Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess launches new single ‘Embers’ 

Legendary Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess recently announced his signing to InsideOutMusic for a brand-new solo album to be released later in 2024, and now he is pleased to launch the first single from that album, titled ‘Embers’. Previously available as part of an exciting collaboration between Rudess and Moises AI, fans can now hear the track on all streaming services here:

Jordan Rudess – Embers – Single (lnk.to)

The track features Jordan alongside renowned drummer Darby Todd (Devin Townsend, The Darkness) & vocalist That Joe Payne, as well as a guest guitar solo by Bastian Martinez. 

He comments of the track: “EMBERS, the starting spark of my upcoming album, sets the tone for my latest solo musical journey. Originally created for Moises’ innovative platform, this track captures a mellower vibe, different from the rest of the album’s progressive tunes. For those prog heads out there, never fear, this album runs the gamut of my musical expression and you will get your polymeters and Snarling Pigs. The inspiration for creating this track coincided with a project I was asked to do for the app, Moises, a technology that can turn standard audio files into separate tracks while also showing chords, lyrics and more. I hope you enjoy listening to Embers and, if you are inspired to add your own musical collaboration on this tune, check it out on Moises.” 

Jordan adds on the forthcoming album: “I knew I was going to have some time off after the last Dream Theater tour ended. Enough time to, hopefully, complete a new solo album. I wanted this album to push me to evolve a new compositional perspective. So, this album is my inaugural voyage into crafting a solo album with a dedicated vocalist in mind. Joe Payne’s vocals inspired me from the first time I heard him and drummer, Darby Todd, has infused each track with his distinctive style.  I’m also stepping into uncharted instrumental territory, playing guitar on a few tracks. Another first, my daughter, Ariana, has penned all the lyrics for this album. We’ve worked closely together, ensuring that each lyric weaves a story and allows Joe’s beautiful voice to soar. Proud Dad here. All around this album is a testament to collaboration and personal growth.” 

Jordan recently made his live debut with Darby Todd & That Joe Payne, with two rapturously received sets on the 2024 edition of Cruise To The Edge, also marking the live premiere of the new single ‘Embers’. 

More information on Jordan Rudess:

Renowned as the “Best Keyboardist of All Time” by Music Radar Magazine, Jordan Rudess stands out as the extraordinary keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist for the platinum-selling, Grammy Award-winning progressive rock band, Dream Theater. Embarking on his musical journey as a classical prodigy, Jordan initiated his studies at the illustrious Juilliard School of Music at the age of 9, laying the foundation for a career marked by a distinctive fusion of classical and rock influences. 

Beyond his role in Dream Theater and the power group, Liquid Tension Experiment, Jordan’s musical prowess has resonated across a diverse spectrum of collaborations. From Deep Purple and David Bowie to Steven Wilson and Jan Hammer, he has left an indelible mark on the industry. Notable projects such as LMR (his side venture with Tony Levin and Marco Minneman), Steven Wilson’s Blackfield, guest appearances with Deep Purple and the Dixie Dregs and collaborations with artists like Enrique Iglesias, the Paul Winter Consort, Annie Haslam, and many others, underscore the breadth of his musical reach. 

Venturing into the realm of cutting-edge technology, Jordan has emerged as a pioneer with a focus on state-of-the-art keyboard controllers and music apps. As the owner of the highly successful iOS app development company, Wizdom Music, he has spearheaded the creation of award-winning apps, including GeoShred, MorphWiz, SampleWiz, Vythm, Polywave, Jam with Jordan and SampleWiz 2. GeoShred, Wizdom Music’s latest triumph, was a collaborative effort with moForte, founding members of Stanford University’s Sondius team. Rudess is currently working on an AI interactive project as Visiting Artist at MIT’s Media Lab in the Responsive Environments group. 

Review – David Jackson and René van Commenée – Keep Your Lane

‘Keep Your Lane’ is an intriguing collaboration between David Jackson and René van Commenée. The two artists have known each other for many years, often collaborating on gigs. That friendship and their live performances led to the release of a live CD – Batteries Included in 2003. Jackson also worked with René’s project ‘Mr Averell’. This new recording is the duo’s first studio album that began during the covid lockdown. In the course of reviewing some previously laid down musical pieces David Jackson began re-working arrangements and orchestration – developing new ideas.

When he shared some tracks with René the project brought together two formidable virtuosos. Commenée began adding new production ideas and new parts from his astonishing collection of instruments. That collaboration blends their individual talents into a soundscape of overlaying styles and tempos capturing jazz vibes rock and folk.

Together the duo has created a suite of complex arrangements and multi-tracking with Jackson’s trademark sax and flute interspersed with van Commenée’s percussion. It is a wonderfully diverse collection of tunes that definitely fall into the eclectic and esoteric end of progressive rock and jazz fusion. Take opener Eternal Caravans with it’s pulsating percussion and edgy spiralling brass that gives a North African feel to the music, it is at once gripping but also asks questions of the listener as it builds into a crescendo. Garden Shed continues to pique your interest with its clever, upbeat, jerky delivery, like a brass band jamming with a local jazz collective, it sounds like it shouldn’t work but it really does. I am a big fan of Bird’s Lament with it’s marching band ethos reworked into something dynamic, fluid and thoroughly entertaining and the moody, atmospheric majesty of single release Gateway.

Waving At Strangers continues this diverse musical journey with a sophisticated and refined air, Jackson’s charismatic and compelling sax a laser sharp focus. The intelligent and influential songwriting continues with the intense and cinematic Gridlockdown, a track that could be the soundtrack to a grittier version of Hawaii-5-O and the wonderful medieval pageantry of Hills of The North, another highly satisfying piece of music full of pomp and circumstance. To me, Get A Grip! is a marvellous homage to the crime noir movies of the 50’s, or at least it should be. A true modern classic of dark, edgy jazz fusion with a pronounced air of superiority and a very clever piece of music indeed! Koozokudooro is as quirky a track as its title would suggest, just under two minutes of intrigue and chicanery that puts a smile on my face.

A lively and esoteric jolt of wild escapism mixing time signatures, keys, distorted sounds and voice, Pinball Potter dances suggestively across your synapses and JackLanzCom Haiku sees Jackson’s skittish flute play counterpoint to the moody sax and van Commenée’s strident percussion to deliver a mildly violent musical slap in the face. The new instrumental recreation and orchestration of Pioneers over c, the Van der Graaf Generator (VdGG) classic track from the 1970’s album ‘H to He Who Am The Only One‘. Now titled Pioneers over c, 2023’ is a homage to that elusive track that has only ever been played live once. It features the virtuoso Colin Edwin on bass (Porcupine Tree). Coming in at over ten minutes long, it is a wonderfully evocative piece of music that invokes the heyday of experimental progressive rock in the 1970’s, just lose yourself in the moment and enjoy the awe-inspiring musical tapestry that is laid out in front of you. The album closes with Felona, an impish, wistful piece of music drawn from the ideas that Jackson, with Peter Hammill prepared for VdGG’s Italian friends Le Orme for their 1973 English version of Felona e Sorona, Jackson’s sessions were timed-out, but they were not forgotten and have been reworked especially for this album.

If you’re a fan of intricate music full of expression and inventiveness that showcases the best of jazz fusion and epic progressive rock then go no further, your search is over. A more eclectic album you will be lucky to find this year and I really enjoyed it.

Released 2nd February, 2024.

Links to order CD and download here:

Keep your Lane | David Jackson (jaxontonewall.com)

Review Catalyst*R – Pace of Change – by John Wenlock-Smith

This review is for the recently released second album from Catlyst*R entitled ‘Pace of Change’. On this release we see a continued progression in their sound and ethos, with a good mixture of song lengths (three epic and four shorter tracks) which, all taken together, form an impressive sophomore release. The album is not afraid to experiment with sounds and textures ranging from gentle acoustic segments through to some hard hitting Porcupine Tree like sounds.

The album opens in style with the lengthy title track, Pace Of Change. This song offers a strong mix of almost ethereal sounds along with some very solid crunchy sections. It opens with a repeated piano note and motif, some chugging bass runs and excellent sound effects before a brutally punishing riff is unveiled. There’s strong vocals from Damien Child and great support from Gary Jeavon, who plays guitar and bass amongst other things admirably throughout, with Greg Pringle keeping everything held together with his excellent and subtle drumming and percussion. This piece is really musically strong and very powerfully delivered. Even so, it is not without its elements of light and shade, delicacy and domineering power in parts. It really is very impressive stuff and serves both as an excellent opener and a clear statement of intent to bring something new and fresh to the progressive genre. I feel they succeed here in some style, I detect elements of Marillion, Porcupine Tree and, vocally, Saga’s Michael Sadler in the mix here. As the opener is somewhat Blistering in places, unsurprisingly, they elected for a far gentler second song in Dust Within The Seams. The track is bolstered by a very busy bass part that underpins everything, along with more Saga-ish vocals and an excellent fluid guitar solo from Gary that certainly impresses. Again, the trio are making a great sound and, indeed, a fine album here, certainly something a little less expected or ordinary is on offer here. I really like this song it has agility and excellent dynamics and is a delight to hear.

Ghosts On The Radio is another strong and interesting track with a good guitar line and strong synths floating over the vocals in a most impressive manner. Homesick is the second longer track and this one has excellent keyboards along with a strong vocal and very melodic touches. It is a really good track, very good musically with especially impressive sturdy bass lines. I really like this song a lot, it’s the best so far in my opinion, especially the stunning guitar solo at the close! Unbroken is another very powerful track with a harder edge to the sound and has an excellent crunchy guitar tone in parts. This shorter piece is full of strong dynamics and melody, tempered with some powerful riffing and exciting solo parts, again, it is really impressive stuff.

Pendle Hill 1612 is the albums real epic track and tells the tale of the Lancastrian witch trials at Pendle Hill in 1612. This is a moody and slowly brooding song with strong instrumental work adding to the atmosphere. Excellent use of sound effects and timbres convey a air of malevolent darkness and add greatly to this most atmospheric track. The track doesn’t waste a second as it builds powerful to an emotional guitar solo, overall, a most well delivered and boldly imagined track and very satisfying indeed. We’ll Say Goodbye In The Rain concludes the album and, in this song, you can clearly hear the influences that years of musical theatre have impacted on Damien, not just vocally but in the sense of dynamics unveiled in this most emotionally laden song that would not be out of place in the West End Stage.

This is an album that really deserves a wider audience and fans of This Winter Machine and Ghost Of The Machine especially will find much familiar ground here as they explore a similar musical terrain. Either way, this is a very strong modern progressive rock album and certainly bodes well for more future activities in whatever form that may take. Definitely a contender for my album of the year list vote December 2024.

Released 1st March, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Pace Of Change | Catalyst*R (bandcamp.com)

RIVERSIDE – Announce UK/Ireland Tour

Support from Klone (Unplugged) / Launch “Making of ID.Entity” documentary online

Poland’s pioneering and leading Progressive Rock band RIVERSIDE are pleased to announce a UK/Ireland tour in support of their latest studio album “ID.Entity”, released last year via InsideOutMusic.

RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda checked in with the following comment:

“We’re coming back! We remember the fantastic shows in the UK and Ireland in the spring of 2023. Because we haven’t visited the Islands too often since the ‘Wasteland’ tour, we will return with our biggest UK/Ireland tour to date. We’d be very happy to meet you all (again). So before we close the chapter on ‘ID.Entity’ and take a break, come join us!”

 RIVERSIDE’s UK/Ireland tour will feature Klone as special guests with a special “unplugged” set. Klone’s Guillaume Bernard adds:

We are really happy to share the stage with Riverside on this UK/Ireland tour. We are very excited to play in great venues, like the amazing KOKO in London, where we played 12 years ago with Gojira.  This time we will play ‘unplugged’ versions of our songs, but be sure that it will sound huge and heavy!”

RIVERSIDE – United Kingdom / Ireland Tour 2024
+ Special Guests KLONE (‘Unplugged’)

12.05.2024 Norwich (UK) – Epic Studios

13.05.2024 Birmingham (UK) – 02 Institute 1

15.05.2024 Belfast (UK) – Limelight 1

16.05.2024 Dublin (UK) – Academy

18.05.2024 Glasgow (UK) – The Old Fruit Market

19.05.2024 London (UK) – Koko

20.05.2024 Bristol (UK) – SWX

21.05.2024 Manchester (UK) – 02 Ritz

Tickets on sale tomorrow morning:

Riverside – Gigs (riversideband.pl)

Previous to this tour, RIVERSIDE will be performing in North America and Latin America as well appearing on several festival events in the summer as follows:

RIVERSIDE – Live 2024:

08.03.2024 Port Canaveral (USA) – Cruise To The Edge Festival

15.03.2024 Guadalajara (Mexico) – C3 Stage

17,03.2024 Monterrey (Mexico) – Café Iguana

19.03.2024 Mexico City (Mexico) – Auditorio Blackberry

21.03.2024 Bogotá (Colombia) – Teatro Astor Plaza

23.03.2024 San José (Costa Rica) – Pepper Club

28.03.2024 Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Groove

03.04.2024 São Paulo (Brazil) – Carioca Club

06.04.2024 Santiago (Chile) – Teatro Caupolicán

01.06.2024 Warsaw (Poland) – Torwar Hall

05-08.06.2024 Sölvesborg (Sweden) – Sweden Rock Festival

19-22.06.2024 Murcia (Spain) – Rock Imperium Festival

28-30.06.2024 Helsinki (Finland) – Tuska Festival

18-21.07.2024 Jarocin (Poland) – Jarocin Festival

19.07.2024 Sankt Goarshausen (Germany) – Night Of The Prog Festival

07-10.08.2024 Jaroměř (Czech Republic) – Brutal Assault

16.08.2024 Carhaix-Plouguer (France) – Motocultor Festival

And many more shows to be announced soon…

Tickets: Riverside – Gigs (riversideband.pl)

Most recently, RIVERSIDE have launched their “Making of ‘ID.Entity'” documentary, directed by Marcin Zawadziński. The documentary was screened a year ago at RIVERSIDE’s promotional meetings in Helios cinemas in Poland for the release of their latest studio album “’ID.Entity’ and now everyone will finally be able to watch it online, everywhere. 

Check it out here:

“ID.Entity”, the group’s 8th studio album was recorded and mixed in two studios – The Boogie Town Studio in Otwock with Paweł Marciniak and in Serakos studio in Warsaw with Magda and Robert Srzedniccy -, mastered by Robert Szydło and produced by RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda himself. The “ID.Entity” artwork was created by Polish artist Jarek Kubicki.

“ID.Entity” achieved the following outstanding chart positions upon release: Germany: # 4, Poland: # 2, Switzerland: # 6, The Netherlands: # 9, Finland: # 14, Austria: # 22, Belgium: # 97, France: # 155, UK: # 89, UK / Rock Charts: # 3, USA / Top New Artist Albums: # 7, USA / Current Album Sales: # 61, USA / Hard Music Albums: # 9, USA / Current Rock Albums: # 20.

Check out the singles/videos off “ID.Entity” here:

“I’m Done With You”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q6XJfKxKb4

“Self-Aware (Single Edit)”: https://youtu.be/Weuo4hgVHyY

“Friend or Foe? (Single Edit)”: https://youtu.be/EWQQFjyHtro

And also check out two interesting videos in which the RIVERSIDE band members chat about “ID.Entity”:

About “ID.Entity” Pt. 1: https://youtu.be/_fK-qO6qVI8

About “ID.Entity” Pt. 2: https://youtu.be/awsIdOpgpO8

Can still order “ID.Entity” in its various formats here:

Or here:


And check out a YouTube playlist of visualizer clips for the entire album’s material here:

RIVERSIDE line-up:

Michał Łapaj – keyboards and Hammond Organ
Mariusz Duda – vocal, bass
Maciej Meller – guitar
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums


Big Big Train are delighted to announce 12 shows to take place in September and October 2024 in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

At these performances the seven piece band will be promoting their forthcoming The Likes Of Us album, their first for the InsideOut label, which will be released on 1st March 2024. Listen to the latest single ‘Miramare’ and pre-order here:

Big Big Train – Miramare (Single Edit) (lnk.to)

Lead vocalist Alberto Bravin says: “We’re really looking forward to getting back on the road this autumn around the UK and Europe.Following the success of last year’s The Journey Continues tour, we can’t wait to do it all again. On this tour in autumn we will be playing a significant amount of The Likes Of Us as well as some Big Big Train classics and a few surprises.”

Drummer Nick D’Virgilio adds: “Last year’s Big Big Train shows were so much fun. We made some changes to the set list every night. It was very challenging but it kept things fresh for both us and the audience, so we’re going to take a similar approach on this tour to make every show genuinely unique.”

Bassist Gregory Spawton continues: “For this tour we’ve decided to return to some of our favourite venues. But we were also keen to return to Wales for the first time since 2019 and get back to the north east and north west of England as well as visiting some parts of the country where Big Big Train hasn’t played before. While some fans travel vast distances to see us live, we recognise that others aren’t able to do so and therefore we’re trying to bring the show to them.”

Guitarist Rikard Sjöblom concludes: “In an ideal world, we would play everywhere! Scheduling is always challenging and so while we couldn’t organise a Swedish show this time around, I’m delighted that we will be performing in Oslo and Copenhagen again for my fellow Scandinavians. And I’m particularly looking forward to our weekend at the Boerderij where we plan to play two very different shows.”


TUESDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2024                     Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, UK

WEDNESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2024              The Riverfront, Newport, UK

THURSDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2024                  Playhouse Theatre, Whitley Bay, UK

SATURDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2024                   Queens Hall, Edinburgh, UK

SUNDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER                            Palace Theatre, Newark, UK

TUESDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER                          Stables Theatre, Milton Keynes, UK

WEDNESDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER                   The Stoller Hall, Manchester, UK

FRIDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2024                         Stadthalle, Weinheim, GERMANY

SATURDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2024                  Boerderij, Zoetermeer, NETHERLANDS

SUNDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2024                       Boerderij, Zoetermeer, NETHERLANDS

TUESDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2024                            Cosmopolite, Oslo, NORWAY

WEDNESDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2024                    Viften, Copenhagen, DENMARK

Tickets for all shows go on sale at 10am UK/11am central European time on Friday 9th February. A pre-sale open to members of the band’s Passengers Club for all shows except Copenhagen, Oslo and Zoetermeer opens at 10am UK/11am central European time on Thursday 8th February. The pre-sale for Whitley Bay opens at 5pm on Thursday 8th February.

Ticket links here:


Review – Ellesmere – Stranger Skies – by John Wenlock-Smith

I have come to the realisation that certain genres of music have the most impact on me. Growing up it was initially the raw power of Deep Purple that did it for me then, later on, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ made a huge impression on my young mind. I started exploring music for myself, helped in part by the fine chaps at my local record shop of choice, Reddington’s Rare Records in Birmingham, behind Marks & Spencers. This treasure trove or Aladdin’s cave of wonders was a crucial part of that, as the music I heard there was life changing. 

I was also an avid reader of Sounds and Melody Maker, later progressing onto Guitar World when I started to play the guitar. When I was in my 20’s, Kerrang and Raw Power came into my sphere of influence and with them I discovered multitudes of new and exciting groups and artists.

Some of those artists helped shape my tastes today, I, like many others, went through a heavy metal phase and also a blues period and later I went through a Miles Davis phase. However, one resounding constant has been my love of the likes of Kansas, Styx, Starcastle, Magnum and Queen, alongside Yes and ELP. For me, symphonic prog hits all the right spots, as Progradar Editor Martin Hutchinson knows only too well. So, when he offered me this new album from Ellesmere, I was certainly only too happy to accept, despite the group being totally new to me.

This album is actually the fourth excursion for multi-instrumentalist Roberto Vitelli’s project, visually and musically strongly linked to his ‘Wyrd’ of 2021. Although for this incarnation, Roberto has added a vocalist John Wilkinson of Swan Chorus, whose distinctive vocals aid with Roberto’s vision in creating music that has echoes of Genesis’ ‘Trick Of The Tail’ and Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’.

In addition to John Wilkinson, featured are guests like Clive Nolan who provides keyboards and John Hackett, whose flute graces several tracks, and many others appear as well. The artwork is provided by Rodney Matthews whose artwork has graced many albums, including Magnum and Praying Mantis, to name but two. The artwork shows the setting visually by depicting a cold side (the first four tracks) and the other side being the warm side (the 2 lengthy tracks that complete the album).

The album seems to be centred on a series of imaginary or imagined adventures but what is the music like? let’s dive in and find out. The album begins with a mini epic called Northwards which is suitably spacious with lots of keyboards. It sounds vast and also a little foreboding, despite some rippling keyboards offering a bold soundscape. This evokes the warranted cold feelings wonderfully and all of this is in the first 2 minutes! The song concerns itself with an attempt to get to the North Pole overland by sledge, it is a very strong and moody track but handled marvellously by all. Tundra is next with a very sturdy bass part and thrashing drums. Again, the imagery used in this song evokes the cold and open spaces of the tundra most convincingly. I can hear elements of Yes in this track, notably in the vocals and also with the guitar work of Giacomo Ansolemi. Crystallised is an instrumental with acoustic guitar from Graham Taylor and also features David Jackson providing saxophone and other woodwind instruments. With a strong and prominent synth line, the track is excellent and very musically accomplished and shows splendid playing from all once more. Artica opens with a sturdy guitar riff and guitar lines. This song appears to be about climbing in the Arctic and the strength of character needed for such activities. The track has a strong essence of Asia to me, sounding like something from the ‘Alpha’ era of the band.

This track concludes the ‘cold’ side after which we progress on to the ‘warm’ side of the album with the first long piece Stranger Skies, a song about a pilot who undertakes a very strange flight indeed, one that takes him to a strange world full of strange creatures and leaves him with no way home. The track has a long instrumental section in the middle section that builds this atmospheric track well. The tense atmosphere of the lyrics is displayed convincingly in this track and I really like it, with John Wilkinson’s voice definitely capturing the Genesis sound of the Phil Collins era most impressively. The run out of the track especially sounds very pastoral and English prog like. Another World is the albums other long track and also the last track of this fine release. Opening with another strong guitar riff to lead in to the track, the song is about a searcher who finds another world that is very different to the one he knows. There is sumptuous, fluid guitar work on this track, all backed with sumptuous keyboard textures and sounds and some lovely flute from John Hackett as the journey concludes back at the North Pole, emphasising the circular nature of life.

‘Stranger Skies’ is a most compelling and very well conceived release, intelligently imagined and realised. Unsurprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed the album, it really stays with you and is most definitely worth checking out in my opinion.

Released 12th January, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Stranger Skies | Ellesmere (bandcamp.com)

Review – Pallas – The Messenger

‘The album that many believed would never be made, is here. And it’s about to blow your socks off!’

Forty years ago a band from Aberdeen recorded, not one, but two of the seminal albums of the 80s.

Now the classic Pallas line-up returns with ‘The Messenger’, an album which takes the preoccupations of that earlier age, and brings them right up to date. Where ‘The Sentinel’ echoed the concerns of the cold war and the shadows it cast on all of us, ‘The Messenger’ finds the band reacting to the existential threats to the world we find ourselves in. From what we’ve done to the world, to the politics that shape it.

This is an album which repays countless listens. With ‘The Messenger’, Pallas have created a rich musical tapestry which weaves back and forth from environmental concerns to a cold war grown hot once again. And the seeming inability of our leaders to do anything but pour fuel on the flames.

Capturing the bleakness that many of us feel at how the world continues to turn, it nevertheless contains hope. Alight in darkness, that all may not be lost. There is no outside help. No Sentinel to save us. This time the solution lives within us all.

Pallas have managed the seemingly impossible. – updating their sound without losing track of what gives them their identity. This album is dark, yet uplifting; It rocks out, yet has moments of tenderness and wonder. This is, without doubt, the album of their career.

There are some pretty bold claims in the above PR blurb that came with this, Pallas’ first new material for nearly twenty years and what could be a rebirth of one of the seminal Neo-Prog bands of the 80’s. Well, I am here to tell you why everything that is said about this new album is absolutely, 100% spot on!

From its bold, striking artwork to its immersive and eminently thoughtful songs, ‘The Messenger’ may be one of the most impressive albums that you will have heard over the last few years. It may be what seems like a musical eternity since the original line up of Pallas released any new music but it is as if they have never been away. Musicianship that is as tight and impressive as anything you have ever heard and superb, intelligent and earnest songwriting, coupled with Alan Reed’s mighty vocals, have created a piece of highly prominent musical drama that will leave you hanging on every note and every word.

From the opening dynamism of Sign of the Times it is evident that these musical troubadours have a dire story to tell. The impressive guitar work of Niall Mathewson is evident at every turn, allied with the subtle keyboard skills of Ronnie Brown, to give a driving life force to the music, one that is echoed by the superb bass work of Graeme Murray. This is all topped off with the charismatic and compelling voice of Alan Reed, as an opening statement of intent, it doesn’t get much better than this. Power and control, that’s what you get from the energetic The Great Attractor, pure bombastic theatre in musical form. A staccato riff hewn from granite and thunderous bass give an aggressive vigour to this strutting song and the vocals have a neat precision combined with a subtle arrogance, all told it is a mightily charismatic piece of music. Fever Pitch opens with a glorious piano led intro before a choral vocal gives an impression of something rather celestial. A hammering riff and drumbeat then arrive to give urgency to proceedings before the mystery unfolds. Alan’s inquisitive vocal draws you into the story that is opening up before you, it’s very clever and immersive songwriting and has a touch of musical theatre to it, like a prog rock version of Les Miserables maybe? A towering riff and demanding keyboards take up this entrancing tale of the harm our planet is going through and we should all really take note.

Heavy Air is a brooding song full of anticipation and apprehension, a storm is about to break and it is one that could herald the end of civilisation. The music has a feel of painful tenderness and Alan’s melancholic vocal conveys a light glimmer of hope that is gradually fading away. It’s a very emotive and heartfelt song with a powerful guitar solo just dripping with pain and regret and one that touches you at a very basic human level. A post-apocalyptic world is set out in front of us in The Nine, a potent foretelling of what our world could become, prophetic in nature and incredibly potent and compelling in intent and delivery. Like a sound track of dark, cinematic foretelling, there is an intentional bleak and sombre feel to the song, it demands your attention and insists you take note of the story unfolding in front of you. The sinuous, sinister guitar solo and stygian chants lay your soul bare. It’s a brilliant, if difficult listen and one that leaves you open-mouthed. The album closes with the epic title track, The Messenger, an end to what has been a dramatic and ominous journey towards oblivion and the end of the world as we know it. Could there be hope in the stars as our planet heads towards destruction? An electronic beat, almost dark synth-wave in composition, gives an off-kilter feel to the song as it begins before a wistful acoustic guitar and string like keyboards give an almost hopeful edge. The song ebbs and flows brilliantly, pulling you this way and that and the stirring vocals and irresistible guitar are just sublime. The uplifting ending makes me feel that here is something almost quasi-religious about this song as it talks about jubilation and a world reborn, maybe the creator hasn’t quite finished with us just yet…

Like a Phoenix risen from the ashes, with ‘The Messenger’, Pallas have returned triumphant with an incredible album that is so much more than a mere musical experience, it is a hugely compelling glimpse into what our future could be, delivered by four musicians who are truly at the top of their game and, surely, have much more still to give.

Released 15th December, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

The Messenger | Pallas (bandcamp.com)

Review – Steve Hackett – The Circus And The Nightwhale – by John Wenlock-Smith

On February 16th Steve Hackett will release his thirtieth solo album ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’. This album is not a concept album as such, however, it does have thirteen tracks interlinked and inter-woven and which take an autobiographical angle into Steve’s life journey. In the official blurb that accompanies the release we are told that it’s a “lovely journey that starts dirty scratchy  and smoky and becomes heavenly and divine”. So does it? And what does it tell us exactly? Well, here’s my thoughts on it, mostly based on a conversation I had with Steve himself earlier in the year.

The first track on the album, People Of The Smoke, opens interestingly with sound effects, a snippet of Listen With Mother, a baby’s cry, which is treated with reverb and echo, along with steam train noises and whistles. The song then moves into a busy section with Big Ben tolling and a guitar line that builds before drums come into force and a brisk pace is taken. Steve adds little flurries of notes and fills, this is all to represent the suffocating dark and smoke filled city of London when emerging from the post war years of rationing and entering the 1960’s and the opportunities that were becoming more available as a result. I guess it was possibly a case of you had to be there to experience it for yourself, but you get a good impression from the excellent video for this track:

The next track is the first of no less than five instrumental pieces, each of which are very different in sound and approach. These Passing Clouds symbolises the changing face of the capital as it moves from sinister to optimistic and this brief vignette captures that excellently. Taking You Down is about a friend of Steve’s at Senior school, they bonded over a love of music and had a close friendship. However, this friend was often involved in some jape or wheeze or scam and often roped Steve into these as well. This all ended badly when Steve got more involved in music and they drifted apart. The friend was manipulative and not always pleasant to be around, they had good times but it all came to an end. Steve often wonders about this chap and what he is doing these days, proposing that he is probably running a small country in Africa or somewhere similar, that is run with corruption and despotic greed. The next track, Found And Lost, is about Steve’s first love. A girl from a good family, intelligent and articulate however, she wanted something more than Steve offered so the relationship didn’t last. She got involved with a bad crowd, got involved with drugs and ultimately ended up in prison from which she would write letters to Steve. He was heartbroken by all this and it took a while for his confidence to rebuild and, while there were other girls, there were none like her.

Enter The Ring and Get Me Out! both refer to his time on the Genesis wheel of fame, all of this is being alluded to through the excitement of a fairground and the thrills it offered. This continues in Get Me Out! in which Steve realises that he is in danger of being stuck in a situation that he actually wants to be free of. This track has a lengthy and somewhat furious guitar solo in the middle, expressing his frustrations perhaps. Ghost Moon and Living Love is about moving on from his Genesis days and going it alone. Circo Inferno continues this theme of being stuck on a wheel going around and around. This track has a heavier tone with more fiery guitar flourishes ,it also features Amanda Lehmann on vocals and Rob Townsend on tenor saxophone. The next track Breakout is an impressive rock guitar showcase, as is All At Sea, both of which really impress as they both have a lot going on within them.

Into The Nightwhale is another interesting sounding track, opening with swirling keyboards and synths creating a moody soundscape with Steve providing long sustained guitar notes before a heavy drumbeat emerges from the mist, as it were. More sustained guitar notes follow and gradually build up to a peak at which point everything falls away and a delicate orchestral sound is played whilst Steve sings a delicate vocal. The song is about building resilience and how finding love give you strength once more. The penultimate song, Wherever You Are, is a love song for his wife Jo, who has had a major impact on Steve’s life in the last ten years or so. This song is a shameless celebration of the love that they have found in each other. That said, this one definitely rocks with extremely passionate guitar playing and sounds. The album closes with White Dove, a wistful and delicate acoustic conclusion to the album. Again, this song is very romantic sounding with its classical tone and playing. It will be great to hear this one live, as Horizons is possibly in need of being retired?Just a thought…

So there you have it, a most intriguing and different album from Steve with some great songs and excellent guitar work. There is lots to appreciate and enjoy, I certainly did and can highly recommend, another highlight in the career of this legendary guitarist.

Released 16th February, 2024.

Order from Steve’s website and other outlest here:

Steve Hackett – Wherever You Are (lnk.to)

Review – EBB – The Management of Consequences

The EP, ‘The Management of Consequences’ is, in some ways, a companion piece to the album ‘Mad & Killing Time,’ in that, it deals with and resolves many of the issues raised in that album. If ‘Mad & Killing Time ‘was a comment on the human condition, ‘The Management of Consequences’ is a more personal examination of the same. Having only three tracks, although the first track is split into 3movements, it is a more compact expression.

The EP is dedicated to SagitariusA*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy which is referenced to throughout the work. The gist being: that the human condition and indeed, any condition, all find terminal irrelevance on a cosmic scale.

So says the press release for EBB’s latest EP…

When I got an email asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the new EP from the mad but refreshingly brilliant and different EBB, the answer was always going to be a resounding yes! I had nearly missed the previous product of their irreverent genius, ‘Mad & Killing Time’ and didn’t want that to come back and haunt me again. This collective create music that is subtly different from even the most left-field stuff that you will hear, cleverly constructed but with a flippant, iconoclastic, devil-may-care attitude that clearly resonates with their fans and they are gaining more admirers every time they take to the stage at the many festivals they play.

This new EP, dedicated to the cosmos and supermassive black holes, is another brilliant creation and please, if you can, buy the CD with its superb booklet and narrative, I’ll not leave any more spoilers but, trust me, its worth the money and that’s without the music!

What you get here is three tracks that make up just over eighteen minutes of scintillating, dynamic music that definitely has a smile on its face and wears its hat at a jaunty angle. The musicianship is second to none, seventies prog influenced keys, Hammond organ and the like combine with funky psychedelic guitars and a rhythm section born to groove with the best of them, Bootsy Collins eat your heart out, these girls (and guy) have it all!

The three part, in your face, intricate brilliance of Silent Saviour demands your attention like a punch to the solar plexus with it’s almost theatrical drama and musical complexity. And don’t get me started on the vocals, that’s what drew me to this band in the first place, I just love them. Just in case you thought there may be some normality we get what sounds like a sea shanty/folk outro at the end of the track, utterly brilliant! Cost & Consequence takes a more Canterbury scene approach to things but beefed up to the max. If 70’s progressive rock had joined forces with some of the more excessive rock of the time (and maybe some illegal substances) then I’m sure this is what it would have sounded like. It is attention grabbing music but EBB have the necessary chops to back it all up, which they prove time and time again in a live setting. The EP closes way too early with the incendiary Nieu, an in your face, frantic four minutes of pure musical genius. The guitar and keys hit you with an addictive, demented riff and the drums and bass feel hewn from granite, add in the darkly delicious vocals and you have something utterly, and wickedly, addictive. Damn, this is all over way too quick so you just have to go back and press play again!

The incredibly entertaining EBB have returned with another brilliant piece of musical flair, ingenuity and imagination and are cementing their place at the top of an incredibly diverse musical scene that exists today. ‘The Management of Consequences’ is another indicator of what this highly original band are capable of and I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next, it’s as near to a must buy as you can get!

Released January 4th, 2024.

Order the CD from bandcamp here:

The Management of Consequences | Ebb (bandcamp.com)

Watch the band live at the Summer’s End festival in Chepstow, October 2023:

Single Review – Sunday At Six – It’s Funny How The Time Flies By

Mark Whiteside seems to have the midas touch in that everything he does musically is utterly fantastic. The man who gave us the wondrous One Sided Horse project, Desks and the incredibly sublime The Opening Song (and who also drums for Evil Blizzard!) returns again, with some pretty impressive guests, to give us his new project Sunday At Six.

The first fruit of this new project is the single It’s Funny How The Time Flies By and joining this prolific musician is Mickey Dale of Embrace fame who, as well as producing and mastering, plays keyboards, Phillip Vietch from Ship’s Cat supplies soundscape guitars and the legendary Peter Coyle of The Lotus Eaters provides the glorious vocals. Mark humbly tells me that all he does is write the song and play acoustic guitar…

Music, to me, must mean something, there has to be a reason any song is created and not just to get additional plays on Spotify or just to be the most popular song that listeners want to hear on the radio (do people actually listen to the radio any more?). I love music that moves me, takes me to another place and leaves an indelible mark on me and all the music that Mark writes has that effect.

The ethereal keys and spacial guitars just add a beatific air to the music on It’s Funny How The Time Flies By, it’s music that feeds the soul with its lush soundscapes and Peter Coyle’s vocals are just dreamlike in their delivery and intangible beauty. Mickey Dale’s ability to deliver the perfect sound from the keyboards is uncanny and Phil’s guitars are spine-tingling in their rarefied grace, making the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Mark is like the conductor here, his acoustic guitar elegantly directing proceedings but it is how this all comes together as an exquisite whole that makes it so wonderful.

The song is set for digital release soon and there will be more news about his exciting project in the coming months but, to my ears, this could well be the best thing that Mark has created and, with his monumental back catalogue, that is really saying something!

You can catch Mark playing live as One Side Horse on Saturday, 6th March at The Vault in Hexham, ticket details here:

One Sided Horse – The Vault (thevaulthexham.com)

Peter Coyle is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the The Lotus Eaters‘ album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ and you can see it performed live, in its entirety, at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, ticket link here:

See Tickets – Peter Coyle ‘No Sense Of Sin’ Tickets | Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 at 7:00 PM