Review – Long Earth – Once Around The Sun

Long Earth is a prog rock band from Scotland.

We came together by a series of fortunate but unexpected coincidences. A bunch of musicians, some of whom had played together decades earlier, who just wanted to create new music and have fun. By strange coincidence, Mike, Ken, Gordon, Renaldo and Hew all played at the same Glasgow Festival in the 80s…but in 3 different bands!

So says the PR info accompanying the second album from Scottish proggers Long Earth. I am a fan of their debut release as evinced by these words from my review of The Source,

“Taking what was great about classic 80’s Neo-Prog and adding some modern drama and pathos, Long Earth have given us a debut album that has been years in the making and all the better for it. Yes, it is not without some minor flaws but it certainly is an album that you will return to many a time and will be even more gratifying every time you do, bring on the next one guys!!”

And ‘bring it on’ they have indeed…

Martin Haggarty – Vocals

Where The Source was a great debut and a quality example of Neo-prog, ‘Once Around The Sun’ takes all that was good about that album and raises it not just one notch but a whole plethora of the bloody things!

The arrival of new vocalist Martin Haggarty in 2018 has added that extra level of je ne sais quoi, you know what I mean, something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Martin joins bassist Gordon Mackie, drummer Ken Weir (both of whom have a connection with Martin through legendary Scottish band Abel Ganz), guitarist Renaldo Kim and keyboardist Mike Baxter to give Long Earth the kind of stature already enjoyed by Scottish progressive’s royalty, Comedy of Errors, Grand Tour and the aforementioned Abel Ganz.

The final cog in the wheel is Hew Montgomery (who has history with all of the above luminaries) who has been a motivating factor in Long Earth, and co-producer of both ‘The Source’ and new album ‘Once Around the Sun‘.

‘Once Around the Sun’ comprises nine tracks of lushly composed and executed progressive rock where every note has a place. The whole album is joyously created and contains a part of every member. It speaks of the wonder of fresh spring days, a hazy and never ending summer, the first leaves that fall on a beautiful autumn day and the joy and warmth to be had sat in front of a log fire with those you love.

The songwriting is exemplary, take neo-prog classic opener We Own Tomorrow, a pin sharp example of the genre with Mike’s keys taking us right back to the 80’s with their wonderfully nostalgic sound. The balladesque wonder of My Suit Of Armour will bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, wistful and melancholy in equal parts. Both tracks bring Martin’s superb voice front and centre, he has emotion and passion deep in his core and it shows with every word he sings and the guitar solo on the second track is just exquiste.

Gordon Mackie – bass

The urgently driven A Guy From Down The Road is suitably mysterious and enigmatic and lengthy, coming it at exactly twelve minutes. There’s a definite jazz-funk feel to the bassline and the whole song just grooves along nonchalantly, you may have guessed that I like this track! The band obviously hit it off and just seem to play off each other, there is a feeling of bonhomie that runs throughout the album and its a joy to feel and hear it in every note.

Mike Baxter – keys & Ken Weir – drums

What About Love seems a little out of context with the rest of the album with its more mainstream feel, like a cross between early Wet Wet Wet and Fish era Marillion. It is, however, full of childlike charm and a simplicity that is difficult to ignore and eventually you begin to appreciate its appeal. Mystery and conundrum surround The Man In The Mirror with its 1950’s film noir feel and gallic undertones. A modern day soundtrack to films like The Maltese Falcon, you can’t help but love its enigmatic aura.

Renaldo Kim – guitar

The album closes with four tracks named after the four seasons and every song fits each one perfectly. Spring has that feel of rebirth after a long winter, full of joie de vivre and a hope for the future. You’ve got to check out the guitar note on Summer, fans of early 80’s Simple Minds will definitely hear touches of The Big Sleep in there and it gives the song a feel of those long, lazy, hazy days of summer. You know what I mean, the ones when you were a child and had no cares in the world, this track definitely echoes those times and its sepia tinged invocation of memories is perfectly judged. The solemn, serious introduction to Autumn fits that time of the year perfectly as the long golden days of summer become just a memory yet those memories are full of love and you know we are going into a period of change which can be exciting. Kids love winter, they love the snow, the frosty mornings and the run up to Christmas and Winter is a perfectly written feel-good nod to the memories of the last twelve months. Good or bad, they make us what we are, let’s get together with those we love and salute what has passed and what we have to come.

With the provenance flowing through the band, Long Earth were never going to produce anything but a great follow up to ‘The Source’ but in ‘Once Around The Sun everything seems to have clicked and we see a band nearing their creative zenith. Take my advice, go and listen to what may well be one of 2020’s subliminal releases.

Released 18th March 2020

Order the album direct from the band here:

Review – Ms Amy Birks – All That I Am & All That I Was by John Wenlock-Smith

Amy Birks, or Ms Amy Birks to give her her full name, is a young lady with a very bright future ahead of her.  Well that certainly seems to be the case here with this debut solo release ‘All That I Am & All That I Was’.

Amy was previously a member of the all-female trio the Beatrix Players whose mix of genres embraced folk, singer songwriter acoustica, prog and quasi classical baroque chamber pop.  Quite a heady and adventurous mix and an interesting one too.  I saw these play to a capacity audience as a support act for Big Big Train in Basingstoke where the crowd listened very intently to their delicate yet powerful pieces. Well that was three years ago, but this album is very much of the now, and as the Beatrix Players are no more, that chapter is now closed, with this album being the beginning of a whole new and exciting chapter for Amy.

This new album has been a couple of years in the making and encompasses several themes and various historical songs also feature.  These come from Amy’s rich love of history along with literature as shown in the opening number Jamaica Inn, based on and inspired by the Daphne De Maurier novel of the same name.  This song has a flow to it that is reminiscent of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush but without the histrionic vocals that that song featured. Find the epic video here;

What I especially like about this is that it’s a very catchy song with a fine chorus and some strong, yet understated playing from all, with lovely guitar from Oliver Day and a memorable melody that runs throughout the song.

Unlike the Heart follows and this is another very delicate song with a strong supportive bass line from Nick Wollage and some fine cello from Caroline Lavelle.  In fact, the more you listen to this album the more you can hear within it the sparseness of the sound. This is especially true on the next song More, a very stark and raw song that talks of Amy’s divorce and the feelings around that difficult time.  Here the instrumentation is very powerful indeed, all adding to the air of despair that the lyrics evoke. Ultimately this is a song about one woman’s coming to terms with and surviving the trauma of divorce. This is another very powerful song.

Not Every Night is a statement of continuance about how things were, but not how they are now, or will ever be again. A gentle song that has depths of feeling to it.

With All That I Am is gain about divorce, in which Amy speaks of the unhappiness surrounding the situation and questions are asked about the third party involved in the relationship. That Amy can sing of these matters so openly is admirable, she has moved on from the hurt into pastures new. Again, there is hope however this piece is quite raw emotionally as Amy exorcises her own demons.

The next song Say Something is totally different, in that it deals with a time of abuse that Amy suffered at school and thereafter whilst modelling. A situation in which she was the recipient of unwarranted attention and improper touch. She sings of these times very eloquently, openly questioning why the individual behaved in that way. The music in this song is very emotional and almost sounds wistful, despite the horrendous acts that it portrays. It is a very brave song but one that needs to be heard and spoken about. Personally, I find it a highlight of the album.

We then move onto a brace of songs based on historical figures, initially Catherine Of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife.  He divorced her when she was unable to provide him with an heir and from whom he transferred his affections to Anne Boleyn.  

This song (Catherine) is a triumph as it deals with the life of Catherine, a woman of strength who still loved Henry after his affections shifted and she was cast aside.  This piece has a stately majesty and power to it, almost regal sounding and certainly delivered with respect and admiration even.

The Fault Of The Lady Anne is next. This is another moving piece, respectful and essentially sad dealing as it does with Queen Anne’s fall from grace. Her isolation from Henry and decent into an ill judged affair that resulted in her being taken to the Tower Of London and ultimately to her sad death at the executioners axe. This moving song is indeed very sad lyrically but is very well conceived, and if you’ll forgive the pun, well executed and delivered.

The Road to Gordes is about Amy’s experiences as a single woman travelling in Colombia (Spain) and how she would be noticed, but then often left unserved in restaurants and bars. This is an interesting song musically with some delicate guitar from Oliver Day, a lovely piano line from Amy and some fine interplay between the violin and the cello, as Amy finds her peace in the space of the situation and both accepts and enjoys the sensations it brings.

I Wish is a song that features the nimble fingers of Steve Hackett playing Spanish guitar to lyrics based on words from the Christina Georgina Rossetti’s poem I Wish I Were A Little Bird.  This one is a really wonderful track, with Steve really giving the song some power and making its tale of unrequited love come alive. It is another excellent song, there is a suitably elegant video that accompanies it that can be viewed here.

The final track is called Keeps You Guessing and features piano from Romain Thorel of Lazuli whose jazzy improvisations really give the song a swing and end this exceptional album on a very positive note.

This album will appeal to all who enjoy music by the likes of Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell and show that Amy is a lady of real talent and imagination who can cross genres at will and for whom the future looks very bright indeed. I will say that this album needs time to sink into your mind and to appreciate the very subtle instrumentation that is at play here, but it is a real delight to hear and appreciate.

Released 3/4/2020

Order the album from The Merch Desk here:

https://themerchdesk.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=88_296

Review – Glass Hammer – Dreaming City

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

Yes, really, that was my first impression of the stunning new album from US progressive rock veterans Glass Hammer. They often say that first impressions last and, in the case of this musical gem, that is very true, it still sounds as fresh and vibrant after multiple listens as it did that first time, a sign of a truly good record.

I spoke to founding member and bassist Steve Babb about how the album broke new ground and was a bit of a risk,

“Yes we took risks. I was hoping that as we old-timers listen to it – it would make us feel young again. Like it was 1979 and you just discovered some really cool prog band had done a tribute album to your favourite sword and sorcery anti-hero like Elric or Conan. For inspiration I started searching for my old copies of Michael Moorcock books only to realize I had worn them out years ago and had to reorder used ones!”

Oddly enough…on the swords and sorcery thing, or what some call “grim dark” now – George R. R. Martin once signed the Glass Hammer guest book. Might have been around 2000 when he did that. I have no records of the guest book now but can remember him and a few other fantasy authors visiting.”

The artwork from the booklet is pure fantasy art, as is the cover and it really fits with what Steve and fellow founding member (and keyboardist) Fred Schendel wanted to engender with this release.

The music really hits you hard from the first track, in your face and powerful, you’ll hear a myriad of influences on the album, things never seen on a Glass Hammer album before…

I think Fred’s major influences for this one were Rush, Tull and Gentle Giant.”, Steve told me,

“Mine were Rush, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, the Space Rock genre in general…a modern band called Yuri Gargarin, Jacco Gardner and even my old band Wizards from the early 80s.”

Steve Babb Glass Hammer bassist

The album flows with no gaps between tracks and this only adds to the listening experience which opens with what can only be called a monster of a track. The Dreaming City literally comes from out of nowhere with a monster riff courtesy of Steve Babb and Aaron Raulston’s thunderous drums. The vocals give a spine tingling edge, it’s just a thrilling, dark and delicious ride from beginning to end, the extended keyboard section from Fred Schendel is just genius. No time to get your breath back as a frantic guitar segues us perfectly into Cold Star, more of the same? Yes please! I am absolutely loving the heavier guitar sound on this album which, in conjunction with Fred’s ridiculously good Hammond, transports you screaming maniacally back to the 70’s. This is one thrill ride you definitely don’t want to get off, there’s a moment of calm where beautifully harmonised vocals really stand out (Reese Boyd has a superb voice) but, overall it will just leave you cackling wildly.

The Rush influence is first heard on Terminus, a synth heavy 90’s version that is. Uber cool and full of style, Steve and Fred lead us up a path rarely trodden by Glass Hammer and, you know what, it just works. It’s up-tempo, edgy and funky in that polished 90’s fashion that I’m a big fan of. The Lurker Beneath is a dark and slightly disturbing instrumental with the pulsing feel of the keyboards giving it a resonant frequency that will get under every prog fans skin with its spaced out feel. There’s a seamless transition into the monolithic might of Pagarna, a track that could literally move mountains. It has a range so low it must exist in the substrata of the planet and Fred’s guitar playing and Reese Boyd’s lead work screams Led Zep right at your unprotected core, just superb!

Fred Schendel (L) & Steve Babb (R)

At The Threshold Of Dreams then heads off into uncharted waters with it’s Tangerine Dream-esque electronic/techno vibe. You feel like you are in the middle of a mind-bending 70’s artrock movie theme as the music explores the hidden paths of your mind, disconcerting but weirdly enjoyable. There’s a totally chilled and relaxed atmosphere surrounding This Lonely World, an oasis of calm reflection among the maelstrom that surrounds us where John Beagley’s cultured vocal adds gravitas alongside the organ and laid back, jazz-infused, guitar playing. Susie Bogdanowicz’s vocal prowess is then given free rein on October Ballad, a wistful and gentle song that touches the heart and soul, well it is a ballad after all!

The Tower is another Tangerine Dreamscape (see what I did there?) instrumental straight from the 70’s, a clever nod to the decade and to the science-fantasy genre that the album invokes and is based on. Next comes one of the most intriguing tracks on the whole album, the stentorian spoken word vocals and 70’s synth heavy keyboards give A Desperate Man a really atmospheric and eerie edge and it’s one that really works. It’s catchy and hypnotic and you find yourself pausing what you’re doing and just listening to the song and that is quite a skill to have, I love it. Remember Extreme’s ‘Get The Funk Out’?, well the intro to The Key really (and I mean REALLY) reminds me of that with its ever so funky bass line and drum beat and the way it strides ever so confidently into your path. You want some flute? You got it! Jazzy 80’s guitar? Yep! It is a wonderful cornucopia of musical styles and one that sets you up perfectly to what Steve Babb called an absolute beast of a finale!

Fred Schendel (Left,) Steve Babb (right) Glass Hammer co-founders

Watchmen On The Walls is one of those monumentally powerful prog epics that stands out on its own, just over eleven minutes of progressive rock brilliance. The thunderous guitar riffs and primeval drums combine with the towering drums and bass to give us a stand-out piece of music that speaks of tales of swords and sorcery with larger than life heroes and heroines battling unmentionable beasts and contemptible villains to complete incredible deeds. It is song writing that Neal Peart would have been proud off as this track truly has the spirit of Rush at its core and a fitting close to a superb album.

There has been some amazing music released this year already but ‘Dreaming City’ is a special and significant album that could turn out to be truly career defining for this much loved band. While the band have created something new using influences from the music that shaped them in the 70’s, there is no doubt that it is still uniquely a Glass Hammer album and that is always something to be cherished.

Released April 17th 2020

Order from the Glass Hammer store here:

https://glasshammer.com/official-store/

Review – Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea – by John Wenlock-Smith

Well this is certainly different for me. Yes, I’d heard of Pure Reason Revolution but somehow never actually listened to their modern day take on Progressive Rock. I know that they are well regarded in certain circles and they have quite a history. Several albums, a split and, more recently, a return to action, albeit in an altered form and with a slightly different line up, so this was new territory for me. I admit it did take me a while to get to a place of understanding with this album but, as always, continued listening finally gave way to understanding and then to acceptance and admiration even. 

Well this is my review of this their fourth album, ‘Eupnea’, their first since 2010.  It is pretty topical in content in that it speaks of the experiences of Jon Courtney and his wife surrounding the birth of their baby girl, Jessie. Born prematurely at 32 weeks and weighing just 3lbs, this album records her battle for survival, which thankfully she won.

It is Jon’s tribute to his wife and daughter Jessie and has this theme woven throughout the tracks, which really helps you understand the music properly once you are aware of its back story.

‘Eupnea’ consists of just Six tracks of varying length ranging from over four minutes to the epic title track that is nearly fourteen minutes in length. That said, there are no wasted moments on these tracks as everything is of relevance and worthy of their place. Let’s have a look at this in a bit more detail.

The music opens with New Obsession which includes the sounds of hospital apparatus monitoring heartbeat, pulse and breathing. This sets the scene for much of what is to follow; great vocal harmonies from Jon and Chloe Alper and some furious guitar work from Jon that really rocks out with a wonderful melodic solo at the 3.55-minute point. It really delivers a punch, along with that fabulous chorus of “It’s you, a child, a lover you’re dead calm and the choir is so soft tonight”. Very emotional, heartfelt and a simply fabulous opener.

This is followed by the first of the longer tracks, Silent Genesis, with its atmospheric keyboards and samples. A Pink Floyd type guitar line from Jon and an insistent bass line that works to anchor everything together. This track also features original PRR guitarist Greg Jong who was bought in to create this powerful emotional feeling.

Third track Maelstrom is so called because it marked the turning point in Jessie’s struggle for life when she began steadily breathing and her parents’ anxieties were lifted. This is a song of hope that the storm has started to pass over, deeply significant and with Jon and his wife being very grateful for this positive change, an end to the uncertainty. Again, this song has more wonderful harmonies from Jon and Chloe.

Ghosts and Typhoons follows and at over 8 minutes fits between the shorter and longer pieces like a bridge. It has blistering drum patterns to it and raucous guitar throughout, featuring lovely vocals from Chloe alongside some fine support from Jon resulting in more great harmonies. This is quite a powerfully propelled piece that shows PRR’s strengths and imagination at play.

Beyond Our Bodies is a celebratory song about the fragility of life and the body’s ability to overcome incredible difficulties and to come through the other side. This is another compelling song.

Which leads us to the title track and longest song, Eupnea, which is about normal unlaboured or quiet breathing, without volition. This is a song that brings everything together in a 13 odd minute piece of contrasts, in which heavy passages sit next to lighter more gentle ones in a juxtaposition of light and shade that accentuate the emotional roller coaster that this music takes you through.

This entire album is certainly a very moving journey, and one that I urge you to join, partly as at the time of writing this review the world is struggling to cope with the Covid 19 (Coronavirus). This album follows a different scenario with, thankfully, a positive outcome.

A simply marvellous album that will be on many ‘best of’ 2020 lists I’m sure.  A fine album indeed, very emotionally raw, it rocks hard too.

If, like me, you are unaware of the music of Pure Reason Revolution, then this album is a fine introduction and will hopefully whet your appetite to discover more from this fine outfit. Jon and Chloe have produced an album of depth and intelligence here that really deserves to be widely heard. Highly recommended indeed.

Released 3/4/2020

Order from InsideOut Music here:

http://www.insideoutshop.de/Item/Pure_Reason_Revolution_-_Eupnea_-Ltd-_CD_Digipak-/16622

Review – Pendragon – Love Over Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 14th February 2020

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

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

Featured image by Willem Klopper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 6th May 2020

Pre-order from bandcamp here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Album Artwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRACK LISTING:

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

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

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

(Same Track Listing as CD One)

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

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

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

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

Blu-Ray Disc

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

  • Same Track listing as CD 

Afraid of Sunlight  (Jams & Early Versions):

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

Documentary Film – Afraid of Sunlight  (Approv 45 Mins)

Promo Film – Beautiful

1999 Remaster Bonus Tracks

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

MUSICIANS:

Steve Rothery  –  Guitars 

Pete Trewavas  –  Bass 

Steve Hogarth – Voice

Mark Kelly  –  Keyboards

Ian Moseley  –  Drums & Percussion 

With:

Hannah Stobart  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Beautiful’

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

THANKS

Progradar would like to thank Fraser Marshall of the website: 

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

Other information is available at:

http://marillionations.blogspot.com/

Review – Siljan – Collapsology – by John Wenlock-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 27th June 2019

Order from bandcamp here:

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

Single Review – Victor Lee -Harbor City

Victor Lee was born in South Korea where he spent his childhood there. He moved to the US in his late teens and has been living there since.
He started on classical piano and has always had a piano at home since he was too small to crawl up the chair, Victor then started playing guitar when he was 14.

This talented musician wrote his first ever original composition back in 2013, called “Absence”, to comfort a friend who had lost her dog at the time. Even though he felt the quality itself wasn’t quite there, Victor quickly fell in love with the process and the purpose that songs bring as it allowed him to express things that he couldn’t with words.

There followed his first official track “Second Chance” on Dec 6, 2016 with a very talented Norwegian drummer named Andreas Sjøen who then played on several more tracks on Victor’s debut album “Strangely Familiar” released in 2018.

On Sep 17, 2019 he released a single “Letter” which was a partnership with a renowned Instagram Music community called “Pickup Music” as a part of their educational program “Songsquad”

Victor Lee’s new single “Harbor City”, featuring Henrik Linder on bass and Andreas Sjøen on drums was released on January 10th, 2020. Victor plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and produced and mixed the song which was mastered by Jeremy Krull.

A marvelously upbeat track of prog/rock/jazz fusion, this song is seriously uplifting with fantastic keyboard runs and some mind blowing guitar solos. It flies along at a serious rate of notes but the musicianship is tight as a drum.

For five minutes you can forget real life and all its trials and tribulations and just immerse yourself in this inspiring musical concoction.

https://victor-lee.bandcamp.com/releases

Review – My Arrival – Satur9 & Indigo

“Life starts when the end is near”

My Arrival began life when three souls wandered into a single room with the intention to write music from a different perspective than they had done so before: shorter and accessible songs, without losing any of their intended intensity and progressive roots.

Their new album “Satur9 & Indigo” is intricate but elegant in sound. The music is made possible by the gentle weave of synths and guitars atop steady bass and drums, with vocals telling us the melancholic story of a man with a bleeding heart on a dying planet, desperate to find a new home.”

I do love a good press release and this one is no exception. Being a big fan of Sylvium, when Ben van Gastel (guitars & key) contacted me about this new project, I was very interested to hear what they had come up with.

Ben formed My Arrival along with Richard de Geest (vocals) and Fred Boks (bass, drums, keys), the music is closely related to Sylvium but with more relaxed, shorter tracks and is a bit more oriented to Art Rock, instead of prog.

Musically inspired by a changing world, the music was written with the intention to tell the story of a departure and a search for a new home.

Ben van Gastel: “All over the world people are looking for a safe home, not only because of war or climate change. Loved ones are left behind, hoping they will meet again soon, when they have found their new home. Richard de Geest has the gift of a singer songwriter.

He wrote the lyrics like a true poet! He takes you on this search for a new home with his voice, leaving no one untouched. Fred Boks is well known from Sylvium’s first EP release “Purified”. This time he has surpassed himself.

Being responsible for the mix and mastering, every sound is carefully balanced by Fred, sometimes twice or more! It was this finishing touch to take the music to another dimension.”

There is almost a melancholy feel to the album but it is overlaid by lush musical passages and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. The musicianship is outstanding and the quality of songwriting draws the listener into this immersive and deeply engaging musical experience.

There is substance to the music, a real primal, deliberate and thoughtful feel and Richard’s warm and substantive vocal delivery underpins and overlays everything like calming influence.

The album is bookended by a sci-fi feeling intro and outro and then the music flows through some mightily impressive songs, Gone with it’s highly emotive touch and the Pop/Prog of the enchanting Pale White Dot accompany you gently into the rest of this impressive album.

Things get more meaningful with the dignified and languid brilliance of Strange Machine and the sombre, forlorn feeling Saturn & Indigo. There’s an eruption of intensity on the powerful Null Echo which fades into the stark beauty of Come Undone, these superb musicians just keep on delivering sublime song after song.

You want a rather well crafted instrumental that ramps up the tension a jot? Well here’s Failure of a Grand Design to give you exactly that with its haunting and apprehensive atmosphere. Full Dark no Stars is a compelling three minutes of emotive vocals and stirring music and Close Your Eyes is as wistful a piece of music you could ever hope for but one that leaves a plaintive and reflective feeling in the pit of your stomach.

The album will be released on the band’s own label, Mey Productions, giving them further opportunity to learn, to grow and to be inspired, thanks to their audience. That’s all that My Arrival want to do – bring musicians together, make music with them, inspire their audience and let them discover their world and, with ‘Satur9 & Indigo’, they have made a hugely impressive and influential start.

Released February 27th 2020.

Order from bandcamp here:

https://myarrival.bandcamp.com/album/satur9-indigo-pre-order