Progradar’s Q&A With Darran Charles of Godsticks

Ahead of the release this Friday of the band’s acclaimed new album ‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’, Progradar sat down with frontman/guitarist Darran Charles to get the lowdown…

1.     Godsticks were formed in 2009, for you, personally, how much has the music scene changed in the last 14 years? 

Good question. I suppose in terms of the prog scene, I’ve seen that a subset of Prog – Prog metal – has now become the dominant force in terms of popularity, and arguably they’ve become the new boundary pushers, which is what prog has always been known for.

Obviously the way music is now consumed means there’s less income to be derived from the sale of physical media, so we now see bands having to earn their income mainly from touring. And since Brexit it’s also proving cost-prohibitive to play shows in Europe. All in all, there hasn’t been much that has changed for the better for bands!

That said, the consumer has never had it so good. The music scene is absolutely saturated with bands and a huge percentage of these bands are absolutely great. As technology has become more accessible as the years go by you see more and more people being able to exercise their creativity and produce things on par with anything that was created with a huge studio budget.

2.     Who were your influences then and who are they now?

At the time of the EP, I was mostly listening to Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, and a lot of jazz-fusion. I might have even been listening to Alison Krauss a lot.

It’s hard to say who my influences are currently. I listen to music a lot differently than I did when I was younger, and I have to say that I miss physical media, CDs especially. My car doesn’t even have a CD player anymore so everything has to be streamed digitally. In the last few years I’ve been mostly listening to pop music, but the last band to truly inspire me were ‘The Smile’ – featuring Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. I’ve watched the recent live performances on YouTube and the quirky complex songs are quite often a mind-fuck that require complete absorption. 

3.     You had a run of very good albums from the self-titled EP, right through to ‘Emergence’ after which you were signed to Kscope, did signing for a major label put any additional pressure on you?

To be honest, they’ve always been very supportive. They’ve never tried to change us and given the type of non-mainstream music we produce they kind of knew what they were in for when they signed us. I work closely with Johnny Wilks from the label who is a fantastic source of help when I ask him to scrutinise the album demos. 

4.     Your initial sound was described as being progressive but the new album ‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’ is definitely more intense and hard rock oriented (in my opinion), is that a natural evolution of the band’s sound or was it intentional?

It’s a natural evolution because we’ve found that the heavier music is more enjoyable to play live due to its intensity. However, we still have a wide range of musical styles that we enjoy writing in. In fact, we recorded 7 other songs that were not as heavy as the other material on the album which we purposely left out because they didn’t necessarily fit with the vibe of the album. Three of those songs are included on the bonus track ‘Crushed’ while the other 4 tracks will be released over the course of the next 12 months. I suppose you could say that these tracks showcase the gentler side of Godsticks.

5.     There is a lot more focus on guitar riffs and a dissonant edge, do you think this will transfer into a live arena particularly well and are you looking forward to getting out there and unleashing the new music on your fans?

Always! Every time we write a song we try to imagine what it would sound like live. Not that we would impose any restrictions on ourselves by reducing the instruments/overdubs etc but we simply imagine what we would like to hear if we were the ones in an audience. It’s important for a song to have some sort of physical impact upon me, which is usually manifested with a vigorous head-nodding!

6.     Is the new album a lot different to your last, ‘Inescapable’? You say that the writing process was different with a lot more collaboration with other band members?

Each album has resulted in more and more input from each member. I’m the main songwriter primarily because I find it almost impossible to come up with good vocal melodies over ideas that other people have written, which is a shame because Gavin often comes up with some great riffs. But Godsticks music has always been about textures as well as riffs, and the parts that Gavin comes up with on synth and guitar are integral to the songs and enhance them in a way that I would likely be unable to do.

Tom also ‘hides the seams’ between seemingly disparate sections of music, and without his ingenious drum parts the songs would sound very different indeed, and worse for it.

7.     How do you go about writing a Godsticks track, what influences the creative process? 

Usually, things start with a guitar riff or drum beat and I take it from there. A lot of ideas emerge from either studying music, practising or transcribing things. It’s usually when I least want to be distracted from the task in hand that inspiration strikes. 

Sometimes, although it’s very rare these days, I’ll get inspired by a new band or song which I love. The last occasion something creative happened like that was when I watched a live show of ‘The Smile’ – I was so blown away by the music that I felt inspired to sit at the piano and write something. That track ‘Crushed’ features on the bonus disc.

8.     How did you cope with the lockdown? A lot of musicians I know have actually said that they found the whole period to be very creative and have come up with a lot of new ideas?

Well, I experienced the opposite sadly. I never wrote a single piece of music during the lockdown period. I tried to force it but in truth, most of it was poor.

That’s not to say that I didn’t make use of the downtime. I spent all my time either studying or practising and even began delving into the world of electronics and having zoom conversations with expert amp builders. 

I also began reading books on synth programming and understanding exactly how they worked. That episode will definitely benefit our music in the future.  

9.     Obviously, due to the pandemic, you couldn’t play live after you released ‘Inescapable’, how frustrating did you find that?

It was incredibly disappointing as you can imagine, but at the same time the fact the world was a little bit strange to say the least put things in perspective a little. Then as the pandemic dragged on we started to worry if there would even be any venues or promoters in business when the world eventually re-opened its doors.

So whilst it was frustrating, that feeling was eventually subsumed by relief that things could finally get back to a state of normality.

10.  I know most musicians will say that their current release is their favourite but do you hold any of your previous albums in particular regard and, if so, why? 

I would say ‘Emergence’ is probably the most important of our albums, as it heralded the future sound of the band. At the time of its release, It may have seemed like an abrupt left turn in terms of heaviness but I think the overall sound and vibe of that album proved that this was our natural sound.

11.  Who would you consider to be the best live act today and one you would pay to go and see?

Meshuggah! I’m desperate to see them play live. The last time the opportunity arose the nearest place they were playing was Bristol, but I absolutely hated the particular venue they were playing, so didn’t go.

12.  What’s next for Godsticks or are you just concentrating on getting the new album out and playing it live?

Our sole focus at this time is rehearsing the new music to perform live at our upcoming shows in June. Then it’s just a question of how many gigs we can successfully put together and how many festivals that will welcome us.

13.  What do you do to relax away from music?

Most of my life is taken up by music, whether that’s practising, studying or writing, but in the evening times I like to watch TV. I’m a big fan of shows like ‘Succession’, anything HBO, and stand-up comedy. I also like to read non-fiction books on biology and history.

14.  Finally, what, if any, advice would you give to that younger version of yourself who was just about to release the debut EP in 2009 now you have been on the rollercoaster for 14 years?

As someone with an aversion to reading manuals and instead intuitively fumbling there way around new technology, whether that’s creating synth sounds or learning how to use my gear, I would advise myself to take the time to learn the technology you’re surrounded with, especially production techniques. These are often invaluable tools to assist with your creativity. That’s something I’ve changed my approach to in the last 3 years or so, and these days I look forward to reading a manual!

‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’ is released 26th May, 2023 on Kscope

Order the album here:


Listen to the track Mayhem:

Review – Kite Parade – Retro

Kite Parade, the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, singer songwriter Andy Foster, follow-up the critically acclaimed ‘The Way Home’, released in 2022, with second album ‘Retro’. The new release features six brand news songs, continuing from its predecessor with emphasis on melodies and big choruses, drawing influences from bands such as Frost*, It Bites and Genesis. Once again, guest drummers Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train) and Joe Crabtree contribute and all the mastering and mixing duties are supplied by Rob Aubrey (Big Big Train, IQ).

Majoring on Andy’s love of all things ‘Prog, Rock and interesting Pop’, this new album is a must for lovers of the power pop tinged progressive rock celebrated by the likes of John Mitchell and Jem Godfrey with superb songwriting and shed loads of delicious guitar riffs and licks and heavenly vocal harmonies. The high energy, pulsating punch of opening track Retro hits you right where it hurts but the melodies are always there to provide beauty along with the brawn. Power prog? pop rock? I have no idea, it’s just bloody entertaining and leads you firing on all cylinders to Speed Of Light, a dynamic, hard-edged and even harder rocking track that has a dark underbelly but still returns with a fabulously catchy chorus, Andy’s music is seriously addictive, let me tell you that!

Let’s just kick back a bit and take the foot off the accelerator with the passionate sentiment of the Pete Smith penned semi-ballad Wonderful. The fervour and intensity of the vocals match the dazzling charm of the music to deliver a song that has heart and soul and puts a huge grin on your face with its anthemic feel. That warmth inside continues with wistfully nostalgic opening to the glorious Shadows Fall where you really feel Andy playing on his inner It Bites (circa ‘Once Around The World’, if I’m being precise!). This sumptuous track reminds me of hazy summer days and a longing for times gone by. A stylishly complex piece of music but one that always wears its heart on its sleeve, the elegant saxophone that winds its way around is just genius and the harmonious vocals deliver a proper welling up of emotion.

Legendary progressive musician Steve Thorne contributed the lyrics for the final two tracks and you can see a slight difference on the darkly delicious Under The Same Sun which opens with a seductive guitar riff and pointed vocals. Fractious and recalcitrant until another fantastic chorus is delivered, there is a restive energy running throughout this addictive and up-tempo song and that is shown to perfection by Daz Atkinson’s fiery guitar solo. The end of album album epic Merry-Go-Round finishes things off in mighty fine style, although Andy says you’ll have to ask Steve Thorne for the definitive meaning behind the song! A fine example of symphonic, power-prog, this elegant, at times haunting, fourteen and half minutes of music ebbs and flows magnificently. The music builds patiently, drawing the listener into its comforting embrace along with the impassioned, heartfelt vocals, Jessica Chambers superb backing vocals especially worthy of note. There’s an unruffled pride to the song, the music is superbly intricate and leading you on a willing journey into the subterranean depths where time seems to stand still. The hushed stasis is broken by a dawning of light, an impish feel engendered by the music and the vocals brighter and more powerful and a lighter feeling atmosphere. What a stunning way to close out the album.

In ‘Retro’, Kite Parade have given us a stylish addition to the ranks of pop tinged power prog, a sublime collection of perfectly crafted songs that should be a must for any fan of melodic prog and a release that puts a smile on your face and , in this day and age, we could all do with a dose of that, couldn’t we?

Released 7th April, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Retro | Kite Parade (

Review – One Sided Horse – My Favourite City At Night In The Rain

The best music always has the power to move you, to immerse you in a beautiful story, a classic book or an Oscar winning film that is now being delivered as life changing and mood enhancing music. That’s because it’s not just music, it becomes almost part of you and affects you on a basic level, not just cerebrally but emotionally too.

I consider being a music reviewer to be an honour as I get to listen to artist’s creations that fit the description above perfectly, I’m like the great explorer’s of 1700’s and 1800’s, discovering things that others have yet to hear and it is an utter privilege when I am entrusted with these musical endeavours that are part of the being of the musician that creates them.

The singular talent that is Mark Whiteside has many strings to his artistic bow, Desks, Evil Blizzard and The Opening Song, to name a few but the musical project of One Sided Horse was how I was introduced to Mark by my friend and music guru Stuart Willoughby of Sound It Out Records (a music emporium that regularly relieves me of money as I add to my burgeoning vinyl collection).

Mark’s next One Sided Horse release is the sublime ‘My Favourite City At Night In The Rain’ on the 8th September and I have had the utmost privilege of being able to listen to the album for the last few weeks. Let me tell why I think this could well be one of the best pieces of songwriting of the last couple of decades…

Designed to be listened to as two sides of a vinyl album with no spaces between tracks, this music is best listened to with headphones on so you can immerse yourself in its wonder. Close your eyes and you will feel as if you are walking alone in the welcoming woods as the music succours you and calms your soul. The music has an intense fragility and beauty to it, the almost ABBA-like piano of opening, and title, track My Favourite City At Night In The Rain immediately engenders a feel of wonder and plaintive nostalgia and this just increases as the strings join in, giving an emotive depth that hits you right in the feels. The calm, wistful and hazy intro to The Overload Of Missing with its painfully elegant brass is emotion laid out as music and, above all, Mark’s recognisable, unique vocal gives everything a world-weary tinge, a feeling of poignancy and of having lived many lives, some great and some not so good. You allow the music to completely take over your life, lay back, let its sumptuous, contemplative wonder wash over you and just enjoy the yearning melancholy of that brilliant trumpet. There’s almost a harsh sincerity in the captivating and earnest Find The Time and a feel of the enigmatic folk music of Cornwall in its delivery, a superb song. There is sheer joy in the contemplative, dreamlike grace of Uneven Land with its refined guitar and piano and Mark’s haunting vocals that seem to catch in his throat, the dreamlike ending is utterly gorgeous. A Short Story From A Living Room In Philadelphia is a touching piece of music laid over a spoken word monologue by Grace Wohlsen that affects you way more than you would think it could Side one closes with the beguiling simplicity of Passing Years, a touching piece of music, left me emotionally drained with its shimmering fragility and beauty.

Side two opens with fragility seeping from the delicate refrains of the short but exquisite I Won’t Ask For More before the opening strains of the dynamic, charismatic and compelling Let’s Start Fires announce the arrival of one of the potent pieces on the album. Completed by the sweeping grandeur of the piano and string section, this song has real emotive power and depth that is only enhanced by the additional vocals of the talented Carol Hodge. Flightless has a mesmeric feel, a stylish captivating track that holds you in its thrall. The focus of the delightful Like Swans is the acoustic guitar and vocal that combine to deliver another lesson in the art of songwriting and especially that less is more. Swans mate for life and this exquisite piece of work is a love song and an ode to the permanency of life. The dramatic I Can’t Live Without Your Love brings a sense of drama to the album with an almost orchestral, movie soundtrack feel to the music, pared back and simple it may be but it’s as much about what’s between the notes and the words and the feelings the song creates in you than it is what you are actually hearing. Closing side two, and the album, is the Americana tinged, enrapturing grace of Close Swim. Reminiscent of hazy and lazy days with the delightful slide guitar in perfect harmony with the insouciant notes from a wonderfully played acoustic, this track is another incredible piece of songwriting that opens up into something quite wondrous and life affirming.

So, there you have it, ‘My Favourite City At Night In The Rain’ is quite possibly one of the most important albums you will listen to this year. If you want an example of why music is so wonderful and moves people in so many ways then you cannot pick a better example than this utterly triumphant work of art, Mark Whiteside and One Sided Horse please take a bow, I thank you from the bottom of my heart…

Track Listing:

  1. My Favourite City At Night In The Rain
  2. The Overload Of Missing
  3. Find The Time
  4. Uneven Land
  5. A Short Story From A Living Room In Philadelphia
  6. Passing Years
  7. I Won’t Ask For More
  8. Let’s Start Fires
  9. Flightless
  10. Like Swans
  11. I Can’t Live Without Your Love
  12. Close Swim

Mark was joined in One Sided House on this endeavour by the following great musicians:

Mickey Dale, Steve Firth and Mike Heaton (Embrace), Phil Hartley (Space), Gareth Cole (Drifting Sun, The Bardic Depths), Carol Hodge (Steve Ignorant), Norm Helm (The Animals).

Mickey Dale – all recording, production and mastering on the album.

Pre-orders open 4th August, 2023 ahead of an 8th September, 2023 release.

Pre-order here:

My Favourite City At Night In The Rain | One Sided Horse (

ASIA Release PHOENIX As 2LP Vinyl Set – Released 26th May

ASIA are a multi-platinum selling, English Rock band who formed in 1981 and celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2021. ASIA announce the release of Phoenix for the first time as a 2 vinyl LP set on 26th May.    Phoenix was originally released in 2008 and was their first studio album with the original line-up in a quarter century.    

In terms of sound this emotional, compelling comeback album sees Asia continue the very high standards from where they left off in 1985, as ever displaying suppleness when stretching out into multi-part suites while retaining a knack for big, arena pop hooks.

Their 1982 self-titled debut album reached number one in several countries, including 9 weeks topping the US charts, with lead single ‘Heat Of The Moment’ making the top 40 in over a dozen, including US #4.

This is the second of four critically acclaimed ‘reunion’ releases (2007-2012) featuring vocalist John Wetton ex of King Crimson, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboard player Geoff Downes from Yes and drummer Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The sleeve comprise unique artwork by world famous rock music artist Roger Dean.


Side A 

1. Never Again

2. Nothing’s Forever

3. Heroine

Side B 

1. Sleeping Giant / No Way Back / Reprise

2. Alibis

3. I Will Remember You

Side C            

1. Shadow Of A Doubt

2. Parallel Worlds / Vortex / Déyà

3. Wish I’d Known All Along

Side D            

1. Orchard Of Mines

2. Over And Over

3. An Extraordinary Life

Buy here: Asia – Phoenix (

About ASIA

Pooling the talents of bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, keyboardist Geoff Downes and guitarist Steve Howe, ASIA immediately became the epitome of a supergroup of rock aristocracy and the natural heir to its members’ legendary bands of the 70s – King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Buggles and Yes.

Leaving behind their progressive roots, ASIA embraced the commercial FM rock sound that dominated US airwaves and took that, and the new MTV video channel, by storm.  The single Heat Of The Moment was a world-wide monster smash and their eponymous 1982 debut album spent an incredible 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart as Asia became the biggest selling album of the year and world tour dates sold out.

A second album, Alpha, was released in 1983. The four original members reconvened in 2006 for a world tour, to celebrate the 25thanniversary of that incredible success, and the album Phoenix followed.

While the members were still heavily involved in other projects, they came together again to record Omega in 2010 and XXX in 2012, both albums were acclaimed by their faithful fans and supported by more world tours.

Steve Howe stepped back from ASIA to concentrate on his work with YES and was absent for 2014’s Gravitas. Following this tour came the news of John Wetton’s treatment for cancer, a fight he sadly lost in 2017.

John Wenlock-Smith interviews Steve Howe

John Wenlock-Smith: Good day Steve, trust you are well?

Steve Howe: Hello John, yes, I’m fine thanks, trust you are too?

JWS: Let’s talk about the new Yes album, ‘Mirror To The Sky’

SH: If you have questions, I should have the answers!  

JWS: Is there an underlying theme to the album? 

SH: Yes have only done one themed album (‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’), other things we have talked about but aren’t really thematically related as such. 

JWS: I’ve heard the new album, I like it and the fact that you are doing longer songs. Once again, I think it is an approach that really works for you. 

SH: After ‘The Quest’ and the good reaction it received, we were inspired to carry on and content to make more new music as we had songs written to work with. This album is the result of that time. 

JWS I saw you in Manchester, it was very good and I enjoyed it a lot. You turned in a good show that day.

SH: Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. We enjoyed that short run of shows and it went down well, apart from York which didn’t go so well, I’m afraid.

JWS: I have a question from my friend who asks about your involvement with Queen’s ‘Innuendo’ album. How did that come about? 

SH: I was in Montreux in a restaurant that I like when a guy called Martin spotted me and invited me to the studio (Mountain Studios, where Yes recorded the ‘Going For The One’ album). As I’d finished my meal, I happily went with him to the studio and the band wanted to play me the album. After which they asked me to play on the track Innuendo, as they wanted something extra in the guitar department.

When I pointed out that Brian had done lots of guitar they said they’d still like me to play on it and gave me free rein to play whatever I liked. So they played me the track and I just improvised as I am quite used to doing that, jumping in and creating on the fly. They liked what they heard so, after we’d had dinner together, we returned to the studio and put the two takes together, making what you hear on the album. It was a fun day with great friends. 

JWS: I have a question about GTR. Wow come you didn’t record a second album? Is that something you would consider revisiting 30 years on?  

SH: Well we did record a live album for King Biscuit Hour in Germany, I think? (it was actually in Los Angeles in 1996) but we split the band after that and, whilst certain parties wanted us to do it again, it adds a certain complexity with managers and timings etc. Finding time in what I’m doing now means doing it all again would be a huge undertaking. I’ve moved on from those days, although I did enjoy that time, we had a lot of fun doing those tours. It was easier to revisit Asia actually but, again, I had to curtail that as I was busy with Yes

JWS: So, Yes is your main focus these days then?  

SH: It is really, especially as we are on a creative roll at the moment, things are going well, plus I still have my solo stuff around to keep me occupied. 

JWS: So the tour this year was postponed because of insurance issues? I was looking forward to the ‘Relayer’ shows actually.

SH: Yes, we decided to postpone those shows after a few years of uncertainty over them and the insurance was a major factor, but not the only factor.

JWS: You probably have lots of demand on your time with everything you are involved with? 

SH: Well, actually, I don’t. I have Yes and my solo stuff and I control what I do so that I run it, not the other way around.  

JWS: I’ve written a review about it (the new album), I was generally positive about it, I said that Genesis and King Crimson have ended and Deep Purple and BOC are nearing the end and, really, we should respect that and appreciate you while we still have you.

SH: Good perspective and insight for us all, I think! 

JWS: Well, I think that’s it from me apart from to say thank you for your time and trust the album goes well for you and hope to see you next year in Manchester  

SH: Thank you John.

 The new Yes album, ‘Mirror To The Sky’, is out now and available to order here:

Mirror To The Sky (


 The band will be performing ‘The Classic Tales of Yes’ Tour in 2024:

Single Review – The Occulist – Swan Dive

The Oculist is a boundary-pushing prog metal project that defies conventions. With their unique fusion of musical styles and genres, The Oculist is set to make a mark in the metal scene, their debut single, Swan Dive, is just the beginning.

The Oculist has been formed by two longtime musical collaborators Adam Dunn and Çağrı Tozluoğlu (aka Philamelian). Duo started their journey for this release with spontaneous recordings which lead to instrumental pieces influenced from the vast waters of metal fusion and prog. While these demos were progressing by added sections and developed arrangements, the idea of adding vocals to these songs came up as they were in one of the writing sessions and talking about their common interests of politics, true crime podcast series and altered state of consciousness.

The project’s backbone, the groove department, features two extraordinary musicians, Simon Fitzpatrick (Carl Palmer Band) on the bass and James Wise on Drums.

Prepare yourselves for six minutes of a modern metal and electronic soundscape, ebbing and flowing as Adam’s precise vocals deliver a stentorian, primeval assault. Çağrı’s mellifluous keyboards fly around incessantly, it’s a full on musical onslaught with Adam’s thunderous, monumental guitars and James’ dynamic drums a superb driving force. The electronica and ambient textures blend perfectly giving a feel of a manic melding of Threshold and Machinae Supremacy to my ears, and that is definitely no bad thing! This track is certainly one of the freshest pieces of music I have heard this year and I cannot wait to hear the full album when it comes out as it is highly promising indeed!

The single is released now, check it out here:

wearetheoculist | Instagram, Facebook | Linktree

Review – Ruby Dawn – Beyond Tomorrow – by John Wenlock-Smith

This review of ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ by Ruby Dawn will be slightly different from usual and, rather than describing the music, instead I will comment on the feelings this music evokes whilst listening to it. 

First, a look at he history of the group. Formed in 2019 by Carola Bear, at that time a mainstream Teacher who wanted to express lyrics she had written herself musically. To that end, she searched out musicians who could help turn that vision into a reality and she found musicians who would support her in that vision, these being Dave Salsbury on guitars, Ian Turner on bass and vocals and Adam J Perry on drums. Together they worked on their own songs and attracting the interest of Ireland’s Progressive Ears label) who support lots of upcoming prog bands and artists), they ultimately secured a deal.  

The album is very much an expansive and immersive one that uses a plethora of soundscapes and timbres to present something quite unique. You can hear elements of music like Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, along with a more ambient style of musical voicing. This excellent sounding release marries feeling, strong musicianship and a slightly different vocal phrasing to good effect. The music has a lot of extremely fluid and powerful guitar work from Dave Salsbury who plays up a storm here and it is very pleasing to hear his skilful playing.

I’ve spent a few weeks with this album, really waiting for it to sink in fully and now I think it is definitely beginning to click with me. This is a grower that warrants time and, possibly, the use of headphones to really allow the music to seep into your mind fully. However, when that moment happens, it is very powerful stuff indeed. I am reminded of Steve Hogarth’s unusual vocal stylings at times along with the modern Marillion sound, the inclusion of an ambient sound is also very satisfying as it allows the quirkiness of the group to come through well. 

I am really enjoying this music as it has much to commend it, anyone who is prepared for something different will find much to appreciate and to enjoy within its grooves. The album rocks and also shimmers excellently, it evokes feelings of both frustration with how the world is but also offers a hope for better times, of awareness, acceptance and understanding for each other. This is a good thing, music should have meaning and should help instruct as well as entertain. Progressive music should question, encourage debate and thought. It can be a force for change, I feel this album has that potential to do just that, challenging attitudes and perspectives and showing a different way in which to be and to live.

This music brings out those feelings in me and inspires me to be a part of a world that is prepared to engage, to accept others where they are in their lives and to be there when they need support. I think this is something we can all do, be the change rather than being the problem. Allow this music to guide you in such unfamiliar settings and benefit from the satisfaction and fulfilment that can come as a result.

These may be heady thoughts but, somehow, I find this music very inspiring to hear and I appreciate it’s sheer existence. It makes you feel better for hearing it, it is not especially upbeat lyrically, rather it is sincere, which is highly acceptable to these ears. Here are a band who are pushing forward, making music of worth for the open minded and that is totally acceptable to me. 

There is, among its twelve tracks, some blistering, scorching guitar work and a highly dynamic rhythm section. Add in the fluid keyboards of Carola and her excellent vocals and it all combines to make a great melting pot of ideas and influences to create something both different and yet familiar sounding.  

Heartily recommended, this music should be available from your Doctor as it is good for your heart, soul and well being. This album can be a balm for your troubled or bruised spirit, it is that special. I urge you to get involved with the marvellous music, let it influence your worldview, it is that good! Highly Recommended indeed!

Released 20th April, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Beyond Tomorrow | Ruby Dawn (

Review – Echoes and Signals – Lunar

Echoes and Signals is a musical project by Russian songwriter, guitarist, vocalist and record producer Fedor Kivokurtsev. The project’s title refers to the ‘unity of opposites’ concept, which is the central category of many philosophical discourses.

I’ve been a fan of Fedor’s work for a long time and it’s always a joy to know he is working on new music so, when he told me about this new album, I was very excited. Fedor told me that the new album, “…is the continuation of (2021 release) ‘Mercurial’, and the whole cycle is related to Carl Jung’s researches on alchemy as a Metaphor for psychological processes. In particular ‘Lunar’ is something around the subject of Anima.”

And this explanation is continued on the website;

The moon. It fascinates and leads astray, it inspires and destroys, it can give strength and can drain. The moon is the source of the greatest danger and the greatest blessing.

Moonlight shines in the darkest night showing thousands of ways to go. Some of them are making you run in circles, some of them are going nowhere, but there are few that can guide you through the dark.

This album is the continuation of the journey started in “Mercurial”. We have to face something irrational, something that can not be described with the words, something that lies somewhere very deep inside us.

“Keep your eyes wide open, keep your mind wide shut”.

The mellifluous opening of Amygdala with its mysterious undertones and hushed vocals opens the album in an understated way, there’s something almost disconcerting about this short piece. The Witching Hour has a symbolic, edgy atmosphere with a staccato drum beat and guitar riff adding to the enigmatic vocals to deliver something ethereal and other worldly. You’re left on the edge of your seat and holding your breath as you get deeper and the superb Porcupine Tree-esque instrumental section really adds to the drama and feeling of unease.

The movement of the moon across the sky, lunar cycles and phases – all this serves as clues and landmarks. Ebb and flow, daily rhythms, the human endocrine system and many other things depend on the lunar cycles. Invisibly, the moon affects us and our condition, and this cannot be avoided.

Title track Lunar has light and airy feel, the vocals dance across your synapses, touching your mind and soul and the celestial music adds to the supernal aura. There’s power there though when the music bursts into life. Once again, there’s a supernatural feel as the track moves into a darker instrumental section, this is post-prog rock at its absolute best, music that affects you deeply and directly. Serpentine begins with a mystical, secretive air, pared back and equivocal, the vocals are low and precise and the song moves along inexorably towards its guarded conclusion, a deliciously dark composition that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

It could be a soundtrack to a deep and meaningful Sci-Fi film with its shimmering keyboard heavy intro but there’s a sharp, chaotic edge to Mana as it opens up into its ten minute plus running time. Epic in scope and delivery, this track is another superb piece that has a real feel of early Haken combined with some classic Ultravox and is one of the stand out songs on this dazzlingly elaborate album. Involving, mesmerising, hypnotic and, at times, damn heavy, it’s a personal favourite of mine.

Let the fire burn as long
As it needs to become coals
The wind will carry your fear far with cinders
Leaving space to grow

Cryptic and guarded, there’s a melodic elegance to Cinders and a stand out chorus too making it perhaps the most commercial track on the album but that’s not a criticism, it is still a fine piece of songwriting and what’s wrong with a memorable chorus that you can’t get out of your head? The spaced out introduction to Gravity fits perfectly with the song title before a monolithic riff and thunderous drum beat take centre stage. Calming vocals bring something quieter to the track but there’s always that primeval force hidden in the background and occasionally being let loose. Another track epic in length and dynamism and one that verges more on prog-metal than post-prog showing Fedor’s stylistic virtuosity as it ebbs and flows between a rock and a hard place.

And I saw the dark
After I’d reached the point
The center of the black hole
The point of no-return

The chiming keyboards and edgy drums and guitar give an almost frantic feel as Roots begins but that becomes more composed, even the potent chorus feels deliberately reined in. There’s a pleading tone to the voice, forlorn and lost maybe, does the dark envelop us all in the end?

And I know
Some things are meant
To become gold
Inside the burning fire

The brief, burning flame of Cassandra closes out the album in style, a glorious three minutes of music with heartfelt vocals and an organ-like synthesiser that left me emotional and yet hopeful, after all, some things are meant to fade away…

Powerful and moving, ‘Lunar’ is one of those albums that transcends music to become something much, much more. It is written in such a way that you make your own interpretation and it will affect us all in different ways. Personally I felt emotionally moved by what Echoes and Signals have created and I implore you to make the journey yourself and see where it leads you.

Released 20th April, 2023.

Download the album here for free:

Lunar | Echoes and Signals (

Review – Cairo – Nemesis

Cairo, the genre-defying project founded by the multi-talented Rob Cottingham return with the stylish ‘Nemesis’, and album that taps into contemporary global concerns and demonstrates the band’s impressive, genre-defying approach with menacing, angular riffs, pop rock hooks and electronic soundscapes that all beautifully complement powerful and emotive vocals.

Recorded with John Mitchell at Outhouse Studios, this release ventures into familiar ‘CAIRO rocks’ territory with the dynamic, moving epics. There are also some exciting departures for the band venturing into more melodic rock areas and even a short keys-based orchestral instrumental which doffs a cap to the likes of the sadly, recently departed Vangelis, and acts as a prologue into the title track.

The opening two tracks are firmly in the ‘hard rock meets prog’ arena. Asleep At The Wheel and Tripwire both major on crunching guitar riffs from the talented James Hards and thunderous drumming from the energetic Graham Brown. The dynamic and elegant bass playing of Paul Stocker keeps things on the right course and the flourishes are added by Rob’s excellent keyboards. Add into this the charismatic vocals from Sarah Bayley and you have two songs that will satisfy ardent hard rock and prog metal fans anywhere.

There’s a complete musical u-turn with the beautiful Glow where Sarah’s haunting vocal takes centre stage, this girl certainly has a wide range to her voice and it’s delicate, almost fragile, timbre here is a joy to behold. Everything goes all melodic rock when the guitar chimes in, reminding you of prime 80’s Heart, especially when Rob’s spiralling keyboards fire up. It really is a fantastic piece of music. Rogue has an energetic opening and proves to be an upbeat and uplifting slice of pop/rock and the balladic The Love is an elegant, wistful track that bleeds a melancholic grace, simply divine.

The epic New Beauty is an utterly captivating and involving seven minutes plus of progressive tinged rock pomp and splendour that beguiles and entertains in equal measure and continues to showcase the vocal talents of the wonderful Sarah Bayley who, surrounded by these prodigiously talented musicians, elevates this album to another level. Deja Vu is a winsome three minutes of refined music where Sarah and Rob deliver a wonderful vocal duet, one that lingers long in the mind. The 80’s return on the fantastic Jumping On The Moon, a proper ‘banger’ that flies along at a hectic pace and drags you along happily in its wake.

The orchestral wonder of Save The Earth always has a portentous note of warning in the background, the sophisticated music delivering an enlightened message and is a perfect foil and prologue to the final, title, track Nemesis. The longest track on the album is also my favourite, which is saying a lot with the calibre of songs on offer. A proper Cairo epic and one that stops you in your tracks, the polished, restrained introduction then sees Rob’s calm vocals delivering an important message. This is pop edged hard rock at its best, the delightful music ebbing and flowing with the mood and the vocal harmonies between Rob and Sarah are just superb. Add in a wonderfully uplifting guitar solo from James and you have a fantastic close to a sensational album.

Cairo seem to have found their niche with the elegant, epic pop and prog infused hard rock that they deliver. This is sophisticated, elegant and polished music and ‘Nemesis’ showcases a band at a creative peak. Simply a superb release and one that you really should buy…

Released 5th May, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Cairo: Nemesis, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records

Review – The Weever Sands – Secrets Of The Pecking Order

It’s time for something that’s a little bit left-field and it honestly doesn’t get more left-field than the quirky, Canterbury-esque musings of The Weever Sands. When the subject matter is a troublesome week in the life of Phea the Pheasant then you know we are in for an idiosyncratic journey.

‘Secrets Of The Pecking Order’ is the third album by The Weever Sands and the press release certainly grabbed my attention!

“The album might be described as a small-scale fusion of Post-Rock minimalism and Canterbury style Prog, uses Zappa-like collage techniques, and features Armin Rave (ex-Pavor), Dyanne Potter & Jan Christiana (Octarine Sky/Potter’s Daughter), Geo Schaller (Ex-Guano Apes producer), and Leslie Penning (ex-Mike Oldfield, whose folky minimalism is an overall influence for us).”

The album follows the line of classical 70s concept albums in using an animal protagonist to tell a human (and here a slightly bizarre) story:

“Our third album tells the hilarious story of Phea the Pheasant and his troublesome week, transformed into a Post-Prog adventure with many influences from the Canterbury Scene. The Weever Sands are joined by fabulous musicians for the seven tracks – one track for each day – to present a listening experience crammed with folky-jazzy harmonies, melodious bass lines, strange audio drama, rapid rock solos, tons of different sounds, and lots of humour. Animals rule! Enjoy!”

See what I mean? Let me tell you why I think this album is one of the most entertaining releases of the year and one that will leave a huge grin on your face…

Individual, strange and off-the-wall are all words that could be used to describe this unique ‘post-prog’ release that deals with seven days in our protagonist, Phea’s life. The music is as distinctive and singular as the concept would lead you to believe and brings to mind the work of bands like Gong and The Cardiacs and modern artists like Emmett Elvin and Join The Din. Art Rock for the outsider? it certainly sounds like it with the story being told via wonderfully eclectic keyboards flute and some rather excellent, if mad as a box of frogs, guitar playing. Flute, sax, keyboards and even a recorder are used to maximum effect to give this musical experience a feeling of wonder and make believe, prog by Terry Pratchett? you wouldn’t be far wrong!

With track titles like Monday. Phea wakes early from a bad dream and ponders the saying ‘free as a bird​’​, glowing with disbelief and Friday. On the Nerd Bird to San Jos​é​, Phea meets a fancy Tech Chick and messes it up completely this release stays on the right side of whimsy but is always tongue in cheek and the music has that pastoral England sound to it, hazy days and nostalgia leaking out of the wry amusement engendered in absolute spades. You really have to listen to the album in one sitting and in the right order to get the most from Phea’s troublesome week. Do that and you will enjoy a singularly unexampled jaunt into the furtive mind of one of the most imaginative and creative collectives I have ever heard.

I am trying not to disclose too much about the music here as I feel you need to discover the fine print involved for yourselves but you really must listen to this album at least once because then you can decide for yourself if it is utterly mad or utterly brilliant. I’ve listened quite a few times and definitely fall into the latter category, prog by Terry Pratchett it is indeed and, if you loved Pratchett’s books as much as me, then you’ll love this album too!

Released 3rd November, 2022.

Order the album here:

Secrets Of The Pecking Order | The Weever Sands (