Review – Jump – Over The Top – by Emma Roebuck

Jump Over The Top Cover

Music has long been a mechanism for storytelling and the broad church of the Prog scene has it’s fair share of these tellers of tales. Some tell tales of ancient mythology, others speak of tales from the nursery; some speak of dystopian futures while Jump speak of a real world of toil, strife and pain but still retain a joy of living. They are truly progressive but not by creating some ‘new’ sound or feel but by drawing together a whole cadre of musical styles and yet. make it sound like themselves and not a mash up or a messy sound.

Certain musical journalists have gone on record as saying that this is nothing new or ground breaking, I disagree with them in that prog music is not always about being ground breaking and shattering barriers. I would say that it is about evolving as musicians and travelling on your own journey, bringing people along with you on that journey and giving pleasure.

The 15th album from the band that is Jump is the end of a long line of product developed over 26 years. This album has been anticipated by fans of the band for some time now. Many of the songs have been in the live set for a while and, as such, will be instantly familiar to those fans. The worry that the translation from live performance to studio recording could take some of the gloss off the songs is quickly destroyed after one listen of the album.

Jump Live

‘Black Pilgrim’, the last studio album, was rooted in folk tradition. It suited John Dexter Jones’ vocal style like a glove. ‘Over The Top’ brings them to a more rock based feel but it does not feel like a backward step. The overall feel of the album is one of a wide variety of musical styles gathered together from a long period of writing. The benefit of this is that the quality is consistently high across the album yet it does not feel like a disparate collection of music that has been cobbled together.

First, the familiar tracks that have been promised. The Wreck of the St Marie has been a live track in the set for over a year, a tale of wreckers off the coast of Anglesey based on a true story of the Royal Charter. The drama of storms and the deliberate wrecking of a cargo of gold treasure and pillage. This is a masterpiece of storytelling that Jump are so good at you can feel the time the place and event happening  as song unfolds.

Fast forward to Johnny V. We all had a Johnny V in our lives, the one guy that seemed to have an almost telepathic connection to what was the great music of the time. The prophet who you knew would keep you right with music. The story of his passing and the celebration of Twisted Sister in the cathedral as he shifts off this mortal coil is strangely fitting in a time when more of our heroes have crossed the veil recently.

The album crosses the centuries like a time lord ‘Jumping’ from one historical event to another with ease. The title track Over The Top personalises the story of a father and his son in WW1 and the sacrificial lambs that generation became in the 1914-18 ‘war to end all wars’.

50 is a real rock out and feels to me like a railing against the aging process and a demand to not give in to the ravages of aging.

Overall this is an accessible album full songs that Jump fans will enjoy but, I think, if you have never heard of Jump as a band then this is a great introduction  to find out what they are about. You won’t get a revolutionary new sound or style but, I believe there are no new styles to found anyway, just reconfigured old ones. If you like music that has melody and some sing-along choruses along with the great story telling tradition of the Bard this is for you.

Released 12th March 2016.

Buy ‘Over The Top’ direct from bandcamp


Review – Geof Whitely Project – Malice In Wonderland – by Emma Roebuck


These guys are prodigious in their output. Most bands produce an album roughly every year, the Geof Whitely Project (GWP) have set themselves the onerous task of releasing 3 albums by the summer of 2016.

‘Malice In Wonderland’ sounds nothing like the other three albums of the same name be it Paice Ashton Lord, Nazareth or, heaven forbid, Snoop Doggy Dogg.

This album has the hallmark that I recognise as the GWP ‘sound’: melancholy melody and structure. The heavy keyboard sound running throughout the album is reminiscent of the mid 80’s Alan Parson Project. The album opens with an instrumental, Who Are You, that deceives the listener into a false sense of security that it will be a pleasant listen with a drink of wine or beer with friends! This could be true but there is a deception here.

The second track Preflight, I guarantee you will think, “Where have I heard that before.” I will say one thing, there is a haunting reminder of the ‘Tales from the Unexpected’ theme in its feel. There is more variety in ‘Malice’ than ‘Circus of Horrors’, the last album by GWP which I reviewed. They have rocked out much more but also experimented with thematic electronic music. Caterpillahh has such electronic feel to it with a very melodic Jean Michel Jarre tone and spirit.  The title track rocks out, stretching the performance but with some restraint, death metal it isn’t but there is a rocker in there kicking to get out!

The album, as you imagine, has Alice in Wonderland taken to the dark side as its concept. There is no journey through the looking glass or down a rabbit hole as such, but snippets from the Lewis Carroll classic remain. GWP have gone deeper and darker and are nearer a Tim Burton Movie in style rather than the Disney variation.

The last two tracks, Hungry Ghost and Remain the Same, could easily be singles for me and, with airplay, crossover into the mainstream. My favourite track though, Sleep Thief , is unlike the rest of the album. Its heart is really dark and sinister. Neil Gaimans’ Sandman could very easily have been the inspiration for this track.

I still think that GWP should let the shackles go and rip out a real rocker but the album is a GWP product and, to continue to produce this kind of consistency and standard, is no mean feat.

If you like your music melodic and structured Geof Whitely Project’s  ‘Malice In Wonderland’ delivers. The diversity of music has room a-plenty for this kind of release.

Released 1st August 2016

Pre-order from the Geof Whitely Project web-site

Review – The Geof Whitely Project – Circus of Horrors – by Emma Roebuck

Circus of Horrors

I first became aware of the Geof Whitely Project (GWP) after a recent contact through my show on Progzilla Radio and I am always keen to hear new acts and artists. They very kindly sent me ‘Circus Of Horrors’ to try out. The GWP have produced a huge quantity of material in their short musical existence and Geofs’ head must be exploding with ideas constantly to produce so much material and, yet, it’s all of a high standard of composition and structure from my oh so brief experience of the product.

Musically I would place them in the same category of Alan Parsons Project, Supertramp and the Electric Light Orchestra. Melody is king in the album as is the song. There is no doubt as to the standard of musicianship on all of the tracks but it never swamps or dominates the music. The album is consistent with no filler but a persistent track after track of high quality songs that sit close to the pop/rock end of the Prog market.

The album drops straight into the Title track Circus Of Horrors that immediately moves across time signatures and moods evoking a sinister soundscape of a child’s nightmare. The theme of transformation and change through strife and pain shout from the melancholic understatement.

The Hunter is dominated by the piano and bass and has  a beautiful saxophone laid over the music. It reminds me of the kind of things that Dave Gilmour has produced in his last couple of solo albums. There is no plagiarism in it just the spirit of those albums.

Baila Conmingo is an offbeat track that is almost a dance instrumental piece that shows off the production excellently.

Work of a Human Mind is another stand out  track massive in content and sound. It examines the human condition and the endless search for a reason for existence.

The closer Story Book is another self examination of humanity from the perspective of expectation of others and how we view ourselves in retrospect. The Guitar dominates this track stating a musical a counterpoint to the lyrics.

From the perspective as a lover of music it is an album that is worth owning. It doesn’t challenge the musical world or break new ground but I don’t believe that to be the intention of the project. I would like to hear the next albums show the rockier side that, in some of the tracks, seems to be fighting to get out. It would add more variation into the music and maybe push GWP into a broader audience. They do what they do very well and I would like to see it grow and develop.

Released 31st October 2015.

Buy ‘Circus of Horrors’ from Bandcamp

Review – UT New Trolls – E – by Emma Roebuck


Progressive Rock, as it began in the late 60s (if you break it down into its component parts), arguably had key elements that were essential for it to be Prog. Skilled musicianship (if not virtuosity), an understanding of varied musical styles and the ability to distill it into your own identity and yet retain those obvious components in the music. These were, in the main, Jazz, folk, Classical, blues, soul and Rock, there are probably more but the essentials sit in there in the big 5 or 6 bands that broke through in the early 70s.

So onto UT  New Trolls who have a history that goes back to the mid 60s and grew out of that very tradition. I won’t go into their long and hectic history but they have been around consistently since 1966 with splits and reunions dotted across the recording world.

The sound is very obviously from that period when you hear it. Hammond organ and Moog synths are heard throughout this album with a thick solid production. The album was recorded at the back end of 2015 in analog so I assume no computers or digital instruments were used in the studio apart from the actual recording equipment.

To the album then, as a whole piece it feels like a journey through the history of music and I know that was the aim of the band when the conceived the project.  The Italians close connection with classical music and its history is very obvious in the first track Dies Israe (Day of Wrath), a haunting violin sat in front of a deep keyboard tone, ominous and threatening of things to come. Doom laden, it then jumps into a folk dance that I believe to be a Polka type rhythm in a truly insane change in tone of the track. This sets up the entire album to be filled with the unexpected and a delightful spirit. My translations may leave something to be desired but I am interpreting.

Cambiamente (Changes) is not a Black Sabbath cover but it rocks out as good as any can. It’s not prog metal but it is good rock in a progressive theme.

Io (I) is a ballad in a full on fist pumping passionate style that is worthy of any power pop band from the 80s or 90s, but without the 80s cold calculating production.

The epic Ostinato (determined) is classic prog track that many modern or classic bands would be proud to produce. It’s layered with experimental and melodic components that explore musical themes and is enough to fill an album from that one piece alone.

I’ve selected various tracks off the album as highlights and personal favourites but the 8 track album has something for every fan of progressive music. Do not let the fact that this is sung in Italian put you off, the lyrics ( of which I have no idea what they mean), on listening, become part of the music.

Musically, if you like Camel, Procul Harum, ELPYes, Early Genesis, Pink Floyd (Syd period) or Big Big Train, you will find something immediately familiar and reassuring for your aural delight.

As a friend who had listened to album before me stated, “It’s a bonkers album with so much variation to offer the listener”. I’d definitely put it in the ‘worth a punt’ box.

Released 27th November 2015

Buy ‘e’ from self distribution in Italy

Review – Jack Arthurs – Treasure House – By Emma Roebuck

Treasure House

In this, his second album, Jack Arthurs follows ‘Only Dreams are True’ with ‘Treasure House’, building on the foundations of a strong debut solo album, growing as a songwriter and showing one man and an acoustic guitar are not something to avoided.

The test I set myself with any review is; ‘Can I listen to this several times in a row and still hear more after each play’. ‘Treasure House’ passes this test with distinction. I cannot comment on the CD packaging as, at the time of writing I haven’t got my copy, but the front cover shows a Turneresque view of Bamburgh Castle, an iconic vista from the North East coast of England.

The music is entrenched in that region in its influence and spirit. It is full of celebration and with tons of positivity throughout the songs and, yet, Jack portrays the intrinsic sadness that sits at the back of life in the North east at times. The character of the people in this part of the world shines through in songs like Hope and Soaring. There is a stoic character outside but with a quiet poetry in their hearts that is moved by the simplest of things.

The shortest song on the album Spirals, an instrumental, is fascinating in that it has so much space in the track and yet it fills the space well. Jack has obvious skill with the guitar but is not flash or pyrotechnic with it. I am drawn to make an obvious connection with Nick Drake and Roy Harper and this is very valid to some degree with the plaintive voice and the songs that look below the surface of life and examine the world in way only a singer song writer of this tradition can do.

I am not sure if he (Jack) recognises it but I also hear Alan Hull (he of Lindisfarne fame) in his solo guise. I saw Jack recently play some of these songs live and he feels and lives every note of the songs, they come from the heart in the purest form.

Jack is not frightened to let the music alone tell the story and that is a great strength in this case. You can listen to this album on many levels, a glass of wine to hand and the stereo on, and just let the music fill the void and find yourself in a contemplative mood, wishing to watch a sunset while sat on a North sea coast. It’s not background music, it would be almost rude to use it to fill silence, but I can see me putting it on when I get in from a night out to unwind and let the cares of the world drift away.

Bad Elephant Music have made a great signing here. The potential in Jack Arthurs’ writing is yet to be fully realised and I see much to come.

This kind of music is never out of fashion because it never really was in fashion but it crosses boundaries and borders of genres. Everybody, from someone who has heard an Ed Sheeran album to someone with a folk background, can find something to enjoy here.

If I’m being mischievous, I want to hear Jack play with a band and hear him rock out or fill out some of the songs. If he does or doesn’t, it won’t matte,r he can hold his head high, the so called difficult second album is not difficult to these ears.

Released 5th February 2016 via Bad Elephant Music.

Pre-order ‘Treasure House’ and listen to two tracks at bandcamp now


Review – Malady (self-titled) by Emma Roebuck

Malady cover

I don’t really like to have half the review written for me.However, the guys from Malady kindly translated their website information from the Finnish as their English makes my total absence of Finnish look very embarrassing. So for those of you looking at the website, you can now see what some of the words mean and where these guys are coming from..

Malady was formed in Helsinki in 2010 as a three-piece band (Tony Björkman/Guitar; Juuso Jylhänlehto/Drums and Jonni Tanskanen/Bass) and was initially intended as a one-album project. The album was originally to be released around 2030. The majority of the songs found on the debut album were conceived in the following few years.

Finding the guitar-bass-drums -combination insufficient, Babak Issabeigloo was asked to play the Hammond organ in 2012, which he promptly switched to the guitar and microphone. The role of the organist was filled by Ville Rohiola a few years later. The first album was recorded in summer and fall 2014 and was released by Svart records in late 2015.”

You would not immediately think of Finland as hot bed of talent and prog rock but, thanks to this album being pointed out to me by David Elliot (not of BEM, the other one), I say to you think again if you thought that, and Malady are anything to go by. The sound is retro being Hammond, guitar, bass and drums. The sound the music makes is reminiscent of Floyd (circa Syd up to ‘Meddle’), Camel (‘Rain Dances’/’Snow Goose”) and King Crimson (‘Larks Tongues’ period), with a hefty chunk of Psychedelia thrown in.

This an immensely chilled album, late night candles, you get the idea. Its atmosphere is very unique and conveys the message of the lyrics very well. The band delves into their own culture for some of the inspiration and at global issues for others. Musically these guys know what they are doing and can write very well and never override the music with their skill. The song here is the key and the work they have done shines through every chord sequence and solo. Do not let the language be a barrier here, you do not need to speak Finnish to love this music. The words are minimal and never a problem. I’ve played this album over 10 times and not got bored once, how can you get bored with the huge Hammond and bass combo and the understated but driven rhythm section.

There is nothing new about this album, it’s not earth shattering or ground breaking in its intent but, it is a great vehicle for these guys as writers and musicians.

High points for me are Unessakävelijä and Aarnivalkea, these alone are worth hearing for the money, however, the others are not fillers.

Unessakävelijä is very Floyd and has a sinister under current driving through it that maintains the interest to the very last note. Aarnivalkea Camel fans take heed at this, they produce a fine 10 minute plus epic of variety that Messrs Latimer and Co. would be justly proud of on any of their albums. If any festival in the UK in 2016 is looking for Scandinavian talent look no further for a bit of coup.

Now, I don’t normally list the tracks of the albums but in this case I think it is needed.

Here is a brief explanation of the songs and titles, translated, with much thanks to Jonni:

Kantaa taakan maa – The Earth carries the burden – A pessimistic view about the impending devastation of nature and man’s impact on the environment. Mankind’s greed as a destructive force on planet earth and generations losing their faith in the future. Ultimately, as the title says outright, it’s the Earth that carries the burden.

Loittoneva varjoni – My receding shadow (instrumental)

Pieniin saariin – To small islands – A rather personal lyric by our guitarist. To this day I’m not entirely sure what it’s about. Something about one’s thoughts escaping to small islands, building worlds out of what you hold inside you. It’s pretty cryptic, to be honest.

Unessakävelijä – Sleep walker – A dreamscape of a man walking in a city in the night during Autumn completely alone, with everything around him silent. The lyrics for this one were never sung but they’re still in the liner notes.

Aarnivalkea – Will-o-the-wisp – Will-o-wisps have several explanations in numerous folklore, whether it be guiding people to safety or toward water for baptism. In Finnish folklore, The Aarnivalkea leads one to faerie gold…. or in this case, allegorically to one’s loved one.

Kakarlampi – Name of a pond in Finland. Instrumental song. Kakar can mean either a child or a red-throated diver (a bird).

Released 30th November 2015

Buy Malady from Svart Records




Review – Gordon Midgley – The Vanished Age – by Emma Roebuck

Vanished Age

“From Classical tales of Jason and Odysseus to cinema blockbusters via Norse sagas, Hesse and Tolkien, the ‘Hero’s Quest’ is a staple of mythology and literature.
A voyage of self-discovery
A Rite of Passage.”

So says the bandcamp page of Gordon Midgely’s  solo project. He and Nathan Tillet form Napiers Bone’s whose two albums ‘The Wistman Tales’ and ‘Tregeagles Choice’ are also freely available on bandcamp. The pros and cons of an artist giving their music away is not what we are here to discuss but I must say it is a brave strategy for two aspiring talents.

To the Album then; a truly ambitious  project in its intent to capture in one album the essentials of the classical rite of passage story in music.  Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’ spans 15 hours yet this album condenses the mythological  concept of the heroes quest in under 45 minutes. I tried listening to this album piece meal in the car and also as a single chunk, giving it the attention any music reviewer should give to an album.

It plays like a film sound track and its very hard to disconnect the individual sections of music. In the main, it is instrumental with vocals, as and when required, for accompaniment. Weaknesses, in the main, are not in the actual composition but in the delivery and production.

The drums sit high in Like Circe’s Feast and Out of the Wilderness and fill the rest of the soundscape out, making it difficult to really listen to the actually excellent guitar and retro keyboard work on show (yes, Mellotron). I am assuming this is a technological issue rather than anything else.

The music, without actually sounding anything like it, makes me think of Bo Hanssen’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ album in the textures and feelings it emotes.

There are bits I really enjoy, like Ronin, which I can only assume to be a nod to Japanese free fighters who are only loyal to any cause they choose. In this case, the companion to our hero. The track exudes the potential for violence constantly restrained but sometimes out of control. We follow the journey of our hero, his dalliances with love, and the inevitable Nemesis as it comes to the final battle and resolution (no spoilers).

The music comes from all sorts of influences, I hear 60s psychedelia ‘Berlin School Electronica Prog’ from all eras and some cracking rock music.

The final track The End of the Beginning is by far the best piece of the album and showcases the real potential waiting to burst free from this guy’s mind. My only criticism really, apart from what I said earlier, is that there is not enough here. I would have liked to have heard all the sections explored in the same way as Ronin and the End Of the Beginning.

As a freebie you cannot turn this down. Gordon, I think you missed a trick by not doing a pay what you want tag on the album. I reckon you should download this, light a couple of candles, put the head phones on, with a glass of whatever your fancy and let the music wash over you! A 45 minute cleansing of the soul. While you are at it, look for the Napier’s Bones material!!!

Released 31st October 2015

Free download from the artist’s bandcamp page



Guest Review – Caligula’s Horse – Bloom – by Emma Roebuck

So, here we go with the first of Progradar’s ‘guest’ or ‘collaborative’ reviews and the first to step up to the plate is Emma Roebuck with a review of Caligula’s Horse and ‘Bloom’……….


The third album from Caligula’s Horse ‘Bloom’, and my first exposure to their brand of Rock/metal/prog, finds me smiling. It passes a few tests for me, one played it through several times in the car and I didn’t feel the need to change the album and my passengers, who are not prog fans, were nodding along to riff laden music. The second test is playing it in the solitude of unwinding after a working week.

I won’t do a track by track break-down just say Sam Vallen, Jim Grey and the rest of the guys are a fine addition to Aussie prog-rock. It has something for most fans of the harder side of prog music, loads of hard, powerful guitar riffing with layered musical texture underneath. I am drawn instinctively to the better, mid-period, Dream Theater and Opeth stuff as you would expect but, also, Anathema too, not as copyists but as fellow travellers.

There is also plenty for the casual listener too, the songs draw you in and are accessible from the first listen, with plenty of variety from the softer Undergrowth creeping up on you to the aural ‘smack in the teeth’ half way through the Title track Bloom.  These guys can write songs with nuance and skill and are not formulaic by any stretch of the imagination.

The Stand out track for me is Dragonfly. Coming in at just short of 10 minutes, it has everything good that this album has to offer in one song. Trying to imagine this performed live, I see a great set closer in this one.


Jim Grey has a voice that has remarkable range and works in the quieter moments and higher registers too, but maintains a power when they rock out and they can rock out, Rust being a fine example of an outright technical track that Threshold would be proud to produce.

To finish, it’s a worthy piece of music that shows how good some of the technically minded progressive musicians can write at the harder edge of this thing we called ‘prog’.

Check out the band’s website

Release Dates through InsideOut Records: October 16th, 2015 (EU), October 30th, 2015 (US).