nottingham near where David grew up, has a musical personality that is distinct from his work within Big Big Train, even though Gregory Spawton plays acoustic guitar on ‘Love Is All’. Gregory Spawton: “I sat in on some of the sessions for the album and heard Jeremy Stacey record drums for Love Is All. As the session came to an end, David turned to me and said he wanted some 12-string guitar. David was aware of my passion for the instrument and I recorded my parts for the song a few days after David died. Although he was gone, it felt like it was one last precious moment of making music together.”
David had been accumulating musical and lyrical ideas for Door One over the past few years. He had been recording since April 2021, following the completion of Big Big Train’s Common Ground album. On the night of David’s tragic accident, which resulted in his untimely death on 20th November 2021, he had just returned home to Nottingham from a recording session at Playpen Studios in Bristol with his co-producer and engineer Patrick Phillips. At the time of David’s death, the album was 90% finished. However, David’s partner Sarah, his manager Nick Shilton, Big Big Train founder Gregory Spawton and all the key protagonists involved in its creation agreed that David would want the world to hear the album.
The album’s eight songs are highly personal and follow a lyrical journey from darkness to enlightenment, from the intense and raw sound of the first single ‘Watch It Burn’, channelling David’s love of The Who, to the folk inflected ‘There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost’, which recalls David’s Dyble Longdon album with the late Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble, and ‘Love Is All’, the gorgeous ballad which closes the album.
Door One was recorded with a core of four musicians: drummer Jeremy Stacey (King Crimson, Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher, Sheryl Crow, The Finn Brothers), bassist Steve Vantsis (best known for his work with Fish), saxophonist Theo Travis (Steven Wilson, Soft Machine, Gong) and David’s longstanding friend and former 1990s Gifthorse band mate Gary Bromham (Bjork, Sheryl Crow, George Michael) who contributed guitar, backing vocals, keyboard parts and textures.
The album’s stunning artwork is by Sarah Louise Ewing, with graphic design by Steve Vantsis. Sarah’s cover portrait of David is from a photograph by Sophocles Alexiou.
DAVID LONGDON ‘DOOR ONE’ LP Side One Into The Icehouse Watch It Burn There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost The Singer And The Song Forgive (But Not Forget)
Side Two Sangfroid The Letting Go Love Is All
‘DOOR ONE’ CD Into The Icehouse Watch It Burn There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost The Singer And The Song Forgive (But Not Forget) Sangfroid The Letting Go Love Is All
In all my years I had never, until tonight that is, seen a show at the famous BuxtonOpera House. Designed by noted architect Frank Matcham, a noted theatre designer whose work is known in many fine theatres like the Hackney Empire and the London Palladium, among others. The Opera House opened in 1903 and was subsequently renovated in the late 1970’s. It is a notably ornate building and is small inside, a capacity of 901 seats across its 4 levels making this a fairly intimate setting in which to witness such a distinguished artists that play here.
Steve Hackett’s latest tour is based around the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic 1972 Genesis album ‘Foxtrot’, which is known as one of the defining albums from the so called big six (Genesis, Yes, ELP, King Crimson, VDGG and Pink Floyd). This record is probably one of Genesis’ most famous releases and includes the classic Supper’s Ready. However, before we celebrate that achievement, we are sweetened by a wonderfully accomplished first set of Steve’s own songs, drawn from several of his solo albums, from ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’ through to ‘The Surrender Of Silence’.
What a set this turns out to be! In this first part of the show we are rewarded with jaw dropping takes of Ace Of Wands, Every Dayand Camino Royale among others. Again, Steve and his band rise to the challenge admirably, especially noteworthy are the ever graceful keyboards of Roger King and the woodwinds of Rob Townsend. For most of this part of the show singer Nad Sylvan is absent, appearing only for TheDevil’s Cathedral and Every Day. The song A Tower Struck Down includes a bass solo from Jonas Reingold, which was certainly different as you don’t hear many of those these days!
The evergreen Shadow of the Hierophant also makes a welcome return, although this was mainly the closing section only although, to be fair, it does prove just what a talented troupe Steve leads. This mainly instrumental set also allows Steve lots of room for his elegant lyrical, eloquent soloing. Steve soars in these pieces proving, once again, that at 72 years of age, like a good wine, every year he continues to age gracefully and with a robust and often surprising bouquet. This first half ends to rapture applause and a break is taken before the main event.
Now, the concept of playing a classic album in full is not a new one, Yes, for instance, have been doing their classic albums in sequence since the early 2000’s but Steve has only being doing it for the past few tours, Covid excluded, and this time it’s ‘Foxtrot at Fifty’.
This part begins with a storming take of Watcher Of The Skies, which allows Nad’s theatrical side to emerge, and it does dramatically as he wears red flashing glasses to emphasise the sombre message of the words. Now, here’s an admission for you, until tonight I’d never heard all of ‘Foxtrot’! Yes, I knew bits but to hear it performed in sequence by this extremely talented ensemble makes me want to buy the album for myself, I will certainly rectify that omission on my part. The second track, TimeTable, is new to me but what a fine song it is, very clever, it’s about Knights of old and it’s a real corker, as is Get ‘Em Out By Friday, a song about social housing and unscrupulous landlords and their tactics. Recorded in 1972, this song still sounds true today, as do the issues it speaks of. Genesis were ahead of their time and spoke about issues that concerned them, they had a good sense of the absurdities of life.
Can-Utility and the Coastliners follows, outlining the tale of King Canute and his attempts to stop the waves. Interestingly Knutsford in Cheshire tells a similar story as Canute gave his name to the town and its river crossing, although his name was anglicised to Knutsford rather than Canute’s Ford. We are then treated to a long-time Hackett favourite, Horizons, which sees Steve switching to a rather expensive and exquisite classical guitar for a flamenco influenced rethought of this short instrumental.
Then it’s the main highlight for many, Suppers Ready ,a six part suite of songs that have been highly regarded for many years. The song has a multitude of themes including social security, narcissism and words from the book of revelation in the bible. Performed tonight, it is an utter triumph and, again, it starts to make sense to me at last.
This ends the main show but we get two more songs as an encore, the always fabulous favourite Firth Of Fifth, and this features Steve’s brother John, who plays the flute soloing place of Rob Townsend, and excellent he is too. Roger King’s epic piano lines are superb, as is that fabulous guitar solo from Steve, although he does fluff the last note and looks crestfallen for doing so, although, to be fair no one minded. The final track is a medley of Myopia/Slogans/ Los Endos which sends everyone home happy and satisfied with a very special evening of great music in a truly unique setting. Personally, I await the already planned document of this tour that will probably emerge next year at some stage.
Genesis’ fourth studio album, ‘Foxtrot’, was released in 1972, five years before I was born, so you’ll forgive me if I missed it first time around! Since my foray into the world of music reviewing has led me down the progressive rock route from when I started in 2013, it was inevitable that I would eventually seek out early Genesis material.
I have delved into everything from ‘Trespass’ right up to ‘Abacab’ and everything in between and now have a definite soft spot for the earlier stuff like ‘Nursery Cryme’ and ‘Selling England By The Pound’ but it’s only recently that I discovered what an absolute classic ‘Foxtrot’ is.
Steve Hackett was the guitar player on ‘Foxtrot’ and five other studio albums, plus numerous live releases, before leaving the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career. His rewarding solo career has spawned many great albums but, in recent years, he has returned to the Genesis material he helped to create with a number of very successful live tours and recordings.
Steve has stepped up the Genesis Revisited idea with playing a classic Genesis album in its entirety and the latest record to get this nostalgic treatment is, yes you guessed it, ‘Foxtrot’ and I was invited to review Steve Hackett’s latest tour when he stopped off in York to play at the Barbican.
The concert was split into two parts with the first set being some choice selections from Steve’s stellar solo career.
The band came on stage to a very warm welcome and Steve has a great rapport with the crowd, they launched into an excellent version of Ace Of Wands from Steve’s debut solo release ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’ which, for someone new to his solo material, was a real eye opener and a great starting point. Steve is a virtuoso guitarist and is fascinating to watch. He has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians around and to experience it felt like a privilege, even a short lighting malfunction only seemed to release any tension and provide an amusing moment between Steve and the crowd. Steve’s long time vocalist Nad Sylvan joined the band for a dark and determined version of TheDevil’sCathedral from Steve’s latest solo release ‘Surrender Of Silence’, quite a brooding track that maybe seemed slightly out of place in the set list but was delivered perfectly nonetheless.
Next was a simply stunning version of perhaps his best known solo work (even I’d heard this one before!) Spectral Mornings, it was filled with so much passion and his guitar just bled emotion, something I just need to experience again, it was almost like an epiphany! The uplifting, joyous Every Day came next and saw this incredibly tight band deliver with a wonderfully inspiring version, keyboard player, and main orchestrator, Roger King was in fine form and is there a finer player behind the drum kit than Craig Blundell? add in the king of cool Jonas Reingold on bass and the hyperactive, energetic and just plain brilliant RobTownsend on sax, clarinet, flute and keys and you really have musical eminence personified.
A monstrous version of A Tower Struck Down (another from ‘Voyage Of TheAcolyte’) sent a bolt of electricity through the audience and this song came with one of the funkiest bass solo’s ever to close it out, Jonas and Steve exchanging smiles and knowing looks. Camino Royale was next and was a highly intensive jam before the first set came to a satisfying close with a tightly played Shadow Of The Hierophant although, due to the absence of Amanda Lehman, it was the closing section only.
So, onto the main event and what the majority of the audience had come to hear, ‘Foxtrot’ and this was obvious from the huge roar that erupted on the first opening notes of Watcher Of The Skies! This band have obviously played together a few times and are a few gigs into the current tour and you could tell as they were in perfect synchronisation and feeding off each other’s energy and bonhomie. The knowing looks, smiles and laughter were a real joy to see and really added to the fantastic atmosphere that the gig had already engendered. The superb version of Watcher… became a grand, piano led Time Table, which was played to a rapt audience who were totally engrossed in the music. Craig Blundell is a power house behind the drum kit but he has real finesse and nuance as well and really showed it here. The uproarious Get ‘Em Out By Friday is a proper 70’s prog jam and it was on this track that I began to realise what a great voice for this material that Nad Sylvan has, I’d listened to the original in the car on the way over and his vocal delivery and inflections were superb and I loved his spoken parts too. Also on the top of his game was Rob Townsend, his flute work here was a particular highlight but he is accomplished no matter what instrument he is playing, and he never stands still! This involving and convoluted piece of music was one of many highlights from the night.
Can-Utility And The Coastliners is a song that has that feel of Old-English progressive rock to it and was played flawlessly on the night. I was watching Craig’s drumming throughout the track and he was in perfect unison with his rhythm section partner in crime Jonas. Roger King is the opposite of flamboyant behind his keyboards but he lets his playing do his talking and he really shone all night but especially on this track. To be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off any of the band as they were utterly flawless. Steve then got himself a stool and an acoustic guitar and delivered a beautiful version of Horizons with a wonderfully fluid flamenco opening, as my friend Jim, who I went with, said, “It’s real showcase guitar playing…”.
And so to the main course and what I had especially been waiting to hear, Genesis’ most loved epic track Supper’s Ready. From the first gentle acoustic guitar notes it was utterly magical and totally blew me away. Nad’s vocal was perfect, the musicians were on another planet and it’s (well) over twenty minute running time just flew by. Jonas was amazing, duelling guitars with Steve at one minute and then swapping over to deliver his perfect bass lines. I took a moment to look around the venue and everybody was just spellbound and captivated by the show that was being put on in front of them. This isn’t just music, it is an actual experience and one that will live with you for along time, the epic guitar solo at the end nearly tipped me over the edge and I admit I had a tear in my eye as the song came to a close and everyone stood up in unison to applaud, whistle and just show their appreciation in a way they felt appropriate.
Encore? Of course there was an encore and one that opened with a spine tingling version of another Genesis classic Firth Of Fifth. This is a particular favourite of mine and I was totally absorbed in it, it was just bewitching. We then got a melody of Myopia/Slogans and a particularly fine Los Endos to bring things to a resounding close and an ovation that seemed to go on forever!
This wasn’t just a live concert, this was a life-affirming musical experience and one that has leaped into my top five gigs of all time, check out the remaining tour dates on the poster below and get yourself a ticket, you can thank me after (and you will, oh yes, you will!).
No Dakota’s debut LP ‘New Bronze Age’ is, essentially a post-rock ‘concept album’, musing on the nature of AI and human identity, it takes us on an imagined journey through time as Talos, the original automaton, mutates and reinvents. Drawing from diverse sources – the Colossus of Rhodes, ‘Hel’, the robot in Metropolis, and eventually in to the future android world of Blade Runner and Ex Machina – the album draws on both instrumental and elliptical lyrical narratives. Dark, cerebral, cinematic, immersive and surprising.
The project was conceived during lockdown 2020 by soundtrack composer noh1 / George Taylor (fratelli brothers, Dutch Head, The Ting Tings) and drummer / multi-instrumentalist Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, Adrian Utley, Alain Bashung) with guitarist Jez Coad (producer Simple Minds, Lost Boy, Surfing Brides) and guest appearances from Vienna’s Mira Lu Kovacs (Schmieds Puls 5K HD) and Berlin-based thereminist and vocalist Dorit Chrysler (Trentmoller).
If you like your music with more than little mystery and so far from the mainstream that it could be in another dimension then this release is really going to appeal to you. If you follow this music blog then you know the vast majority of the music I like and write about is progressive rock and folk with some hard rock thrown in just for the hell of it. However I really like music that is intriguing and asks questions of the listener and, while not melodic in the traditional sense, the notes all go together in a designated order to deliver something that you can really enjoy. ‘New Bronze Age’ fits that brief perfectly, it’s absorbing, beguiling and very, very puzzling in equal measure.
Opener Anima is electronic, pulsating and thought provoking in equal measure with more than a hint of Krautrock, mixed with a large dose of cinematic ambience. Cima brings some stylish EDM into the mix with a drumbeat straight from the canon of Prodigy (if not quite as mad!). It’s a real uplifting, high energy track with a subtle sci-fi vibe that gives it a really cool feel. The enigmatic shoe gaze/trip hop of Hel is so hip it hurts, the laid back, mellow vocals are perfectly judged and the whole song is as wistful and chilled as they come. Ichor has the feel of 60’s experimental psychedelia where you could literally get away with anything you tried and call it music and people would believe you. It’s creepy as hell, in a darkly delicious kind of way and really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
Title track New Bronze Age is hyperactive and on edge, like a Cardiacs track that’s been given a huge dose of paranoia and psychedelia and, you know what, it’s utterly addictive and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the energetic staccato guitar or the hypnotic beat? whatever, you just have to listen to this song! Poseidon is just a captivating piece of music, a sparse, mournful piano plays over an irregular beat while a haunting note repeats in the background. It’s like a modern, cinematic composition, almost classical in feel and has layers of comprehension that are gently peeled away. Re-Turn/Suspension Bridge is the big track on the album, over nine minutes of cleverly constructed music that builds with every note into something darkly primeval and daunting. The diversity of musical styles on show is breathtaking as this brilliant collective take us on a musical journey of majestic proportions that leaves you feeling subdued, as if in the presence of a greater being. The album closes with the pulsing, experimental wanderings of The Letter Z, a profound, echoing end to what has been an intense listening experience.
Music like ‘New Bronze Age’ teaches us to take the musical road less travelled, to stretch our mental boundaries and challenge what is said to be conventional. It is not an easy listening experience in places but it is a very rewarding album that gives a lot more than it takes. No Dakota write music that makes you think and music that is ultimately enjoyable, you just have to make the effort and, in my opinion, you really should!
Derek Sherinian is very much a keyboard player of the new millennium. Born in California in Laguna Beach in 1966, he has worked with many of the world’s finest progressive and metal groups, either as a member or a touring musician. His latest venture being with the progressive metal super group Sons Of Apollo, where, alongside Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal and Jeff Scott Soto, they offer a very sophisticated and earnest progressive metal sound.
Alongside this activity Derek is also a solo artist has produced no less than nine solo albums of which this one, ‘Vortex’, is the latest. Unusually, he likes to play off against some of rock’s finest guitarists as he enjoys the challenge this offers, plus he is a big fan of guitars and their exponents!
This means that his albums have featured many of rocks finest six string heroes, including Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai and Joe Bonamassa, amongst others. This album continues that tradition with the prowess of Zakk Wylde and Joe Bonamassa appearing once more, along with Steve Lukather of Toto, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme and the legendary Michael Schenker, the album also features RonBumblefoot Thal and noted jazz guitarist Mike Stern. Also present are TonyFranklin on bass and Simon Phillips, who not only provides the drums but also produced the album with Derek.
So we have a stellar line of talent, but is it any good you ask?
Well the answer is a resounding yes! It’s a very fine album with lots of exciting solos and performances, the only downside for me is that, good as these players are, the lack of vocals means this can be seen as very high class muzak at times as it is an intense listen and not something that you can play in the background really. It requires active listening to really get the most out of it all, well, in my opinion anyway!
The album opens with the strong track The Vortexwhich has Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame providing some fiery guitar tones and lines. Derek’s music is often jazz/fusion in style and tone, as he feels that it allows him freedom to express himself. Opening with a torrent of synthesisers and some hard hitting drumming, this is a ferocious, attacking number with a strong melody that allows the guitar to break through at points, especially for the solo. It’s all very rhythmically driven and is a good opener really, but it does set the stall for much that follows. While there is little doubt of the quality of the musicianship, for this listener, it really does call for some vocals that could enhance what is already on offer and allow the solos to be as appraiser rather than a continuous cycle. Fire Horse follows and features NunoBettancourt (Extreme) who shreds freely over the track but, again, while his playing is fluid and impressive, I feel it is all showmanship without a ‘proper’ song to support it. To me, you could say it feels a little empty, all very worthy but really needs to be in support of, rather than being, the main attraction.
Third track The Scorpion fares better featuring Derek’s very Keith Emerson like piano to fine effect, along with some fabulous bass work from Ric Fierabracci, who plays some great fretted and fretless bass lines. Also noteworthy is the track SevenSeas with Steve Stevens again and also, who provides sterling bass work. This is a real monster with great playing and very fluid guitar lines from Stevens, who again proves himself to be a formidable player who can shred with the best of them, a really impressive track.
Key Lime Blues features both Joe Bonamassa and Steve Lukather trading licks in a really funky sounding number similar to Bonamassa’s Rock Candy Funk Party sound and excursions of previous years. Again, this is a launching pad for wild solos from all concerned but it sure does sound good. There is also a superborgan part from Sherinian which adds to the track significantly. Die Cobra features the unusual combination of Zakk Wylde and Michael Schenker playing and trading guitar riffs, lines and fills. It is quite a thunderous track with an aggressive sound before slowing to a more melodious section where you hear some typical Schenker tones and sequences that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early MSG album. The track then reverts back to the harder edge initial sound. These two work well together which, when you consider it was all done remotely, is very impressive sounding indeed! It also has a touch of the middle east to it, not unlike Gates of Babylon by Rainbow, a really strong track all together.
Nomad’s Landis very straight ahead jazz/fusion with noted jazz guitarist Mike Stern shredding his licks all across the track. Again, Derek plays organ very strongly and it sounds like a jazz take of Jon Lord! It’s really strong stuff with a fluid solo from Mike and more organ fills from Derek, this one is another that really impresses, even without vocals. The last track Aurora Australis is also the longest at over eleven minutes and features his Sons of Apollo bandmate Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal. The piece opens with lots of synthesisers and a steady Simon Phillips‘ drumbeat before more Hammond Organ from Derek. All hell then breaks loose with more wild keyboards and a solo synth line from Derek, all whilethe track is gathering speed and pace for a guitar and keyboard battle between Derek and Ron. This has real urgency to it and sounds utterly amazing, musicians at the top of their game reaching for new heights and actually reaching them too.
All in all it’s a great album, you can feel the chemistry that Derek Sherinian has with all the guests and it’s great to hear and experience in this way. I still think vocals would raise the album to even greater heights but, then again, that’s just my opinion! It’s still a very good album that’s well worth listening to.
“Time crawls when we are very young; the older we grow, the more it hastens. If you’re living out a normal span of years, you know this to be true. “Where did the years go,” remarks the elder for whom the long night draws near. “It seems like just yesterday…”
“But what of the man who lives beyond his years, who finds he cannot die? Does time fly by at ever accelerating speeds? I am asked this often, for I have passed my thousandth year upon the wretched earth, most of it wandering cursed Andorath for a dream I once cherished but lost.“
‘At The Gate’, is the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy. This new album follows ‘Dreaming City’ (2020) and ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’ (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’ to its conclusion.
Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader SteveBabb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) both contribute, as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.
Steve Babb says, “For those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums.“
For those fans of fantasy literature, like myself, this new Sword & Sorcery storyline that began with 2020’s ‘Dreaming City’, and the excellent music that accompanied it has really hit the mark and has seen Glass Hammer reach new heights and become even more popular and venerated than before.
I have always been very lucky in that I get to hear the albums before most people and every time I am even more impressed with the creativity and musicianship that these US prog rock titans deliver. Well, to quote Michael Caine, with ‘At The Gate’ they’ve only gone and blown the bloody doors off!
“Lonely years roll by, Leaves me wondering, Don’t ask me why…”
The final part of the Skallagrim trilogy is wide screen music at its most impressive, opener, the ballad The Years Roll By, does see a return to the band’s earlier, classic progressive rock, style but beefed up with added layers of sophistication and skill. It immediately puts a smile on my face as soon as I hear the ever so stylish organ intro and Hannah Pryor’s voice is just magical. To hear Steve channelling his inner ChrisSquire again is just a joy to these ears too and the guitar sound is just utterly compelling, giving the track a wonderfully symphonic style.
“There is a road, Hidden well but search, You may find it, There is a gate at the end, And only time can unlock it…”
Savage is just that, a slow burning, ominous opening is blown apart by a huge riff and Hannah’s voice takes on a darkly delicious tone. The symphonic moves aside for pure hard rock with a Led Zeppelin edge, the intricate guitar and keyboard parts are so precise that they make me smile and Aaron Raulston shows he’s lost none of his skill behind the drum kit. The musicianship on display is just dazzling but it’s that hard-edged, fuzzy riff that gets me every time, what a superb track this is!
“Lirazel! I found her name in a song, the melody of which cured me of all forgetfulness. Lirazel! They took you from me and hid you away, but the memory of love will not—cannot die.”
let’s go all 80’s and electronic shall we? North Of North is a really chilled and laid back instrumental that has a feel of Tangerine Dream to its wistful synthesised notes and I am a total sucker for a bit of old school electronica. You feel yourself getting lost in its pulsing rhythm before Fred lets loose with some super stylised keyboard licks, backed by some vibrant guitar and drums. This track is as uber-cool as they come.
“There’s gonna be hell to pay, When all is said and done, So many years have come and gone, And now I’m left with none…”
Prepare for a monumentally heavy aural assault as the blues-rock intro of All Alone makes way for the heaviest riff on the album, what an absolute beast of a song. Imagine King’s X and Metallica getting together for an anything goes jam and you won’t be far wrong, this track absolutely rocks and rocks hard. You can just imagine the band having the time of their life on this and it would be an absolute monster live, Hannah’s vocals once again giving substance to the down and dirty music. Creativity and songwriting prowess are both at an absolute zenith on this album!
“You know where to find her, You know where to start, But only fools would go down, To the mountains heart…”
That ever so stylish hard rock feel continues with the funky grooves of All For Love, another edgy riff and some crunching bass lines from Steve adding some shadowy grunge to proceedings. The distorted guitar solo is a clever addition, as is Fred’s excellent, Deep Purple inspired, keyboard blast. It’s a hell for leather rollercoaster ride of immense proportions.
“I kinda thought this would be done soon, But I was born beneath a black moon…”
Snowblind Girl powers into focus on another thundering riff, the lengthy opening grabbing your attention before Hannah’s vocal begins, strident and demanding. There’s more a feel of symphonic metal to this song but it’s still bombastic and mightily heavy. Another verdant solo brings a smile to my face once again as these consummate musicians deliver yet another memorable track, the instrumental interplay is just jaw-droppingly good!
“Zagzagel, Here, the sorcerous city is buried now, Beneath a frozen lake For the king did justly curse it…”
Discordant and chaotic, the jarring opening to Standing At The Gate(Of Zagzagel) instantly grabs your attention, the crashing guitar chords and keyboards almost fighting each other for supremacy. Hannah’s authoritarian vocal delivers each line in a clipped manner before things calm down a bit for the memorable chorus,
“He’s standing at the gate, He’s pounding at the gate, Of dread, and now it opens.”
The guitar solo that follows is one of the best, flowing beautifully and full of passion and emotion in every single note and the song closes out with Hannah’s voice repeating the chorus as it fades into the background.
“There’s no life without you, There’s no life, If I walk this life alone, If I never find a home…”
In The Shadows sees the start of the final chapter in the album and the story and is also a complete sea change from the bombast and heaviness of most of what has gone before. It is an utterly captivating, ethereal track led by a gentle piano and Hannah’s haunting, sublime vocal. A wistful, melancholic song that bleeds sentiment through every note, the contemplative, almost mournful, music really gets you in your very soul and leaves you with a feeling of regret. The extended instrumental section is genius, utterly captivating and brings time to a standstill as it holds you in its thrall.
“Forgotten joy, the feel of sunshine, touch of summer sun, Don’t you know, my love…”
The album closes with the uplifting joy and charm of It’s Love, a fantastically inspirational song that sees Glass Hammer returning, once again, to the symphonic, orchestral prog for which they were well know. It is a perfectly constructed track, almost Queen-like (just check out that guitar!), that brings this mighty tale to a wonderful close.
Melodic, symphonic and, at times, monumentally heavy, ‘At The Gate’ is a superb, majestic leviathan of an album that enhances the band’s legacy as masters of the genre. This final instalment in the impressive trilogy brings things to a triumphant and proudly pompous conclusion, this is Glass Hammer at their finest, hugely expressive and sonically brilliant.
UK Prog-rock wizards, Gandalf’s Fist, have today announced details of their 8thfull-length album, Widdershins, and have begun pre-orders on the title. The release marks their first full album following the hugely acclaimed 5-disc Clockwork Saga and is again a conceptual work, this time a collection of individually crafted songs, exploring the superstitious nature of human existence.
Gandalf’s Fist front man/guitarist, Dean Marsh, commented:
“We’re immensely proud of this album! It contains all the elements that make this band unique along with a fantastic collection of killer riffs, our best vocals yet and the longest song we’ve ever recorded! We really think this album captures the tone and feel of those ‘epic’ albums of the 70’s and 80’s and certainly allows fans, both old and new, to see this band firing on all cylinders!”
The album, which can be pre-ordered at www.gandalfsfist.com/widdershins is available at a special discounted rate on digipak, as part of Limited T-Shirt bundles and a special deluxe collectors’ box during this pre-order phase.
Just when Karisma Records were about to release Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist Bjørn Riis‘ fourth solo album, ‘Everything to Everyone’, he approached them with an idea for a new mini album. With ‘A Fleeting Glimpse’, BjørnRiis has let his inspiration from Pink Floyd really come forth.
In addition to Bjørn Riis on vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards, the album features Arild Brøter (Pymlico), Øyvind Brøter (Pymlico), Per Øydir, Durga McBroom and Mimmi Tamba.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I am a huge fan of Bjørn Riis and he has never hidden the fact that his biggest influence has been Pink Floyd so a new mini album where that influence is free to run wild is definitely going to be up my street and, after declaring ‘Everything to Everyone’ to be his best solo release yet, my appetite was well and truly whet!
I’ll just put this out there, this mini album is absolutely marvellous but too short! Four songs that are of this high a quality is just not enough! Joking apart, let’s dig a bit deeper…
Dark Shadows (part 1) is reflective and melancholy and features the amazing vocal talent of long time Pink Floyd collaborator from the 80’s and 90’s, Durga McBroom, who adds her undoubted class alongside Bjørn’s voice. There’s a hazy feel to the music and Durga’s beautiful voice just adds to the thoughtful, mournful air. The track has a proper feel of 80’s Floyd to it, the stadium filling mega-band with an arena filling sound and Bjørn’s soulful, sultry guitar just adds sheer class. Instrumental, A Voyage To The Sun, has a real feel of early, ‘Astronomy Domine’, Floyd to it, all moody and experimental, with spooky synthesisers and an ominous overtone. It’s actually deliciously dark and creepy and the guitar almost adds some menace to proceedings with its angular, almost harsh, tone, calling forth thoughts of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun to this mind. I’m loving its brash, in your face attitude that’s interspersed with more reflective and mysterious moments, clever stuff!
The music of Summer Meadows invokes just that, hazy summer days, meandering streams, fields of flowers and a wonderfully peaceful feeling. There’s an innocence and beauty right at its core that just lights up your soul and takes the weight of the world of your shoulders, a simply stunning piece of music and I love it. The final track on this mini album is Dark Shadows (part 2) and a return to the reflections of the opening song. There’s a slightly ominous undertone to the opening, a cryptic and enigmatic quality to the music and vocals, as if waiting for something momentous to happen. Bjørn’s jagged, coruscating guitar then cuts through the atmosphere with a gloriously sparse and simple note, a cry out to the dark from the shadows, it’s eerily brilliant in its execution and then Durga’s plaintive vocal joins in to the close out the song in true Floyd style.
Bjørn once again hits the heights with superb, emotive, wistful and nostalgic music that just hits you right in the feels. There isn’t a guitarist alive who plays with so much expression, his guitar seems to have a life, and voice, of its own and is instantly recognisable and makes this release, mini album or not, one of the best of the year so far.
“Fear not. For fear itself is fed by fear, and all fears pass. Did no-one tell you so? Come take my hand, my friend, and we will peer into this fear’s abyss. And jump! And know.”
Genres are often a contentious point when it comes to music and some artists can get pigeon-holed in one genre when they often blur the boundaries between quite a few. Take The Round Window, I was contacted by founder member and vocalist Rich Lock with regard to a review of the band’s self-titled debut release and expected something with progressive rock leanings to hit my inbox but, low and behold, there is more of a classic rock edge to their glorious sound but they definitely do have a touch of progressiveness to their music as well. The band actually call their sound ‘widescreen rock’ as it straddles genres and defies easy classification.
I’ll tell you one thing, what I heard definitely made me want to investigate further…
The Round Window was formed in 2018, originally as a duo with Rich and ThomasLock sharing vocals, guitars, and keyboards. Jack Lock joined on drums on 2020 and the line up was completed with David Brazington on guitar and Dietmar Schantin on bass. The album has been produced by Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) with artwork by Paul Tippett (Frost*/ Black Star Riders).
The completion of the line up has allowed the band to make a deeper exploration of layers and textures on the eight songs on the album and to deliver a polished and very mature record that belies the fact it is their first one. Opening instrumental track The Window is like a prequel to the main story with its moody piano, textures from the guitar and keyboards and portentous drums and sets you up for the main event perfectly. Take My Hand is the first of two singles released from the album and is a quality rocking track with a catchy chorus. The rhythm section power along in perfect unison and Rich’s vocals, well harmonised, add a huge dollop of cool. Add in the uber-stylish guitar of David Brazington and you have one excellent piece of music. Among The Clouds is the second single from the album and has a more serious feel to it, an urgent riff and vocal get you on the edge of the seat and give a real sense of occasion to the song along with a touch of 90’s indie rock in places. The swirling keyboards are a particularly nice touch, it’s a real up-tempo track that has loads of mood swings and one seriously good guitar solo!
There’s a solemn tone to the opening of Victory, a very serious and dignified piece of music that gets under your skin. Rich’s reflective vocal is intense and leaves a wistful and melancholy aura above everything. The guitar, drums and bass then join in and add a contemplative and nostalgic atmosphere. Dave’s fiery, plaintive solo is a work of genius and actually left a lump in my throat and the beautiful flute of Angela Gordon almost tipped me over the edge with its amazing sentimentality, what a wonderful song! We are then treated to a slow, brooding masterpiece of music in the shape of Out Of Time, seven minutes of near perfect blues rock with a prog edge that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Rich’s soulful vocal, Jack’s measured drumming and Dietmar’s smooth bass are building blocks on what is a masterfully created piece of music but the icing on the musical cake is the burning, fiery and passionate guitar and ardent keyboards, what an absolute gem!
Nobody Home sees a return to the elegant, flowing rock of the two single releases, a well written and tightly performed song that needs no extravagance, just a really good piece of music with a really polished keyboard solo. Ethereal, exquisite and just utterly sublime, Avalon keeps the high quality songwriting coming. Gorgeous vocals and graceful music add up to deliver a dignified, simple piece of music with a feel of wonder at its core, simply beautiful. The final, and longest, track on the album is, perhaps, the most progressive. Another Chance builds slowly on Rich’s vocals and a halting piano line, backed by ghostly keyboards, before a guitar note, calming at first but then more urgent, segues in. The guitar then opens up with a heartfelt tone, sentimental and eloquent before Rich’s vocal returns and the song begins to flow quicker and with more urgency before, finally, the release valve is opened and off we go to a final triumphant conclusion.
A high quality release with wonderfully emotive songs and superb musicianship, this self-titled album may be The Round Window’s debut release but it shows a group of musicians who are already playing at a very high level and have creativity to burn. I can’t recommend it highly enough, this should be in everyone’s music collection…
Frost* are set to hit the road in the UK later this year, for their much anticipated live-return. The band will be celebrating the release of their 2021 album ‘Day And Age’, and in advance of these tour they have launched a brand new video for the track ‘Skywards’. Watch it now here:
Jem Godfrey comments: “It will have been 5 years and 3 days since we last played in the UK when we go onstage in Wolverhampton on November 27th so we figured we’d do something special. To that end Craig Blundell has re-joined the band and we’ll be playing Milliontown, Black Light Machine, Hyperventilate and a few other classics from the repertoire to celebrate alongside a good chunk of the new album. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Frost* returned in 2021 with ‘Day And Age’, the band’s fourth record and first new studio album in five years. It features Jem Godfrey joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.
‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The album is available on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album. Order now here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/DayAndAge
Frost* was formed in 2004 by keyboard player and singer Jem Godfrey, Released in 2006 the band’s debut album “Milliontown” was an instant success and is regarded by many as a classic in the modern prog rock genre featuring John Mitchell on guitar, John Jowitt on bass and Andy Edwards on drums. The band quickly followed it up with “Experiments In Mass Appeal” in 2008, in many ways the antithesis of “Milliontown” featuring a much more stripped back sound, more concise songs and a new band member and singer in the form of Dec Burke.
The live album “The Philadelphia Experiment” followed in 2009 and the a long gap followed before 3rd album “Falling Satellites” was released in 2016 with a new line-up of Nathan King on bass and Craig Blundell on drums, plus returning guitarist and singer John Mitchell on guitar who also co-wrote much of the album with Jem Godfrey.