Review – Transatlantic – ‘The Final Flight: Live at L’Olympia’ – by John Wenlock Smith

This live album is a bit of a question mark in that it may be the final musical statement that the band make. Transatlantic feel that they may have reached the end of their own particular road and they also all have their own musical outlets and outputs to return to. The band has been in existence for over 24 years now so they owe us nothing really, do they?

This new live cut is taken from the final show of the short European tour taken in support of ‘The Absolute Universe’ album issued in 2021. This album offers another version of that album along with a synopsis of ‘The Whirlwind’, ‘We All Need Some Light’ and a final medley which all together gives a healthy running time of over three hours. For some this may be too much but folk who, like me, love overblown and extended works such as Transatlantic deliver, this is sheer heaven. Hopefully this won’t be their last ever effort but only time will tell on that, if it is then this is a very dignified manner in which to bow out.

The album is long so you’ll need to settle down and simply enjoy and appreciate the sheer quality and talent of these four musicians and of Ted Leonard whose vocals and guitar help complete a very fine sounding set of performances.

The album opens with The Absolute Universe intro that sets the scene for what is to come. Eerie keyboards, haunting guitar lines and a blast of symphonic sounds lead into the Overture proper, this has everyone really pushing the sound with over the top drums, bass and keyboard’s all surging like a tsunami, battering everything in their way. This is so gloriously overblown that it’s just sheer exhilaration and you know this will only get even more so on its journey, simply astonishing to hear this level of intensity and intent. This overture really lets everyone shine in their own parts but, taken together, is all the more amazing to behold. Yet, in all this, there is so much melody on offer, it’s gorgeous and  sumptuous fare indeed. The excellent guitar of Roine Stolt carries the piece to a glorious conclusion in tandem with Neal Morse’s keyboards, leading to the first real song, the symphonic Reaching For The Sky. This is an exuberant track and you can hear how happy the band are to be there, performing this album in this extended version, you can really hear this coming over strongly.

Higher Than The Morning sees Roine Stolt on vocals, although helped by all in the chorus, to good effect too! This is a blistering performance which really captures something special. This album may be long but if you like symphonic prog you will find so much to enjoy and savour herein. Sadly Paul Hanlon, one of their biggest fans is no longer with us to enjoy this and he would truly have loved this. The Darkness In The Light has another vocal from Roine, this one powers along nicely too with strong bass from Pete Trewavas and the never less than solid drums of Mike Portnoy pushing the track forward, a brief bass solo from Pete captures the moment as does a fiery guitar part from Roine. This is proving to be an excellent recording of what must have been a really magnificent evening of music. Take Now My Soul slows things down a little, they probably needed to as the opening salvo of songs couldn’t be maintained without injury surely! This more laid back track cools everyone down well this is followed by the shorter track Bully. This is only brief and leads to Rainbow Sky which has an element of the Beatles to it. It is a very fine song and has great performances throughout

This is only the first disc and already I’m sold on it, so much so that I’ve ordered the CD and Blu-Ray for myself, yes it really is that impressive! Looking For The Light continues the winning streak with growling bass from Pete and great music from all parties with a particularly great guitar line from Roine. We are then offered the lengthy epic The World We Used To Know which is the last track on disc one and yes, it’S rather good! It begins with thunderous drums from Mike Portnoy and some fine guitar from Roine but really Mike is all over this one, driving the track as only he can, he is an absolute powerhouse and his presence is definitely felt here. There follows another great guitar line that carries the song further along, it’s great to hear such beautiful melodies in this music, sheer bliss for symphonic prog nerds like me. Everything is so well orchestrated here, there is real depth and gravitas and it’s wonderful to hear this expressed so eloquently by this group of extremely talented musicians who are working at the top of their game.

Disc 2 opens with an introduction from Mike in which he outlines the evening’s entertainment and he tells how they aren’t sure of what happens after this, also he reveals this this is the fourth version of ‘The Absolute Universe’. We continue with an accapella opening to The Sun Comes Up Today which coalesces into the actual song via a fluid guitar line from Roine and some great organ from Neil before a prelude of Love Made A Way. Next up is Owl Howl which is a medium length track and one which features an extended keyboard vamp from Neil, it’s all rather worthy though and once again shows why this ensemble can be rightly called a ‘super group’. Solitude opens with rippling piano lines along with an earnest, questioning vocal from Neil, also included is a snippet of Love Made A Way again to good effect. This is an assured performance from the band, mixing delicate melodies with thunderous and lively recitals of very strong material.

Belong follows, another great version with keen guitar from Roine. There’s fabulous ensemble playing in this track too. Lonesome Rebel has some sumptuous acoustic guitar and another Roine vocal, this is a gentler song and the change of intensity works to their favour here, you cant go at it hammer and tongs for three hours, that’s not right or fair really and this measured approach is especially rewarding. Can You Feel It ups the energy level a little bit, again most effectively and includes lots of opportunities for solos from Neil and Pete. A reprise of Looking For The Light is an epic shorter track but one which really grabs the attention with its lumbering bass line over which hangs an angular organ sound and great harmonies. A commanding recital which leads into the rollicking romp of The Greatest Story Never Ends. This one is full of great keyboard textures and has lots of urgency as the band hurtle towards the finishing line which is presented with a great performance of Love Made A Way. The use of repeated motifs and refrains through the album helps cement the concept of the album and really works well here.

That concludes the album proper but the show isn’t over yet as the group continue for another hour by providing two amazing medleys, one of The Whirlwind and another called The FINAL Medley which includes Transatlantic classics such as Duel With The Devil, My New World, All Of The Above and Stranger In Your Soul. Also included is a beautiful version of We all Need Some Light, personally I’d like to have seen shine as a tribute to Paul who all the band knew very well but you can’t have it all. This selection of oldies works very well indeed and the medley of The Whirlwhind is especially enticing as a mammoth album is whittled down to a manageable duration without loosing its impact.

Overall this album is a resounding triumph for Transatlantic and one I would strongly urge you to consider as its an excellent package.

Released 17th February, 2023.

Order here:

Transatlantic – We All Need Some Light (Live in Paris 2022) (

Review – Heavy Metal Kids – The Albums 1974 to 1976 – by John Wenlock-Smith

The history of rock is strewn with endless tales of wild antics, excessive outrageous behaviours, substance & alcohol abuse and sheer unmitigated heartbreak and sadness. This was certainly the case with the Heavy Metal Kids who were a force while also being touted as the next big thing and the possible progression from the premier league of Pink Floyd, Yes and Led Zeppelin and the ilk to a rapidly changing musical scene, one with the emerging, inevitable and possibly much needed paradigm shift to a simpler, angrier and punk fuelled regime that shook the musical world significantly.

So it was into this maelstrom and vortex that Gary Holton and his crew set sail, emerging in 1973 and garnering the attentions of Dave Dee (yes, him of 60s pop idols Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich) after being spotted by his staff at a speakeasy in London’s West end. Holton having beenextricated from his previous group Biggles, who were a jazz rock outfit with connections to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, their drummer being Carl Palmer’s brother,

Holton was from Wembley and had been a member of the touring Hair ensemble and also has his sights on an acting career, he had been in theatre at the Old Vic and had done some Shakespeare along the way. Atlantic Records saw something in this lot and they were offered a contract with Dave Dee as producer, this resulted in their first two albums, ‘Heavy Metal Kids’ and ‘Anvil Chorus’.

Their name was, however, misleading as their music was not heavy metal at all but was in fact more a mixture of hard rock, glam and, unsurprisingly, vaudeville. This was a very different sound to what their name suggested, however the band live were certainly powerful and this is clearly shown on tracks like Rock ‘N’ Roll Man and It’s The Same, both of which have a definite swagger to  them. The album was critically acclaimed yet, as is often the case, this didn’t translate into record sales. The band set off on an ambitious touring schedule and were well received in America and Japan. The debut is a good album in parts and when they rock they do so convincingly with the added bonus of having a great keyboard player, Danny Peyronel, who’s honky tonk piano embellishments added much to the groups sound. That the album is largely overlooked and unknown by the masses is a tragedy as there is much to appreciate, the four bonus tracks here are being very good indeed.

For the second album, their name was shortened to The Kids , although there was a sticker that said ‘Featuring The Heavy Metal Kids’, the album is a little more consistent and is more rock oriented. You Got Me Rollin‘ is carried on a lumbering bass line that carries the song along wonderfully as does the following track On The Street, bass player Ronnie Thomas really shining on the tracks, indeed his prominent bass really impresses throughout. The songs are stronger and sound energised and inspired with great guitar fills and a solid rhythm section, all with the added colours of Danny’s keyboards to make a cohesive sound. This is sublime and worthy music, however, despite more US touring with the likes of Rush, Kiss and Alice Cooper, the album still failed to gain traction and had disappointing sales which led to them being dropped by Atlantic.

Help came from an unexpected quarter as Mickie Most of Hi Ho Silver Lining fame and teenyboppers Mud, Suzie Quatro and the RAK organisation offered to record their next album in France for his label. The resulting album appeared many months later in 1977 and again failed to really make an impact, even a Top of the Pops slot for She’s No Angel couldn’t save them and the band, despite touring with Uriah Heep on their high and mighty tour, had pretty much called it a day by 1978 when Holton quit for a short and ill feted solo career and also a more successful venture into TV & Film. A final gig at the Speakeasy with a difficult and unruly Holton brought things to a less than glittering close. The band decided to continue without Holton and went through a succession of singers, including a short return by Holton, and, thereafter, by the likes of Phil Lewis and John Altman.

Looking back to ‘Kitsch’ again, you can hear how new keyboard player John Sinclair changed the sound, making it more classical at times, and tighter than before. The album is more symphonic and more musical, this is certainly the case with the opening Overture and Chelsea Kids, in which the band marry punk aggression and rock sensibility to make an intriguing hybrid of styles. From Heaven To Hell And Back Again is another good track with the inclusion of other instruments to round out the sound further used to good effect, it really impacts well. Cry For Me has some superb guitar played to great effect along with tubular bells chiming.

The album was mixed and partly reconstructed by Mickie Most as his final statement and a kind of reaction to modern pop music, he wanted something grander and saw the Heavy Metal Kids as part of that statement and, to be honest it, it does have some very good moments and the 5 bonus tracks make interesting listening. All this is embellished with a very informative booklet that tells the whole story in fine detail. This set is really very good and an excellent reminder of the vagaries of life and that things that look good and sound good are sometimes beyond the ordinary person. Mass appeal music has its place but sometimes what is overlooked and undervalued can actually be of more worth and value.

Released 20th January, 2022.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Heavy Metal Kids: The Albums 1974-1976, 3CD Expanded Edition – Cherry Red Records

EINAR SOLBERG announces debut solo album ‘16’; launches first single ‘Grotto’

EINAR SOLBERG – frontman of Norwegian rock mavericks Leprous – is pleased to announce the release of his debut solo album ‘16’ on the 2nd June 2023 (InsideOutMusic). Wildly diverse, but spiritually rooted in Einar’s well-established musical world, ‘16’ is an album that brims with surprises and spinning curveballs and features a collection of intimate but extravagant collaborations. 

Today sees the release of ‘Grotto’, the first single to be taken from the album, a track written alongside Magnus Børmark, best known as a member of Norwegian alt-folk troupe Gåte. It also features Keli Guðjónsson (Agent Fresco) on drums, Tor Egil Kreken on bass, Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Leprous touring member) on cello & Chris Baum (Bent Knee) on violin. 

Watch the video here: 

‘16’ will be released on Ltd CD Digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP + LP-booklet & Digitally, and is now available to pre-order here:

Einar Solberg is as renowned for the tender honesty of his lyrics as he is for the eccentric majesty of Leprous’ music. But even by his usual standards, ‘16’ is an extremely emotional and dynamic piece of work. Einar describes the record as “the closest I’ve ever come to writing a concept album” and explains that the new songs are about a very specific and transformational period in the musician’s life. This is the sound of a restless spirit in his absolute element. 

“It’s called 16 because that’s when the first really, really bad things started happening to me in life. From 16 to 19, there were a lot of very life-defining moments that happened to me, and that changed me,” he says. “That’s when I kind of lost my innocence and I started realising that life is serious and bad shit can happen. A lot of pretty drastic things happened within those three years. But this album is not only about the bad things. It’s also about some of the career-defining moments, like the moment I started playing with the band and began to find a community to belong to. Emotionally, I’m a bit of everything, so it covers the entire emotional spectrum!”

’16’ finds Einar collaborating with everyone from modern prog contemporaries like Bent Knee’s Ben Levin and Agent Fresco’s Toti Gudnason, to experimental cellist (and regular Leprous live musician) Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Magnus Børmark, best known as a member of Norwegian alt-folk troupe Gåte. He also once again collaborates with Ihsahn and Star Of Ash amongst many others. The record was mixed by mixed by Adam Noble (Placebo, Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves) and mastered by Robin Schmidt (The 1975, Placebo, The Gaslight Anthem, etc.).

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.     16 (feat. Raphael Weinroth-Browne)

2.     Remember Me

3.     A Beautiful Life

4.     Where All The Twigs Broke (feat. Star Of Ash)

5.     Metacognitive (feat. Raphael Weinroth-Browne)

6.     Home (feat. Ben Levin)

7.     Blue Light (feat. Asger Mygind)

8.     Grotto (feat. Magnus Børmark)

9.     Splitting The Soul (feat. Ihsahn)

10.  Over The Top

11.  The Glass Is Empty (feat. Tóti Guðnason)

Einar will debut his solo material live with two exclusive shows at the Eindhoven & London editions of Prognosis Festival (15th & 22nd April respectively). You can find more details here:


Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra announce new album ‘Postcards From The Asylum’

New single “Heathens” out now

Album now available for Pre-Order

Writer, producer, raconteur, comedian, singer-songwriter, fashion icon and renown hand-model Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra has returned once again with Postcards From The Asylum,  the follow up to 2021’s critically acclaimed Songs For The Apocalypse

Check out the new single “Heathens” now on

The album is now available for pre-order from Bandcamp as a exclusive red double vinyl (limited to 250 copies) or as a CD (the first 250 copies will be signed):

The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra’s music has been described as Nordic Ambient Post-Classical Satanic Love Songs for Nomadic Peoples Living Above the Arctic Circle catering specifically for those who staff Musk Oxen Rescues and wear hemp based sweaters.When aggressively prodded for comment The Baron says…“Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.” 

Postcards From The Asylum features a guest appearances by:
•Andee Blacksugar: Blondie, KMFDM, Peter Murphy
•Marco Minnemann: The Aristocrats
•Todd  “Dammit” Kerns: Slash & The Conspirators, Toque
•Edu Cominato: Geoff Tate, Soto
•Ryo Okumoto: Spock’s Beard, Progject
and more
1. Bombay
2. Numb
3. Heathens
4. Mexico
5. Birds Of Prey
6. Flying Monkeys
7. Sic Riff
8. The Depths
9. Beneath The Waves
10. Sweet Eliza
11. 9981 Dark
12. Feels Just Like Love
13. Bear Sedatives
14. Deep Blue
15. Human Head

TRANSATLANTIC launch live video for ‘We All Need Some Light’; taken from ‘The Final Flight: Live at L’Olympia’

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – recently announced the release of a new concert set entitled ‘The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia’ for the 17th February 2023. It was recorded and filmed in France on the last stop of a tour to promote the band’s fifth and most audacious album to date, ‘The Absolute Universe’. This was the multinational group’s first outing in eight years. 

Today sees the launch of the live clip for ‘We All Need Some Light’, originally featured on the bands debut album. Watch it now here: 

Watch the band perform ‘Rose Colored Glasses’ here:

Watch the band performing ‘Owl Howl’, a highlight from ‘The Absolute Universe’ album, here:

Released in February 2021 to unanimous praise, ‘The Absolute Universe’ came in two alternate formats; an abridged 64-minute record known as ‘The Breath Of Life’, and a companion piece entitled ‘Forevermore’ that added a further four songs, clocking in at an hour and a half. Though the foundations of both were shared, each format featured lyrics and music independent of the other. 

However, when Transatlantic finally hit the road they opted to perform a third format of the album, a full-bells-and-whistles, 96-minute Blu-ray culmination of both takes known as ‘The Ultimate Edition’ that had been released in 5.1 surround sound. Following that segment of the show Transatlantic took a short intermission and returned to the stage for a rollercoaster trawl through the remainder of their lavish catalogue. From the first note of ‘Overture (The Absolute Universe)’ through to the medley based around the first two Transatlantic albums that closes the evening, the performance comprised 3 hours of music in total.

“Ever since the start of this band we have played for three hours, so that’s something we’re all used to,” states drummer Mike Portnoy, who grins whilst describing his own experience as “butt-numbing”. However, Roine Stolt is ready to admit that this time felt very slightly different. 

“It was a great tour,” acknowledges the guitarist and multi-musician, “but when you include our spot at Morsefest [where besides performing ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band also revisited their 2009 album ‘The Whirlwind’ and revised a cover of Procol Harum’s ‘In Held (’Twas) In I’ that had featured on their debut from 2000, ‘SMPTe’] I felt the challenge of learning, or re-learning, three-and-a-half hours of music before leaving Sweden. Now that I am getting slightly older, I was a little worried about playing for that long – it requires a lot of concentration: ‘Is this one in 7/8 or 9/8? Maybe we’ll play it in 13/8 and in a different key?’ But of course, once we got out there onto the stage, those thoughts went straight out of the window.”

With a chuckle, vocalist and keyboard wizard Neal Morse reveals that as the tour found its feet Transatlantic threw an additional curveball. “We started playing songs slightly differently to the way you’ve heard them on ‘The Ultimate Edition”, he grins. “So what you get with this live album is similar, but essentially it’s a fourth version [of the record]. When you play live, from night to night it helps to keep things fresh by jamming a bit and changing things up as you go. There are a few examples of that, for instance, the beginning of the last section that starts with ‘Belong’ is quite different than the record – partly because we couldn’t remember it! So we made up a new structure.”

“We’re always as well prepared as we can be but in a way Transatlantic is kind of a show band” points out bassist Pete Trewavas. “Playing alongside Mike who is a powerhouse on the drums, there is this raw power. If he wants to raise the energy that’s what we do. We’re all taking solos here and there, though we get the songs across we’re all showing off as much as we can”.

Filmed by Paul Green (who also shot their ‘Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London release), and mixed by longtime collaborator Rich Mouser, this set will be available as a Special Edition 3CD+Blu-ray Digipak (incl. 5.1 surround sound) & as a Gatefold 180g 4LP release. Both feature artwork by Thomas Ewerhard & photos by Nidhal Marzouk. Pre-order now here:


1. The Absolute Universe Intro

2. Overture

3. Reaching For The Sky

4. Higher Than The Morning

5. The Darkness In The Light

6. Take Now My Soul

7. Bully

8. Rainbow Sky

9. Looking For The Light

10. The World We Used To Know

11. MP Intro

12. The Sun Comes Up Today

13. Love Made A Way (Prelude)

14. Owl Howl

15. Solitude

16. Belong

17. Lonesome Rebel

18. Can You Feel It

19. Looking For The Light (Reprise)

20. The Greatest Story Never Ends

21. Love Made A Way

22. The Whirlwind Suite

23. NM & RS Intro

24. We All Need Some Light

25. The Final Medley

Line-Up (on this recording):

Neal Morse – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar & Vocals

Mike Portnoy – Drums & Vocals 

Roine Stolt – Guitar & Vocals 

Pete Trewavas – Bass & Vocals 


Ted Leonard – Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion & Vocals  

Amarok’s frontman Michal Wojtas unveils the first single from his upcoming album “Lore”!

The solo album by Michal Wojtas, frontman of the band Amarok, opens the door to the musical world created from remarkable sounds coming from both the heart and nature. “Lore” is inspired by Celtic, Old Slavic and Nordic motifs, so there will be no shortage of discreet, relaxing sounds, as well as slightly stronger electronics and ambient on this journey.

Wojtas himself describes working on the album as an extraordinary, passionate experience:

„Lore’s music was created for a performance by British choreographer James Wilton under the same title. I am grateful to him for the musical challenge, which allowed me to dive into an interesting aesthetic from the old days and combine it with new sounds. Working on the material was really enthralling for me. When composing music for a show, film, or games, you can never really know what direction it will take you. During the creation process, the various song themes I’ve sent to James influenced the different parts of the choreography.

I invite you to join me on a journey to a musical world filled with Celtic, Viking and Old Slavic sounds in a contemporary interpretation.”

“Lore” will be released on CD by OSKAR Records at the end of February 2023 containing 9 tracks representing a combination of folklore and electronica.

The CD is already available for preorder at Single „Lore on the streaming platforms: