Tim Bowness Releases Lyric Video For ‘You Wanted To Be Seen’ – Pre-order Links For New Album.

Tim Bowness has released a lyric video for You Wanted To Be Seen, the first single to be taken from his superb new album ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, due to be released on February 17th via InsideOut Music.

‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is a concept album revolving around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional classic rock musician in the twilight of his career. Ranging from the hypnotic opener Worlds Of Yesterday to the wistful climax of Distant Summers, via the thrilling rage of Kill The Pain That’s Killing You and the orchestral expanse of You’ll Be The Silence, the album features some stunning solos and harmonically rich compositions that represent Bowness’s most musically ambitious work to date.

Bowness utilises a core band comprising Stephen Bennett (Henry Fool), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos) and Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), and is also joined by guests including Kit Watkins (Happy The Man/Camel), Steve Bingham (No-Man) and the legendary Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). Andrew Keeling (Robert Fripp/Hilliard Ensemble/Evelyn Glennie) arranges for string quartet and flute on three of the album’s songs.

‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ can be pre-ordered at the following links:

Burning Shed: CD/DVD, limited gold LP+CD, black LP+CD: https://www.burningshed.com/store/noman/
Amazon: http://smarturl.it/TBownessLITGLAma

Pre-order the digital album and immediately get the single ‘You Wanted To Be Seen’:
iTunes: http://smarturl.it/TBownessLITGLiTunes
AmazonMP3: http://smarturl.it/TBownessLITGLAmaMP3

Tim Bowness To Release New album, Lost In The Ghost Light, In February

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Tim Bowness will release his fourth solo album, ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, through InsideOut on February 17.

A concept album revolving around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional classic rock musician in the twilight of his career. Ranging from the hypnotic opener Worlds Of Yesterday to the wistful climax of Distant Summers, via the thrilling rage of Kill The Pain That’s Killing You and the orchestral expanse of You’ll Be The Silence, the album features some stunning solos and harmonically rich compositions that represent Bowness’s most musically ambitious work to date.

Bowness utilises a core band comprising Stephen Bennett (Henry Fool), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos) and Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), and is also joined by guests including Kit Watkins (Happy The Man/Camel), Steve Bingham (No-Man) and the legendary Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). Andrew Keeling (Robert Fripp/Hilliard Ensemble/Evelyn Glennie) arranges for string quartet and flute on three of the album’s songs.

When I spoke to Tim about the new album a month or so ago,  he said,

“The new album’s just been finished. We’re looking at a mid-February release. In some ways, it is quite a departure. There are lots of flutes on it and due to the nature of ‘the concept’, it’s definitely the most traditionally Progressive album I’ve made. That said, it still sounds a lot like me.”

The album is now available to pre-order from Burning Shed, including an exclusive hand numbered gold vinyl LP + CD limited to 400 copies. All orders will receive a signed artwork postcard.

Review – Fire Garden – Far and Near – by Progradar

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“I’ll keep evolving and put that into my songs.”
Alanis Morissette

One of the great pleasures of being a music journalist/reviewer is watching an artist mature from their initial early steps and through their growing career. You see how the raw musical talent becomes focused and more mature to give ever impressive musical releases.

One such artist, for me, is Chicago native Zee Baig and his musical project Fire Garden. From hearing 2012’s debut E.P. ‘The Prelude’ (where I initially became friends with this engaging musician) through 2014’s first full length release ‘Sound Of Majestic Colours’ to this latest album ‘Far and Near’, you can see the increasing skill and artistry, not only in the music but in the songwriting too.

Zee is the mastermind, songwriter, guitarist, lyricist and a founding member of Fire Garden. He is self-taught musician. His main influences are the music of late 60s and early 70s and bands like Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson and classic bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and many more.

Zee has called on the undoubted drumming skills of Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on the new release, which also features Jordan Rudess’ keyboard wizardry and is mixed by Bruce Soord. The spectacular artwork is from the feverish mind of the legendary Travis Smith.

Frank Lucas (piano, keyboards, synths), Marc Malitz (bass) and Barry Kleiber (bass) make up the rest of Fire Garden and each adds their own considerable expertise to the melting pot.

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The album opens with title track Far and Near which is a haunting two minute instrumental that drips with pathos, feeling and intense emotion. Dominated by a sentimental piano note, it really strikes a chord with me, leaving me feeling slightly melancholy, but in a good way. There’s Something begins with a delightful strummed guitar before the drums become the driving force. Zee’s vocals lull you into a state of grace with their lush tone before the riff gets a little heavier and the song takes on a more serious feel. The chorus has a great hook and you just seem to be carried along on the wave of sentiment that the track engenders. There’s a slight interlude in the middle of the song, an ominous feeling that we are working up to something as everything slows down to a meditative pace. It’s a laconic and laid back, if intricate, build up to a slow burning guitar solo that hits you in the solar plexus and holds you in place while stripping your soul bare. A nicely judged and intelligent song that shows just how far Zee has come as a songwriter. A thunderously powerful riff is the opening to A New Day, a song that has the feeling of U2 but as if it was played by Metallica, the imperative verse drives on with the urgent vocals and dynamic drums. There’s a mesmerising feel to the heavy riffing and eerie organ note that adds to the wall of sound that is being generated. The slow build to the solo really sets you on edge and then Zee’s coruscating guitar really burns bright. A really compelling and forceful track that holds your attention to the explosive end.

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Now to my favourite song on an album of great tracks, Life of a Drifter is a whimsical and nostalgic song that brings out feelings of hope and regret deep from your soul. The laid back chorus is gentle and touching breaking into a softly sung but heartfelt chorus. There is a sense of not wanting to look back at a sepia tinged past so that some sort of pain or less can remain hidden. Don’t look back, just focus on tomorrow, it really touched a nerve with me and I am moved every time I listen to it. The serenity is broken by clashing drums, guitar and keyboard, a maelstrom that leaves you breathless with its ferocity before a more focused and powerful rendition of the chorus is sung. This is all leading up to an absolute monster of a keyboard outro by the legendary Jordan Rudess, given free rein to let loose his mind-bending virtuosity. Turst me, you’ll be left slack jawed by the brilliance! The slow brooding A Thousand Lost Souls is a superb instrumental that seems to just be boiling under the surface, leaving the tension readily apparent. I love the way it makes the hairs on your arms stand up with its intensity and focus. Once you’ve heard the first note, you daren’t turn it off, it is like it is talking to you in a mystical musical code. War and Peace is a darkly powerful prog-metal track that feels like it has clawed its way up from the bowels of the earth, elemental and alive. The repeated, singular, words, are delivered in a menacing chant before the industrial riff and deliciously evil guitar threaten to take over your mind, leaving you a slave to the rhythm.

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Faint Shadows follows that seriously heavy prog-metal direction with a riff that could topple mountains, primordial and destructive. There’s a feeling of barely controlled chaos that is bubbling under the surface before the ever more potent drumming of Jimmy Keegan breaks free. The vocals begin, almost shamen-like in their delivery, as if they are speaking an incantation and one that draws you in close. You know that something is lurking in the shadows but know not if it is of the darkness or the light, however, you have to follow your instinct and find out. It is a really vivid and dominant song that brooks no argument. Heartfelt, sombre and slightly mournful, the opening notes to Whitelight just leave your heart in your mouth. This is a passionate plea of a song that seems to linger in your subconscious. Zee’s vocals are wistful and dreamlike and you just find yourself left in a trance, able neither to move forwards or back, your attention on every word that you hear. The delicate guitar and keyboards just add to the atmosphere, a song powerful in its contemplation. The mood is broken by a dark-edged riff and frenzied drumbeat before a hypnotic piano brings a feeling of tension and the close of the song. At nearly eleven minutes, Diary Of The Blood Moon is the lengthiest track on the album and hits you straight away as being the most progressive of the songs too with an intricate play off between the drums, guitar and keys. Driven along by Jimmy’s expansive style and Zee’s brooding guitar it is a hectic ride for the uninitiated. Interspersed with interludes of calm and reflection, it is an intense crucible of musical majesty that bestrides this album like a colossal behemoth. The last two minutes raise the bar even higher with a build up of momentum that intensifies with a fiery guitar solo and dominant rhythm section to just leaves you open mouthed in admiration.

So Zee and Fire Garden have raised the bar even higher with this latest release. ‘Far and Near’ is a magnificent album that never loses focus or intensity and, while it is great to see Jordan Rudess and Jimmy Keegan giving their considerable talents to this enterprise, it is very much the product of Zee Baig and Fire Garden’s consummate skill set. Trust me, as an all consuming listen from beginning to end, this is a definite must buy for your music collection.

Released 21st October 2016

Buy ‘Far and Near’ direct from Fire Garden

 

 

 

 

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – ANNOUNCE HEADLINE YOUR WILDERNESS TOUR FEATURING GAVIN HARRISON

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The Pineapple Thief have announced a string of European dates for early 2017 in support of their highly acclaimed new album, ‘Your Wilderness’. The band will be joined by virtuoso Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums.  

 “We always said that we couldn’t imagine touring the material live without Gavin on stage’, explains band leader Bruce Soord, ”We’re so excited that we have made it happen. It’s a real once in a lifetime event.” 

20.01 Patronaat, Haarlem NL
21.01 Uden, De Pul NL
22.01 Zwolle, Hedon NL
24.01 Aschaffenburg, Colos Saal DE
25.01 Oberhausen, Eisenlager DE
26.01 Berlin, Frannz club DE
27.01 Prague, Futurum Music Bar CZ
28.01 Dresden, Tante Ju DE
29.01 Hamburg, Knust DE
31.01 Maastricht, Muziekgieterij NL
01.02 Paris, Le Divan Du Monde FR
09.02 Glasgow, ABC2 UK
10.02 Manchester, Sound Control UK
11.02 London, Islington Assembly Hall UK

For more information and ticket details – http://pineapplethief.com/tour

The band will be performing Your Wilderness plus a string of re-imagined favourites from their back catalogue, and with an expanded 5-piece line-up including Darran Charles on additional guitar duties, this will be a live show not to be missed.  Special guest support is from Kscope label mates Godsticks.

Your Wilderness, their 11th studio album, showcases the band performing without any inhibitions providing a springboard for the ongoing creative growth of The Pineapple Thief. 

For the first time, The Pineapple Thief brought in several special guest performers: Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) contributed drums throughout the album, John Helliwell (Supertramp) some beautiful clarinet parts, and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. They were also joined by a 4-piece choir and to cap it all off, Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing. 

Seen as one of the most vital rock bands the UK has produced over the last two decades, The Pineapple Thief was formed in 1999 by founder and chief songwriter Bruce Soord. The band has steadily evolved and refined its sound with the bass playing of Jon Sykes and the production and keyboards of Steve Kitch vital ingredients to the unmistakable TPT sound.

Your Wilderness has been released by Kscope on CD / LP / Digital and as a Deluxe hardback book 2 CD+DVD set: www.kscopemusic.com/store

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR “IN EXILE ” HERE

The Pineapple Thief – In Exile (from Your Wilderness) – YouTube

The Pineapple Thief – In Exile (from Your Wilderness) on Vimeo

WATCH AN  ACOUSTIC VERSION OF “TEAR YOU UP ” RECORDED AT SOORD STUDIOS HERE:

https://youtu.be/l-1awi26pBs

https://vimeo.com/181043820

The Pineapple Thief online:

Website: www.thepineapplethief.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thepineapplethief

Twitter: www.twitter.com/pineapplethief

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thepineapplethief

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/4lrBMUSk8PiNnCEZfsmPAk

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE6401DB011BD837E

Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/the-pineapple-thief/id278648772

Review – Your Wilderness – The Pineapple Thief – By Kevin Thompson

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About fifteen years ago I was rooting through a ‘bargain’ box of CD’s and came across one called ‘Jet Set Radio’, by Vulgar Unicorn, intrigued by the name and attracted by the price it found a place in my growing collection.

Then there was a time I collected my children for an all too rare visit from their Mum’s in Yeovil, a place full of history but devastated by modernity. As I wound up a hill toward their dingy council estate, I passed a theatre on the side of which a poster advertised a band, The Pineapple Thief (TPT). Again intrigued by the name I sought out what information I could and acquired ‘137’ and ‘Variations on a Dream’, and to this day they have remained my favourite two CDs of this band’s output; until this day…..

I still marvel how I came across this band and the fact I never realised the link between Vulgar Unicorn and TPT until a number of years later whilst browsing the sleeve notes to find the name Bruce Soord appeared on both. Now an established and sought after producer, dabbling in Wisdom of Crowds (with Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse) and with a solo album under his belt that appears to have rejuvenated his musical intent he returns with the 11th studio offering under the TPT monicker, ‘Your Wilderness’.

Fresh from watching their stunning performance at Be Prog My Friend festival in Spain, as headliners on the Friday evening, (report available here on Progradar), I had mixed emotions about reviewing this. I have always really liked this band and rate them alongside Porcupine Tree (PT), though I have never agreed with the comparisons in music style that some seem to find.

That said, whilst brilliantly produced and lovingly packaged, I had felt the last couple of albums, despite credible reviews, had an air of frustration and the feeling of treading water. I had feared that as have others, their ascendency and Bruce’s rising popularity in the industry may turn them into mediocrity and (the only comparison I will draw) that they may fade and disappear like PT. You stupid boy, Thompson!

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The cover picture could be interpreted as being in a wilderness and facing a difficult summit to climb, but I should have more faith……

A drum beat introduction leads in to Bruce’s distinct vocals as he berates being In Exile and the one line repeated chorus of “Don’t be afraid to miss me” ensures from the offset this album is not going to go amiss.  As the music swells and the guitar riffs in identifiable TPT style dig in to your mind the song ends with notes from stalwart Steve Kitch‘s keyboards ricocheting into a distant canyon at the beginning of this musical pilgrimage.

Beautiful acoustic strumming and the inimitable airy vocals from Bruce take up the journey into No Man’s Land,  and are joined by Steve’s piano for the ride. Slight pause for effect then the percussive rolls of guest drummer Gavin Harrison, (I know, Porcupine Tree, but still no comparisons) kick in redefining the sound, with Bruce’s cries floating over the top as further guest Darran Charles’ (Godsticks) guitars burst in with spine tingling energy and the bass playing of third man in the core trio, Jon Sykes, more than ably drives the engine of this vehicle through the canyon of music.

It has to be said that not having a permanent drummer at the moment does not detract. In fact, whilst bringing their own individual skills to the table, all the guest artists knit neatly into the TPT signature sound, adding a refreshing impetus.

Acoustic chords and a burst of electric guitar shoot out and Bruce advises he cannot Tear You Up, before the guitar flashes a short burst again and leaves way to the piano and vocals before crashing in with a heavy riff adding more energy to the drive and it definitely begins to feel like all these currents run to you, as it ends abruptly on those words.

The rhythms and riffs weave in and out returning at intervals on this album, linking tracks and  connecting to the whole pathway of the album.

Band 3 - Rob Monk

A gentler electronic sound with rhythm loops, like the breeze stirring desert sands along a dried up river, drifting across That Shore that once teemed with life. As the layered harmonizing echoes round a moonlit sky and you pull in for a rest, contemplating the aural massage of notes soothing your brow as you watch the sunrise.

As the orb rises in the sky, light guitar chords spread across the track and the bass heats up,  Bruce encourages it’s time to make your move. You had best get under-way and Take Your Shot at the listening journey ahead as you are carried on another racing track, kicking dust in the face of non believers as you hurtle down the gravel road in search of musical pastures ahead and your tail-lights disappear into the early morning haze.

A feeling of calm guides you on acoustic guitar, keys and dreamy soundscapes as you wind down the car window and a cool breeze of clarinet from John Helliwell (Supertramp) gently ruffles the balmy air. You are all alone no one around in this wide expanse and you must Fend For Yourself  if you wish to discover what lies ahead. Calmly you make your way fingers drumming on the wheel to the gentle rhythm of the engine and a feeling of contentment with Bruce’s vocals imparting the details of where you are heading, to the woodwind.

Looping guitar chords fuel the drums as you make your way and Bruce urges you not to forget The Final Thing on Your Mind as the heat of the the music swells carrying you on, with orchestral lines guiding you down the straight track. The keyboards plot the course on the penultimate longest track, regret in Bruce’s  restrained vocals at a broken relationship gone cold. Hurrying strings set the pace, the guitar solo points you toward your destination and the ticking of your engine sees this out.

As early evening approaches acoustic guitar shows you a coast coming into view, the familiar lights of a city flickering on as the sun drops away, almost there and Bruce reminds us of  Where We Stood at the start, a warm but fading memory. The echoing guitar and final piano refrain guides us smoothly home.

You can stand in the musical desert, you can blink at the sun and not want to go anywhere, or wish you were back where it all started. On this album, for me, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead. Join us if you wish, there’s plenty of room and the ride is sweet.

All bands pics – credit Rob Monk.

Released 12th August 2016 (19th August in France).

Buy ‘Your Wilderness’ from Burning Shed

 

BE PROG MY FRIEND! Festival 2016 – by Kevin Thompson

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We’re English and we should be used to it, but let’s face it, there has been too much rain lately. An excuse, that’s what we needed. And then a poster appeared online for Be Prog, My Friend!, in Spain and the band list was just too tempting. Sun and great music has to be good and so Mrs T and I took the plunge, raided our piggy banks and booked gig tickets, flights and a hotel. Neither of us speaks Spanish, so armed with our little phrasebook we took off for warmer climes. This is not the story of our excellent weekend , but just the periods of the two days covering the festival, so I won’t be mentioning the delicious food, the wonderful Museum of Modern Art, or the exquisitely beautiful Sagrada Familia and the impressive Camp Nou. Nor will I mention the impressive buildings, statues, waterfalls or fountains at all.

We decided to recce the whereabouts of the the festival venue the day before, which turned out to be a very pleasant 30-40 minute walk from our hotel. This is not the first BPMF, though new to us and was to be held in the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum in Barcelona, just a few meters away from the Fountains of Montjuïc.

The Poble Espanyol was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition as the pavilion dedicated to art and was conceived as a real “village” in the heart of a city. The aim was to give an idea of what might be an “ideal model” of an Iberian village that would bring together all the characteristics of all peninsular villages. It was built in thirteen months and, curiously, had an expiry date, as it was supposed to last the same time as the Universal Exhibition: six months. However, thanks to its success, the Poble Espanyol still stands to this day, and some of the buildings have outlived the original ones to become one of the few monuments built for an International Exhibition that can still be visited.

The Festival is held in the central courtyard and is a beautiful setting with olive and palm tree lined  stone balustrade terraces, balconies draped with colourful plants and parakeets flying overhead. A far cry from soggy Glastonbury.

All your needs are catered for with ample eateries, bars and facilities and we never had to queue more than a couple of minutes for anything. It is the best organised festival we have been to and clean, as most people placed used food and drink containers in the bins provided when discarded, a few drunk ‘tourists’ being the exception and they were berated in to tidying up. There were even lockers available should you wish to offload items/garments and return to them during the day/night. Security was good and polite along with excellent service without hiked prices. The merchandise was plenty and I did indulge a little, again nothing was overpriced. So…….

DAY 1: Friday – 1700:

kEV 1

We arrived in good time and joined the line, people were friendly and my all over print PALLAS t-shirt drew quite a few admiring glances, there was quite a bit of t-shirt posing with everyone checking out each others. I got chatting to a guy in a Ltd edition Sanctuary 2 t-shirt and discovered he was a local and a big fan of Rob Reed. Entry to the Friday night was free if you had tickets for the Saturday, bargain!

We were soon through, into the festival and as we were some of the first, took the chance to get our bearings and map out the facilities, grabbing tokens for the food and drinks for both nights to save time and buying our merch. It was lovely and warm with a gentle, pleasant breeze circulating and the sun sat neatly at the edge of the courtyard roofs offering welcome shade. We found seating on some of the stone steps giving a great view, though standing and moving around at intervals was required to prevent ‘numb bums’.

Kev 4

Up first were local band, Exassens, (www.exxasens.com), formed in 2011, I’d describe them as an instrumental rock band, or post-rock, but with hints of progressive and space rock. A mix of different sounds, where guitars with long echoes, blend with synths and a powerful rhythmic base, displaying many influences such as Pink Floyd and The Cure, through to instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai. The solar system backdrop videos adding to the atmosphere and they warmed the late afternoon crowd up nicely. Whilst mostly instrumental, Bruce Soord did make a surprise appearance to duet on vocals for one track raising a cheer from those watching.

Kev 2

As the venue began to fill we were joined by a bunch of Spanish lads and a lady (girlfriend) who explained they had grown up together in Barcelona and then gone their separate ways. The festival is their excuse to meet and catch up every year. They spoke fairly good English and we joked about our phrase book Spanish. They seemed to value our opinions on the bands and made for a very pleasant company throughout the evening. Konnie wasn’t complaining as the lads kept topping up her drinks!

Up next were Obsidian Kingdom, (www.obsidiankingdom.com) another local band with a hard-to-classify heavy sound with plenty of contrast, making use of multiple sound resources. Unfortunately the sombre and cryptic quality of the band’s lyrics and music coupled with muddied sound, brought the atmosphere down somewhat. I don’t have any live shots unfortunately as we had been led to believe no cameras were allowed (not true) and the heavy use of smoke in the early evening sun blurred my phone photos. Listening to them online now they sound better than on the day.

Plastic glasses refilled we were ready for the much anticipated Russian band, I Am The Morning and they didn’t disappoint. The captivating, angelic vocals of a barefoot Marjana Semkina as she floated round the stage, with the beautiful keys of classically trained piano maestro Gleb Kolyadin drifting around the square. They enchanted all and were ably assisted with strings and backing band. Flowers were thrown on stage and they won our hearts, someone even shouted out ‘Marry Me Marjana!”. They captivated everyone watching with a quite magical performance and deserve a wider audience.

Kev 3

By now the sun was beginning to set behind the buildings and the lamps in the square came on adding to the ambience as we discussed the music so far and waited for the next act.

Kev 5

On to the stage bounced the surprise of the festival for us, with much enthusiastic applause from our Spanish friends who had advised us ‘this band is brilliant, yes’. I had seen the current album cover but not heard any of the music from Icelandic band Agent Fresco (www.agentfresco.is) and what an awesome show. Think a male version of Bjork with a band coming from a Rage Against The Machine/At the Drive In angle and you’re some-way to describing them. The mechanics and rhythmic patterns unpredictably stutter, yet seamlessly stitch together into stunning compositions veering from blazing alt-guitar rock to piano ballads and stadium-size anthems, often in the same song, to decisive euphoric effect. All this with lead singer Arnór Dan Arnarson defying doctors orders after leaving hospital only 48 hours earlier, having been treated for pneumonia and told he had to rest. They left us breathless and wanting more and we hope Arnór is soon fully recovered and we get the opportunity to see them again.

Kev 6

The night had drawn in and we settled down ready for the head-liners, the excitement was palpable and voices rose as the anticipation grew. The stage planning and crews had made smooth transitions between the different acts, removing and replacing equipment with practised ease showing very little delay, keeping close to schedule but allowing time for ample refreshments.

Kev 7

Enter head-liners of the night The Pineapple Thief to resounding applause, as they burst into a repertoire, which plundered their catalogue as far back as Variations on a Dream including a ‘shortened’ version of one of my favourites, ‘Remember Us’ with some great guitar soloing. An apt track as the crowd were not going to forget this performance for a long while. Konnie remarked how much they have grown in the ‘live’ environment, the last time we saw them was in a very small, intimate venue and tonight they looked so comfortable on the large stage, every bit the stadium head-liners.

Kev 8

A polished, rocking performance, holding the crowd in the metaphorical palm of their hand and our newly found Spanish friends couldn’t agree more. Great sound quality and lighting added to the performance and even though they played a couple of encore tunes we would of all happily stayed longer.

Kev 9

Buoyed by a great night’s entertainment we said goodnight to our ‘crowd’ and flowed out of the venue and into the streets, strolling toward the city, it was 0130 and everyone was chatting as they walked. We struck up a conversation with a young Frenchman man who now lives in New Zealand. He’d flown over to visit his Mum in France and then down for the festival before heading back to NZ. To say he had enjoyed the first night would be an understatement, amid the numerous enthusiastic expletives he enthused about the evening none stop until we parted company and steered ourselves contentedly toward our Hotel, tomorrow would be a longer day, but who knew what delights awaited us………..

Kev 10

Part 2 of Kevin’s BE PROG, MY FRIEND! experience is coming very soon…..

Review – Ghost Community – Cycle of Life – by Progradar

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“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

Let’s face it, nothing good in this world generally comes easy. We often have to endure hardship to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the gestation of ‘Cycle of Life’, the debut album from Cardiff based band Ghost Community, has certainly seen many trials and tribulations before, finally, coming to fruition.

In fact their own publicity information goes so far as to say,

“‘Cycle of Life’ was written through a maelstrom of adversity and sometimes you can hear it but not necessarily feel it, because this is an album of hope; and if we ever needed an album of hope, it’s right now.”

Band -Catherine Summerhayes

(this picture and featured image courtesy of Catherine Summerhayes)

Ghost Community is Matthew Cohen – bass (The Reasoning / Magenta), Simon Rogers – guitar (Also Eden), Jake Bradford-Sharp – drums (The Reasoning), Moray Macdonald – keyboards (Godsticks) and the band’s singer supreme, John Paul Vaughan (Unbroken Spirit).

Riversea vocalist Marc Atkinson was the original singer but was unable to commit to the project on a long term basis, however, some of his original vocals do appear on the album.

Matty Cohen says of Marc,

“We’re all in this together……. I am so glad he is on the album. He started this journey with us so, it was only right.”

With much crisscrossing the country through the years in various bands and with each person sharing the same stages, frequenting the same scene, and forging firm friendships, discussions inevitably began about creating something new together, as a band. With the wealth of experience they brought to the table, they knew they could make this band something that not only met the needs of their own musical desires but would also, be a band for everyone. Ghost Community is that band and that dream, come true.

Matty feels that the music community has come together  to support Ghost Community in their endeavour, he told me,

“This is what the music scene should be about. Everyone helping each other. That is the ethos behind Ghost Community. It is about every thing working because we all need each other to make it work.”

He continues,

“Trust me, music has saved me on more than one occasion. It drives me mad sometimes but, it’s in me and I never want to be without it. That is why this album is so important…”

With the brilliant Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief, Opeth & Katatonia) mixing / producing the album with the band, hopefully there is something special awaiting me.

Bruce Soord

Opener Rise Up seems to bloom from almost out of nowhere, a low key intro before the stylish bass and guitar power into view, dragging the impressive drums along with them. One thing is immediately apparent, John Paul Vaughan has a stunning voice and one that fits with the material perfectly. There is an urgency to the song, one that keeps you on your toes. It flies along at a fairly hectic pace but loses no quality at all. I’m put in mind of some of the recent stalwarts of British progressive music like The Reasoning and Also Eden (no surprise there) but the band give it their own polished edge and identity. Simon Rogers shows his zen like guitar skills with a fiery, burning solo and, basically, you are having a rollicking good time. Driving all of this along is the dynamism of Matty Cohen’s superb bass playing and Jake Bradford-Sharp’s pin sharp drum skills, Moray Macdonald’s vibrant keyboards are the glue that holds everything in place. There is a vocal piece towards the end that reminds me so much of Peter Nicholls of IQ fame, John Paul has a really distinctive voice and this track is a brilliant way to open the album, right, what’s next?

John Paul

(John Paul Vaughan)

Distinctive guitar, gentle but insistent, opens Mirror Lakes, a more laid back track than the previous. The vocals are key at the start of this song, giving a focal point around which the languid music can flow with ease. Then the powerful drums and bass hit you hard along with a powerful riff from Simon’s guitar. There’s an ebb and flow between the relative calm of the verse and then the in your face potency of the catchy chorus which is actually quite addictive and has you singing along with gusto. I find myself picking out the individual instruments at times, the drums almost have a life of their own, the guitar playing is really quite sublime and the keyboards give added verve and fervour. On this track, what really stands out at times though is that driving bass line, almost with a mind and will of its own and all these impressive musicians segue together to provide a stylish run out to end the song.

Jake

(Jake Bradford-Sharp)

Anything and Everything has a pensive opening, almost sci-fi in feel, with the industrial synth sounds. The drums dominate the soundscape with the guitar adding gloss before the vocals begin, low-key and contemplative. There’s a feel of melancholy running through the song even as the pace picks up and the track gets more urgency, it s a darker, more sombre song that leaves you in a thoughtful mood. Just out of reach, but very evident, there’s an 80’s synth pop party going on, Midge Ure and Ultravox have turned up to jam with the Ghost Community boys and Moray’s keys get a real extended workout on this track. For a child of that decade there is nostalgia to be heard and felt at every turn and wry and wistful smile never leaves my face. A great song that is surrounded by a wistful aura throughout.

Moray

(Moray Macdonald)

There is a delicate fragility to the opening to Blue December Morning, you can almost imagine a cold, frosty day with the icicles hanging from the sparse branches, bleak but beautiful. John’s vocal is affectingly humble and sincere and the music adds its own gravitas with lush string-like keyboards and an elegant piano giving a pared back ambience to the whole song. There is an almost heavy-hearted and poignant feel to the lyrics but the song shows there is beauty even in tribulation as a darkly magnificent solo flows organically from Simon Rogers’ eloquent guitar to leave you lost in your own thoughts. The vocals become more impassioned and the music stimulates you even more as this intelligent and potent track comes to a stirring close.

simon

(Simon Rogers)

Heartening and uplifting, the organ, vocals and guitar that open Ghost Community are full of hope and optimism and this feel-good track carries on in that vein to give an atmosphere of confidence and belief. An influential and charismatic rhythm section give real impetus to the music and the vocals have a compelling tone to them, one that makes you sit up and take notice. There is energy aplenty running through this song with hooks firing from left, right and centre. The absorbing lull in the middle of the song brings a note of seriousness to proceedings, hope and optimism are all good but nothing comes easy in this life, you have to work for every positive outcome. That mantra is drummed into you as the song comes to an intricate close.

Matty

(Matty Cohen)

So it all comes to this, the final track on the album and the title track Cycle of Life. With a title like that it should be an epic shouldn’t it? Well, for starters, it’s nearly sixteen minutes long and starts with an ominous voice over so that’s a couple of boxes ticked already! An unpretentious acoustic guitar and John Paul’s deferential vocals add serious dignity to the song before Matty’s pulsating bass and Moray’s keyboards lay the foundations for the track to move up a notch or two with an energetic riff and sweeping keyboards taking the baton and running with it. Jake’s drums get to shine again and all the components are present and correct for something rather special. Like all the best extended progressive tracks, it seems to flow seamlessly from section to section, sometimes showcasing the exceptional guitar work and , at other times, allowing the uber-tight rhythm section to take centre stage. John Paul Vaughan’s singular voice repeatedly requests that,

“Passengers get on board, welcome to the Cycle of Life….”

Before the voice-over precedes an undulating lull in proceedings, everyone treading water before the mantra is repeated again. It’s easy to get lost in the wondrously labyrinthine twists and turns that abound in this dramatic and profound song but the band will always guide you back to safety. An acoustic guitar returns us to place of calm and serenity, the cultured vocals soothing any troubled souls as you sit on a metaphorical shore of endless possibilities, it only takes a second to change your life so what are you waiting for? A rather inventive and perceptive instrumental section brings us to the close of this creative track and, as the last note resonates into the distance, you sit quietly to ruminate on what the last fifty-one minutes has given you.

‘Cycle of Life’ is a thought-provoking, beguiling and fulfilling musical journey that excites and satisfies at every turn. Ghost Community may have had to endure trials and tribulations while making this record but the experiences have enabled them to deliver something quite magical and rewarding that will stand the test of time, worthy of a place in anyone’s musical collection.

Released 24th June 2016

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Review – Opeth – Deliverance and Damnation (remixed) – by Shawn Dudley

D&D_Vinyl

2015 has been a retrospective year for Opeth. Their 25th anniversary tour was celebrated by adding a full performance of the 2005 album ‘Ghost Reveries’ in addition to their regular ‘Pale Communion’ set and the year closes out with a deluxe remixed reissue of their classic albums ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Damnation’.

Two albums that were recorded during the same sessions and intended for release together, but their record label at the time (Music For Nations) split them up and issued them 6 months apart. This reissue fixes that mistake and the new mixes from Steven Wilson (‘Damnation’) and Bruce Soord (‘Deliverance’) offer up a fresh perspective on this material, which was so important to the evolution of the band and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the ensuing years.

The creation of this double album was far from a painless process however…

Opeth was coming off their breakthrough release ‘Blackwater Park’, an album that finally opened the doors to the US market so expectations were very high.  Mikael Akerfeldt remarks in the liner notes: “I remember that even though I was determined to write the heaviest record to date, I kept coming up with these beautiful snippets of acoustic music. It was disturbing. My muse wasn’t cooperating. Where’s the fucking metal?”

Mikael’s best friend Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) suggested that the answer was to record two albums; one heavy, one softer. Mikael latched onto the idea immediately but their record label took some convincing. The only way the label would agree to a double album was if the record only counted as a single release against their contract and if they recorded it in the same amount of time and on the same budget as a single release.

Despite only having three completed songs ready and a month to record the entire project, Mikael dove into writing and recording on the fly, often staying up all night writing and then recording the next day. To add to the stress of the situation, the first studio they booked was not well maintained and frequent equipment breakdowns quickly put them behind schedule.

They soldiered on, changed studios and completed recording of the basic tracks, but Mikael was utterly exhausted and called on his friend Steven Wilson (who had co-produced ‘Blackwater Park’) to assist them with finishing the project. Wilson would help to put the finishing touches on the ‘Deliverance’ half and then him and Mikael worked together to craft ‘Damnation’.

Steven contributed keyboards and backing vocals for both albums in addition to writing the lyrics for the song Death Whispered A Lullaby.

Opeth-Deliverance

Deliverance

“Deliverance was always meant to be a dark and heavy record. I can’t remember why I wanted it to be, to be honest. At the time of writing the songs, I wasn’t listening to any music like that. I only played soft singer/songwriter stuff or progressive rock. 

I can’t remember listening to any extreme forms of metal at all. In retrospect, I think I might have been afraid of losing touch with the form of music that had shaped the band in the first place.”  – Mikael Akerfeldt

Based on the finished result, any fears Mikael may have had about losing touch with their heavy side were utterly unfounded. ‘Deliverance’ is one of their heaviest and most intense records; probably made even more so by the stressful circumstances that birthed it. It’s the perfect mirror image to ‘Damnation’; the stylistic breadth of Opeth’s ‘from a whisper to a scream’ approach on full display.

‘Deliverance’ is a fairly uncompromising listen for the most part, but it also contains many moments of beauty and progressive rock sophistication. A Fair Judgment is my personal favorite track from these sessions, a multi-layered epic that begins with Steven Wilson’s plaintive solo piano intro and then ebbs and flows in dramatic intensity for the remaining 9 minutes. Mikael sticks to his clean voice throughout (at this stage getting more assured with each album) and the song also features some fine guitar solos and a nice doomy outro.

The title track deserves special mention as well as it’s arguably the best prog-metal arrangement in their discography. If I could only pick one song to demonstrate their breadth of sound it would be this one. Military-precision death metal and delicate acoustic passages flow effortlessly into one another creating dramatic tension and release throughout the 13 ½ minute composition. The wonderfully hypnotic repeated rhythmic figure during the ending segment is thrilling, I can think of few bands that could pull it off. It may be a cliché but this song is definitely a jaw-dropper.

Bruce Soord’s meaty remix of the album really brings out the dynamics of the original recording and is quite different in character to the original mix. The most noticeable difference is in the drums and the low end. Bruce removed the triggered “clicks” on the kick drums that were omnipresent during that era and that suddenly allows the bottom end to breathe, the kicks now push massive amounts of air. The original mix had very little low-end definition, now it will rattle the rafters.

He has also used a wider stereo spread and more three-dimensional positioning of the vocal tracks and lead and acoustic guitar parts, giving the entire album increased depth and presence. While it’s still a fairly compressed sounding recording this version is a dramatic overall improvement and sounds fantastic in the 24bit/96khz stereo mix on the DVD. It can be cranked loudly with no discernable distortion.

 

Opeth-Damnation

Damnation

“Damnation” is a happier memory, even if it really shouldn’t be, as its writing and recording was almost equally difficult. I guess it was a more interesting album to make, since the music/direction/everything else about Opeth was moving and progressing in actual real time. In the same pace as the music was created. Quite odd, when you think about it now.” – Mikael Akerfeldt

It’s going to sound like hyperbole but I honestly believe ‘Damnation’ is one of the most unique and beautiful albums of the past decade. Opening track Windowpane was my first exposure to Opeth and it just sounded utterly timeless and classic from that very first listen. It’s not often that I hear a single song that starts an obsession, but that’s exactly what happened in this case.

‘Damnation’ is 44 minutes of melodic progressive rock perfection, one that acknowledges Mikael’s many musical influences while still sounding unmistakably like Opeth. The band responds brilliantly to the new challenges introduced by these arrangements and each member puts in a career-best performance. Special mention goes to Martin Mendez (bass) and Martin Lopez (drums) for their deft rhythm section work, I can think of few metal bands that could so convincingly alternate from the delicate swing of a track like To Rid The Disease to the full-on metallic assault of Master’s Apprentices.

Steven Wilson provides an array of classic prog keyboard sounds to the recording and would inspire Mikael to expand Opeth’s lineup to feature a full-time keyboardist from this point forward.

Steven Wilson’s remix stays true to the character of his original mix from 2002 while bringing out even more depth and detail to the intricate arrangements. It’s not quite as dramatic of an improvement as ‘Deliverance’, but ‘Damnation’ was a good sounding album to begin with; now it sounds phenomenal. It’s an essential upgrade.

Being able to experience both of these albums together, as they were intended, really helps illustrate what an important stylistic step they were for the band. ‘Damnation’ allowed Mikael to fully explore his progressive rock side without being restricted by stylistic concerns and that freedom carried onto his writing on subsequent albums. ‘Deliverance’ would simultaneously close one chapter of their career (the 4-piece lineup) while pointing toward the expanded creative direction they would follow on ‘Ghost Reveries’, ‘Watershed’ and beyond.

For a deeper understanding of this material and the circumstances surrounding the recording sessions I highly recommend picking up the DVD set ‘Lamentations’. It features a documentary film made during the recording of the albums with interviews of the band and Steven Wilson.  The concert recording features 2 sets, the first set including the entire ‘Damnation’ album and the second set featuring tracks from ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Blackwater’ Park. The concert was filmed at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2003.

The Box set was released on 14th September 2015

Buy the box set direct from the artists webshop