Jo Beth Young to Release First Single ‘BRIGID’ on February 4th 2022, From Upcoming Album ‘Broken Spells’

Ethereal, Indie-folk musician Jo Beth Young (fka Talitha Rise) announces the release of Electro-Folk single BRIGID, the first song from her new album Broken Spells’ The track is a distinctive departure from her previous work, infusing a more upbeat, electronic landscape bringing home to  February, inspired by the Celtic Goddess BRIGID.  

A taster of what changes and atmospheres may be to come in her first album under her own name, to be released later in 2022.

Jo Beth Says:  

I wrote and created Brigid very late at night on IMBOLC eve itself last year (St. Brigid’s festival on February 1st). I had been working on the new album for some months and hit a real wall in inspiration, especially production wise. For some reason that night, and maybe it was because of it being Imbolc itself, I felt a new energy and started experimenting with loops and beats, something I’d never attempted before. Content wise, It’s as close to a love song as I might ever write and is about finally breaking through and getting out of dark time or rut or finally uniting or reuniting with someone or something that you feel deeply connected to on soul level. Imbolc is when Persephone is said to come out of the underworld and bring spring to the earth each year. Part of Brigid’s folklore is that she will knock on the door three times that night and if you let her in you let healing and the spring into your life also. It felt very apt and after all of us have been through such a strange time on the planet, it felt like an omen of hope and that there really may be something to look forward to!

The track features Devon based Cellist Ben Roberts (Abrasive Trees, Evi Vine), beat maker and producer Matt Blackie, and her co-collaborater John Reed from the NIGHTSONG project on lap steel. All the parts were recorded at a distance between the UK and the cottage Jo was living in at the time in the West of Ireland.  

Her new album BROKEN SPELLS will be out later this year, the release date of which is not yet confirmed, but there is much more to come from the album yet!  
DIGITAL DELUXE RELEASE 

The single will be available on all major streaming platforms but will also include a  Deluxe release on her music glue website as a Digital Deluxe version on MP3 and WAV format. 

Jo Beth’s new album Broken Spells will be the first official release under her own name and not under her previous stage names of Talitha Rise and RISE . It features members of her touring band ‘The Abandoned Orchestra’ as well as long term collaborator Peter Yates (Fields Of The Nephillim). Recorded and Produced between England, Ireland and Spain, the album is a thematic exploration of ‘spells’ breaking from both the personal and collective point of view. She has been working on the record since she finished touring her last album STRANGERS in 2019. Interestingly, and perhaps spookily, during recent times, and after having named the new album, Jo Beth found out she was the descendant of Isobell Young  –  a Scottish woman who was accused, persecuted and executed for witch craft in the 1600’s. With the upcoming pardon of Scottish witches on the horizon, Jo Beth has recently been interviewed by publications such as The Sunday Times and Daily Mail on the subject and her feelings on creativity, healing and the end of persecution for women in particular.  

Tracks from the new album will appear on upcoming film The Clear which is currently being produced in the UK.  

Review – Retreat From Moscow – The World As We Knew It

Retreat from Moscow originally hail from Cardiff, Wales, UK and gigged extensively from 1979- 1981. Fast forward 40 years and the band of core members, Andrew Raymond (keyboards and more), Greg Haver (drums and more), Tony Lewis (bass and more) and John Harris (vocals and more) reformed in 2019 to start recording old and new material for a new album, ‘The World As We Knew It‘.

The roots of their music is influenced by the progressive giants of the 70s but their sound nods more to the 80s new wave of progressive music with strong melody, big keyboards and choruses, and soaring vocals.

“It is somewhat ironic that after releasing our first single in 1980, Retreat From Moscow have waited forty years to produce an album only to have the proposed launch postponed by a worldwide pandemic.” says guitarist, John ‘Harpo’ Harris. “Yet from those early, heady days at school listening to bands like Genesis, Tull, King Crimson, Camel and Caravan, even though the journey has been a long one, it has been worth the wait.”

2022 has started with some very good album releases and Retreat From Moscow have joined that heady mix with what must be considered as one of the best recent debut albums. There are nods to the progressive greats and to the heights of Neo-Prog in the late 80’s and early 90’s but, throughout this impressive release, the band resolutely follow their own direction.

There’s power, poise, precision and subtlety throughout. ‘The World As We Knew It’ may be forty years in the making but it impresses at every turn. Opening track The One You Left Behind prowls along with a menacing atmosphere, the dynamic rhythm section and hard edged guitars driving the song along and John Harris’ dynamic vocal providing the focal point. Radiation is fleet of foot and a genuinely feel good hard rock romp with a proper feel of nostalgia, the guitar work from Harris is just sublime. The wick is turned down a bit on the delightful neo-prog infused Henrietta, invoking Fish era Marillion but with the band’s own signature sound front and centre. Andrew Raymond’s silky keyboards are all over this elegant song and just add to the good natured mood that this record engenders.

Raymond’s skill is central to the opening of the vibrantly upbeat I’m Alive that screams 70’s prog at you at full volume. I honestly feel that anyone who has great progressive rock in their blood will absolutely love this album, the songwriting and musicianship are just top notch! Constantinople brings an oasis of calm and sophistication to the album. The vocals are restrained and the music, especially the beautiful flute and passionate guitar, sophisticated. The longest track on the album, coming in at over eleven minutes, Home, tells you all you need to know about this accomplished band. Their songwriting is excellent and their skill even better, a sublime listening experience that envelops the listener and draws them in to their expertly crafted musical world. Not a note is wasted and every song is an utterly absorbing experience. That hard rock edge returns to Armed Combat, moving away from the more progressive arena to deliver a track that wouldn’t be out of place on any 80’s rock album. It may just be me but the bass, drums and keys just shout Level 42 and I just love it! anyone else?

A gently meandering piece of music, Moving Down is wistfully serene and a pure gem. One of the best songs on the album, the thoughtful vocals and reflective music are just wonderful and just check out that guitar solo, it’s just heavenly. Perception is another fast moving track with a definitive hard rock edge that this outstanding band do so very well. Guitar, drums, bass and keys all work in perfect harmony to give John’s vocal a perfect backdrop to work on. Have 70’s Genesis arrived in the building as the first notes of Mandragora echo in your speakers? You’d be excused for thinking so as this exceptional track ebbs and flows, yet another song where Retreat From Moscow give their own unique slant on what has gone before. All good things must unfortunately come to an end and the album comes to a close with the elegant composure of Don’t Look Back. A slow burning opening with more of that exquisite flute and impassioned vocals gives a restrained tone to the song, everything tranquil and peaceful. The tempo increases though and the song opens up into something impressively fluid and mercurial, Andrew Raymond’s keyboard solo adding another layer of class before the guitar joins in to add fervour and passion, it’s a glorious ending to the album.

Robin Armstrong’s Gravity Dream Label has accrued a pretty impressive roster in a short period of time and the outstanding Retreat From Moscow are another high calibre artist to join him. In ‘The World As We Knew It’ they have crafted an album that is creative, inventive and inspirational, it is a breathtaking debut that will grace many end of the year ‘best of’ lists and one that the band should be rightfully very proud of.

Released 21st January, 2022

Order from bandcamp here:

The World As We Knew It | Retreat From Moscow (bandcamp.com)

Review – TDW – Fountains

An album made by the fans, for the fans. That’s how you could describe this new TDW album in a simple way, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story, as the eighth TDW album entitled ‘Fountains’ has become something unexpected indeed.

Spurred on by an all too familiar worldwide pandemic and an urge to keep moving forward after releasing the well-received album ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ in December of 2020, main songwriter Tom De Wit took the possibility to quickly write new material that would become this very record. Written, recorded and produced in a record tempo for Tom’s standards, but also fuelled by a very special ingredient… Song input from the fans who preordered the last album and helped to make it all possible!

Multiple songs on this new offering are based on suggestions given by TDW fans in 2020 when they preordered ‘The days…’. Tom told the fans that if they gave him a subject and basic idea, he would write a song based on those ideas and 6 songs on this album came to be based on these very concepts. Added to this were 4 songs written by Tom that all formed a loose theme tying everything together.

When asked about the theme of the album, Tom described it as follows:

“This album has a few themes that form its framework. We have been through the wringer as creators & mankind in general, so I made songs about staying hopeful even when life beats you down, understanding the human value of real art over just blindly staring at sales numbers and marketing and more. My life has been a constant, crusade against hollow art made for profit only.

The highest goal for me is to make something that invokes a real response. I think this represents that to the fullest. People often get sidetracked by the business side of things, but at the end of the day it’s our creative fountain that keeps us going. Yes, you have to take your career seriously, yes you have to think of these things, but for me the music and the creative adventure ALWAYS comes first.”

‘Fountains’ is something of a departure for Tom, while still most definitely a progressive metal record. It has a lighter touch and more left-field influences that give it a real upbeat and fresh feel but, as you will always find with musicians like Tom, the songwriting comes first and this album is chock full of what the youth call ‘bangers’!

From the powerful opening notes of title track Fountains the intent is obvious but every aggressive guitar line is wrapped in the talented songwriting skills of Tom De Wit who brings a subtlety not often seen on albums of this genre. The staccato electronics and fast paced speed metal infused rhythm of Inner Enemy contrasts perfectly with the subtlety of the much more dulcet tones of Hope Song I and its feel-good factor. The potency of Gratitude Song is tempered by the fine vocals and excellent chorus and I am a big fan of Hunter’s Eyes, one of Tom’s best compositions, the inclusion of the flute paying in tandem with the hard edged guitar as the song opens is just genius! This is progressive metal for the thinking man and I really get the feel that Tom and his fellow musicians had a blast recording this album.

The brooding Anthracite has an aura of latent power and barely hidden menace about it. A calm exterior that hides something much more primeval and is another highlight of this ever impressive release. We return to the progressive metal arena again with the driving intensity of Another Choice, Another Universe and it suddenly hits me that we have got over halfway through the album and there’s barely a hint of the growling vocal that this genre is so well known for and, for this reviewer, its absence is a boon and not a hindrance. Thing go completely out of the door with the insane shenanigans of Graveyard Boogie, a track that wouldn’t be amiss on something like ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, it is ghoulishly brilliant! Traveller is imbued with potency, a hard edged offering that ventures into heavy metal territory without ever forgetting its roots in the progressive side of things. Things come to close with the epic Hope Song II which is a thunderous romp that barely pauses for breath, taking you on a spirited and potent journey through all that is good about this band.

‘Fountains’ delivers on every level, a brilliant collection of songs that engages the listener and immerses them in TDW’s rather intriguing world. As a creative force in the progressive metal arena, there aren’t many who exist at the same level as Tom De Wit and that is evident in every note of this captivating and absorbing release.

Released 26th November, 2021

Order from bandcamp here:

Fountains | TDW (bandcamp.com)

Review – Nordic Giants – Symbiosis

Following on from the success of their debut album – ‘A Sèance of Dark Delusions’ and their documentary / soundtrack project – ‘Amplify Human Vibration’, the mysterious Nordic Giants emerge from hiding with their second studio album simply entitled – ‘Symbiosis’ set for release on 4th February 2022.

Symbiosis represents the interdependent relationship of all life. The union and blending of polar opposites, the harmony created when two different elements combine, not just in nature or in a philosophical sense, but at the root creative level.

Rôka and Löki state, 

“We start with a pure idea, we take all the emotions that live inside us,  that are buried deep within the sub-consciousness mind and give them the opportunity to shine through in musical form. Much like our first album – Symbiosis is a multi-layered album, It’s going to be hard to understand the depth of emotion, or spirit of the album on the first listen or even the second. But hopefully even on the 100th listen there may still be new layers revealing themselves to you.”

I do like it when the PR information about a new album really whets your appetite and builds the anticipation of its release. I am a huge fan of Nordic Giants so, after first reading the above, I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘Symbiosis’ and to hear what the mysterious duo had in store for us.

I needn’t have worried, this new release is an absolute stunner, the band’s signature journey into the light and dark, the ambient and the powerful and the ethereal and the earthly is present and correct but subtly different. There is beauty and and almost extraneous feel to the album and it takes this enigmatic duo to another level of brilliance. The music flows around you, taking on a life of its own as it infuses your very being with an otherworldly touch and delivers an almost ‘out of body’ experience.

There is nothing quite like Nordic Giants, their unique take on music encompassing a broad tapestry of weird and wonderful sounds, from vintage analogue synths, Tibetan bowls and even a Carnyx horn. The haunting vocals of Freyja and Alex Hedley adding a haunting grace and ghostly refinement to the tracks Spheres and Faceless respectively, ‘Symbiosis’ is, however, a predominantly multi-layered instrumental album.

The stand out tracks are the exquisitely divine Hjem and gloriously resplendent calm of Spires of Ascendancy, two pieces of music that will take your breath away with their simple brilliance. Opener Philosophy of Mind harks back to the power of ‘Amplify Human Vibration’, Anamorphia has a strident and headstrong confidence at its core, Convergence is a confident trip into a subtle and refined electronica and Infinity closes the album perfectly, opening with moments of languid, laid back grace and ending with a powerful and compelling dignity .

There are hidden depths to this album and it is one that requires multiple listens to discover all of its passion and emotion, its spirit and its essence. 2022 is going to be a vintage year for excellent music and ‘Symbiosis’ will be right there at the top of the list come the end of the year. Nordic Giants plough their own determined furrow and just get better and better with every release.

Released 4th February, 2022.

Order the album from here:

STORE | Nordic Giants

Review – Big Big Train – Welcome To The Planet

From tragedy can often come triumph

I truly did not know if I could write these words and review this album without the huge shadow of David Longdon and his tragic, untimely death hanging over me and influencing the words that this critique would be comprised of. Music, however, had different ideas and the overwhelming feeling of joy that emanated from my first listen to the last album that the wonderful Mr Longdon would ever record with one of my all time favourite bands, Big Big Train, just seemed to salve my soul and relieve me of the feeling of loss that had hung over me since it happened.

Featuring the band’s new line up of David Longdon on vocals; Gregory Spawton on bass; Rikard Sjöblom on guitars, keyboards, and vocals; Nick D’Virgilio on drums and vocals; Carly Bryant on keyboards and vocals; Dave Foster on guitars; and Clare Lindley on violin and vocals, ‘Welcome To The Planet’ carries on the resurgence of the band first heard on last year’s brilliant ‘Common Ground’.

I know I won’t be the only reviewer (and fan) of the band who feels that Big Big Train had been treading water a little bit since the release of ‘Folklore’ back in 2016 but ‘Common Ground’ had hinted at a reinvention of the band and the best music they had created since the groundbreaking ‘Underfall Yard’ from 2009. ‘Welcome To The Planet’ has continued that return to the heady heights that the band reached and could well be one of their best releases ever.

The wonderfully upbeat opening track Made From Sunshine, complete with elegant vocals, a chorus to die for and an incredible guitar solo, shows where the band are heading. The brass is simply sublime and the song left me with a nostalgic tear in my eye. The energy that flows throughout the brilliant Connection Plan, all driven along by the dynamic violin, infuses the track with a high tempo, feel-good rhythm and had me singing along at the top of my voice.

The fact that the album only has one song over seven minutes in length does not detract from the enjoyment in any way, there’s a feeling of musicians being let off the leash to just go and enjoy themselves and, boy, do they ever! making us, the listeners, the eager beneficiaries of this expansive approach.

My enjoyment of the music is tinged by melancholy as the shadow of the larger than life Longdon is always just there, out of reach. Listening to the gorgeous Lanterna seems to banish those feelings of sadness, almost as if David is willing you to just enjoy the music, like his final gift to us all. The songs starts in an ethereal and whimsical vein before opening up into a jubilant and heartwarming musical journey, simply delightful. The graceful, elegant (and criminally short) strains of Capitoline Venus give David’s voice the stage to work his magic on us once again and I have to admit that, on first listen, I did shed a tear or two.

A Room With No Ceiling, penned by Rikard, is a proggy instrumental that fuses all that’s best of the band with a touch of psychedelia at the start before it launches into an accordion infused, merry romp. Proper Jack Froster is the band’s Christmas track from 2021 and takes their pastoral progressive rock and transplants right in the middle of a medieval festive ode. To my ears it is one of the better Christmas songs of recents years and deserves its place on the album, if being a nod to BBT’s past, rather than a glance in the direction they are now heading. The second instrumental on the album is Nick’s engaging Bats In The Belfry, a very impressive take on the drum and bass solo that is oozing character and personality from every note.

There’s always moment of calm, poise and pause on a Big Big Train release and the enchantingly refined Oak and Stone fills that brief for this album. Achingly stylish vocals and a wonderfully laid back piano give the song a sumptuous feel. It really is seven minutes of pure class from these masters of the genre. Now, onto the intriguing final track on the album and a song that could be the most polarising that the band have ever released. Title track Welcome To the Planet is totally different from anything that has gone before and, to my ears anyway, is utterly brilliant! Exuding atmosphere and ambience, it is a theatrically inspired piece of music that takes the band in a totally different direction. With an almost ensemble vibe, the song relies mainly on Carly’s powerful and charismatic vocal performance to drive it along but the wistful and nostalgic music gives a 70’s prog feel to everything, reminding me of Pink Floyd at their height of fame, and there’s surely nothing wrong with that, is there? This track closes the album on a triumphant note and maybe hints on a the future direction than Big Big Train could take, I love it!

The tragedy of David’s death has hit the BBT community very hard and this new album should be the catalyst for the healing process to start. It is a fitting tribute to wonderful man but, and this is the important bit, it is also a sublime collection of songs from a group of talented musicians who are, once again, right at the top of their game. Whatever the band decide to do, they have given us one of the best albums of recent years and a totally memorable start to 2022.

Released 28th January, 2022.

Order from Burning Shed here:

Welcome To The Planet (burningshed.com)

Envy Of None, the new band and debut self-titled album from Alex Lifeson (Rush), Andy Curran (Coney Hatch), Alfio Annibalini and singer Maiah Wynne due for release on Kscope on 8th April

Alex Lifeson is no stranger to the concept of evolution. As a founding member of Rush, he’s been able to explore more musical ground than just about any other guitar player out there – taking rock to new progressive heights throughout the decades and always in the most wildly inventive of ways. His influence can be heard on countless bands around the world, from indie shoegaze and math rock to heavy metal and beyond. Over the last few years Lifeson has been focusing on a new project that, no matter how well-acquainted you are with his discography, will undoubtedly shatter all seeds of expectation and blow the mind. That project is Envy Of None.

The new band, also featuring Coney Hatch founder/bassist Andy Curran, accomplished producer and engineer Alfio Annibalini and singer-songwriter Maiah Wynne, will be releasing their self-titled debut album on April 8 via Kscope. Its 11 tracks – which ricochet between various shades of alternative, experimental and synth rock – throw surprises at every turn, twisting dark melodies against contemporary pop hooks. Lifeson himself is proudly aware of how little of it crosses over with the band that made him famous.

However, it was only when singer Maiah Wynne became involved that this truly started to feel like a band destined to go somewhere. Her haunting melodies and soul-baring intensity is – by the admission of her own bandmates – what truly brought this music to life. All things considered; she is a star in the making… “I sent over an early version of the song Shadow,” explains Andy Curran. “When I played what she’d done back to the others they were like, ‘Who is this crazy talented person?!’”

The album’s first single, Liar, is out now. Its industrial beats, driving fuzz bass and atmospheric guitars concoct a seductive swirl indeed – thrilling in ways closer to the darker art rock of Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle than anything these musicians have been known for prior.

“Mariah became my muse,” continues Alex Lifeson. “She was able to bring this whole new ethereal thing through her sense of melody on tracks like Liar and Look Inside. After hearing her vocals on Never Said I Love You, I felt so excited.I’ve never had that kind of inspiration working with another musician. When we say she’s special, it’s because she’s really fucking special!” 

“One of my favourite things about these songs is the intimacy of them,” reveals Maiah Wynne. “It makes them feel different and more honest. There are some heavier songs too, like Enemy, and then tracks like Kabul Blues, that sound completely different to anything else.”

The album closer, Western Sunset, which was penned by Alex Lifeson in tribute to his dear friend Neil Peart. It’s a highly emotive piece of music to honour a man deeply missed by the rock community at large, and even more so by those who were lucky enough to know him. “I visited Neil when he was ill,” says Alex Lifeson. “I was on his balcony watching the sunset and found inspiration. There’s a finality about a sunset that kinda stayed with me throughout the whole process. It had meaning. It was the perfect mood to decompress after all these different textures… a nice way to close the book.”

It’s a book you’ll almost certainly want to be reading.  Envy Of None’s self-titled album is due for release on April 8 via Kscope.

Pre-Order Here:

Envy Of None (lnk.to)

Envy Of None track listing  

1. Never Said I Love You [04:06]

2. Shadow [03:21]

3. Look Inside [04:44]

4. Liar [03:13]

5. Spy House [02:23]

6. Dog`s Life [04:36]

7. Kabul Blues [03:12]

8. Old Strings [05:15]

9. Dumb [04:19]

10. Enemy[04:16]

11. Western Sunset [02:25]

The album will be released on the following formats and is available to PRE-ORDER HERE (https://eon.lnk.to/EnvyOfNone)

Ltd Edition deluxe version – presented in a gatefold sleeve with a blue coloured vinyl LP, 2 CDs including a 5 track bonus disc, 28 page Booklet with exclusive content

CD – includes a 16 page poster booklet

LP – on black vinyl / baby blue coloured vinyl (North America exclusive) / white coloured vinyl

Digital 

Envy Of None are:

Alf Annibalini – Guitar, Keyboards, Programming

Andy Curran – Bass Guitar, Synthesized Bass, Programming, Guitar, Background Vocals, Stylophone

Alex Lifeson- Guitar, Mandola, Banjo, Programming

Maiah Wynne – Lead Vocals, Background Vocals, Keyboards

NORDIC GIANTS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM ‘SYMBIOSIS’

Following on from the success of their debut album – ‘A Sèance of Dark Delusions’ and their documentary / soundtrack project – ‘Amplify Human Vibration’, the mysterious Nordic Giants emerge from hiding with their second studio album simply entitled – ‘Symbiosis’ set for release on 4th February 2022.

Symbiosis represents the interdependent relationship of all life. The union and blending of polar opposites, the harmony created when two different elements combine, not just in nature or in a philosophical sense, but at the root creative level.

This collection of songs blends light with dark, moments of ambience with power and the subtle with the mysterious – themes that Nordic Giants continue to experiment with extensively over the years. Rôka and Löki state, 

“We start with a pure idea, we take all the emotions that live inside us,  that are buried deep within the sub-consciousness mind and give them the opportunity to shine through in musical form. Much like our first album – Symbiosis is a multi-layered album, It’s going to be hard to understand the depth of emotion, or spirit of the album on the first listen or even the second. But hopefully even on the 100th listen there may still be new layers revealing themselves to you.”

As a whole, the album encompasses a broad tapestry of weird and wonderful sounds, from vintage analogue synths, Tibetan bowls and even a Carnyx horn, to some familiar guest vocalists in the form of Alex Hedley and Freyja – adding their haunting and ethereal sounds on top of what what is predominantly a multi layered instrumental album.

These symbiotic themes of union and interdependence don’t stop just with the music, but are continued throughout the album artwork. Working closely with photographer Neal Grundy, they had many discussions of which material combinations and elements would help symbolise the message. By combining different paints into water they were able to photograph and capture some amazing results, which can only be described as an interlacing synergy of the natural with the supernatural.

Pre-order the album now – nordicgiants.co.uk/store

Symbiosis, which includes the studio album and live tour – aims to pay homage to 10 years of Nordic Giants live performances & music, and as those who have seen the live show will attest, it is a visceral experience that goes far beyond the normal descriptors. 

Each mind-blowing performance involves a selection of hand picked award-winning short films projected alongside the music, and each are a work of art by themselves. Whether live action or animation, experimental or narrative, each resonates and will stay with you in its own way. 

Seeing Nordic Giants has been described as akin to a religious experience: the multi-screen visuals, powerful strobes and exquisitely timed accompaniment create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Tickets are now on sale now for the 2022 UK tour with Årabrot, which will include songs from the new album, as well as a mix of older songs spanning the last 10 years! Expect Brand new films as well as some older classics – to shock, awe and inspire!
Rôka and Löki state – “Imagination can take you anywhere and we hope this album & tour will transport you to otherworldly places!”


Progradar’s Review of 2021

I’ve had a little time to digest what was a rather wonderful year of music in 2021. Here is my review of the year with my favourite albums, in no particular order barring my number one!

Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe – Forevermore

A true return to form for the prog supergroup with melodies, tunes and overtures galore. Transatlantic gave us their best album since ‘Bridge Across Forever’.

Lifesigns – Altitude

I really think that Lifesigns have taken a massive step forward with this album, good as ‘Cardington’ was, this release is so very much better in my opinion.

Echoes & Signals – Mercurial

‘Mercurial’ trades some of Echoes & Signals’ signature post-rock sensibilities for a darker journey into the kind of prog-metal embraced by the likes of Tool and this new direction is one that I feel suits them perfectly. 

Cosmograf – Rattrapante

At the time, I said, “At this moment in time there is nothing I would rather listen to than this incredible new album from Cosmograf, will Robin’s latest pièce de résistance still be up there at the end of the year? Most probably but, here and now, it just does not get any better than this!” And here it is!

League of Lights – Dreamers Don’t Come Down

Not only a nod to the past but also a completely relevant piece of music in these present times, ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’ is a perfectly crafted collection of pop and electronica infused songs that really hit home.

Ana Patan – Spice, Gold and Tales Untold

Wearing her many influences proudly on her sleeve Ana Patan has just allowed the music and her excellent vocals to tell her many intriguing and involving stories and this has allowed them to breathe and come to life quite spectacularly. An album that has surprised me in its simple brilliance and one that, if you let it, will enrich your life in a myriad of ways.

The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event

‘Extinction Level Event’ is shaping up to possibly be the best prog metal album of the last few years at least, I honestly don’t think I’ve had a prog metal album hit me so hard since Haken’s ‘The Mountain’

Catalyst*R – self-titled

When everything that is happening around you is making your life jaded, just press play on this bewitching collection of songs, light the spark and let the music start to take your cares away…

Michael Woodman – Psithurism

A hugely impressive and admirably different collection of songs that shows Woodman’s impish creativity at its best. A musical breath of fresh air that will leave a smile on your face and wonderment in your soul.

Vestamaran – Bungalow Rex

Get your hands on this album and, when the sun shines, get the barbecue lit, an ice cold beer in your hand, put the stereo on, turn it up to 11 and just enjoy this incredible album for, as the press release says, “Life is not just bungalow all day long, it also includes a lot of rex in the evenings.”

Tillison, Reingold, Tiranti – Allium – Una Storia

Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

Big Big Train – Common Ground

Vibrant and upbeat, thoughtful, wistful and even melancholy at times, it is a collection of amazing songs that will touch you on a basic level and move you on many others. ‘Common Ground’ is the album that will make you fall in love with the band all over again and I can’t give it any higher praise than that!

smalltape – The Hungry Heart

I’m a massive fan of music that makes me think, music that doesn’t give up its deepest delights easily and ‘The Hungry Heart’ has that in spades. HungerBurning House, Dissolution, the list goes on, cuts of pure musical brilliance that showcase this young German musician as a seriously precocious talent and one to follow closely.

Giancarlo Erra – Departure Tapes

If music could tell a story of a life lived, lost and, deep at its core, loved then ‘Departure Tapes’ is it. I am along term fan of this intelligent musician’s brilliant work and this new release is another entry into his very impressive discography.

Great North Star – self-titled

Step out of this confusing and hectic world that we live in, if only for the thirty nine minutes running time, and allow your mind and your soul to recharge. A wonderful and insightful masterpiece that will stay with you for a very long time.

Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

‘Love’s Lost Property’ is an exquisite creation, nine tracks of wondrously charming music with Rachel’s honeyed vocals lifting this release well above what you may have heard already this year. I suggest you get your hands on it as soon as you can, it is definitely worth seeking out.

The Holy Road – An Unshakeable Demon

Never be afraid to challenge yourself and listen to something different, I found the eclectic and evocative wonder of ‘An Unshakable Demon’ really hit home with me.

CYAN – For King And Country

A masterpiece of intricate melodies, mellifluous vocals and intelligent songwriting, ‘For King And Country’ delights on every level and makes you smile. You can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

Glass Hammer – Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Epic in scope, majestic in scale and blurring the lines between progressive rock and progressive metal, Glass Hammer have given us their best album of recent years and possibly their best release ever and it should be another monster success for this evergreen band.

Findlay Napier – It Is What It Is

‘It Is What It Is’ sees this fine musician and songwriter on a higher plane and is a must buy for anyone who appreciates and treasures original music with heart and soul.

And the top gong for album of the year goes to….

HFMC – We Are The Truth

This superlative gem of release is worthy of all the praise that is being heaped upon it and finishes 2021 on an utter high for this reviewer, the finest of a wonderful crop of albums released this year!

So, there you have it, my selection of some of the great albums that graced 2021 and I am sure that 2022 is going to be just as good!

Starfish64 Release New Single – ‘Birdsong’ – Ahead of Forthcoming Album ‘Scattered Pieces Of Blue’

Starfish64 have a new single out in support of their new album coming in early 2022. The song is an evocative and uplifting hymn to the birdsong and beauty of nature. The forthcoming album „Scattered Pieces Of Blue“ will include a wide range of moods from groovy modern sounds, fragile acoustic pieces to a lengthy and spacey progressive suite.

Birdsong is available through all common streaming services and download portals as well as on:

https://starfish64.bandcamp.com

You can watch the video here:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – shares new single & video for “Prescient” feat. Micheal Mills and Ross Jennings; pre-orders start today

Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) is back with a new Star One album titled Revel In Time.  The new album comes more than 10 years since the previous release and is due out on Feb 18th, 2022 on InsideOutMusic.  Revel In Time is now available for pre-order, along with the re-issues of “Victims of the Modern Age” and “Space Metal”. 

Today, Arjen is pleased to share the third single and video for “Prescient” featuring Micheal Mills (Toehider) and Ross Jennings (Haken, Novena).

Watch the video for “Prescient” here:

Arjen has this to say about the track:

“For me this is the most varied Star One album so far, every track has a totally different feel. The first single, Lost Children of the Universe, is a big epic track; the second single, Fate of Man, is a fast metal track, and Prescient is definitely the most proggy on the album. With the video we tried to capture that vintage black and white Twilight Zone feel with a touch of David Lynch!”

Revel In Time is available as Ltd. 2CD Digipak, Ltd. Deluxe 3CD+Blu-Ray Artbook (incl. a poster of the cover artwork), as 180g Gatefold 2LP (incl. the album on CD & an LP-Booklet) and as Digital Album (2 CD).

Also available will be a 5.1 mix, a high-res audio version, and an exclusive, hour-long Behind the Scenes video, on the Blu-ray included in the Artbook.

You can pre-order the album here:

https://arjenanthonylucassensstarone.lnk.to/RevelInTime

1] Fate of Man 5:29

2] 28 Days (Till the End of Time) 7:21

3] Prescient 6:34

4] Back from the Past 4:50

5] Revel in Time 4:38

6] The Year of ’41 6:20

7] Bridge of Life 5:14

8] Today is Yesterday 5:46

9] A Hand on the Clock 5:52

10] Beyond the Edge of it All 4:52

11] Lost Children of the Universe 9:46 

CD 2 features alternate versions of the same songs as CD 1, but with different vocalists.

Arjen explains the decision to return with a new Star One album:

“Ayreon is like the mothership for all my music. It contains all the different musical styles that I like to listen to and that I love to create. But I’m always looking for challenges and trying to create something new and original as well. Working within a set of constraints forces you to do that, so sometimes I like to limit myself and focus on just one style. For example, with Star One I focus on the metal-side of Ayreon. That means you won’t hear the exuberantly liberal use of acoustic instruments that are so often featured on Ayreon albums, like violin, woodwinds, cello, horns, dulcimer, mandolin, etc.”