TESSERACT CONFIRMED AS SPECIAL GUESTS ON THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT UK TOUR IN MARCH 2017
TesseracT’s only UK club shows of 2017!
TesseracT has confirmed that they will be appearing as special guests on the Devin Townsend Project’s Transcendence 6 date UK tour in March 2017.
TesseracT guitarist James Monteith comments on the forthcoming live shows,
“We are beyond stoked to be touring with the Devin Townsend Project and playing such great venues around the UK next year. Not only are we all huge fans of the band (and our mutual agreement on music is a rare thing!), they also hold a very special place in our hearts, as they were the first band who ever took us on the road in the USA and Canada. They gave us a huge leg up in the touring game, were great mentors / advisers, all-round amazing dudes to hang out with, and they have remained our friends ever since. Not only will this be an honour on a musical level, it’ll be great to spend some time with them once again! Plus having Leprous on the bill is definitely the icing on the cake; they’re a phenomenal band and really help to make this bill special. Bring on 2017!”
These shows with DTP, TesseracT have confirmed will be their only UK club shows of 2017 as they work on their follow up album to 2015’s Polaris.
12th – Bristol, Colston Hall
13th – Manchester Academy
14th – Glasgow Barrowlands
16th – Birmingham O2 Institute
17th – London Hammersmith Eventim Apollo
18th – Nottingham Rock City
Tickets available now through https://myticket.co.uk/artists/devin-townsend
TesseracT will be keeping busy before the DTP tour, the autumn sees the band tour North America with Gojira and release a new 2 CD edition of ‘Polaris’ which includes a bonus disc entitled ‘Errai’ featuring four re-imagined tracks from Polaris by the band’s long time live producer and sound engineer Aidan O’Brien – “Survival”, “Cages”, “Tourniquet” and “Seven Names.”
Band image credit: Tom Barnes.
Review – Fractal Mirror – Slow Burn 1 – by James R. Turner
James R. Turner’s first review for Progradar!
It’s a strange half life you have as a reviewer, you’re at one step the conduit between the bands and the audience, hoping that what you write influences others to investigate some of the exciting new music out there, on the other hand you end up meeting musicians, talking to the bands and becoming friends with them either online or, even better in real life, and that friendship you build up, you have to be careful not to let it influence your writing or your relationship with the band, a balancing act that shouldn’t compromise your principles or your opinions.
Of course you get sent albums to review, and having a day job, or indeed the house move from hell (never move, or if you do move, never use the decorator we had), it sometimes takes longer to get round to writing the reviews than intended, that’s the trouble with life, it always gets in the way.
Making friends in the progressive genre is an easy thing to do, as it’s such a small scene, and for the most part a friendly and welcoming environment that you can go to gigs on your own and end up in a big group at the end, which is how coincidentally I met Leo Koperdraat, back at Eppyfest 2014.
That’s how Fractal Mirror, Leo, Ed Van Haagen and Frank Urbaniak, met, via a Facebook group, and from such an everyday occurrence, something magical was born.
‘Slow Burn 1’ is their third album following on from 2014’s astonishing ‘Garden of Ghosts’, which was one of my albums of the year, and see’s them consolidate their sound, an evolution rather than a revolution, after all if something ain’t broke, then don’t break it for the sake of it.
That is no criticism by the way, the band are in no way playing it safe, instead they are bolder with their sounds, and broader in their vision without compromising anything of their heart and soul that helped make ‘Garden of Ghosts’ such a great album.
Working again with Brett Kull, who produces and co-writes a few tracks on here, this is an exceptionally assured album, the Fractal Mirror sound is unique, a step away from what other artists are doing at the moment.
This means that you can tell who is playing the minute the album starts, and there are not that many artists who are instantly recognisable.
What’s also striking is the fact that each song title is just one word, which adds to the effect.
There is no sound and fury and bombast here, the sound is deceptively relaxed, and the album is as its title suggests a slow burner, one of those gems that works it’s way into your head subtly and each time you play it, you pick up more and more from each track, the beauty of the music being so subtle and almost chilled out, is that the lyrics then work their way into your consciousness.
Fractal Mirror have a clever way with lyrics, similar to how The Beautiful South used to work, by having beautiful music, with quite stark lyrics, the lyrics to Embers for instance are quite dark and haunting, belied by an amazing tune, in fact whilst there is light on this album, there is also a lot of dark, and understandably so, the times that we are currently living through are turbulent and unstable, and all the best art reflects the times we live in.
Tracks like Mist and v838 have an element of optimism about them, however the darkness of the lyrics on Enemies, Embers and Fading has it’s polar opposite in the final track, which I will come back to.
The music that Fractal Mirror make is superb, the synth and guitar work on Enemies for instance is striking and powerful, whilst the vocals of Leo are superb throughout, and the way the band work together in creating this music considering how spread apart they are is a testament to their vision and their friendship. Whilst some of the vocal harmonies are stunning and on Embers are very Beatlesque, particularly with the guitar work reminiscent of George Harrison.
Back to the closing track, never finish a set on a downer an old poetry tutor told me when structuring a reading, and I think this might be something Fractal Mirror have also learnt.
I don’t think I am overstating the importance of the message in Universal when I say it is all about the message of togetherness and how we could all be so much better together, the ambiguity of the closing suggests, like so many things that it could go one way or the other. With it’s musical refrain, and it’s almost pop sensibility it has some great hooks, wonderful keyboard sounds and great guitar work (with guest bass from Leopold Blue-Sky), I don’t like to overuse clichés, but I would say it is anthemic and one of those songs that can come to represent a time and a place, particularly with the haunting coda at the end.
However there is no ambiguity here, ‘Slow Burn 1′ is another fine piece of art from Fractal Mirror, musically and lyrically superb, and packaged beautifully with the work of Brian Watson, another friend of the bands who met in the Facebook melting pot. It’s so good to see bands taking as much care over their artwork as their music. I am from the era where how records look are s important as they sound, hands up how many of you out there have bought a record based purely on the sleeve? I know I have.
People criticise social media for keeping people apart, here we can see it has brought together like-minded creative individuals, all of who have something to add to the prog genre that we love.
Progressive, adjective, happening or developing gradually or in stages, favouring change or innovation, engaging or constituting forward motion.
I think looking at the true definitions of the word progressive, we can apply all those to ‘Slow Burn 1’ as it is an evolution of the Fractal Mirror sound, there is definite innovation in their work, and it’s another mighty step forward for them from ‘Garden of Ghosts’.
Released 23rd April 2016
Buy ‘Slow Burn 1’ direct from the band
James R. Turner
The best thing to come out of 1977 (the 2nd best being ‘Out of the Blue’ by ELO) I have been writing about prog since I joined the Classic Rock Society back in 1994, and have written for several online magazines, the BBC website as well as contributing two articles about Cult television to two anthologies.
I like cult TV specifically Doctor Who, and see where prog and Doctor Who meet in the music of the BBC Radiophonic workshop.
I live in Bristol with my other half, have a large collection of rubber ducks and more CDs/Books/DVDs than I have space to store them.
Review – Dream the Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky – by Gary Morley
Not the revival tent meetings slavishly recreating the sounds of a bygone age, but new, young bands pushing the envelope, bringing new influences to the table.
Elements of Indie, dub step and shoe gazing form part of the lexicon that Dream the Electric Sleep bring on their new album.
When I say “Indie”, it’s not the fey wimp with a guitar and a whisper type but the noise merchants of death approach taken by Ride, Spiritualized and those post rock bands that issue manifestos that take longer to decipher than their lyrics- Crippled Black Phoenix produce some fabulous music, but the band’s in fighting and fallouts make Fleetwood Mac’s antics seem tame. Justin Greaves has a chip on his shoulder about a lot of things, but his heart is in the right place and his stand on Animal Welfare is brave and noble one that as a Vegetarian for 30 years I am in sympathy with.
So where do Dream the Electric Sleep fall?
Well, for a start it’s a stupid name. How are you going to widen your fan base when you call yourself after a bad double translation of a Philip K Dick novel?
And, yes, Androids do dream of Electric sheep. Electric sheep jumping over little digital gates.
Philip K Dick is THE author to name drop in the US, his books are all films or TV series or both it seems, so the origin of the name is sound, but c’mon. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big welcome to the headline act, Dream the Electric Sleep” doesn’t roll of the tongue. Not without hallucinogenic intervention anyway.
But what do I know. I was in a band once, for a whole gig. We called ourselves “The Mighty Airbag Re-inflated”. We were legends in our own break time (not brave enough to claim a whole lunch hour of fame)
(Picture by Rob Dickes)
So what do they sound like?
Well, imagine Coldplay getting so agitated that they throw away the rulebook, turn the amplifiers up to 11 and let rip with their best Muse impression.
Or Spiritualized get sucked into a studio and end up with Jem Godfrey as producer.
Frost* are the nearest equivalent I can associate them with , but there are echoes of “Antimatter” nihilism there, a splatter of Snow Patrol anthemic pop, alongside the hints of a Coldplay type band under the guitars .
Another band that DTES linked to in my warped and twisted mind is (or was) Pure Reason Revolution. They share a common ancestral link back via shoe gazing bands that utilize layers and layers of echo and reverb to create cathedrals of sound that the vocalists then preach their sermons in.
The guitar sound folds over itself to create strata of harmonic distortion which drives the vocals on, not quite shouting, but not far off.
The ‘Sleepies’ are full of energy and write songs that may not be complex 40 minute epics with numerous time changes, chord structures that require an excess of digits to replicate but they are still “Prog” , but in a modern style, mixing disparate elements and forging their path .
The path travels through the shoe gazing fields, along the path of indie, bypasses the swamps of instrumental excess, skirting around the chasm of death metal whilst aiming straight on for the Harmony Mountains.
In conclusion, if you like the idea of music that refuses to sit in a box with a neat label on it, if you like contemporary production values were the sum is greater than the parts, then take a listen.
It’s prog, but not just prog. It’s firmly in the post rock camp, deserving of the full attention of your ears.
I could go on and name drop Ulver, Nordic Giants, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and No Sound.
In fact, Kscope would be the ideal home for these guys as they fit nicely into that whole post rock constituency.
Featured image by L.A. Watson.
Released 22nd July 2016
Buy ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ direct from the band
BE PROG, MY FRIEND! 2016 part 2 (t-shirt wars) – by Kevin Thompson
Day two arose to bright sunshine and we ate an ample breakfast in the hotel before a morning in the wonderful Museum of Art, with so many treasures to see. But enough of that, I am not here to talk about the wonderful historic sites in Barcelona, the colonnades lining the street to the museum, waterfalls and twin towers replicating the style of San Marco Campanile in Venice. Nor am I about to tell you of the excellent Spanish guitarist delighting a crowd in front of the museum, on his ‘silent guitar’. No, we shall leap forward to our much needed early afternoon siesta from which we woke abruptly, making haste to reach the Pobel Espanyol and the beckoning sounds of day 2, at Be Prog My Friend.
Unfortunately the second day started an hour earlier and we joined the queue of latecomers as we fed into the square just in time to catch the last three songs from the ravishing Anneke Van Giersbergen and The Gentle Storm. This lady’s voice as those who have heard her will know, is a tour de force and her powerful vocals tore through the tracks with gusto engaging with the slowly swelling crowd in some grand Prog Metal. Her energy was infectious and warmed the audience up nicely as did the mid afternoon sun and we watched from floor level partaking of much needed liquid refreshment.
Buoyant from the night before and with a rousing first act to start the day we were feeling rather pleasant and whilst we waited for the next band we wandered round and checked out the t-shirts. No contest as I have to say the lovely Sarah Ewing’s artwork conquered all comers. I thought I had done well in the t-shirt battle yesterday but Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ drew so many admiring glances it felt like being on a catwalk.
We briefly met the gang from yesterday for a chat, but they wanted to go down the front and we decided we would hang back and find a seat somewhere with a decent view, if we were lucky.
And so to the second band, whilst I had only heard a couple of tracks from Between the Buried and Me which sounded promising. They appeared to be attracting favourable attention from the media recently and I was looking forward to being impressed as they had travelled over from the US of A. I’m still waiting I’m afraid. The sound wasn’t brilliant, louder than clearer and Konnie and I agreed it was like listening to an extended promo reel, with clips from songs cobbled together.
Konnie said she was unable to decipher when one track ended and another began as it sounded so disjointed. Despite an enthusiastic following nearer the stage and you may read differently elsewhere, we didn’t seem to be the only ones and for me the guttural vocals only added to my disappointment, sorry guys I’m sure there are many disagree with us including those at the front, but here’s a photo.
I was a child of the 70’s it was the blossoming of my teenage musical years and the awakening of my eyes and ears to Prog. Now I’m sure many will agree, some records are timeless and transgress all era’s without ageing badly and some you raved about then, you find hard to reconcile why in the present day. I would not have bought the next band’s albums then and wouldn’t now as I will happily tell you, ‘it’s not my sort of thing’. So on an increasingly hot and sunny, Spanish afternoon surrounded by a sizeable crowd of MAGMA t-shirts, what happened?
Like a rabbit in headlights or with myxomatosis, I stood rooted to the spot as MAGMA took the stage. They seemed quite the perfectionists and had taken some time to set up which may have explained why they couldn’t play as long as they wished, but as they strode on to the stage and the music and chanting of the first song began I was transported to Summerisle. I was transfixed as if drugged and the tune grew like some creeping, Dario Argento film soundtrack as it swelled most disturbingly. I forced myself to look away from the stage and those around me seemed entranced and swayed to the the throbbing rhythms. I’m glad there was still daylight to bring me comfort.
As the music continued the young man in his twenties standing in front of us took up the song. A cherub faced middle aged man, with rosy cheeks and glasses, clad in walking gear with a backpack, wandered through the ranks of the audience singing the lyrics in a deep resonating tone, an angelic smile spread across his face, arms wide in subjugation. Had I stepped into a pagan festival? Konnie stood on my left enraptured and I glanced to my right and the terrace above. A boy of no more than twelve stood in front of his father, chanting in the knowledge of every word, his small hands air drumming without missing a beat.
And then they finished , disgruntled they could not extend their set, with a shorter tune (over 10 minutes) and the veil lifted from everyone’s eyes. Konnie talked enthusiastically and I tried to figure out what had just happened. Would I buy the music, no. Would I travel and pay to watch them, I don’t think so. Would I be able to resist the lure of their unique performance if they were on a festival bill again, probably not and they have a new disciple in Konnie. Strangely watchable, if you have never seen them and happen upon them, watch, you may be enchanted but rest in the knowing you don’t have to weave flowers in your hair and there are no human sacrifices required during the performance.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the transitions between bands was not as smooth as the previous day. Whether the crew were different or more likely the bands on the second day were more demanding, either way the wheels were not as well oiled. This gave us more time for food and liquid sustenance and to soak up the atmosphere. A couple of large tattooed Scandinavian bikers asked we take their photos and they kindly reciprocated snapping the ‘Grimspound’ shots of Konnie and I. They also gave some of their stone step space so we could sit for a while which was most welcome until we found seating a little further back with a better view.
It was time for the main acts of the day, first came Opeth. I am a late convert and up until now only have ‘Pale Communion’ and still feel some of their older material may not be to my liking. But I have since ordered a couple of older CD’s to try and Lamentations DVD on the strength of their performance and what a show. The sun descended as the atmosphere grew, Michael Akerfeldt and the band striding the stage as giants of the prog metal genre, rousing the crowd who need little encouragement. With acknowledgement to the long faithful that the newer material has not always received favour, they pulled old favourites from their earlier albums to rapturous applause and drove them like giant machines crushing any doubters under the sound, loud and clear with the lighting matching the moods. It is well known Michael and Steven Wilson have become firm friends and you can catch elements of influence in the work, enhancing the massive production here.
Revelation of the day was Konnie’s response, she has never taken interest in Opeth before and had neglected to listen on the occasions I have played ‘Pale Communion’, fearing they weren’t to her liking. By the end of the first song she was hooked, loving every minute, extolling the virtues of their live performance and on completion she was grinning like a kid at Christmas. Had they been the only head-liner, the day would have finished on a tremendous high. As it was, we were to be spoiled further…..
We knew what to expect from Steven Wilson as we have seen him on his last three tours, but this did not lessen our excitement, merely settled us in the privy we bestowed upon our Spanish friends, eager to watch a man who verges on deity status in the genre and learn all they can about him. Mr Wilson has developed and perfected his style with such precision he holds all in his sway and has carefully honed his stage craft since we first saw him. Again I feel his friendship with Michael has influenced and benefited him especially in performing as he seems more at ease talking to and joking (yes, joking), with the crowd. His live sets are always louder these days, the tracks played are heavier and rockier than the album versions. We always pack our ear defenders, but that could be our age, yet he balances the delicate, ‘Lazarus/Routine’ finely, gently sprinkled like fairy dust on the sounds emanating from his current band.
All masters in their own fields, with none finer on the drums than Craig Blundell, as readily recognised by the work he has done as an international clinician for Paiste, Premier, and Roland, Adam Holzman is a rare keyboardist, having moved from the jazz fusion field to his current position in the band, he consistently earns critical acclaim as one of the most daring and best contemporary keyboardists alive.
No one could have predicted back in the Kajagoogoo days that Nick Beggs would go on to be such a luminary in Bass guitar and Chapman Stick, his mighty presence up front ably bookending Steve with current guitarist Dave Kilminster. Having spent the last few years as principal guitar player in the Roger Waters band, Dave brings his own, skillful style to the well renowned tracks and my only regret is that they didn’t play Drive Home, as I would like to have heard his take on the beautiful guitar solo.
It’s a commanding show and a fitting end to a wonderful couple of days though the fuzzier lighting employed for the majority of the set prevented my getting many photos.
But not quite an end: it was by now 02:00, weariness took hold and with an early start the next morning we elected to leave with the majority and head for our hotel. Which leaves me to apologise to metalcore band Textures, who bravely came on after we left and played to a greatly reduced crowd, so I cannot comment on their performance.
It only remains to say ‘Gracias’ to the organisers of BPMF, everyone who helped make it possible the bands themselves and the Spanish people we met along the way. Watch for next year’s line up, take the leap, make the trip and revel in what Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.
Adios, hasta pronto………
Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months
(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.
I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.
Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.
Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form. I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens. I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.
This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.
Preacher – Aftermath
Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre. It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.
Stand out Tracks
War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.
Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum
I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music. I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard. They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.
Standout Tracks Intruder and Desolation– Retribution.
Jump – Over The Top
I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation. I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.
Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.
Kiama – Sign of IV
Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.
This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway. It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium. Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …
Stand Out Tracks Muzzled and Slip away.
Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)
Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase
This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…
This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling to their own fine emotional musical palette…
This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.
Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays
A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:
‘Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’
Nine Stones Close – Leaves
A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:
‘Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’
Big Big Train – Folklore
A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.
Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)
Hawkwind – The Machine Stops
Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.
Preacher – Aftermath
Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…
I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time
Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.
Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable
‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.
I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.
The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.
Steven Wilson – 4 1/2
“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.
Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)
Messenger – Threnodies
It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go. A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them. The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight. Favorite tracks: Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres.
Haken – Affinity
Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity. An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016. It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it. Favorite tracks: The Architect, Red Giant
Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre
Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself. A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances. Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music. Favorite tracks: The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.
Big Big Train Folklore
Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians. I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version. Favorite tracks: Salisbury Giant, London Plane
Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden
A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew. And it’s fun! Favorite tracks: I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.
Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)
Bent Knee – Say So
An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.
David Bowie – Blackstar
Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.
Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden
A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.
Body English – Stories of Earth
Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.
King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015
Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!
Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)
Big Big Train – Folklore
Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…
Long Distance Calling – Trips
There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..
Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable
A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!
Iamthemorning – Lighthouse
A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.
Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides
Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.
David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)
Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules
There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….
Bent Knee – Say So
My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!
The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park
Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!
Frost* – Falling Satellites
A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?
John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)
Big Big train – Folklore
Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.
Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge
This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.
Southern Empire – Southern Empire
One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.
Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden
Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.
Mothertongue – Unsongs
The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.
And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!
Mothertongue – Unsongs
With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!
Big Big Train – Folklore
The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life.
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.
Iamthemorning – Lighthouse
‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!
Tilt – Hinterland
A superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….
So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!
Review – Fates Warning – Theories of Flight – by Shawn Dudley
In many art forms maturity is a beneficial element to achieve; inspiration tempered by experience, knowledge and the passage of time. In rock music it’s often viewed as a detriment and this is even more pronounced in heavy metal circles.
Look up comments on any heavy metal band that has been out for 25 years or longer and you’re invariably going to find a contingent of very vocal fans screaming for the past to return. In many cases it is a valid response. Many bands lose the initial spark that attracted their audiences in the first place. Most commonly they fall into one of several traps; retreading their steps, chasing trends they are ill-suited for, watering themselves down till they are unrecognizable, or possibly they just lose their inspiration and spend the twilight years of their careers on auto-pilot. This is not always the case however, there are rare exceptions, bands that use maturity in their favor and continue to develop, refine and enhance their sound. Happily, Fates Warning is one of them.
‘Theories of Flight’ is the 12th album in Fates Warning’s 32-year professional career and they’ve come a long way from their original NWOBHM-inspired roots. Guitarist Jim Matheos has been the primary writer since their inception and has directed them through a variety of stylistic and lineup changes over the years. Vocalist Ray Alder joined in 1988 for the transitional album ‘No Exit’, the bridge between the more metallic earlier albums and the more melodic, progressive direction they would follow afterward. The top-notch rhythm section consists of bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saint), who has worked with the band since 1997 and journeyman drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Riot, Iced Earth).
Long-time second guitarist Frank Aresti also makes a guest appearance providing inspired solos on the songs From The Rooftops and White Flag. Together they’ve crafted one of the most impressive albums of their career, which is something I rarely find myself saying about bands that have been around for several decades. After their inspired return with 2013’s ‘Darkness In A Different Light’ (which followed a 9-year hiatus from recording), the expectations were high and they’ve surpassed them.
‘Theories of Flight’ is one of the most deftly balanced mainstream Prog Metal albums I’ve heard in many a moon. The songs are impressively technical arrangements without ever devolving into fireworks displays of dexterity. They have the prerequisite metallic crunch but it doesn’t overpower the melodic drive at the core or fall back on overused clichés. And the songwriting is passionate without ever becoming maudlin. This is a deceptively difficult achievement, as evidenced by the many examples I hear on a yearly basis of bands not getting it right. Again, maturity comes to the fore.
‘Theories of Flight’ goes down smoothly. The pacing and flow are perfectly sequenced to give that “album” experience, one where the sum total is greater than the individual elements. It’s a fine collection of songs and even though it’s not technically a concept album there are some unifying themes that reoccur throughout. It’s also one of their best-sounding albums from a production standpoint; Jens Bogren (Haken, Opeth) did the excellent, finely detailed mix, which really envelops the listener and enhances the dynamic power of the arrangements. I believe it’s the type of album that could easily appeal to listeners outside the usual progressive metal circles, it’s accessibility and focus on melody should entice the fans of groups like Mystery or Porcupine Tree.
Their older fans should be pleased as well because they don’t skimp on the heavier elements. Tracks like the aggressive opener From The Rooftops, Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen and the driving, anthemic White Flag display an intensity rarely seen since their 80s era. The song Seven Stars also harkens back to the mid-period Parallels era.
I also have to tip my hat to vocalist Ray Alder at this point. His performance is the glue that binds this entire album together. When he first joined the band back in the 80s he had a tendency to push into the higher registers quite frequently (it goes with the metal territory) but over the years he’s mellowed his approach and now uses his considerable skill much more effectively. He is most impressively featured on the two epic tracks that are the real emotional center of the album; The Light And Shade of Things and the evocative The Ghosts of Home.
Fates Warning has been playing progressive metal since before the term existed. They have remained true to themselves and their fans throughout all the trends and upheaval in the music industry for the past 30 years. They have earned our respect. They have also continued to evolve and I believe are deserving of an even wider audience, they’ve delivered an excellent work in ‘Theories of Flight’, now all you have to do is listen.
Released 1st July 2016
Order direct from the band at the link below:
Review – Steve Thorne – Island Of The Imbeciles – by Emma Roebuck
Steve Thorne’s 5th solo album ‘The Island of Imbeciles’ is rumoured to be his last solo project. Hopefully this is not true as he continues to write tight, prescient songs with a great ear and eye for the moment. There is still a timeless element to the music but the timeliness of the subject matter places it very much in the now.
Who has he got guesting on this one? none other than Tony Levin, Nick D’Virgilo and James McLaren, with spots from his old chums in Jadis and even Robin ‘Cosmograf’ Armstrong but, according to his interview recently in Prog mag, instrument-wise, he pretty much plays the majority of the stuff on the Album himself.
I often talk about the craft of writing music and songs and Steve has brilliantly crafted the whole album, 50 minutes of music that flies past in way too quick a time for my liking. I wanted more much more music, in a really good way. All the songs are very easy on the ear, full of melody, variation and different themes.
The musical ability shines through but does not swamp the album. Guitar and keyboard breaks blend section to section, fitting beautifully into the song. A fine example is Don’t Fear Tomorrow, a message to the anxious and the worriers of this world, or someone carving out their life after tragedy.
The title track, Island of Imbeciles, is an overtly vicious attack on corruption and current state of politics, it is keyboard driven and lyrically potent, delivering a message of cynicism and disgust.
My personal favourite, They are Flesh, is a direct attack on the privileged class and their ‘so called right’ to such privilege. It’s pretty much an acoustic number in an almost old-school ‘protest folk style’ but with much more sophistication.
The 10 tracks on this album cover such a wide range of topics, from loss of love (and the terror to commit to someone again) to big political stuff about the planets resources and man’s general inhumanity to man.
He draws from all sorts of areas musically but it is still a coherent album that connects from beginning to end.
I look forward to the ‘Salamander Project’ which appears to be his new project with the likes of John Beck, Steve can draw talent to his projects but that embellishes what he does and it’s not a place he hides behind.
As ever I will make recommendations for those who know nothing of his music or his pedigree.
I hear a direct connection with the Likes of Steven Wilson (particularly Blackfield), Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden), Divine Comedy, Big Big Train and oldsters like Pink Floyd. If you are a fan of the song and lyrically interesting melodic music go for it.
Released 1st April 2016
Order ‘Island Of The Imbeciles’ from White Knight Records
Syndone announce new concept album – ‘Eros & Thanatos’ – featuring Ray Thomas and Steve Hackett
The tireless rock band from Turin have announced a new concept album dedicated to the ‘Song of Songs’, with two great special guests: Steve Hackett and Ray Thomas!
Eros & Thanatos: the “movierock” of Syndone!
“We make a very expressive and quite symphonic music, so that one day I began to define it movierock! “Sometimes it is really comparable with the “film scoring” composition’s style and founds itself on the idea of the concept album not on a more segmented speech of unrelated songs.”
Nik Comoglio is ready for a new season with Syndone and with the highly anticipated new album ‘Eros & Thanatos’, released by Altrock/Fading only two years after the excellent ‘Odysséas’.
Thanks to the success of 2014’s ‘Odysséas’, Syndone strengthened their six-piece line up with a string of well received live performances, combining the rhythmic power, the charisma and the energy of rock with the dynamism, the charm and nobility of classical music.
This time lead singer Riccardo Ruggeri has attemped a re-envisioning of the Song of Songs:
“The human being’s journey through its tensions, passions and emotions is something deeply fascinating to me. When these elements join with Science, Research, the Ethnomusicology, the history of raped territories devasted by religious wars, the cocktail becomes lethal… and hit me. I’ve read the “Song of the Song” for a year collecting materials and information taken from internet and libraries; I forfeited images, absorbed the point of view of Guido Ceronetti, lived my personal life experiences in the meantime… then I let this bag explode on Nik’s music. it was exciting, and it’s still a thrill for me to hear it.”
Skilled in uniting the stylistic continuity with the refinement and the addition of new elements, Eros & Thanatos has something more, as pointed Comoglio:
“The most important difference from Odysseas is now finally you can hear a real band. Thanks to the several gigs we played the line-up has now become so established to give an added value of unity and style to the new work, being more cohesive. Then the string orchestra, which opened a new, more powerful and interesting sound, the Arabic and Hebrew sung, which emphasizes the derivation from the ‘Song of Songs’.”
Ray Thomas: flute in L’urlo nelle ossa
Steve Hackett: electric guitar in Cielo di fuoco
Tony De Gruttola: acoustic guitars
Pino Russo: classic guitar/oud
Puntorec String Orchestra
Conductor: Fabio Gurian
Review – Alex Carpani – So Close. So Far. – by Shawn Dudley
Alex Carpani – So Close, So Far
“Incommunicability increases distances between people, self-alienation increases the isolation of an individual from the rest of the world and technology can enable dramatic consequences to happen. However human beings have the power to avoid all these things by listening to their heart and living their real lives first. “
The above paragraph lays out the thematic concept at the heart of ‘So Close. So Far.’, the fourth album from Italian progressive rock artist Alex Carpani. It’s a topic that seems to inspire a lot of musicians in our social media-fueled world of the 21st century. A world more connected then ever (So Close), but really a facade, an illusion flickering from millions of handheld devices (So Far). But unlike many albums that broach this topic, the mood flowing throughout these catchy, melodic songs is one of hope.
‘So Close. So Far.’ is a significant departure from the previous album ‘4 Destinies’. Whereas that album was comprised of four epic-length compositions, this time out the focus has been tightened into brief (by progressive rock standards anyway) melodic rockers that should appeal to fans of IQ and mid-period Porcupine Tree.
The album is beautifully produced by Alex Carpani with the mix by Marco Barusso, dynamic and spacious and a real treat for the ears in a time when far too many albums are compressed and abrasively harsh. The performances are uniformly excellent; Alex Carpani (keyboards, programming and vocals), Ettore Salati (guitar), Joe Sal (vocals & additional guitar), Giambattista Giorgi (bass) and Martin Malacrida (drums). The arrangements are tasteful, tightly reined in and tailored to highlight the consistently accessible songs.
The album is overflowing with earworms and several tracks would make excellent singles. Man On Wire gets stuck in my head for hours, it’s a simple driving 4/4 with a killer chorus hook that just latches on and won’t let go. Let My Drop Of Sweat Fall Down is a gorgeous pop song with a huge, lush chorus and Crystal Falls is a Neo-Prog gem that would actually work quite well on a dance floor. The whole album flows together beautifully; it’s a concise 51 minutes that just breezes by.
My favorite song is Stay With Me which has an extended instrumental section in the middle (despite still clocking in at only 4 minutes) that really shows off Carpani’s tasteful layering of disparate keyboard sounds, it’s a lovely combination of synth, organ and piano.
Overall this is a fairly straight-ahead melodic rock album, the ties to “Prog” are more textural, more about the sophistication of the arrangements and quality of musicianship. Personally, I usually tend to lean more toward the experimental, bands that stretch out and improvise. But ‘So Close. So Far.’ is so lovingly conceived, so well written and arranged that it’s a most pleasant exception.
Released 4th March 2016
Buy So Close. So Far. from Amazon