Review – Baker Gurvitz Army – Live 1975 – by John Wenlock-Smith

I got very excited about this release but, before you think I’m strange, let me explain myself…

I’ve always been a bit obsessive about details, I even make my own lists of albums I own, ranking them in order of personal preference. For many years the second Baker Gurvitz Army album featured highly in those lists, as did this live album (well, actually it’s a live set from Reading University along with a few extra tracks from a different show in London, at the New Victoria Theatre).

I was already a fan because of my often mentioned friend Peter Boner who had introduced me to the band when I was just fifteen. So much so that I acquired a copy of their 1974 debut single Help Me/Space Machine that, of course, failed to make any significant chart impact. More is the pity as that single really rocked with thrilling synthesiser sounds, a very fiery guitar break from Adrian Gurvitz and the thunderous drumming of one Ginger Baker. That single is on this release, albeit it in a slightly different form in that some of the singles dynamics are missing, but it’s still a great track.

This album confused me initially as it contains tracks from all three BGA albums, then I realised that their brief career only spanned three years in all, with their self-titled debut album in 1974, ‘Elysian Encounter’ in 1975 and ‘Hearts On Fire’ coming in 1976. Shortly after their career was severely derailed by the death of their manager in a light aircraft crash near Moffatt in Scotland in 1976. This scuppered the band’s activities and with the increasing tensions between Adrian Gurvitz and Ginger Baker the band imploded and split to seek different activities. Which is why I was excited about this CD, especially as live recordings of the bands early days were not that accessible then and this is a particularly fine recording of this rather phenomenal band in action. They really deliver the goods in their performances, it’s really fiery and very well done.

The Baker Gurvitz Army were all seasoned musicians and this shows in the sound they offered. The band had been expanded from the trio format of the debut to a five piece with keyboard player Peter Lemer, his keyboards helping to add a jazzy edge to some tracks and Steve Parsons(Mr. Snips) was recruited as the band’s vocalist. The album has an earthy live sound, as you can tell from its rawness, also, many of the songs are extended from the studio recordings. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of drum solos and drum focused elements within the tracks although, to be fair, everyone gets their own moments to shine in tracks like 4 Phil, Remember and Memory Lane.

As I sadly never got to see the band in action (I don’t know why as they came to Birmingham Town Hall in 1975 so I could have gone), this cd is chance to experience, in some part, that missed opportunity for me. The set is balanced between the debut and ‘Elysian Encounter’ and, oddly, the title track that later appeared on ‘Hearts On Fire’ and there is a lot of time for improvisation throughout. Quite frankly, there may be a drum solo or two too many but, overall, this is a really fine snapshot of a great band who really warranted significantly more kudos and respect than they actually garnered.

The booklet is, as with most Esoteric releases, rather splendid with a good summation of their short career. The sound is very crisp and clear with only a few dropouts in a recording that is nearly fifty years old and it is an excellent document of an exciting evening that hopefully those who were there will still remember. This new release documents those moments for us all to relive and enjoy once again or, for younger folks, to discover and enjoy! For fans of 1970’ British Rock music this is a diamond and a much desired album, hearing a band hungry and accomplished and really firing on all cylinders. It is highly recommended from this possibly somewhat biased reviewer…

Released 24th November, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Baker Gurvitz Army: Live 1975, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records

Review – UPF – Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope – by John Wenlock-Smith

Well, I may have met my match with this one but, first, let me explain. I am always talking about how progressive rock albums need both length and space in order for the music to evolve and expand enough to make music make sense. The fact that brevity is not usually a big feature of prog does actually matter, well it does to me at least. Well this latest album from United Progressive Fraternity (UPF) really challenges that idea and could be seen as overload or just simply too much!

‘Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope’ is nearly three hours long and has thirty-one tracks, several of which hover around the fifteen minute plus length. Alongside which the cast of contributors is huge, ranging from Steve Hackett to Jerry Marotta and all points in between but it’s fun when you can spot their contributions, like Steve Hackett’s guitar tapping on Chants of Hope.

What I will say is that, this is the equivalent of a transatlantic flight in that it’s long and the scenery changes constantly. And in a similar vein, there are many musical elements that are employed here in the rather strange, and possibly difficult, third UPF album. You get everything including speeches from the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Chief Oren Lyons amongst others, for this is very much an environmentally focused album, in that this is a plea for us to change how we exist, evolve and engage with nature.

Anyway, enough waffle from me, what exactly are you getting with this album? Well, in a nutshell, you will find some staggeringly good and complex symphonic progressive rock music with more than a touch of Peter Gabriel’s World Music thrown in for good measure. You get songs that have good messages and that actually mean something and you get excellent musicianship and some really quite remarkable playing, all wrapped up in a strong, conceptual set of 3 CD’s with excellent artwork from Ed Unitsky.

What’s not to like? Fans of antipodean prog like Unitopia and Southern Empire or even the excellent Damanek will find music to both discover and enjoy here. There are a large variety of styles used from quite aggressive passages to almost swing and orchestral sections. Faultline, for example, has heavy sections and jazzy swing tempo passages to it that are most impressive.

The album begins with Hope Is Drums Of Hope and a symphonic overture, all very ethereal and airy, before Mark ‘Truey’ Trueack’s earnest baritone vocal begins. There is a lightness of touch in this opening section with an evocative violin from Steve Unruh, who plays a large variety of instruments including guitars, bass pedals ,violin and flute and also provides lead and harmony vocals in conjunction with Trueack. These two together form the axis of UPF, although they draw on a wide array of contributors to achieve their unique sound. This opener has a hell of a lot happening during its running time including that great violin, lots of drums, a delicate piano and masses of choral type voices, its’ all very over the top but definitely appealing to these ears.

One of the album’s longer tracks, Being of Equal, has a very middle eastern sound to it, almost Arabian really. This is all very epic sounding, as the song continues a strong electronic element and bass line is added which actually fits in really well with the mystical elements. It really sounds exciting and different, there is an excellent synth burst too that really empowers the track. Yes, it is a complex and engaging track but it is also an excellent album track that really helps set out what the band are all about. This is an album that you are going to have to invest your time with in order to get the most out of it so be warned, this is going to require your efforts here, although I will point out that this will be mutually rewarding as you will encounter some really remarkable and challenging music on your journey.

Justified is another interesting track, very minimal in its sound with just a drum beat along with a sole vocal before taking a more expansive and broader musical route at the early part of the song. Lyrically it is interesting as well, lines like; “If you lay down with dogs you’re going to wake up with fleas, you’re scratching the surface not treating the disease.” It’s very well written and intelligently crafted, the touches of world music really enhance the sound they make and it’s really gorgeous in places, like on this track. Another bonus is the third disc of tracks in which, as The Romantechs they revisit several tracks and even a couple of old Unitopia tracks like Justify from ‘More Than A Dream’ and The Garden from the album of the same name. These are interesting retakes and well conceived and delivered versions of two classic songs, When you factor this bonus disc is of nearly seventy minutes duration, you can tell this is a very rewarding album when you do your part in giving it time and space in your life.

UPF certainly have a valid message wrapped in an attractive, challenging and complex musical format. There is a lot to get your teeth into so what are you waiting for? Dig in deep and enjoy the vista that United Progressive Fraternity offer with ‘Hope’.

It may be worth mentioning that ‘Hope’ continues on with themes that were both raised, voiced and addressed on their previous album ‘Planetary Overload Part One – Loss ‘ released in 2019. ‘Hope’ was delayed in part by the pandemic and continues in expressing both environmental and humanitarian issues and concerns. I also recommend that you give that one a listen as well and embrace the whole picture.

Released 15th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

UPF’s – PLANETARY OVERLOAD, PART 2 – HOPE | United Progressive Fraternity (

Caligula’s Horse announce new album Charcoal Grace, out on January 26th, 2024 via InsideOutMusic; reveal video for first new single Golem and US/Canada tour dates

Australian progressive metal outfit Caligula’s Horse are back! The four-piece from Brisbane is ringing in a new chapter with a new single and video release for Golem and album announcement for Charcoal Grace, which is set for release in January 2024 via InsideOutMusic.

Pre-Order Charcoal Grace here: 

Charcoal Grace (

Golem is the first taste of the new album and gives a glimpse of the thematical depth of Charcoal GraceThe band says about the new single:

“Golem is about how we all struggled with the weight of expectation through the pandemic. We felt that weight acutely as musicians, being trapped with no notion of when, or even if, we would return to the life we knew, all while feeling the pressure to create our next work rising. While that’s our specific experience, the themes of Golem are something we can all relate to. It’s a heavy song with an emphasis on riffs and driving rhythms.

Watch the video for Golem here: 

Stream Golem on your favorite DSPs here:

Caligula’s Horse – Golem (

Charcoal Grace is the 6th studio album of the band, and it combines raw rock power with immense emotional depth. Charcoal Grace is borne of the static hopelessness that the pandemic forced upon the band and, indeed, much of the world, these past few years. It is an album reckoning with the experiences and outcomes of this time geared, ultimately, towards catharsis – moving towards a more hopeful future.

The title Charcoal Grace is described by the band as “the grim allure and strange beauty in stillness, silence, and loss”.  This can be heard through the album’s 10-minute opening track “The World Breathes With Me,” a mission statement for the album’s main themes. Musically, it’s a work of contrasts, moving from the lightest ebb to the heaviest flow. Meanwhile, the second track and first single from the album, “Golem,” examines struggling with the weight of expectation through the pandemic. It’s a heavy song with an emphasis on riffs and driving rhythms.

At the center of the album is the 4-part title track suite, a 24-minute opus that pushes deeper into the album’s foundational themes: connection, alienation, and the ways humanity acts under duress. Musically, it covers every facet of the band’s vocabulary, from heavy and dense orchestral-accompanied intensity embodying the song’s darkest lyrical ideas, through to soft acoustic-driven moments and introspection.


Side A

The World Breathes With Me (10:00)

Golem (05:20)

Side B

Charcoal Grace I: Prey (07:48)

Charcoal Grace II: A World Without (06:48)

Charcoal Grace III: Vigil (03:22)

Charcoal Grace IV: Give Me Hell (06:13) 

Side C

Sails (04:31)

The Stormchaser (05:57)

Mute (12:00) 

Charcoal Grace is available as Ltd. CD Digipak, CD Jewelcase (US only), Gatefold 2LP in various colours & Digital Album. 

The band recently played tours in both Europe and America to fully present their 2020 release “Rise Radiant” for the first time after the pandemic. Caligula’s Horse are now supporting Devin Townsend for three gigs in Australia before returning to the US next year in support of their new album.


10/11/2023: The Forum, Melbourne

11/11/2023: The Metro, Sydney

12/11/2023: The Tivoli, Brisbane


31/01/2024: DC, Washington, Union Stage

01/02/2024: Philadelphia, PA, Underground Arts

02/02/2024: Boston, MA, Brighton Music Hall

03/02/2024: New York, NY, The Gramercy Theatre

04/02/2024: Montreal, Le Studio TD

06/02/2024: Toronto, The Axis Club

07/02/2024: Pittsburgh, PA, Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall

08/02/2024: Chicago, IL, Lincoln Hall

12/02/2024: Charlotte, NC, The Underground

13/02/2024: Atlanta, GA, The Masquerade (Hell)

15/02/2024: Dallas, TX, Granada Theatre

16/02/2024: Austin, TX, Come & Take it Live

18/02/2024: Phoenix, AZ, Nile Half House

19/02/2024: San Diego, CA, Brick By Brick

20/02/2024: LA, CA, The Echoplex

21/02/2024: Berkley, CA, Cornerstone

23/02/2024: Seattle, WA, El Corazon

24/02/2024: Portland, OR, Hawthorne Theatre

25/02/2024: Vancouver, Rickshaw

Caligula’s Horse are 

Jim Grey – lead vocals

Sam Vallen – lead guitar

Josh Griffin – drums

Dale Prinsse – bass

Swedish proggers Moon Safari share first single from long-awaited album ‘Himlabacken Vol. 2’

Pre-order begins today!

After a near decade-long recording process, Swedish progressive rockers, Moon Safari are set to make a comeback this winter with their 5th studio album Himlabacken Vol. 2.The album will be released on December 6th through Marquee Inc. in Japan and worldwide on December 8th through the band’s own Blomljud Records Inc.

The band are pleased to share the album’s  first single “Between the Devil & Me’. 
You can see the lyric video now here:

“It took us ten years, for a million different reasons. But we’re not dead yet. We return with what we know is a worthy comeback album, filled with our own special brand of symphonic rock cultivated over 20 years as an antidote to the long, dark winters of northern Sweden, with those trademark vocal group-inspired harmonies, uplifting melodies and soulful romantic lyrics that our fans have come to expect. With the addition of ex. Black Bonzo drummer Mikael Israelsson to the band we’ve totally revamped and boosted the low end of our sound, tightened it up, and that attitude shift is felt through our entire arrangements.Tying it all together is the mix by the great Rich Mouser. He’s been the go-to guy for the big boys in the genre for many years, and now we understand why. The mix is clear and punchy, booming and never flat. It just sounds expensive, and we couldn’t be happier. You’ll get almost 70 minutes of this heady brew, spread over nine tracks, with zero fillers. And of course there’s the obligatory epic. The whole thing is a banger, and we’re immensely proud of it.

“The first single from the album, ‘Between the Devil and Me,’ is at it’s core a story of self-exploration. It rides the pendulum swings of an unbalanced human mind from confusion to clarity. And it rocks, hard.

“We’ve all wanted to quit at some point during the last decade. It’s been a real test of our patience and our commitment to the music. But in the end, we were pardoned by the Gods of Rock ‘n’ Roll and we’re back in great form. To hear the whole thing in one go is absolutely liberating, and well worth the wait. If this thing won’t fly, nothing we’ll ever do will.

“So welcome back to Heaven Hill, dear friends! We hope you’ll enjoy the ride.
All our love / MS”

The album is available for pre-order here:

UK – (Exclusive Double Vinyl):



Track Listing:
1. 198X (Heaven Hill) (3:55)
2. Between the Devil and Me (10:38)
3. Emma, Come On (3:19)
4. A Lifetime to Learn How to Love (8:28)
5. Beyond the Blue (2:12)
6. Blood Moon (5:44)
7. Teen Angel Meets the Apocalypse
8. Forever, For You (10:08)
9. Epilog (3:22)

Moon Safari is:
Petter Sandström – Lead and Backing vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Simon Åkesson – Lead and Backing Vocals, Piano, Organ, moog.
Pontus Åkesson – Lead and Backing Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar
Sebastian Åkesson – Backing Vocals, assorted keys, percussion.
Mikael Israelsson – Backing Vocals, Drums, percussion, keyboards, piano
Johan Westerlund – Lead and Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar

Special guest performance by Jamison Smeltz – saxophone on “Forever, For You”

Review – Proud Peasant – Communion

Cinematic progressive rock band Proud Peasant return with their new album ‘Communion’, the follow-up to their debut album, ‘Flight’, and the second part of the It Does Not Cease trilogy.

Proud Peasant have forged a reputation for combining classic and modern sounds together, drawing comparisons to Mike Oldfield, GryphonWobbler, and King Crimson, while also incorporating elements of movie and video game soundtracks, metal, thrash, chamber music, avant-garde, Chinese classical music, and ragtime jazz to create a cinematic mix of sounds.

There’s something refreshingly retro and nostalgic about ‘Communion’, the music has a feel of the 70’s and 80’s about it but brought bang up to date for the current generation. The excellent keyboards and guitar that open first track An Embarrassment of Riches give a touch of retro 80’s pixellated gaming to the song but crossed with Weezer’s brilliantly pastiche track Buddy Holly. We move into more early scandi-prog territory (Wobbler jamming with Marillion while Roine Stolt and Kaipa watch on), the vocals then start and just carry on that feel, it’s all very entertaining and sounds like the band are having an absolute blast, I know I am and as opening tracks go, Proud Peasant have nailed it! Instrumental A Thousand Cuts takes a dynamic, thrusting bass line and drums and adds to an edgy guitar riff and skittish keyboards to deliver a tense, atmospheric sound that leaves you on the edge of your seat as if something momentous is going to begin. It’s very arty and suspenseful before the shackles are off and it’s prog-jam time. Hectic, funky and delightfully intense, the music runs away with you and carries you forward on a wave of bonhomie. Then there’s the sax, oh what a glorious sound, utterly captivating and enthralling, it adds another dimension to what is already a pretty glorious track. The track closes with a seriously impressive drum section, like something out of an afro beat gig, the sonic shifts are mesmerising.

We then go all Romany with the delightfully intricate guitar that opens A Web of Shadow, delicately dancing across your aural synapses, you can imagine the musicians sat around a campfire and people dancing wildly as the tempo increases. Let’s segue then into something much more mariachi with the superb trumpets and vocals before the ignition is fired and off we go with a hell for leather guitar riff and a wondrous ebb and flow between the darkness and the light. There’s some very intelligent songwriting on show here which is performed to perfection by the band and it’s another exciting song with a an almost sinister intimacy at its core, I love it! A Storm of Swords enters the fray with a strong Rush feel to these ears. It’s an up tempo, high energy piece of music that never seems to let up and leaves you breathless in its wake. Take the fiery, monolithic guitar riffs and the almost demonic, squirrelling counter that dances across your mind in maniacal fashion, it’s restlessly brilliant and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Shibboleth takes that high energy from the previous track and raises it a few notches to deliver a post-punk/prog crossover of mammoth proportions before things calm down a bit and the less frenetic vocals begin. You never lose that feeling of the chaotic though, you’ve got no idea what’s coming next, the song structures and influences can come for just about anywhere on this album, it’s like a weirdly wonderful voyage of musical discovery and one you won’t want to get off. The lengthy, epic pièce de résistance of this superb album is the scintillating The Fall, a nineteen minute mind-blowing voyage of genre, mood, and sound. Strap yourself in for a musical ride that knows no bounds and just enjoy what is before you, these are musicians at the top of their game who have graciously invited you into their world to experience something dynamic, primal and just so damn good. I’ll not say no more about this song, you just need to listen and let it wash over you, commit totally to this delightfully eclectic adventure and you will love every second.

With the phenomenal ‘Communion’ Proud Peasant take no prisoners, from the obscure to the pompous and overblown, every minute is a joyous thrill ride of musical wonder and discovery. It’s a wonderfully immersive, exciting and ultimately rewarding experience that will live long in the memory.

Released 20th October, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Communion | Proud Peasant (

Review – Keith Emerson – Variations – by John Wenlock-Smith

This review is not an easy one for in it I have to evaluate the career of one of the greatest keyboard players of the progressive era, namely Keith Emerson of The Nice, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and not to mention his own extensive solo works.

Keith Noel Emerson was born on the 2nd of November  1944 in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, as the family had been evacuated during the Second World War. After the war ended the family moved south to Goring-by-Sea. His Father Noel was an amateur pianist and taught Keith basic piano and, when he was 8 years old, they arranged formal tuition for him. This meant he was entered into competitions at the Worthing Music Festival and it was suggested he continue his studies in London. However, Emerson says he was bored of classical music by then, preferring to express his music in a jazz style.

After leaving school Emerson worked at Lloyd’s Bank Registrars and played piano in the pubs and local clubs at night. He played in a 20 piece swing band run by Worthing Council, covering Count Basie and Duke Ellington tunes and this led to The Keith Emerson Trio’s formation. He was later fired from the bank which allowed him to concentrate more fully on music.

Emerson then played in John Brown’s Bodies John Brown’s Bodies where members of the T-Bones, the backing band of blues singer Gary Farr, offered him a place in their group. After a UK and European tour, the band split, Emerson then joined the V.I.P’s,  who were a purist blues band, his great flamboyance was noticed at this point. Emerson then formed The Nice with fellow ex T-Bones member Lee Jackson, they replaced Ian Hague with Brian Davidson and started being noticed because of their blending and rearrangements of classical themes as symphonic rock, and also Emerson’s showmanship on his keyboards, mainly the Hammond Organ, which he mis-treated and abused by whipping it, riding it like a horse and tipping it over to create feedback and other sounds, he also used knives between the keys to create sustain.

Emerson first heard the moog synthesiser when a record shop owner played him Switched On Bach by Wendy Carlos. He got in touch with Mike Vickers of Manfred Mann who bought a moog over from America, with a view to Emerson using it for a concert with The Nice and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which saw Emerson perform Also Sprach  Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. The Nice were no strangers to controversy either, especially when they burned a US flag at a charity event at the Albert Hall whilst playing America/2nd Amendment.

When The Nice broke up in the band actually tried to recruit a new guitarist with Steve Howe trying out at audition but he ultimately decided not to join with band so they continued as a three piece. They recorded further albums ‘Five Bridges Suite’ and ‘Elegy’ before Emerson decided to end the band to pursue other projects. which included working with Rod Stewart and the Faces and sessions with Roy Harper. In 1970 Emerson formed what was his most famous group, Emerson, Lake and Palmer ,who had immediate success with their performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival in August 1970.,

Anyway enough historical background as most will know the ELP years, instead this review will concentrate on the more obscure, unreleased and rare elements of Emerson’s musical career. These include a piece written for former record company owner, and friend, Tony Stratton Smith for who a lament was recorded that appeared on the ‘Hammer and Tongs’ retrospective but which makes a welcome appearance on the disc ‘The Early Years / The Bands’, which includes The Nice and ELP. Indeed, throughout this twenty CD set there are some real obscurities sprinkled from the frankly odd gospel version of Jesus Loves Me from ‘Honky’ and A Whiter Shade Of Pale from the Boys Club project, with Glenn Hughes on vocals, in an early foretaste of what would become The Keith Emerson Band, who are represented here with ‘The Keith Emerson Band’ and the excellent ‘Live in Moscow’ albums.

Also found in this comprehensive set are the ‘Emerson Plays Emerson’ and ‘Off the Shelf’ albums, along with the soundtrack albums for ‘Best Revenge’, ‘Harmaeddon / Godzilla’, ‘Inferno’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Murderock’ and ‘Nighthawks’. There are also the hitherto unavailable ‘Live at BB Kings’ double CD, recorded in 2004, which also includes seven tracks by The Keith Emerson Trio which date from 1963 when Keith was just 19 and hadn’t turned professional yet. These tracks are far more straight jazz in sound, however these are really good and show a seldom heard side of Keith’s style.

We are also treated to the long deleted ‘Live from Manticore Hall’ CD with Greg Lake, which features several ELP revisitations and a great track called Moog Solo / Lucky Man in which both Greg and Keith talk about that moog solo and how Keith improvised on it. It is all rather glorious sounding overall and both Emerson and Lake introduce the tracks making it very interesting and informative and adds new textures to pieces you may already know and love. Through the intimacy of the show it is clear that both men thoroughly enjoy being together again in this rather unique setting. Thank heavens it was recorded for posterity.

This is a big set of albums and you need time, lots of it, to get the most out of this lovingly curated collection of music. But, if you dig deep, you will find some real gems that will captivate and entertain you. To be honest though, some of the soundtracks are a little underwhelming and aren’t really that good and, also, I find it strange that there is nothing from the Emerson Lake and Powell album, and I’m sure there are live recordings from that era. Nor is there anything from the ELP reunion years but these are minor quibbles in the overall picture of Keith Emerson’s life and times.

The booklet is good with good informative sleeve notes, credits and previously unseen photos from Keith’s own archives. This is presented in a 48 page hardback book. This is a great set, true nirvana for ELP or Emerson aficionados like me.

I was extremely sad when I heard of Keith’s death by suicide, brought on by his depression and alcoholism over fears of losing his abilities as a player, which, on the recorded evidence here, was mostly unfounded. The world lost a real innovator and classy musician whilst his family lost their father, partner, grandfather and far more, we lost his music whilst they lost the man.

There was a fantastic tribute concert a few years ago with many of the world’s famous keyboard players taking part to honour his memory. I actually interviewed Keith around the time of his ‘Three Fates’ album, which was remarkable for a fan boy such as I. Sadly that recording has been lost, although it was an honour for me to talk to the man whose music had been a soundtrack for many of my early years. I miss him still eight years on. This set seeks to showcase his amazing musical variety and skills in every part of his life so settle down for the long haul, you may be a while.

Released 13th October, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Keith Emerson: Variations, 20CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

Check out a re-working of the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song Lucky Man, performed by Aaron Emerson and friends:

Review – Glass Hammer – Arise

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Lewis Carrol, ‘Alices Adventures in Wonderland’.

In music, most albums contain individual stories, the songs, and then some albums have a thematic link: concept albums. So, when one of my favourite bands tells me they are releasing a space-based concept album, trust me, I am going to be hooked…

Legendary American proggers Glass Hammer return with deep space exploration concept album ‘Arise’, this new release follows the extraordinary journey of an android dispatched by overzealous scientists to uncover the galaxy’s hidden wonders. 

So let’s delve into this musical space adventure, the explanation can come later…

An incredible amalgamation of prog-rock, 70’s hard rock, psych rock, doom and even a definite 80’s vibe, ‘Arise’ will at times leave you slack jawed and open mouthed at its audacity and in-your-face brilliance and, while definitively a Glass Hammer album, there’s new found confidence in every note.

Android Research Initiative for Space Exploration

Statement From A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Harnessing the powers of celestial-rift anomaly MARS-WRM-001, android ARISE ventures to deep space, unraveling cosmic enigmas and pushing the boundaries of exploration. Our audacious pursuit of knowledge shall illuminate the universe, leaving an indelible mark on the annals of cosmic understanding.

Let the adventure begin with Launch of the Daedalus, an urgent instrumental full of anticipation as we await the launch of the exploratory craft with the android on board. If anyone remembers Boston’s ‘Third Stage’ then The Launch comes to mind, painting a picture in your mind of a spacecraft rising majestically into a bright blue sky.

“Here I go, riding on a flame
Through the sky
I’m burning brighter
Than the sun, and can anyone
see me now.”

Wolf 359 hoves into view like a cinematic epic, the marching music full of pomp and circumstance before we hear the dulcet tones of Hannah Pryor and what a voice she has, a perfect match for the dynamism and majesty of the all-powerful music. It perfectly sets us on the interstellar journey. There’s a thought provoking keyboard section before the vastness of space is invoked once more.

The vastness of deep space unfolds, a testament to the extraordinary capacities of human and android intellect.

Like a majestic slice of hard rock infused electronica, ARION (18 delphini b) fires a warning shot with Steve’s effects laden voice leading us into the track before Hannah takes over again. It’s a wonderful thrill ride of galactic proportions and the funky keyboards add a touch of 70’s cool to the song.

“Thank God I found it
The only place I’d ever want to be
Thank God, who made it
My shining castle by the sea.”

Steve then trades solos with Reece’s scintillating guitar as our android protagonist stands upon the shore of Mare Sirenum marvelling at the singular beauty of its waters. Contemplating the wonders he sees here has conjured within him a deep longing for something he cannot name or explain. we then cleverly segue into the delicate wonder of Mare Sirenum, a delightful instrumental that pings and chimes and reminds me of early Sci-fi classic films.

“There I stood in perfect silence all alone Circled round by memories of all I’d known Then you called out from the darkness
All that I could do
Was turn and run away from you.”

A harsh and intense instrumental section ushers in Lost, invoking some painful feelings and memories before Hannah’s beautiful vocals begin, full of pathos and warmth. It’s a song of two extremes and they work perfectly, the alien intro a harsh reality against the beautiful pathos of the elegant vocals. There’s some delightful keyboards and drumming before that slightly off-kilter, almost alien back drop returns and then plays a game of cat and mouse with Hannah’s ethereal voice, what a superb track.

Transmission from Android Research Unit ARISE:
Curious anomaly detected at WASP-12. An indescribable rift emerges within the celestial expanse, heralding the arrival of unknown entities from dimensions uncharted. Their enigmatic presence evokes an inexplicable disquietude within me—a sensation both unfamiliar and captivating. It seems my neurosynaptic network is experiencing a cascade of perplexing algorithms…
[Intermittent signal disruption encountered}

Oh my, what a brilliant, thunderous monumental slab of space rock, Rift at Wasp-12 arrives like a homage to those legends of psych, Hawkwind, I love the way that, despite the heaviness (and I love the heaviness!), the music is instantly accessible but I keep hearing more and more with every listen! Steve provides a suitable demonstrative vocal and bass line hewn out of granite and there’s a brilliantly savage guitar solo from Fred Schendel that all adds up to a track that’s cooler than James Dean!

“I don’t know what calls to me from the rising mist at twilight
I don’t know what’s standing there wrapped in the glow of moonlight
I don’t know what’s led me here, this place on the verge of nightmare And I don’t know what you’ve been told but you really don’t want to go there”

We then segue into the even heavier Proxima Centauri B and there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. It’s a monumental piece of music, a sinister widescreen 70’s Sci-Fi soundtrack of epic proportions Reese once again fires his guitar like lightning bolts and Hannah’s evil twin turns up for vocal duties, it’s so good and puts a huge grin on my face. There’s a definite 70’s sci-fi feel to me, those great shows like Space 1999 but with a deliciously dark edge to it.

Regrettably, we must report the cessation of ARISE’s operations at Proxima Centauri B. The android, presumed destroyed, encountered insurmountable challenges, rendering it non-functional. Despite the emergence of sporadic “ghost transmissions” purporting to originate from ARISE, we must regard them as spurious and disregard any claims made therein.

Sinister and ominous in feel, the title track Arise ascends with a measured pace, like a leviathan of the stars, it’s a proper slow building track where the tension can be felt on every note and every word. Steve’s bass is disquieting and mischievous and the drums (which Steve played as well) are filled with a portentous tone. Hannah’s vocals are, once again, superb but they are just one cog in an ever impressive musical wheel. Reese delivers a slow burning, extremely bluesy, guitar section which just adds to the suspense, what a fine piece of music.

Statement from A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Inexplicable sightings of the presumed-destroyed spacecraft DAEDALUS have emerged. False transmissions from an entity claiming to be android ARISE undermine our mission’s integrity. Urgent action is required to neutralize this deceptive presence upon its emergence through the Mars anomaly MARS-WRM-001.

This has been an excellent album and it ends on a suitably high note with The Return Of Daedelus, there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. Glass Hammer deliver music from a bygone era, digitally upgraded for the modern age. It’s like a mash up of 70’s rock and prog, the perfect union of early Rush and Deep Purple, like blues/Prog with an hard and improvisational edge.

Steve says, “It’s a huge guitar / bass jam and not something we usually do. I wanted to show Reese Boyd off. I usually end albums with a big triumphant victorious bit, but wanted something “catastrophic” for this one.”

He’s not wrong, it’s the long slow build that’s key and raises the tension and you end being completely blown away by the suave sophistication of the music and the incredible skill of the musicians. What a way to close out what has been a fantastic collection of songs, ones that combine together perfectly to deliver one of the best concept albums you’ll have heard in recent years.

There’s no weak link on this album, it just ebbs and flows beautifully, although the last three tracks go together so well. They’re possibly the best triumvirate of songs that the band have ever done back to back. With the Skallagrim series Glass Hammer proved themselves masters of the dynamic and grandiose and ‘Arise’ gives the impression that the creative skills of Steve Babb have gone into overdrive, is there a better storyteller in modern progressive music?

Released 27th October, 2023.

Order direct from the band here:

Glass Hammer official website

John Wenlock-Smith interviews Malcolm Galloway of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate

John Recently had a Q&A session with Malcolm Galloway of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate.

JWS: How did the band come about?

MG: At school I learned to play the tuba classically, and taught myself guitar and keyboard. Mark Gatland (bass guitarist) and I played music together at school. I was then distracted for a couple of decades by becoming a doctor, but continued to be passionate about music. After a positive reaction to my involvement in a hospital pantomime, I started playing my own songs at solo acoustic gigs, or with Kathryn Thomas on flute as an acoustic duo. I was also going to jam nights at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden, where I met guitarist Ibon Bilbao and drummer Rudy Burrell, both great musicians who helped encourage me to push my music forward. 

Mark came to see me playing a solo acoustic set in a pub and we decided to get back to making music together. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate evolved from being me on my own or with Kathryn, to a variable combination of myself and Mark with combinations of Ibon, Rudy and/or Kathryn. When Rudy moved out of London and couldn’t regularly play with us any more, Mark and I developed a very close way of working together that allows us to perform live with us pre-recording some parts, and playing guitar/bass/vocals (and sometimes keyboards) live as a duo

JWS: Why have you chosen the self release method of working?

MG: We like having the freedom to make whatever music we want, and to be able to design the whole package ourselves, so that hopefully the artwork and the music come together as a whole. I am extremely conflict averse, so not having to negotiate things with a label is helpful. I’m also not really sure what a label would add for us at the moment.

JWS: You also have a minimalist classical solo career as well, why is this?

MG: I’ve always had a parallel interest in contemporary classical and rock music. I was particularly influenced by the American composer Steve Reich’s music. Some of the music I want to write fits into a song structure, some fits as instrumental bits between the songs on a predominantly rock album. Other music I want to write just wouldn’t fit a HOGIA album. Often my classical pieces are long, and gradually explore evolving patterns generated by the interaction of simple motifs, with less of a melodic focus than the HOGIA songs.

JWS: How do you determine whether something should be for the group or yourself? Is there a criteria you utilise?

MG: I think the two sides of my music are coming closer together. In our new album (‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’) there is a track, Goodbye Cassini, which originally started as a classical minimalist piece, but then evolved into a flute-led instrumental. The Anxiety Machine is an instrumental divided into three sections, which also exists as a much longer continuous piece, which as a longer piece could be one of my classical pieces, or as a shorter version as a Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate instrumental. So far, anything I’ve done with vocals has been labelled as Hats Off… . Generally the solo pieces are likely to be longer, more gentle, less likely to have a song-like structure, and to be more classical and/or minimalist.

JWS: Have any of the songs ever crossed over?

MG: Mark, Kathryn and I did play a concert at the National Gallery where we played both some of the less angry-sounding HOGIA songs and my minimalist music and video art. 

Some of my classical/minimalist music has started to use drums, so there is some cross-over there.

JWS: I have listened with great interest to  both your own albums and the band efforts. There has been a great progression in the material, how do you choose where to focus your thoughts on, what inspires you musically these days?

MG: I generally have numerous tracks in the process of being written at any time, and usually some of the minimalist music at the same time as the band material. I like to be able to pause writing in one sound-world, and jump into another contrasting musical space. I can then come back to the first piece refreshed. My main limitations at the moment for writing are physical – I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes chronic pain and joint problems. My hands and wrists get swollen, which I find frustrating. For example today, I had music in my head I wanted to write down, but couldn’t do much composing due to my wrist.

JWS: You obviously have a love of science, science fiction and of literature as well, how does this influence the direction you take?

MG: I listen to a lot of audio-books, and often a situation, character or even a phrase just jump out as inspiring a piece of music, whether in terms of a narrative or a musical theme. In the last two HOGIA albums there have been several tracks directly inspired by books. I’ve got a folder on my phone of books that I want to go back to as song inspiration. I’ve enjoyed combining songs inspired by real world historical events and those inspired by related themes in fiction in the same album. I’m currently relistening to a biography of Werner Heisenberg as research for a possible song.

JWS: how do you temper your frustrations politically, do you use that as an impetus into your writing?

MG: I am hugely frustrated at what appears to be a rise in racism, homophobia, and other forms of the dehumanisation of others. Most people, if they met one-to-one would get on well, but there seems to be a drive to get groups of relatively powerless people to hate each other, to deflect attention from those who benefit from division. Sadly, I think we need to be constantly vigilant against the resurgence of hatred. This is a recurrent theme in my songwriting.

JWS: Which do you prefer – live shows or recording and why?

MG: I enjoy both. Live performing is very important for me – it brings me a great deal of joy. How we perform the same piece varies a lot between shows, depending on how we feel and the response of the audience. I really love live performance, with that sense of spontaneous communication. On the other hand, in a recording, we have the time and space to decide exactly how we want everything to sound, and shape it in detail. 

Bonus Question 

JWS: If you were to highlight three tracks to introduce someone to your music which would you choose and why?

MG: Refuge, Walking To Aldebaran and Century Rain

Century Rain

This is one of my favourite tracks from the ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ Album. I like the structure – it takes musical ideas and develops them in a fairly complex structure, while retaining a recurrent melodic chorus. Kathryn has some great flute parts on that one. When we play it live, it feels like we’ve been on a real journey by the end. I think the later chorus being faster than the earlier choruses helps give it that narrative direction.


This is an instrumental track that follows the true story of my great-grandmother’s escape from the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. Musically it brings together my rock and my classical side.

Walking To Aldebaran

This is probably my favourite track from our new album. It is more metal influenced than most of our music, although it jumps between metal, prog, classical, experimental and musical theatre-style sections. It is also quite playful. I’ve been enjoying playing this live. It was inspired by Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella of the same name.

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s new album ‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’ is out now and available to order from bandcamp here:

Interview with John Lodge – by John Wenlock-Smith

Picture by Frank Piercy

JWS: Hello John, it’s John from Progradar here.

JL: Hello John.

JWS: How are you?

JL: I’m fine thanks and you?

JWS: Yes I’m fine as well, let’s talk about your new album (‘Days of Future PassedMy Sojourn’). I’ve heard it and I think it’s great, a bold reimagining off a truly classic album, reworked for the modern times.

JL: Thank you very much, I tried to stay true to the emotion of ‘Days of Future Passed’ but with a twist for 2023. Hopefully people can relate to it, especially the younger fans. Hopefully they will wonder what the original version was like.

JWS: Well, I went back to the original and compared the two versions. I really enjoyed going back and hearing it again but I also liked the new version as well. I especially liked the way your bass was more prominent.

JL: When we made the original, we recorded it with two four-track machines. Now, of course, we have far more technology available to use so we were able to get the sound we’d originally envisaged for it. We were able to give the sound for the bass more room and, indeed, all the instruments were given more space, their own space.

JWS: Well I think it’s worked well, it’s a great idea. You’ve not just taken an album, you’ve not merely replicated it, you’ve reimagined it and made it sound more modern and contemporary.

JL: Well that was what I was hoping for, I’m glad you like it.

JWS: I also like that you have Jon Davison of Yes singing Tuesday Afternoon on the new version, I think he sounds really great.

JL: John is a good guy, a great singer writer and a great guy as well. I know him from 2017 and the Royal Affair tour I did with Yes and Asia where I joined them for an encore of John Lennon’s Imagine. Jon joined me for a version of Ride My See Saw, which Jon has done on several occasions very memorably.

JWS: I also liked that you managed to get Graeme Edge involved with his poetry,

JL: Yes I asked Graeme if he be willing to be involved and he said that he’d love to as he’d never read his own poetry before. So Graeme and I went into the studio in Florida where he recorded his poetry, sadly he passed the next week, so he never got to hear the finished recording. but at least I was with him near the end.

JWS: You were big friends with Ray Thomas as well?

JL: Yes I first met Ray when I was 15 and we’ve worked together ever since. I do a song in his memory in my show, Legend of a Mind, in his honour. He was a remarkable man really, I miss him dreadfully .

JWS: It’s good that you uphold their memory in such a manner.

JL: Well I want keep these songs alive otherwise they will fade away! They don’t get played much, unless it’s in a medley, and they deserve more than that really.

JWS: Well I have both of Ray’s albums, and both of Graeme’s, on my shelf. I was listening to some of your back catalogue recently, including a set on the ‘Timeless Flight’ boxset of the ‘Blue Jays’, live from Lancaster University. You had the Trapeze boys with you on that show.

JL: Yes, Dave Holland, Terry Rowley and Mel Galley, fabulous chaps one and all! I produced their ‘Medusa’ album, they were a great band.

JWS: Listening to your albums, as I have been doing over the past few days, has given me a fresh appreciation for just how ground-breaking you were as a band. The music on those first six albums was beautifully crafted, intelligent and well thought out. I think people simply failed to recognise that beauty.

JL: I’m glad you said that because I feel that way as well. People tend to overlook that, I don’t think the media ever gave us a fair chance really but we were pushing the boundaries of where music was.

JWS: I used to love the sleeve artwork as they told the story as well, with their imagery and artwork supporting the music in a complementary manner.

JL: Well that’s what I’m so glad that vinyl is making a comeback. This new album is being released on vinyl in November, I’ve just had the masters from Germany, and it sounds great.

JWS: I think kids today miss the sheer joy of trawling through crates of vinyl, discovering stuff for themselves.

JL: That’s the issue I have with streaming, they dictate what you hear so, say Lennon’s Imagine, you only get to hear certain songs and omit songs like Jealous Guy.

JWS: Well John, my time has gone so I’d better let you go, but thank you for talking with me about things, I really enjoyed it and appreciate your tim.

JL: Well, thank you as well John, I’ve enjoyed talking with you too.

‘Days of Future Passed – My Sojourn’ was released 22nd September, 2023.

Order the album here:

John Lodge – Days of Future Passed – My Sojourn (

Review – Built For The Future – 2084 Heretic

Built For The Future have been around since 2015, releasing two very well received, Sc-Fi themed, progressive albums, ‘Chasing Light’ (2015) and ‘Brave New World’ (2021). The albums are produced and performed by Patric Farrell, with vocals by Kenny Bissett.

Their new album, ‘2084: Heretic’, is a take on George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian future, as it parallels to our current times. 2084 is our future. As told through Orwell’s views and language. The album is said to be darker and heavier than anything the band have done before.

With Patric writing all of the music and Kenny providing vocals and melodies, the duo decided to return to the shorter song format and focusing on a more direct delivery and a heavier, alternative, sound.

What is immediately obvious is a very strong 90’s influence on the sound, Patric’s Fender Jazz bass really brings to mind that exciting Manchester vibe of the Happy Mondays and the like, add in Kenny’s Sci-fi intoned vocal delivery and the dominance of the Mellotron and you really get something unique and rather brilliant.

The urgent, driving nature of opener Memory Machines with Kenny’s at times strident and, at others, elegant guitar playing and the bang on tempo drumming and you could literally be in a world of machines. The bass and guitar riff at the start of The Thought Police has a real Inspiral Carpets note to it and the whole song has a cool, laid back vibe to it, I must admit I am really digging the drums on this album and the bass is ever so cool. Argot opens a little harder with an early Rush vibe to the riffing and some delicious, effects laden, guitar. Central to the concept of an Orwellian-like future that the band are trying to portray is Kenny’s unique vocal delivery. For some types of music, his voice wouldn’t really work but here he has found his home and that voice is perfect for the music.

The excellent songwriting continues with Proletariat, a dream like, thoughtful track that seems to mesmerise and mystify at the same time. Almost brooding in tone but with a chink of light just out of reach to signify hope, it’s a powerful piece of music. Supernatural has a edgy, risky feel to it from the get go, your joining something that doesn’t tow the line, you’re a rebel and you will fight for your freedom. Powerful guitars, moody keyboards and a dynamic rhythm section all combine on this musical thrill ride. That edgy feeling returns with Diaspora, a deliciously dark and heavy intro that brings to mind a dystopian underworld leads into Kenny’s powerful vocal and continues in the background. Then, from out of nowhere, comes a superb chorus that wouldn’t be amiss on a Tears For Fears album. It’s a track with a Jekyll and Hyde nature and one that makes an impressive statement.

Zeit sees Patric’s bass go all Peter Hook, it’s a modern day New Order song that just sounds so good. The way that Patric and Kenny get this brilliant sound with influences from all around and different decades is just incredible. The ebb and flow on this track lends it a feel of nostalgia and wistfulness and makes it one of the stand outs on the album. That nostalgia and longing continues into the mellotron heavy wonder of The Collective where Kenny’s voice is seeking solace and has a touch of remorse. A meaningful, profound song that leaves its mark. Title track Heretic is another driving piece of music that has the 90’s written all over it and I think it work so well with this concept, the guitar and bass are superb and exude energy and intensity. Things come to a close with the epic 101, based on Room 101 from the original Orwell novel. Ten minutes of profound wonder that hypnotises and draws you in to its embrace to leave a mantra running through your mind as the song comes to a close and the last note plays out. Like the best longer tracks, it always holds your attention. The lengthy, subdued and elegant, guitar section and the fractious, staccato piece play off each other perfectly to deliver a clever and inventive piece of music.

Built For The Future have returned with a highly accomplished piece of musical theatre, a concept album that promises a lot and delivers in every way. ‘2084: Heretic’ brings the band to another level entirely, their musicianship and songwriting is sublime and I am sure will just continue to get better and better. A highlight of the year for me!

Released 17th August, 2023

Buy from bandcamp here:

2084:Heretic | Built for the Future (