Review – Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah II – by Progradar

Arcade-Messiah-II-Cover

There is a place in music for everything. There is a place for quiet and contemplative and a place for upbeat and energetic. Heartwarming and heartbreaking can be found in every listener’s record collection. I mean, even the blasted wasteland of thrash and death metal will float quite a few people’s boats somewhere.

Yes, as individuals we can shut ourselves off from what we dislike to concentrate on the music that resonates and innovates our souls but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone, somewhere who really appreciates that which we do not. Yes, even chart music, the anodyne, tasteless blurb that blasts out from shopping centres all across the world, even that has its place, much as it pains me to say it.

As  a music reviewer I try to cover a hell of a lot of bases and keep my musical tastes varied and relatively indiscriminate. I like the beauty and soul that emanates from a lot of progressive music but, then again, I also like the hard hitting and innovative too. And, sometimes, I just like to listen to something that blows my bloody socks off and tries to remove what little hair I have left.

One artist whose music resonates with me for its power and deep down raw energy is John Bassett. English multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and producer John hails from Hastings in Sussex. He first came to my notice as the driving force behind the Progressive Rock band Kingbathmat who are well known for their style of prog that combines cutting vocal melodies with sledgehammer riffs and psychedelia.

As well as the eight albums he has released with the band, John also released a brilliant, acoustic based, solo album ‘Unearth’ last year but, it is John’s other solo instrumental project, Arcade Messiah, that is the centre of attention for this review.

The first, self-titled, Arcade Messiah album was released last year to wide acclamation. I penned these words about it, “Dark, bleak and full of despair it may be but, when it is this good, that pales into insignificance as one of the UK’s premier progressive musicians re-invents himself with assured aplomb once again.” 

Arcade Messiah Album Cover

It was also bloody monstrous, a huge tapestry of immense musical brilliance and John is just about to release the follow up to the album, imaginatively titled ‘Arcade Messiah II’.

John was surprised by the success of the first album and that spurred him on to record the follow up, hopefully bigger, better and more refined but without losing the edginess of the first release.

Produced and recorded by him in his studio in Hastings, it has quite a lot to live up to…..

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John has gone to the unusual lengths of releasing the download for 99p but, it is the CD version that I review here. This includes a near nineteen minute cover of The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child. There is absolutely no way I was missing out on that!

First things first, the artwork, absolutely stunning and carrying on the style first encountered on the debut Arcade Messiah release.

The main album is eight tracks of near-perfect instrumental hard rock with an infinite depth to it. Opener Moon Signal is a perfect marker for what is to follow with its restrained opening, the resonant guitar sound of John Bassett instantly recognisable. When the thunderous riffs and almighty drums kick in, it is enough to knock you back a step or to, immensely powerful and not for the faint-hearted. You feel yourself surfing on a huge wave of sonic dominance and you know you will fall off the wave eventually so enjoy the ride while you can. There is no let up to the ferocity of the precisely engineered music and it is highly addictive, please approach with caution. Red Widow carries on in a similar vein, this time with a menacing background aura to it. Compelling and commanding, it has a real heavy metal riff running throughout it, a sound that is granite hard as it hits you from all sides. Believe me when I say it is like a beautiful aural assault and one that you cannot back down from. It is like staring into an endless, limitless abyss and still jumping in with no safety line, obsessively habit-forming.

Taking the mysterious route, Black Dice Maze opens up with an enigmatic guitar note, lighter, lithe and agile. It is almost hypnotic in the way that its featherlight tendrils touch your synapses, leaving you in a calm and collected mood. The complete antithesis to what has gone before it would seem but, wait, all is not as you would presume it to be and another monstrous riff kicks in and drags you along in its wake. The mercilessly incessant drums and quick fire licks hook you in and steal your soul as this roller coaster ride of instrumental inventiveness carries you away on an influx of musical torque only to leave you exhausted on some metaphorical shore. Will there be time to catch your breath? It would appear so as the gentle undulating calmness of the guitar introduces Gallows Way, an altogether much more serene proposition. A tranquil and harmonious contrast to the intense maelstrom that has preceded it. At three minutes, a relatively short but perfectly placed respite and one that allows you to collect your thoughts before moving on to more of the dangerously addictive towering musical force that is Arcade Messiah.

John Bassett Promo 5

Fourth Quarter strides confidently into the room on the back of a coruscating guitar and stylish drum beat. Almost like a mind control drug, you find yourself focusing on that astringent guitar note as it overwhelms your very being. A guitar-led break impacts with even more of the bleak, barren grace that radiates from this track. Reminiscent of a post-nuclear landscape that has been scorched and left with a naked and raw beauty, this song really impacts on your soul. Just over one minute of refined, statuesque refinement, Via Occulta packs a lot of intent and meaning into a very short timescale, I just wish it was longer.

By the time you reach the sixth track, you are comfortably ensconced in the metaphorical musical seat that John Bassett has provided for you. Read The Sky is another intensely acute listening experience that washes over you as if you were a gravel shoreline being assaulted by rolling Atlantic breakers. Meticulously created riffs from another planet hit you from every angle leaving you a laughing, maniacal wreck, the experience is vivid as your synapses reverberate with the brilliantly vivid soundscapes created by this innovative musician. Almost like a meditative come-down, the introduction to Start Missing Everybody is an esoteric opposite to the general atmosphere with a guitar note that feels like Ennio Morricone could have invented it. Hold your horses though, the thunderous musical train is on the track and coming your way with no brakes, the final run out of the song pulverising your senses before it comes to an abrupt close.

So, onto the CD bonus track and the cover of The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child. Perhaps with more of a feel of KingBathmat to it, it is quite an impressive musical odyssey. Mesmerising guitars and dynamic drums and bass combine to deliver one of the best tracks of the year. You really do get lost in the striking grandeur of the music, a wide-ranging vista of imposing melodic inspiration and sagacity and one that takes over your world for the nineteen minutes of its duration.

John

‘Arcade Messiah II’ takes all that was good with the first album and enhances by taking the raw, coruscating energy of the first release and developing it into a superb sound that, while holding nothing back, is full of nuances and intelligence. A ‘Wall of Sound’ that makes Phil Spector’s look like a diminutive picket fence and it is quite possibly the best thing this highly talented musician has ever produced.

Released 22nd November 2015

Buy direct from the artist’s bandcamp page

 

 

 

 

Review – T- Fragmentropy – by Rob Fisher

Fragmentropy

Heraclitus is famously alleged to have said that we cannot step into the same river twice. Everything changes, everything is in the process of change, nothing remains the same and nothing lasts. This is true of the universe as much as it is true of human life. And for 75 gloriously intense minutes Thomas Thielen gives us a masterful, insightful and quite profound philosophical musical poem to both the exasperations as well as the joys of what it means to be alive.

‘Fragmentropy’ is about moments, episodes, dipping your toe again and again into the coursing, vibrant, inevitably chaotic river of life. It is a force we barely understand, are carried along in its swirls, eddies and currents to a destination we know not where. Along the way we discover joy and sorrow, we find and are found, we love, are loved, are parted from love and have it ripped from us.

We fight, we struggle, we laugh, we delight; in our search for meaning we mistake the profound for the mundane and the mundane for the profound. It is not easy being human; it is a struggle. At nearly 3 years in the making, ‘Fragmentropy’ eloquently captures it all and captures it quite brilliantly.

That we are dealing with the same river is beyond doubt. This is an album which naturally flows (sic) from T’s hugely powerful 2012 musical commentary ‘Psychoanorexia’ where the spotlight is firmly fixed on the mediocrity of modern life. The ability to appreciate and savour the depths and the heights of what life has to offer us is sacrificed on the altar of celebrating the shallow, the bland, the ordinary and the common place.

‘Fragmentropy’ is much more adventurous, more daring, more challenging. By the time we dip our toes in the waters again, T has taken several steps further and invites us to understand that there are bigger questions with which we need to grapple. In the process of answering these questions, this album is at its revealing best. It is full of wondrous mystery and restless curiosity; in many respects the music represents the simple open-minded attitude of the inquisitive child facing the universe and asking ‘why?’ again and again, wanting to know but never satisfied with the responses received.

At the same time T lays down a strong scientific thread (again following on from ‘Psychoanorexia’). His poem is in three parts; Anisotropic Dances (Chapter One), The Politics of Entropy (Chapter Two) and The Art of Double Binding (Chapter Three). Each chapter is a toe dipped in the water, musical soundings which struggle to reveal the patterns which shape our lives. The album is a question, or rather, an on-going set of questions which invite you into a conversation with the ideas and the feelings being evoked and painted on the musical canvas before you.

As such what quickly becomes clear is this could only be the work of a single artist and never a band; there is a unified vision directing the musical currents and eddies, a mind which brings with it determination, a quiet but assured confidence which shines through again and again in music which is laden with an abundance of attitude, with spirit which briefly enjoys the settled symphonic and melodic present but which quickly dissipates into a discordant wrestling with the troubled moments life brings.

Caught up in it all are the most wonderful and sublime textures: musical textures, intellectual textures, emotional textures all fused and seamlessly intermingling into a beautiful tapestry of sound. In this respect ‘Fragmentropy’ is a stunning pinnacle of intelligent creative musical achievement. Thielen has always been an innovator, both enjoying as well as experimenting with music and sound. He understands, like few others, that they are not the same and yet their partnership is vital. From ‘Naive’ (2002) through ‘Voices’ (2006), ‘Anti-Matter Poetry’ (2010) and ‘Psychoanorexia’ (2013) he has been consistently building unique musical spaces.

Thomas Thielen 2

These albums aren’t simply about the sounds the instruments make, even though he single-handedly plays everything you hear. It is about combining musical creativity with instrumental technique; it is about how to blend sounds, how to arrange music, how to record it, mix it, produce it and ultimately how to use these as part of the musical experience itself.

Everything you hear is mixed, engineered, recorded and produced by T. These ‘tools’ are no less instruments than those he plays. What ‘Fragmentropy’ finally shows us is what happens when the musical project finally comes together, slots into place and delivers an album which is stunning in its vision, exemplary in its delivery and phenomenal in capturing the momentary fragmented songs of human living.

And what amazing songs they are too. The attention to detail is mesmerising; spend some time with the lyrics alone to see the passionate intensity and sculpted finesse of poetic vignettes, nuanced allusions and literary breadcrumbs housing piercing observations and sentiments. Then listen carefully to the way these are integrated into each track.

It is not just a voice which carries and delivers the full range of human emotion, clear echoes and strains of Bowie (and maybe Hogarth) in soulful enunciation one minute, driving and biting the next; it is also the way the voice itself is used as a texture and blended into the movement of each track.

For example, check out time points circa 9.50 of Brand New Mornings (Track 2), 4.57 in Entanglement (Track 4) and 5.30 in Eigenstates (Track 5). These are (momentous) states of transition from dissonant passages that are full of storm and fury to tranquil calm and soothing peacefulness. The contrasts are disarming and the effect much like the rays of the sun emerging from behind the clouds.

And yet each transition itself is a fragment in a series of fragments which highlights the themes of the album generally. The keyboard work, particularly the piano, is a presence which infuses everything, sometimes in the centre ground of melodic symphonies, sometimes a lone voice against a curtain of silence, sometimes a faint echo peeking through layered guitar work.

The drumming is quite brilliant in the range of tones and techniques which are employed, dominant and almost overpowering one minute, subtle, coy almost submissive the next. The bass is lovely; undulating, driving, menacing but never intrusive or demanding of attention. It is the current which moves the river along, the pigment at the heart of the textures.

Guitars are bewildering in the way they weave the plot and tell the story; so much intensity cascading away into magical riffs, in turn falling into the background, drawing breath and building again. There is so much going on here it is impossible to take it all in or properly appreciate at times the sheer genius at work in its orchestration.

Special mention must also go to Katia Tangian’s incredible photography which is startling, challenging and poignant. Take time to compare the cover from ‘Psychoanorexia’ and the transition to the cover of ‘Fragmentropy’. Life mirrors art; the covers are perfect foils for the themes contained within. They are themselves another stimulating layer to add to the textures of musical experience.

Don’t be surprised if you do not understand what you encounter when you first hear this album. Don’t be surprised if you are still scratching your head after the second, third and maybe even the fourth listen either. It is not ‘easy listening’, nor, given what has gone into its composition, should you expect it to be. Good things come to those who persevere and this hidden gem is no exception. It demands attention, asks for your time, expects your effort and invites your curiosity.

I fervently urge anyone who listens not to give up on it. Wrestle with it, engage with it, join the conversation and undertake the voyage which is being offered to you. Each time you play it you certainly will not step into the same river twice. It will open itself up to you again and again and again. And when it does, my goodness: take a deep, deep breath and cry out in delight because it really is an absolute treat.

Released 11th September 2015

Buy direct from Progressive Promotion Records

Review – Comedy of Errors – Spirit – by Progradar

CoE Spirit

“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear, and superstition….” – Bernard Beckett.

“It’s not so much the journey that’s important; as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way.” – Jeremy Aldana.

To me, the beauty of music is the way it can tell a story, heartwarming or heartbreaking, it doesn’t matter. The best albums take you on a musical and spiritual journey, one that will, hopefully, leave you in a better place than when you started.

The journey isn’t always easy, there will be highs and lows, moments of sheer ecstasy and moments of utter despair. It is becoming a rare ability to write and perform songs that can move you emotionally and make a difference to your life and I spend most of my days searching for that scarce and rarefied commodity.

Recently I was the lucky recipient of the latest album from the esteemed Scottish progressive band Comedy of Errors and it promised to be one of those rare beasts, a work of music that would be challenging yet profound and, ultimately, life affirming.

‘Spirit’ is the band’s most musically ambitious album so far, representing a major step forward in the band’s development, dealing with themes of grief, loss and ultimately, hope. The cornerstone of the album is a 45 minute unbroken piece taking the form of an emotional journey at once personal and universal, despairing and uplifting.

Live

After a long absence from the scene, Comedy of Errors re-formed in 2010 and have been busy increasing their profile since then through gigging at venues in the UK and Europe and appearing on the bill at several UK prog festivals. They are excited and delighted to add the United States to the growing list following an invitation from the organizers to play at Rosfest 2016.

They have also released 3 albums during that time, their first album effectively being ‘Disobey’ (2011) followed by ‘Fanfare and Fantasy’ (2013) and their most recent album ‘Spirit’ released in October 2015.

Based near Glasgow, Scotland, Comedy of Errors are Joe Cairney (Vocals), John Fitzgerald (Bass), Bruce Levick (Drums), Jim Johnston (Keyboards), Sam McCulloch (Guitar) and Mark Spalding (Guitar).

Joe, Jim and Mark were in a former incarnation of the band some years ago where they gigged extensively and released various demos during that period. When they disbanded Jim kept on working on revising songs and writing new music before getting the band back together in 2010.

Piano

The main track, Spirit, has been divided into multiple tracks but, as the CD booklet says:

“…..these divisions and titles are arbitrary; the ‘song’ is in fact one long single unbroken piece of music best listened to in its entirety from beginning to end.”

For the sake of the review I am going to follow the band’s ‘arbitrary’ subdivisions….

You’re God and You let me down, My grief lies all within….

The opening to My Grief Lies All Within is almost revelatory, the keyboards waking you from a stupor before the rest of the band arrive with a cacophony of guitar heavy staccato notes. There then follows a more pensive section, thought provoking, before Joe’s immediately recognisable vocal takes up the tale. The track takes on a choral feel with the harmonies and organ like keyboards, the bass and drums delivering an even handed tempo. Emotive and stirring, Joe Cairney’s voice is the centrepiece around which everything is grounded. There seems a sadness deep at the core of this powerful song, a poignancy that pervades the melancholy guitar solo that runs out the track.

Playing with our hopes we bow to you, in helpless, hapless, hopeless despair….

There is a seamless segue into Infinite Wisdom which is a fast paced, almost frenetic two minutes of sceptical hell or no notion. An anger consumes the vocal and gives a slightly menacing feel to the whole track.

Spirit shines, Undiminished, Like a flower, Gentle, unbreakable….

This quite unique musical experience continues with Spirit Shines/Spirit, a slow burning build up leaving tendrils of warmth enveloping your very soul. There follows an uplifting, feel-good piece of music with a repeated vocal motif that just really ‘gets’ you emotionally and I feel the tears welling up, tears of joy and happiness, as if a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Joe’s vocal delivers empathy and succour in equal measure, his compassion and the delicate piano note lift you up and leave your very being re-born.

Tension…….tightening, Frightening……dread….

Uncertainty is the overwhelming mood that is imparted at the beginning of Can This Be Happening/Timeless, anxiety and concern leech from the song. The music is measured one minute and hectic and unsure the next. A maelstrom attacks your aural senses leaving you misdirected and momentary lost, all the moods and emotions imparted by the excellence of the musicians and conducted by Joe’s commanding, theatrical delivery.

We gather together in darkness, While endlessly waiting for answers…

The questions continue with In Darkness Let Me Dwell, we seek the answer to the eternal question of a greater being. A dominating bass line runs throughout this compelling track. Joe’s vocal is both questing and demanding. A profound, complex and intricate song and one that leaves more questions than answers….

Abstract

Destroyer of Angels, On the wind of your breath, you deal out disaster, Destruction and death.

A reverie of angelic voices opens I Call And Cry To Thee, leaving you somewhat in rapture, a timely pause to allow your soul and senses to catch up with you. A solemnity surrounds everything, a contemplative yet austere tone that is carelessly tossed aside by the compelling, hard-edged riff that overtakes everything, like a musical tsunami. Joe Cairney’s challenging vocal then takes over, still demanding of the heavenly entity, leaving a melancholia surrounding proceedings.

Set your spirit free….

A calm reflectiveness descends as Set Your Spirit Free/Goodbye My Love Until We Meet Again begins. An ethereal, wistful instrumental that plucks at the heart strings with a feeling of letting go, a finality of slightly sorrowful bereavement.

Spirit shines, like a flower, Gentle, unbreakable.

A very moving introduction, fateful and momentous holds your attention as Ascension/Et Resurrexit/Auferstehen – Arise In Love Sublime, Arise – Spirit builds into something utterly sublime, The organ note from the keyboards transfixes you with its celestial grace and then Joe repeats the refrain from Spirit Shines, inspirational and incredibly moving. A spiritual and refined experience that fills your heart with love and compassion.

Rise again, oh rise again in everlasting love…..

Another perfect transition and Into The Light continues the uplifting atmosphere. The transition from despair, grief and loss to hope and joy is nearly complete. The vocals lead us with the realisation that we shouldn’t question the greater powers, where there is death, there will always be love and happiness, our is not to reason why. The joyous music is an outpouring of both grief and delight and lifts up your soul to greater heights.

The Time and distance disappear, beyond the rooftops twilight urban glow..

The final segment of this epic journey is Above The Hills and is as full of hope and longing as the earlier tracks were of anguish and despondency. Joe’s mercurial voice leads the whole band in a jubilant celebration of life and of death. A nostalgic note creeps into his voice, a hint of sadness but with a thoughtful edge. The culmination of an eventful journey though life, love, despair and happiness, that these superb musicians can impart this whole gamut of emotions through their music is testament to their songwriting skill and musicianship.

Aubitt

Part 2 ‘Epilogue

This Is How It Has To Be is a brilliant instrumental where the skills of the musicians come to the fore. The drums and bass provide the backbone on which the rest of the instruments can rely. A demonstrative guitar guides you through the rest of the track, ably abetted by the delightful keyboards. A reflective musical trip that really gets you thinking, the change into a Mike Oldfield style second half is clever and gives the song a second lease of life. A livelier, shanty style that really gets your foot tapping, quite ingenious.

The closing track on this particular copy is the Spirit (single) and it is a worthy addition to the album bringing back all sorts of emotions as you hear Joe singing that fantastic refrain once more, a quite sublime song with a superb guitar solo.

Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors. A contender for album of the year and one that should be gracing everybody’s music collection, just brilliant.

Released 20th October 2015

Buy Spirit direct from the band

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Spock’s Beard – The First Twenty Years – by Gary Morley

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‘Time’, it’s a strange thing. Undetectable without relying on specialist intervention – slow motion or time lapse cameras show us its effect, mirrors reflect the effect it has on us. Time is both measure and measured, we slice it up and record its passing, yet time is the single most important concept we have. Without it, there is no ‘now’ and no ‘future’ or ‘past’.

If someone in the future invents a time machine and travels back, we would know it, wouldn’t we? They’d stop wars, point humanity on the right path to prevent destruction of the planet, encourage us to support the exploration of outer space, reveal the evil of reality TV etc.

If there is such a machine and such people were taking requests, then I think Spock’s Beard need to borrow that time machine to go back and meet their earlier selves.

The one thing they need to communicate, without putting the future of the universe at risk with causality and paradox, is they should seriously think about changing their name. No matter how good they are as musicians, no matter how epic their epic tracks are, the name conjures up all the wrong associations. Geek chic it ain’t…

Twenty years of Spock’s Beard. To me, they are part of the “new wave” of Prog, post Genesis, and post Twelfth Night et al. They write long, epic tracks and started as they meant to go on with complex multi-part tracks that are polished and assembled on this chronological trip.

The first piece by them I’d heard, from a cover mount free CD was At the End of The Day and it wormed its way into my consciousness. I went on a voyage of discovery, picking up second hand copies of their albums, then deluxe first editions as they were released. I didn’t realise but SB and it’s off shoots, side projects and affiliates take up a large chunk of my modern Prog pile. The tentacles spread out, from Transatlantic to Roine Stolt’s Flower Kings to Neal Morse’s solo work to some bunch of internet sprout wranglers; the Beard has links to it all.

Yet they are not mentioned in the same pages that eulogise Mr Wilson, fawn at the uttering’s of lesser talents with better haircuts. But they deserve their place in such company.

They write record and perform long, complex pieces; they can rock out with the best, with an instantly identifiable sound. It is a broad pallet of sound – vocal harmonies, kicking brass section, attacking keyboards, and guitars too, underpinned by some severe drumming talent.

Photo taken in Altadena on 03/11/15.

In many ways, Spock’s Beard are the quintessential American Prog band. Musically adept, lyrically optimistic, almost slavish attention to detail. There is a lot going on in these tracks, almost too much at times: This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach is evident in the tracks that start this CD.

The younger version of SB, fronted by a scarily long haired version of Neal Morse, seemed to want to be taken seriously, very seriously. Every track is a constructed of multiple parts, instrumental breaks and moments of sublime beauty. The Guitar and keyboard coda of the track in question still makes me stop and hold my breath.

The cynical amongst us may deride SB as Genesis wannabe’s as there are striking similarities between the evolution of both bands.

  1. Both bands produced complex, multi part tracks across their first albums.
  2. Both bands “lost” their original vocalists and replaced them with the incumbent drummer stepping up to the front.
  3. Both vocalists departed leaving, as their swansong, complex double concept albums in their wake.
  4. Both bands then changed to a more direct, full on direction and reaped the benefit of commercial success.

But here our stories diverge, as SB then floundered with a mid career fallow patch ( to me, “Feel Euphoria” was a band in a holding pattern) .They then rediscovered their Prog Mojo with “ Octane” , the opening  7  part concept sees them at their best ,describing  a car accident from the POV of the driver. The sheer beauty of his life unfurling is a testament to the collective ability of the ensemble in that it skates close to cloying sentimentality. But the combination of words and music convey the love of life and of hope in the face of adversity which reflects the lyrical obsessions of Mr Morse and the spiritual quest that pulled him away from the band.

One part of this epic, my favourite post Morse SB piece, is here in burnished re-mastered glory.

She Is Everything is one of Prog’s great love songs. A song that makes you want to share the joy of this experience, the lyrical content is crafted around a tune that comes straight out of the classic pop tunes book. It’s a love song that in a few short verses leaves you fully understanding the depth of feeling conveyed, but without getting caught up in sentimentality.

I mentioned earlier Neal Morse’s swansong, “Snow”, my favourite SB album.

It’s that most “Prog” thing, a concept album detailing the life of Snow, an albino loner with a psychic ability. He grows up in the Midwest, move to New York, undergoes an epiphany , uses his powers for good, falls in love with the wrong girl, ends up fulfilling his prophetic vision of his future ( see, time again! ) then gets saved by his friends.

Mixing Christian myth, Robert Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and taking the good from every concept album ever written, bits of ‘Tommy’, ‘The Lamb’, ‘The Wall’ & Bowie and Roeg’s ‘The Man who fell to Earth’ all are thrown into the pot. There are bits that Yes would be proud of, Marillion would recognise and ELP would tap their feet to. In short, it is the quintessential Prog Rock concept album.

But if that all sounds clichéd, it succeeds on the strength of the music. It ebbs and flows beautifully, from a gentle acoustic representation of Snow’s innocent childhood to the depravity of the cess pit of New York to the pain of unrequited love through the depths of despondency and out on the wings of hope and love.

The tune selected for here, The Wind At My Back is the centre of the piece, appearing twice at the climax of both discs. Its harmonies and themes run all through the album and serves as a fitting memorial to Mr Morse’s tenure as vocalist.

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If this Collection has done nothing else, it’s made me dig out my SB CD’s, and go looking to fill the gaps in my collection.

X, represented by The Jaws of Heaven seems a return to the more Prog rock version of SB than the previous albums, with this track highlighting the keyboard strengths of the band. There’s a whole raft of sounds – Mellotron, piano, strings, brass all flowing together and complimenting Nick D’Virgilio’s fine vocals.

Over the two discs of this compilation we have witnesses the young Prog overachievers throw everything into the mix, then slow down, give us vocal harmonies, fine melodies and songs, become increasingly adventurous with their lyrical subjects which culminated in an epic modern fable. Then the singer quits and their drummer takes over.

The band move onto new terrain, ploughing a rockier landscaper, but still sowing the seeds of Prog, they start to really find their musical point in the cosmos with a trio of albums…

And then they lose another front man! NDV jumps tracks and we all know which train he’s hitched his wagon to!

It’s starting to read like a Prog Spinal Tap here, without the gardening joke, but nothing is going to slow the progress of the Beard. If you’ve lost a front man, not a problem: steal (or borrow, though do you have to give him back?) one from another band.

Enter Ted Leonard from US Prog metal band, Enchant. Now I had a couple of Enchant CD’s once. They didn’t survive the great CD purge. They were nice, inoffensive formulaic Prog Metal. Too twiddly for me to be honest, the downfall of Dream Theater in my humble opinion. I go for the Miles Davis approach. Play one note instead of ten as long as it’s the right note.

Jump to 2013 and the release of “Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep”.  And it sounds like the old SB, back to their proggy best. The track chosen here, Waiting for Me features the SB “sound”, vocal harmonies and glorious melody, a superb production as we have come to expect. This track shows how far the band has travelled but they’ve still retained their core spirit. They use keyboards to complement the guitar as did Deep Purple before the departure of Mr Blackmore. Drums are high in the mix, but unlike Metallica , SB have a world class percussionist who drives the songs forward rather than running alongside trying to grab the steering wheel.

The penultimate track is the first track on their most recent album. Criticisms have been levelled at the band for moving away from their sound, but, on the evidence of this track, the 2015 SB is rolling on nicely, with some great guitar and keyboard touches. The Deep Purple comparison is very evident with the Hammond being prominent, but to me, this is a good move as that classic sound of guitar, Hammond, bass and drums drives the song onward.

Photo taken in Altadena on 03/11/15.

And so, gentle reader, we reach the track that most Beard heads will be forking out for. A track that promises all 3 front men together (well appearing on the same song). And we start with gentle piano and strings, then a very Early Yes like rhythm and sound.

It’s Very Yes like. The Proper Yes. Roger Dean Artwork Yes.

There’s a nice instrumental section, with all working together to create a melange of melody. Guitars are edgy and the metal influences are there, but the big Prog chords and drums keep them firmly in their place.

The music swells and slows, we are anticipating vocals as the rhythm changes and we get acoustic guitar a drum then a voice.

More voices, it’s no longer a song of parts as the song moves through a very folksy part with at least 2 different voices singing parts, then we switch moods again and a third, much more rock voice appears.

I’m enjoying the interplay of instruments and voices on this first listen, I’m not too focused on the lyrics as they flow with the tune and I’m more interested in the structure first, lyrics second.

This is possibly a result of continued exposure to bands singing in languages I’m not conversant in ( i.e. everything except English) but as I get older and the reading of lyrics stops being feasible due to CD sized fonts and ole eyes, I find it easier to concentrate on the whole thing.

And…

Well, it’s a Spock’s Beard epic track. Lots of glorious vocal harmony. Glasses full of guitar and keyboards. There are fine performances from all 3 singers.

As you would expect, their voices complement each other, the sound is one that SB have perfected. It’s a compliment to them that time flies by as you listen. The track allows them to do what they do best.

Listening again (the third time) this track reminded me of another band. It opens as if it’s from those dextrous players on a cosmic adventure, Utopia, circa 1973 when Todd Rundgren was in full cosmic flow, expanding his (and our) consciousnesses.

The more I listen, the more the track strikes me as a statement of where American Prog is today. Think of a line drawn from Utopia, through Kansas, up across the Boston Guitar Mountains to the Glass Hammer lakes, there you will find a dam built by these eager beavers of Prog. All that music is held back and they tap it off into these epics.

There’s even a drum solo hidden in there and leads us on to an extended instrumental piece that ties all the different SB threads together. Guitars weave as the tempo increases, the keyboards are fighting for their place in the sun, the interplay between them and the drums is pure SB and all the more welcome for that. I can see this going down a storm live, with the big solo closing piece giving the lighting designer a chance to stun the watchers as the closing lyric wafts over the rapturous audience.

SpocksBeard_BNaDS_bandlogo

If you’ve never dabbled in the world of Spock’s Beard, then this compilation is a fine way to start. Chronological and logical, it gives a true flavour of the band. Personally, I’ would have included live tracks as that’s when the interplay between them as musicians really comes into play.

Also, I’d have chosen different tracks. I would have included Devil’s Got My Throat from “Snow” which is as noisy and rocking as the title suggests. I’d feature more from “Day for Night” and “V”, but then they were the first SB CD’s I owed.

At the price this is floating around for, it’s a great summary of a great American Prog band.

They will never be out there on the edge, pushing the envelope of Prog, but if you want songs, actual tunes you can hum or even sing along to, then dip you toes in the Beard’s world. It’s a rather fine place to spend an evening or two with a glass of good wine.

Released 20th November 2015

Buy The First Twenty Years from Inside Out Music

 

 

 

 

Review – Henrik Fevre – A Summer Can Change Everything- by Progradar

Henrik Fevre Album cover

Danish singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Henrik Fevre has traversed a multitude of musical genres in his career to date. Better known as current vocalist and long time member of the well respected Danish progressive metal band Anubis Gate he has also released three previous solo albums and dabbled in all sorts including jazz, pop and dance.

This year has seen Henrik return to his solo roots for an album of quiet, minimalistically composed and arranged songs, often for piano and voice only.

A Summer Can Change Everything is a real departure for this accomplished musician (and this website if I’m honest!) and it allows his delightful voice to shine through and be the centre-piece of the album.

The gentle piano is a perfect accompaniment and leaves the listener in a music induced trance where seemingly nothing can harm you or affect your reverie. It is an utterly bewitching collection of carefully constructed songs that grabs you with its ethereal grace from the first piano led introduction to Life at sea and the jazz tinged finesse of Love.

With lyrics that deal with the hardships and ups and downs of life and growing up, it is an immersive musical experience, the lilting laid back charm of The Elegant Dancer imprints itself on your soul, powerful and beguiling and the sparse and yet refined beauty of Safe and Dreams and Compromise is utterly captivating.

The arrangements are deliberately kept simple, Clouded with its unelaborate lyrics, haunting vocals and effortless piano is a perfect case in point as it increases in intensity to mark the whole fibre of your being. Thoughtful and uncomplicated, with a childlike grace Pride is a particular highlight and the dancing piano lights up your mind.

Henrik Fevre 1

Touches of pop, jazz and contemporary chamber music can be heard throughout this pure and exquisite release. The charming simplicity of It’s Only Me transfixes you, there is no need for embellishment or hyperbole to tarnish the sheer artistry and delicacy of Inconfidence with its seductive saxophone or the vocal allure of After All, this is music at its simple and organic best.

The whole album has been building up to the ten minute title track, A Summer Can Change Everything is a seductive musical journey through your own soul. I advise you to find yourself a quiet place of contemplation where you can shut yourself off from the real world, put your headphones on and just enjoy the musical wonderment of this bewitching song. The cultivated piano ambles along leaving behind a feeling of utter repose and tranquility in its wake. Henrik’s serenely impassive vocal imparts a note of well being and contentment to leave you utterly relaxed and spellbound and lays the foundation for the one minute lusciousness of the final track NextFloor Neighbour.

A man of many talents, Henrik Favre  has delivered a vocal masterpiece that is nearly flawless. When things get too much for you or you just want a moment of reflection, shut yourself away from the outside world, put this little gem on the stereo and press play, there is no better antidote.

Released 29th October 2015 via matchman records

email direct to order the CD : matchmanrecords@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Review – The Dave – Gravity – by Progradar

Cover

Let me get one thing out of the way straight away, I don’t think The Dave is the best name for an artist. Only Dave Foster will know why he didn’t use his own name for this solo project but I just wish he had, my opinion only, mild rant over.

Dave Foster will be better known to you lot out there as the guitarist with noted Northern rock band Mr So & So, progressive stalwarts Panic Room and for being the guitar player and co-writer in legendary Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery’s band. It goes without saying that his CV is pretty impressive.

Now Dave is currently in the process of writing and recording a new solo album (thankfully using his own name) called ‘Dreamless’ so it seemed the right time to visit his debut release from August 2011, ‘Gravity’, and give it the Progradar ‘going over’.

I’m a sucker for great album art and the cover design for ‘Gravity’, by leading artist Antonio Seijas, is very striking indeed. A good start then but let’s check out the music and see what The Dave has in store for us….

Dave 2

‘Gravity’ is mainly an instrumental album but there are a few vocal tracks and my first impression is that it gives something more than your average guitar guru’s solo album.

First track Tesla could be straight out of the Joe Satriani songbook with intricate guitar histrionics. There are enough searing licks, riffs and solos to keep even the most avid guitar nut happy and it shows straight from the off that Dave Foster is one sublime guitar player. Convoluted and extremely intense, it is a thrill-a-minute hell ride on the flaming vapour trails of Dave’s fluid guitar playing. You just know from the title that Summer Sky is going to be a real feel good track and it doesn’t disappoint. Like a gentle amble on a lazy summer’s day it asks nothing of you other than to listen and enjoy. The keyboards and drums lay down a silky smooth foundation on which Dave can build with his supreme guitar playing. There is a fluent feel to the music as it flows serenely around your mind. Fast paced but never hectic, you set off on an unhurried journey and arrive calm and collected.

Paradox is the first track co-written by and featuring Dinet Poortman on vocals. This is a more straightforward rock track, very much in the Panic Room vein, and, as such, the guitar takes a step back. Dinet’s vocals are rich and luscious and add a velvet coating to this thoughtful song. Not what you were expecting on a guitar based album? Does it matter?, not one jot, it actually adds another dimension to this already impressive album. Back to the instrumental but with a much more serious and sober feel, Liberty Bridge is dense and pensive as a whole. The guitar drips sincerity and ennui then, occasionally, the light seems to break free and shine brightly. There is something crucial and weighty at the heart of proceedings, the sense of adventure generally reined in but, when it does manage to break the stranglehold, it illuminates with a fiery light.

Guitars

Polarised is an electronica edged pulsating industrial metal track that feels like it has the weight of the world on its shoulders. Dave (I think it’s him) provides a downbeat vocal that is all determined and no-nonsense and the guitar riff could have come from the depths of Motorhead’s debased mind, all dirty, edgy and darkly humorous. Fans of 90’s band Ministry will love the thundering guitars and restless keyboards and the guitar solo that closes out the track is pure, sublime theatre. Dinet Poortman returns on Only A Lullaby, a halting track that takes on a symphonic, female fronted metal mantle. Within Temptation and Nightwish come to mind but this is taken to a higher level. There is something dark and dangerous hiding in the shadows, an alien intelligence that gives this song something special. Once again, Dinet’s vocals are really special, she has voice that infiltrates your whole being and it works brilliantly with Dave’s coruscating guitar note which, on this track, burns slowly igniting something infernal inside you.

Apollo 13 is the most complex and elaborate song on the album, blending intricate, brooding sections of music with voice overs from the original space mission. It has a real sense of history and nostalgia to it and occasionally opens up into a heightened and passionate outpouring of brilliant guitar playing. Where the other tracks on the album seem to leave you to get on with your life as you enjoy them, this one demands you stop what you’re doing and give it 100% of your attention. A mesmerising, winding musical journey through space and time and one which clearly showcases the incredible talent that this man has. Shall we do smoky, burning blues guitar? Indeed we shall, Shining Light is a little gem of a track, heartfelt vocals and acoustic guitar lay the heart on the sleeve but it is the fiercely intense guitar that is the star of the show as it affects every fibre of your being. Lay back, close your eyes and enjoy this ardent piece of music.

Dave 3

Despite being only fifty-nine seconds long The Wait is much more than just an interlude. it is one minute of acute musical pleasure as the effects laden guitar leads you into a place of calm contemplation from which you really have a hard time leaving and it segues perfectly into the final track The Bride. To my ears there is a little sense of loss and melancholia to this delightful song. It is not immediately evident but it is there hidden under the graceful layers of guitar that are presented to you. A slight sense of regret that soon fades perhaps, this song brought up hidden emotions and a lump to my throat as the elegant and exquisite guitars lightly dance across your aural receptors. A real cornucopia of guitar playing delights, as it comes to a close I just sat there in silent appreciation.

So, if ‘Gravity’ is anything to go by, we are going to be in for some hell of a treat with Dave Foster’s new album. Admittedly I am a huge fan of instrumental guitar albums but this one is up there in a higher echelon than most of the rest. An album that, if you don’t already have it in your collection, you should head to the link below post-haste and buy it immediately.

Released 15th August 2015

Buy ‘Gravity’ from Bandcamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Abigail’s Ghost – Black Plastic Sun – by Shawn Dudley

Black Plastic Sun - Cover

The sheer amount of music being released under (or adjacent) to the “Prog” umbrella has become quite daunting to sift through of late. The positive side is there are real gems hidden out there; the negative is you have to dig through a lot of gravel to pry them loose.

While breaking rocks over at Progstreaming.com one Sunday morning I found myself starting to zone out, too much sampling can lead to a zombie-like state where you cease to really hear anything. But then suddenly I was transfixed by a lovely arrangement featuring acoustic piano, violin, acoustic guitar and strings that jolted me firmly back to awareness…

The gem I had discovered was the opening track Thereafter from ‘Black Plastic Sun’, the latest release from New Orleans-based act Abigail’s Ghost. The aforementioned arrangement, the catchy melodic line and very accessible vocals of Joshua Theriot drew me in immediately. As the song progresses different textures come into focus, the introductory melody builds into an effective “big chorus” with electric guitar coming into play.

After the chorus, a staccato guitar figure brings in a slightly darker vibe but then a sunny bridge parts the clouds again. The song continues this progression of slightly changing shifts in mood (including a playful little waltz time section) without ever losing sight of the introductory melodic idea. It’s an impressive arrangement because everything is handled with subtlety, the progressive elements are textural and the song remains the focus throughout.

This discipline and restraint permeates the entire record, while many moods are explored, the accessibility never falters. The influences can be heard; the pop tendencies of Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief and Riverside, the melancholy of modern era Katatonia, the sunny atmosphere of recent Anathema and occasional moments of prog metal muscle (used to great dynamic effect without ever over-powering the mood).

There is also a hint of New Orleans atmosphere to the proceedings, something about the folk-tinged arrangements give me the impression of moss-covered trees dipping into the bayou. The excellent recording and inspired instrumental choices also remind me of the production aesthetic evident on the recent Steven Wilson solo albums.

Abigail's Ghost - Piano

The highlights are numerous; the unbelievably catchy momentum of violin & slide guitar-driven King of All (which should be a single), the muscular melodic rock of Silver and Widowmaker, the dreamy electric/acoustic vibe of Le Metteur, the darker metallic thrust of Smotherbox (which reminds me of ‘Deadwing’ era Porcupine Tree) and the playful melancholy of Rather Unorthodox, Sweet Serenity and For Damien. The latter also shows off a fondness for black humor because the subject of this deceptively beautiful ballad is the character from The Omen horror film series!

Joshua Theriot is a triple-threat as songwriter, lead vocalist and lead guitarist and I’m really excited to hear how he continues to develop from here. There are some fiery guitar solos on the album (as can be expected from a Berklee School of Music graduate) but it is tempered with restraint and musicality not always displayed by his peers (*cough* Dream Theater *cough*).

I’m very pleased to have discovered this album and it has grown on me with each successive listen. I’m confident it will be show up on my best of the year list for 2015. These guys deserve wider recognition; I highly recommend checking them out.

Released 1st August 2015

Buy direct from the Artist’s webstore

 

Review – Ghost – Meliora – by Gary Morley

This time, Gary Morley ventures across to the darker side…..

Ghost Meliora

‘Mr Wallet Emptier’ has thrown me a curve ball, as our colonial cousins allegedly say. He wants me to review something contemporary. Of my choice.

I tend to buy things on gut instinct. I will follow my nose and purchase something that sounds interesting, direct from the band – I recently purchased 3 Paul Garner Band CD’s from him via a link from another FB friend who’s CD’s grace my shelves (Thanks Robert Fleming from Crowd Company for that).

So if you like good funky blues from a guitar / Hammond /drum trio, then I recommend Paul , he will exceed your expectations, several times over. You can purchase his fine CD’s from his website:

www.paul-garner.com or download via bandcamp.

But this is not the artist I’ve chosen to write about.

Blue Oyster Cult: Imaginative, thought provoking lyrics combined with a Prog / Pop/ Heavy Rock base coupled with instrumental dexterity, were one of the bands that sound tracked my life.

I first heard Don’t Fear the Reaper whilst in the Sixth Form. The album ‘Fire Of Unknown Origin’ was a college favourite. ‘Imaginos’ was the noisiest, most “Heavy” album I possessed…

Time has taken me down a road away from their bombast and we now wave at each other as we travel. Earlier this year I heard a track Cirice from a band called Ghost. It was hook ridden, a real earworm. It starts with a simple guitar motif, then cymbals and a piano…

Then the bombastic riffing a la Cult…

The inner teenager was playing air guitar along with it. The vocals are not your typical metal screamer, but a baritone voice that was questioning , pleading with us to share their experiences. The dynamics and song structure –pure BOC, all that made them what they were, has been absorbed by this bunch of Scandinavian mystery men.

They have written a proper song, with a chorus, middle eight, simple, elegant guitar solo and a big, big drum sound. My musical interest was engaged. Time to utilise a tool my teenage self could only dream about – the internet. Several clicks and a bit of research later, I find that the band are a bit of a “cult”…

Ghost Live

They have surrounded themselves in a cloak of mystery in as much as no musicians are credited on the album, the band members are only referred to as the “faceless ones” and all wear masks on stage, except the singer, known as Papa Emeritus, of which there have already been 3. His image is that of a zombie cardinal, calling his followers to worship.

This is where the Progressive factor hits.

The band’s image is straight out of a horror fan’s psyche. The lyrics, to me are tongue in cheek, dark and ambiguous. They sing about their “Master”, and the underlying suggestion is that they are indeed talking about a fallen angel, a contrasting polar opposite to Neal Morse’s evangelical position.

Out of deference to those that take these things far more personally than me, the lyrical subject may not be to everyone’s tastes, but then “Hard Christian” rhetoric alienates as many as it delights, so approach with an open mind, this is a well crafted tuneful and accomplished collection of tunes. Yes, Tunes. That’s the thing. Beneath the imagery, the stage shows and the media baiting, it s the tunes that enable this to stand on its own merits.

Yes, their Hammer House of Horrors imagery paints a dark picture, but musically they are full of joy, bringing a guilty thrill as you listen in. Are they serious? Well, the old cliché about the Devil having all the best tunes could be wheeled out to explain the whole of this album. It’s no more likely to get me dancing around a wooded glade under a full moon than the film ‘An American Werewolf in London’ did when I was a student. It’s not scary, it’s not unpleasant, it’s just hook ridden, lyrically ambiguous rock music.

The album is chock full of songs that could have graced AOR radio in the late 70’s. There are soaring choirs layered on a rock back beat, skilful dual guitar harmony playing that reminds me of Wishbone Ash or Thin Lizzy.

Listening again, as I write this, it’s the hooks that get me, the juxtaposition of “angelic voices” as the coda of Deus In Absentia, the final track is pure Jim Steinman era Sisters of Mercy bombast.

Listen or watch the video for Circice, check them out on You Tube etc, but don’t reject them out of hand. Especially with Halloween just around the corner!

Released 21st August 2015

Buy Meliora from Kings Road

Or try this for a Halloween treat…….

New track Review – Shearwater – Quiet Americans – by Mike Sherman

Here Mike Sherman gives a quick precis of Quiet Americans, the first single from the new Shearwater album, ‘Jet Plane and Oxbow’.

Shearwater Album Cover

This first glimpse of original Shearwater for 3 years (save for the tuneful but unspectacular A Wake For The Minotaur from ‘Fellow Travellers’) is not before time. Shearwater have been established as a force to be reckoned with – able to pull off intelligent, considered and reflective yet also catchy and accessible folk-rock with tinges of something more progressive.

However, after building up some serious positive momentum, in 2013 they then took the baffling decision to tail off into the murky world of the cover version. ‘Fellow Travellers’ was by no means a poor album, and indeed, will have gained the band some new… ahem… fellow travellers, but a band so capable of songwriting as interesting and inspired as they are, should surely have enough good ideas to at least have a go at an original LP every couple of years?

The band’s career peak to-date of ‘The Golden Archipelago’ still strikes me to this day as one of the most shimmeringly beautiful and consistent albums of the last decade, possessing that most wonderful quality of being very much a stronger overall album than the sum of its parts. Its follow-up, ‘Animal Life’, conversely possessed some strong moments, but lacked a cohesiveness to drive it through to the overall heights of its predecessor.

What, then, might the next effort present to us?

Quiet Americans sparkles with typical Shearwater delicately-delivered production, all the mod cons in evidence complete with bleeps and 80s-style keyboard stabs. Yet, the beautiful beating heart and characteristic melodies of a very pleasant folk tune underpin everything. It excites enough to think that it will tie together well within an album setting.

At 3 mins 33 seconds, it’s a fairly typical track-length for Shearwater, and the band tends to sway towards the use of snappier, ephemeral pieces. That said, the thorough and detail-orientated production, and use of an early-arriving chorus line still gives the impression that the album may well boast some progressive sensibilities, such as those deployed midway through ‘Animal Life’ on the stand-out track from that album, Insolence.

A promising glimpse of what is to come in early 2016 on the new album, ‘Jet Plane and Oxbow’.

‘Jet Plane and Oxbow’ will be released through Sub-Pop records on 22nd January 2016.

Pre-order Jet Plane and Oxbow direct from Sub-Pop records

 

 

Review – Geof Whitely Project – Between 2 Worlds – by Progradar

cover

You have to be wary of repetition, it can become tedious and monotonous if there is no progression or marked difference between pieces of work, after all, familiarity is supposed to breed contempt, isn’t it?

One of the most intriguing artists I have had the pleasure to listen to this year is the Geof Whitely Project. Actually a one man band, Arny Wheatley, there can be no more prolific artist operating today as he releases new albums every couple of months.

There are obvious pros and cons to doing it this way and I was left slightly underwhelmed by the last release that I reviewed, ‘Circus of Horrors’, feeling that it was too similar to recent works. Now, ever one to take criticism on board, Arny has returned with ‘Between 2 Worlds’ and I shall give it the once over to see if he has rediscovered that creative spark.

The opening track Quest has that laid back style that is the Geof Whitely Project hallmark and retains the laconic vocal delivery. There does seems to be some added zest, a more intense delivery and a lot more of the ardent guitar work that gives extra lustre to the calm and collected keyboards. No need to go back to the drawing board, just minor alterations that add up to something more profound. Long Time Gone has a lighter note to it, a more refined introduction and a more moderate delivery that reminds me a bit of Fractal Mirror. It walks a tricky line and, thankfully, never strays into the mundane and bland, retaining a sunny disposition and platonic edge. The nicely judged percussion and keyboards take you on a gentle ride into Arny’s musical mind and it is a pleasant place, although there is a hint of melancholy hidden just below the surface.

That sugar coated tone runs throughout Never Really Know but always with a hint of caution. The clever lyrics betray a slightly darker side to the music and keep your attention focused on the story, the excellent instrumental break in the centre of the track is like a well knowing nod to the 80’s. I don’t know whether it is meant to, but I am left in mind of a snowy winter’s scene that could end in either happiness or sadness. The signature keyboard introduction opens Throwing Shadows, a song with a serious and slightly darker note as it strides purposefully into your psyche. The sweetness and light is replaced by something with an altogether sinister motive, this is the Geof Whitely Project showing  there is a dark side to its Moon and I think it is a clever change of direction. The slightly understated yet heavy riff adds to the mysterious air that pervades and gives added dramatic effect and gravitas.

Geof Whitely

On Reflection begins in a very subdued manner, laid back and open-hearted. A wistful, almost nostalgic note enters into the vocals, perhaps mindful of things or people lost and never recovered. Thoughtful, reflective and with a heavy dose of regret, this track really works its way under your skin and touches your heart in a forlorn manner. A really nice song but one that just leaves you feeling a little bit sad. 80’s style keyboards open Everyday my Heart  and it really does feel like you’ve been transported back over three decades to a time that you may have wished you’d forgotten. It’s really a quite hopeful track and lifts the slight melancholia that had persisted from the previous track. The songwriting on this latest album has really gone up a notch, leaving little nuggets for you to find.

The next song on the album is the longest track, Compendium weighs in at just over ten minutes and begins in quite an auspicious manner. There is a feeling of depth to the song, a deep seated sense of contemplation. There is a decision to make, a life changing scenario and the deliberate and contemplative atmosphere is transferred across perfectly by the music. A comprehensive and profound musical workout for your brain that makes you think, one of the best songs I have ever heard from the Geof Whitely Project. The change from the quiet and sombre to the excellent guitar solo is brilliant and really knocks you for six, the guitar playing is quite exemplary. Title track Between 2 Worlds leaves you deep in thought with its absorbing tone, seemingly musing on life the Universe and everything. Profound lyrics and an attentive melody leave you in a speculative mood. I really enjoyed the thoughtful feel that it engendered as it left me ruminating on my whole existence, another track that seemingly has some left-field influence.

The final track on the album is Living Your Life and it has an edgy note running through it from the beginning. A quicker paced riff gives you a feel of life lived in the fast lane but with a note of caution. No-nonsense and earnest with yet more layers of 80’s keyboards, it leaves more questions than answers and brings the album to a close on a meditative and reflective note.

‘Between 2 Worlds’ is a complex and extremely interesting musical journey that showcases where the Geof Whitely Project is going musically. The last album left me feeling ever so slightly short-changed but, with this new release, my faith has been completely restored.

Due for release on 29th February 2016

Pre-order Between 2 Worlds direct from the artist