Review – Subsignal – A Poetry of Rain – by John Wenlock-Smith

I’d not really bothered much with Subsignal until now, I’d seen folk talking about them online but not investigated them for myself, fearing that they were German prog metal and as such possibly best avoided, especially when my taste is for towards symphonic prog like The Emerald Dawn, Big Big Train and the like.

Well, I could not have been more wrong in my view for this album has definitely impressed the hell out of me. It is rather exceptional, just ten songs in all (on the bonus version) but with such style grace and variety running throughout. Okay, there are a few more heavy tracks but, in everything, there is melody and intelligence that go hand in hand to create some really strong and fine music. I did think that, perhaps, the album started off slowly but by the time you reach the fourth track, Silver (The Sheltered Garden), things really improve and very dramatically so.

What I like here is the fantastic use of dynamics to really make an impression and all the touches that they add to help in this realm but let’s start at the beginning shall we? Subsignal are a five piece, German, band who have been around since 2007 when they began as a side project for Arno Menses and Markus Steffen of Sieges Even after they disbanded.

The album begins with a brief overture called A Poetry Of Rain which leads into The Art of Giving In. The overture is gentle with good acoustic guitar over a wash of synthesised sounds and then a strong drumbeat ushers in the second track with some almost Dream Theater like guitar with strong bass and double bass drums to give a metal feel. However, within this power there is the band’s secret weapon, the sublime voice of Arno Menses who sings rather than growls and has a strong voice without any accent, he really is an accomplished and fine vocalist. There is also a suitably ferocious guitar break which impresses greatly. This is an exciting track that definitely grabs your attention from the off, the song ending on a high note with a strong driving performance with, oddly enough, an almost country feel with its pedal steel guitar and almost Americana sound, it is most impressive. Marigold is next and although you can almost hear The Power Of  Love (Jennifer Rush) in the opening, it thankfully moves in a different direction. There are lush vocal harmonies and some gentle guitar licks and fills, this is a layered and sumptuous sound which adds greatly to the songs strengths and is really rather fine by any standards. Silver (The Sheltered Garden) opens with a powerful crunchy guitar and an equally aggressive bass but behind the power there is a beast of a song. With great instrumental support from guitar and bass respectively, this track really deserves to be heard far wider than just prog circles as it is brilliant, strong most satisfying.

Impasse is even better than its predecessor, this track is remarkable with some very nifty bass runs throughout. It is a slow burn of a song, one that really grows on you with its acoustic mid section which really is impressive in style. A great chorus leads to a beautifully melodic guitar solo that puts you in mind of Steve Rothery and the impression doesn’t end there as the song has more than a touch of Marillion to it in many respects. For me, this is the track that really makes the album so good and so strong. Embers Part II: Water Wings has a great looping guitar line that sticks with you long after it ends. There is a build up of power in the mid section with chiming guitars and a prominent bass before the power riff resumes and the band add in soaring vocals and great piano runs against the looping guitar line. All of these together make this another highly impressive track, think of AOR with prog touches, utterly sublime and fantastic. Melencolia One is a punchy little rocker that marries great dynamics and intelligence with strong songwriting and performances. Again, more great bass runs add to the dynamics and the return of the crunching guitar works well, almost too good as I am totally swayed and won over by now. I really am liking this band a lot, so much so I am going to investigate their back catalogue as soon as I can!

A Wound is a Place to Let the Light In opens with an accapella vocal before a grand piano enters, along with more strong bass runs, add in a highly emotive vocal and you get another spectacular track with a stunning chorus and. It’s totally compelling and I’m on the ropes here now. The Last of its Kind is the final song proper on the album and opens with sequenced keyboards noises before some heavy bass and a muscular riff. The vocals are now sung growled and all the better for it on this track. An active drum beat and fills add to the surging power of the track with good keyboard textures floating over it all before a neat guitar solo leads in to the next verse and chorus. The song then takes a left turn with a jazzy saxophone solo which, when set against the heavy riff, is very impactful, as is the growling bass that carries the song forward before the punishing riff is reintroduced as the track draws to its conclusion. There was a bonus track, A Room on the Edge of Forever, on my download and it is a more restrained, gentle number with acoustic guitar and Spanish guitar trills The good clear vocal helps greatly before sweeping guitar chords usher in a multi layered vocal section and a delicate acoustic solo plays to fine effect. A key change adds emphasis and lift to the track which is very strong and ends on a gentle note

Well that’s it, it certainly does make a hugely positive impression when you listen and their great mix of heavy and soft sounds works really well for the band and makes this a truly exceptional album, why have I not heard these before now? This is a really excellent release, if you don’t know this group then maybe its time that you discovered them for yourself.

Released 22nd September, 2023.

Order from the band here:

A Poetry of Rain – SUBSIGNAL – The Official Website (

Review – Moon Safari – Himlabacken Vol.2

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”Confucius.

Music is wonderful and fantastic music can sometimes be all you need, there’s a joy and simplicity to just listening to music and letting it work its wonders on you and I don’t know any music that is more joyful that the glorious songs created by Moon Safari. Their wonderful multi-part harmonies will put a smile on your face and their incredible musicianship just leaves you dumbfounded in amazement.

Moon Safari is a Swedish progressive rock group formed in Skellefteå, Sweden, in 2003. The band focuses on vocal arrangements in the style of Gene Puerling and they willingly surrender to the spirit of 60s rock, pop and progressive rock music, previously invoked by the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Yes. After a near decade-long recording process, the band are set to make a storming comeback this winter with their fifth studio album ‘Himlabacken Vol. 2.’

As the band put it; “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”

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) and Johan Westerlund (Lead and Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar) return with what they know is a worthy comeback album, filled with their 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 the fans have come to expect.

It’s been ten long years since Moon Safari released their last studio album, ‘Himlabacken Vol. 1’, and hearing the first notes of opening track 198X (Heaven Hill) brings it all flooding back, the purity of the music and the joy in the wondrous vocals, it’s all still there! There’s an uplifting feel to the glorious keyboards and an almost 80’s AOR vibe to the guitar riffs but, when the harmonised vocals begin, the music goes full-on, upbeat scandi-prog (although with glint of pop music fun it its eye). Oh what a joyous feeling this music gives you! After that short but oh so sweet re-introduction to the band we are given the brilliance of Between the Devil and Me, the first track released from the album. A wonderfully laid back piano and keyboard opening gives way to some chugging guitars that then soar high into the heavens in a gloriously overblown way before we are off and running. This ten minute plus piece is a winner from beginning to end with an urgent drive delivered by the guitars and rhythm section and some utterly sublime vocals, as we’ve come to expect from the band. This dynamic track ebbs and flows between the more pressing verses and then the spine tingling chorus sections where the harmonies just soar into the heavens, it just brings elation and exultation with every note and every word. The second track released from the album is the succinct and very dramatic Emma, Come On. Edgy and yet gloriously theatrical, it’s three minutes of uplifting music that never fails to please.

We then go from the dramatic, high-tempo music of the first three tracks to something altogether more emotive and breathtaking, the sublime brilliance of A Lifetime to Learn How to Love. There’s an ethereal wonder about this captivatingly beautiful piece of music. It’s more about the vocals with the instrumentation used more as a presentation before those incredible voices deliver something quite passionate and wholly profound. Let time stand still and just enjoy every single moment of this musical treasure. Beyond the Blue feels like it fits its two minute running time perfectly and, again, it’s the stunning vocals that take centre stage on this musical amuse bouche, just stunning! After those two hauntingly spellbinding tracks we are back with the up-tempo, grin inducing music with Blood Moon. Like something perfectly formed in the 80’s and transported to the here and now, the music is catchy and attention grabbing and the vocals just put a huge smile on my face. This is music that is uplifting, joyous and completely inspiring and just gets under your skin in the best way imaginable.

And just when you don’t think it can get any better, Moon Safari deliver a twenty minute Scandi-prog epic that has everything that you’d expect from this inventive and accomplished band. With an opening that could be straight off an album by The Flower Kings, all intricate, harmonious and full of a funky melodic edge, you are drawn into the band’s sophisticated musical web. What a wonderful musical journey Moon Safari take you on with there emotive vocals and tender music but that impish, wide eyed wonder that the band engender is never far away, harmonies galore and some of the best guitar playing you’re likely to hear on a symphonic prog album, this superb song has it all. Exquisitely wistful and delivered with sophistication, charm and grace, Forever, For You just picks at the heart strings with its elegant vocals and refined instrumentation, it’s just ten minutes of music that really moves you with its contemplative, nostalgic feel and the sax playing of Jamison Smeltz is just sublime. Epilog closes proceedings in the perfect manner, just a church organ and piano and those memorable harmonies before an elegant acoustic guitar plays out to finish things on a high note.

Music has the power to move you and impact on your life in a positive manner and, with ‘Himlabacken Vol. 2’, Moon Safari have delivered the most wonderfully uplifting collection of songs I have heard this year. A joyous, mood enhancing release that just makes this world we live in a better place to be, if only for a short time. Trust me, you need this album in your life!

Released 8th December, 2023.

Order digital at bandcamp here:

Himlabacken Vol. 2 (24-bit audio) | Moon Safari (

Order physical product from Burning Shed here:

Himlabacken Vol. 2 (

Review – Baker Gurvitz Army – Live 1975 – by John Wenlock-Smith

I got very excited about this release but, before you think I’m strange, let me explain myself…

I’ve always been a bit obsessive about details, I even make my own lists of albums I own, ranking them in order of personal preference. For many years the second Baker Gurvitz Army album featured highly in those lists, as did this live album (well, actually it’s a live set from Reading University along with a few extra tracks from a different show in London, at the New Victoria Theatre).

I was already a fan because of my often mentioned friend Peter Boner who had introduced me to the band when I was just fifteen. So much so that I acquired a copy of their 1974 debut single Help Me/Space Machine that, of course, failed to make any significant chart impact. More is the pity as that single really rocked with thrilling synthesiser sounds, a very fiery guitar break from Adrian Gurvitz and the thunderous drumming of one Ginger Baker. That single is on this release, albeit it in a slightly different form in that some of the singles dynamics are missing, but it’s still a great track.

This album confused me initially as it contains tracks from all three BGA albums, then I realised that their brief career only spanned three years in all, with their self-titled debut album in 1974, ‘Elysian Encounter’ in 1975 and ‘Hearts On Fire’ coming in 1976. Shortly after their career was severely derailed by the death of their manager in a light aircraft crash near Moffatt in Scotland in 1976. This scuppered the band’s activities and with the increasing tensions between Adrian Gurvitz and Ginger Baker the band imploded and split to seek different activities. Which is why I was excited about this CD, especially as live recordings of the bands early days were not that accessible then and this is a particularly fine recording of this rather phenomenal band in action. They really deliver the goods in their performances, it’s really fiery and very well done.

The Baker Gurvitz Army were all seasoned musicians and this shows in the sound they offered. The band had been expanded from the trio format of the debut to a five piece with keyboard player Peter Lemer, his keyboards helping to add a jazzy edge to some tracks and Steve Parsons(Mr. Snips) was recruited as the band’s vocalist. The album has an earthy live sound, as you can tell from its rawness, also, many of the songs are extended from the studio recordings. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of drum solos and drum focused elements within the tracks although, to be fair, everyone gets their own moments to shine in tracks like 4 Phil, Remember and Memory Lane.

As I sadly never got to see the band in action (I don’t know why as they came to Birmingham Town Hall in 1975 so I could have gone), this cd is chance to experience, in some part, that missed opportunity for me. The set is balanced between the debut and ‘Elysian Encounter’ and, oddly, the title track that later appeared on ‘Hearts On Fire’ and there is a lot of time for improvisation throughout. Quite frankly, there may be a drum solo or two too many but, overall, this is a really fine snapshot of a great band who really warranted significantly more kudos and respect than they actually garnered.

The booklet is, as with most Esoteric releases, rather splendid with a good summation of their short career. The sound is very crisp and clear with only a few dropouts in a recording that is nearly fifty years old and it is an excellent document of an exciting evening that hopefully those who were there will still remember. This new release documents those moments for us all to relive and enjoy once again or, for younger folks, to discover and enjoy! For fans of 1970’ British Rock music this is a diamond and a much desired album, hearing a band hungry and accomplished and really firing on all cylinders. It is highly recommended from this possibly somewhat biased reviewer…

Released 24th November, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Baker Gurvitz Army: Live 1975, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records

Review – The Twenty Committee – The Cycle Undone

“It is one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever heard and I can see why it found a place on many of the ‘best of’ lists of 2013. It is in turns inspiring, moving and uplifting and will stay with you for a long time to come. It left me wanting more and that happens on fewer and fewer occasions nowadays.”

That was my conclusion (when writing for Lady Obscure Music Magazine) of the debut album, ‘A LifeBlood Psalm’, from New Jersey, USA residents The Twenty Committee. That album was released ten years ago and it is only now that they are releasing ‘The Cycle Undone’, the band’s sophomore release and I am so happy that this talented bunch of musicians (with a couple of changes) are back on the scene, and back with an almighty bang!

The band’s current line up consists of Geoffrey Langley on lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, and organ, Justin Carlton on background vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and additional keyboards, Joe Henderson on background vocals, drums, and percussion, Jeff Bishop on lead guitar and background vocals and Richmond Carlton on bass, harp, and background vocals. We also have Laura Langley guesting on autoharp and the legendary Annie Haslam of Renaissance dueting on lead vocals on the album’s title track.

Way back in 2015 I was chatting with Geoffrey about the prospect of album number two and he told me this, “We’re working as quickly as possible. I think I’ve told you before that I also do a lot of work in the musical theater world. We had our first Twenty Committee practice since January today. No Broadway yet but I’m getting close. Anyway, this puts the band on hold. All I can tell you is there will be another album and everyone that’s heard the new stuff say it sounds like a modern version of “Power and the Glory”. Hope that gets you pumped for album number two.” So, eight years later that promise has finally arrived.

According to the band, the album is ‘a sci-fi dystopian tale of sentient robots, flawed humans, out-of-control technology, morality, and how those four things reconcile each other.’ To be honest, after quite a few listens, it’s the music and the heart and soul of this record that really resonates with me.

The album opens with the epic twelve minutes of Recodified, a song whose opening reminds me of the fantastic prog/jazz fusion of Snarky Puppy but delivered in The Twenty Committee’s signature cultured style. I just get the feeling that the band had a blast while writing and performing this track. Geoffrey’s intricate keyboards and the effortlessly cool bass and drums of Richmond and Joe blend together perfectly while Jeff and Justin’s fizzing flashes of guitar add real panache, this intro really had me buzzing from the off. The track then opens up into definitive The Twenty Committee territory with Geoffrey’s gorgeous vocals flowing over the uber-smooth keyboards, chiming guitars and elegant rhythm section, it’s just gloriously textured and as polished as you like. Sparks In The Mind does a good job of following the opening masterpiece and is high energy, upbeat and shines with a vitality that positively lights up the place. There’s strong hints of early Ben Folds Five to my ears although the great vocals really do shine here. Now let’s get into Embers, a wistful, almost mournful piece of music that has beauty deep in its soul. Geoff’s vocals are sublime and full of passion and longing and the music just seems to add a plaintive and melancholy edge. The guitar bleeds emotion and a powerful yearning and just sends a shiver down my spine, what a superb piece of music it is. A Star in The Eye carries on the reflective, wishful feel and starts quite gently with the subdued vocals and restrained delivery of the music. There’s longing and hunger in the powerful chorus but this graceful song is calm serenity personified. It’s on tracks like this that you really appreciate the skill of the musicians, they are all particularly wonderful but Geoffrey’s keyboards can really stand out at times.

Forevermore is a musical delight, the intricate play between the guitar and keyboards is genius and the whole band are at the top of their game. Calm, reflective vocals give the foundation for what is almost a piece of musical theatre. Deeply thoughtful and introspective yet with a brooding intensity waiting to break out, a hidden intelligence almost. Sometimes you have to just stop and listen to the music and that’s what this song, and album is all about. The second epic on the album, and title track, The Cycle Undone is truly majestic, a prog epic in the best sense of the word. Intricate sections, calm, reflective moods, resplendent overtures, virtuoso musicianship and incredible vocals, this track has it all. The tastefully muted opening feels mystical and magical at the same time, building the story for the listener and holding you rapt in attention. A soulful guitar then takes up the refrain, soaring and diving with an emotive edge before Annie Haslam adds a brief touch of class. A brilliant Lenny Kravitz style guitar riff then lights a fire under the song and we are off on a 70’s rock style musical journey aided and abetted by some wonderful keyboards. Then Annie really gets to strut her stuff and deliver a superb vocal performance, duetting supremely with Geoffrey, as guest appearances go, they don’t get much better than this. Robot Death is all that’s great about The Twenty Committee distilled into six and half minutes of musical wonder. A calming piano and touching vocal really touch the heart strings before the stylish guitar and rhythm section add their skillful touch. This sumptuous song then plays out to the sounds of some pretty fantastic guitar playing, quite a compelling statement indeed. The album then closes with the delicate piano led Dust Returned, a contemplative sixty-four seconds to finish off this amazing musical performance.

With ‘The Cycle Undone’ The Twenty Committee have not only returned triumphant, they have also delivered one of THE musical experiences of 2023. Highly emotive songwriting allied with musicianship of the utmost quality, the band’s sophomore release builds on the enormous promise of their debut all those years ago. It may be ten years after but, boy, what a way to make a comeback!

Released 12th December, 2023.

Order the digital from bandcamp here:

The Cycle Undone | The Twenty Committee (

Kindred Spirit Band Announce Further Details of New Concept Album – “The Journey Within” – To Be Released In 2024

The Kindred Spirit Band have a revitalised and excellent sound with their almost completely renewed, “post Covid” line-up and they have been working hard, putting this sound into some powerful, new recordings, which have a real relevance to the current generation. The band’s music has rightly been described as,

“all about facing up to the hidden dangers and the stored-up menaces presented to us in the modern world. But salvation is offered by the band. Through music. The sounds and words invite us to think freely…written for our generation”.

Neil Mach, Ad Pontes, Staines

New Concept Album – ‘The Journey Within’, An Album for Our Generation:

Many of us have friends or family members battling with mental health issues. It could well be the rise of “the machine” and the complexity and fast pace created in our lives, by our computer driven world, which is driving this malaise. A full length, concept album is well underway, called ‘The Journey Within’, which we hope to release in 2024.

In this album, faced with dark visions and feelings of persecution, we manage to escape deep within our own minds to an “Alice In Wonderland” kind of dream world. Here, we know we want to escape back to the loving embrace of our family and friends, in the real world, but we don’t want the dark thoughts to follow us back and we need to find healing and salvation somehow.

Why This Album Will Be Unique:

In the story, deep within our own minds, we know we are looking for something. We encounter obstacles and meet several characters on the journey, all of whom are guardians of something as well as guides. These characters are one of the things which will make this album so unique; These characters are all personifications of a number of prog rock bands’ title characters! They come alive, in the songs in which they feature, on the album and all the prog rock bands involved have agreed to add some instrumentation and / or, vocals to their characters’ songs!

The bands involved, in the order in which they appear in the story, are:-

Haze (and Treebeard)
Spriggan Mist

Elaine has been researching mental health conditions and reading autobiographies of suffers, who describe their difficult journey from the inside and how they managed to eventually recover. She has drawn inspiration from a variety of real life stories to create the darkness and feelings of persecution in the start of the story. At the beginning, we find ourselves trapped in a large, old house full of distorted mirrors. Dark, shadowy, faceless beings emerge from the mirrors. They speak directly into our minds, with whispery voices and we know they are coming for us! Fans who have heard us sing these songs live already are telling us that they are, indeed disturbing yet enjoyable; so we know we are achieving our aims!

Elaine has also been researching books about the positive evolution of the human spirit, along with real life, alternative views on medicine, the body and healing therapies. She has pulled together and integrated a raft of contemporary thought on the question of improving mental, physical and spiritual health and hopes that anyone suffering with, or caring for someone suffering with, mental health issues might both enjoy the story and the music, as well as find some comfort and useful insight, from listening to “The Journey Within”. Music also plays a big role in our salvation and return to the real world too!

The songs for this album are almost complete. The story described in the songs can be read, along with illustrations being drawn by Elaine, and live performance video of some of the songs, on the Kindred Spirit Band web site here:-

Review – UPF – Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope – by John Wenlock-Smith

Well, I may have met my match with this one but, first, let me explain. I am always talking about how progressive rock albums need both length and space in order for the music to evolve and expand enough to make music make sense. The fact that brevity is not usually a big feature of prog does actually matter, well it does to me at least. Well this latest album from United Progressive Fraternity (UPF) really challenges that idea and could be seen as overload or just simply too much!

‘Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope’ is nearly three hours long and has thirty-one tracks, several of which hover around the fifteen minute plus length. Alongside which the cast of contributors is huge, ranging from Steve Hackett to Jerry Marotta and all points in between but it’s fun when you can spot their contributions, like Steve Hackett’s guitar tapping on Chants of Hope.

What I will say is that, this is the equivalent of a transatlantic flight in that it’s long and the scenery changes constantly. And in a similar vein, there are many musical elements that are employed here in the rather strange, and possibly difficult, third UPF album. You get everything including speeches from the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Chief Oren Lyons amongst others, for this is very much an environmentally focused album, in that this is a plea for us to change how we exist, evolve and engage with nature.

Anyway, enough waffle from me, what exactly are you getting with this album? Well, in a nutshell, you will find some staggeringly good and complex symphonic progressive rock music with more than a touch of Peter Gabriel’s World Music thrown in for good measure. You get songs that have good messages and that actually mean something and you get excellent musicianship and some really quite remarkable playing, all wrapped up in a strong, conceptual set of 3 CD’s with excellent artwork from Ed Unitsky.

What’s not to like? Fans of antipodean prog like Unitopia and Southern Empire or even the excellent Damanek will find music to both discover and enjoy here. There are a large variety of styles used from quite aggressive passages to almost swing and orchestral sections. Faultline, for example, has heavy sections and jazzy swing tempo passages to it that are most impressive.

The album begins with Hope Is Drums Of Hope and a symphonic overture, all very ethereal and airy, before Mark ‘Truey’ Trueack’s earnest baritone vocal begins. There is a lightness of touch in this opening section with an evocative violin from Steve Unruh, who plays a large variety of instruments including guitars, bass pedals ,violin and flute and also provides lead and harmony vocals in conjunction with Trueack. These two together form the axis of UPF, although they draw on a wide array of contributors to achieve their unique sound. This opener has a hell of a lot happening during its running time including that great violin, lots of drums, a delicate piano and masses of choral type voices, its’ all very over the top but definitely appealing to these ears.

One of the album’s longer tracks, Being of Equal, has a very middle eastern sound to it, almost Arabian really. This is all very epic sounding, as the song continues a strong electronic element and bass line is added which actually fits in really well with the mystical elements. It really sounds exciting and different, there is an excellent synth burst too that really empowers the track. Yes, it is a complex and engaging track but it is also an excellent album track that really helps set out what the band are all about. This is an album that you are going to have to invest your time with in order to get the most out of it so be warned, this is going to require your efforts here, although I will point out that this will be mutually rewarding as you will encounter some really remarkable and challenging music on your journey.

Justified is another interesting track, very minimal in its sound with just a drum beat along with a sole vocal before taking a more expansive and broader musical route at the early part of the song. Lyrically it is interesting as well, lines like; “If you lay down with dogs you’re going to wake up with fleas, you’re scratching the surface not treating the disease.” It’s very well written and intelligently crafted, the touches of world music really enhance the sound they make and it’s really gorgeous in places, like on this track. Another bonus is the third disc of tracks in which, as The Romantechs they revisit several tracks and even a couple of old Unitopia tracks like Justify from ‘More Than A Dream’ and The Garden from the album of the same name. These are interesting retakes and well conceived and delivered versions of two classic songs, When you factor this bonus disc is of nearly seventy minutes duration, you can tell this is a very rewarding album when you do your part in giving it time and space in your life.

UPF certainly have a valid message wrapped in an attractive, challenging and complex musical format. There is a lot to get your teeth into so what are you waiting for? Dig in deep and enjoy the vista that United Progressive Fraternity offer with ‘Hope’.

It may be worth mentioning that ‘Hope’ continues on with themes that were both raised, voiced and addressed on their previous album ‘Planetary Overload Part One – Loss ‘ released in 2019. ‘Hope’ was delayed in part by the pandemic and continues in expressing both environmental and humanitarian issues and concerns. I also recommend that you give that one a listen as well and embrace the whole picture.

Released 15th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

UPF’s – PLANETARY OVERLOAD, PART 2 – HOPE | United Progressive Fraternity (

Review – Dreamwalkers Inc – The First Tragedy of Klahera

Dreamwalkers Inc is the brainchild of the multi-talented Tom De Wit, when it comes to music (especially prog-metal) there isn’t much this high energy Dutch wizard can’t do with regard to songwriting, playing, production and, on top of that, he’s a really nice guy and someone who I consider to be a friend. Having said that, this review will be objective, like every one I write.

Tom is a storyteller and with ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’, that’s exactly what we get. Music started as a way for the latest news to be passed around, the bards singing the stories (with a bit of poetic licence, obviously!) to a rapt audience as they passed through settlements that were starved of the latest news and were often vast distances apart.

Storytellers. Society has had a place for them ever since history has been recorded. And stories can be deeper than one might see on the surface. The simplest of fairytales can hold deeper meanings and social commentary that takes some time to digest.

The album’s concept stems from a story written by singer/frontman Tom de Wit which was adopted into a novel by Janneke Stam (to be released somewhere in the future). The story is a high fantasy/steampunk epic, that details about a girl found in a forest on a dark fated night that is adopted into a small village by a loving couple. The girl is clearly different from everyone in the village and seems to be at odds with everything. It feels like everything she thinks and stands for is ‘not normal’ according to the world around her. This leads to a dark conclusion at the end of this record that will be revealed as the songs pass. The story of this girl named Klahera forms the basis of this album. Subjects like social alienation & trying to belong somewhere are present here. But also concepts as justice, how history is written & the influence and interpretation of religion and it’s consequences are touched upon.

Aided by a cast of voice actors known from other work in the progrock sphere, the band has tried to craft a record that almost plays like a movie from start to finish. ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ is the first in a set of albums and the story will continue on the next record. With this new body of music under their belt, Dreamwalkers Inc is excited to get out into theworld, play shows and tell this story to whoever wants to hear it. Because some stories deserve to be told and the band believes this is one of them.

Dreamwalkers Inc creates a melodic blend of progmetal & progrock with influences from all over the musical spectrum. The pandemic has seen the line up change and the new 6 person band that emerged sounds fresh and new. Featuring newcomers Sander van Elferen on Drums & Bjorn van der Ploeg on bass providing the rhythmic backbone of the band. Guitarists Lennert Kemper & Norbert Veenbrink provide the melodic and heavy tapestries on top. And the vocals are provided by Tom de Wit & Radina Dimcheva who provided different yet distinct voice colours to the mix. Aided by a cast of voice actors known from other work in the progrock sphere, the band has tried to craft a record that almost plays like a movie from start to finish.

With an introduction like that this album has to be something special and, once again, Tom doesn’t let us down. I have a love/hate relationship with concept albums finding some to be brilliant, musically diverse, musical events that stun and impress, while others are overblown and overwrought and, simply put, not worth the time. To save on the anticipation, I’ll tell you now that ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ sits firmly in the former category, so let me tell you why…

There’s all that’s great about prog-metal in this album, and in Dreamwalkers Inc’s sound in general, the loud “aggression” and amplified guitar-driven sound of heavy metal combined with the more experimental, cerebral or “pseudo-classical” compositions of  progressive rock and the band do it extremely well, you can hear it on Oldstead and the darkly delicious, brilliant It Lives especially. However, what you also get is the inventiveness of tracks like opener Justice My Tragedy which is almost hauntingly gothic in places as well as delivering huge, monumental slices of heavy rock and growling vocals, a pure melting pot of musical brilliance. Despicable is another sublime piece of music, it’s almost jazz/prog fusion in places and puts a big grin on my face, oh and don’t get me started on the brilliant, intricate and incendiary guitar playing on this song! The wistful, soulful wonder of Pushed is just beautiful and Tom and Radina’s vocals are as emotive as can be, it just a gorgeous song.

And what also makes this a phenomenal album are the performances of the musicians, van Elferen and van der Ploeg make one of the most cohesive rhythm sections you will ever hear in any band, never mind a prog-metal one and the guitars of Kemper and Veenbrink almost have a life of their own and speak to you through the music. It’s not just the solos, it’s everything, there’s a superb section in the middle of the opening track where they are bluesy and soulful before breaking out into something much more primeval, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! And, as twin vocalists, Tom and Radina make just about the perfect pair, his harder edged, powerful clean and harsh vocal meeting the perfect foil in Radina’s glorious, almost operatic delivery and it fits this concept perfectly. Broken Puzzle Piece is a particular highlight of the ebb and flow that their vocal delivery adds to the music but it really shines on the longest track, Mother Dearest, one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, and not just in the prog-metal theatre either.

The addition of the voice actors is nothing short of genius and does give the impression of musical theatre, storytelling at its pinnacle. I recently went to see Les Miserables in London’s West End and , in my humble opinion, this brilliant album and story would fit there very well indeed.

Music has the power to move you, the power to enthral and beguile and this utterly immersive and captivating ninety minutes of music does just that. Dreamwalkers Inc have that innate ability to entertain and bewitch at the same time and with ‘The First Tragedy of Klahera’ they have delivered as powerful a music statement as you will hear this year.

Released 24th November, 2023.

Order the album here:

Shop | Dreamwalkers Inc – Progressive, Symphonic Metal from the Netherlands

Review – Tribe3 – s/t – by John Wenlock-Smith

Tribe3 are a progressive rock band who hail from Bridgend in South Wales, there must be something in the water down there as the area is awash with prog groups emerging this year with Last Flight To Pluto and The Mighty Ra both hailing from a similar geographical location to Bridgend.

This self-titled album consists of six tracks in all and lasts for about fifty minutes so, yes, its mostly longer tracks, with The Downfall of The Birdwatcher being the shortest at at just over six minutes. The music the band make is actually rather good and has elements of Rush and Yes, although I also detected hints of 80’s prog groups like Marillion, IQ, Arena or Pendragon. It’s certainly an interesting mix of both influences and styles, obviously bands are influenced by earlier artists and that influence is going to appear somewhere so these traits are unexpected really, but it is good to hear that the band are trying to create their own style here, and are mostly successfully at that.

The album opener is Invictus and is the albums second longest track. This sets out their stall rather well, starting with Mellotron voicings and sounds, mostly choral in tone, all very epic and stately really before morphing into something different where an intricate guitar motif is played by Chris Jones. Invictus refers to being unconquerable or undefeated in Latin and the song is about that feeling and not allowing life to beat you. It’s all about resilience in the face of what life throws at you really, a maxim that we can all adopt in these challenging days in which we live. The song has more than a nod to 80’s era Rush, especially with the Bass pedals moving the track along. Fear Is The Key is about how the world is controlled by a shadowy few who wield control over governments and power brokers, all whilst running to their their own agenda, they control by using fear to get their goals actioned. This is possibly a flawed idea, but the song has credibility in its music even if you don’t agree with its lyrics, it certainly makes you think, hopefully it does at least. The Downfall of The Birdwatcher is next and this shorter track lists the names of many common birds that a twitcher would seek to see for himself. In this instance our hero falls afoul of the law when his actions are reported to the Police and, when his actions are deemed innocent and he is cautioned and released, the offended party take matters into their own hands and damages his perch so that gravity will bring about his downfall, a cautionary tale perhaps.

Lament follows is hinged on delicate piano lines and a very Alan Holdsworth legato style guitar line that runs throughout the track. I really like this one as the build of the track is good and satisfying to hear, as is the excellent guitar break that plays out against the piano motif, it really catches the ear well. This song is definitely one of the albums strongest pieces, it is also the albums longest. Towards the end the piano refrain returns in a style very reminiscent of Marillion and this really impresses. Calm Before The Storm opens with a busy bass solo, all open notes and runs and you can definitely sense the Geddy Lee influence and inspiration here. This then has chiming guitar chords and syncopation akin to Rush and their epic soundscape. The song is a mournful view of modern earth and how everything green is disappearing to be replaced with greyness and dullness. It speaks of how nature will fight back by washing it all away, global warming, the rising seas and their encroaching will address the years of harm nature has suffered at the hands of man. A warning for us all possibly? The final track of the album is Dawntreader, a song about people who work away from home, usually at night, dockworkers, miners and the like who eagerly await the dawn in order that they can return home once again. This has a excellent and emotional refrain of “Stay With Me, You’re In My Heart…”. It is very laden with emotion and expression and is a slow burn interspersed with synths and strong effective guitar work on which this excellent album concludes.

It may have come to fruition after a few years of lockdowns and altered lives but with this album Tribe3 have taken an impressive and accomplished step forward into a new world. I eagerly await their next steps, meanwhile this album will no doubt continue to impress as will their upwards progression.

Released 13th October, 2023.

Order direct from the band here:

CD ‘Tribe3’ | Tribe3

Review – Cyan – Pictures From The Other Side – by John Wenlock-Smith

This November sees the release of the second instalment of the Cyan story. If you recall, this project saw the resurrection of an album and concepts from the very earliest years in Robert Reed’s musical journey and development where Rob and his school friends made an album that was actually released in the 1990’s on a small dutch label that allowed further parts to be released. Although Rob felt that these releases fell somewhat short of how he saw the album should have been envisioned.

To this end, when Rob decided to update the concept afresh with a more competent and rewritten version, he enlisted the talents of Peter Jones, Luke Machin and Dan Nelson, with Rob himself handling the keyboards and other things like production. ‘Pictures From The Other Side’ continues that journey and, again, the original source material benefits both from a 2023 production and also the reimagining and experience that has been gained the last 30 years.

The album has just six tracks, including the epic Nosferatu, opening with an extremely strong and compelling opening track, Broken Man, which allows Peter Jones to sing and channel his inner Gabriel. The track begins with what sounds remarkably like Uilleann pipes but is probably more likely to be Peter’s whistles or something similar, this is accompanied with a soaring guitar line from Luke Machin that takes the track forward in style. The song has great backing vocals from Angharad Brinn ( who featured on the Kompendium album from 2013) and also benefits from the athletic and agile bass playing of Dan Nelson, who is all across this track, adding solid and expressive support. When Machin’s guitar lets fly it really warms the heart to hear this marvellous collective really making an impact and allowing the song to really flow. The vocals are very much like Peter Gabriel and, again, this really makes a strong and favourable impression, in conjunction with Angharad Brinn, this all sounds really strong and enticing, especially when you factor in the fabulous music that Cyan offer as a unit. It is very imaginative, well nuanced and textured with an expansive sound and simply excellent musicianship from all parties involved, a stunning opener all told. Title track Pictures From The Other Side opens with gentle piano lines before the band join in and a jazzy saxophone plays in tandem with the vocals. The song sings of stories from the other side of life, although what that actually means is a little abstract and unclear. It is another excellent song though, relatively short but with a strong keyboard part in the mid section and some classy saxophone lines before a sweeping Luke Machin guitar line plays out over Rob’s keyboards. This has great dynamics to it, an ethereal vocal from Angharad taking centre stage as the song moves forward. There are some fabulous guitar parts within this song and, again, it really makes an impact. The track ends on a syncopated jazzy section with guitar, keyboards and sax all playing their parts to perfection, another winner!

Solitary Angel is a more restrained piece really although, again, it builds well in its intensity and does allow room for more of Luke Machin’s flights of fingers and notes to occur. That takes the track to greater heights, Machin really lives up to his growing recognition and skills here. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this young man grow, not just in his confidence, but also in his abilities, to become the valued player that he is. This understated song has real class and adds a testament to the strengths that the group possess and display so well. The wistful and poignant Follow The Flow is a bewitching and beguiling piece of music that focuses on the twin strengths of Peter’s vocal and Rob’s piano playing to deliver just shy of four minutes of musical wonder. Once again Angharad’s beautiful, touching voice adds to what is a marvellous musical brief encounter. Tomorrow’s Here Today starts with an acoustic guitar alongside a fine vocal from Peter Jones and ethereal vocals from Angharad Brinn, who really add to this slow burn of a track as their voices blend really well and expressively. Deep keyboards are employed to add to the atmosphere and the dynamics as a synth solo is performed by Rob and, as Luke Machin joins in the fun, the song gathers pace and urgency and becomes a platform for swapping solos before returning to the previous mood. I really like this track and its use of dynamics to convey its points.

The final song of the album, Nosferatu, is also the longest at just shy of eighteen minutes in duration. Nosferatu is a reference to vampirism like Dracula but with its roots further back to Roman times in Transylvania and that region of the world. It’s all very Gothic and removed from Whitby and the Dracula legend of today. This has a gothic horror element to it but it is all done with a degree of reverence and respect. The elongated running time gives room for the track to breathe, expand and explore the themes more fully and this means lots of spaces for Robs expressive keyboards, Luke’s fiery guitar and Dan’s solid bass and gives them all the ability to have room to breathe, Angharad Brinn especially gets the opportunity to shine here. There is a definite strident section that really works well before the song returns to a more gentle feel part and then Luke’s defining guitar break takes the listener on a flight of wonder, the closing moments are especially strong with real pace and urgency to them as Peter ushers in the morning sun to dispel the vampires. This is a class ending to what is a very accomplished album of strong material.

In a year that has seen some excellent releases this one can easily be added as one of the year better ones. A real treat and one that most definitely warrants inspection and deserves being heard by as many as possible as it contains much very fine music and strong performances from Cyan

Here’s to the next part of the story!

Released 17th November, 2023.

Order the album here:

Steve Hackett celebrates over 50 years of music with his new conceptual studio album ‘The Circus and the Nightwhale’

Legendary rock guitarist Steve Hackett will release his new studio album ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’ on 16th February 2024, via InsideOut Music. A rite-of-passage concept album with a young character called Travla at the centre of it, ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’s’ 13 tracks have an autobiographical angle for the musician who says about his 30th solo release: “I love this album. It says the things I’ve been wanting to say for a very long time.”

‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’ is Steve’s first new music in over two years. It follows the beautiful acoustic LP ‘Under A Mediterranean Sky’ from January 2021 – which rose to No 2 in the UK Classical chart – and, in September of that year, his metallic masterpiece Surrender Of Silence, which hit the UK Top 40. His 2023 live album, ‘Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton’, reached No 2 in the Rock & Metal Chart.  Steve’s new LP promises ballads, blues, blistering progressive rock… and healthy measures of theatre and fantasia.

Recorded between tours in 2022 and 2023 at Siren studio in the UK – with guest parts beamed in from Sweden, Austria, the US, Azerbaijan and Denmark, the line-up for ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’ includes some familiar faces alongside Steve on electric and acoustic guitars, 12-string, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, bass and vocals. Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax), Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals), Craig Blundell (drums) and Amanda Lehmann on vocals. Nick D’Virgilio and Hugo Degenhardt return as guests on the drumstool, engineer extraordinaire Benedict Fenner appears on keyboards and Malik Mansurov is back with the tar. Finally, Steve’s brother John Hackett is present once more on flute.

The new album will be available to pre-order from the 1st December 2023 on several different formats, including a Limited CD+Blu-ray mediabook (including 5.1 Surround Sound & 24bit high resolution stereo mixes), Standard CD Jewelcase, Gatefold 180g Vinyl LP & as Digital Album. All feature the stunning cover painting by Denise Marsh.

The full tracklisting is as follows:

1. People Of The Smoke

2. These Passing Clouds

3. Taking You Down

4. Found And Lost

5. Enter The Ring

6. Get Me Out!

7. Ghost Moon and Living Love

8. Circo Inferno

9. Breakout

10. All At Sea

11. Into The Nightwhale 

12. Wherever You Are

13. White Dove

Summing up ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’, Steve says: “It’s a lovely journey that starts dirty, scratchy and smoky and becomes heavenly and divine. How can you resist it?”

Steve is currently on tour in North America, continuing his ‘Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights’ run. Next year he will tour the world extensively, including a brand-new UK tour under the name ‘Genesis Greats, Lamb Highlights & Solo’, and that will see him return to the legendary Royal Albert Hall. For the full list of dates, head to: