2022 Progradar’s Best Of The Year – The Editor’s Top 20

Your intrepid editor running a 24 hour event earlier in 2022.

As most of you know I am a very committed runner so the above picture is really my personal running highlight of 2022 (a 24 hour running event) but below you will find my top 20 albums of the year for 2022.

The first fifteen are in no particular order, they are just brilliant albums that I really enjoyed throughout the year but the final five are my definitive favourites of the year. So, without further ado, here we go…

David Longdon – Door One

A wonderful collection of songs that made a fitting and poignant epitaph for an amazing songwriter, musician and, above all, a wonderful man. I was lucky enough to meet David a few times and he was the least likely ‘rock star’ you could ever meet but, boy, what a voice and this album was the culmination of his musical career. One that was tragically cut too short.

Gandalf’s Fist – Widdershins

The ‘Clockwork Saga’ will always be seen as a monumental piece of work but, as a stand-alone release, ‘Widdershins’ sees Gandalf’s Fist at their absolute vibrant and dynamic best, every musician giving 100% and, while I’ve always been a fan of this very distinctive band, this new release sees them hitting an entirely new level.

Avandra – Prodigal

AVANDRA have created a thrilling and compelling take on the progressive-metal genre and one that is delivered with not a little expertise and finesse. ‘Prodigal’ is one of those intricate and influential albums that takes some understanding at first but when you peel back the final layer of this epic behemoth, it is a wonder to behold.

The Opening Song – Hidden Walls

Imagine music written like a classic novel of the 20’s and 30’s, there’s a wide eyed and wistful innocence that you just don’t get anymore in the world but behind that innocence, there’s also a world weary knowledge that the world isn’t always what you think it is or what you want it to be. ‘Hidden Walls’ is achingly beautiful but also wistfully painful at the same time. It’s made me quite emotional and that’s a rare thing but, isn’t what what music should do?

Comedy of Errors – Time Machine

After a long five year absence, ‘Time Machine’ is a fine return from one of progressive rock’s premier artists and an album that I am constantly revisiting. Cementing Comedy of Errors‘ status as one of the foremost artists in the genre, it is sure to be one of 2022’s most welcome releases.

Esthesis – Watching Worlds Collide

An object lesson in combining the stylish sensibilities of smokey jazz grooves with an almost 50’s noir film score to deliver a slick musical experience, all wrapped up in a sharp suit. Overall, ‘Watching Worlds Collide’ is a seriously good album with tons of Gallic flair, intelligence and inventiveness, it is also the coolest thing you are going to hear this year and I love it!

The Round Window – self-titled

A high quality release with wonderfully emotive songs and superb musicianship, this self-titled album may be The Round Window’s debut release but it shows a group of musicians who are already playing at a very high level and have creativity to burn. I can’t recommend it highly enough, this should be in everyone’s music collection…

Oak – The Quiet Rebellion of Compromise

Oak have a unique, innovative sound and you can hear it mature and transform on every album they release. Their approach to music is refreshing and sees them deliver meaningful music that has heart and soul and, with ‘The Quiet Rebellion of Compromise’, these talented musicians have created their most accomplished and consummate work yet.

Glass Hammer – At The Gate

Melodic, symphonic and, at times, monumentally heavy, ‘At The Gate’ is a superb, majestic leviathan of an album that enhances the band’s legacy as masters of the genre. This final instalment in the impressive trilogy brings things to a triumphant and proudly pompous conclusion, this is Glass Hammer at their finest, hugely expressive and sonically brilliant.

Threshold – Dividing Lines

For fans of the band it’s been a long five years since ‘Legends Of The Shires’ but when they return with an album as strong as ‘Dividing Lines’, you could say it has been worth the wait. Threshold are one of the pre-eminent proponents of prog-metal performing today and this fantastic new release has cemented their position right at the top of this particular musical tree.

VLMV – Sing With Abandon

There are times when you hear a piece of music that leaves you open mouthed in appreciation and, when I first heard ‘Sing With Abandon’ I was utterly stunned. Albums like this are more than mere music, they pervade your very soul, take over your life and almost bring you to tears at their beauty. VLMV have created something so good that it almost becomes a state of mind and I thank Pete Lambrou from the bottom of my heart for doing so.

Dim Gray – Firmament

I was seriously impressed with Dim Gray’s debut release ‘Flown’ but the last forty five minutes has shown me that this band have elevated themselves to another level entirely. ‘Firmament’ is a magnificent achievement, twelve songs that ebb and flow superbly and sum up perfectly what music is truly about. These three truly inspiring musicians have created something that is prime and organic, their music can get under your skin and influence your very moods and my life would truly be a much sadder place without it!

Ghost Of The Machine – Scissorgames

This superb album was reviewed for Progradar by my good friend Leo Trimming and I have to agree with every single one of his words:

Scissor Games‘ is a remarkable debut album. It clearly owes so much to earlier eras of Prog Rock but when it is done with this sheer amount of brio and skill, allied with powerful, impactful lyrics, then it is entirely valid and worthy as a piece of music and art. Many Prog fans will absolutely fall in love the style and emotional content of ‘Scissor Games‘ which will very probably be rightfully be regarded as one of the best debut progressive rock albums of 2022.

Gustaf Ljunggren with Skúli Sverrisson – Floreana

Philosophical and meditative, ‘Floreana’ will leave you in place of utter calm and leave you ruminating on life, the universe and just about everything. It’s as much about the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves and the state of mind that your are left in. To me, it is one of the surprises of the year so far and an album that I implore you to listen to at least once, trust me, it will be worth it…

Omega Point – A Great Escape

Matt Cohen has brought together a stellar group of musicians and, in Omega Point, created a powerful musical statement, close-knit and cohesive. ‘A Great Escape’ is another fantastic addition to the ranks of accomplished new releases we have already been lucky enough to hear in 2022 and can proudly hold its head high along with the best of them. Let’s hope this is just the start of things to come!

So that’s fifteen of the best albums I’ve heard in 2022 and they all rightly deserve a place in this review but now for the top five…

In fifth place:

Bjørn Riis – Everything to Everyone

Music can make a world that seems to be falling into monochrome light up and be revitalised with blazes of colour and vitality and this wondrous new album from musical maestro Bjørn Riis brings all that and more. Power, soul and grace are infused throughout its six tracks and combine to make it one of the outstanding releases of 2022 so far.

Fourth place was taken by:

The Tangent – Songs From The Hard Shoulder

‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ is just a wonderful piece of work, The Tangent at their brilliant best. People need some cheer in the world and music has the power to lift people, after just one listen to this amazing album I was smiling again. Andy and the band could just have released their most important record yet…

Now on to the top three, starting with:

cosmograf – Heroic Materials

The sumptuous, questioning ‘Heroic Materials’ is undeniably brilliant. Robin has laid his heart and soul, his whole being in fact, down as music. Emotive, melancholy at times, this record is a story and history at the same time. A plea for the future of the planet it may be but, above all, it is an immersive artistic triumph and one of the best releases of recent years.

And, as hard as I tried,I couldn’t split the final two so we have joint winners of my album of the year and I’m listing them arbitrarily by release date:

Joint First Album of the YearMarillion – An Hour Before it’s Dark

I have been a fan of Marillion for over three decades and, in a career of superlatives, ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ can truly be seen as one of their most accomplished albums. It is an outstanding piece of music that the band should be incredibly proud of and, even though we are only in February, it will take something amazing to knock it off the top of my album of the year list.

Joint First Album of the Year – Galahad – The Last Great Adventurer

When music is as good as this and touches you in a very personal manner, it can’t really get any better. In my opinion Galahad have returned with what can only be described as a modern progressive masterpiece and one that will stand the test of time and should be remembered as being one of the best albums of recent years. It’s my joint first album of the year and I really can’t give it any higher praise than that.

So, in a year of high quality releases, this is my definitive top twenty, a collection of superb albums that would grace anyone’s music collection, tomorrow will see Progradar’s respected contributor John Wenlock-Smith’s top 20 albums and I am already looking forward to what 2023 will bring…

Review – Comedy of Errors – Time Machine

From Glasgow Scotland, Comedy of Errors are a progressive rock band playing in their own distinctive style. They have a notable live presence dating back to the 1980s and were contemporaries of bands like Marillion and IQ, but for some unknown reason never released an album until they reformed in 2010. Since 2010’s ‘Disobey’, the band have released three further long players before a five year hiatus until 2022’s ‘Time Machine’.

The one thing that I have always loved about this band is, despite obvious nods to the bands of the so-called ‘Neo-Prog’ era, they have resolutely ploughed their own furrow, resulting in a distinct sound that could only emanate from these talented Scotsmen. It is definitely progressive rock but it is Comedy of Errors‘ take on that music and has produced such gems as 2015’s ‘Spirit’ and 2017’s ‘House of the Mind’.

So, after five years, it’s been a welcome return from this reviewer’s point of view and a rather splendid one too! This new release is chock full of the intelligent songwriting and stellar musicianship that always graces a Comedy of Errors release, soaring chords, immaculate guitar playing, effortless keyboards and dynamic drums, all backed by Joe Cairney’s always fine vocal performance.

Leading the fanfare this time is the flawless keyboard playing of Jim Johnstone, who also wrote all the music and lyrics on the album. Opener The Knight Returns, which has its origins in a track written in the 80’s, is a rollicking prog ride into medieval times, almost a musical gallop if you like. You can feel it’s 80’s roots but they’re brought bang up to date by Johnstone’s songwriting prowess and the superb guitar work of Sam McCulloch and Mark Spalding is a delight, as it is throughout this enjoyable romp. As album openers go, it certainly gets you in the mood for what is to come! Lost Demigods has nods to musical greats throughout (not all from recent centuries either!) and references a lot of Johnstone’s heroes, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare and more. The song definitely heads in to the more popular music side of progressive rock but is none the worse for it with its fast tempo and Joe’s great vocals (sounds to me like he’s loving it actually!).

The band’s serious side is shown on the epic and outstanding Wonderland, a treatise on the rise and fall of the supposedly most powerful nation on the planet, America. Social and political commentary have rarely been delivered in such an impeccable fashion in the music industry and it’s a testament to a songwriter and band at the height of their powers. A brooding masterpiece of a song that ramps up the tension note by note and word by word and is sure to be a live highlight of the band’s upcoming shows. The cacophonous crash of keyboards, guitars and drums and Joe’s intense, solemn vocals tell the damning tale perfectly. I always love an instrumental on a progressive album and Comedy of Errors don’t let me down with the wistful, whimsical wonder of The Past Of Future Days, grounded on John Fizgerald’s elegant bass playing. A glorious showcase for keys and guitar, this track will definitely leave you smiling.

The main album closes with the heart wrenching but beautiful lament of title track Time Machine, a plaintive ode to loss and regret that is underpinned initially by a gentle piano and Joe’s forlorn vocal. This elegantly mournful song continues to build patiently as it gets under your skin and begins to take hold of your emotions, the basic premise seeming to be about building a time machine to see those we have lost once more. It’s full of a painfully stirring, melancholic spirit but is so wonderfully performed that it really touches your soul. Not ones to quit while ahead, we are then treated to a dynamic and brilliant live version of the band’s classic track Disobey, recorded live at their 2016 performance from RosFest. While the song doesn’t fit with the main album proper, it is a worthy addition and a reminder of Comedy of Errors‘ dominating stage presence.

After a long five year absence, ‘Time Machine’ is a fine return from one of progressive rock’s premier artists and an album that I am constantly revisiting. Cementing Comedy of Errors‘ status as one of the foremost artists in the genre, it is sure to be one of 2022’s most welcome releases.

Released 23rd September, 2022.

Order from the band here:

Comedy of Errors : Shop

Review – Comedy of Errors – House Of The Mind – by Progradar

Scottish progressive stalwarts Comedy of Errors followed up 2015’s ‘Spirit’ with new release ‘House Of The Mind’. I was a big fan of ‘Spirit’ so was really looking forward to this latest chapter in their musical history.

I love it when a band just seems to get better and better, maturing with every new record they produce and not treading water, resting on their laurels and past glories. Comedy of Errors follow this mantra perfectly, every time they release a new album it has progressed (see what I did there?) from the previous records and added something more to their varied portfolio.

The new album opens with Tachyon, a song that majors more on the electronic side of music and has a superb beat and melody. The vocals are subtle and subdued and work perfectly with the energy and insistence of the synthesiser and rhythm section with the drums being particularly impressive. it gives a whole nostalgic 80’s feel to the track and is a great opening to the record.

The second, and title, track is the first of two longer tracks on the release. House Of The Mind has everything you’d expect from an epic track, an inventive and evocative introduction sets the scene for a well constructed piece of music that takes the listener on an involving musical journey. The song draws you in with its understated keyboards and measured drums and bass and you find yourself waiting on every note. Again the vocals just add to the atmosphere without having to be the focus of attention. Comedy of Errors have perfected their sound to such a position where you know it is them from the first note, influences are clear but the band make their own statement with great songs like this.

A Moment’s Peace is exactly as it sounds, a song that transports you to a place of calm serenity with an elegant acoustic guitar being the superb focus of what is an utterly ethereal piece of music. Wistful and understated in equal measure, it is an instrumental that you can tell has been lovingly created. There’s a nostalgic, thoughtful atmosphere that pervades every note, it truly is a delightful track.

There’s a troubadour, medieval feel to One Fine Day, a song that, perhaps, does land itself right in the middle of Neo-prog territory and it’s all the better for it. Running at just under three minutes it’s not a long track at all but certainly makes its presence felt with a great piece of guitar work and some grand sounding vocals.

The last new track on the album is the rather extravagant sounding Song Of Wandering Jacomus and is the second ‘epic’ on the album. It’s a fantastic song and one where the band’s exemplary songwriting skills really come to the fore. Epic by name, epic by nature, it gives the music fan everything they need from a track of this nature. The extended introduction is really quite profound and sets the scene perfectly before there’s a lull in proceedings and the tension is ramped up. There’s a fantasy feel to the song, a whimsical, playful lightheartedness that gives it a real feel-good aura. The vocals are refined and the music is sublime and yet, at times, has real substance, especially on the extended guitar break that just leaves you smiling. It’s a track you will return to again and again.

The last track is a re-arranged and recorded version of Ever Be The Prize, the first ever Comedy of Errors recording as a demo in 1985 and it really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you are transported back to that decade where Neo-prog was born and first flourished. Keyboard heavy with some powerful guitars and a great drum sound, it has dated very well and the new arrangement has given it anew lease of life. It is actually good to able to compare the early song with the latest to see how the band have matured and developed over the years.

‘House Of The Mind’ sees Comedy of Errors on top form once again. A talented set of songwriters and highly accomplished musicians, they infuse every song with verve and flair to give us another superb album that will be on many Best of 2017 lists. I can’t wait to see them live at A Prog Before Christmas in December.

Released 16th June 2017

Buy ‘House Of The Mind’ direct from the band here

 

 

 

Mike Morton Announces Dates And Line-up For Resonate, The Follow-up To 2014’s Resonance Festival

The Gift’s Mike Morton has announced the dates and the majority of the line-up for 2018’s 2-day Resonate, the follow up to the Resonance Festival, an ambitious but ultimately rewarding 4 day musical extravaganza staged in 2014.

Taking place at the O2 Academy Islington on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September next years, Resonate will see some of the leading lights of the progressive music scene join forces with acts from wider musical genres to deliver an outstanding two days of live music.

About the festival Mike says:

Resonate (2018) will bring together a diverse group of acts, from progressive to hard rock with steampunk in between! Tickets will officially go on sale from October 31st, at which time the proper ticket link will be published. Also, our Sunday headliner had been confirmed…but they have asked us not to announce them until New Year’s Day!  Suffice to say they will be another jewel in the crown of this 2 day event. We’ll keep you updated.”

Saturdays Line-up will see Konchordat on stage at 1pm followed by Verbal Delirium, Comedy of ErrorsSon of ManThe Gift and headliners Lifesigns.

Sunday opens at the same time with the Tom Slatter BandHekzJumpCredo, the John Hackett Band and the mystery headline act, a world class progressive-metal act, to be confirmed.

Ticket prices are £25 per day advance or £30 on the door and £40 advance for the weekend or £45 on the door.

Tickets will be available, from October 31st, from:

www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyislington

 

Progradar’s ‘Best of 2015’ review – by Progradar

David

A scary picture to get things started, it’s that time of year again when everyone puts out their ‘Best of 2015’ album list and I’m no different to every other music journalist, budding or otherwise.

Lists like these are very subjective, after all, one man’s poison is another man’s wine but they’re fun to do and give a real retrospective of some of the great music that has been released over the past 12 months or so.

BEM logo

First off, the usual disclaimer, I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases as some people might say I’d be slightly biased. However, once again, this tiny independent label has given us some mighty impressive music from the likes of The Room, Tom Slatter, Simon Godfrey, The Fierce and the Dead and Twice Bitten, among others, all of which can be sampled at the link below:

Bad Elephant Music

I tried to get it down to a top 15, never mind a top ten, but that proved too difficult so, here it is, Progradar’s top 20 albums of 2015. Don’t see the position as being too indicative as, really, albums 20-6 could be in any given order on any given day, the quality is that close. The top 5, however, are my definitive top 5 albums for 2015.

Enough pre-amble, here we go……

20 – Transport Aerian – Dark Blue

A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!

19 – Steve Rothery – The Ghosts of Pripyat

Marillion’s guitarist is venturing further afield with his solo work and it’s simple, faraway beauty is quite inspiring. Put your feet up, get your headphones on, lay back and relax.

18 – Barock Project – Skyline

An unexpected highlight of the year, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!

17 – The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness

A new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..

16 – Mystery – Delusion Rain

2015 saw Canadian prog-rockers Mystery return with  a new album and a new lead singer and it was as if they’d never been away. Jean Pageau has a voice that fits perfectly with the melodic progressive rock that the band deliver with aplomb. The epic track The Willow Tree is a superb, intricate and emotional hit of passion and takes the album from merely good to very good indeed.

15 – Hibernal – After the Winter

Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.

14 – Built for the Future – Chasing Light

‘Chasing Light’ is one of those rare albums that grabs you immediately AND keeps on getting better with every listen. Built for the Future’s debut release is a thing of rare wonder that resonates with me on a personal level, their commitment to delivering music that connects deeply with the listener has produced a record that shines brightly.

13 – Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise

Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.

12 – The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age

Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.

11 – Echolyn – I Heard You Listening

Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America. A band I have heard little of in the past, this new album will definitely change that, a melting pot of sweet melodies and delicious harmonies.

10 – Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One

An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.

9 – Comedy of Errors – Spirit

Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors.

8 – Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World

It could have been this studio album or the equally impressive ‘Glass Hammer – Live’, recorded at this year’s RosFest but, first, let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.

7 – Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.

6 – The Tangent – A Spark in the Aether

A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!

5 – Big Big Train – Wassail (yes, I know it’s only an E.P. but I like it!!)

You can put your heroes on a pedestal to be knocked off when they don’t reach your lofty expectations but, with ‘Wassail’, Big Big Train have just enhanced their reputation as purveyors of unique and sublime progressive rock which is founded on the elemental history of this blessed isle. A history that is fundamental to the everlasting allure of this captivating group of musicians.

4 – Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah II

‘Arcade Messiah II’ takes all that was good with the first album and enhances by taking the raw, coruscating energy of the first release and developing it into a superb sound that, while holding nothing back, is full of nuances and intelligence. A ‘Wall of Sound’ that makes Phil Spector’s look like a diminutive picket fence and it is quite possibly the best thing this highly talented musician has ever produced.

3 – Maddison’s Thread – Maddison’s Thread

Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

2- Subsignal – The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime

See, this is why these bloody lists are only subjective. I had mine all worked out and then I listened to the fourth album from German band Subsignal and it was blown out of the water. Arisen from the ashes of the great Sieges Even, the first three albums by the band failed to really hit the heights for me. Well, all is most definitely forgiven as ‘The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime’ has just hit me right on the correct spot and elevated them to a higher level. It has a real emotional depth to it and is one that is highly, highly recommended, nearly making it to the top spot…..

1 – Riverside – Love, fear and the Time Machine

So, after a tough fight it is Polish band Riverside that take the crown this year. I have always been a fan of this band without actually loving their work. All that changed with this years beautiful release. There is a depth and maturity to this release that resonates deep to the core. The fragile, breaking vocals and signature sound have taken the band to the forefront of the progressive rock genre and, in this album, they have left behind a musical legacy of which anyone can be proud.

 

 

 

Review – Comedy of Errors – Spirit – by Progradar

CoE Spirit

“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear, and superstition….” – Bernard Beckett.

“It’s not so much the journey that’s important; as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way.” – Jeremy Aldana.

To me, the beauty of music is the way it can tell a story, heartwarming or heartbreaking, it doesn’t matter. The best albums take you on a musical and spiritual journey, one that will, hopefully, leave you in a better place than when you started.

The journey isn’t always easy, there will be highs and lows, moments of sheer ecstasy and moments of utter despair. It is becoming a rare ability to write and perform songs that can move you emotionally and make a difference to your life and I spend most of my days searching for that scarce and rarefied commodity.

Recently I was the lucky recipient of the latest album from the esteemed Scottish progressive band Comedy of Errors and it promised to be one of those rare beasts, a work of music that would be challenging yet profound and, ultimately, life affirming.

‘Spirit’ is the band’s most musically ambitious album so far, representing a major step forward in the band’s development, dealing with themes of grief, loss and ultimately, hope. The cornerstone of the album is a 45 minute unbroken piece taking the form of an emotional journey at once personal and universal, despairing and uplifting.

Live

After a long absence from the scene, Comedy of Errors re-formed in 2010 and have been busy increasing their profile since then through gigging at venues in the UK and Europe and appearing on the bill at several UK prog festivals. They are excited and delighted to add the United States to the growing list following an invitation from the organizers to play at Rosfest 2016.

They have also released 3 albums during that time, their first album effectively being ‘Disobey’ (2011) followed by ‘Fanfare and Fantasy’ (2013) and their most recent album ‘Spirit’ released in October 2015.

Based near Glasgow, Scotland, Comedy of Errors are Joe Cairney (Vocals), John Fitzgerald (Bass), Bruce Levick (Drums), Jim Johnston (Keyboards), Sam McCulloch (Guitar) and Mark Spalding (Guitar).

Joe, Jim and Mark were in a former incarnation of the band some years ago where they gigged extensively and released various demos during that period. When they disbanded Jim kept on working on revising songs and writing new music before getting the band back together in 2010.

Piano

The main track, Spirit, has been divided into multiple tracks but, as the CD booklet says:

“…..these divisions and titles are arbitrary; the ‘song’ is in fact one long single unbroken piece of music best listened to in its entirety from beginning to end.”

For the sake of the review I am going to follow the band’s ‘arbitrary’ subdivisions….

You’re God and You let me down, My grief lies all within….

The opening to My Grief Lies All Within is almost revelatory, the keyboards waking you from a stupor before the rest of the band arrive with a cacophony of guitar heavy staccato notes. There then follows a more pensive section, thought provoking, before Joe’s immediately recognisable vocal takes up the tale. The track takes on a choral feel with the harmonies and organ like keyboards, the bass and drums delivering an even handed tempo. Emotive and stirring, Joe Cairney’s voice is the centrepiece around which everything is grounded. There seems a sadness deep at the core of this powerful song, a poignancy that pervades the melancholy guitar solo that runs out the track.

Playing with our hopes we bow to you, in helpless, hapless, hopeless despair….

There is a seamless segue into Infinite Wisdom which is a fast paced, almost frenetic two minutes of sceptical hell or no notion. An anger consumes the vocal and gives a slightly menacing feel to the whole track.

Spirit shines, Undiminished, Like a flower, Gentle, unbreakable….

This quite unique musical experience continues with Spirit Shines/Spirit, a slow burning build up leaving tendrils of warmth enveloping your very soul. There follows an uplifting, feel-good piece of music with a repeated vocal motif that just really ‘gets’ you emotionally and I feel the tears welling up, tears of joy and happiness, as if a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Joe’s vocal delivers empathy and succour in equal measure, his compassion and the delicate piano note lift you up and leave your very being re-born.

Tension…….tightening, Frightening……dread….

Uncertainty is the overwhelming mood that is imparted at the beginning of Can This Be Happening/Timeless, anxiety and concern leech from the song. The music is measured one minute and hectic and unsure the next. A maelstrom attacks your aural senses leaving you misdirected and momentary lost, all the moods and emotions imparted by the excellence of the musicians and conducted by Joe’s commanding, theatrical delivery.

We gather together in darkness, While endlessly waiting for answers…

The questions continue with In Darkness Let Me Dwell, we seek the answer to the eternal question of a greater being. A dominating bass line runs throughout this compelling track. Joe’s vocal is both questing and demanding. A profound, complex and intricate song and one that leaves more questions than answers….

Abstract

Destroyer of Angels, On the wind of your breath, you deal out disaster, Destruction and death.

A reverie of angelic voices opens I Call And Cry To Thee, leaving you somewhat in rapture, a timely pause to allow your soul and senses to catch up with you. A solemnity surrounds everything, a contemplative yet austere tone that is carelessly tossed aside by the compelling, hard-edged riff that overtakes everything, like a musical tsunami. Joe Cairney’s challenging vocal then takes over, still demanding of the heavenly entity, leaving a melancholia surrounding proceedings.

Set your spirit free….

A calm reflectiveness descends as Set Your Spirit Free/Goodbye My Love Until We Meet Again begins. An ethereal, wistful instrumental that plucks at the heart strings with a feeling of letting go, a finality of slightly sorrowful bereavement.

Spirit shines, like a flower, Gentle, unbreakable.

A very moving introduction, fateful and momentous holds your attention as Ascension/Et Resurrexit/Auferstehen – Arise In Love Sublime, Arise – Spirit builds into something utterly sublime, The organ note from the keyboards transfixes you with its celestial grace and then Joe repeats the refrain from Spirit Shines, inspirational and incredibly moving. A spiritual and refined experience that fills your heart with love and compassion.

Rise again, oh rise again in everlasting love…..

Another perfect transition and Into The Light continues the uplifting atmosphere. The transition from despair, grief and loss to hope and joy is nearly complete. The vocals lead us with the realisation that we shouldn’t question the greater powers, where there is death, there will always be love and happiness, our is not to reason why. The joyous music is an outpouring of both grief and delight and lifts up your soul to greater heights.

The Time and distance disappear, beyond the rooftops twilight urban glow..

The final segment of this epic journey is Above The Hills and is as full of hope and longing as the earlier tracks were of anguish and despondency. Joe’s mercurial voice leads the whole band in a jubilant celebration of life and of death. A nostalgic note creeps into his voice, a hint of sadness but with a thoughtful edge. The culmination of an eventful journey though life, love, despair and happiness, that these superb musicians can impart this whole gamut of emotions through their music is testament to their songwriting skill and musicianship.

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Part 2 ‘Epilogue

This Is How It Has To Be is a brilliant instrumental where the skills of the musicians come to the fore. The drums and bass provide the backbone on which the rest of the instruments can rely. A demonstrative guitar guides you through the rest of the track, ably abetted by the delightful keyboards. A reflective musical trip that really gets you thinking, the change into a Mike Oldfield style second half is clever and gives the song a second lease of life. A livelier, shanty style that really gets your foot tapping, quite ingenious.

The closing track on this particular copy is the Spirit (single) and it is a worthy addition to the album bringing back all sorts of emotions as you hear Joe singing that fantastic refrain once more, a quite sublime song with a superb guitar solo.

Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors. A contender for album of the year and one that should be gracing everybody’s music collection, just brilliant.

Released 20th October 2015

Buy Spirit direct from the band

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallet Emptier – Sunday 18th October 2015

Welcome to a serious bumper edition of The Wallet Emptier, no less than nine albums in this latest round up of new releases and music that I feel may be of interest to you lot out there.

Keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming full sized reviews of some of these albums here at Progradar!

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Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals : Netherworld II

I still have a bit of  a soft spot for some tasty, classy progressive metal and Vanden Plas certainly fulfill that brief. The follow up to 2013’s ‘Chronicles of the Immortals : Netherworld carries on the concept  with aplomb. Excellent songwriting combines with some superb riffing and symphonic metal music. Having one of the best vocalists around in Andy Kuntz doesn’t hurt either. Pure theatre from start to finish, a brilliant release.

Releases 6th November 2015

Stand out track – Vision 11even – In My Universe

Pre-order from Amazon

 

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Vly – 1 / Time

A remote international collaboration between musicians from different backgrounds crystallized into a new band. A real conglomerate of musical might that throws in touches of progressive rock, classic rock, folk, post rock and epic riffs to deliver something quite uniquely brilliant. I expected nothing and the band delivered an exquisite release, really well worth buying, it should be in your collection.

Released 18th September 2015

Stand out track – Perfect Place

Buy the album from Amazon

 

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Yuka and Chronoship – The 3rd Planetary Chronicles

Trust the Japanese to come up with something out of the ordinary and downright extraordinary. Formed in 2009, a progressive band that majors on technical brilliance, thoughtful lyrics and a philosophical bent. There are lots of 70’s cues throughout the music but Yuka and Chronoship live in their own micro-climate and there isn’t anything else quite like it.

Released 25th September 2015

Stand out track – Age of Steam

Buy Yuka and Chronoship from Cherry Red Records

 

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IO Earth – New World

My first outing with this band and I didn’t know what I would be getting. The album cover screams symphonic progressive rock and the first couple of tracks on this double album did nothing to change my thoughts but, give this very long player time to work on you and you find some seriously intelligent and compelling music that knows no genre-defining bounds. The second disc is the best of the two but, overall, it is a very good listen.

Released 20th may 2015

Stand out track – The Rising

Buy New World direct from the band

 

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Thieves Kitchen – The Clockwork Universe

I was surprised to find that this great band have actually been around since 2000 and I’m only hearing about them now. One of the most intelligent and compelling groups to be part of the current progressive scene, they innovate and create dazzling music that seems to come alive before you. They call themselves ‘A Canterbury tinged Scandi/Brit progressive rock group with classical and folk influences’ and, even though it is a bit of a mouthful, it is a just about perfect description of their imaginative sound.

Released 23rd September 2015

Stand out track – The Scientists Wife

Buy The Clockwork Universe from The Merch Desk

 

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Gazpacho – Molok

Coming from the darkness of Scandinavia, it is no surprise that Norway’s Gazpacho release some of most intense and complicated music that inhabits this world. Their latest offering ‘Molok’ is no different, continuing their exploration of different concepts. The fact that they are as mad as a badger poked with a stick helps, I suppose and, this time,there are religious themes going head to head with modern day new science ideas and theories. Whatever the dense, macabre background, it is bloody good!

Released 23rd October 2015.

Stand out track – Know Your Time

Buy Molok from kscope

 

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Anderson Ponty Band – Better Late Than Never

After 30 years of talking about it these two musicians have finally got together. Not an album of totally new material, it presents some new musical compositions, rearrangements of classic Yes hits like Owner of a Lonely Heart and Wonderous Stories, as well as some of Jean-Luc Ponty’s compositions with lyrics penned by Jon Anderson. In parts it is very good, in others (especially the limp rearrangements of the Yes material) it flatters to deceive but, have a listen and see what you think?

Released 25th September 2015

Stand out track – One in the Rhythm of Hope

Buy Better Late Than Never from Amazon

 

CoE Spirit

Comedy of Errors – Spirit

The eagerly awaited new album from the well respected Scottish proggers Comedy of Errors sees the band progressing on their signature sound. Stylish music backed by Joe Cairney’s emotive vocals grabs your attention. Always a band who major on expressive and intelligent songwriting, this new release embellishes that even further. An intensive and reflective musical journey that sees each song crafted individually and lovingly. I think they might just have delivered another great piece of musical drama.

Released 20th October 2015

Stand out track – Spirit

Buy direct from the band’s shop

 

A look back to the recent past……

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Aisles – 4.45 A.M.

There is an emotional intensity to 4.45 AM that is delivered with aplomb, I feel drained of emotion after listening to this album and it touches you to the depths of your soul. Like a fine wine, you will not want to experience this album every day but, keep it in someplace special so that, when the mood arises, you can bring it out and enjoy it all over again. I applaud Aisles for producing something that is as unique as they are, long may it continue.s far beyond that while creating a very powerful and unique type of music and sound.

Released 29th October 2013

Stand out track – Melancholia

Buy direct from the band