Review – Ebb – Mad & Killing Time

Prog Rock music takes commitment and concentration to create and sometimes even to listen to.  If requested to express spontaneous keywords that describe this style of music, the spectrum encompasses intellectual, unusual, off-beat, story-telling, conceptual, left-field, left-bank, innovative, challenging, technical, proficient, and soundscapes – before a rapid argument then ensues… People begin to reminisce about rhythmic & percussive innovations, weird chord and key changes, poetic & lyrical worlds of wonder wrapped in interesting cover art and spice dusted with the artistic influences of sci-fi, fantasy, and on occasion all veering off into the realms of serious WTF, before settling down to a good, hard bitch about what is or is not true Prog! All good fun and, why not?

Ebb have redefined themselves as ‘Art Rock’…. Writing and playing in their own style; telling their own stories and wrestling with their own concepts seemed the way forward for the five women and one guy.

And about that: they are nearly all women…. Was there a problem with the ‘old guard’ fans of the genre? Well, despite dire warnings from musical friends… No. Not at all. Prog people of all walks, ages, and genders have been warm, inclusive, and receptive to the band. So there! It’s the power of music, people!

This one nearly passed me by, I received an email inviting me to listen to the promo from Scotland-based art/prog/rock band Ebb’s new release, “a concept album about the love and friendship that grew between an old dying ex-army musician and his housekeeper cum part-time sex worker…”. Yes, really, unfortunately I was snowed under at the time and I didn’t follow it up. Which could have been my loss because ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is definitely one of the more intriguing and compelling releases I’ve heard this year so far.

What you get with Ebb is brilliantly constructed songs, incredible musicianship and an odd, quirky attitude that is entirely unique. Imagine King Crimson and Hawkwind rocking up with Magenta in tow and a persistent urge to record something that sounds like bastardised 70’s Canterbury scene progressive rock with a modern harder edge and you won’t be far wrong. There is true musical theatre here but musical theatre from a parallel universe of steampunk infused science fantasy, progressive rock written by Michael Moorcock and Raymond Feist perhaps?

Saxes, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, superb guitars, fluid keyboards and an elegant Hammond organ combine with a dynamic rhythm section to deliver a vibrant, occasionally chaotic soundscape that is utterly addictive at times. All of this vibrant musical wonder is held together perfectly by the sublimely seductive vocals of Erin Bennett, I’ve not heard anything that sounds like Ebb before!

The highlights on this incredible release come fast and thick with the atmospheric, slow burning The Animal Said: ‘I’ and the faster paced, funky Tension leading the charge. Deliciously dark, mysterious and intense, Hecate stands tall and proud and the wistful elegance and melancholy of What Under What is sublime. The thunderous energy of Violet Is Tits gives this enjoyable baroque instrumental a life of its own and Krystal at the Red Light is another brooding and compelling listen with touches of King Crimson giving it a complexity all of its own. Confess adds more of the same and then we are treated to the utterly brilliant Mary Jane, an imposingly majestic piece of music where the glorious vocals hit you hard and this exceptional song closes the album out on a complete high.

When you listen to as much new music as I do, it takes something truly special to stand out and ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is just that, Ebb delivering a musical highlight of the year and one that is totally unique to this incredibly talented bunch of artists. Go seek it out, you will not de disappointed in any way at all.

Released 1st November, 2022.

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Review – Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orhcestra – Postcards From The Asylum

Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra have returned once again with ‘Postcards From The Asylum‘,  the follow up to 2021’s critically acclaimed ‘Songs For The Apocalypse‘. 

The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra’s music has been described as Nordic Ambient Post-Classical Satanic Love Songs for Nomadic Peoples Living Above the Arctic Circle catering specifically for those who staff Musk Oxen Rescues and wear hemp based sweaters.When aggressively prodded for comment The Baron says…“Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.” 

Renowned as a writer, producer, raconteur, comedian, singer-songwriter, fashion icon and hand-model (no, me neither?), Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is new to me but having heard the single, Heathens, released earlier this year, I was intrigued enough to want to hear the whole album and once I’d heard it, I was even more intrigued…

When you read the who’s who of guests on the album, you get some idea of the musical style that it will follow. With the stellar talents of Andee Blacksugar (Blondie, KMFDM, Peter Murphy), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats), Todd  “Dammit” Kerns (Slash & The Conspirators, Toque), Edu Cominato (Geoff Tate, Soto) and Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard, Progject) on board, it sounds to me like we are in for a bit of mad ride of progressive rock, metal and hard rock and, if that’s the case, please count me in!

The tongue-in-cheek black humour and out there lyrics are blended with some seriously sublime musical talent to create a pretty unique piece of musical theatre, one with a deliciously dark side to it! Covering thirteen (unlucky for some!) tracks and coming in at nearly seventy-five minutes long, ‘Postcards From The Asylum’ is infused with dystopian, steampunk infused images, the brilliant album cover and art drew me in on its own. A mysterious, dark and enigmatic collection of tracks that always leave you guessing and always leave you wanting more.

The highlights for me include the hard rocking opener Bombay with its pedal to the metal energy and dynamic riffing, the excellent vocals being central to proceedings, single release Heathens has a really funky edge to its glam rock leanings and the guitar is pure 90’s hard rock. Mexico has an almost ballad-like gloss and is a beautiful piece of music that would not have been out of place on a mid 90’s platinum selling stadium rocker’s album ( it takes me back to my youth, that’s for sure) and Birds of Prey takes it a step further with its definite Guns N’ Roses sound.

Flying Monkeys is an edgy, syncopated track that steers the album on a more progressive course and I feel there’s a definite Marco Minneman influence to this very likeable song. The Depths is another addictive listen with its darker aura and insistent tone and Beneath The Waves is my favourite track on the album, a thunderous, high energy combination of hard rock and metal with an added progressive rock intellect. A properly intense grunge style gives Feels Just Like Love a jaunty edge and Deep Blue is superb symphonic prog very much in the Spock’s Beard vein.

This highly intriguing and throughly enjoyable musical experience closes with the elegant charms of Human Head and you’re left wondering what just happened. There is so much invention and musical virtuosity contained in this album’s pretty lengthy running time and it requires quite a few listens to really buy in to the story that is being laid out before you. Trust me, you need to persevere because ‘Postcards From The Asylum’ could be one of the most fascinating and beguiling records you will have the pleasure of listening to this year.

Released 14th April, 2023.

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Postcards From The Asylum | Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra | Jason Bieler (

Review – Great Wide Nothing – Hymns for Hungry Spirits, Vol. II – by John Wenlock-Smith

Great Wide Nothing are a progressive punk rock band who hail from Atlanta, Georgia, USA and while you can hear punk in their anger, the music they offer is classic Neo Prog. They cite Coheed and Cambria, Thrice, Muse, Marillion, Depeche Mode, Deep Purple and The Cure among their very varied influences. Some interesting choices, really diverse and yet all these groups appear in their sound to some degree, acceptably some more than others. Although, once again, the band are entirely new to me, so I come to this album without any expectations and I find myself pleasantly surprised and satisfied by what I discover here.

This album has just five tracks but they are all strong ones, starting with Blind Eye To A Burning House, a song that nods it’s head firmly to Rush and one that laments the world’s indifference and inability to grasp and resolve climate change in any meaningful and sincere way. The music the trio make is strong and agreeable with lots of power but also with a subtle lightness of touch where required. There are also great performances from all members and the writing is strong and purposeful, really making an impact. The production is also very good with clear vocals and strong instrumentation. The song has an urgency that is mirrored in it lyrics as it belts along at a fair clip and I can hear elements of Saga in the vocals. This opening track shows how effective the band are, highly talented and musically adept with a really strong sound and distinctive vocals. It is an excellent piece that certainly grabs the attention with a good synth solo and a very memorable chorus, overall an excellent opening statement from the band.

We then move onto a shorter song, The Portal And The Precipice, hinged on an overdriven organ part which is very Deep Purple-like in tone. The track is about a failing relationship and the writer’s hope for a better outcome to it. Viper is about the abuse and trauma the writer suffered as a youth and how he has learned from it, applying resilience into the situation he experienced. Not allowing himself to be overcome by hatred and focusing on his refusal to let his abuser have any hold over him. It’s a very emotional, and ultimately, hopeful and positive response to a dreadful situation and his stance is bold and ultimately life affirming. While he understandably has anger for what has happened, he chooses that that it will not define him. He actually condemns his abuser, being free to move forward, a very dignified way of handling and resolving the conflict.

Inheritor is a song about the pandemic that we’ve all endured and survived recently. This one is an 80’s sounding track which sounds like Depeche Mode and it is a joyous celebration of life with a running guitar line throughout giving it a really upbeat feel. Highly memorable indeed, it is based on pandemic experiences and is a response to those. The final, and longest track, is To Find The Light Part Two, which lasts for just under twenty minutes. A song about the impermanence and trials of life, it is a deep, questioning existential muse on the paths life can take, yet, even in this, you will discover some rather astonishing musical passages and inspired performances. This is from what is primarily a three piece band, with excellent musical skills and compositions from Daniel Graham (bass guitars and vocals), Dylan Porper (keyboards, guitar and supporting vocals) and Jeff Matthews on drums. Together these three musicians make expansive, compelling and impressive music, above all, this is a very satisfying album offering music of substance and value.

The album is very well balanced and presented with great intelligence and is an excellent album in all. I really enjoyed it finding much to enjoy, especially the very bold and personal Viper which is emotionally raw, bare and extremely powerful music indeed. Well worth hearing for this track alone, as its such a significant and important one that deserves wider acclaim and will probably be of interest to people who have a similar tale or experience, it is really quite cathartic.

Released 20th January, 2023

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Hymns for Hungry Spirits, Vol. II | Great Wide Nothing (

Review – Klone – Meanwhile – by John Wenlock-Smith

Klone are a French alt-metal collective and this album, their seventh, was recorded in February 2022 and is the follow up to their 2019 release, ‘Le Grande Voyage’. In the intervening period between the two albums the group have been busy wowing festival audiences at Hellfest and Prog Power USA, among others. This has certainly helped toughen their sound up and yet has not diluted their emotive and conceptual sound and style.

Meanwhile’ blends a very heavy, Leprous type, sound with an expansive soundscape where crunch has extremely melodic undertones woven throughout it’s thread. I have to say that whilst the music is more muscular and intense than I normally enjoy, there is definitely much that commands interest here.

The album fuses prog touches with post rock elements to craft a great sounding release, one that has epic sounds and textures and a big crunch element yet, within it all, there is excellent melodies and a commanding vocal performance from singer Yann Ligner, whose measured voice both commands and impresses in equal quantities. The man could sing the French phone book and still sound good!

The impressive use of other instruments also make this an intriguing listening experience. The band have worked hard with engineer Chris Eldritch to make an epic and expansive soundscape, this is particularly welcome as it elevates and enhances the melodic touches that reside in their music.

Within Reach is a good example of this approach as, despite its very hard riffing, this song has a lot of melodies within that are uncovered as the song proceeds, it is an excellent opening statement. Blink Of An Eye has a recurring saxophone melody that flows in and out of the song, lightening the tone away from extreme metal into something a lot more accessible and easier to accept, appreciate and then digest and enjoy. Bystander hinges on a graceful bass line that is at the forefront of the track, bassist Enzo Alfano provides really strong and flexible support to the growling guitars of Guillaume Bernard and Aldrick Guadagnino and when you add the keyboards textures of Matthieu Metzger and the powerful driving drums of Morgan Berthet you have a real power and force to be reckoned with. The band rise to the challenge extremely well handling the songs with conviction and delicacy when required, and with power at other times.

Elusive is another strong track with more expressive saxophone effects that soften the brutality of the guitars enough to really captivate. Apnea has yet more impressive bass lines, that compliment Yann’s expressive vocals. I especially like how the band contain their more metallic tendencies to allow plenty of space in their sound, it is most satisfying to hear this subset given free reign. The Unknown is far less restrained and allows their edge to be exhibited yet, even within this, Ligner’s classy vocals still sound glorious. His voice reminds me of Chad Kroeger of Nickelback at times, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, his voice is majestic, captivating and ever capable and he is certainly a massive asset to Klone’s sound and ethos.

For me, the best song of the entire album is Meanwhile, which is a moody and slow burning, epic track with lots of arpeggio chiming guitars and a beefy crunch that takes the track forward. There are also some tinkling, rippling piano lines in the background making this a very an atmospheric track. This approach really works and allows the track to build steadily, the restraint really enhances the song and impress me greatly. Less is definitely more in this instance, a very impressive and strong track.

All in all a most impressive release, one that is out of my comfort zone for sure but one whose stunning melodies cannot help but impress me. On the basis and strength of this album, the future for Klone looks very bright indeed. If they continue this progressive journey and stance they will have much to offer, those unaware of their music, and those who like a more prog-metal approach to music, will find very much here to enjoy.

Released 10th February, 2023

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Review – Pryzme – Four Inches – by John Wenlock-Smith

Another new band (to me at least), Pryzme are a French four-piece outfit of two guitarists a bass player and a drummer, who all sing on this album. Their music is intricate and often delicate yet at other times, it thunders along. This breadth of styles gives plenty of room to explore, experiment, develop and enliven the songs. The guitars do not compete but rather they encourage and syncopate to craft the great textures you hear on ‘Four Inches’.

Fusion opens the album and has an interesting riff and sound, both hard and yet melodic with a repeated motif being used to fine effect. The band cite influences like Steven Wilson and Yes, among others. To be fair, some of these influences are fairly obvious and apparent, others less so. Taken together, the band are a highly effective unit, the use of all four musicians singing together is really good and sounds great. The song is enlivened by some great guitar lines and parts, solid bass and the ever excellent drums. Vision is a fairly muscular track with elements of Rush with great bass work holding everything together nicely. This song really impresses, especially the chugging guitar riffs that work really well and the great guitar break at the track’s end, powerful stuff indeed. After Wichita has a majestic and solid bass riff opening the song after the street noises, cars and footsteps set the tone. Another impressive saunter of a track that reminds me of Pat Metheny in places, which is possibly appropriate as he had a track called Wichita Falls earlier in his career.

Nothing To Say has more arpeggio guitar lines and solid bass work. This song has got some real meatiness to it with great guitar lines, it’s really a fine song made better by the gracefully inclined guitars that meld so well together, the lightness of touch and shimmering skills superbly on display. It’s magical and one for guitar nerds to salivate over for sure. Pretty Princess has a very Rush like opening of sustained guitar sounds and the volume swells leading into sweeping cymbal brushes and bass pedals before taking a jazzing turn with an almost danceable rhythm emerging. The vocals sound a little off key in this song though, for some reason. There is a most excellent guitar part on acoustic guitar that really enhances this track and that gives way to a beautifully fluid guitar solo, in a David Gilmour style, that is followed by a faster, funkier part and it all works well together. The Ride Of Your Life takes the album in a harder direction and tone, with crunchy guitars and metal riffs working together to make something pretty special and the multi-part vocals are used again to very fine effect. This is all very impressive really and makes for a fantastic song.

Morning Song opens lightly enough with gentle guitars before some really hard and kicking guitars soon enter the arena, laying down some fierce riffing tones. More excellent guitar solos follow proving just how exciting and excellent this band are. The final, and longest, track, Four Inches brings the album to a close but not before its thirteen minutes and fifty seconds have taken you for a exhilarating ride. Again, this track has pace and elements of Rush abound once again, especially in the bass playing and the arpeggio guitar. There is much to savour here really, gentle but effective guitar playing and plenty of space for the music to percolate well. The guitar playing throughout this album is highly impressive, tasteful and expressive. When the song reaches the middle section there is a brilliant solo section with everyone played along and the bass holding everything together before some solid riffing and bass interaction really grabs your attention. Everything then settles into a more melodic groove thereafter, although this is played against a sustained guitar note and a jazzy guitar line that accompanies the vocals. The song then moves back to a faster tempo and more dynamic parts with bass and guitars interacting once again with the bass notes high in the mix. Aa vocal section draws the song towards its climax and it ends with voices playing out against some fiery guitar tones to conclude the album.

A very different and yet rewarding album and one that bodes well for the future that awaits this extremely impressive and talented French band. An entertaining and rewarding release, Rush fans will love it!

Released 12th September, 2021.

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Album Four inches – Pryzme

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Review – Jade Warrior – Wind Borne – The Island Albums 1974 -1978 – by John Wenlock-Smith

There is a certain irony in that most progressive rock fans have a tendency to, in the words of Jethro Tull, be found Living In The Past. I can often be guilty of this myself,  is it that I hanker after a bygone age where I was young, free and single or is it more that I was growing up in an era where music had meaning and a certain quality? That’s probably a whole different essay, either way, whilst there are very many exciting new bands around that are taking prog forward again once more, there are also more opportunities to delve into the hidden corners and recesses of progressive music and to rediscover the overlooked, unsung artists who helped make the 1970’s such an interesting and innovative age, in the time before punk’s angry young men came along, wiping out much of that innocence and the beauty away.

Whilst it may be argued that it was time for another musical direction to emerge, it was the sheer disdain and hatred for what had been unceremoniously dumped that was such an affront to most serious prog fans who found this new development and style a very bitter pill to swallow and adapt to. Well it seemed that way to me as an 18 year old boy from the Midlands. Which brings us to this great set of albums that Jade Warrior made for Island records between 1974 to 1978, comprising the four albums made in that period, ‘Floating World’ (1974), ‘Waves’ (1975), ‘Kites’ (1976) and finally ‘Way Of The Sun’ (1978). This set, called ‘Wind Borne’ brings all four together in a nifty and attractive set with an always excellent sound and a great and informative booklet outlining the history of the band and how these albums came about.

I was aware of these albums and had often seen them about in the record shops that I was a frequent visitor to in Birmingham, yet I’d never actually listened to them properly. None of my friends were raving about them, they received little or no press that made them figure on my radar, so, like many others, I simply ignored them, considering them unworthy of my attention. There were lots of bands that met a similar response, sadly, I missed out on much fine music in those days.

Jade Warrior’s story is an interesting one, especially when you take into account that the two men who were the core of the band, Jon Field (flute) and Tony Duhig (guitars), were largely self taught. The music they created was different, other worldly and unique, music that was progressive in its style but was also a reflection of their interest in oriental art forms. You could cite this as being almost new-age in style, certainly it was an inspiration for the likes of Brian Eno who’s avant-garde music of the late 70’s can be traced back to Jade Warrior’s music and style.

The music is not an easy listening experience as it requires real attention to get the most out of it but, heard carefully, you can find much to appreciate in its very mellow and subdued tones. This music shimmers and builds in its intensity like layers of sound emerging and evolving, it is all extremely well crafted and put together with real care and respect for the musical form they were creating. This is subtle music, no blaring guitars as such, and probably all the better for the slow build. I suppose you could say it is minimalist new age music really as it is rather subdued. Unsurprisingly, the outfit’s second album ‘Waves’ is well suited to such an approach as waves are constantly building, growing then crashing and receding, only to return again in an endless cycle.

Their interest and affinity for things oriental came at a time when most Britons experience of oriental fare was a Vesta curry or a Chinese takeaway. Japanese culture was totally alien, apart from the ‘Made In Japan’ album, and had not yet made much of an impact in the U.K. at the time. Jade Warrior received far more critical  acclaim than commercial success, their  record contract with Island came about through the intervention of Traffic’s Steve Winwood when he recommended them to to the label’s Chris Blackwell. Winwood would later appear on their second album ‘Waves’ providing Piano and moog synthesisers. That album is a very interesting album being, as it is, two tracks of side long length that give much space for themes to emerge, develop and evolve throughout. There are also has some exciting  guitar passages that certainly impress. There are some drums on the album but even so this does not rock out much, if at all, it’s more there to add dynamics. The music is largely instrumental, although there are choral parts to the tracks Clouds and Clouds II on the ‘Floating World’ album.

The third album ‘Kites’ features the Chinese tale of Emperor Kite and the boat man, which is a 9th century story about life. This is a very fine series of tracks that together tell the tale of how the emperor interacts with a boat man at the riverside. The tale is detailed in the booklet which makes everything make sense.

The final album, ‘Way Of The Sun’, had a different feel as it concerned itself with a different set of influences, namely Inca and Mayan ones, which allowed for different musical paths to be taken. This approach seems to be effective and the album received significantly more interest than earlier albums but still did not result in more commercial success. Sadly, as a result, they ended their association with Island Records but, undeterred, continued to make music for different labels. They recorded the album ‘Horizen’ (1984) before drifting apart although they did reform in 1989 releasing ‘At Peace’.

Jon Field returned to London and found new musicians to work with though before they could record with Tony Duhig, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Field and co would record three albums under the Jade Warrior banner, ‘Breathing The Storm’ (1992), ‘Distant Echoes’ (1993) and ‘Fifth Element’ before heir final album ‘Now’ in 2008. Sadly their influence, whilst admirable and widely acknowledged, failed to translate into sales. Even so, these Island albums are definitely of interest and value as they show an extraordinary vision and sound that was of its time for sure but all very impressive still and I certainly enjoyed this collection of ambient progressive minimalism.

Released 31st March, 2023

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Jade Warrior: Wind Borne – The Island Albums 1974-1978, 4CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

Review – Dominic Sanderson – Impermanence

Being a music reviewer and a fan of music is always a voyage of discovery and, every now and again, these discoveries are quite remarkable indeed. When 23 year old Progressive Rock artist Dominic Sanderson reached out to me via email and invited me to listen to his debut full length album ‘Impermanence’ I was intrigued by the fact he was influenced by the likes of Steven Wilson, Marillion, King Crimson and Pink Floyd and drawn even deeper into this young man’s web by the striking album artwork, incidentally all artwork and lyrics were handled by Dominic’s dad (who has been instrumental in shaping his music taste and is the reason Dominic loves prog rock).

The PR blurb’s bold claims then sold it to me completely, “Impermanence strikes a perfect balance between a traditional symphonic progressive rock sound, as epitomised by heavy use of mellotron, Hammond organ, flute and baritone saxophone, and modern production techniques that anchors this firmly in the 21st century despite obvious influences such as King Crimson, Steven Wilson, Wobbler and Anglagard. Heavier, movement-led tracks such as ‘The Twisted Hand of Fate’ and ‘Is There Calm Amongst This Chaos?’ contrast softer ballads (‘This Night and the Wounds it Will Bring’) and avant-garde, experimental tracks (‘A False Sense of Promise’). The album was recorded wholly independently by myself, my band and a variety of excellent musicians and producers using the University of Liverpool’s SSL studio over the course of a year. It promises to deliver a truly progressive sound that so many modern ‘prog’ bands fail to capture.”

Would this provocative album live up to the hype?

The solid, if formulaic, opening of I Don’t Think I can Get Over This After All is a good start but things only get better and immensely so. Dominic’s vocals have a early fragility to them and the acoustic guitar adds a sparse background, the track then opens up with a glorious instrumental section overlaid by hushed vocals leaving you wanting more and wondering where the album will go next. Into the stratosphere actually! The Twisted Hand Of Fate has the hallmark of ‘Insurgentes’ era Steven Wilson, all full of mystery and opaqueness. The musicianship is quite remarkable and the angst of the crashing drums, chaotic keyboards and wailing guitars is hypnotic delivering five minutes of modern prog brilliance. The softer tones of This Night And The Wounds It Will Bring brings some calm serenity to proceedings, a pulsating, shimmering track where the music is given space to breathe, the vocals low and hushed. There’s always an undercurrent of something primeval, almost alien threatening to break out and that makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise in a deliciously suspenseful way.

Like King Crimson but without the intransigence, Is There Calm Amongst This Chaos is a superb progressive rock track that would grace any era of the genre. It is a carefully judged and superbly delivered six minutes of clever variation and moods, dark and dangerous yet chinks of light shine through at vital moments and make this an intelligent piece of music where the musicians are given free reign to deliver something compelling and captivating. The ebb and flow of the staccato section is just genius and leaves me open mouthed in admiration. After the thought-provoking intensity of the previous track, the soothing, relaxing composure of delightful instrumental An Empty Room is a welcome contrast and, as it closes on a lifting note, a musical palate cleanser that leads into the avant-garde splendour of A False Sense Of Promise. This intricate journey into the experimental and enigmatic has a fleeting, wistful feel. Almost like a musical narcotic, its soporific nature leaves you mesmerised and entranced as it dances across your synapses.

The album closes with the near twenty minute prog epic Like Shards Of Glass Falling Through My Fingers, a perfectly constructed song that shows the sheer talent and inventiveness of Dominic and this incredible set of musicians. The intro with its awe inspiring organ and choral vocals is nape tingling and only the beginning of this musical adventure. The musical interplay between the keyboards, drums and guitar is just magical, just sit back and enjoy the show as the drama unfolds before you, the soaring guitars adding even more theatre and showmanship. Ethereal, ghostly vocals wash over the music to deliver perfect modern progressive rock and showing a maturity well beyond Dominic’s tender years. It’s an object lesson in how to hold the listener’s attention over an expanded running time, there’s always something going on but nothing is gratuitous or mere padding and the way this monumental track closes is just sheer genius.

‘Impermanence’ is quite possibly the best truly progressive release I’ve heard in many a year, Dominic’s influences are obvious but that’s all they are, he takes those influences and blends them into something distinctive, unique and utterly brilliant. It is an exceptional release and stands well above the norm and, after the relatively disappointing (well, to my ears anyway) ‘Closure/Continuation’, is the album that Porcupine Tree really should have written.

Released 25th February, 2023.

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2023 seems to be the year of the multiple vinyl live album, first The Tangent with the triple vinyl release of the excellent ‘Pyramids, Stars & More: The Tangent Live Recordings 2004-2017’ and then Transatlantic with a quadruple (yes, you read that right!) vinyl release of the monumental ‘The Final Flight: Live at L’Olympia’. Well, it’;s now the turn of venerable prog supergroup ASIA with a triple vinyl version of ‘FANTASIA, LIVE IN TOKYO 2007’, have we got another slam dunk brilliant release? read on and you will find out…

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of ASIA’s formation, this exciting 18-track live show from their 2007 world tour features the reformed original line-up pooling the talents of lead vocalist/bassist John Wetton (King Crimson), Steve Howe (guitars, Yes), Geoff Downes (keyboards, Yes and Buggles) and drummer Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The setlist focusses on their globally successful 1982 debut album ‘Asia‘ and features key tracks Only Time Will Tell, Sole Survivor and their worldwide anthem Heat Of The Moment along with select tracks from their second LP ‘Alpha‘ and one song each from the band members’ previous bands – Video Killed The Radio Star, RoundaboutFanfare For The Common Man and The Court Of The Crimson King.

The package itself is a rather fine thing with artwork form the legendary Roger Dean and a very knowledgeable LP sized booklet telling the whole story behind the concert.

Now, to me, live albums can either be good or bad, there is nothing worse than a badly performed version of a classic song with a horrendous mix from the sound desk meaning you really cannot tell what you are listening to but, when done well, they can become a lasting monument to some of our favourite musicians.

I’ll cut the suspense and get to the point, this new live release is absolutely fantastic for the die hard Asia fan and newcomers to the band alike. Stand out highlights for me are the obvious ones. The versions of Heat Of The Moment and Sole Survivor are without a doubt the best live versions you are likely to hear, John Wetton’s distinctive vocals are on seriously good form and you can literally feel the dynamism and intensity in his performance. His banter with the crowd is particularly good between songs and means there is never any lull or drop in energy levels from the band or the crowd.

Wildest Dreams, Without You, Don’t Cry, Here Comes The Feeling, the hits keep coming with passion and fervour and you really get to feel the strong bond between Wetton and Carl Palmer, a very tight rhythm section indeed. The inclusion of tracks form the band member’s previous bands is also a masterstroke, I found myself mesmerised by Roundabout, one of my favourite tracks from Yes and you can hear that Steve Howe is having the time of his life as his guitar literally dances through this classic track. John Wetton does a great job on vocals for Video Killed The Radio Star but it’s really Geoff Downes time to shine on this track and I can’t help but break into a smile when the intro to the song begins. Downes is obviously having a blast on a wonderfully inspired version of Fanfare For The Common Man and the quartet’s delivery of the King Crimson mainstay, The Court Of The Crimson King is positively masterful.

This three LP boxset is a wonderful way to spend an evening and the format definitely gives you a feeling of nostalgia, it’s full of memories and a lasting legacy for four of progressive rock’s greatest musicians having the time of their life, they really don’t make them like this anymore! As the last notes of Heat Of The Moment play out and the audience’s cheers and applause fade out, I can’t help but wish I’d been there that evening, right in the midst of what was obviously an amazing concert and experience and that’s what the best live albums do, isn’t it?

Released 24th February, 2023

Order the boxset here:

Fantasia – Live In Tokyo (

Review – Flamborough Head – Jumping The Milestone – by John Wenlock-Smith

Flamborough Head is a rocky promontory that lies on the east coast of England between Filey and Bridlington. It is a chalky headland that reminds one of a sleeping dinosaur, it is also a walker’s haven and you can see seals at certain times of the year. We visited it last year and had a great couple of hours enjoying its natural beauty. At that time I was completely unaware of the existence of a band that had the same name, so the opportunity to listen and review this album was too good to pass up. Flamborough Head has been in existence for almost 34 years, being originally formed in Friesland in the Netherlands in 1990, they have been through several different incarnations and line ups, peppered with spells of inactivity over the years, and have produced ten albums during that time, mostly on the Cyclops label, then latterly on the Oskar label, on which we find this latest one, ‘Jumping The Milestone’.

The music the band create falls very firmly into the realm of symphonic progressive rock with excellent use of flute, keyboards and very fluid guitar solos. The band are fronted with the excellent soft vocals of Margriet Boomsma who also provides flute and recorders and Eddie Mulder who was the original guitarist but is now the bass player, with Hans Spitzen providing the guitar fireworks, aided by sublime keyboards from Edo Spanninga. Together they make a very good sound, everything a symphonic prog fan could want, expansive and intelligent with lots of interesting reference points. They combine the style of Marillion, Arena and IQ to great effect, there is much to recommend here.

The album has just six tracks, all are of an excellent standard with much happening musically within. I am reminded of Camel at times with the fabulous flute playing and the very lyrical guitar of Hans Spitzen, who makes every track shine.

The Garden Shed is about the joy of gardening and the benefits it can bring to one’s mental health and how, overal,l it can be of positive benefit, a most different sort of track but with good sentiments expressed within. Tomorrow Is Another Day is a further great track with a good opening section with great flute and a surging Hammond Organ playing throughout. The song is about depression and how it can haunt an individual, robbing them of joy in their life. This is all sensitively handled and in a positive manner and has a graceful guitar solo that really captures you as you listen. The song has good insight into fighting depression and some good advice too, I like that it is real and not patronising in its approach but sympathetic and hopeful too.

Start Of A Nightmare is an interesting track in its subject matter of an unwelcome intrusion and the prospect of injury at the hands of an unhinged, unwanted intruder. This is quite a different sort of song with lots of light and shade to depict the unfolding events making it most memorable with strong performances from each member and more great guitar to help carry the song along. The song expresses the lasting sense of unease that any unwanted intrusion can cause you and how unsettled you can be afterwards for a very long time. Fear Of Failure is about insecurity and how the fear of failure can really impact on one in a negative manner. Again, this is handled delicately and with sympathy and dignity. It’s about handling those feelings and facing them down, believing in yourself and the abilities you have. It talks about applying resilience to your situation and overcoming it for yourself, almost a self-help in reality. The music is very strong and supportive and the lyrics are excellent, making for a great song overall that’s very positive in its outlook.

Penultimate song Walls Of Words is about being left behind, overlooked and unappreciated by those around you. It is rather a sombre and maudlin piece but, once again, this is all handled very well, along with it being a well written and realised track with solid musicianship at its core, especially when the song leads to the suicide of the protagonist in the song. Final and longest song, Jumping The Milestone concludes this superb album. Opening with heavenly piano motif alongside an ethereal flute before Margaret’s delicate vocals begin, the track is about growing older and all the challenges that brings. This song handles its subject matter with great intelligence and good insight, it is a celebration of life as opposed to being rather a depressing slide into twilight. It reminds us all of the journey that is life, being one that we all have to undertake, it talks of the good things in life that we can all gather into our own storybook. This piece also tells us to be grateful that we can have these days in which we can age and that we should value these days. The song moves through different sections and movements with aplomb and style, lots of excellent guitar parts and sympathetic keyboard embellishments pepper the track insightfully. An epic for sure but it’s never a dull one at all, excellent guitar solos take the track forward in different directions, all of which are  strong.

This is a most interesting and tasteful album of deep emotion and content, extremely well presented and performed by an excellent and talented band. I can only but sing its praises to you and recommend that you listen to it, if you do then you won’t regret it.

Released 3rd November, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Jumping The Milestone (CD) | Flamborough Head | OSKAR records (

Review – Magenta – The White Witch – A Symphonic Trilogy – by John Wenlock-Smith

I’ve been reviewing albums for over a decade or more now and I still really enjoy doing, hearing some amazing new music in the process. Progressive rock has rather a lot in common with classical music forms, lengthy pieces and the use of recurring motifs, themes and melodies being just a few to start with. Prog has courted classical music with differing degrees of success over the years from Deep Purple’s ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’ in 1969 to ELP’s version of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ in 1971 and Rick Wakeman’s quasi-classical epics, like ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and beyond through to ELO and so many more.

In all that time reviewing and commenting on the music before, I have never felt as puzzled and lost by what I was hearing as I am here with this album. I feel remarkably inept, unable and lacking any confidence with this album. I know many other reviewers have a far better understanding and appreciation of the classical than I do but, stil,l I’ll do what I can to unravel this rather interesting concept album from Magenta’s Robert Reed and crew.

‘The White Witch’ consists of three pieces, two of which have been revived from earlier Magenta albums, along with a newly commissioned piece of music. All three are linked by a common theme and also with a narrative from Les Penning, whose dulcet, measured tones open each piece of music.

The first piece is called Sacrifice and is about the time of the civil war and the plague that came four years into the war, devastating communities in the land. The music opens with a soft woodwind and strings before a bold brass fanfare leads to a classical guitar softly playing along with the lush vocals of Christina Booth. There is much beauty in her vocals, with touch of Kate Bush in places and the guitar from Chris Fry is excellent. Be aware the woodwinds that weave in and out of the music alongside sweeping violins and violas, good use of penny whistle and strong percussion embellishments. This is musically fascinating to listen to, you can hear how artfully composed this piece really is, with a really clear production that allows everything to breathe and leaves lots of space in the music. This sensitively handled with great skill and strength and really impressed me. The acoustic guitar really shines in this track playing with urgency and yet with delicacy, supporting and underpinning everything to create a masterful soundscape.

The album has it origins in two earlier recordings, namely their debut ‘Revolutions’ from 2001 and also ‘Seven’ from 2004 from which parts have been reimagined for this release. The theme of the album is benign witchcraft as practised by Sara, the main character of the album, and how she uses it for good rather than evil or harm. This in itself is an interesting concept and one that is developed especially well throughout the album with the third part, Survival, being an entirely new composition that concludes it all together well.

Part 2, Retribution, concerns itself with the defeat of the plague and the return of prejudice that is shown toward Sara and those who practise a different way of living. Emotions are stirred and the arrival of the witch finder general makes Sara fear for her life as the rise of intolerance emerges. It is this climate that begins the second part of the trilogy. Again, the music is lively with a strong folk type sound and a strident brass part that leads to Christina’s excellent vocals. This style of singing really suits her voice well and she excels here in this setting with lots of space for her voice to be clearly heard. The confess section of the song is actually rather delightful and almost cheerful to hear despite it somewhat dark subject matter. The track is well developed with more dexterous guitar lines from Chris that really evolve well. Sara pleads for light to guide her way and to allow her to reach new ways and new paths to follow that will help everyone get to a better place. The track ends with her treatise to the moon Luna to help her find her own way forward, the orchestrations in this section are especially sublime and sympathetic to the story.

Survival is the third part of the trilogy and talks of how Sara is leading the way to survival by doing new things in new ways and that how reaching out helps everyone. This is another excellent passage and the whole album is really quite gentle with no Bass or drums. Yet it is still a wonderful listen and repeated plays will reveal the hidden textures and treasures the album contains. It is all very much a soundtrack for an as yet unmade film or production. One can only wait and see what direction and indeed opportunities this album will afford the band. The album closes with a dignified flourish as we see Sara’s magic has worked, bringing peace and harmony back to her community, all’s well that ends well. This is a triumph for Mother Earth and the the album ends on a gentle guitar outro.

This album is not a simple listen and requires commitment to work with the music and to allow its delicate beauty to shine through. If you do this, you will find the reward of some great music, committed performances and a gentle tale told with style and commitment. Don’t be expecting rock rhythms and instrumentation, however but it is a richly orchestrated and well produced folk/classical hybrid with strong instrumentation and melodic themes and the glorious voice of Christina Booth aided by Chris Fry and Robert Reed. I may not return to this album often but I’m certainly glad to have fallen under its spell and charm, give it a listen for yourself and see what you think.

Released 31st October, 2022.

Order from Tigermoth Records here:

Magenta (