Review – The Mighty Ra – All Secrets Known – by John Wenlock-Smith

There is an old and unfair joke that when you get three Welshmen together that they form a choir, very untrue as here we have four Welsh musicians who have together formed a new progressive rock band! The four are Andy Edwards on guitars and vocals, Rob Griffiths on drums and percussion, Dave Rowe on bass and vocals and finally Rob Wilsher on keyboards. The four come from a wide prog background with Andy involved with Magenta and Cyan, Rob Wilsher with MultiStory, Rob Griffiths with EZRA V and Dave having been gigging for over 30 years, playing with countless big names in that time.

This project is a little different in that the four came together to work on some new ideas and found that they were so inspired that they formed a band. The idea is to write strong material together and then take it out on the road and play some gigs. This gained traction with interest from White Knight Records who have released the quartet’s debut release, ‘All Secrets Known’, which is a fine release for these times. The four bring much experience and skill to these songs, the album has a good mixture of long and shorter tracks in various styles, all with a great sound and some epic musical passages.

The albums kicks off in epic style with the lengthy, near ten minute title track, All Secrets Known (which also features Les Penning as the voice of God), with its tale of how knowledge was transmitted to earth through the minds of the ancient Egyptians  who translated this into physical form to create the mighty temple of Ra. The song opens with keyboards before a fine guitar line is introduced from Andy Edwards alongside vocals in which he is singing about knowledge, the pursuit of and the benefits of the same. The song has a strong sci-fi theme to it but it is the epic music that really takes this song to new heights. There is a fabulous and rather muscular guitar part about half way in that elevates the track into something very special indeed. This is followed by some fabulous keyboard sounds and textures to make a most impressive opening statement. Nothing Comes Too Easy follows and this hinges on a very  strong bass line that holds it all together well. The song talks of how less is always more and that life is a journey not a destination path, which is of course very true and such realisation can help one make both some sense of life and also enable us to enjoy the journey that we are each taking. This is a very positive song all told and the music is equally as enjoyable with fine guitar lines threaded throughout its six minute running time.

Freedom has an interesting opening sequence before a magnificent guitar part takes over with a fluid line and some funky riffing. There is a chorus of “Freedom” in all of this although the songs meaning is a little unclear to me although another great guitar solo and some epic keyboards again make for another strong track. Will We Ever Know is another longer track clocking in at eight and a half minutes and features a strong chorus and lots of spacey type sounds, along with some epic guitar riffing. This one can stand proud, it has touches of Hawkwind contained in its sounds and wouldn’t feel out of place on those early Hawkwind albums due to the epic sounding guitar at play here too, making it rather epic all round.

Seven Days flies in with a spring in its step, bouncing along nicely with lots happening in the sound, including a very fine bass to proceedings. This is another rather muscular track with a great chorus and another very fluid guitar line, it almost has a touch of Marillion to it lyrically, which is no bad thing to these ears, and makes it a rather brilliant track, I really like it. It’s a pity that there are no lyrics with the album as I feel this would make the whole album concept easier to understand and grasp but ,still, just sit back and appreciate the crafting on offer here. Rising Tide is next and this begins gently before taking a more full group sound, the song talks of trying to escape the Rising Tide, although quite how is unclear but the song has some urgency to it.

Another shorter track Rain follows and this is a fabulous little rocker that occurs before the epic final track Bigger Lie closes the album out. This is also the longest piece on the album at twelve and a half minutes. The song is about religion, it seems, and the mystery and lack of a God. Well, everyone has their own opinion on this and I guess the jury is still out on it but it certainly makes for an interesting finale and this has shadows of classic Pink Floyd, certainly in both the vocals and the guitar. Playing the song poses lots of questions yet it makes no claims either way but it does say that we are all living the bigger lie. It’s certainly a thought provoking song, I really like this one and its length allows lots of space for the song to breathe. The song has an epic guitar solo, very Gilmouresque unsurprisingly, but totally in keeping with the track.

This is an album you need to live with for quite a while to let its true colours emerge. At first I thought it could be a touch bland but close proximity has changed that view and now I can see the work that has gone into making this album and that this is a very fine effort and release indeed.

Released June 1st, 2022

Order from Bandcamp here:

All Secrets Known | The Mighty Ra (bandcamp.com)

Review – Rain – Singularity – by John Wenlock-Smith

Rain are a new project that came to light during the first initial period of lockdown in the UK. So some time after 23rd March when the powers that be realised that this virus and pandemic were a lot more serious than had previously been acknowledged. So much so that ‘Herr Boris’ got serious and told us all to stay at home, not go to the pub, segregate and do not mix.

Now this in itself was unusual and very much outside of Boris’ perceived jocular foppish and playful demeanour where he likes to portray himself as a man of the people. It was that in this time that John Jowitt and Andy Edwards (both formerly of IQ and Frost*) decided to form a new group that would allow them to do what they do best, i.e., make some fine new music. To this end they drafted in Rob Groucutt (son of former ELO bass player Kelly Groucutt) who has followed in his fathers footsteps with a career in music and also adding Mirron Webb of Birmingham based band Hey Jester on guitar, vocals and lyrics and, as such, the stage was set.

Rain first appeared on the Fusion festival lockdown special in April debuting the song Devils Will Reign, which was certainly a strong and enlightening first peek into this new band,

The album ‘Singularity’ was released in November 2020 and it is a rather interesting listen, one that will stay with you for a long time. It is one of those albums that initially intrigues you, albeit in a good way, with that feeling continuing with repeated plays. As you do so, it begins to emerge what they are on about, for this is very much an album borne of the frustrations and limitations that lockdown periods have inflicted upon us all. Here Rain have channelled those feelings and thoughts into 5 gloriously crafted and formulated songs.

The album opens with Devils Will Reign which has two sets of lyrics, one from Rob Groucutt, the other from Mirron Webb, that Andy Edwards put together, finding that it worked particularly well. It is a song about one’s own personal demons which seem to come to the fore in times of doubt or when there is nothing else going on, times like a lockdown for example. This song really hits the mark right from the off, opening with gently plucked acoustic guitar and some subtle keyboard backing before the drums pick up the beat and then some strong percussive guitar riffing emerging. The song also features a very nifty Spanish type guitar solo that is exceptionally fine indeed.

Second song Dandelion is about the lies we get sold by those in power, especially as seen during this pandemic with test numbers etc. There are some remarkably interesting sounds on this song also referring to possibly the whole sorry saga of the lies surrounding Brexit and the dodgy Bus of Lies, all £350 million a week’s worth that simply disappeared somehow.

Walkaway is the first lengthy track and is about wanting to escape even if only temporarily. Again, there is some sublime playing on this track with a muscular section after the second chorus which really sounds good around the 3 min 45 mark. This includes with a nifty solo, Mirron, Rob and Andy all adding fantastic guitars to this mix. This is an exceptionally fine track indeed with superb vocals that really add to the tone of the song.

The Magician is the album’s second longest track at 11 minutes and 16 seconds, all of which is wisely used to craft a sinuous and twisting behemoth of a track with oblique lyrics which really suit the subject matter. This track speaks of a magician who hides the meaning behind the reveals so that the truth is meant to be unfathomable. The listener never really hears the hidden knowledge, implying that it is a drug trip or an interventional dimensional breakthrough. Which, of course, in itself hides what it is trying to say. Again, another fabulously diverse and rewarding track.

The final track, Singularity, is the title track to the album and, after the convoluted The Magician, this could be a gentle comedown or a return to the real world. It certainly is a far gentler track, free from the bombast that has been evident on the album this far. It has touches of Devils Will Reign, which adds emphasis to the song. Containing lots of ambient noises, including birdsong, it is a stunning finale to what has been a sensational and awesome set of songs. The musicianship throughout has been impressive and Rain certainly prove to be a significant new band with much promise for the future, once the virus is kicked into touch.

The album is well produced and sounds very impressive and, even as a late comer in the year, it still is impressive enough for me to rate it as one of my top twelve for 2020. This release is one that any fan of progressive rock (or who likes either Frost* or IQ) would enjoy and find much in it to admire and appreciate. 

Released 23rd November 2020

Order from the band’s bandcamp page here:

https://rainprogband.bandcamp.com/album/singularity