Review – Kayak – Out Of This World – by John Wenlock-Smith

Growing up , as I did in the fair city of Birmingham, I spent much of my teenage years trawling the city’s many record shops including my favourite, the now long gone, Reddington’s Rare Records, which was a virtual treasure trove of vinyl spread across different shops. The one that appealed to me was the one that sold rock music and I would happily spend hours of a Saturday morning looking through the racks in search of something new and interesting to listen to. Many of those albums are probably like gold dust now and most likely worth a fortune too. One band that I came across frequently was Kayak, who’s then album ‘Royal Bed Bouncer’ from 1975 frequently caught my eye but never enough to actually buy a copy for myself. This was probably a major mistake that I made as getting it on CD now will cost a fair amount.

That was many years ago and now Kayak are just preparing to release their 19th album, ‘Out of This World’ a 15 Track, seventy plus minute, musical voyage into their world of progressive pomp rock that will appeal to many special folks who like pomp rock along the lines of Trillion, Le Roux, Starcastle or even Kansas. This is the area in which Kayak really operate, as this album can clearly testify.

The album has a mixture of shorter songs alongside three longer pieces and also includes one track that is epic in length. The music puts me in mind of Toto at times, such is their sound. The delicate undertones, great vocalist, strong keyboards and guitar solos, put me in mind of Toto’s ‘Hydra’ and ‘Turn Back’ albums especially.

Let us have a listen and see what we can say about this album.

The album opens in style with the first of the longer tracks, Out Of This World, which is a good and strong opener, in that it sets you up for all that is to follow. It starts with some lovely piano ruins and a good guitar riff, all very fluidly played and symphonic sounding with a chugging bass line driving the song along. This is fine symphonic rock with great melodies and performance from all concerned. The vocalist is clear and in good voice, in fact the whole band are on excellent form on this track, especially the guitarist who really rips it up on this song, making a good impression. His playing is melodic and his guitar lines soar in tandem with the keyboards and synthesizers.     

The song is very catchy with some fabulous sections and great guitar too, this is followed by Waiting, which is a shorter song but one that is enlivened by a very fluid guitar line and an almost funky or chunky guitar riff. The track is about desire and waiting for someone to decide. It is very memorable indeed with a fine chorus, stirring stuff indeed. We then move onto the second long track, Under A Scar, which opens with delicate piano lines and some lush keyboard orchestrations. It is all very symphonic sounding before the song moves into a strong instrumental section with keyboards and guitar firing on all cylinders, all very impressive.

Kaja is another shorter song but one that has great guitar on its opening moments. This one is an instrumental and acts as a showcase for the guitar artistry of Marcel Signor who rises to the task fabulously. Next we have the shorter track Mystery which has some fabulous piano playing amongst the symphonic keyboard textures and muscular guitar playing with a strong rhythm section who support and drive the song forwards.

Critical Mass is another longer track which opens mysteriously, like the music from a film like Halloween or similar, before vocals are introduced and more keyboard orchestrations. This is all highly effective indeed, I am really enjoying my initial introduction to Kayak as it is very impressive stuff musically, it is spot on and bodes well for a successful album. This is a very well-crafted record with fabulous songs and performances and the sound is very pleasing to the ear. This is so good that I can see this being on peoples best of lists later this year, there has already been a lot of fabulous music released this year, must be all that time on folks’ hands or something?

As The Crow Flies is next and this has a looping recurring synth line that runs through it. The song is short and possibly one of the weaker songs on the album but it is all over fairly quickly and is followed by The Way She Said Goodbye which is a song about a love that is over and the feelings that remain in the wake of her leaving. This song is handled with much dignity and, whilst sad, is never maudlin and there is some fabulous fretless bass playing on the track.

The energetic Traitors Gate, once again, recalls the power of Toto with its neat interplay of synthesizers and guitar and its muscular power. This track also has a great guitar solo where Marcel gets a few bars to let rip once more making it possibly one of my favourite tracks on the album. Distance To Your Heart follows and sounds like rime ELO of all people but with Kayak’s own take on it and that fabulous vocalist shining once again. It’s not a stand out track and leads into Red Rag To A Bull which is a fine, rockier, track with some excellent synth at the start and some moody orchestrations that build the song. There’s slight Spanish flamenco type sounds and touches with some subtle Spanish guitar flourishes in the mix and a great solo from Marcel once again. This one is a subtle grower of a track that opens out into a majestic song, all impressive indeed.

One By One is a far softer and melancholic type of song, quite maudlin and emotionally moving with its fabulous chorus. There is also a quite dramatic key change that lifts the song from into something much brighter and better. This track is subtle and moving and all the better for it. The drum beat moves it into a bit of an epic singalong type number that would not be out of place an Abba album somehow, magnificent!

The epic of the album, A Writer’s Tale, starts with keyboards and an almost Kashmir type pace to it. The song gives room for some excellent guitar and keyboard playing and lots of space for the music to stretch and grow in intensity and emotional resonance. The piece is a real epic in scope, style, and sound and is utterly fantastic. Next track Cary has more than a whiff of a fisherman’s song or a sailors sea shanty about it . There’s certainly a merry and jolly touch to it making the track almost a singalong number. Unusual and no less impressive, it even manages a guitar solo in its brief tenure, a surprisingly good song.

Album closer Ship Of Theseus has more of that touch of epic Pomp Rock that we have come to enjoy. This song is about a ship that travelled to Theseus in ancient days and recounts its tale of adventure and its exploits. This mini epic ends things in fine symphonic style.

What an album this is, ‘Out Of This World’ really is brim-full of strong songs and fabulous performances and I feel that it has much to offer the listener. I intend to go back into Kayak’s history and listen to some more of their music and discover it for myself because, on the basis of this album, there appears to be much to enjoy and I would highly commend this fabulous album to all.

Released 7th May, 2021

Order from this link:

Out Of This World (lnk.to)

Review – Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi – by John Wenlock-Smith

When  I was growing up there was no internet, we used to have to use encyclopaedias and other forms of reference books to find out about things. Nowadays, of course, it is all there waiting to be delved into and discovered for yourself.

It is a whole different ball game now, although there was a time in the late 1980’s /early 1990’s that you could ring up the reference people at Birmingham City Library and they would find things out for you. This was especially useful, and was well before Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded what we now know as Google, this company that they founded as students at Stanford university is now one of the world’s premier search engines. Folk now often say ‘google it’ to find information.

I did that whilst listening to this album as it is largely music set to poems that were written by William Butler (W.B) Yeats (Born in 1885 Died January 1939). Yeats is widely acclaimed as one of Ireland’s most famous poets, dramatists, and prose writers, in fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Spiritus Mundi’ sets those poems to gentle and orchestral sounding pieces with vocals from Nad Sylvan and guitars from Andrew Laitres, a US based composer and musician, who Nad had worked with previously on his last album, ‘The Regal Bastard’ – The final part of his Vampyrate trilogy.

Nad is joined by some famous guests on this album, namely Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold on bass and Marko DeMaio (The Flower Kings) on drums with Steve Hackett also featuring. The bulk of the lyrics are taken verbatim from Yeats’s poems, apart from the first bonus track, You Have Got To Find A Way, that has Sylvan’s own lyrics. This approach has left the music room to breath and allows the beauty of the words to shine through clearly with the music clearly supporting and enhancing the impact of the words. That intention has paid off excellently giving the album dignity and weight.

The tracks are mainly short and as they focus predominantly on the words the album will take several listens before it really begins to make sense. Having said that, the longer tracks, The Second Coming and Sailing To Byzantium, work the best for me as there are musical interludes within in them that work well. The instrumentation is supportive and sympathetic, you will not find long ego fuelled solos here, you fill find empathy and delicacy throughout. The whole album lasts about 52 minutes including the two bonus tracks.

I think this album is a great, intensive listening experience and will appeal to any who like Yeats’ poems or who are fans of Nad Sylvan’s earlier solo albums as he is certainly in fine voice on these songs. This project is certainly different and a brave, bold move by Nad, as an album this is certainly different and somehow the lyricism of Yeats’ poetry works well in this format and will hopefully bring it to a whole new audience of people. They may find much within the words of these pieces that speaks clearly to their hearts and minds and hopefully leads them discover more of Yeats’ works for themselves.    

The sound of the album is sparse and the space between the words and the music is wide and open allowing subtle nuances to be realised and appreciated with repeated listening. There is a fabulous slide guitar part contained on the last track on the album, The Fisherman, (performed by Neil Whitford) that really drives the piece along.

It is not an album that is immediately easy to access but I sincerely recommend that you persevere as it is truly worth it when you finally do click with it and its treasures and beauties are finally revealed to you. ‘Spiritus Mundi’ is a journey of discovery into a different world, but it is a journey that you need to decide to undertake. 

Released 9th April 2021

Order the album here:

Spiritus Mundi (lnk.to)

FROST* return with fourth studio album ‘Day And Age’

Frost* are returning with their first new studio album in 5 years on the 14th May 2021. ‘Day And Age’ is the band’s fourth record, and features Jem Godfrey once again joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.

Jem Godfrey comments of the new album: “2020 was the year of the studio for obvious reasons. As a result 2021 is going to be a bumper year for new music I think and we’re very happy to be riding that wave too into what I hope will be a better year for everybody.”

 ‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The full track-listing is below:

1.         Day And Age 11:49

2.         Terrestrial 5:13

3.         Waiting For The Lie 4:31

4.         The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33

5.         Island Life 4:14

6.         Skywards 4:13

7.         Kill The Orchestra 9:27

8.         Repeat To Fade 6:14 

The album will be released on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album. Pre-order starts 19th March.

In September 2019 Godfrey and Mitchell rented a cottage for a week in Helford, Cornwall and set about converting it into a recording studio. Day one saw them write and record “Skywards”, “Island Life” was written on day two. On day three, the duo wrote what was to become the title and defining track of the new album, “Day And Age”. 

The following January, the band setup a new temporary studio for a further week in a converted coastguard tower at Dungeness in East Sussex. “We were 30 feet by the sea, next to a nuclear power station and a lighthouse, in midwinter. So there was hardly any daylight and the weather was dreadful”, laughs bassist Nathan King, “We wrote “Terrestrial” and “Repeat To Fade” there and you can definitely hear the bleak isolated oppression having an effect on us. The songs we wrote were far darker – the wind howling round the building at night, the power station generating crackles on the audio, a huge lighthouse next door sweeping light into the fog every 30 seconds and John screaming “ENJOY YOURSELVES YOU SCUM” into a microphone. It was absolutely brilliant!”.

In November 2020, Frost* released the career-retrospective collection ‘13 Winters’ which featured all their studio albums to date, plus live material, b-sides & last years ‘Others’ EP, all packaged in a beautiful artbook. 

Frost* was formed in 2004 by keyboard player and singer Jem Godfrey, Released in 2006 the band’s debut album “Milliontown” was an instant success and is regarded by many as a classic in the modern prog rock genre featuring John Mitchell on guitar, John Jowitt on bass and Andy Edwards on drums. The band quickly followed it up with “Experiments In Mass Appeal” in 2008, in many ways the antithesis of “Milliontown” featuring a much more stripped back sound, more concise songs and a new band member and singer in the form of Dec Burke. 

The live album “The Philadelphia Experiment” followed in 2009 and the a long gap followed before 3rd album “Falling Satellites” was released in 2016 with a new line-up of Nathan King on bass and Craig Blundell on drums, plus returning guitarist and singer John Mitchell on guitar who also co-wrote much of the album with Jem Godfrey.

Nad Sylvan – releases new single & video for “The Fisherman” / Reveals cover artwork for “Spiritus Mundi”

Nad Sylvan ended 2020 on a rather happy note. He released “You’ve Got To Find A Way” in December 2020, a bonus track on his upcoming album “Spiritus Mundi”. 

Today Nad is excited to be releasing the first proper album track “The Fisherman” off of said album to the world.

Nad comments: 

“No one is a prophet in their own land”. W.B Yeats, the famous Irish poet penned the poem “The Fisherman” in 1914 that this song is based on. At this point in time, he felt misunderstood by his contemporaries, just like I have done growing up in a small minded world. Yeats poems are filled with double and hidden messages. So is this video.

Watch the video for “The Fisherman” here: 

After concluding the Vampirate’s trilogy, Nad now changes course on his upcoming fourth album by converting poems of WB Yeats into music. The new album is due for release on  April 9th 2021 featuring the stunning new cover artwork by Robin Damore.

The pre-order for “Spiritus Mundi” will start on February 12th 2021. 

Kayak announce new studio album ‘Out Of This World’

Legendary Dutch progressive rockers are pleased to announce they will return with their 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ on the 7th May 2021. Following the bands return in 2018 with a new line-up, new record label and first new album since 2014 in ‘Seventeen’, the band are excited to reveal its eagerly awaited successor.

Founding member Ton Scherpenzeel comments: 

“Many people seem to consider the past year as a lost year, due to Covid. I don’t. I am not saying it was great, but it made me realize, once more, how fragile we all are. How connected everything and everyone is, with actions and consequences that touch us all. And that, on a smaller scale, and much closer to home, the new Kayak album could only have turned out the way it did. More than ever, it is clear that working with each other on this level can never be taken for granted. It requires dedication, and respect for each other’s talents and input. That’s the foundation upon which Kayak in 2021 is built.”

Watch a short teaser for the new album here: 

The first single from ‘Out of This World’ and the album pre-order will launch 19th February.

‘Out Of This World’, the band’s eighteenth studio album, with 15 new tracks, spanning 70 minutes of energetic and incredibly diverse material- though still very much recognizable as Kayak. It is clear that the new found energy has gained even more momentum since Hans Eijkenaar rejoined the group. Although they were forced to cancel all tours because Ton Scherpenzeel suffered a heart attack at the end of 2019, and immediately after that because of the Covid pandemic, we’re hearing a band that, since the demise of Pim Koopman in 2009, has not sounded more together, balanced and motivated. The current line-up of the band is as follows:

Ton Scherpenzeel – Keyboards, lead and backing vocals 

Bart Schwertmann – Lead and backing vocals 

Marcel Singor – Guitar, lead and backing vocals 

Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass, lead and backing vocals

Hans Eijkenaar- Drums 

Kayak History:

KAYAK was formed in Hilversum, The Netherlands, back in 1972, by keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel and drummer Pim Koopman who struck up a friendship in their early teens after meeting at a local volley ball club. They were committed to writing original material. With loads of melodic, symphonic songs in their pocket they recruited fellow music conservatory student Max Werner (lead vocals) and Johan Slager (guitar). After bass player Cees van Leeuwen joined, the first lineup of KAYAK was complete with the new band being signed by EMI Records being launched as a new supergroup. Their debut album ‘See See The Sun’(1973) featured a minor hit single , ‘Lyrics’, with ‘Mammoth’ and the title track also reaching the top 40. The album sold well in Holland, earning the band significant critical acclaim and developing a growing army of passionate followers.

After a series of successful albums and several hit singles in their homeland KAYAK was on the verge of an international breakthrough in 1977 when the single ‘Want you to be Mine’, from ‘Starlight Dancer’ achieved chart success in the U.S, peaking at #55 in the Billboard Charts. KAYAK was even voted Most Promising Band of the Year by the influential American music magazine Record World. Due to the fact that charismatic lead singer Max Werner wanted to fill the vacant position of drummer meaning the band was suddenly without a lead singer, making it impossible to embark on an American tour. KAYAK focused on finding a vocalist instead. The search began with advertisements placed in British magazine ‘Melody Maker’, spotted by Edward Reekers, a huge fan of the band since the early days. Passing the audition with flying colors he became the new frontman for KAYAK and with the addition of two female singers the band returned to the recording studio to create their 6th album, the award winning ‘Phantom of the Night, which turned out to be their commercial peak. The blend of progressive rock and immaculate pop brought them phenomenal success. The album went to number one on the charts, reaching platinum status and ‘Ruthless Queen,’ became their highest charting single, (#4 in the Dutch charts). 

The next album, ‘Periscope Life’ (1980), was similar in style and recorded in Los Angeles. It consolidated KAYAK’s position as one of Holland’s most popular bands.

With their next effort, ‘Merlin’ (1981), KAYAK returned to its original progressive and symphonic rock roots, with a suite about the legendary medieval magician on side A. Many music fans considered this a milestone in the bands career. Personal and musical struggles within the band however led to a break up in 1982. The first era of KAYAK ended after the release of the semi live album ‘Eyewitness’. 

The next chapter in KAYAK’s career began in 2006 with ‘Kayakoustic’, presenting the now seven-piece band in an intimate setting.In the new millennium KAYAK was resurrected after an 18 year pause and came back with the strong symphonic crossover album ‘Close to the Fire’ (2000) with again Pim Koopman on drums and Max Werner on vocals. Unfortunately, due to ill health Max was soon forced to leave, with ex- Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink, who already joined the band on stage, taking over. With Heerink three studio albums were recorded, including the rock opera’s ‘Merlin – Bard of the Unseen’ and ‘Nostradamus – The Fate of Man’, their most ambitious efforts yet. The rock opera’s, dominated by longer, prog-based compositions, also showed KAYAK’s theatrical side with an extended cast of singers and dancers contributing to an impressive first rate live experience. It also marked the return of Edward Reekers and introduced Cindy Oudshoorn as first female lead singer. 

2008 was an important year celebrating their 35th anniversary and embarking on a large tour taking the group to the theaters and clubs. ‘The Anniversary Box’, a DVD containing the Paradiso concert as well as a collection of fan chosen tracks is released. 

The tragic, unexpected death of drummer and composer Pim Koopman one year later in the middle of the ‘Letters From Utopia’ tour almost led to KAYAK’s downfall, but two years later the group re- emerged with Hans Eijkenaar on drums and the album ‘Anywhere But Here’, dedicated to Koopman. After a period of two years preparing and recording the new rock opera ‘Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis’ was released in 2014. Shortly before the tour, lead singers Reekers and Oudshoorn unexpectedly and inconveniently announced their departure, leaving the band in disarray. But as they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and like the proverbial cat with nine lives – in 2018 KAYAK came back with a vengeance and ‘Seventeen’. 

Look out for more information on the bands 18th studio album ‘Out Of This World’ in the coming months 

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT – Release video for first single “The Passage of Time”

Album ‘LTE3’ due out March 26th, 2021

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT, the legendary supergroup comprised of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Sons of Apollo), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) recently announced their return with a new album titled ‘LTE3’, due to be released March 26th, 2021 via InsideOutMusic, twenty-two years after the bands’ last studio album.

The band are pleased to share the first video from the album for the single “The Passage of Time.”  You can watch the video, created by Christian Rios, here:

“’The Passage of Time’ was the very first song we composed together when we reunited this past summer. It was so exciting to be back in a room creating together again after so long (22 years for all 4 of us and over 10 years for the 3 of us since being together in DT).

This serves as a great first taste for the listeners as it combines so many of the musical elements that makes LTE unique”

-Mike Portnoy

“This was the first song we worked on and when it was done, we all knew once again how amazing it was to be working together. We knew we were on to something and that this was going to be a really amazing album. Nothing about the passage of over two decades could’ve done anything to change that. To me this song truly reflects the collaborative songwriting efforts of all four of us.”

-John Petrucci 

There is an undeniable chemistry that happens when the four of us are together.  Entering the studio and starting work on ‘The Passage of Time’ after 22 years literally gave me a whole new perspective on these important musical (and personal) relationships and the way time is so relative. We just jumped right in, it was like no time had passed at all, and we created a song that has so many of the elements that make LTE unique. Not a day has gone by since our last release when I wasn’t asked, “When is LTE getting back together again?” Now we can finally deliver, and I can’t wait for everybody to hear our creation.”

-Jordan Rudess

“From the murky depths of the lockdown, LTE has re-emerged, galvanized, dripping with ideas, and taking no prisoners. ‘The Passage of Time’ is just the beginning.”

-Tony Levin 

The pre-order has now started and the album will be available in the following formats:

•Limited deluxe hot pink 3LP+2CD+Blu-ray Box Set (incl. a poster and 4 artcards, Blu-ray incl. a 5.1 surround mix with visuals, and full band interview from the studio)

•Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook

•Limited 2CD Digipak

•Gatefold black 2LP+CD

• Digital album (2CD)

You can pre-order ‘LTE3’ now here: https://liquidtensionex.lnk.to/LTE3/

Tracklisting: 

1. Hypersonic (8:22)

2. Beating The Odds (6:09)

3. Liquid Evolution (3:23)

4. The Passage Of Time (7:32)

5. Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey (5:04)

6. Rhapsody In Blue (13:16)

7. Shades Of Hope (4:42)

8. Key To The Imagination (13:14) 

Bonus Disc: Includes almost an hour of improvised jams. 

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT – Announce details for new album ‘LTE3’

 Album due out March 26th, 2021 

2020 came to a close with LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT announcing their return and new album to be released on InsideOutMusic. Today, the legendary supergroup comprised of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Sons of Apollo), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) are pleased to officially announce that the new album ‘LTE3’ will be released on March 26th, 2021 via InsideOutMusic, twenty-two years after the bands’ last studio album. 

“After over 20 years since the last time we recorded together, the four of us stepped into the studio and it was as if no time had passed at all! All of the magic that made the first two LTE albums so special was still there and we had such a great time making this record. I’m extremely proud of what we created together and can’t wait for everyone to hear it!”

-John Petrucci 

“The best thing to come out of 2020 was this long-awaited reunion! And it was surely worth the wait as after all these years, the magic chemistry was still there and stronger than ever!”

-Mike Portnoy 

Tracklisting: 

1. Hypersonic (8:22)

2. Beating The Odds (6:09)

3. Liquid Evolution (3:23)

4. The Passage Of Time (7:32)

5. Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey (5:04)

6. Rhapsody In Blue (13:16)

7. Shades Of Hope (4:42)

8. Key To The Imagination (13:14)

Bonus Disc: Includes almost an hour of improvised jams.

The pre-order will start on January 22nd 2021 and the album will be available as:

•Limited deluxe hot pink 3LP+2CD+Blu-ray Box Set (incl. a poster and 4 artcards, Blu-ray includes a 5.1 surround mix with visuals, and full band interview from the studio)

•Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook

•Limited 2CD Digipak

•Gatefold black 2LP+CD

• Digital album (2CD)

Watch the recently released teaser trailer, created by Christian Rios, here: 

In 1997, Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Tony Levin, joined forces to create Liquid Tension Experiment. The foursome would release their iconic, self-titled debut album in 1998 and the dazzling follow-up, LTE2 in 1999, creating a dynamic, frantic, and inventive sound all their own. The incredible creativity between the collective would prompt Petrucci and Portnoy to invite Rudess to join Dream Theater, effectively marking the end of this side project.  However, since that time, there have been few reunions more in demand. Now, with the world in lockdown and calendars unexpectedly aligned, the inconceivable has finally happened… a new Liquid Tension Experiment album. 

Band picture by Tony Levin.

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT – Announce New Album to be Released on InsideOutMusic

Album due out in Spring 2021

The biggest music news of the year comes at the very end of 2020 as LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT announce their return with a new label and new album. The legendary supergroup comprised of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Sons of Apollo), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) have signed with InsideOutMusic for the release of their 3rd album. The album is set for a Spring 2021 release, 22 years after the bands’ last studio album.
 
“What happens, when you put four of the most talented musicians on the planet in one room? LTE. We all have been waiting for this album to happen for a very long time and it makes us very proud to be releasing this album. This one is for the fans!” – Thomas Waber, InsideOutMusic Label Manager
 
“We’ve all known Thomas Waber for a very long time and Jordan and I recently discovered how great it was to finally get to work together when Dream Theater joined the Inside Out family a few years ago. There really is no better home for LTE and we all look forward to doing great things together!” – John Petrucci
 
“Myself, and John, have known Thomas Waber since we met on the very first Dream Theater European tour in 1993…since then I have worked with him and Inside Out for the past 20 years with Transatlantic, The Neal Morse Band and Sons Of Apollo. When LTE finally reunited this summer, we knew there was no other label that we could call home” – Mike Portnoy
 
The band have released a new teaser trailer, created by Christian Rios, which you can see here:

In 1997, Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Tony Levin, joined forces to create Liquid Tension Experiment. The foursome would release their iconic, self-titled debut album in 1998 and the dazzling follow-up, LTE2 in 1999, creating a dynamic, frantic, and inventive sound all their own. The incredible creativity between the collective would prompt Petrucci and Portnoy to invite Rudess to join Dream Theater, effectively marking the end of this side project.  However, since that time, there have been few reunions more in demand. Now, with the world in lockdown and calendars unexpectedly aligned, the inconceivable has finally happened… a new Liquid Tension Experiment album.
 
Earlier this week, the Tony, Mike, Jordan, and John teased separate profile images on their social media pages with masks labeled with L-T-E-3 covering their respective faces.  This was followed by the full band image on the band’s socials.
  
Stay tuned for more information in 2021!

Review – The Flower Kings – Islands – By John Wenlock-Smith

I have a very strange relationship with The Flower Kings, even though I have all their albums, a few live CDs, and a compilation (along with a few of Roine Stolt’s solo releases and the Anderson Stolt epic of a few years ago). Despite that body of recorded works somehow I’ve never really connected with them in the way I have with other bands. I have never really got them as a band, despite many attempts to do so on my part, I appreciate the music they make and odd tracks do resonate but, overall, it passes me by for some strange reason.

This new album, ‘Islands’, is an interesting one in that it has been put together in this strange year of lockdowns that the world struggles to come to terms with, aiming to beat and conquer and defeat this dreadful virus that has caused so much havoc, both to individuals yet also on the world’s economies. The band have used this odd time to craft a double album of predominantly shorter songs, 21 over 2 CDs with a common theme of isolation and separation. 

They had intended to follow up last years ‘Waiting For Miracles’ album in 2021 but world events made that difficult as all touring activities were curtailed so that left them free to crack on creating new music together, even if remotely. The group line-up remains predominantly the same but with Rob Townsend from Steve Hackett’s band appearing on two tracks adding sax and woodwind to the music. So, how does this one fare?

Well it has taken many listens over several weeks to get some understanding of it all, in all honesty I still have not been able to make up my mind about it all.

The album starts in typical prog style, Racing With Blinders On opening with swirls of keyboards before the ever energetic bass of Jonas Reingold kicks in, propelling the music alongside washes of synths and some very fluid guitar lines from Roine Stolt that run throughout the whole track. With many symphonic textures and soundscapes, it paints a very impressive opening track.

Second track From The Ground has a funky rhythm with a clarinet sounding keyboard and an ethereal vocal from Roine, the song is brief and very positive and uplifting with more great guitar lines flowing through the music. The musicianship on this album is off the scale, everyone is playing at the top of their game on these concise yet impressive pieces. There are no long drawn out pieces on this album and somehow this makes the music easier, almost more accessible somehow and that is a good thing.

This is a really good strong release made under difficult situations and yet it really works well as further shown by the impressive third piece, Black Swan, that has a very Brian May like guitar tone with some very tasty guitar fills from Roine.Possibly my favourite track so far, it is a really great song and, with great support from the rest of the band, it really is a statement of intent. In fact, the more I listen, the more I hear, there is a lot going on in these tracks.

Morning News is a more subdued track with a real spring in its step, a rather jolly little song that, while brief, does not overstay its welcome. It is an interesting song lyrically and the chorus is a strong one that suits the song well. Broken is another stunner with a tremendous drive to it and fabulous music and energy to match. There’s a great guitar solo from Roine and some great keyboard textures from Zach Kamins, who really flies on this song, simply glorious.

Then we are into a series of significantly shorter tracks; Goodbye Outrage, Journeyman (instrumental)and Tangerine before a real epic in the nine minutes plus of Solaris which opens with gentle keyboards setting an almost triumphant tone and Roine’s epic guitar coming into play briefly before a gentler percussive keyboard sets a base for Roine to ascend, which he does again briefly. The sound is a little denser on this song but ultimately it is another example of the undeniable talents that this band unquestionably possess, offering to the listener a fine example of modern day progressive rock. This is the best song so far and certainly shows that this album is one that you should look out for and listen to as it is a fine distillation of all the Flower Kings represent. Great song writing, superlative playing and tones, all combined to make an outstanding musical statement that is beguiling, accessible and very impressive indeed.

Heart Of the Valley follows, another gentler piece with great vocals and music working together to create something of worth and value. Man In A Two Piece Suit sounds like one of those instrumentals that Carlos Santana used to do so well, mixing both melody and taste in equal measures. This is a real tour de force of guitar tones and subtlety, all presented together to make a sublime, beautifully crafted piece of music and is a great ending to the first cd.

Disc two opens with the beauty of All I Need Is Love, its universal sentiments must appeal to many listeners who have found themselves adrift and at odds with the madness of this virus affected world. This song acts as a sort of centre of our thoughts and feeling and the realisation that all we actually do need is love in these strange discordant days in which we find ourselves. This calming track is a tonic for us all to aspire to and this is a most worthy song that reaches out to everyone. A New Species is a lengthy instrumental with highly charged moods and textures and some fine ensemble and solo passages from all, especially keyboard player Zach Kamins. His work is simply fabulous on this track as is the walking bass line of Jonas Reingold, offset against the fine guitar of Roine Stolt. Another great track, Northern Lights (not the Renaissance track!) follows with a good opening section showcasing the wordless vocals of Hasse Froberg before becoming vocalised another long song but it was a bitinconsequential song to these ears and sadly did not do anything for me really.

Hidden Angles is a brief instrumental interlude before the second song with Rob Townsend is revealed. Serpentine features Rob’s saxall over the track along with some highly effective bass lines that really add to the dynamics of this excellent little number that ends on some fine ad-libbed sax lines. Looking For Answers is a fine ensemble piece with some sterling guitar lines from Roine leading the piece. Once again I can hear Santana type guitar tones that punctuate the song, adding real emphasis and dynamics to an extraordinarily strong musical piece.

Telescope is an interesting song, very atmospheric with haunting tones used to great effect, along with more juicy guitar lines that set the music tone well. This song has a really fine fluid guitar break too, in fact, I must comment on the excellence of the guitar playing throughout this album as it really is very strong and really adds to the whole experience the album offers.

I would say for me this is one of the most accessible Flower Kings albums that it has been my experience to enjoy and this is one of the first that I have really ‘got’, as it were. There is a lot of music on the two discs but this is countered by it conciseness and its lack of sprawling tunes. For me at least this is one of their better albums and this new approach certainly seems to work as the results are remarkable. Satisfying and ultimately very enjoyable indeed, I really have no hesitation in Recommending this album to all.

Released 30th October 2020

Order from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/the-flower-kings_islands_2cd

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