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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Album Artwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRACK LISTING:

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

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

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

(Same Track Listing as CD One)

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

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

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

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

Blu-Ray Disc

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

  • Same Track listing as CD 

Afraid of Sunlight  (Jams & Early Versions):

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

Documentary Film – Afraid of Sunlight  (Approv 45 Mins)

Promo Film – Beautiful

1999 Remaster Bonus Tracks

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

MUSICIANS:

Steve Rothery  –  Guitars 

Pete Trewavas  –  Bass 

Steve Hogarth – Voice

Mark Kelly  –  Keyboards

Ian Moseley  –  Drums & Percussion 

With:

Hannah Stobart  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Beautiful’

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

THANKS

Progradar would like to thank Fraser Marshall of the website: 

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

Other information is available at:

http://marillionations.blogspot.com/

sleepmakeswaves announce ‘these are not your dreams’ EP trilogy release for 2020

Australian instrumental post-rockers sleepmakeswaves have announced new music for 2020, three years since their 2017 release ‘Made of Breath Only.’

The new project, titled ‘these are not your dreams’ will be released on 15 May 2020.

Rather than following a conventional release pattern, new songs will be released as a series of 3 EPs over the next few months, with ‘No Safe Place’ out on Feb 21, ‘Out of Hours’ released on April 17 and ‘Not an Exit’ released May 15. 

Listen to the new single:

The band announced the news to fans with a typically quirky video:

these are not your dreams’ full record released 15 May 2020  

May/June 2020 trilogy tour dates 

Sat 16 May – The Basement, Canberra ACT

Fri 22 May – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide SA

Sat 23 May – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA

Thu 4 June – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD

Fri 5 June – Max Watts, Melbourne VIC

Sat 6 June – Manning Bar, Sydney NSW

Presented by Bird’s Robe & Niche Talent Agency

 Tickets on sale now from sleepmakeswaves.com & venue websites 

Kansas Announce New Album ‘The Absence of Presence’, Out 26th June 2020- European ‘Point of Know Return’ Anniversary Tour Dates Revealed

KANSAS, America’s legendary progressive rock band, will release their highly anticipated new studio album “The Absence of Presence” on 26th June 2020.

The album follows-up 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit,” which debuted at #14 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. KANSAS has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for classic hits such as ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ to progressive epics like ‘Song for America.’

“The Absence of Presence,” released by Inside Out Music, features nine all new tracks written by the band, produced by Zak Rizvi, and co-produced by Phil Ehart and Richard Williams. KANSAS’s signature sound is unmistakable throughout. The album showcases Ronnie Platts towering vocals, David Ragsdale’s searing violin, Tom Brislin’s dazzling keyboards, Williams and Rizvi’s electrifying guitar riffs, Ehart’s powerful drums, and Billy Greer’s rocking bass.

This Autumn, KANSAS will be taking its very popular Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour to Europe for 13 dates in October and November. The Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour will include songs from “The Absence of Presence,” classic hits and deep cuts, and will culminate with the iconic album “Point of Know Return” performed in its entirety.

We are really proud of the album ‘The Absence of Presence,’” comments KANSAS guitarist, producer, and songwriter Zak Rizvi. “Making a new KANSAS album sets a very high musical standard that is expected from our fans. From rockers, to progressive epics, to ballads, there is something on this recording for everybody.”

It’s been a while since the band has been able to perform in Europe, where we have some very passionate fans,” adds KANSAS guitarist Richard Williams. “We are excited to take the Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour across Europe. Not only will they hear us perform that album in its entirety, along with other hits and deep cuts, but they will be the first fans to hear some of the songs from ‘The Absence of Presence’ performed live.”

Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour Dates

October 18 – London, England – Palladium

October 20 – Frankfurt, Germany – Jahrhunderthalle

October 21 – Hamburg, Germany – Docks

October 23 – Tampere, Finland – Tamperetalo

October 24 – Helsinki, Finland – Culture House

October 26 – Stockholm, Sweden – Cirkus

October 27 – Oslo, Norway – Sentrum Scene

October 29 – Berlin, Germany        – Tempodrom

October 31 – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royal

November 3 – Munich, Germany – Circus Krone

November 5 – Heilbronn, Germany – Harmonie

November 9 – Bochum, Germany – RuhrCongress

November 10 – Amsterdam, Holland – Carre Theatre

After wrapping-up current U.S. dates for the Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour this spring, KANSAS will debut a track from “The Absence of Presence” live, this summer, during the Juke Box Heroes 2020 Tour when the band will be touring with Foreigner and Europe.

Tickets for the KANSAS Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour will go on sale this week. Ticket and VIP Package information is available at KansasBand.com. Tickets for the U.S. Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, Juke Box Heroes 2020 Tour, and KANSAS Classics dates are on sale now with ticket and VIP package information are also available at KansasBand.com.

For more information on KANSAS, The Absence of Presence, The Point of Know Return Anniversary European Tour, The Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, or the Juke Box Heroes 2020 tour, please visit: www.kansasband.com

Review – Siljan – Collapsology – by John Wenlock-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 27th June 2019

Order from bandcamp here:

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

The Holy Road to Release 2 Track Download on ‘Piano Day’ – 28th March

These two tracks mark the fervent debut solo offering from erstwhile frontman/songwriter/misery troubadour Jonathan Stolber of the much loved To Bury A Ghost (“one of our favourite records of
 the year” – EchoesandDust.com)  

The Northampton based, former Abbey Road Masterclass graduate & twice-nominated BBC Weekender Artist returns this Piano Day with two deep cuts culled from forthcoming debut LP, “For The Blood Of England.”

The Minotaur (Mesto in A-Minor) is a majestic, blistering neo-classical piano-led instrumental that builds upon Stolber’s plaintive Michael Nyman-esque performance and will feature on this year’s Piano Day playlist. Backed by a searing string quintet, the song slowly evolves into a grandiose cinematic crescendo as a colossal thundering funeral march evokes an apocalyptic cacophony. The track is reminiscent in parts of Hope Of The States & Hans Zimmer and features live performances from some of the UK’s most talented string players, including David Dhonau (Her Name Is Calla) and Beni Weedon (Maybeshewill).

Slow It Down paints a different sonic picture. A dense symphony of discordant, glacial synths swell into an explosive wash of plucked harp and angelic, tumbling choir, whilst Stolber delivers his trademark vocal: a fragile, intimate croon that recalls early Elbow & ‘Kid A’ era Radiohead.

Mixed by Leeds producer James Kenosha (Grammatics / Dry The River) and mastered by John Davis
(Manic Street Preachers / Bloc Party / Joy Division).

Stolber has to date, had the pleasure of sharing the stage with many celebrated acts, including 65 Days of Static, James Yuill & Her Name Is Calla. The BBC, Drowned in Sound, Echoes & Dust, Gold Flake Paint, The 405, Sound Of Violence,John Kennedy and Gil Mills have all expressed support of his previous releases.

These two tracks serve as a gorgeous appetite-whetter ahead of the full debut scheduled for release later in 2020.

All proceeds from the Bandcamp download ‘The Minotaur’ will be donated in aid of mental health awareness : www.tinychanges.com


PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS set May 15th, 2020 as release date for new studio album “Prehensile Tales”!

In 2019, PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS, the California-based band featuring Ted Leonard (lead vocals & guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Dave Meros (bass) and John Boegehold (keyboards), presented its much-lauded eponymous debut.

Just a year later, the group announces May 15th, 2020 as the release date for its newest opus, “Prehensile Tales”, which expands the stylistic niche carved out by the debut and adds additional twists and turns along the way.
 
For the six songs on the album (the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes), the band introduced violin, flute, trumpet, cello, sax and pedal steel to the sound palette that was once again recorded & mixed by Rich Mouser at The Mouse House.
 
The track-listing reads as follows:
1. Raining Hard In Heaven
2. Here In My Autumn
3. Elegant Vampires
4. Why Don’t We Run
5. Lifeboat
6. Soon But Not Today
 
“I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing. “I wanted to change around some of the songwriting approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band.”

Ted Leonard adds: “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious. There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”

For the striking cover image, P-SA collaborated with Polish artist Mirek (https://www.facebook.com/mirekis7/), whose ‘An evolutionary broadcast’ design Boegehold immediately considered a perfect fit to the album’s peculiar title.

“Prehensile Tales is a play-on-words I came up with while writing lyrics and thought it would be a funny album title. As a bonus, it actually seems to mean something that fits the music.”
 
To coincide with the album’s release, the band is set to perform at RosFest 2020 in Sarasota, Florida on May 9th and is lining up more dates later in the year which will be announced soon.
 
“Prehensile Tales” will be released as Gatefold 2LP plus CD, Limited Edition CD, and as digital album on May 15th, 2020 on InsideOutMusic.

Single Review – Victor Lee -Harbor City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review – My Arrival – Satur9 & Indigo

“Life starts when the end is near”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released February 27th 2020.

Order from bandcamp here:

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

Heavy progressive masters ELDER stream new single – ‘Embers’

Heavy psych rock masters ELDER have released ‘Embers’, the first taste of their highly anticipated new LP Omens (released 24th April, Stickman Records), their first full-length since the globally-acclaimed Reflections of a Floating World.

Pre-orders for Omens are now available here: http://stickman-records.com/shop/elder-omens

The band have also revealed the album artwork for Omens, created by longtime collaborator Adrian Dexter.

In their own words: “‘Embers’ is doubtless one of the most energetic and upbeat songs ELDER has ever made, and really became the favorite to play while rehearsing to record Omens. It’s maybe the least traditionally heavy track from the record, but it’s certainly dense. Lots of interlocking guitar and bass lines, keyboards, synthesizer solos (thanks to our friend Fabio Cuomo!) – you can hear that we had plenty of fun making this album. Like any ELDER song, it’s best heard in context, and we’re excited to release the full record soon!”

Omens is perhaps the band’s most ambitious album yet – delving into deeper, more expansive, genre-pushing territories with five tracks of progressive, heavy, psychedelically evocative glory. Elements of OMPink Floyd, even Mastodon and Hawkwind combine to create a truly special record.

Formed in a small coastal town in Massachusetts in the mid noughties, ELDER have reinvented their sound over the course of five albums to grow from a stalwart of the stoner/doom scene into one of the most unique voices in the rock underground. Their long-scale compositions unfold as journeys, running the gamut of styles from the 70s to the present within a single song, with a penchant for “sheer gatefold-era grandeur” as described by Rolling Stone. After thirteen years, this is the first full-length recorded with a new lineup including guitarist Michael Risberg and new drummer Georg Edert, along with guest performances by Fabio Cuomo on Rhodes piano and synthesizers.

ELDER’s new album Omens answers any speculation about their new direction with an emphatic statement: evolution or extinction. Lush, intricately interwoven melodies grow and dissolve into spaced-out jams; massive riffs thunder down into a churning sea of psychedelic sounds and unpredictable grooves carry away the listener. ELDER paint pictures with their music, and Omens shows the band experimenting with an even more colourful palette – with good reason.

By continuing to incorporate new elements to their sound, ELDER’s output has repeatedly set benchmarks for their peers. Beginning with 2008’s Elder and 2010’s Dead Roots StirringELDER made ripples in the stoner rock scene with their uniquely melodic approach to the genre. In 2015 they surprised again with Lore, a watershed moment in the band’s career (recently crowned “Album of the Decade” by TheObelisk) which brought in elements of post-, prog- and space rock into the ELDER sound. Despite several years of heavy touring surrounding the album, Reflections of a FloatingWorld was released just two years later, earning a spot at the top of many best-of lists including Rolling Stone (#5, 20Best Metal Albums Of 2017), Stereogum, acclaim from Metal Hammer, and more.

ELDER will be touring USA in May and throughout Europe in June and July.

Review – John Holden – Rise and Fall – by John Wenlock-Smith

John Holden’s ‘Rise and Fall’ has been in my possession for a while now and I was very gratified to be given access to this remarkable album some three months prior to its official release. I was also very pleased that I had been thanked  in the album credits, that having been an ambition of mine for quite some time.

‘Rise and Fall’ is the second album from John Holden and features substantial input and assistance from several core musicians including Joe Payne, Oliver Day and Oliver Wakeman, Sally Minnear, Jean Pageau and Michel St Pere from Mystery, not forgetting the always remarkably impressive Peter Jones. If, like me, you enjoyed John’s debut release ‘Capture Light’ (still available from John via Bandcamp) then I’m sure you will love this one too.

The album consists of just seven pieces, they are, however, lengthy and well written. It is also expertly recorded and produced by John himself while the whole album was mastered by Robin Armstrong of Cosmograf fame.

The guest list of collaborators is impressive with each bringing their own skills to bear. Especially worthy of note are the keyboard skills and musical arrangements of Vikram Shankar, a musician who is not very widely known yet. The album is a great place to discover him for yourself, he certainly looks to be a musician with a bright future awaiting him.

As a side note, the packaging on this release is again impeccable, as are the extensive sleeve notes in the booklet which give a deeper insight into each of these tracks.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right on in then shall we…

The opening track, Leap of Faith, features Peter Jones on vocals, recorder and whistles, in fact Peter bookends the album with a further performance on the last track Ancestors and Satellites with both tracks sharing a recurrent musical passage, albeit it in a different key.  

Leap of Faith concerns itself with the antics of Eilmer, A Benedictine monk who lived at Malmesbury Abbey in the 11th century and one who was fascinated by the flight of the birds and bats that lived around the priory He had it in his mind to fly like they did so attempted (like Daedalus, the Father of Icarus of Greek mythology fame) to fly using wings he had made attached to his back and arms. You can read the story in the song lyrics but I can say that gravity prevailed! This piece is very moving and very atmospheric with Peter Jones really bringing the tale to life in his own inimitable way.

This is a fantastic opener that sets you up for all that follows, which, in this instance, is the superb Rise and Fall voiced by Jean Pageau of Mystery. This talented vocalist gives a very emotionally raw vocal delivery that makes you feel his anguish as he sings of the relationship that one has with both their addictions and the person they care about, who also suffers the brunt of this addiction. This is a very honest song and another classy piece of work.

The next track, The Golden Thread, I consider a truly beautiful song, one that has extra depths to it as it is a requiem written by John’s wife Elizabeth who is a cancer survivor. She wrote this to express her deep love for John and also so that, if she were not around, the song and her memory would live on as a musical legacy of her life and struggle. This piece of music is very gentle with an almost classical tone to it and is sung by the remarkable talents of John Payne and Lauren Nolan as a duet, not being written as such initially but Lauren’s voice worked so well with Joe’s that adaptations were made to make it work in this way. The sentiments that this song espouses and expresses are both very warm, loving and deeply profound indeed with Oliver Wakeman and Vikram Shankar playing on the song to magnificent effect.

The music reaches a crescendo before fading away to the harder edged Dark Arts on which Billy Sherwood provides a bass part in the style of the late great Chris Squire, playing the sort of bass runs the great man would have done whilst alive. The track also features a spoken excerpt of Francis Urquhart of House of Cards fame, setting the tone for a politically charged song about the abuse of power by those in charge. Once again Joe Payne vocalises with real passion and power to deliver a truly remarkable track along with more fine keyboards from Oliver Wakeman. I heard this song in an unmixed state six months ago and was suitably impressed then, and still am, by its magnificent, powerful delivery and content that is right on point.

The next track is Heretic which speaks of how ISIS destroyed lots of priceless artefacts in Palmyra in Iraq after killing the 82 year old custodian Khaled Al-Assad at the site and smashing 3000 year old plus pieces in a show of cultural terrorism. He was beheaded in front of his family and his body was then hung in the central square. Again, whilst a dark song, there is hope that the displaced peoples will one day return and, as John says, “Empires rise and fall, ideologies are replaced but still the healing power of love endures.” Sally Minnear’s vocals are excellent on this too as she sings in tandem with Joe Payne.

After the Storm is about a journey one woman takes and utilises the weather outside as a metaphor for storms in her life and the ultimate realisation that, eventually, the storms both outside and inside her will pass leaving a calmer and clearer path ahead. This is mostly an acoustic piece and that adds a good contrast for the album with some fine playing from Oliver Day.

The final song, Ancestors and Satellites, returns to the opening section of Leap of Faith as Eilmer saw Haley’s comet twice in his lifetime with John using this comet theme again to show how little we’ve learnt in the days gone past. This song has vocal contributions from Peter Jones, Joe Payne, Sally Minnear and Lauren Nolan but mainly its Peter who sings this so delicately and with real warmth and all set to suitably atmospheric keyboards from John, and Vikram Shankar.

The song talks about cave paintings over 40,000 years ago and also of the Apollo mission that landed on the moon in July 1969 and of the footprints they left there for ever. There follows an ensemble of synthesizers playing a multi tracked passage to great effect and the massed vocals singing the chorus once again before the comet melody returns once again to bring the song towards its impressive finale. Another thing of note is the fantastic and powerful drum work from Nick D’Virgilio. On this track and throughout most of the album Nick adds his magic and his drive to power these pieces along in a most delightful and satisfying manner.

The vocals are impassioned and strong and Michael St Pere’s epic guitar line is heard, along with a bank of synths, sounding very epic and majestic to bring this fantastic album to a fine conclusion.

To think that this is only the work of John, Elizabeth and a few select friends funded from the sales of his earlier album and without and label support is remarkable. It shows John Holden to be a man with both vision and a purpose. I for one applaud him hugely for his fine efforts on this most excellent album. This is going to be one of the albums of the year for those who take notice.

Released 22nd February 2020

Order from John Holden here: