Norwegian progressive rock group AVKRVST reveal details for debut album ‘The Approbation’

New video for the first single “The Pale Moon” out now.

Norwegian progressive rock group AVKRVST are pleased to reveal details on their debut album titled ‘The Approbation’, set to be released on the 16th June, 2023.  The album cover and tracklisting can be seen below.

The band are also pleased to share the new video for the album’s first single “The Pale Moon” which you can see here:

“The Pale Moon” is also available on all digital platforms here:

The band had this to say about the video: “The video for «The Pale Moon» is portraying a lonesome soul and his daily chores on a cabin far away from civilization – on his journey towards the end of life. All faith and hope is gone and the character is starting to lose his mind. Is he alone? Is there someone else present? Or is it just his mind playing games?”

The video was directed by AVKRVST and co-directed, shot and edited by Simen Skari.

The cover artwork for ‘The Approbation’ was created by Berlin-based artist and illustrator Eliran Kantor, who is well-known for his intriguing cover creations for metal bands.


1.Østerdalen 0:26

2.The Pale Moon 6:15

3.Isolation 5:41

4.The Great White River 6:30

5.Arcane Clouds 6:05

6.Anodyne 10:15

7.The Approbation 13:37

Earlier this year the band shared a teaser video of them working in the studio which you can see here:

At the young age of 7 years old, Martin Utby and Simon Bergseth made a pact that they would form a band when they got older. Now, 22 years later they’ve done just that. An album is ready – 55 minutes of music inspired by everything they grew up listening to – everything from Mew, Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree to Opeth, Neal Morse and King Crimson.

All the music has been written at a small cabin, deep into the Norwegian forests (Alvdal, Norway). Simon (composer, guitars, bass and vocals) and Martin (composer, drummer and synths) have later been joined by Øystein Aadland on bass/keys, Edvard Seim on guitars and Auver Gaaren on keys.


Steve Hackett – 90’s solo albums “Guitar Noir’ and Darktown’ to be released on vinyl for the very first time.

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett is pleased to announce that two of his 90’s solo records will be released on vinyl for the first time ever in 2023, marking the beginning of a series of vinyl reissues of his solo catalogue. On the 2nd June 2023, the 1993 album ‘Guitar Noir’ & the 1999 album ‘Darktown’ will be made available as Gatefold 180g 2LP’s, each newly remastered especially for the vinyl format. Pre-order now here:

Steve comments: “I’m thrilled that my two albums Guitar Noir and Darktown are being release on vinyl for the first time! My music took on a darker edge for both those albums, and I explored additional sounds and genres I hadn’t touched before.”

‘Guitar Noir’ (1993) saw Steve taking a darker approach to his guitar sound, and he was joined by Julian Colbeck (keys), Dave Ball (bass), Hugo Degenhardt (drums), Aron Friedman (keys), Nick Magnus (keys) & more for this record.

‘Darktown’ (1999) also saw Steve joined by Julian Colbeck (keys) & Hugo Degenhardt (drums), as well as Roger King (Keys, Bass, Drums), Jim Diamond (Vocals), John Hackett (Flute, Pan Pipes), Ian McDonald (Sax) & John Wetton (Bass Samples). This edition of the album also includes the 3 bonus tracks included on the 2013 CD reissue. 

Following the Wuppertal show with full orchestra, Steve Hackett and band will continue their Foxtrot at Fifty plus Hackett Highlights tour in Europe in April and North America in the autumn.

About Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren(2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesis including a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.

The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and Surrender of Silence.


Review – Single Helix – Prog Gnosis

In 2021 multi-instrumentalist Rik Loveridges Parkinson’s diagnosis led to him leaving The Kentish Spires. The only proper responses were a little cry and a new album. The album is drenched in the spirit of progressive rock but also explores other genres whilst remaining musically inventive (says Rik)!

He envisaged some stunning guitar and sax elements so enlisted the help of friends Nick Fletcher (John Hackett Band) and Chris Egan (The Kentish Spires and Nuadha). He also saw the need to work with talented audio engineers… cue Paul Cobbold (ex Rockfield) and David Pickering Pick (FFG studio) on mixing and mastering duties. Oh, and granddaughter Willow aged 1!

Something good shall arise from this dark time!

And something good has indeed been delivered with this immersive musical masterpiece. The opening three-part Trilogy suite is languid, relaxed, low key and beautiful and has hints of latter day David Gilmour solo work. Egan’s sax is quite beguiling throughout and Nick Fletcher shows his consummate skill and class with a quite lyrical display of guitar. It’s a testimony to Rik’s songwriting ability that it all blends seamlessly and his vocals add that requisite touch of calm sensibility. Instrumental Dark Matter is a wistful, dreamy piece that adds thoughtful reflection to the album. The wonderful organ that opens Nature’s Eyes imbues a sense of tranquility and harmony to this elegant ballad, a charming touch of nostalgia and this is carried through with spiralling keyboards to the understated grace of Silent Spring.

Death of Major Tom is a more serious feeling track with a melancholy underbelly and one that reinforces a feel of The Tangent to my ears, a theme that runs through the album due to its intelligent writing and sumptuous delivery. You can’t help but smile at the electronica tinged brilliance of West Coast Journeyman that goes perfectly with Nick Fletcher’s virtuoso guitar to deliver a superb instrumental, a highlight of what is proving to be a fantastic album. The inspiration just keeps flowing, With a Glance adds a funky, jazz infused feel to Rik’s Roger Waters edged vocals, Song For Jude with its Tears For Fears intro is an ode to Rik’s beloved wife and is uplifting and engaging and Tully Remembered is as jazzy as they come, Egan’s sax just oozing class and sophistication.

Queen’s Gambit brings us to the closing part of the album and is an outstanding piece of songwriting. An involving and compelling musical journey that entrances and mesmerises the listener throughout and probably my favourite song on the album. Perhaps the two-part Entropy could be called music for the intellectual, it certainly has a feel of 60’s prog from the days of black and white, it’s certainly quirky and idosyncratic but that just gives these two pieces a charm all of their own and one that definitely drew me in. The album closes out with the hypnotising ambient electronica of Teed’s Lullaby, three minutes of trance-inducing calmative music that resets your perceptions.

Sometimes great music just seems to seek me out and I was obviously sent this promo for a reason as the stars have aligned and delivered a wonderful collection of tracks that leave a warm feeling of nostalgia and hope washing over me. With his Single Helix project and this Prog Gnosis album, Rik Loveridge is baring his soul, both musically and personally and, not only is it a superb release, it is very brave of him to do so. I can highly recommend this completely uplifting album, you won’t regret it.

Released 12th February, 2023.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

Prog Gnosis | Rik Loveridge | Single Helix (

Review – Ascher – Beginnings

I love discovering new music, especially when it comes out of the blue. I had a review request in with regard to new US progressive rock group Ascher and I respected the opinion of the PR guy who had sent me the album so, as a favour, I listened to their debut release ‘Beginnings’ and the rest, as they say, is history…

The band features Doug Bowers (guitars, bass, keys, vocals), Blake Dickeson (rhythm guitars), Rob Perez (lead guitar) and Kyle Graves (lead vocals). Doug and Rob have been collaborating on one another’s projects for years. Toward the end of 2022, Bowers began collaborating with guitarist, Blake, fleshing out some musical ideas that he had developed over the years, Rob was brought in to add tasty lead guitar to the effort. Rob suggested a singer that he had recently encountered, Kyle was writing lyrics for an upcoming album for Rob and Rob felt he would be a perfect fit for Ascher. Rob was right and the band was complete.

The album contains five instrumental pieces and four songs, clocks in at fifty-seven minutes and will keep fans of melodic progressive rock with hook laden grooves extremely happy. Opening instrumental, catchily titled Beginnings, has a proper Rush feel from the restrained opening to the elegantly powerful guitar lines and thunderous rhythm section. Rob’s guitar guides a perfect path through this funky piece and you are immediately drawn in to Ascher’s intriguing musical world. There’s an almost 80’s pop-prog (think ‘90125’ era Yes or Peter Gabriel material of that time) quality to the opening of In The Clear Distance, an urgent, staccato guitar riff and dynamic vocals keep this energetic track at a high-tempo pace, of particular note are the harmonised chorus, the groovy keys and, once again, the fleeting guitar licks that always bring a smile to my face, this album has definitely grabbed my attention now! Next comes one of the best songs on the album, the brilliant The Great Divide. From it’s slow burning opening with its emotive vocals and stirring piano, this track grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, musically it has a feel of Marillion at their best and I’m a big fan of that band! A powerful ballad with a passionate chorus that just bleeds emotion, it’s a track I have returned to many times and will continue to do so. Hard rock, bluesy grooves abound on the lively, funk laden Ransom For The Righteous with its super stylish vintage keys and sunny, west-coast, outlook. One of the best rock instrumentals you will here in a long time, blending 80’s hard rock with the laid back sound of the 70’s just about perfectly, another stand out track on what is turning out to be the most surprising releases of the year so far. De Profundis (‘out of the depths’ to you and me) takes a dark and solemn turn with its mysterious opening and enigmatic vocals. You find yourself almost holding your breath in expectation as this cryptic track takes you on a journey into the unknown. All seems to be revealed as a flowering guitar opens up the dark into the light and drags you along with it and you truly do come ‘out of the depths’. It’s very clever songwriting as the twilight refuses to be subdued and tries to return, this ying and yang of darkness and light is really clever and makes for an very engrossing piece of music.

I love the instrumental, Nail Soup. A chance for these musicians to let their hair down and just enjoy themselves, it flows perfectly and is just a highly enjoyable five and a half minutes where you just forget your troubles, sit down with a beer, tap your toes and smile. The polished songwriting continues with the captivating brilliance of What The World Can’t Give, another hard rock infused prog masterpiece that really powers along, fuelled by the chugging riff pairing of guitar and keyboards. This track will surely be a monster live, its high energy intensity is addictive and compelling and the guitar playing is just stellar! Wheels Turning Now is wistful, nostalgic and melancholic in equal measure and dances along with a lightness of touch that you just marvel at. You have to say that Ascher are bloody good at writing excellent instrumentals and this is another one that has me humming along and nodding my head in time to the music. The album I have closes with the bonus track The Instrumental Divide (everyone needs the version with this wonderful piece of music on) and closes on an extreme high. Rob is channelling is inner guitar hero (be it Satriani, Schon or Vai or any of the other guitar legends out there) and he is on fire, literally! This glorious instrumental bleeds emotion, passion and many other things to leave you open mouthed in admiration and just begging for more, what a way to sign off this incredible release!

When it comes to music, an unexpected surprise is a rare thing nowadays so when one arrives in your inbox it really must be cherished. With ‘Begginings’, Ascher have really set the bar high for debut releases and set themselves on the path to what should be a successful career, it has certainly got my attention and I have to say that, for me, it is a definite highlight of 2023 so far and I’m sure will still be up there when the year ends.

Released 16th March, 2023.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

Beginnings | Ascher (

Review – Cold Flame – A Circus In Paradise

Cold Flame are a respected original blues rock/ folk rock band who are also widely regarded as the premier Jethro Tull tribute band in the UK. They were formed in 1984 by singer songwriter Pat Rowbottom who remains the band’s driving force together with a stable and experienced line up that has been together for well over a decade.

In 2023 Cold Flame celebrate their thirty ninth anniversary as an active band with the release of their sixteenth album entitled ‘A Circus in Paradise’, released worldwide by West Yorkshire based independent record company Starring Records. This new studio album sees the band moving away temporarily from the blues to present the listening public instead with a progressive rock concept album of original music. 

I’m always open to new music so when I got an email from Pat inviting me to check out this new studio release from the band I delved straight in to see what it had in store for me…

Let me say that it is immediate from the first few songs on ‘A Circus In Paradise’ that this band is a very impressive and tight unit and you can tell they have been together for all of their thirty-nine years, honing and improving their musical skills. This is a fine collection of progressive rock with more than little infusion of whiskey soaked blues and hard rock and it is a combination that goes together very, very well!

Passport To Oblivion gets things off to a very auspicious, mysterious start with a superb flute and keyboards accompanied by some fine guitar playing. It reminds me of some of Steve Hackett’s recent solo work and has more than a hint of eastern promise. The premise of this track was to convey a sense of change, however, as the theme and the album concept developed over time, it came to highlight the significance and the dangers of global warming and climate change on mankind. A Brexit related song championing one of the oldest professions in the country, The Deep Blue carries on the mystique before a very Tull-like flute and guitar combo breaks cover and we are led into the world of 70’s progressive rock. There’s a wistful instrumental section of flute, acoustic guitar and piano that holds your attention and you find yourself drawn deeper and deeper into the music. The distinctive vocals then take the lead and we are off on a very fine musical ride that never outlasts its welcome, despite being over fourteen minutes long. For lovers of classic rock and classic prog, this is a very promising opening to the album and I’m totally invested, especially with the elegant guitar that adds even more class. Title track A Circus In Paradise paints a dark picture. Mankind appears intent on destroying itself. The blur between truth and non-truth is almost nonexistent. Greed and self interest hold sway. The level of corruption in all corridors of life is quite staggering. The song opens with classic circus pomp before an edgy riff and urgent vocals take over to give a raw, punk rock vibe to the song. It’s rawness takes a back seat with the funky, ska-like brass-led section, a superb interlude in what is an angry and passionate piece of music. Recent years have seen many examples of the power and devastation caused by severe weather fronts. Eye Of The Storm takes this clear and undeniable connection between such weather fronts and global warming and delivers a soulful, elegant song that opens with some wonderfully stirring sax playing before a calmly dignified flute takes up the story. This tranquil opening is broken by the sound of waves crashing and then the storm arrives with an urgent guitar and impassioned vocals. You can hear the Tull influence running through this song and that’s no bad thing at all, it’s a superb piece of music and one of the highlights of the album, I especially love the expressive guitar that features throughout. Lost Or Found is a short, poignant piece about the the horrors of war escalating in Ukraine. As with all wars, it is always the innocents that suffer most and the images seen and stories reported on a daily basis in Ukraine by the invading Russian Army challenge and question the existence of humanity to the core. The song is pared back and simplistic but that only leads to an even more lasting impression.

Not that long ago most people doubted the possibility of global warming however, year on year, the Earth is heating up and Man is the architect of these changes. Last Flight is a fast paced number, heavy with that 70’s Tull-like sound, the dancing flute and guitar perfect backing to the on point vocals. In fact, there’s a proper 70’s progressive rock vibe running throughout this album which is only emphasised more intently by superb tracks like this. The lyrical content of Manifesto reflects that major increase in daily political input inevitably raising more questions than answers. This incendiary track has a more 80’s harder edged progressive feel, it’s more in your face and reflects the haphazard policy changes and the general mistrust that the public had for our politicians during the COVID and lockdown periods. The 11th Hour is a reflection on the determination that many of our political leaders, financiers and the privileged rich appear to have in ensuring that we ‘hurtle over the cliff’ come what may. Another lengthy track at over twelve minutes, it opens with a Floyd-like ambient section with a nostalgic and wistful feel before an addictive riff kicks in and gets things moving. You get that headlong, heedless journey into oblivion that the band are trying to get over. Once again, the musicianship is exemplary with the drums, bass and whirling keyboards driving this dramatic song along. There’s a superb jazzy piano interlude that just makes me smile before everything gets serious again showcasing the excellent songwriting, another track that really gets you thinking. The lyrics to Tomorrow Was Another Day are observations/thoughts expressed by many in trying to understand and rationalise the Covid pandemic experience endured by all during 2020 in particular and the ongoing nightmare which remains lurking still today. An oriental feeling intro segues into an elegantly strummed guitar and tinkling piano that back the earnest vocals perfectly. Once again, the concise songwriting and superb musicianship stand out on this measured finale to what has been a thoughtful and impressive album and just check out that ardent guitar solo that, along with the vibrant flute, leaves the hairs standing up on the back of your neck!

With subject matter that covers climate change, political upheaval and the Covid pandemic you’d think that ‘A Circus In Paradise’ could be a difficult listen but you’d be wrong. With a rational and contemplative outlook Cold Flame have delivered an intelligent and deliberate collection of songs that leave you wanting more, it’s a very impressive release indeed.

Released 1st February, 2023.

Order from the band here:

Cold Flame

Review – Deposed King – One Man’s Grief

I learn about new music in a lot of different ways and one is word of mouth. When a fellow reviewer who I respect recommends an album then I will definitely seek it out. Jason Spencer of well renowned review website The Prog Mind had been waxing lyrical about ‘One Man’s Grief’, the debut album from Hungarian duo Deposed King, for quite a while so I decided it must be worth a listen and, as usual, Jason wasn’t wrong…

Hailing from Budapest, Daniel Kriffel and Dominique Király cite the usual suspects when it comes to their influences with Steven Wilson, Mariusz Duda and Ólafur Arnalds included in the list. You can hear faint hints of these musicians in Deposed King’s sound but it is definitely a sound they have forged themselves. Their polished, low key music reminds me of a lot of the progressive rock and post-rock acts that have come out of eastern Europe recently and especially Poland (Amarok definitely come to mind!).

With intelligent and thought provoking music and a calming aura deep at its core, the album is nine tracks long and brief opener First Light sets the scene of things to come, thoughtful and wistful in tone and delivery, this delicate instrumental focuses your mind immediately. There’s a segue into the chiming guitars of Caves, a piece of music that, while thoughtful in nature, has a more urgent and intense feel than the previous track. Another instrumental and one that shows the prowess of these excellent musicians. The ambient soundscape of Endless Hours also sees the first introduction of vocals to the album and what gorgeous vocals they are, haunting and emotive in equal measure. With elegant guitars and lush electronics, this song is as polished as they come. There’s a definite feel of Mariusz Duda’s recent work on his Lunatic Soul project to the intelligent Path of Forlorn, the staccato drumming and almost eastern sounding guitar note adding a stylish sheen to this captivating track, a definite highlight of what is proving to be an utterly compelling collection of songs.

Half-Light takes electronic beats and shimmering soundscapes and blends them seamlessly with a progressive undercurrent to deliver a wide-screen masterpiece. Deep and meaningful , Fading Shadows is a proper nod to the epic progressive rock/metal of bands like Riverside but with a soft centre. The melancholic vocal and contemplative music have a trance like effect and are really addictive and the searing guitar solo is just magical. Sirens of the Sun is a charming piece of electronica that gets under your skin and you can’t help but like and then we arrive at Ceasing to Exist, the album’s epic centrepiece. The longest, and heaviest, track on the album, it’s a perfect mixture of textures and emotions and darkness and light and has a truly primeval weight to it. The use of harsh vocals works perfectly (not something I say very often) and the contrasts between the occasional moments of light and the often monumental riffs is flawless. The cinematic innocence of Last Light with its ethereal piano is a perfect and hypnotic close to the album, just let it wash over you, cleansing your mind and enriching your soul.

When music touches you on a personal level, it must be something quite special and ‘One Man’s Grief’ does exactly that and more. Deposed King write songs and music that has meaning and purpose and it is music that will stay with me for a very long time.

Released 12th January, 2023.

Order the album from bandcamp:

One Man’s Grief | Deposed King (

Review – Ebb – Mad & Killing Time

Prog Rock music takes commitment and concentration to create and sometimes even to listen to.  If requested to express spontaneous keywords that describe this style of music, the spectrum encompasses intellectual, unusual, off-beat, story-telling, conceptual, left-field, left-bank, innovative, challenging, technical, proficient, and soundscapes – before a rapid argument then ensues… People begin to reminisce about rhythmic & percussive innovations, weird chord and key changes, poetic & lyrical worlds of wonder wrapped in interesting cover art and spice dusted with the artistic influences of sci-fi, fantasy, and on occasion all veering off into the realms of serious WTF, before settling down to a good, hard bitch about what is or is not true Prog! All good fun and, why not?

Ebb have redefined themselves as ‘Art Rock’…. Writing and playing in their own style; telling their own stories and wrestling with their own concepts seemed the way forward for the five women and one guy.

And about that: they are nearly all women…. Was there a problem with the ‘old guard’ fans of the genre? Well, despite dire warnings from musical friends… No. Not at all. Prog people of all walks, ages, and genders have been warm, inclusive, and receptive to the band. So there! It’s the power of music, people!

This one nearly passed me by, I received an email inviting me to listen to the promo from Scotland-based art/prog/rock band Ebb’s new release, “a concept album about the love and friendship that grew between an old dying ex-army musician and his housekeeper cum part-time sex worker…”. Yes, really, unfortunately I was snowed under at the time and I didn’t follow it up. Which could have been my loss because ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is definitely one of the more intriguing and compelling releases I’ve heard this year so far.

What you get with Ebb is brilliantly constructed songs, incredible musicianship and an odd, quirky attitude that is entirely unique. Imagine King Crimson and Hawkwind rocking up with Magenta in tow and a persistent urge to record something that sounds like bastardised 70’s Canterbury scene progressive rock with a modern harder edge and you won’t be far wrong. There is true musical theatre here but musical theatre from a parallel universe of steampunk infused science fantasy, progressive rock written by Michael Moorcock and Raymond Feist perhaps?

Saxes, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, superb guitars, fluid keyboards and an elegant Hammond organ combine with a dynamic rhythm section to deliver a vibrant, occasionally chaotic soundscape that is utterly addictive at times. All of this vibrant musical wonder is held together perfectly by the sublimely seductive vocals of Erin Bennett, I’ve not heard anything that sounds like Ebb before!

The highlights on this incredible release come fast and thick with the atmospheric, slow burning The Animal Said: ‘I’ and the faster paced, funky Tension leading the charge. Deliciously dark, mysterious and intense, Hecate stands tall and proud and the wistful elegance and melancholy of What Under What is sublime. The thunderous energy of Violet Is Tits gives this enjoyable baroque instrumental a life of its own and Krystal at the Red Light is another brooding and compelling listen with touches of King Crimson giving it a complexity all of its own. Confess adds more of the same and then we are treated to the utterly brilliant Mary Jane, an imposingly majestic piece of music where the glorious vocals hit you hard and this exceptional song closes the album out on a complete high.

When you listen to as much new music as I do, it takes something truly special to stand out and ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is just that, Ebb delivering a musical highlight of the year and one that is totally unique to this incredibly talented bunch of artists. Go seek it out, you will not de disappointed in any way at all.

Released 1st November, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Mad & Killing Time | Ebb (

Review – Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orhcestra – Postcards From The Asylum

Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra have returned once again with ‘Postcards From The Asylum‘,  the follow up to 2021’s critically acclaimed ‘Songs For The Apocalypse‘. 

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.” 

Renowned as a writer, producer, raconteur, comedian, singer-songwriter, fashion icon and hand-model (no, me neither?), Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is new to me but having heard the single, Heathens, released earlier this year, I was intrigued enough to want to hear the whole album and once I’d heard it, I was even more intrigued…

When you read the who’s who of guests on the album, you get some idea of the musical style that it will follow. With the stellar talents of Andee Blacksugar (Blondie, KMFDM, Peter Murphy), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats), Todd  “Dammit” Kerns (Slash & The Conspirators, Toque), Edu Cominato (Geoff Tate, Soto) and Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard, Progject) on board, it sounds to me like we are in for a bit of mad ride of progressive rock, metal and hard rock and, if that’s the case, please count me in!

The tongue-in-cheek black humour and out there lyrics are blended with some seriously sublime musical talent to create a pretty unique piece of musical theatre, one with a deliciously dark side to it! Covering thirteen (unlucky for some!) tracks and coming in at nearly seventy-five minutes long, ‘Postcards From The Asylum’ is infused with dystopian, steampunk infused images, the brilliant album cover and art drew me in on its own. A mysterious, dark and enigmatic collection of tracks that always leave you guessing and always leave you wanting more.

The highlights for me include the hard rocking opener Bombay with its pedal to the metal energy and dynamic riffing, the excellent vocals being central to proceedings, single release Heathens has a really funky edge to its glam rock leanings and the guitar is pure 90’s hard rock. Mexico has an almost ballad-like gloss and is a beautiful piece of music that would not have been out of place on a mid 90’s platinum selling stadium rocker’s album ( it takes me back to my youth, that’s for sure) and Birds of Prey takes it a step further with its definite Guns N’ Roses sound.

Flying Monkeys is an edgy, syncopated track that steers the album on a more progressive course and I feel there’s a definite Marco Minneman influence to this very likeable song. The Depths is another addictive listen with its darker aura and insistent tone and Beneath The Waves is my favourite track on the album, a thunderous, high energy combination of hard rock and metal with an added progressive rock intellect. A properly intense grunge style gives Feels Just Like Love a jaunty edge and Deep Blue is superb symphonic prog very much in the Spock’s Beard vein.

This highly intriguing and throughly enjoyable musical experience closes with the elegant charms of Human Head and you’re left wondering what just happened. There is so much invention and musical virtuosity contained in this album’s pretty lengthy running time and it requires quite a few listens to really buy in to the story that is being laid out before you. Trust me, you need to persevere because ‘Postcards From The Asylum’ could be one of the most fascinating and beguiling records you will have the pleasure of listening to this year.

Released 14th April, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Postcards From The Asylum | Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra | Jason Bieler (

Review – Great Wide Nothing – Hymns for Hungry Spirits, Vol. II – by John Wenlock-Smith

Great Wide Nothing are a progressive punk rock band who hail from Atlanta, Georgia, USA and while you can hear punk in their anger, the music they offer is classic Neo Prog. They cite Coheed and Cambria, Thrice, Muse, Marillion, Depeche Mode, Deep Purple and The Cure among their very varied influences. Some interesting choices, really diverse and yet all these groups appear in their sound to some degree, acceptably some more than others. Although, once again, the band are entirely new to me, so I come to this album without any expectations and I find myself pleasantly surprised and satisfied by what I discover here.

This album has just five tracks but they are all strong ones, starting with Blind Eye To A Burning House, a song that nods it’s head firmly to Rush and one that laments the world’s indifference and inability to grasp and resolve climate change in any meaningful and sincere way. The music the trio make is strong and agreeable with lots of power but also with a subtle lightness of touch where required. There are also great performances from all members and the writing is strong and purposeful, really making an impact. The production is also very good with clear vocals and strong instrumentation. The song has an urgency that is mirrored in it lyrics as it belts along at a fair clip and I can hear elements of Saga in the vocals. This opening track shows how effective the band are, highly talented and musically adept with a really strong sound and distinctive vocals. It is an excellent piece that certainly grabs the attention with a good synth solo and a very memorable chorus, overall an excellent opening statement from the band.

We then move onto a shorter song, The Portal And The Precipice, hinged on an overdriven organ part which is very Deep Purple-like in tone. The track is about a failing relationship and the writer’s hope for a better outcome to it. Viper is about the abuse and trauma the writer suffered as a youth and how he has learned from it, applying resilience into the situation he experienced. Not allowing himself to be overcome by hatred and focusing on his refusal to let his abuser have any hold over him. It’s a very emotional, and ultimately, hopeful and positive response to a dreadful situation and his stance is bold and ultimately life affirming. While he understandably has anger for what has happened, he chooses that that it will not define him. He actually condemns his abuser, being free to move forward, a very dignified way of handling and resolving the conflict.

Inheritor is a song about the pandemic that we’ve all endured and survived recently. This one is an 80’s sounding track which sounds like Depeche Mode and it is a joyous celebration of life with a running guitar line throughout giving it a really upbeat feel. Highly memorable indeed, it is based on pandemic experiences and is a response to those. The final, and longest track, is To Find The Light Part Two, which lasts for just under twenty minutes. A song about the impermanence and trials of life, it is a deep, questioning existential muse on the paths life can take, yet, even in this, you will discover some rather astonishing musical passages and inspired performances. This is from what is primarily a three piece band, with excellent musical skills and compositions from Daniel Graham (bass guitars and vocals), Dylan Porper (keyboards, guitar and supporting vocals) and Jeff Matthews on drums. Together these three musicians make expansive, compelling and impressive music, above all, this is a very satisfying album offering music of substance and value.

The album is very well balanced and presented with great intelligence and is an excellent album in all. I really enjoyed it finding much to enjoy, especially the very bold and personal Viper which is emotionally raw, bare and extremely powerful music indeed. Well worth hearing for this track alone, as its such a significant and important one that deserves wider acclaim and will probably be of interest to people who have a similar tale or experience, it is really quite cathartic.

Released 20th January, 2023

Order from bandcamp here:

Hymns for Hungry Spirits, Vol. II | Great Wide Nothing (

Review – Klone – Meanwhile – by John Wenlock-Smith

Klone are a French alt-metal collective and this album, their seventh, was recorded in February 2022 and is the follow up to their 2019 release, ‘Le Grande Voyage’. In the intervening period between the two albums the group have been busy wowing festival audiences at Hellfest and Prog Power USA, among others. This has certainly helped toughen their sound up and yet has not diluted their emotive and conceptual sound and style.

Meanwhile’ blends a very heavy, Leprous type, sound with an expansive soundscape where crunch has extremely melodic undertones woven throughout it’s thread. I have to say that whilst the music is more muscular and intense than I normally enjoy, there is definitely much that commands interest here.

The album fuses prog touches with post rock elements to craft a great sounding release, one that has epic sounds and textures and a big crunch element yet, within it all, there is excellent melodies and a commanding vocal performance from singer Yann Ligner, whose measured voice both commands and impresses in equal quantities. The man could sing the French phone book and still sound good!

The impressive use of other instruments also make this an intriguing listening experience. The band have worked hard with engineer Chris Eldritch to make an epic and expansive soundscape, this is particularly welcome as it elevates and enhances the melodic touches that reside in their music.

Within Reach is a good example of this approach as, despite its very hard riffing, this song has a lot of melodies within that are uncovered as the song proceeds, it is an excellent opening statement. Blink Of An Eye has a recurring saxophone melody that flows in and out of the song, lightening the tone away from extreme metal into something a lot more accessible and easier to accept, appreciate and then digest and enjoy. Bystander hinges on a graceful bass line that is at the forefront of the track, bassist Enzo Alfano provides really strong and flexible support to the growling guitars of Guillaume Bernard and Aldrick Guadagnino and when you add the keyboards textures of Matthieu Metzger and the powerful driving drums of Morgan Berthet you have a real power and force to be reckoned with. The band rise to the challenge extremely well handling the songs with conviction and delicacy when required, and with power at other times.

Elusive is another strong track with more expressive saxophone effects that soften the brutality of the guitars enough to really captivate. Apnea has yet more impressive bass lines, that compliment Yann’s expressive vocals. I especially like how the band contain their more metallic tendencies to allow plenty of space in their sound, it is most satisfying to hear this subset given free reign. The Unknown is far less restrained and allows their edge to be exhibited yet, even within this, Ligner’s classy vocals still sound glorious. His voice reminds me of Chad Kroeger of Nickelback at times, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, his voice is majestic, captivating and ever capable and he is certainly a massive asset to Klone’s sound and ethos.

For me, the best song of the entire album is Meanwhile, which is a moody and slow burning, epic track with lots of arpeggio chiming guitars and a beefy crunch that takes the track forward. There are also some tinkling, rippling piano lines in the background making this a very an atmospheric track. This approach really works and allows the track to build steadily, the restraint really enhances the song and impress me greatly. Less is definitely more in this instance, a very impressive and strong track.

All in all a most impressive release, one that is out of my comfort zone for sure but one whose stunning melodies cannot help but impress me. On the basis and strength of this album, the future for Klone looks very bright indeed. If they continue this progressive journey and stance they will have much to offer, those unaware of their music, and those who like a more prog-metal approach to music, will find very much here to enjoy.

Released 10th February, 2023

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Meanwhile (