Scottish prog Maestros Abel Ganz Open Pre-Orders For New Album – The Life of the Honey Bee and Other Moments of Clarity

The Life of The Honey Bee, And Other Moments of Clarity” is the eagerly and long-awaited new album from Scottish prog maestros Abel Ganz. A concept album comprising of six thematically linked pieces exploring our relationship with memory and loss. The liminal space between a fading ‘what was’ and an anticipated ‘what is to come’.

The album recalls the hazy technicolour of long remembered summers and the sepia of a love forgotten. A place where we blur the boundaries of returning and renewal. The lyrics chart the course through recollection to premonition. These words are both deeply personal and universal, hope for what is next and a lament for what we have lost.

The new album has taken six years to realise and follows on from the self-titled 2014 opus Abel Ganz which was both critically acclaimed [topping several ‘best of’ lists for that year], and universally acknowledged as the band’s best, most mature album to date.

The influences on the new album continue in a similar vein – further developing their eclectic mix of folk, rock, metal and Celtic styles. The album’s trajectory shifts between crunching guitars, subtle acoustic instruments, strings, soaring Hammond and emotive grand piano all connected by lyrical storytelling and timeless vocals and harmonies.

Produced by Denis Smith, mixed by the legendary Simon Vinestock [Texas, Blur, Robert Plant, Simple Minds] and mastered By Jacob Holm-Lupo [White Willow / Opium Cartel] the album also includes a beautiful performance from multi award winning former ‘Scots Singer of the Year’ and acclaimed solo artist Emily Smith. Other notable contributions include the dynamic saxophone skills of Snake Davis, string arrangements and performances by Frank Van Essen, Chromatic Harmonica by Alex Partlin, as well as regular virtuoso contributors Fiona Cuthill and Stephen Lawrence from the Scottish folk-music scene.

Speaking of the new album drummer and band producer Denis Smith says:

“We have all pushed ourselves so incredibly hard on this record in an attempt to make this the best possible ‘complete work’ we could make. Everything on the record is interconnected and is there for a reason – right down to the guests we chose to play specific parts, the spaces we chose to record in, to the artwork – everything!

We deliberately set out to avoid simply repeating what we did last time – we hope we have taken ourselves in to new areas (amazingly – the band’s first concept album), while still retaining that ‘Ganz’ touch. On the production side of things – it’s a source of great personal pride that we have been able to collaborate and work with such skilled professionals such as Simon Vinestock and Jacob Holm-Lupo. These guys are at the very top of their game and they have helped us to raise the production values to a much higher, professional level.

Although Abel Ganz has had a very long history as a band [with many high spots] we feel very strongly that this album is the pinnacle of achievement and we hope you do too!

The pre-sale will begin at midday on Sat 28th March and run until May 31st. The official release date is June 15th 2020!

https://abelganz.com/?fbclid=IwAR0ozcQ8fTwrC2eFZqCRTX6oiqs3oen_Kj5z-Vcecyc4Oi2ePw5FW–msKE

Glass Hammer Announce Dreaming City Pre-Order


Glass Hammer’s latest concept album will be released April 17th, but the band’s website is accepting pre-orders now for autographed copies and Limited Edition T-shirts.

Bandleader Steve Babb describes the album as a story about “finding hope in the midst of despair”.

“Dreaming City rocks a lot harder than many of our previous albums,” he adds. “But we are experimenting now with blending many genres, from 70’s classic prog to space rock and synth-wave. 2018’s
Chronomonaut was a big hit for us, so we want to keep that momentum going. We never want to make the same album twice though, so expect some surprises on Dreaming City.”

“What if the Devil never went to Georgia? What if he never made it and stopped off in Tennessee instead? Hold that thought and listen to Glass Hammer’s monster creation, Dreaming City, an unstoppable force that will blow your conceptions of this band wide apart…” Martin Hutchinson – Progradar 

Pre-orders available now at the band’s website:

https://glasshammer.com/?fbclid=IwAR3l5F8py6CQ6XCOSt2TOBvI7kdTHgJCBDk83x9Qd_LsxlskJ1DjYNzwSZ8

Glass Hammer founders Fred Schendel and Steve Babb

Pure Reason Revolution announce co-headline European tour dates with Gazpacho

Pure Reason Revolution are set to release ‘Eupnea’, their first new studio album in nearly 10 years, on the 3rd of April 2020, and now they are pleased to announce a European co-headlining tour alongside Norwegian art-rockers Gazpacho for late 2020.

The band comments: “To deliver Eupnea’s tracks live will be a challenge but I’m sure rewarding. The tracks breathe new life, they develop; synth lines become guitar parts etc This experimentation is inspiring & feeds new creativity”.

Gazpacho who are currently working on the follow up to their 2018 album ‘Soyuz’ add:

“Gazpacho are happy to announce that we are hitting the roads in Europe this October, for a double-bill tour with the brilliant PRR! Yes! You get 2 concerts for the price of.. well.. one-ish! With a 2020-released album in our pocket we’re looking forward to once again meet the crowd, strengthen bonds and friendships, and of course make new ones. The 2020 tour will include France, Holland, Poland, Germany and the UK from October 16 to October 25.”

Their as yet untitled new album is due for release later this year on Kscope. 

You can find the full list of dates below, tickets go on sale this week.

16.10 Warsaw (PL), Progresja

17.10 Poznan (PL), U Bazyla

18.10 Berlin (DE), Columbia Theater

20.10 Cologne (DE), Die Kantine

22.10 Zwolle (NL), Hedon

23.10 Breda (NL), Mezz

24.10 Paris (FR), Petit Bain

25.10 London (UK), Islington Assembly Hall

Pure Reason Revolution recently released the single ‘New Obsession’. Watch the Thomas Hicks-created video here: https://youtu.be/dNP9z70zms4

Jon Courtney commented of the track: “It begins with the beeps, bleeps & monitors from the hospital apparatus & machines, setting the scene for the album. I had a primitive, more electronic demo before Greg (Jong) arrived in Berlin & at that point it got catapulted into a whole new direction.” 

Jon Courtney and Chloë Alper recently sat down to discuss the new record and how it came together, and you can watch them chat all things ‘Eupnea’ in this brand new interview: https://youtu.be/QaxajIoO7xs

At the end of January they launched the epic 10-minute ‘Silent Genesis’, a track which Jon Courtney co-wrote alongside original PRR member Greg Jong. Listen to the song here: https://youtu.be/5khMXtZ6YjE

‘Eupnea’ features the work of artist Jill Doherty on its front cover, and will be available as a Limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D) and as a digital album. Pre-orders are now available for both physical and digital here: https://PureReasonRevolution.lnk.to/Eupnea

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.     New Obsession 05:09

2.     Silent Genesis 10:20

3.     Maelstrom 05:44

4.    Ghosts & Typhoons 08:45

5.     Beyond Our Bodies 04:28

6.     Eupnea 13:23

Of the new album the band commented:

“We stuck to our manifesto of no musical boundaries and the result was ‘Eupnea’. We return to a more progressive sound with ferocious guitars, thunderous drums and the stacked harmonies that give us our signature sound. We’re excited to begin playing it live.”

‘Eupnea’, the long-awaited return from the band, sees them harking back to their earliest days, while rolling in all of the musical experiments and experience they’ve gathered in the intervening years.

The cinematic soundscapes of Hammer and Anvil? Check. The dark atmosphere and synths of Amor Vincit Omnia? Check. The gauzy psych-prog of their debut? Ch-check.

It’s sprawling, with three tracks hitting the 10 minute mark and one notching up against 15 minutes. Sure, track length does not equal ambition, but still, it’s quite the statement of intent.

The band currently have two confirmed Summer festival dates, performing at Night Of The Prog Festival in Germany on the 17th of July, and Ramblin Man Fair in the UK on the 18th of July.

Pure Reason Revolution originally parted ways in November 2011 following touring in support of their 2010 album ‘Hammer and Anvil’. Since then, Jon Courtney started Bullet Height and released their debut album ‘No Atonement’ in 2017, while Chloë Alper began a new band called Tiny Giant as well as playing live with the likes of Charli XCX and James.

The band originally formed back in 2003, releasing their much-loved debut album ‘The Dark Third’ in 2006 via Sony BMG. They went on to release the albums ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’ in 2009 and ‘Hammer and Anvil’ in 2010. 

Review – Pendragon – Love Over Fear

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” ― Lao Tzu

Let’s face it, I listen to a lot of music, A LOT!, on a daily basis and, not to say I get jaded but it takes something really special nowadays to really blow me away.

The new album from legendary progressive rock luminaries Pendragon came with an absurd amount of hype but that’s what happens when you have been around since 1978, even I didn’t turn 11 until 1978!

Well the fantastic album artwork promised untold riches beneath and, boy, did these guys really deliver with “Love Over Fear”, sixty-five minutes of pure musical drama and utter bliss. It truly is THE listening experience of the last year by quite a considerable margin and with every listen this glorious collection of magical moments continues its journey to the peak of musical nirvana.

Am I being a tad over effusive with my praise? We all know opinions about music can only ever be subjective but I have listened to literally thousands of albums in the last 40 years and, to me, “Love Over Fear” is in the top three albums I have ever listened to, yes, I did just say that!

I’m still not sure whether the Genesis reunion tour is a good idea or not but they were a superb band in their heyday and I have to scratch my head in disbelief that Pendragon never attained even a small percentage of their success when they can write, record and deliver an album of such high quality as this?

Emotion, passion, power, grace, empathy, sentiment, pomp and circumstance, these hugely impressive and talented musicians deliver it all across ten songs that shine brightly with their sheer brilliance.

There is a three disc version that has the original album plus an acoustic and an instrumental version but, surprise, surprise, I bought the vinyl which is a thing of sheer beauty and a sublime listening experience.

The album opens with the power of Everything, an in your face blast of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums which grabs your attention immediately before effortlessly moving into the wonderment of Starfish And The Moon, a beguiling and bewitching song where the focus is on Nick Barrett’s mightily impressive vocal performance. Two songs in and the skill level of these musicians is already obvious as you are drawn into their evocative world.

Truth And Lies is an absolute classic in the making, an intelligently constructed track that weaves a magical spell in your mind leaving you on the edge of your seat in anticipation before breaking out majestically into a powerful symphonic prog masterpiece with an utterly compelling guitar solo by Nick. The rhythm section of Peter Gee and Jan Vincent Velazco provide the foundations and Clive Nolan’s elegant keyboards the added layers of class. The bright and breezy 360 Degrees sees Pendragon go all folk on us and is a track full of joy and bonhomie that will have you singing along at the top of your voice and leave you with a big grin on your face with its addictive chorus and rhythm.

Next along comes the shimmering charm and refinement of Soul And The Sea, a graceful composition where ethereal strings and Clive’s superb keyboards combine effortlessly before the track breaks open with an uplifting guitar riff and a dynamic rhythm section to deliver grandeur and splendour. One of my personal favourites in an album full of excellence is the scintillating radiance of Eternal Light. Once again the band have created a wonderful journey composed of epic components that combine together to deliver something quite wondrous, the inspiring chorus is just divine and transcendent. Every time I come away from this song feeling overwhelmed with joy and exultation.

Water is as uber cool, insouciant and laid back as they come, the free and easy feeling that the song engenders is utterly hypnotic and truly habit forming. Nick’s vocals glide along without an apparent care in the world and the music gives the song a properly jazzy aura, pure class. Wistful, contemplative and nostalgic, that just about sums up the sumptuously refined tones of Whirlwind, lose yourself in its gentle embrace for five minutes and forget about the world.

You want power, pomp and circumstance? Then listen to the intense magnificence of Who Really Are We? A song that epitomises what a truly dynamic progressive rock track should be all about. Clive’s keyboards fire warning shots all over the place, Nick’s guitar answers them with some primeval riffs and Peter and Jan provide upstanding backing. The vocals are direct and potent delivering a perfect statement of intent, an utterly compulsive and immersive drama. Sadly, the time has flown and we are at the end of this prodigious achievement as the album closes out with the thoughtful and slightly melancholic Afraid Of Everything which finishes with a delightful, thought provoking instrumental section.

Intelligent and insightful lyrics and four musicians at the very top of their game are great ingredients to have when you create a new album, however Pendragon have added a dash of magic that is rarely seen in modern music nowadays. There is no such thing as the perfect record, musicians are always striving to concoct something better than has gone before but “Love Over Fear” is as close to perfection that you can get, the best album of the last twenty years in fact and, in my humble opinion, and that is a very rare beast indeed!

Released 14th February 2020

Order “Love Over Fear” in any of its many guises from The Merch Desk:

https://themerchdesk.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=136_202

Featured image by Willem Klopper.

Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Nostalgia For Infinity – By John Wenlock-Smith

Hats Off Gentlemen are a London based group/duo of Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland who are gaining increasing recognition for their unique take on progressive rock. They have released several albums since 2015, this new album ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ is the latest to carry their ongoing theme of the fragility of civilisation.

In addition, many of the songs on the album are inspired by the work of Science Fiction author Alastair Reynolds. This adds an unexpected twist to these songs as they develop on the themes that he has explored in his writing.

The album is one that requires active listening as you will need to immerse yourself into the music to really understand what you hear and also to appreciate the level of maturity and craft at play. This investment of time and effort will pay a handsome dividend for the diligent listener.  In my opinion, this album has moments of sublime grace and beauty being endowed with deep emotion.

The album starts with a longer piece Century Rain which has a running time of 9:17 and opens, as so many prog albums do, with keyboards. In this instance, there are some gentle synthesiser noodlings before the thunderous chords power in, it’s all very ethereal really and a good platform from which launches a sturdy vocal from Malcolm. This song is a good one, very atmospheric and with a fine use of Kathryn Thomas’ flute.

This track and the following, Twin Earth, take the story of Wendall Floyd, a musician living in Paris in an alternative 1950’s, who is hired to investigate the death of Susan White, a tenant who has an unusual record collection. Whilst doing this he meets Verity Auger who is from another Earth, 300 years in the future. Her world has been destroyed by weaponised technology called the Nanocause.   

The theme of this piece is our ability to dehumanise whilst also failing to learn from the mistakes of history. Again, both are cerebral pieces that will cause you to think but the information in the booklet allows you to make sense of proceedings. The second part of this piece, Twin Earth, features, at the 4:17 mark, a piano solo of real beauty and warmth that shows the power of humanity in all its finery, a magnificent few moments within an interesting concept. The keyboard work throughout the album puts me in mind of Tony Banks, as the approach here is to build the keyboard sounds in a similar orchestrated manner.     

The third track, Ark, is also significant, talking as it does about the original 1938 built aircraft carrier Ark Royal which played a vital part in the Second World War, including the famous search for the Bismarck, the flagship of the German Navy, which was sunk off the coast off France in 1941. The song has added poignancy as Malcolm’s grandfather was a Telegraphist Air Gunner for the Royal Air Force and served on Ark Royal for a time. The booklet includes memorabilia of that time and shows how basic and poorly supplied people were. This is an impressive and lengthy piece with some soaring guitar work from Malcolm throughout and acts as a fitting tribute to an important time in naval history.

The next track is called Nanobot and talks of a scientist who uses self replicating nanobots to counter a highly aggressive form of leukaemia which he is suffering from, however Darwinian aspects are at play, and the bots mutate into a mechanical cancer. This is another fine track, very imaginative and partly based on Malcolm’s own work as a medical specialist before he retired because of ill health.    

There is much emotional input to this music in that it not only feeds the brain but its melodies are a tonic for the modern soul, rather a rarity these days I find.

Next we have Chasing Neon, a retro futuristic instrumental track which is full of atmosphere and allows your mind to conjure up its own images as the beat pulsates. This is a great track, very ambient and electronic with great synth parts to it and a fabulous driving beat that propels it along at pace and with style.

Track six to ten use another Alastair Reynold series as their inspiration.  This time it’s the Revelation Space novels, in which the world has fractured into competing factions that are defined by their relationship with technology.  The booklet explains all this in greater detail, but it is an interesting synopsis and makes for several memorable tracks here including Glitter Band which is a very strong and memorable song. 

The album has a good mixture of tempos and differing degrees of intensity, but always remains on the listenable side, even in its harder moments. There are some excellent emotive musical passages here too that make this a very worthy listen and, even if Science Fiction isn’t your thing, there is enough fine music here to savour and enjoy.

I heartily recommend this album, the packaging is excellent throughout, elegant and enticing and the content does in no way disappoint either. This bodes very well for Hats Off Gentlemen to take a step further and benefit from their growing popularity. I think this album will really help cement their growing reputation and prove to be a resounding success.

Released 6th May 2020

Pre-order from bandcamp here:

https://hatsoffgentlemen.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia-for-infinity

Caligula’s Horse announce new album ‘Rise Radiant’ / Launch first single ‘The Tempest’

Caligula’s Horse, hailing from Brisbane, Australia, a leading light in contemporary progressive metal worldwide, are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘Rise Radiant’ for release on the 22nd May 2020. Produced by the group’s Sam Vallen, and mixed by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend Project, Leprous), the record is their most focussed and potent artistic statement to date. 

The band are also excited to launch the first single from the album, and you can listen to the albums’ opening track ‘The Tempest’ now:

Lead guitarist Sam Vallen comments: “‘Rise Radiant’ is the album we’ve been working towards for almost a decade. It represents everything we love about Caligula’s Horse – the colour, the ferocity, the introspection, the extremes – all tied up together in a way we could never have managed until now. As a band, we’ve never felt tighter, more inspired, or more driven than in the creation of this record. We’re tremendously proud of ‘Rise Radiant’, and we can’t wait for you to hear it!”

‘Rise Radiant’ is an uncompromising exploration of the human experience dressed in vivid musical colour and virtuosic performances. It is an anthem for the regeneration of self-belief, an exploration of the themes of legacy, and a rallying cry for survival. Comprised of 8 tracks, ‘Rise Radiant’ will be available as a limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as digital download. The formats also include 2 bonus tracks, covers of the Split Enz track ‘Message To My Girl’ & Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’, which also features a guest appearance by Lynsey Ward of Exploring Birdsong. You can find the full track-listing below and pre-orders are available here: https://caligulashorse.lnk.to/RiseRadiant

1.    The Tempest

2.     Slow Violence

3.     Salt

4.     Resonate

5.     Oceanrise

6.    Valkyrie

7.     Autumn

8.     The Ascent

Caligula’s Horse will embark on first ever North American headline tour starting in May, following their one-off appearance at ProgPower USA last year. The band will bring their eclectic and energetic live show to American audiences, hitting the road with Long Island heavy rock juggernaut Moon Tooth, as well as fellow countrymen prog prodigies Ebonivory.

You can find the full list of dates below:

Tickets From caligulashorse.com/tour

May 2020:

22 Chicago, IL  – Reggie’s Rock Club

23 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom

24 Toronto, ON – Mod Club

25 Montreal, QC – Petit Campus

26 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

27 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre

28 Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry

29 Washington, DC – Union Stage

30 Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre

June 2020:

1 Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar & Grill

2 Austin, TX – Come And Take It Live

4 Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge

5 Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy Theatre

6 San Francisco, CA – Slim’s

7 Portland, OR – Hawthorn Theatre

8 Seattle, WA -El Corazon

9 Vancouver, BC – The Biltmore

11 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

12 Denver, CO – Marquis Theater

13 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room

14 Minneapolis, MN – Amsterdam Hall

16 St Louis, MO – Red Flag

17 Nashville, TN – Exit/In

18 Atlanta, GA – Purgatory @ The Masquerade

19 West Palm Beach, FL – Respectable Street

20 Orlando, FL – Soundbar

Look out for further world tour dates in the near future.

CALIGULA’S HORSE online:

Review – Marillion – Afraid Of Sunlight – Deluxe Edition Re-Release

Today sees Leo Trimming helping Progradar ‘catching up’ with the most recent deluxe edition re-release before the imminent deluxe edition of ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’ in April!

Marillion’s great series of re-releases in Deluxe editions continues with ‘Afraid of Sunlight’, first released in 1995. This was the last album Marillion made for EMI, but what a way to bow out as it’s one of the highlights of their career. Indeed with the previous album , the magnificent and chilling ‘Brave’, the mid 90’s could be regarded  as one of the greatest peaks in their whole career… and yet it was born in a difficult period  for the band .

To put this album in context Marillion had been with EMI records since 1982 and had achieved considerable commercial success in the mid – late 80’s with  Fish, including a string of hit singles and albums around the world. The transition to new singer Steve Hogarth was inevitably quite tricky. Their first Hogarth era album , ‘Season’s End’, had been high in quality, but it had not really resulted in quite the commercial success for which EMI was hoping. Follow up album ‘Holidays in Eden’ , perhaps under pressure from the label, had clearly been intended to sound a little more mainstream and ‘pop’. However, Marillion simply were not having the same sort of chart success that they had enjoyed in the 80’s, and the pressure was mounting. What did Marillion do then? Perhaps typically for this band they did what they felt was true to them and did exactly what they wanted to do, not what others wanted of them. They withdrew to a French chateau studio and spent many months creating one of the artistic highlights of their career in the long form fully segued concept album ‘Brave’… one can only imagine what EMI thought when hearing a concept album, which was late and over budget, focusing on a strange tale of abuse and suicide – ‘Lavender’ and ‘Kayleigh’ it ain’t! 

By 1995 relations with EMI were very strained. In the excellent booklet packaging which houses this 4 CD & 1 Blu-Ray release, packed with great artwork and interesting pieces about the album, Hogarth reveals that their manager told them:

EMI didn’t want another record after ‘Brave’, but he’d persuaded them to do one more if we could do it quickly and cheaply and that was ‘Sunlight’ and that’s why we even wrote, partly in jest, on the sleeve, this album was ‘knocked out’…  I think it’s a great record, but after that we were gone.”

For an album that was apparently ‘knocked out’ in 3 months (which is remarkably brief in the context of their recording history) there is no sense when hearing it that it’s substandard or feels ‘rushed’. It seems at that point in their career whether an album took 18 months or 3 months Marillion could produce the goods. So what makes this an album revisiting or investing in 25 years later? 

Original Album Artwork

There will be two sorts of punters considering this album – those that have bought it previously and are interested in the musical ‘extras’, the remastered sound, and the packaging. There will be others who may be discovering Marillion belatedly, perhaps after the great success of their most recent 2016 album  ‘F.E.A.R.’, who may know nothing about this album and wonder whether it’s worth buying? 

The short answer is ‘YES’ – this album is simply one of the best albums the band have ever released. However, such punters may need a little more  information to help decide whether to invest so we will try to go through the album for new listeners. 

‘Gazpacho’ opens with sound clips of an MC introducing a World Heavyweight Boxing championship bout, and then a quote seemingly from John Lennon (but may actually be actor Bernard Hill who voiced Lennon for a documentary) ‘… I would find myself seeing hallucinatory images of my face changing and becoming cosmic and complete’. This immediately sets the scene for an album which touches on the destructive nature of stardom with references through the album to figures such as ‘Raging Bull’ Jake La Motta, Mike Tyson and O.J Simpson. This also reflects the struggles Hogarth was having in dealing with the trappings of being plunged right into the limelight as the front man with a successful Rock  band – before being called to sing for Marillion he has shared he had seriously been contemplating giving up music and becoming a milkman – quite a contrast and change in his life.

The track ‘Gazpacho’ darkly refers to stains on a Versace scarf, which may have been blood stains or ‘were they really just Gazpacho’. In a period in which blood stains were central to the notorious OJ Simpson murder case the reference is clear. This is a song which rides along on a fat juicy bass line from Pete Trewavas and a rock solid beat from Ian Moseley. Rothery takes up a sprightly melody on guitar and Mark Kelly’s keyboards fill out a surging, almost joyful theme – a strange contrast to the dark subject matter. Halfway through the song a darker force takes hold as the volume recedes to a strumming guitar initially and more sinister tones reflects the fall and anguish of the main ‘hero’.

Hogarth’s voice here is in spectacular form, rising and rising with emotion, before the song returns briefly to the theme and feel of the opening section. The extended conclusion to the song becomes more impressionistic with chiming guitars, staccato drums and garbled phrasing from Hogarth. Backed by Kelly’s keys the song fades away behind the news footage of the famous televised ‘slow chase’ of O.J Simpson’s car on the freeway… and that’s just the first song! Don’t worry – we  won’t go into such detail on all the songs, but it was worth focusing on the subtlety and imagination of a band contrasting musical and lyrical themes, gradually descending from the ‘glam’ of the opening section into much darker, denser themes reflecting the fall of the protagonist.

Cannibal Surf Babe is pure acid Beach Boys powered by a fantastic bass line (Trewavas appears to have been on fire on this album) and thumping drums (taken from the first take and never bettered, according to Moseley). Kelly’s playful, quirky keyboards spray psychedelic sounds all over the song, and you can hear exactly why the working title was ‘X Ray Jangly’ . The weirdness of The Beach Boys’ genius Brian Wilson permeates the bizarre lyrics (partly contributed by John Helmer who helped write the lyrics for the majority of the album) which Hogarth sings with maniacal glee: 

‘I was born in nineteen sixty weird, I’m your nightmare surfer babe, Mr. Wilson where’s your sandbox and your beard…’

The piece trails away with a subtle synth line, which had been part of a song called ‘Icon’ that did not make the album), with a French woman dreamily saying the concluding lyrics of the song in French. This segues into Beautiful, the only single released from the album, reaching number 29 in the UK charts. The album booklet reveals that this song was their response to a request from EMI label boss for them to do their own spin on a song like ‘Cry me a River’ (!!) – whatever the inspiration, it’s a lush, rolling rock ballad with a band in perfect sync creating a suitably ‘Beautiful’ song with touching lyrics, and a gorgeous Hammond organ from Kelly in the conclusion.

‘Afraid of Sunrise’ literally shimmers in plaintively like some sort of mirage in an understated manner with Rothery’s acoustic guitar, subtle bass and very light drumming beneath a soft synth line. Hogarth sings with great delicacy but feeling over this lovely setting. It’s easy to hear why the working title for this song was ‘Joni Mitchell’. Surreal lyrics are open to interpretation but could refer to a journey and the feelings of a driver anticipating a downfall when the next day dawns. The ‘Day-Glo Jesus on the dash’ line led to a disagreement in the band about the original album artwork.

Carl Glover had prepared the startling ‘Day-Glo Jesus’ image, which Hogarth wanted as the cover, but this was vetoed by the rest of the band, fearing it may present them as a Christian rock band. Well, it seems the band have finally seen the wisdom of Hogarth’s judgement and this re-release features the ‘Day-Glo Jesus’ in glorious technicolour as the cover image, replacing the peculiar ‘Angel Boy’ image hurriedly used for the original cover. Another curiosity about this song is that in essence it has the same musical roots as Afraid of Sunlight. The band had created both versions, and were considering cutting one. They had even considered trying to merge them together, but in the end they made the wise decision to retain them both separately as they have undoubted quality in either manifestation.

Ill-fated British water speed hero of the 1960’s, Donald Campbell, inspired one of the highlights of the album, the evocative ‘Out of this World.’ This song is deceptively complex with three distinct phases touching on this tragedy from the emotional perspective of Campbell’s wife watching on as her speed obsessed husband  killed himself pursuing his dream. Hogarth’s vague childhood memories of this famous accident are transformed from a straight narrative in to a piece revealing mixed emotions for the on looking wife. Reportedly Campbell and his wife were virtually estranged by the time of the accident such was the division caused by his obsession for speed.

The song seemingly slowly emerges from the deep with subtle guitar chimes and drums over a watery synth backing leading into Hogarth’s mournful vocals. The second phase of the piece comes after the lines ‘At such speeds, things fly’ as the song surfaces with a majestic airborne guitar solo from Rothery. ‘Out of this World’ settles its trajectory with plaintive lyrics filled with pain, Hogarth’s soulful vocals intoning ‘Only Love with Turn you Round’ repeatedly (inspired from a line in ‘Brave’ album song ‘Runaway’). This presages the third tragic phase with contemporary speech clips stating ‘Complete accident, I’m afraid…’  over a baleful synth wash acting as a stark canvas for Hogarth’s final pure elegiac vocals and there is a real sense of sinking into the depths.

It’s a remarkable and deceptively complex song showing Marillion’s ability to look at a subject from interesting and emotion filled angles – in the hands of lesser artists this would have been a straight narrative about a famous accident, but this piece transcends that story, imbued with pain and feeling. Somewhat amazingly it was hearing this song which inspired marine engineer Bill Smith to organize the project to raise the ‘Bluebird’ vessel from the depths of Coniston Water in 2001, and led to Hogarth singing the song at Donald Campbell’s funeral – peculiar what art can inspire sometimes.What can I say about ‘Afraid of Sunlight’? It’s undoubtedly one of the best songs the band have ever produced. It oozes with class and depth of feeling.

An eerie guitar line intros a haunting piano and a gentle drum pattern and soft bass… and then Steve Hogarth sings with such resonance and delicacy. It’s a truly heart breaking beginning. The meaning is obscure, but may be about the conflicted feelings of a couple unable to tell the truth to each other. They are together but in pain, perhaps lying in bed fearing what will happen in the morning – the possible implication that in the morning one of them drives away from the other… well, that’s one interpretation but great art can be interpreted in different and many different personal ways by the recipient.

The tempo and power rises magnificently with Trewavas’ bass line pulling it all together with the impactful, memorable chorus, before briefly receding again with a more reflective passage. The chorus returns and the song becomes darker and more bitter, Hogarth’s vocals reaching a great crescendo ‘It’s a matter of time’. Mark Kelly’s rising keyboards take on the melody fluidly, whilst underpinning it all along is Moseley’s rock solid rhythm.

Rothery unusually is not to the fore on this song largely but he then adds another emotional level with a subtle guitar line interweaving the emotional musical maelstrom… and then bereft the song falls to it’s knees with a coda that is drenched with feeling. Kelly’s delicate piano and synth perfectly framing Hogarth’s crystalline and ultimately falsetto vocal. I may not know exactly what it literally means but I can certainly feel so much hearing the highs and lows of this stunning song.

‘Beyond You’ is a song which showcases the significant impact producer Dave Meegan had on Marillion’s material as he recorded their sessions and jams, and helped the band build on those moments to form great songs. Meegan felt the song had a sort of Motown vibe so after the sonorous and restrained opening synth led section he suggested a Phil Spector type ‘Wall of Sound’ feel, which erupts in the refrain ‘If I was a child…’. Moseley’s echoing resonant drums swing and pizzicato keyboard strings take us right back to Detroit, before the song sinks back into Hogarth’s heartfelt tones.

The finale returns us to Spector territory featuring a fine slide guitar floating above the main melody before the whole thing fades away sadly. This is an intensely personal lyric for the singer reflecting turmoil in his own private life to the extent that he felt unable to sing it for years… it is also the song I struggled to get my head around for years with it’s juxtaposition between the clearly very emotional lyric and the almost jaunty refrains, until I realised the connection with Motown. We all know Motown artists were the masters at contrasting heartbreak with upbeat music so it fits.

This remarkable album concludes with the startling opening guitar and synth fanfare chords of the momentous ‘King’  before a melange of various voice clips about fallen heroes, particularly Elvis, Lennon and most notably Kurt Cobain who committed suicide in 1994. Marillion were the first band to play after his suicide on the Munich stage where Nirvana played their final show, which inspired the band to write this sonic and emotional powerhouse of a song. Rothery’s guitar sets up the melody supported by softly jangling percussion and understated keyboard, underpinned as ever with Trewavas finely judged bass.

Hogarth sensitively sings about the ruinous effects of fame: ‘To be cursed with your Dreams’. The song almost literally explodes with the whole band titanically pounding out the main rhythm and Kelly’s synth eerily writhes above the melee. After a brief respite the song descends in to a disturbing and dark spiral with a wildly discordant guitar from Rothery tortuously screaming out pain. The lynch pin keyboards of Kelly return gently under Hogarth’s fragile words leading into some weirdly distorted spidery guitar. The tension and power gradually rises as Hogarth bellows out the inner pain of the main protagonist. Kelly’s building keyboards leads a headlong crash for the whole band in a chaotic, deafening conclusion which sounds absolutely MASSIVE! Tragedy never sounded so powerful…

… hopefully that will help convince new listeners to ‘catch up’ with one of the finest rock albums of the 1990’s (and was named one of the ‘Recordings of the Year’ by ‘Q’ music magazine in 1995).

What about those that already have this album? Is it worth shelling out for it again?

Well, the short answer (again!) is YES!

The presentation of this album alone is worth getting it again, housed in an impressive book design with beautiful artwork images from graphic designer Carl Glover and fascinating insights in to the album and it’s creation in the accompanying various essays, including one from Bill Smith about his search for the ‘Bluebird’ inspired by ‘Out of this World.’  

Musically, the package includes the original 1995 Dave Meegan mix. Michael Hunter has remixed this deluxe edition version, but in all honesty I am hard pressed to identify any startling differences from Meegan’s original mix. This is testament to Meegan’s original fine production work, acting as ‘Marillion’s George Martin’ in pulling it all together and making it sound wonderful. ‘Out of this World’ is probably the song in which there is the most notable changes to the original – Hunter’s mix brings out different elements – it’s a fine mix, but ‘different’ rather than ‘better’. For an album recorded with decent 1990’s musical technology there is not quite the same scope for sonic improvements heard more clearly in modern remasters and remixes of earlier vintage 1970’s albums by other artists. Nevertheless, Hunter has done a fine job on the latest version.

This re-release also features the complete performance from the ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ tour show at the Ahoy in the Netherlands in 1995. Some of these songs have previously been released on their swansong EMI album, the live double album ‘Made Again’ released in 1996, which mixed songs from a few tours. It is great to hear this whole concert which features fine renditions of 5 of the 8 ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ songs, particularly an enormous sounding ‘King’, as well as the ‘Icon’ intro in to ‘Beautiful’. It is also interesting to hear Hogarth pulling off excellent interpretations of 7 songs from the ‘Fish era’. However, my personal highlights are the ever resplendent ‘Easter’, and the suite of songs drawn from the ‘Brave’ album, especially Kelly’s stunning organ work on ‘Hard as Love’ with the whole band locked and loaded, thundering along magnificently – let’s face it, you cannot go wrong with Marillion live!

The Blu-ray with this package features  beautifully produced surround sound 5.1 versions, which displays Hunter’s skill as a producer but underlies the imagination and skill of a band who can so perfectly combine delicate emotion with passages of great drama and power. If you have the technology the 5.1 version alone is also worth getting this edition.

Additionally this disc has bonus tracks originally available on the 1999 remaster. Whilst the main album is one of the band’s highlights it has to be said that these bonus tracks are somewhat lacking in quality, and include 2 earlier versions of ‘Beautiful’ with other titles. ‘Mirage’ has some interest and the acoustic demo of ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ is rather a gem, but on the whole these extra tracks are hardly essential. Similarly, the ‘Jams and Early Versions’ are curiosities which lay bare the creative processes as the band jams new ideas for Dave Meegan to capture. They are raw pieces and are interesting to hear, but it is doubtful that anyone apart from ‘Uber Fans’ will ever listen to these tracks more than a couple of times at most… but as we know Marillion are not short of ‘Uber Fans’!! 

Conversely, what is of far more interest on the Blu-ray is the 45 minute documentary film which features all the band members with fascinating insights in to how the band felt at the time when recording this album. What is clear is the unshakeable faith Marillion had in themselves as artists, even if their label were losing faith in them. History has shown that Marillion were right to retain that faith as they survived some dark days in the later 90’s to virtually create the crowd funding model and thrive. More crucially they continued to make high class albums borne out of their innate self-confidence, musical imagination and artistic integrity. The mid-90’s period produced  two of their finest ever albums… and this special set presents ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ perfectly.

TRACK LISTING:

CD One – Afraid of Sunlight  (2019 Michael Hunter Re-Mix)

  1. Gazpacho
  2. Cannibal Surf Babe
  3. Beautiful
  4. Afraid of Sunrise
  5. Out of this World
  6. Afraid of Sunlight
  7. Beyond You
  8. King

CD Two – Afraid of Sunlight  (Dave Meegan Original Mix 1995 Mix)

(Same Track Listing as CD One)

CD Three – Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam  (29th September 1995) (Part 1)

  1. Intro  (Skater’s Waltz
  2. Incommunicado
  3. Hooks in You
  4. Gazpacho
  5. Icon
  6. Beautiful
  7. Hotel Hobbies
  8. White Russian
  9. Easter
  10. Mad
  11. The Opium Den
  12. Hard as Love
  13. The Hollow Man

CD Four – Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam  (29th September 1995) (Part 2)

  1. Kayleigh
  2. Lavender
  3. Afraid of Sunlight
  4. Cannibal Surf Babe
  5. Cover My Eyes
  6. Slainte Mhath
  7. King
  8. Splintering Heart
  9. No-One Can
  10. The Great Escape
  11. Uninvited Guest
  12. Garden Party

Blu-Ray Disc

 Afraid of Sunlight (2019 Michael Hunter Remix) – 5.1 Audio Version:

  • Same Track listing as CD 

Afraid of Sunlight  (Jams & Early Versions):

  • Ascending Synth Groove
  • Velvet Lawn
  • Building Guitar
  • Band of Gold
  • Gazpacho  (Early Version)
  • Surfer Bass
  • Cannibal Surf  (Early Version)
  • Beautiful  (Early Version)
  • KD Lang
  • Out of this World (Early Version)
  • Afraid of Sunlight (Early Version)
  • Beyond You  (Early Version)
  • Crunchy Guitar Idea
  • Deep Purple Vibe
  • Watery Guitar
  • King (Early Version)
  • Happy Accidents

Documentary Film – Afraid of Sunlight  (Approv 45 Mins)

Promo Film – Beautiful

1999 Remaster Bonus Tracks

  • Icon
  • Live Forever
  • Second Chance
  • Beyond You  (Demo)
  • Cannibal Surf Babe
  • Out of this World
  • Bass Frenzy
  • Mirages  (Demo)
  • Afraid of Sunlight  (Acoustic Demo)

MUSICIANS:

Steve Rothery  –  Guitars 

Pete Trewavas  –  Bass 

Steve Hogarth – Voice

Mark Kelly  –  Keyboards

Ian Moseley  –  Drums & Percussion 

With:

Hannah Stobart  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Beautiful’

Wendy Paige & Barbara Lezmy  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Cannibal Surf Babe’

THANKS

Progradar would like to thank Fraser Marshall of the website: 

‘Marillion – Explanations of Song Elements’  for his permission to refer to his blog about some of the background to the songs. 

Other information is available at:

http://marillionations.blogspot.com/

sleepmakeswaves announce ‘these are not your dreams’ EP trilogy release for 2020

Australian instrumental post-rockers sleepmakeswaves have announced new music for 2020, three years since their 2017 release ‘Made of Breath Only.’

The new project, titled ‘these are not your dreams’ will be released on 15 May 2020.

Rather than following a conventional release pattern, new songs will be released as a series of 3 EPs over the next few months, with ‘No Safe Place’ out on Feb 21, ‘Out of Hours’ released on April 17 and ‘Not an Exit’ released May 15. 

Listen to the new single:

The band announced the news to fans with a typically quirky video:

these are not your dreams’ full record released 15 May 2020  

May/June 2020 trilogy tour dates 

Sat 16 May – The Basement, Canberra ACT

Fri 22 May – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide SA

Sat 23 May – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA

Thu 4 June – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD

Fri 5 June – Max Watts, Melbourne VIC

Sat 6 June – Manning Bar, Sydney NSW

Presented by Bird’s Robe & Niche Talent Agency

 Tickets on sale now from sleepmakeswaves.com & venue websites 

Kansas Announce New Album ‘The Absence of Presence’, Out 26th June 2020- European ‘Point of Know Return’ Anniversary Tour Dates Revealed

KANSAS, America’s legendary progressive rock band, will release their highly anticipated new studio album “The Absence of Presence” on 26th June 2020.

The album follows-up 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit,” which debuted at #14 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. KANSAS has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for classic hits such as ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ to progressive epics like ‘Song for America.’

“The Absence of Presence,” released by Inside Out Music, features nine all new tracks written by the band, produced by Zak Rizvi, and co-produced by Phil Ehart and Richard Williams. KANSAS’s signature sound is unmistakable throughout. The album showcases Ronnie Platts towering vocals, David Ragsdale’s searing violin, Tom Brislin’s dazzling keyboards, Williams and Rizvi’s electrifying guitar riffs, Ehart’s powerful drums, and Billy Greer’s rocking bass.

This Autumn, KANSAS will be taking its very popular Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour to Europe for 13 dates in October and November. The Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour will include songs from “The Absence of Presence,” classic hits and deep cuts, and will culminate with the iconic album “Point of Know Return” performed in its entirety.

We are really proud of the album ‘The Absence of Presence,’” comments KANSAS guitarist, producer, and songwriter Zak Rizvi. “Making a new KANSAS album sets a very high musical standard that is expected from our fans. From rockers, to progressive epics, to ballads, there is something on this recording for everybody.”

It’s been a while since the band has been able to perform in Europe, where we have some very passionate fans,” adds KANSAS guitarist Richard Williams. “We are excited to take the Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour across Europe. Not only will they hear us perform that album in its entirety, along with other hits and deep cuts, but they will be the first fans to hear some of the songs from ‘The Absence of Presence’ performed live.”

Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour Dates

October 18 – London, England – Palladium

October 20 – Frankfurt, Germany – Jahrhunderthalle

October 21 – Hamburg, Germany – Docks

October 23 – Tampere, Finland – Tamperetalo

October 24 – Helsinki, Finland – Culture House

October 26 – Stockholm, Sweden – Cirkus

October 27 – Oslo, Norway – Sentrum Scene

October 29 – Berlin, Germany        – Tempodrom

October 31 – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royal

November 3 – Munich, Germany – Circus Krone

November 5 – Heilbronn, Germany – Harmonie

November 9 – Bochum, Germany – RuhrCongress

November 10 – Amsterdam, Holland – Carre Theatre

After wrapping-up current U.S. dates for the Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour this spring, KANSAS will debut a track from “The Absence of Presence” live, this summer, during the Juke Box Heroes 2020 Tour when the band will be touring with Foreigner and Europe.

Tickets for the KANSAS Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour will go on sale this week. Ticket and VIP Package information is available at KansasBand.com. Tickets for the U.S. Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, Juke Box Heroes 2020 Tour, and KANSAS Classics dates are on sale now with ticket and VIP package information are also available at KansasBand.com.

For more information on KANSAS, The Absence of Presence, The Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour, The Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, or the Juke Box Heroes 2020 tour, please visit: www.kansasband.com

Review – Siljan – Collapsology – by John Wenlock-Smith

Well, there is an interesting development happening here, Progressive Rock has started to become more cerebral! In recent months we have been invited on a grand tour of the renaissance period by Big Big Train, we will shortly be appreciating the literary friendship between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis thanks to the Bardic Depths and now we can explore the relatively new scientific concept of ‘Collapsology’.  It addresses the prospect of the impending fall of the Industrial Age, resulting in famine and disease, together with the ever continuing over population and the diminishing of the Earth’s natural resources.

This whole scenario is elegantly presented to us through this, the second album from French proggers Siljan hailing from Marseille. I must confess that this group were unknown to me before hearing this album but, nonetheless, the music certainly is impressive. This educational trend within progressive music is certainly one that I wholly welcome.  It is a good thing to have important and possibly challenging topics in lyrics. We prog folks should value debate; we should be prepared to discuss, ponder and address weighty issues, if we wanted simple or sexist lyrics, we’d listen to Whitesnake’s schoolboy innuendo surely?

Another pleasing or appealing element to this band is that they are a four piece, one of whom is a cellist, which adds another layer of depth and colour to proceedings. The cello can be clearly heard adding its own dynamics to the music but never in an overbearing manner, rather this is subtly handled while certainly adding some punch to the album.

The album opens wit the track Wisdom which has a soundbite from scientists from MIT discussing the future of the planet. It’s a shorter track but one that shows the harder edge that the band offer, riffs are quite brutal, although often offset with quieter, more melodious sections before reverting to the harder edge sound again.

The next song is Antwork, again a pretty dramatic piece, mixing some heavy, almost harsh, riffs with quieter more restrained passages. This is a pattern that is repeated throughout the album but is always an effective counterpoint to proceedings with the cello adding dynamics to these sections. Guitarist/vocalist Guillaume Arnaud is certainly very strong in both his singing and guitar work, which is excellent throughout, as he fires off riff after riff and plays some sweetly structured solos in these songs.

This album has a good flow and at no time does the attention wander for me, the cello playing keeps me interested in what is unfolding musically as it is constantly changing and makes for a good listening experience.

The sound lies somewhere between prog and prog metal in that it has the intensity of metal but is somehow not quite that harsh. This makes for a highly listenable album and thankfully there are no growling vocals to contend with, rather being a very atmospheric and enjoyable album with some nice delicate parts.

I have really enjoyed this album and I feel it has lots to interest many Prog fans if they give it a chance. I certainly feel this is a significant album and one that will provoke a lot of thought and possibly discussion in the days to come, it makes you feel hope for the world when you listen to it. While it may not offer a solution to the problems the world faces, at least it makes you aware of them and from that platform you can then decide what actions, if any, we should take.

I also feel the cello is an inspired choice of instrument as used on this album because it adds depth, dynamics and colour to the music. For me at least, the cello really lifts this album into the upper realms by being different, bringing something very special to the entire album. This is an album that you will want to return to again and again and it shows this group to have a bright future awaiting them.

Released 27th June 2019

Order from bandcamp here:

https://siljan.bandcamp.com/album/collapsology