Review – Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly – Alone Together – by John Wenlock-Smith

Rikard Sjöblom is certainly an interesting and excellent musician, as his career thus far clearly demonstrates, coming to prominence first with Beardfish whose albums ‘Sleeping In Traffic Pt1’ (and Pt2) made big waves in progressive rock circles. The mix of often hard hitting jazz fusion and rock brought a smile to many faces but that all came to a natural finish.

Rikard then concentrated on his other project Gungfly who have a similarly eclectic approach to prog. This the eighth Gungfly album all told and, on this release, he works within a trio format playing both keyboards and guitar (both brilliantly I might add).

The opening song Traveler is simply magnificent with brilliant instrumentation along with several fine and fiery guitar solos and some strong keyboard textures. The track is fairly long but never outstays its welcome, going through several changes during its duration. Rikard reminds me of someone, I can’t put my finger on who exactly, but what a statement of intent it is as an opening song, highly impressive and a good portent for things to come.

Clean as a Whistle, the third track, is also a fine song with a strong acoustic guitar to open before a powerful bass line begins playing in harmony with Rikard’s acoustic skills. The vocals actually remind me of modern day Wishbone Ash in places, no bad thing in my view. This is a gentler song in the main with a delicate piano before synths start at the 3 minute mark, the pace then picks up a bit with some great electric guitar playing in the background before a gentle piano returns us to the acoustic guitar and bass section again, simply sublime and gorgeous.

Title track Alone Together supplies a great guitar line that just keeps on going, such a fluid guitar line really warrants your attention! A flourish of organ then comes in, heralding a more discordant harder edged guitar that plays in sync before Rikard’s vocals join the throng. This song goes all over the place but is certainly of interest (although I haven’t got a clue what he is on about and I don’t have the words to decipher the meaning behind the song). It is great music though, constantly changing throughout its running time with all sorts of things going on and with a return to that fabulous guitar line towards the end. It is a Magnificent piece of writing and music that really shows the talent and imagination that Rikard possesses in spades.

Penultimate track, From Afar, is a folksy, jaunty little number that talks about being viewed by persons unknown from afar. It may be short but it is certainly a great song.

The final track, On the Shoulder of Giants, begins with a clanging and strident riff with some funky sounding chords underneath before opening into a more expansive soundscape where the bass tracks the guitar riff superbly and Rikard unleashes a fiery brief break at the start of the main song. This is a very fine opening section detailing Rikard’s love of Frank Zappa’s music and how hearing it made him feel as a youth and his subsequent battle to work outside of the normal expectations, which is something that he has strived for and succeeded in doing. His love of classic progressive rock is evident and he is not ashamed or afraid to pay homage to his heroes. The piano part of this song is stately and sets a good tone for the middle part of the track which is a bit more subdued and is about how he determined to be free to follow his own route in music.

The next section picks up the pace with the piano taking a more urgent tempo and tone before a synth part sounding a bit discordant is played, sounding strange and unsettling but it leaves the way clear for some fluid guitar that resembles the playing of a certain Steve Howe in a very Yes sounding segment. Again, this is a great section of the piece, Rikard and the others are not averse to mixing their styles to really make the tracks stand out. This is terrific stuff really pushing boundaries as he unleashes another epic solo towards the end of the song with a subtle but delightful wah wah tone to it, double tracked to good effect, as he draws the song to a fine climax.

I’m not that au fait with Gungfly’s recorded history but ,certainly after enjoying this one, I will definitely be looking out for other albums of theirs to listen to and also be watching to see what they do next as this power trio really cook the music nicely with good syncopation, really letting their influences come to the fore. An album to revisit often and to embrace and enjoy again and again.

Released 4th September 2020

Order the album from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/rikard-sjobloms-gungfly_alone-together_cd

TRANSATLANTIC – launch video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’/ first single from ‘The Absolute Universe’

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

Today they have launched the video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’, taken from ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’. 

Mike Portnoy comments: “’Reaching For The Sky’ is the first single off Transatlantic’s latest Magnum opus ‘The Absolute Universe’. It’s a great introduction to this epic album as it sets the tone in traditional TA style: proceeded on the album by an extended Instrumental Overture and then launching into this upbeat first song.

I love that it features one of my favorite qualities of the band in the sharing of the lead vocals…in this case: Neal singing lead on Verse 1, myself singing lead on Verse 2, Pete & Neal sharing the Chorus with myself and Roine on backups and Neal taking the glorious Bridge…all leading to Roine’s distinctive guitar solo. 

 Also interesting is that this version exclusively appears on the Abridged 1CD Version of TA5 (“The Breath Of Life”) while the Extended 2CD Version of TA5 (“Forevermore”) opens with the alternate version ‘Heart Like A Whirlwind’ which has different lead vocals and lyrics .”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that includes a special mix that combines both versions into a third unique version in 5.1 surround sound with visuals and a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard featuring the airship by Pavel Zhovba. 

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD, what’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

The full list of formats is below, and you can pre-order now here: https://transatlantic.lnk.to/TheAbsoluteUniverse

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Available as:

Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album 

Track-listing:

1.     Overture

2.     Reaching For The Sky

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Take Now My Soul

6.     Looking For The Light

7.     Love Made  A Way (Prelude)

8.     Owl Howl

9.     Solitude

10.  Belong

11.  Can You Feel It

12.  Looking For The Light (Reprise)

13.  The Greatest Story Never Ends

14.  Love Made A Way

 ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album

Track-listing:

Disc 1:

1.     Overture

2.     Heart Like A Whirlwind

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Swing High, Swing Low

6.     Bully

7.     Rainbow Sky

8.     Looking For The Light

9.     The World We Used To Know

Disc 2:

1.     The Sun Comes Up Today

2.     Love Made A Way (Prelude)

3.     Owl Howl

4.     Solitude

5.     Belong

6.     Lonesome Rebel

7.     Looking For The Light (Reprise)

8.     The Greatest Story Never Ends

9.     Love Made A Way

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster. Includes both versions of the album over 5LP’s and 3CD’s, plus a Blu-Ray with 5.1 mix & documentary. 

Blu-Ray Track-listing:

1.     Overture (5.1 Surround Mix)

2.     Reaching For The Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

3.     Higher Than The Morning (5.1 Surround Mix)

4.     The Darkness In The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

5.     Take Now My Soul (5.1 Surround Mix)

6.     Bully (5.1 Surround Mix)

7.     Rainbow Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

8.     Looking For The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

9.     The World We Used To Know (5.1 Surround Mix)

10.  The Sun Comes Up Today (5.1 Surround Mix)

11.  Love Made A Way (Prelude) (5.1 Surround Mix)

12.  Owl Howl (5.1 Surround Mix)

13.  Solitude (5.1 Surround Mix)

14.  Belong (5.1 Surround Mix)

15.  Lonesome Rebel (5.1 Surround Mix)

16.  Can You Feel It (5.1 Surround Mix)

17.  Looking For The Light (Reprise) (5.1 Surround Mix)

18.  The Greatest Story Never Ends (5.1 Surround Mix)

19.  Love Made A Way (5.1 Surround Mix)

20.  The Making of The Absolute Universe (Documentary)

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” 

For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.

Anneke van Giersbergen announces ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ – Brand new solo album: out February 26, 2020

Lyrically, and musically, the award-winning Dutch artist lays her soul bare with the most evocative record of her career – captivating song-stories told with acoustic guitars, strings, horns, percussion, and Anneke’s hypnotic vocal harmonies

The new album’s title, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’, refers to the idea that, when facing personal challenges, we are forced to find answers to life’s biggest questions. But, at this point in her near-three-decade-long music career, this solo album – and, crucially, the heartbreak that inspired it – was not something Anneke van Giersbergen ever anticipated writing.

In 2018, Anneke began working on new material for her metal band, VUUR. Although their debut album, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’, was met with a mixed reception, fans were warming up to their heavy, progressive sound. Therefore, a rapid follow-up album would surely establish Anneke’s return to fronting a metal band. However, behind the scenes, these were troubled times.

Anneke shares, ”My belief in VUUR saw me spend all my savings on recording VUUR’s debut album and taking the band on the road. After completing our first touring cycle, I realized that more VUUR would mean yet more, huge financial risks.”

To make matters worse, in 2018, her long-lasting marriage, which had always been wonderful, unexpectedly saw a storm approaching.
Anneke adds, “I instantly knew I needed to write music about fixing my life. This creative endeavour would be far too personal for a VUUR album. And it would also require solitude.”

With just her acoustic guitar and basic recording gear, Anneke retreated to a small house near the woods, just outside her hometown of Eindhoven. She let go of the pressures of what VUUR’s future might be, and fell into the meditative process of writing a solo album. In 2019, work continued on the new songs. In 2020, Anneke asked her friend and producer, Gijs Coolen, to help finish the album.

Throughout the completion of the album, Anneke’s fragile, acoustic song-stories were fused together with an alchemy of panoramic strings, horns, and percussion. The resulting 11-track record has all the intimacy of Anneke serenading an audience of one, combined with surprising departures into swampier, foot-stomping grooves.

The Japanese art of kintsugi has inspired Anneke to use a repaired heart as the album’s symbol. Kintsugi teaches that bringing together the pieces of a broken object – with the use of a precious metal – adds value and uniqueness to it. And, instead of giving up on their marriage, Anneke and her husband decided to take the time to mend their bond. They now cherish the repaired heartbreak as something profoundly valuable. 

Their journey through this personal storm, and the album that Anneke created in the eye of it, proves that the darkest skies truly are the brightest. 

The album will be available as CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as digital album.

01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You

‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is Anneke’s 23rd career album. It proves, once again, that the award-winning Dutch artist defies being pigeonholed by any genre. 

After thirteen years as the front woman for melancholic metallers, The Gathering, she struck out on her own in 2007. Since then, her creativity has known no bounds. Anneke quickly solidified a successful solo career (initially under the moniker Agua de Annique), and has recorded and performed with Canadian metal genius Devin Townsend multiple times. She has also lent her serene yet powerful voice to the likes of: Anathema, Icelandic folk group Árstíðir, Within Temptation, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, Amorphis, and prog legend John Wetton.

2012’s ‘Everything is Changing’ was something of a milestone in Anneke’s solo career. The album, which was the first to be released under her own name, received two Edison Award nominations – Holland’s most prestigious music prize – in the categories ‘Best Female Artist’ and ‘Best Album’.

In 2015, Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) released their collaborative album ‘The Diary’ under the name The Gentle Storm.

In October 2017, Anneke’s progressive metal outfit VUUR released their much-anticipated debut album. ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ entered the Dutch Album Top 100 at number 2, Anneke’s highest-ever chart position.

Forever the unpredictable artist, in late 2018, Anneke released ‘Symphonized’, an 11-track live orchestral album. It was recorded at two career-spanning concerts alongside Residentie Orkest The Hague, and features rearrangements of songs from her entire back catalogue.

2019 saw Dutch music copyright organisation Buma Cultuur honor Anneke with the Buma ROCKS! Export Award. This is their award for the Most Successful Dutch Artist Abroad in Heavy Music.

In 2021, the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ will see Anneke surprise her fans all over again.

TRANSATLANTIC – invite you to enter ‘The Absolute Universe’ on fifth studio album

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD,” adds Trewavas. “What’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals & a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have unique artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard. The full list of formats is below, and pre-orders start on the 20th November:

‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Special Edition CD Digipak

Gatefold 2LP+CD

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Special Edition 2CD Digipak

3LP+2CD Boxset

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.” 

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.

“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards. 

Review – Pain Of Salvation – Panther

Pain of Salvation have been firmly at the forefront of the progressive
rock and metal scenes for nearly three decades now. Led by mercurial multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw, the Swedish band have consistently demonstrated a sincere passion for moving their own extraordinary music forward, while always remaining lyrically enlightened and ferociously intelligent.

The leaders in thoughtful, pained and poignant progressive-metal music, the band have had a stellar career that has produced ten studio albums and included such highlights as ‘Scarsick’, ‘Remedy Lane’, ‘Road Salt One’, ‘Road Salt Two’ and their brilliant previous release ‘In the Passing Light Of Day’. From elaborate and pointedly metal early classics through obtuse wizardry and genre-blurring mischief, Pain of Salvation’s all-encompassing musical vision has delivered some of contemporary prog’s most brave, bold and startling moments.

The band returned this year having deftly weathered the departure of guitarist Ragnar Zolberg, discovering a newfound enthusiasm for what happens next in the process.

“We did In The Passing Light Of Day and that ended with the departure of Ragnar from the band,” Gildenlöw recalls. “In the past, 10 or 20 years ago, that would probably have made me doubt the future of the band and all of that. I went through that a lot in the past with members leaving or things not turning out in a good way! It’s always difficult and it’s always something that makes you sad, when your little band family is disrupted, but I never came to the point where I doubted where to go or what to do. The other band members were pushing us on to continue, so I just kept writing music.”

The result of that sustained surge of creativity is ‘PANTHER’, the eleventh Pain of Salvation album and a very obvious landmark release in a career full of them. ‘PANTHER’ is a concept piece that delves into the conflicts and contradictions between so-called normal people and those who are wired entirely differently.

This is an album full of creativity and power, a simmering melting pot of brooding desire and thunderous riffs that creates a body of work leviathan in scope and content.

The edgy, almost funky opening track Accelerator gives a restless, tense feel to the music before opening into a sparse soundscape dominated by Daniel’s vocal before the stark, blasted landscape of Unfuture hoves into view, hewn from granite and taking no prisoners, “Welcome to the new world…”, indeed…

Gildenlöw has always been the master of simple, severe beauty and that is delivered in spades on the sublime Restless Boy, a song thats rawness is there for all to see. “This is not a test..” Pain of Salvation have a knack of producing songs that drip with bare emotion and Wait drops perfectly into that category with a simple piano note and acoustic guitar laying the foundations for a wistful and nostalgic piece of music that lives long in the memory. As graceful a song will be hard to find on any progressive-metal album.

So, who fancies a bit of electro-ambient progressive rock? Sounds an odd combination doesn’t it but PoS make it work brilliantly on Keen to A Fault, a fast paced, stylish track that works amazingly well. Fur is a short interlude that speaks to me of Eastern European 50’s film noire and segues into the title track. Well, what can I say about PANTHER? It’s superb, a complete melding of rap, oriental sounds and electronica that sounds like nothing else the band have ever done. It’s more akin to Linkin Park than anything else and, well, it’s just brilliant!

The final two tracks are Pain Of Salvation at their very, very best. The slow burning, monolithic power of Species has a simmering build up to a crescendo of crushing guitars and heartfelt vocals and then Icon closes the album out with humility and style in a similar vein to the title track from ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’. At once intense and dynamic, then calm and thoughtful, this is a song that contains all that is best about the band and showcases Daniel Gildenlöw’s consistent ability to write masterpieces of music.

One of the highlights of the year and an album that could become a seminal progressive-metal release, Pain Of Salvation have created a piece of music that could well be their finest yet.

Released 28th August 2020

Order PANTHER here:

http://painofsalvation.com/store/

Review – Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments

There’s nothing else that sounds like a Tim Bowness album, they have such a unique palette of sound and a feeling that the music is washing over you with Tim’s soothing vocal deep at the core.

Tim is primarily known as the vocalist and co- writer with the band no-man, a long-running collaboration with Steven Wilson. Tim’s recent quartet of solo releases on InsideOutMusic/Sony have entered the official UK Top 5 Rock, Progressive, and Vinyl charts, as well as the official Scottish charts. Along with Steven Wilson, he is also the co-host of “The Album Years”, which has reached the Top 5 Music Podcast charts in over 25 countries (#1 in 10).

I’ve been a fan of Tim’s solo work since his first release with InsideOut/Sony – ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ about which I said… Tim Bowness is not a slave to his art, he has added soul to the creativity and invention and has delivered an album that engages the listener on all levels.”

Each release since has shown how Tim’s stock, as not only a songwriter but as an artist who paints pictures with music, has risen exponentially. He is a musician who sees what he does as art and each album is a carefully crafted masterpiece which, to this listener at least, deserves to be listened to on vinyl with no distractions and preferably in a darkened room with a glass of full bodied red wine to hand.

To me, progressive music, be it neo-prog, art rock or similar, has all the attributes of what constitutes art. The intricate and sometimes complex music that weaves convoluted soundscapes around our conscience that we are left to decipher and then revel in has often left me speechless and held in a thrall as my mind leisurely decrypts it for me to savour and appreciate.

To listen to the first few notes of a Tim Bowness solo album is to enter a world of beautiful creativity where every note has its place and every word is carefully selected and then curated into perfection by his warm and soulful vocal.

‘Late Night Laments’ is another collection of superbly created musical gems where, contrasting with the sensuous beauty of the music, the frequently dark lyrical themes include meditations on generational divides, ideologically motivated violence, social exclusion, and a much-loved children’s author’s descent into madness.

This is a complex and ever evolving musical journey that, once drawn into, you remain, hypnotised by the elegance and grace of songs such as Northern Rain, We Caught The Light and Never A Place.

Delivering complex, sophisticated music without leaving the listener somewhat bewildered is an art in itself. This emotionally rich album combines a plethora of musical styles to create an intense, poignant and impassioned entry into Tim Bowness’ increasingly impressive solo catalogue.

Released 28th August 2020

Order the album from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/store/timbowness

Pain of Salvation – New single/video “RESTLESS BOY” taken from upcoming album “PANTHER”

Sweden’s Pain of Salvation move another step closer to the release of their upcoming new studio album “PANTHER”, due out August 28th, 2020 worldwide via InsideOutMusic. 

Today, the Progressive Metal/Rock innovators launch their new single “RESTLESS BOY”, in the stunning video, scripted/directed by Lars Ardarve and Daniel Gildenlöw and filmed/edited by Lars Ardarve, which can be seen here: 

Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlöw commented about the song and video as follows:

We are happy and proud to present to you our newest video, for the song ‘RESTLESS BOY’, our second single from the upcoming album ‘PANTHER’. Once again, we have worked together with the wonderful and skilful Lars Ardarve, and we had a great time, as always. It’s so rewarding to work together with someone who you know so well since way back and with whom you share a similar mindset and creative drive, and we are all so happy with the result. 

Since the video also includes a stage setup, we got to hook up with our amazing crew for the first time in way too long, so it was in many ways the closest we have come to touring this year. Just as with the ‘ACCELERATOR’ video, we shot parts of this video in Skjulstahallen (Eskilstuna), and want to send lots of love and kudos to Lotta Nilsson at IKEG for helping us to arrange this! 

‘RESTLESS BOY’ may not be the most expected or given second single, but it felt important to give it that space, because of all that it is. And despite it’s few components, it is a grower. Live with it for a while and you’ll see. Also, it was a song for which a video idea just came to me so naturally. A video where every scene would be a play with time and speed. Experienced time versus reality. That feeling that has been with me through my entire life – that time is emotionally flexible and suddenly just bends around your mind and thoughts.

You see, ‘RESTLESS BOY’ is about myself and everyone else out there who feel that we are going through life at a different speed than our contexts and surroundings. Passion oriented people who daydream and shift pace depending on situation. F1 cars failing to meet the expectations of our small suburban community. Goal rationalists in a method rationalistic system. Panthers in a dog’s world. 

This song grew out of the song ‘Full Throttle Tribe’, just like the entire ‘PANTHER’ album did in many ways. The tribe that fills every page of every history book that you have ever read. The spectrum people. The brilliant, the crazy, the fools, the gifted and the troubled. The beautiful restless boys and girls!

The filming was intense and a lot of fun. Long hours and very little sleep. I specifically remember the second day of filming, when we shot all the scenes in the car with Léo driving. I had edited a version of the song that went to half speed between every vocal phrase, so that we could speed up the video between phrases. I heard that odd version of the song so many times that it increasingly started to feel like the normal version. (Lars actually got very hooked on that version, so I might have to make him a special mix.) Anyway, after a long day of sitting in the car and singing while we passed by the different scenes we had set up with Sandrian and Gabriel in dog masks outside the car window (they likely did not feel all that comfortable standing in dog masks in central Eskilstuna, holding an umbrella, but they were troopers), we needed some city night shots, so we headed for Stockholm. I still wonder what that one pedestrian was thinking, looking into our car as we stopped at a red-light well past midnight and I was throwing myself back and forth in the backseat wearing a german shepherd rubber mask that I was apparently trying to get off. Whatever he was thinking, he is probably still thinking it. That’s simply not one of those images you can get off your retinas easily. 🙂 

We really hope you like this video – we do, and we are very proud of it. We can’t wait for the world to ease back into something close enough to normality for touring to be possible again. Meanwhile, find comfort in these videos/singles and the upcoming album, and know that due to the lack of touring, a silver lining is that we can keep writing and recording even more new music for you all. Until we meet the next time!” 

Previously, the album’s opening track/single “ACCELERATOR” was launched in a video, also scripted/directing by Lars Ardarve and Daniel Gildenlöw and filmed/edited by Lars Ardarve, here:

“PANTHER”, the follow-up release to 2017’s “In The Passing Light Of Day” album, was recorded, mixed and produced by Daniel Gildenlöw with Daniel Bergstrand (In Flames, Meshuggah, Devin Townsend) and comes with a comprehensive artwork-theme with illustrations made by André Meister. 

Pain of Salvation – “PANTHER”:
Track-listing:

1. ACCELERATOR

2. UNFUTURE

3. RESTLESS BOY

4. WAIT

5. KEEN TO A FAULT

6. FUR

7. PANTHER

8. SPECIES

9. ICON

Next to the standard CD and the Digital Album formats, ”PANTHER” will also be available as limited 2CD Mediabook (Including expanded artwork and the following 4 bonus tracks on a separate disc: “PANTHER (demo)”, “KEEN TO A FAULT (demo)”, “FIFI GRUFFI” and “UNFOREVER”) and as 180g. Gatefold 2LP (Including the 4 bonus tracks on Side D and album on CD as bonus), in the following variations:

Black vinyl – Unlimited

Deep blood red vinyl – 100x copies from IOM Webshop Europe (Sold out!)
Transparent blue vinyl – 300x copies from CM Distro
Transparent green vinyl – 200x copies from EMP

Lilac vinyl – 200x copies from JPC

White vinyl – 200x copies from Pain of Salvation (Sold out!)

Transparent yellow vinyl – 100x copies from Pain of Salvation (Sold out!)

The pre-order for “PANTHER” in its various formats is available here:

https://PainofSalvation.lnk.to/Panther

Review – The Tangent – Auto Reconnaissance

Welcome to the post-Covid-19 world. My day job has got ridiculously busy and I have not been able to write any reviews so I’m going to alter my usual in-depth method and just give things to you straight.

The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, are set to release their 11th studio album ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ on August 21st, 2020.

The follow-up to 2018’s ‘Proxy’, sees them taking the band philosophy of celebrating the golden age of prog, whilst bringing it to the present and exploring new paths for the music to take in the future. On ‘Auto Reconnaissance’, they bend that philosophy to their will, taking in prog rock foot Stomping, sublime Jazz, humour, narrative, a modern R&B love song, funk/soul and a 28 minute long emotional epic about the band’s home country of England.

Andy comments: “I utterly refuse to accept that Progressive Rock Music is some kind of museum piece. It is actually a living and breathing movement that has a past, a present and above all, a future. It once had an album-chart-topping golden age, but the genre was never about that. It has subtly and virally kept itself alive for decades where many new musical genres have risen to glory and faded away.”

For this release, Andy is once again joined by long-time collaborator Luke Machin (who also helped produce the album), Jonas Reingold, Theo Travis, and Steve Roberts. Together they bring to life an album that has been influenced by the likes of ELP, The Isley Brothers, Steely Dan, Aphex Twin, National Health, Rose Royce, Squarepusher and Return To Forever amongst others.

Right, that’s the record label PR out of the way, what do I think of the album…

Simply put, Andy is at his acerbic and witty best when it comes to the lyrics, especially on the travelogue-esque track 2, Jinxed In Jersey where he regales us with his journey around New York and it is a brillaint, amusing and tongue in cheek clash of cultures between the largesse of the good ol’ U.S of A and your basic, down to earth Yorkshireman.

The wonderful, laid back jazz-infused soundtrack to Andy’s spoken word is superbly judged and takes you back to the 70’s. To be fair, the whole album has that sepia tinged edge of halcyon days gone by but given that ‘turd polishing’ skill that only Andy Tillison can do.

You want funky, you’ve got it, the five and a half minutes of opening track Life On Hold is as good as anything released recently with even a passing resemblance to the decade that gave us disco and corduroy flares! It’s a song that makes you smile and we all need some of that at the moment.

Dare I say that Under Your Spell has the feel of a 70’s love song? Almost as if Andy is channelling his inner Barry White (now there’s an image!). Whether you agree with me or not, what it is is a wonderful, classy and velvet smooth piece of music and there’s no arguing with that, just listen to the way Luke’s solo just oozes empathy.

There’s a sea change and a move to the 80’s with the edgy keyboard note of Tower Of Babel and it’s direct and in-your-face chorus. Think Huey Lewis And The News get down with Talking Heads and you won’t be far from the mark.

Lie Back And Think Of England could well be seen as Andy’s Magnum Opus and, in my humble opinion, it is the best piece of music he has ever written. Twenty-eight minute progressive rock epics are everywhere nowadays but this never fails to engage the listener and keep them under its captivating spell. The highs and lows and dynamic crescendos are utterly brilliant, taking you on an engrossing musical journey through all that is good about prog rock and one where every word and every note have their place.

Back to the 70’s and the funky, disco edge of soundtracks like Shaft and Starsky and Hutch, the bedrock on which The Midas Touch could have been built. There’s wah-wah pedal and tinkling of ivories galore in a song awash with the feel of lazy, hazy summers. The album closes with the bonus track Proxima, a twelve minute instrumental that could have come straight from a Tangerine Dream record.

The Tangent are a British progressive rock institution and every new album is eagerly awaited by the fans and, while every fan will have their own opinion, ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ is my favourite album from the band yet. Andy is on top form, his song writing is as sharp and clever as ever and he has gathered around him a group of musicians who seriously have no peers. A superb release and one which cements The Tangent’s already exalted reputation.

Released 21st August 2020

Order from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/the-tangent_auto-reconnaissance_cd

Review – Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good – by John Wenlock-Smith

Lonely Robot is the name that John Mitchell (It BitesFrost*, Kino and Arena) uses for his solo projects, and this really is a solo album as it all performed, composed and produced by John himself with Percussive duties being handled by his Frost* colleague and drummer extraordinaire Craig Blundell. This is the fourth release to bear the Lonely Robot name, the previous three were his ‘Astronaut’ project (‘Please Come Home’, ‘The Big Dream’ and last year’s ‘Under Stars’). This time around the fare is far more Terra Firma focused and deals specifically with the events and memories that John says have made him who he is today. 

It’s been a few years since I last listened to John Mitchell’s music and I don’t know why that is really as he offers a decent brand of prog/pop crossover material that is really fine to listen to, so it’s me who has missed out really. This album will hopefully rebalance that scenario. 

‘Feelings Are Good’ is an emotionally revealing album that is not afraid to face some difficult times that John has been through and lessons he has learnt from these experiences. John refers to these moments as being the cornerstones, both good and bad, that he is back on planet Earth and has a personal lyrical axe to grind

The albums cover features closed eyes and a taped over mouth that represent how people are very guarded about their emotions. This album, however, is less guarded, far rawer and much more open about the emotions it addresses  You really must listen carefully to the songs to get the measure of what John is on about but, certainly, there are songs about broken relationships, night-time fears (spiders), small town life and grief and loss.

The album is generally Prog lite although it has touches of progressive metal in certain parts. It has excellent musical accompaniment and the sound is crisp and clear with good separation between instruments and, at all points, John’s guitar playing is very elegant and soars when the song calls for it. He has worked hard here to convey his emotions and backed it all up with powerful songs that will elicit a response from his listeners

Whether that response be anger, sadness, despair or hope is up to each person who hears this album and how this music makes them feel. No matter what your reaction may be, this is most certainly a well crafted and well written and recorded set of songs.

The songs them selves are very varied, all pretty much even tempo and most feature a guitar solo within them. John is very good at using his playing to accentuate the emotions within the songs. He also uses keyboards in a highly effective manner to further enhance these pieces and to add colours to the emotions and feelings that are so openly displayed.

His voice is strong and clear and he sings with real conviction and feeling, sometimes with force and anger, but always for the song and not just for effect. I commend John for being so open to all listeners. Doing so takes real courage and bravery, as some of these songs deal with painful moments for John, and yet he handles his emotions positively and without bitterness.

There are several key songs on this album, Crystalline (which uses the words of winter to reflect emotional coldness as a metaphor for emotional feelings), Life Is A Sine Wave, Keeping People As Pets and the brief Grief Is The Price Of Love, which tells us that there is no there is no rainbow without there first being some rain. This track is a remarkably simple but emotional song, played on acoustic guitar with a single heartfelt vocal from John. This is a stunning short piece but one that has real gravitas to it. Armour for My Heart, which is about protecting your heart and how one must do this at times, is also another emotionally bruising song.

In summary this album is a marked departure from the science fiction that occupied his last three albums and takes on a far more down to earth, closer to home theme and all that that entails. This is an excellent album that is well worthy of being heard I recommend it highly.

Released 17th July 2020

Order the CD from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/lonely-robot_feelings-are-good_cd?filter_name=Lonely%20ROBOT&filter_sub_category=true

DEREK SHERINIAN – announces new solo album ‘The Phoenix’ for release via InsideOutMusic

World acclaimed keyboardist Derek Sherinian, (Sons of Apollo, Black Country Communion), one of the most significant keyboard players of the modern era, has signed to InsideOutMusic for the release of his new solo album ‘The Phoenix’ on the 18th September 2020, his first since 2011’s ‘Oceana’. Derek comments: “I truly feel that this is my best solo record to date. Simon and I put a lot of energy into the writing, and I am grateful to all of the great players that contributed to this recording.”

Once again, Sherinian has teamed up with drummer extraordinaire Simon Phillips, who not only plays drums but also co-produced and co-wrote the album: “It is always an amazing experience to be able to work with Simon. He’s been a hero of mine for ages, ever since I heard him playing on albums with Jeff Beck and Michael Schenker.  And he is such an invaluable part of the way this new record has come out.” 

There are a number of top line guests featured on ‘The Phoenix’, as has been the case in the past for Sherinian, on both guitar and bass. Some have become regular contributors to his solo sessions. People such as bassists Tony Franklin (“He’s been on all my albums to date”), Jimmy Johnson and Billy Sheehan (Sherinian’s bandmate in Sons Of Apollo). Plus guitarists Joe Bonamassa and Zakk Wylde. In addition, others are welcomed into the fold for the first time. For instance, there’s master guitarist Steve Vai. “Steve Vai has always been on my hit list. But it was when I played keyboards on the Generation Axe tour of Asia in 2017 that I asked him to play on my record, which he gladly accepted” Also present are Sons Of Apollo bandmate Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Sons Of Apollo) and Kiko Loureiro (Megadeth).

“Kiko and I have known one another for about 20 years. But this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to play with him.” 

The album features 8 tracks, including a cover of Buddy Miles ‘Them Changes’, and will be released as a Limited Edition Digipak CD, 180g LP + CD & as Digital Album. Find the full track-listing below:

1.     The Phoenix

2.     Empyrean Sky

3.    Clouds of Ganymede

4.     Dragonfly

5.     Temple of Helios

6.     Them Changes

7.     Octopus Pedigree

8.     Pesadelo

Derek Sherinian’s far ranging talents have been much in evidence through the music of Alice Cooper (who once called him “The Caligula of keyboards”), Dream Theater, Black Country Communion and current band Sons Of Apollo. Moreover, proving just how much he is demand to work with rock royalty, Sherinian has also toured and recorded extensively with KISS, and Billy Idol, proving his classic and hard rock pedigree, whilst also being voted #9 in Prog Magazines greatest keyboardists of all time.