Glass Hammer Release “The Return Of Daedalus” Official Video
Glass Hammer’s Steve Babb will release the nearly 17-minute-long epic, “The Return Of Daedalus,” in video form on Halloween to celebrate their ARISE release.
“Books have always been a big influence on the concepts behind our albums,” says Babb. “Besides fantasy and historical fiction, I’ve been a big fan of the cosmic horror genre. The works of H. P. Lovecraft have been a favorite since I was twenty, and recently, I’ve gotten into the works of his protégé, Clark Ashton Smith.
“ARISE was conceived as a cosmic horror story, or at least one that would evoke that particular sort of dread. It’s about a deep-space mission meant to glorify the achievements of man. But the android they commission encounters a rift in space. All sorts of nasty beings are emerging from this anomaly, and rather than being glorified, humanity finds its very existence at stake.”
The album’s finale is The Return Of Daedalus, Daedalus being the name of the android’s spacecraft. It’s divided into three distinct parts: Battle At MARS-001, Reentry, and The Doom Of The World.
2023 has been a most excellent year for music, with many fine releases hitting the racks. They have been full of music of worth and value, not the unimaginative, tepid and vacuous drivel that dominates the airwaves, grabs the headlines and gets the promotional push and thrust of X, Snapchat or Tik Tok, the arena where things like good song craft and musical abilities are unrecognised.
This is why I like current progressive rock music as I find that it is music that contains all the elements that make music worthwhile, great song craft, strong musical performances and songs that have themes and are interesting, rather than banal and lacking these elements entirely. This all brings us to this fine new release from Californian band Pattern Seeking Animals with their new album ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’. This ten song album, has all of the elements that satisfy me, good songs and strong musical ideas and performances.
Pattern Seeking Animals are the vehicle that song writer John Boegehold uses for his music, he is accompanied by most of the current line up of Spock’s Beard, all except keyboardist Ryo Okumoto, that role being covered by John himself. On this album there is also a string section that adds significant orchestral elements to the music. In addition, for this album, extra attention has been focused on the vocals and that attention and focus has paid significant benefits, this means that the songs really are memorable and stay with you, long after the album has concluded. This time around PSA have changed this around a little to create something that is different to what has gone beforehand and this has been very successful.
Ì enjoyed and bought the previous Pattern Seeking Animals CD’s and I will buy this one as well, as I find their highly melodic approach and quality of music appeals greatly to me, as does the intelligence that lies at the heart of their music connects with me. The days of banal and misogynistic lyrics no longer have a place, I want the music I enjoy to actually mean something and be about interesting scenarios and this is why progressive music matters, as it has historically met that remit and continues to do so. This album also fits that bill, all this is most worthy but is it any good you may ask?
Well the answer is a resounding yes, it is a mature album and one that really grows on you the more you hear it. The album has lots of excellent moments and excellent performances and opener The Man Made Of Stone sets the stall out with a very memorable chorus and enough changes of direction to confuse anyone, through all of which there is a central melody that is recurrent and impresses greatly. The song opens with an almost military style drumbeat before a flute like synth sound is added and the sound then builds. There is a good solid bass part too that fills the sound out nicely, as does a neat little guitar fill and a synth line that mirrors it. The great synth fill really adds to the track, as does the cello part and the song really impresses. This is followed by the storming Window To The World which, again, features some unusual time signatures and rhythmic sections that work together to make something that is both different and unusual, yet also an a extremely fine listen. The lyrics are strong and the vocals are powerful and clear with the backing vocals sounding especially fine. What Awaits Me is hinged on a repeated bass run that plays to the bands musical strengths. Again, the string section add touches that enhance the song greatly. This track serves to emphasise just what a great band PSA are and what worth they have and offer, this is quality stuff, lovingly and carefully crafted with every song working to create a cohesive album.
The fourth song, He Once Was, is another fascinating track, slightly downbeat in tone as it is a song about a soldiers wartime reflections. This piece is very moving and well constructed, with great musicianship, it is also the albums’ longest song and the extended length gives room to expand and the time is used wisely and thoughtfully, with sections being recognisable, and different enough, to retain the listeners interest throughout. I really like this track as it shows the great skill that has gone into its making. Again, I am reminded of the classic sound of Kansas, who PSA have a similarity as they have a similar mix of sound and depth. This is possibly my favourite track on the album, it really is a great song from all concerned and a fine guitar solo towards the end reinforces that idea. The saxophone solo adds depth and gravitas to the track making it beautifully sublime, it’s a truly great song on all fronts. Underneath The Orphan Moon continues the album with another excellent song with a great vocal, sympathetic strings and bass that adds to the excellent dynamics of this shorter track. It is a very satisfyingly fine one at that, with excellent bass work anchoring the song wonderfully, this song oozes emotion and class. Clouds That Never Rain is a very upbeat and sprightly track with a recurring riff that leads the track well. An impassioned vocal really adds soul and the background vocals are especially strong. The song is only a shortish one but has lots contained within its five plus minutes running time. Bassist Dave Meros once again shows how integral he is to the bands overall sound, on this album he is most definitely on form and possibly MVP (most valuable player).
Bulletproof continues this excellent album and, again, the bass work is especially fine. The song name checks themselves as Pattern Seeking Animals and could be about resilience or maybe it isn’t, I don’t really know. What I do know is that it has a refrain that others would kill for! Somewhere North Of Nowhere is another fine track, seemingly about Aliens hunting people after an invasion. Again, there are lots of impressive bass work and touches, including some great keyboard embellishments. This is followed by the track Summoned From Afar, which is about a reluctant warrior victorious in her last battle. There are a lot of layers to this track, with subtle use of other instruments like the flute and mandolin to enhance the overall sound palette and spectrum, another most impressive track that will stay with you for certain. The album closes with Love Is Still The Light, a very poignant and gentle song with a really great vocal performance from Ted Leonard. This is a beautiful heartfelt track that tells us that ‘Love Is Still The Answer, Love Is Still TheLight’. It has a neat and brief guitar solo that plays counterpoint to the vocals and really grabs the attention and this song closes the album gracefully.
This is an album of significant worth and value with some great performances and musicianship from all the band. The changes to recording location and production that the band have utilised has definitely reaped great rewards. If you want modern progressive rock with both style and substance then this album will hopefully meet that requirement for you. Why not give it a try and see if you agree with me.
After a near decade-long recording process, Swedish progressive rockers, Moon Safari are set to make a comeback this winter with their 5th studio album Himlabacken Vol. 2.The album will be released on December 6th through Marquee Inc. in Japan and worldwide on December 8th through the band’s own Blomljud Records Inc.
The band are pleased to share the album’s first single “Between the Devil & Me’. You can see the lyric video now here:
“It took us ten years, for a million different reasons. But we’re not dead yet. We return with what we know is a worthy comeback album, filled with our own special brand of symphonic rock cultivated over 20 years as an antidote to the long, dark winters of northern Sweden, with those trademark vocal group-inspired harmonies, uplifting melodies and soulful romantic lyrics that our fans have come to expect. With the addition of ex. Black Bonzo drummer Mikael Israelsson to the band we’ve totally revamped and boosted the low end of our sound, tightened it up, and that attitude shift is felt through our entire arrangements.Tying it all together is the mix by the great Rich Mouser. He’s been the go-to guy for the big boys in the genre for many years, and now we understand why. The mix is clear and punchy, booming and never flat. It just sounds expensive, and we couldn’t be happier. You’ll get almost 70 minutes of this heady brew, spread over nine tracks, with zero fillers. And of course there’s the obligatory epic. The whole thing is a banger, and we’re immensely proud of it.
“The first single from the album, ‘Between the Devil and Me,’ is at it’s core a story of self-exploration. It rides the pendulum swings of an unbalanced human mind from confusion to clarity. And it rocks, hard.
“We’ve all wanted to quit at some point during the last decade. It’s been a real test of our patience and our commitment to the music. But in the end, we were pardoned by the Gods of Rock ‘n’ Roll and we’re back in great form. To hear the whole thing in one go is absolutely liberating, and well worth the wait. If this thing won’t fly, nothing we’ll ever do will.
“So welcome back to Heaven Hill, dear friends! We hope you’ll enjoy the ride. All our love / MS”
Track Listing: 1. 198X (Heaven Hill) (3:55) 2. Between the Devil and Me (10:38) 3. Emma, Come On (3:19) 4. A Lifetime to Learn How to Love (8:28) 5. Beyond the Blue (2:12) 6. Blood Moon (5:44) 7. Teen Angel Meets the Apocalypse (21:03) 8. Forever, For You (10:08) 9. Epilog (3:22)
Moon Safari is: Petter Sandström – Lead and Backing vocals, Acoustic Guitar Simon Åkesson – Lead and Backing Vocals, Piano, Organ, moog. Pontus Åkesson – Lead and Backing Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar Sebastian Åkesson – Backing Vocals, assorted keys, percussion. Mikael Israelsson – Backing Vocals, Drums, percussion, keyboards, piano Johan Westerlund – Lead and Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar
Special guest performance by Jamison Smeltz – saxophone on “Forever, For You”
Cinematic progressive rock band Proud Peasant return with their new album ‘Communion’, the follow-up to their debut album, ‘Flight’, and the second part of the It Does Not Cease trilogy.
Proud Peasant have forged a reputation for combining classic and modern sounds together, drawing comparisons to Mike Oldfield, Gryphon, Wobbler, and King Crimson, while also incorporating elements of movie and video game soundtracks, metal, thrash, chamber music, avant-garde, Chinese classical music, and ragtime jazz to create a cinematic mix of sounds.
There’s something refreshingly retro and nostalgic about ‘Communion’, the music has a feel of the 70’s and 80’s about it but brought bang up to date for the current generation. The excellent keyboards and guitar that open first track An Embarrassment of Riches give a touch of retro 80’s pixellated gaming to the song but crossed with Weezer’s brilliantly pastiche track Buddy Holly. We move into more early scandi-prog territory (Wobbler jamming with Marillion while Roine Stolt and Kaipa watch on), the vocals then start and just carry on that feel, it’s all very entertaining and sounds like the band are having an absolute blast, I know I am and as opening tracks go, Proud Peasant have nailed it! Instrumental A Thousand Cuts takes a dynamic, thrusting bass line and drums and adds to an edgy guitar riff and skittish keyboards to deliver a tense, atmospheric sound that leaves you on the edge of your seat as if something momentous is going to begin. It’s very arty and suspenseful before the shackles are off and it’s prog-jam time. Hectic, funky and delightfully intense, the music runs away with you and carries you forward on a wave of bonhomie. Then there’s the sax, oh what a glorious sound, utterly captivating and enthralling, it adds another dimension to what is already a pretty glorious track. The track closes with a seriously impressive drum section, like something out of an afro beat gig, the sonic shifts are mesmerising.
We then go all Romany with the delightfully intricate guitar that opens A Web of Shadow, delicately dancing across your aural synapses, you can imagine the musicians sat around a campfire and people dancing wildly as the tempo increases. Let’s segue then into something much more mariachi with the superb trumpets and vocals before the ignition is fired and off we go with a hell for leather guitar riff and a wondrous ebb and flow between the darkness and the light. There’s some very intelligent songwriting on show here which is performed to perfection by the band and it’s another exciting song with a an almost sinister intimacy at its core, I love it! A Storm of Swords enters the fray with a strong Rush feel to these ears. It’s an up tempo, high energy piece of music that never seems to let up and leaves you breathless in its wake. Take the fiery, monolithic guitar riffs and the almost demonic, squirrelling counter that dances across your mind in maniacal fashion, it’s restlessly brilliant and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Shibboleth takes that high energy from the previous track and raises it a few notches to deliver a post-punk/prog crossover of mammoth proportions before things calm down a bit and the less frenetic vocals begin. You never lose that feeling of the chaotic though, you’ve got no idea what’s coming next, the song structures and influences can come for just about anywhere on this album, it’s like a weirdly wonderful voyage of musical discovery and one you won’t want to get off. The lengthy, epic pièce de résistance of this superb album is the scintillating The Fall, a nineteen minute mind-blowing voyage of genre, mood, and sound. Strap yourself in for a musical ride that knows no bounds and just enjoy what is before you, these are musicians at the top of their game who have graciously invited you into their world to experience something dynamic, primal and just so damn good. I’ll not say no more about this song, you just need to listen and let it wash over you, commit totally to this delightfully eclectic adventure and you will love every second.
With the phenomenal ‘Communion’ Proud Peasant take no prisoners, from the obscure to the pompous and overblown, every minute is a joyous thrill ride of musical wonder and discovery. It’s a wonderfully immersive, exciting and ultimately rewarding experience that will live long in the memory.
This review is not an easy one for in it I have to evaluate the career of one of the greatest keyboard players of the progressive era, namely Keith Emerson of The Nice, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and not to mention his own extensive solo works.
Keith Noel Emerson was born on the 2nd of November 1944 in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, as the family had been evacuated during the Second World War. After the war ended the family moved south to Goring-by-Sea. His Father Noel was an amateur pianist and taught Keith basic piano and, when he was 8 years old, they arranged formal tuition for him. This meant he was entered into competitions at the Worthing Music Festival and it was suggested he continue his studies in London. However, Emerson says he was bored of classical music by then, preferring to express his music in a jazz style.
After leaving school Emerson worked at Lloyd’s Bank Registrars and played piano in the pubs and local clubs at night. He played in a 20 piece swing band run by Worthing Council, covering Count Basie and Duke Ellington tunes and this led to TheKeith Emerson Trio’s formation. He was later fired from the bank which allowed him to concentrate more fully on music.
Emerson then played in John Brown’s Bodies John Brown’s Bodies where members of the T-Bones, the backing band of blues singer Gary Farr, offered him a place in their group. After a UK and European tour, the band split, Emerson then joined the V.I.P’s, who were a purist blues band, his great flamboyance was noticed at this point. Emerson then formed The Nice with fellow ex T-Bones member Lee Jackson, they replaced Ian Hague with Brian Davidson and started being noticed because of their blending and rearrangements of classical themes as symphonic rock, and also Emerson’s showmanship on his keyboards, mainly the Hammond Organ, which he mis-treated and abused by whipping it, riding it like a horse and tipping it over to create feedback and other sounds, he also used knives between the keys to create sustain.
Emerson first heard the moog synthesiser when a record shop owner played him Switched On Bach by Wendy Carlos. He got in touch with Mike Vickers of ManfredMann who bought a moog over from America, with a view to Emerson using it for a concert with The Nice and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which saw Emerson perform Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. The Nice were no strangers to controversy either, especially when they burned a US flag at a charity event at the Albert Hall whilst playing America/2nd Amendment.
When The Nice broke up in the band actually tried to recruit a new guitarist with Steve Howe trying out at audition but he ultimately decided not to join with band so they continued as a three piece. They recorded further albums ‘Five Bridges Suite’ and ‘Elegy’ before Emerson decided to end the band to pursue other projects. which included working with Rod Stewart and the Faces and sessions with Roy Harper. In 1970 Emerson formed what was his most famous group, Emerson, Lake and Palmer ,who had immediate success with their performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival in August 1970.,
Anyway enough historical background as most will know the ELP years, instead this review will concentrate on the more obscure, unreleased and rare elements of Emerson’s musical career. These include a piece written for former record company owner, and friend, Tony Stratton Smith for who a lament was recorded that appeared on the ‘Hammer and Tongs’ retrospective but which makes a welcome appearance on the disc ‘The Early Years / The Bands’, which includes The Nice and ELP. Indeed, throughout this twenty CD set there are some real obscurities sprinkled from the frankly odd gospel version of Jesus Loves Me from ‘Honky’ and A Whiter Shade Of Pale from the Boys Club project, with Glenn Hughes on vocals, in an early foretaste of what would become The Keith Emerson Band, who are represented here with ‘The Keith Emerson Band’ and the excellent ‘Live in Moscow’ albums.
Also found in this comprehensive set are the ‘Emerson Plays Emerson’ and ‘Off theShelf’ albums, along with the soundtrack albums for ‘Best Revenge’, ‘Harmaeddon / Godzilla’, ‘Inferno’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Murderock’ and ‘Nighthawks’. There are also the hitherto unavailable ‘Live at BB Kings’ double CD, recorded in 2004, which also includes seven tracks by The Keith Emerson Trio which date from 1963 when Keith was just 19 and hadn’t turned professional yet. These tracks are far more straight jazz in sound, however these are really good and show a seldom heard side of Keith’s style.
We are also treated to the long deleted ‘Live from Manticore Hall’ CD with Greg Lake, which features several ELP revisitations and a great track called Moog Solo / Lucky Man in which both Greg and Keith talk about that moog solo and how Keith improvised on it. It is all rather glorious sounding overall and both Emerson and Lake introduce the tracks making it very interesting and informative and adds new textures to pieces you may already know and love. Through the intimacy of the show it is clear that both men thoroughly enjoy being together again in this rather unique setting. Thank heavens it was recorded for posterity.
This is a big set of albums and you need time, lots of it, to get the most out of this lovingly curated collection of music. But, if you dig deep, you will find some real gems that will captivate and entertain you. To be honest though, some of the soundtracks are a little underwhelming and aren’t really that good and, also, I find it strange that there is nothing from the Emerson Lake and Powell album, and I’m sure there are live recordings from that era. Nor is there anything from the ELP reunion years but these are minor quibbles in the overall picture of Keith Emerson’s life and times.
The booklet is good with good informative sleeve notes, credits and previously unseen photos from Keith’s own archives. This is presented in a 48 page hardback book. This is a great set, true nirvana for ELP or Emerson aficionados like me.
I was extremely sad when I heard of Keith’s death by suicide, brought on by his depression and alcoholism over fears of losing his abilities as a player, which, on the recorded evidence here, was mostly unfounded. The world lost a real innovator and classy musician whilst his family lost their father, partner, grandfather and far more, we lost his music whilst they lost the man.
There was a fantastic tribute concert a few years ago with many of the world’s famous keyboard players taking part to honour his memory. I actually interviewed Keith around the time of his ‘Three Fates’ album, which was remarkable for a fan boy such as I. Sadly that recording has been lost, although it was an honour for me to talk to the man whose music had been a soundtrack for many of my early years. I miss him still eight years on. This set seeks to showcase his amazing musical variety and skills in every part of his life so settle down for the long haul, you may be a while.
I’ve heard about this album for a while but not actually heard it until i got in touch with David Knowles, the band’s keyboard player and a major part of the entire project. Everything that I had read and seen on the internet hinted that this one was a bit special, so it was with a small degree of trepidation that I sat down to listen for myself and see if there was any substance and truth to validate these claims or whether it was just hype generated in order to sell the album…
Well, I have to say that it’s is not hype at all, in a year of excellent releases from the likes of The Emerald Dawn, Ruby Dawn and Southern Empire (to name just three) this album has leapt, nay vaulted, into my list of albums of the year, it really is that fine! There are strong memorable songs, some truly exhilarating performances and vocals that are strong and clear. I think that, in John Wilkinson, they have a vocalist who can match the power of Collins era Genesis alongside which, with the intricate detailed keyboards of David Knowles, they have unearthed a very rich vein of talent and competence, it has barely left my CD player all week. I’ve listened on various systems, headphones, on my phone and even whilst in the bath!
This album is full of great songs like the stunning opening duo of The Waffle House Index and the so GenesisAfter Dark, that sounds like it could be a newly unearthed Genesis track from ‘Invisible Touch’ or ‘We Can’t Dance’. It’s that good and John’s vocal certainly helps with that impression. It has been a source of much joy reading the lyrics online whilst listening to this decidedly Prog/Pop crossover album, if this were on a major label like InsideOut it could get some good promotional impetus behind it and could happily meet the needs of Genesis deprived Radio 2 listeners. It really is that good and, quite frankly, the fact that this isn’t being blasted out over the airwaves is a major fault with music today. This has crossover written all over it it and warrants a far bigger audience that it will sadly receive, if Steven Wilson were to release this it would be massive. Such is the problem with prog circles, they can be a bit blinkered and short sighted in the width of vision.
So the album consists of ten songs and has a running time of sixty-seven minutes long. This comprises of three longer songs in the opener The Waffle House Index, My Little Vampire and The Great Adventure. The other seven tracks hover around the four to five minute mark, although English Electric is just shy of six minutes. The sleeve is interesting in that, as a Liverpool based band ,the cover shows or seems to, a nighttime photo of the Liverpool skyline as it is now alongside a swan’s neck and head. Achilles refers to a band that David and Colin McKay were a part of in the 1980’s, in fact some of the albums songs were previously Achilles songs that have been revisited, refreshed and even reworked for this album. These songs being all except My Little Vampire and The Great Adventure, although English Electric itself actually dates back to an idea before the band’s name became Achilles, as they were not able to use English Electric as a band name due to legal/copyright issues.
The album is, unsurprisingly, somewhat political at certain points as they take a swipe at the fanatical following that folk like Donald Trump receive and how that blind faith is dangerous to hedonism. There is also a sense of political dissatisfaction that runs through some of the songs, I guess with them coming from Liverpool that they are more Labour oriented than Tory in their views. There is also a song about Peter Sellers (Being There) that talks of how his talent was largely under appreciated by the critics and also the fact that his talent was often overshadowed by his extravagant lifestyle, his love affairs and his hedonism. This was especially true with the tabloids (gutter press like the Murdoch media, rags like The News Of The World and the Daily Mail that so often tell lies and untruths about people). The song has a lovely piano refrain that runs through it, along with orchestrations and a simple synth line that adds weight to the track. A strong vocal introduces the song which, in itself, is rather sad but not morbid, rather it focuses on his failure to maximise on his talents to a level of success that eluded him till his death. This also notes that his passing was largely ignored by the mainstream media, there was no elongated celebration of his talent sadly, his life was worthy of much more than it received.
This is followed by a couple of shorter tracks, namely Cold Comfort and Contender, the former being about family it seems and with a busy bass riff throughout. There is also a chunky guitar fill happening alongside the symphonic keyboards of David Knowles, who really plays up a storm on this album, the song has pace and good dynamics. “The sole of your preachers” is a reference to some inferior footwear from before the days of Nike and Adidas’s training shoe cartel of today. This is followed by the muscular Contender, which is the tale of a man called Danny who is incarcerated for crimes undisclosed. Danny does a degree whilst locked up which affords him the attention of a prison visitor groupie, this is a cautionary tale.
My Little Vampire is a song about how relationships often play out very differently in privacy and how partners can be very cruel to each other. The song contrasts the illusion and imagery of a Bob Ross painting when the reality is very different. This has a piercing guitar solo in the middle and even more lush keyboard sounds and is an emotionally involved track. English Electric, despite its title, has nothing to do with Big Big Train except that originally Achilles considered the name but were unable to use it for copyright and legal reasons. The song has a strong triumphant opening salvo with a jaunty synth, strident bass line and a masterful vocal which complements the song greatly. It has a further snaking lead guitar line and the sturdy bass driving the song forward. I especially like this rather jolly song, it is a great track. Welcome Home is another shorter song with good lyrics, a driving bass and lots of guitar fills. It’s meaning is a little unclear but it is a good track with more than a whiff of the 80’s In its sounds.
The final piece, This Great Adventure, is the album’s longest at just under thirteen minutes duration. This song seems to be about stepping up, making a difference and taking on the challenges of life in a post lockdown pandemic afflicted world. There’s yet more solid bass driving it with scores of keyboards and short but effective guitar fills. The vocal are delivered with deep conviction. This song is a perfect representation of what Swan Chorus are all about and distils into one track all this band offer
This album will no doubt appear on many best of 2023 lists and will definitely be on mine. I commend it most highly indeed, it is simply sublime and enchantingly captivating. Get it now you, will not regret it one bit and the band will appreciate your interest and support.
Amarok, known for its fusion of progressive rock, ethno and ambient, puts a slightly more predatory side on its latest single “Hope Is.” The track is based on a distinctive guitar sound and a characteristic drum rhythm, complemented by electronic additions that give the whole composition a modern twist. The message is based on the concept of hope understood as a force that shatters the safe but illusory order, giving a new direction to reality and the present. Hope as an almost cosmic force lends its energy, nourishes and saturates. It stimulates one to move forward, to live.
Hope Is is not a regular song, but rather a track with vocalizations from a distance, with lyrics sung by Kornel Poplawski and Marta Wojtas’ voice somewhat reminiscent of the sound from a space station. In the sound layer, in addition to the aforementioned ring modulator guitar sound, we will also hear small elements of 90s-style drum & bass.
The single Hope Is will open Amarok’s latest album, scheduled for release in spring 2024.
To mark the 20th anniversary of Opeth’s ground-breaking 2003 album ‘Damnation’, a special vinyl re-issue has been meticulously crafted to pay homage to a pivotal and trailblazing moment in the band’s illustrious history. Originally recorded in the serenity of Åkerfelt’s native Sweden, with additional production from Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, the album acclaimed by fans and critics alike has since received a re-mix and master in 2015, pressed to vinyl on a double LP together with the dichotomous ‘Deliverance’.
Released on 15th December (Music For Nations) this marks the first time exclusive and deluxe vinyl pressings have been given to ‘Damnation’. A record that represents a paradigm shift in the band’s approach to composition, seeing them side-line their metal roots from the forefront of their arsenal. Instead replacing it with an additional insight into ambience, atmospherics, and progressive rock, this together with Åkerfeldt’s signature lyricality and musicianship creates a unique record of ethereal beauty and longing, and one which remains top of mind for many Opeth fans.
The 20th Anniversary versions sees the 2015 re-mix and remaster pressed to standard black vinyl, as well as being available on deluxe and limited colour finishes, and for the very first time available on an exclusive picture disc that highlights and reflects the album’s ethereal and bleak visual world.
Speaking on the release, the band’s lead vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt comments,
“Hello folks! Our old “partners in crime” Music For Nations are planning a 20th-anniversary re-release of one of our odd records, this time ”Damnation”. We want our records available on vinyl at all times, and it turns out we can’t keep stock! Our vinyl editions are flying out. I’ve seen it with my own eyes when I helped out in a record shop during the pandemic. Some customers didn’t know they’re buying it from one of the people responsible for the music. Of course I went: ”Good record, good band!”. So before there’s any moaning about ”another reissue, another cash grab” I want to stress out that it really comes down to public demand. We’ll present Steven Wilson’s updated mix (first available in 2015 or thereabouts) on limited edition opaque and transparent vinyl as well as on a picture disc, which I believe is the first time ever.
”Damnation” is a special record, even if they’re all special to me. I remember hearing the first mix on headphones in a crummy hotel somewhere in the UK. I had trouble believing it was us, myself, Peter, Lopez, Mendez (as well as ol’ Steve on keys). It was completely different from anything we’d done up to that point, and quite frankly, since. Out of all of our records, I think this one is most suitable for the vinyl format due to the fact that it is not really cluttered with stuff. A pretty airy recording with 5 musicians and done on 2 inch tapes as well. It’s a record I’m immensely proud over and it also remains a fan-favourite I believe.
Commenting further Steven Wilson adds “At the time I remember getting death threats from metal fans for “ruining” the band! As if it could be anyone’s intention but Mikael’s to do a record like that anyway. Damnation was when everyone understood that he was not going be trapped within the confines of any genre or label, and that the band’s importance and influence would be far reaching. Rightly so Damnation is now seen as a timeless masterpiece, and I’m very proud to have had my part in making it.”
Alongside Luke Machin and Dan Nelson, the second Cyan album will be released on Nov 17th 2023.
Keyboardist and composer Rob Reed, known for his work with Magenta, Kompendium and Sanctuary solo albums, has once again joined forced with Peter Jones, along with Luke Machin and Dan Nelson for a new Cyan album titled Pictures From The Other Side. The second album from the resurrected project is due out on the 17th of November 2023. The new album contains 6 songs, including the epic 17-minute track ‘Nosferatu’. The CD is accompanied by a DVD with a full 5.1 surround mix of the album and a live acoustic performance of songs from the previous album For King And County.
Watch the video for the album’s opening track “Broken Man” here:
Cyan was originally formed by Robert Reed (Magenta) when in school, back in 1983. After recording some demos at a local studio, the band went their separate ways. Years later, those demos led to the release of ‘For King And Country’ on the Dutch SI music label. It was the first of three Cyan albums released in the 1990s before the project was shelved and Rob went on to form Magenta.20 years later Rob Reed, along with a killer line-up, decided to brush off the cobwebs and successfully release a completely re-worked version of the ‘For King And Country’ album. Cyan has since performed at the 2023 Night Of The Prog festival in Germany, and at the 2022 Summers End and Fusion festivals in the UK.
Rob Reed: “I remember that the first Cyan album ‘For King And Country’ was written when I was still in school with a band I formed with some school friends. After I left school, we went our separate ways and it was several years later that I was approached by the record company. After the success of the first album, they wanted a follow-up so I wrote new material for what became ‘Pictures From The Other Side.’ It was more song-based, but included a couple of long epics.
Obviously, I was influenced by the classic Prog of Genesis and Yes when writing this originally, but I was also listening to a lot of other bands of the time like It Bites, Simple Minds and Marillion. It’s been great to finally hear this material played by this line-up, it’s a completely different album. Re-written, re-recorded and re-arranged. Hopefully, I’ve brought to the album, everything I’ve learned in my career.
Pete Jones: “It’s a joy to be involved in the ongoing resurrection of the Cyan canon and the vision Rob has for these new interpretations. As a vocalist, there’s so much to work with on the new album, with epics like “Broken Man,” which really let me dig deep into my inner Genesis prog vocals. The title track has some great hooks, as does the rest of the album. Tracks like the dark but beautiful “Solitary Angel,” and the vampire world of “Nosferatu,” really call for some vocal gymnastics where I can stretch myself and really go for it. Then there’s “Follow The Flow,” which is just gorgeous. As with all Rob’s stuff, it’s the feeling and emotions which are key to the whole thing. I hope I’ve managed to do my bit with the vocals.
We’ve now got a few gigs under our belt, including the recent fabulous time we all had at Night Of The Prog in Loreley. That was a real highlight of the year for me. The live band is sounding really great, with Luke, Dan, Jiffy and the man himself Rob Reed all at the top of their game. As well as doing the vocals, I play sax and whistles, and rhythm guitar which Rob asked me to do in a moment of madness. Ha-ha. All being well, we’ve got some rather special shows in the pipeline for next year. So I’m looking forward to the album coming out, and taking it to the stage!”
CD tracklisting: 1- Broken Man 2- Pictures From The Other Side 3- Solitary Angel 4- Follow The Flow 5- Tomorrow’s Here Today 6- Nosferatu
DVD consists of: Full album in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround Promo videos The Quiet Room session (live acoustic performance) 1- I Defy The Sun 2- Don’t Turn Away 3- Call Me 4- Man Amongst Men/The Sorceror 5- Snowbound 6- For King And Country
Robert Reed (Magenta / Kompendium / Sanctuary / Chimpan A)
Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales / Camel / Francis Dunnery’s It Bites)
Dan Nelson (Godsticks / Magenta)
Luke Machin (Maschine / The Tangent / Karnataka / Francis Dunnery’s It Bites)
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Lewis Carrol, ‘Alices Adventures in Wonderland’.
In music, most albums contain individual stories, the songs, and then some albums have a thematic link: concept albums. So, when one of my favourite bands tells me they are releasing a space-based concept album, trust me, I am going to be hooked…
Legendary American proggers Glass Hammer return with deep space exploration concept album ‘Arise’, this new release follows the extraordinary journey of an android dispatched by overzealous scientists to uncover the galaxy’s hidden wonders.
So let’s delve into this musical space adventure, the explanation can come later…
An incredible amalgamation of prog-rock, 70’s hard rock, psych rock, doom and even a definite 80’s vibe, ‘Arise’ will at times leave you slack jawed and open mouthed at its audacity and in-your-face brilliance and, while definitively a Glass Hammer album, there’s new found confidence in every note.
A.R.I.S.E. Android Research Initiative for Space Exploration
Statement From A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Harnessing the powers of celestial-rift anomaly MARS-WRM-001, android ARISE ventures to deep space, unraveling cosmic enigmas and pushing the boundaries of exploration. Our audacious pursuit of knowledge shall illuminate the universe, leaving an indelible mark on the annals of cosmic understanding.
Let the adventure begin with Launch of the Daedalus, an urgent instrumental full of anticipation as we await the launch of the exploratory craft with the android on board. If anyone remembers Boston’s‘Third Stage’ then The Launch comes to mind, painting a picture in your mind of a spacecraft rising majestically into a bright blue sky.
“Here I go, riding on a flame Through the sky I’m burning brighter Than the sun, and can anyone see me now.”
Wolf 359 hoves into view like a cinematic epic, the marching music full of pomp and circumstance before we hear the dulcet tones of Hannah Pryor and what a voice she has, a perfect match for the dynamism and majesty of the all-powerful music. It perfectly sets us on the interstellar journey. There’s a thought provoking keyboard section before the vastness of space is invoked once more.
The vastness of deep space unfolds, a testament to the extraordinary capacities of human and android intellect.
Like a majestic slice of hard rock infused electronica, ARION (18 delphini b) fires a warning shot with Steve’s effects laden voice leading us into the track before Hannah takes over again. It’s a wonderful thrill ride of galactic proportions and the funky keyboards add a touch of 70’s cool to the song.
“Thank God I found it The only place I’d ever want to be Thank God, who made it My shining castle by the sea.”
Steve then trades solos with Reece’s scintillating guitar as our android protagonist stands upon the shore of Mare Sirenum marvelling at the singular beauty of its waters. Contemplating the wonders he sees here has conjured within him a deep longing for something he cannot name or explain. we then cleverly segue into the delicate wonder of Mare Sirenum, a delightful instrumental that pings and chimes and reminds me of early Sci-fi classic films.
“There I stood in perfect silence all alone Circled round by memories of all I’d known Then you called out from the darkness All that I could do Was turn and run away from you.”
A harsh and intense instrumental section ushers in Lost, invoking some painful feelings and memories before Hannah’s beautiful vocals begin, full of pathos and warmth. It’s a song of two extremes and they work perfectly, the alien intro a harsh reality against the beautiful pathos of the elegant vocals. There’s some delightful keyboards and drumming before that slightly off-kilter, almost alien back drop returns and then plays a game of cat and mouse with Hannah’s ethereal voice, what a superb track.
Transmission from Android Research Unit ARISE: Curious anomaly detected at WASP-12. An indescribable rift emerges within the celestial expanse, heralding the arrival of unknown entities from dimensions uncharted. Their enigmatic presence evokes an inexplicable disquietude within me—a sensation both unfamiliar and captivating. It seems my neurosynaptic network is experiencing a cascade of perplexing algorithms… [Intermittent signal disruption encountered}
Oh my, what a brilliant, thunderous monumental slab of space rock, Rift at Wasp-12 arrives like a homage to those legends of psych, Hawkwind, I love the way that, despite the heaviness (and I love the heaviness!), the music is instantly accessible but I keep hearing more and more with every listen! Steve provides a suitable demonstrative vocal and bass line hewn out of granite and there’s a brilliantly savage guitar solo from Fred Schendel that all adds up to a track that’s cooler than James Dean!
“I don’t know what calls to me from the rising mist at twilight I don’t know what’s standing there wrapped in the glow of moonlight I don’t know what’s led me here, this place on the verge of nightmare And I don’t know what you’ve been told but you really don’t want to go there”
We then segue into the even heavier Proxima Centauri B and there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. It’s a monumental piece of music, a sinister widescreen 70’s Sci-Fi soundtrack of epic proportions Reese once again fires his guitar like lightning bolts and Hannah’s evil twin turns up for vocal duties, it’s so good and puts a huge grin on my face. There’s a definite 70’s sci-fi feel to me, those great shows like Space 1999 but with a deliciously dark edge to it.
Regrettably, we must report the cessation of ARISE’s operations at Proxima Centauri B. The android, presumed destroyed, encountered insurmountable challenges, rendering it non-functional. Despite the emergence of sporadic “ghost transmissions” purporting to originate from ARISE, we must regard them as spurious and disregard any claims made therein.
Sinister and ominous in feel, the title track Arise ascends with a measured pace, like a leviathan of the stars, it’s a proper slow building track where the tension can be felt on every note and every word. Steve’s bass is disquieting and mischievous and the drums (which Steve played as well) are filled with a portentous tone. Hannah’s vocals are, once again, superb but they are just one cog in an ever impressive musical wheel. Reese delivers a slow burning, extremely bluesy, guitar section which just adds to the suspense, what a fine piece of music.
Statement from A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Inexplicable sightings of the presumed-destroyed spacecraft DAEDALUS have emerged. False transmissions from an entity claiming to be android ARISE undermine our mission’s integrity. Urgent action is required to neutralize this deceptive presence upon its emergence through the Mars anomaly MARS-WRM-001.
This has been an excellent album and it ends on a suitably high note with The Return Of Daedelus, there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. Glass Hammer deliver music from a bygone era, digitally upgraded for the modern age. It’s like a mash up of 70’s rock and prog, the perfect union of early Rush and Deep Purple, like blues/Prog with an hard and improvisational edge.
Steve says, “It’s a huge guitar / bass jam and not something we usually do. I wanted to show Reese Boyd off. I usually end albums with a big triumphant victorious bit, but wanted something “catastrophic” for this one.”
He’s not wrong, it’s the long slow build that’s key and raises the tension and you end being completely blown away by the suave sophistication of the music and the incredible skill of the musicians. What a way to close out what has been a fantastic collection of songs, ones that combine together perfectly to deliver one of the best concept albums you’ll have heard in recent years.
There’s no weak link on this album, it just ebbs and flows beautifully, although the last three tracks go together so well. They’re possibly the best triumvirate of songs that the band have ever done back to back. With the Skallagrim series Glass Hammer proved themselves masters of the dynamic and grandiose and ‘Arise’ gives the impression that the creative skills of Steve Babb have gone into overdrive, is there a better storyteller in modern progressive music?