Review – Les Penning – Belerion – by Kevin Thompson


As a boy, for most of us, the way into music at school was by learning the recorder, wooden for the posh lads and plastic for the rest of us, although I did eventually get a wooden one. A class full of fumbling fingers covering various holes on the instrument (keep it clean please), to produce a range of notes that the music teacher desperately tried to knit together into some semblance of a tune. It has to be said that no one I know mastered the recorder whilst at school and took it up professionally. On leaving the establishment, mine was confined to a box along with my slide rule, action man and trigonometry books to eventually find their way to a table at the local jumble sale.

As a teenager listening to the music of Mike Oldfield was a real eye opener and seemed mind blowing that someone could play so many instruments. There were of course guests of renowned proficiency sometimes invited to appear, one of these being Les Penning on recorder for the album ‘Ommadawn’ and hit singles In Dulce Jubilo and Portsmouth. And yet, in my glib tender youth, it was easy to overlook the contributions of those around him and focus purely on Mr Oldfield’s creativity.

And so it has been until recently when multi-instrumentalist and all round nice guy Rob Reed recorded his self penned homage to the music style of Mike Oldfield, ‘Sanctuary’, and follow up ‘Sanctuary II’, with Les guesting on the latter. Now older, and I like to think a little wiser, I am more inclined to investigate music I like in depth and appreciate all the musicians involved. To this end I now find I have the pleasure of reviewing Les’ album ‘Belerion’, who’s gestation during the Oldfield years has only now come to fruition, thanks to the wonderful Mr Reed and contributions of former ELO2 singer/guitarist, Phil Bates.

Here’s the homework bit: Belerion is an ancient name given to Cornwall that has been translated as meaning “Shining Land” as well as “Seat of Storms”, both quite apt descriptions of the area. The photo on the cover, if I’m not mistaken (I’m sure someone will be quick to correct me if I am), is of  Boscawen-un Stone Circle, just west of Penzance and before my head explodes with new found knowledge let us proceed to the album. Ladies and Gentlemen pray take your partners and places for the merry dance that is Belerion.


Opening with a gentler version than Mike Oldfield’s, of the traditional tune Portsmouth, we are  transported to the glorious English coastal fields on a summers day, overlooking Portsdown Hill to the Solent beyond with birds swooping and soaring to a backdrop of blue waters topped with the froth of white horsetail waves. You’ll find nothing so brash as heavy bass or thundering drums with screaming guitar riffs in this musical world. Instead we are enchanted with the delights of the Bodhran, Crumhorn and Loriman pipe among the instruments used.

St Clement’s Isle is a small rocky islet once the home to an ancient hermit and lies just offshore of the harbour wall to Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzel”) one of Cornwall’s most picturesque hamlets.  It is also the title of the first original tune penned by Les on the album. It’s impossible to separate the tunes from the background stories as they weave such wonderful pictures in your head and whilst they hark back to an earlier, more innocent age they have a timeless air.

All of the tunes on the album are very pleasing, including foot tapper Nobody’s Jig, taken from a dancing manual first published by John Playford in 1651 and containing the music and instructions for English Country Dances.

The gentle refrains of Easter 84 will have you happily strolling along a country lane, with the warmth of the sun on your neck, marveling at mother Natures’ beauty. A fitting contribution in memory of a friend.

It’s impossible not to think of Oldfield’s earlier work and Rob Reed‘s music (hardly surprising as he contributes to this album) but this is to no detriment as Belerion neatly stitches them all together like golden thread weaved into a musical coat of many colours.

Look lively Gents, to your partners for Selinger’s Round, a twisting little folk dance. Spin the Ladies round and watch as their skirts twirl to the music. Also known as The Begining of the World, it’s another foot tapping number.

And yet more brisk fare as we are whisked along to a breezy rendition of the old familiar 17th Century marching song British Grenadiers. A great little interpretation with a rousing climax.

Slow it down to catch your breath as Les leads us through the historical landscape of the renaissance tune Tower Hill, written originally by baroque composer Giles Farnaby.

Dance across The Baskerville Down  with Les to the Baskerville Arms, a hotel where he wrote this little ditty and has sometimes performed.


The album oozes happiness and joy, even The Stones Feel Warm in Belerion, you can lay back on the sun kissed grass watching the clouds float slowly by, whilst listening to this peaceful number dedicated to Les’ friends.

But it’s not all about sunshine and balmy summers’ days, there is warmth to be found for all seasons in our hearts. Gather round the Christmas tree, see the flames rise on the fire as the logs spit and spark. Move the coffee table from the centre of the room, roll up the rug and manoeuvre your loved ones round the space to a jaunty celebration of the traditional Sussex Carol. Quite apt for the time of year.

After your exertions, recline with a fine mulled beverage as you take in the sparkling Bach Minuet, I’ll let you figure out who originally wrote this and who it was for, about time you did some of the homework.

A brief self-penned number from our venerable Pied Piper in Quirk, which squeezes in some strange musical patterns given the short running time, before we reach the ‘epic’ of the album.

Running in at 7:09 minutes, the penultimate Lyme (For Louise) is by far the longest track and is another original piece written by Les. He calls it dream music and if the mention of a military style, marching drum backing makes you think otherwise, trust me it is very soothing and relaxing.

The ribbon round this delightfully wrapped package comes courtesy of  His Rest another dusted off tune of Mr Farnaby’s, to see us out and give Les the chance to put his feet up. He can rest easy in the knowledge he breathes a modern air over the traditional songs which fit smoothly in with his own. You don’t have to be a Folk fan to like this album it is lovely music and can be enjoyed by all without having to don your straw hat and bells, revel in the most excellent musicianship. Maybe I should have practised more at school….

Released 1st December 2016

The 14 track CD is accompanied by a DVD that features an interview with Les where he discusses his career and the period in the mid 1970’s when those famous tracks were made. There are also promo videos for two of the pieces.

Buy ‘Belerion’ here



Review – Encircled – The Monkey Jamboree – by Kevin Thompson


It’s always nice to be appreciated for things you do, to be recognised for contributions you make. So I felt quite chuffed when Scott Evans of the band Encircled contacted me direct and asked would I consider doing a lead review of their new upcoming album ‘The Monkey Jamboree’. The initial elation then moved to trepidation as I realised the band had entrusted their blood, sweat and tears to my hands (I’ll wash them afterwards) and what if I didn’t like it or thought it couldn’t match their previous output? Ah, the heavy weight of responsibility.

Scott sent me the files including the cover (from the talented fingers of Freya Evans) which immediately struck me that it could have been a cave painting featured in Planet of the Apes, with See no Evil,  Speak no Evil and Hear no Evil adorning the front. I mentioned this to Scott and he explained “It’s a little nod to us being deliberately ignorant in our music to all that is going on in the world, like the anti ‘FEAR‘, (Marillion‘s latest delicious release and castigation of the human race), which on listening to the CD bears similarities at times in the style of music.

For those that don’t know the band are:

Mark Busby Burrows – Vocals and Guitar

Gareth Evans – Lead Guitars

Scott Evans – Bass/Keyboards/Programming

Stuart Picken – Drums

With Backing Vocals and Flute from Kym Hart.

This is not an album to rock out to and you will not get whiplash from throwing shapes with your waist length hair (ignoring the balding patch on top), in fact it’s the perfect antidote to this time of year as the weather worsens, the nights close in and the temperature drops. Grab yourself a large glass of red or in my case a good  couple of fingers of single malt from the bottle on the table and close the shutters on the windows. Stoke the open fire in the hearth, dim the lighting and curl up on the sofa with a blanket. Slip the CD in the Hi-Fi and press play……

The short, understated title track soothes you in with Mark’s warm vocals as you take a large sip of the amber nectar and feel the glow as it slides down your throat. The gentle vocal harmonising between Mark and Kym relaxes you further into the cushions, the song trailing away on a lingering note.


Echoing notes intro and the guitar and vocals convince you this is ‘Alphabetically Possible’, in the second track that has more than a whiff of the lighter side of  John Dexter Jones and Jump. Your toes will tap under the blanket to the beat of Stuart’s drums, as the shadows formed by the fire flutter on the ceiling above your swaying head. Listen to Gareth’s first solo, joined with Scott’s keys whilst you refill the emptied glass.

Close your eyes and ponder on the ‘Complexity’ and pace of life as you sink another shot. Decisions to make, he (or she) who hesitates…overrun, overlooked, forgotten, lost. The highs and lows, make the most of the good times as there’s always someone to take your place, on this really smooth track with some great laid back guitar work from Gareth.

Grab yourself another snifter, a glance at the fire sees the flames dance as the foot tapping starts again to ‘Stereochrome’s funky little rhythm. Ruminate on the fact some people thrive on the modern pressures of life to the extent they can’t live without them, but not you at the moment. Recline and revel in the OMD like keyboard solo from Scott sliding into a Dr Who soundscape and ending on another fine guitar solo.

You begin to find the warmth of the whisky and heat from the fire quite soporific, lulled by the piano keys, make the most of this moment, this ‘Magic Hour’. Enjoy the soothing sounds of Rothery type fretwork, the gentle pulse of Stuart’s drums and Scott’s bass. Make the most of what you have now as everything must end, but maybe not until……

‘Tomorrow’ on the penultimate track which, after a few brief strummed chords, raises you from the reverie with a little more upbeat musing on the delicacy of relationships. Should we cling on or hold too close to be singed by the spluttering flames of a needy relationship? Treading on eggshells, will it fall apart acrimoniously and can we not stay friends? Just a little sip.


You wake to find the room dark, only faint embers glow in the hearth and the temperature has cooled. Your head is filled with cotton wool as you survey the empty tumbler alongside the discharged bottle and try to piece together your thoughts on ‘A Life Shy of Perfection’. You rise, stretch then quell the remains of last night’s fire. Fold the blanket as you ponder what you have lost and how direction-less you have become. Make your way across the room and open the shutters on the grey streaked clouds of the winter morning as the last chords of acoustic guitar prod you to face the day ahead.

You pick up the glass and bottle then make your way from the room switching off the dimmed lighting and try Chasing the Ghost’ in your fogged brain as you make your way along the hall. Pale, milky light drifts in through the glass panes of the front door casting a faint shadow ahead of you as you retreat toward the kitchen and the tune builds. Your bare feet drop the step into the kitchen, slapping on the chilled tiles. The shock makes you shake yourself in an attempt to disengage the monkey swinging from the branches of your brain. The bottle is discarded in the recycling bin and the glass shunted next to the pile of dishes by the sink from the day before. You’ll wash them later, no time now. You pause briefly to look out at the sodden leaf smothered garden before turning to retrace your steps down the hall and up the stairs for a shower as the last song nears the end in a duet of piano complemented by Kym’s flute. You close the bathroom door as the album ends on a single tintinnabulation. Time to get going.

This is not an album to break new ground nor will it have you dancing round the room. Tempo rarely breaking above a sway, it’s a slice of sublime relaxation, to kick off your shoes and relax to. It will keep me company on many a dark winter’s night and should it take your fancy as the tipple of choice, drink well of it’s smoothly distilled texture and feel the glow inside.

 I’d like to thank Scott and the band for entrusting me with their latest blend and raise a glass to toast them, on an album well refined and produced by Shaun Lowe.

 If you want to know more you can check out:




Review – Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour – by Kevin Thompson


Prog/Symphonic Metal is a crowded market and each band has their devoted following. I have my favourites, fully aware there are many more out there doing well for themselves in this genre that I have never heard. It doesn’t mean they aren’t any good or they do not tickle my earbuds, merely the fact I can only listen to so many in the time I have.

And so it is with Sonata Arctica, a lively bunch of lads from Kemi in Northern Finland. The roots of the band grew from a hard rock band Tricky Beans formed  in 1995, changing direction and band name to Sonata Arctica (on the suggestion of a friend) inspired by fellow Fins Stratovarious.

With emphasis on the strong keyboard/keytar melodies of Henrik Klingenberg, bolstered by Pasi Kauppinen’s bass and Elias Viljanen’s guitar rhythm line, Tommy Portimo’s ice shattering drums line up alongside Tony Kakko using both his cool falsetto and tenor voices (fleshed out further with backing vocals from the rest of the band) to bring a heavy snowstorm of sound across the frozen wastes for your pleasure.

‘The Ninth Hour’ is also their ninth album, funnily enough, but it is also a reference to the moment Christ is said to have died on the cross. Whilst not religious Tony Kakko says it echoes some of the lyrical themes and also inspired the idea for the rather fabulous album cover painted by Toxic Angel. It can be seen as a metaphor for a society skirting the edges of war again, in a world where environmental pollution is a daily concern and people ignore the damage we cause to Mother Nature at our peril, a common theme for many bands recently.

It’s a very polished album from a band confident in their sound with the songs never seeming downbeat, whilst the lyrics may illustrate the doom ridden earth we are creating. The quality of music shows why they have been asked previously to tour with their fellow Fins and Nightwish among others.

Sonata Arctica Megaphone

Closer to an Animal, first track and single is not as heavy as I expected and at times reminds me of  Magnum in it’s structure. A lively little number to start and sets the tone for the album with swathes of Henrik’s  keys and flourished guitar soloing from Elias as Tony warns we abuse what we have.

There’s a slight Celtic feel in places as Life starts with a Nightwish style introduction on this warm song encouraging you to live your life, blowing away the cold icicles of day to day mundaniety from your mind.

Don’t believe all you are told comes the warning in the chilling Fairytale, blindly following like sheep and allowing ourselves to be manipulated by those corrupted with power. Edited, this catchy number would make a good single with it’s sing along chorus and it is one of my favourites on the album.

Time to seek shelter from the cold and relax in warm comfort to contemplate why We Are What We Are, the destroyers of worlds. Can we turn it around? Is it too late? Can we save what we are losing on this powerful refrain to the Earth.

Thrown from our reveries into the Arctic winds of tumultuous affairs of the heart, Till Death’s Done Us Apart sees us stung by the frozen crystals of emotion as they get buried in the snowy drifts of rampaging instrumentation. As the evening closes in we find ourselves Among The Shooting Stars. Tinkling keys echo in the night on this rock ballad full of streaking lights of emotion and rousing chorus as you wander under the moonlit sky, the warmth of love protects you from the chill.


A Husky sled full of guitars hurtles towards you in Rise a Night,  to carry you across the glistening flows of ice and snow. The evening air rushes past with Kauppinen’s bass heightening your senses on a flurry of guitar riffs as the vocals whip around your head, whilst the the thrumming of Portimo’s drums like sled rails bouncing across the ground, quicken the pulse and spray key-notes into the atmosphere. A ride of pure adrenalin before you Fly, Navigate, Communicate and you ease to the steady pace of a fairly generic rock song which then picks up in the latter half. Whilst Tony’s vocal range is displayed extensively on this track it feels like an unused tune from a Europe album and the singing doesn’t quite match Joey Tempest.

Lights flicker in the darkness as Klingenberg’s piano plays on the Candle Lawns, issuing in the lovingly written ballad on this Finnish fairytale of an album, caressed with sweet soloing guitars on a track reminiscent of Darren Wharton’s ‘Dare’.

The lapping waters of an icy sea and cries of sea-birds carry us on to the epic track White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II “By The Grace Of The Ocean”, which I believe is a sequel to a track of the same name on the 2004 album ‘Reckoning Night’ (that’s my homework done). Steadily building orchestration and delicate keys, interwoven with heavy guitars and lit by a fireball of a guitar solo from Viljanen, mid-tune, reflecting on the ocean of sound around him as the song sails away.

Which brings us to the grand finale as we cruise On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal), a crowning glory to a frozen throne. It feels like all the previous tracks were made to lead to this on a song which starts with piano led vocals so dramatic they could have been written for a West End  premier musical  production. It slowly drifts, so gently you struggle to remember when the the rest of the band join in so seamless is the transition on this delicate, heart-achingly beautiful tune. Then as if snatched by a last chilled gust of wind it fades away the final notes dissipating in the rarefied atmosphere as a distant whistle signals a close.

This has been an adventure for me, guided warmly through this wintry landscape of an album warning of portents we bring upon ourselves, the variations catching my ears and nestling in my head. I shall definitely be giving this a few more spins and if you are a fan of the sub-genre then I can heartily recommend ‘The Ninth Hour’.

Released 7th October 2016

Buy ‘The Ninth Hour’ from Nuclear Blast Records


Review – Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape – by Kevin Thompson


This was meant originally as a preview, but time and tide, as they say… By now many of you may already have this and be making your own minds up. So here is my review…..

Tragedy when it hits is never expected and the devastation, after initial shock, rushes out like waves and ripples flooding over all it touches. Seeping like damp into everyone’s hearts it leaves you cold and numb. Many bands have faced upsets in their lives, some have survived others not. Many losses are through age and/or self abuse taking it’s toll, but when you lose someone before their expected time, it hits hard. Over the last few years Riverside have become one of my favourite bands and watching them ‘live’ last year we got the feeling they were on the verge of breaking through to the next level and greater things.

But fate is a cruel mistress and I was surprised the sudden passing in February of guitarist Piotr Grudziński affected me so emotionally. Then going online to find the outpouring of sympathy from other fans and the support for the other band members, families and friends was overwhelming. Bassist/vocalist, Mariusz Duda then lost his Father in May and further personal issues have dogged him since. He, along with drummer Piotr Kozieradzki and keyboardist Michał Łapaj, could be forgiven for wanting to take some time away, but it is to their credit and the measure of the men that they have decided to continue as a trio and have started to make future plans as well as continuing solo projects in the wings.


The band have already issued “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” in 5.1 and last Friday (21st October) they released the double disc instrumental “Eye Of The Soundscape”, a fitting homage to their  friend Piotr.

To misquote from Star Wars, ‘this may not be the Riverside you are looking for’. It is a collection of  ideas the band have composed and accumulated over a number of years, some of which have already appeared as bonus tracks with other albums. There are traces of the Riverside we know and love and the beautiful strains of Piotr’s guitar haunts the melodies, but this extensive work  has more in common with the likes of Tangerine Dream mixed with hints of Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd.

You may be accustomed to my reviewing album tracks on an individual basis, but in this case I feel the album works better if listened to as a whole. It will not be for everyone and with the best will in the world, you will find the direction and length of this formidable album (though the tracks on the second disc are generally shorter) tests you and it may be that only the hardcore Riverside fan will persevere and last the distance.


The ambient mood and atmosphere of this album floats you down a dark river of keyboards and effects, the bass and drums causing the eddy and flow, with the guitar propelling “Eye Of The Soundscape” along a dreamy and immersive journey, some of which will engage you whilst other tracks will wash over you like liquid velvet. Jazz infused saxophone passages echo in the night-lit jungle as you drift along, the large bright moon of sound casting fleeting shadows of effects through the dense foliage of music.

 Piotr’s fluid (at times Gilmoresque) fretwork is quite sublime if understated in places, on what some may see as an album of pleasant enough background music, soporific or even uninteresting. Before the devout following tear me to pieces, I hasten to point out I do not fall into those categories as I am also a fan of Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd and own many of their recordings in my collection along with other ambient classics and instrumentals.

 Some may only listen to “Eye Of The Soundscape” once and place the album on a shelf, leaving it to collect dust or brushing it off occasionally to attempt further understanding and convince themselves they do like it; you don’t have to. It will split opinion with it’s diversification but I feel  it stands as a fitting tribute from the band and on behalf of everyone Piotr’s presence touched, to a sadly missed and greatly loved friend.


There have been better Riverside albums musically, but none more emotionally charged from a band who truly have remained as positive as possible in the face of adversity. Never losing touch with their fans, sharing visions and hopes and updating everyone with every tentative step along this personal journey, they humble us. The quality of the instrumentation from the band is also first class.

I would recommend you listen before buying to ensure it is for you and those with a taste for the more chilled side of music give it a try, even if Riverside’s previous output has not been to your taste. There is light through this dark tunnel which will see this band emerge to you either as a bright new butterfly or a dull coloured moth, I know which I will follow as it flutters over the musical landscape.

On this occasion it seems only fitting to leave the last words in this review to the band as a parting farewell to Piotr:

“This is our last journey together so we dedicate this album to you, Brother. In our hearts you will stay forever.”

Released 21st October 2016

Buy ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ from InsideOut Music

Review – OPERATION:MINDCRIME – Resurrection – by Kevin Thompson


I came across Queensryche whilst serving alongside the U.S. Forces among others in The Netherlands, where I bought the ‘Operation : Livecrime’ box set from the PX. The video was an excellent concept and I enjoyed it so much that when my video player died I bought it on DVD. I bought their back catalogue and traced the progression in their sound and Geoff Tate’s voice. I then bought ‘Empire’ which for me was the pinnacle of their recordings.

None of the others since have been particularly bad, ‘American Soldier’ being worthy of note but they never seemed to match either ‘Mindcrime’ or ‘Empire’. Then came the acrimonious split and albums from both parties. Traces from both of old successes but again nothing outstanding. I stopped at ‘Kings & Thieves’ and didn’t buy ‘Frequency Unknown’ or ‘The Key’ from Geoff’s new band Operation: Mindcrime , which was part one of a trilogy and quite badly mauled by the press.

So when I was asked to review this, the second of the three part story, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The old logo is cleverly reworked into the cover design which looks like a panel from the page of a graphic novel, a good start, but what is the concept? Who better than the man himself Mr Geoff Tate to explain, “It continues the story that began on the first album ‘The Key’ with the near death experience of the lead character known as ‘H‘ and his subsequent recovery of the missing encryption key. With the Key finally in his possession, ‘H‘ has everything he needs to finally launch his long awaited project called ‘The New Reality’. Or does he…”

Time to see if Mr Tate has everything he needs to resurrect my interest……


Intriguing sound effects, introduce the short, opening instrumental piece and title track ‘Resurrection’, which then slides into track two, ‘When All Fades Away’, a heavier more majestic piece of instrumentation which seems to imply the beginning of, or preparation for, a journey in it’s tone. Seguing into the thirty second track ‘A Moment In Time’, where Geoff Tate’s vocals make a brief introduction before we find ourselves ‘Through The Noize’, on the next track. Whilst Tate’s distorted vocals (similar to those used on previous recordings) are meant to impart a certain atmosphere, for some reason they seem to ‘muddy’ the sound on this recording and I have to really listen to understand the lyrics.

Whilst not classic Geoff Tate he appears to be moving forward has gathered a worthy band of musicians/vocalists to ably assist him so he’s not ‘Left For Dead’ yet, as this fifth track leans toward the ‘Queensryche’ trademark sound with memorable chorus. The lyrics indicate a fighting spirit, knocked down but undeterred he will rise and push on as he leads out with ‘It’s all I know….’

Most of the lyrics seem autobiographical and can be listened to as a continuation of Tate’s dislike for corporate/political improbity and corruption bought from excesses of wealth. Yet at the same time it could be viewed as a personal reflection of the last four years, since the acrimonious split from his former band mates in most unsavoury fashion have at times left him feeling ‘Miles Away’. The tracks seem to grow in stature along with Tate’s confidence and the selected performers are allowed to show their various talents, flourishing guitar solos and the drums in particular standing out here.

‘Do you think he knows?’ a question Tate feels ready to answer as he sings Healing My Wounds’, and brandishes his trusty sax solo on this album for this first time, (an instrument he under-uses in my opinion), which brings a different flavour to the sound and soaring guitar adds to the orchestration creating an epic feel. ‘I think he knows’.


The laid-back retro-‘ryche delivery on the eighth track belie ‘The Fight’ the man has been waging on all fronts. Acoustic finger picking intro and Geoff’s beginning to feel less reason to look backwards and a growing recognition he’s able to not only stand on his own terms but also that he’s free to explore avenues that may not have been possible within the band collective. He seems comfortable with this song, like a familiar snug blanket and let’s hope Tate’s not shy of using the old sound mixed in with new ideas to progress himself.

Tate may have had the impression at times that he’s ‘Taking On The World’, but he seems to be coming out on top with the best track on this album unashamedly channelling his inner ‘ryche, which echoes staple tracks like ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’. Whilst the voice is used a little more economically these days as age does it’s duty on the vocal chords, he is still on fine form and sounds as if he’s really enjoying himself for the first time in a while and finding his path forward. Again the musicianship as on all the tracks is excellent. I particularly like the introductions on each track as they add to the atmosphere.

I’m not sure Tate feels ‘Invincible’, but with his confidence asseveration on each track, number ten sees him facing off against his demons sensing he holds the key to his resurrection and growing stronger with each breath.

The heavier, bluesier ‘Smear Campaign’ wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and the thin veneer of the concept fails to fully cover the most blatant of all the tracks to raise the bitter taste in the musical throat, on the thorny subject of the last four years. With cries of  ‘What’s the point, easy target’ and ‘People will either love you, or hate you’ among the lyrics it’s not a giant leap to see the real pain. Yet with shifting time-scales and changes in tempo it also showcases once again, the excellent musicians he has surrounded himself with and teases us with a brief but delicious slice of Geoff on sax and building into a dramatic finish.

As in any conflict you find at some stage you will be asked ‘Which Side Your On’, (it’s the way it was spelled on the review copy I was sent) as Tate appeals to anyone listening and rallies support for his cause. Unfortunately this seems to lose cohesion, sounding  more indistinct. For me this could have been left off the album as it offers nothing and causes the album to stumble a little and lose it’s way.


The penultimate track offers Tate ‘Into The Hands Of The World’, and is probably the riskiest track on the album as it juggles genre, mixing brass with heavy guitar riffs and twiddly keyboards along the way and whilst once again it doesn’t hold a consistent earworm of a tune it is more palatable than it’s predecessor and leads us to the grandiose platform for the last track.

 Tate addresses you ‘Live From My Machine’, recovering the album and finishing in majestically, relaxed style. ‘It’s always a challenge, facing the challenge’, he sings in acknowledgement of what he has achieved on this album.

It may not reach the dizzy peaks of past triumphs but ‘Resurrection, sees Geoff Tate climbing in the right direction and with conviction to greater heights and building empires.

(I can only hope the sound quality is better on the actual release.)

Released 23rd September 2016

Buy ‘Resurrection’ on CD from Amazon


Review – Epica – The Holographic Principle – By Kevin Thompson


Epica Album

There are some excellent bands producing Symphonic Metal. Very popular and with some exceptional exponents, among them Nightwish, Within Temptation and Stream of Passion to name a few. So it is very easy for a few to slip under the radar, for me one of those has been EPICA, (which they define as Excellence. Power. Intelligence. Creativity. Ambition. on their publicity blurb). Hailing from the Netherlands and formed in 2002, “The Holographic Principle” is their seventh studio album, which they say is their heaviest to date.

As is often the case, prerequisite for the majority of these bands is a powerful/operatically voiced frontswoman and EPICA tick the box well and truly with the beautiful, flame haired Simone Simons. Guitarist Mark Jansen’s sonorous growls contrast like Beauty and the Beast, sometimes for me a little intrusive as I’m not a big fan of this sort of vocalisation. This is loud, heavy and bombastic music, with Gregorian and choral style chanting and the screaming guitar solos from Isaac Delahaye cutting a swathe through the cinematically orchestral embellishments of Coen Janssen’s keyboards. The thundering rolls of Ariën van Weesenbeek’s drums combining with Rob Van Der Loos’ bass foundations on which the arrangements are built.

The album opens with the miniature epic Eidola which is far too short for me, but a great introduction. It could have soundtracked the film ‘300’, conjuring scenes of a huge procession. Armoured elephants in gleaming gold cresting the horizon as thousands of battle hardened, marching infantry hammer the road before them, their feet smashing into the dust. Heat and sweat mingle as they haul huge war machines of mass destruction toward the enemy.

I would have liked for it to merge into Edge of the Blade, as I find the suddeness of the starting riff jars slightly with the preceding track. A small niggle soon forgotten as you are then carried along at a crashing pace with only the soothing vocals from Simone to give respite, before they reach for the stratosphere. There is a middling slow of pace before the growling hits with the guitars and you are hurtled into the maelstrom of battle again.

Plucked strings are crushed by the guitars as they issue in A Phantasmic Parade, and the war machines unleash a hail of deadly notes and choral choruses to assault your senses.


A brief lull, then charging through the settling dust and smoke come the Universal Death Squad, screaming their war chants and brandishing weapons, lusting for blood and souls. Red rimmed eyes seeking foes and victims as they reap bodies like sheaves of bloodstained stalks of grain. Simone’s vocals and Isaac’s keyboards lifting the track beyond the onslaught.

A few retreating survivors fire back in the distance as orchestral swathes mix with piano before they are scattered to Divide and Conquer, Mark’s barked ululations at his marauding horde, directing their onslaught to demoralise the enemy, with the engaging Simone encouraging a memorable chorus at his side.

Exalting vocals precede celebratory instruments, orchestrated as they march Beyond the Matrix, Simone conducting the guitar verses, Mark gutterally picking off survivors on the wasted battlefield and guitars herald their affirmation to a rousing choral end.

Haunting Celtic violins bring an ease to the aggression as we wander Once Upon A Nightmare, accompanied by Simone’s voice and Coen’s piano, the orchestra and choir falling into line with the guitars and drums treading respectfully across the musical battlefield intensifying to a rousing dramatic end.


Melodramatic choir, heavy riffs and driven drums crash in, with Simone adding gloss to Mark’s hard edged vocals. The layered orchestration and keyboards propelling us forward across the universe in search of answers to The Cosmic Algorithm, as the tune hurtles to it’s inevitable end.

Mr Jansen’s portents add gothic doom to the Ascension – Dream State Armaggedon, a brief verbal passage warning this is the end of everything as we know it, echoing the bands’ attempts to elevate themselves out of their comfort zone and progress their sound, morphing and fading out as drums and exotic strings bring a Middle Eastern touch to Dancing in a Hurricane. The addition of  Asian instruments like whirling dervishes dance between the band, swirling dust and sand in the heat of the music.

Lush strings and atmospheric piano soothe before you are bludgeoned by the propulsive metal of battle as the band Tear Down Your Walls, Simone and the choir flying above the destruction like avenging angels crushing all and everything in their path with their symphonic cannons.

And so we come to the grand finale, The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality, (even the title’s epic) and for me the band’s most adventurous track on the album. They have literally thrown everything at their disposal into this, creating a huge production. From the monastic chanted introduction, this veers from soft piano to orchestral swathes. The drama of the vocals against soaring guitar solos and pounding staccato rhythms ascending into the heavens to a headrushing climax.

I now have a confession, I had to take a break for a few days before finishing this review as the intensity of the album after five plays became a little overwhelming. There is no doubting this is an excellent example of the genre, but I would have liked to hear maybe a couple of slower tracks, even ballads to give this more balance and the faster, heavier tracks more impact. The ones that do start gently are quickly swallowed up by the band’s apparent enthusiastic attempts at progression and a slight release may have allowed the music to breathe a little.

That said it’s a cracking album and I am surprised I have not picked up on Epica before and I shall certainly be listening to the back catalogue and watching for future releases. If you like this genre and you have also passed them by I suggest you give them a listen.

All pictures by Tim Tronckoe Photography..

Released 30th September 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records.

Buy ‘The Holographic Principle’ from Nuclear Blast Records








Review – Marillion – F.E.A.R – by Kevin Thompson


Let’s get this out of the way first, I have been a Marillion fan, since ‘Market Square Heroes’, not as fanatical as some but have every album from both eras and solo projects. I have seen them many times live and they have seen me through the highs and lows of my adult life, always there to bring wonder, amazement and comfort. I refuse to choose which era I prefer as both are in their own right part of a greater whole that make this band not only one of the greats of Progressive music, but one of the best bands I have ever heard. Pioneers of crowd-funding they created a whole new ecosystem in which to survive and prosper, where others fell to the whims of the press when the genre stumbled to the fickle fancies of the general great unwashed.

If we are to believe that life is one big cycle, everything must come around again, as in fashion and also the popularity of music. The quality of Marillion’s output and personal symbiosis with their adoring fans have carried them over a 38 year career and eighteen albums, quite often against all odds, and shown the way for others to follow. Free from the shackles of large labels and self sufficient it has enabled them to create under their own rules a beautiful distinctive sound. They have never really ‘gone away’ or ‘made a comeback’, producing consistently strong material. It is to be expected then that a band who have always been able to make social comment, (‘Easter’, ‘Season’s End’, ‘Brave’….) and are not afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects, should go all out on the new album to try and prick the conscience of the human race and open our eyes to the mess we are making of this wonderful planet on which we have the privilege to be born.

Why is it we, who consider ourselves the ‘superior’ race continually attempt to waste all before us with greed and want, when in reality there would be plenty for all if only we would look after the world we live in and work with and not against the planet and everyone on it. Such is the constitution of man, but there is no fantasy in the fact we are pushing ourselves to destruction and there will be no happy ending if we do not change our ways, Mother Nature will have her revenge on the pretentious, foolish notions that we can control her.


Can the New Kings save us from ourselves through the message of music, it would be naïvely sweet to think so and the intention is sincere. Whether it does depends on you dear listener, but for myself the lyrics may serve to open my eyes, but the music opens my heart. Listening to Marillion makes me feel I want to be a better person and fills me with a warm glow. Previews and internet gossip may, erroneously lead you to believe this is decidedly different from previous albums, it’s not. What you will hear is the culmination of personal experience spread over four decades, condensed and poured like liquid gold into your ears, on what many may feel are some of the best tunes the band have ever written. All brought together on an album that dares to try and topple ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ from my ‘favourite’ spot.

Let me try and convince you a little further, are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin….

Our first story warns of  an impending dramatic change in the five piece El Dorado. The album title sung so sweet a chorus, you could almost be forgiven for mistaking the impact it aims to create. This is not flippant or irreverent comment meant to shock, rather to indicate the evil that men and women do and what it generates in humanitarian, ecological and financial terms. Ignorantly disregarding the warnings of disaster we are bringing on ourselves, the analogy of a devastating, approaching storm illustrating our shame exquisitely. What future are we creating and what legacy will we leave our children and future generations?

The next tale urges us to seek an end to wars and work to universal peace, no longer to be Living in Fear. You could be forgiven for thinking the band were trying to create a ‘Hippy’ utopia with the 60’s echoed sentiments, but in a world that that has grown increasingly bitter and violent, maybe those with flower power had something greater to offer us after all. Mocked, before their time, and over-dramatic with portents of an all too scary real life in which we now live. Who are we now to cast aspersions, seeing them as just a quirky trend in the past only makes fools of us now. An infectious chorus will dig into your consciousness, lodging there and carrying the new day message of hope, should we ignore it or join hands across the world in harmony?


Almost an antithesis to Thankyou Whoever You Are from the album ‘Somewhere Else’, as a pentagonal prosopography, The Leavers is the narrative of a band and crew’s life from a behind the scenes perspective. The constraints of a life on the road, showing a more personal tale of the strain on all involved. Constantly on the move, setting up/packing up and repetitive routines. Hardly ever home and when you are, restless, never fully settled whilst something tugs at you, drawing you back to the nomadic world you have become accustomed to. The testing of relationships as you struggle to fit into the family dynamic and their daily rituals, the feeling of being an intruder. Each section of this extensive song segues into the next as the band smoothly slide between passages.

Steve Hogarth’s heartfelt vocals perfectly catch the requisite emotion for the rest of the band to feed from, creating layers of luscious strings at the fingers of Messrs Pete Trewavas  rhythmic bass and Steve Rothery’s soaring guitars, intertwining with the percussive symmetry of Ian Moseley’s drums, all laid on a quilted bed of  Mark Kelly’s delicious keys. The coherence of the the band’s music on this album has never been more tangible and a further fitting analogy as to what we could all achieve if we worked in harmony together for the common goal, in their case this beautiful thought provoking album.

The delicate piano and wistful vocals illustrate our ageing, which can creep up on us as the realisation dawns we can no longer mentally or physically do all we could or would like to. We all too soon become observers of The White Paper on which we have painted our lives. Visiting our past whilst we innocuously watch the world pass by. Bitter-sweet, verging on regretful reflection of what we lose, as the music builds  for the yearning of youth when everything was fresh and colourful, rapidly resigned to greyer shades of obscurity. Could we, should we have done more whilst we were capable?


What have we not unearthed in dark depth from our tales so far? Ah, yes, greed and corruption. There is no ‘need’ for some but a ‘want’ to own, take control, hold dominion over those below and less fortunate at any cost. There is always someone whose avarice will override their common sense of decency in a corrupt corporate society where power matters to The New Kings above all else. Revelling in others’ misfortunes whilst building empty steel and glass castles to their vacuous domains, in which the echoes of the titled chorus ring. Any assumed pleasantries in previous tracks are disregarded on this epitaph of the evil that men do, dispensing with the subtleties to expose the core of this world’s impropriety.

This album resonates on every level of my senses, be it my own advancing years that force me into the realisation that in my humanity I too have been guilty, on however a small scale, to some of the above at some stages in my life. Before I put my soapbox away I would like to end on this. It is not someone else to blame, it is not someone else’s fault. We are all accountable. Wake up and smell the roses, whilst they still grow. Stand up and be counted. Do not live in F.E.A.R.

 Released 23rd September 2016

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Review – Evergrey – The Storm Within – by Kevin Thompson


Despite my ever widening musical interests and the list of artists I listen to growing at a rapid rate, there are always bands that have defined historical points in my life, regardless of genre. Opening new chapters in my musical dictionary has always excited me, that rush you feel on hearing a band for the first time that resonates and elates, making the hairs raise on your arms and the delicious tingle stroke the back of the neck is exquisite. Suddenly you feel immortal and could do anything.

The band invest, you invest and you feel part of the journey they take, the ups and downs the highs and lows and the progression. A much needed progression so as not to stay static, waste away, fade and disappear. The progression will lose some investors along the way from band and fans and gain new ones. There will always be naysayers, those who don’t want change, refuse to understand and will always bemoan the perceptive loss of what they enjoyed through any deviation. But I feel a band has a duty to themselves to follow their hearts and at times that will mean blocking out the negativity to allow the creativity. We owe it to them to try and understand and listen with open minds and hearts, if we do not like the new direction then by all means leave the flock but attempts to desecrate should be left at the door as you exit.

And so it is with Evergrey who, along with Sylvan, introduced me to the heavier side of Prog. ‘Recreation Day’ blew me away, especially the title track, and I invested, like a coke fueled trader, in their stock. They have always excited me, and I have awaited new releases with relish. Then something happened. Had I become used to the sound, taken the music for granted without realising after all these years? ‘Hymns for the Broken’ hit me like a musical tsunami, refreshing, vital and passionate making me feel like the the first time I’d heard them. It hammered into my Top Ten of last year and was never dethroned, beating off any pretenders.

And so to the new album ‘The Storm Within’, could it match or surpass it’s predecessor?

Josefin Wahlstedt

(Picture credit Josefin Wahlstedt)

Opener, Distance, wrong foots me initially with slow echoing piano but then it kicks in, heavy and with intent guitars burning, drums roll, bass thunders and keyboards majestically swirl as Tom S Englund emphatically reminds us ‘it’s not over, we’ll soon be closer than before’. I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer as an eerie escalation pumps the blood vessels and the pulse increases. The sound is swelled with a children’s choir fading out to the haunting piano keys. Like a tornado it has picked you up, spun you round and landed you back where you started, static electricity crackling into…

Rikard Zander’s keyboard charge with the musical hounds of hell in pursuit and the heartbeat increases, the energy Passing Through your body. Tom’s vocals urgent and beseeching, soaring solos from Henrik Danhage tearing musical veins apart like a practised surgeon, tendons strained by the pounding bass of Johan Niemann, twitching the muscles driven by the drums of Jonas Ekdahl as the keyboards race out into the distance leaving fading notes in it’s wake popping like blood vessels.

A haunting call and the chopping guitars like a savage axeman swing into play as an explosive burst from Jonas hits you in the cranium. The vocals seek to reassure as you regain your bearings, Someday you will shed your vulnerability and we will all be welcomed with open arms together, carried into the symbiotic bloodstream of the musical body.

Heavy pulsating bass and guitars exhale with force, cloying at the icy air as the drums drive freezing winds and Tom entreats you not to be lead Astray into the cold winter of sorrows, stay strong against adversity, don’t give in, don’t let go. The guitar cries with the vocals and you feel a chill as the onslaught reaches a juddering halt. Breathe.

Piano and strings softly lament a relationship that can never be, to expect it would to be asking The Impossible. A forlorn hope that can only break hearts and torment souls. Is there no end to this?


Ripped from futile reverie by the sheer aggression of music, racing across the aural planes like a savage hoard. Anger bursts from My Allied Ocean of torment. Destroy, burn it all, leave no stone unturned as the instrumental blows lay all to waste. Keys fan the flames of guitars and bass as the black smoke drums bring darkness and leave nowhere to hide, no safe haven.

Grandiose keys and guitars put us In Orbit in this wonderful duet with Floor Jansen (Nightwish), adding cream to the bitter coffee of  Tom’s hurt as he runs from the pursuant staccato guitar riffs and dreams that haunt.

No respite or let up in intensity as keyboards berate and the crestfallen The Lonely Monarch seeks to understand why he keeps trying to keep a crumbling relationship from falling apart. Dueling guitars torture the air, thoughts screeching through his head and thundering to a finish.

A few moments of respite in beautiful melancholy as Evergrey produce their best kept secret, Tom’s better half, Carina Englund. Having sung on all their previous albums she steps rightfully to the fore on this heart-aching duet The Paradox of the Flame.  Caressed with Rikard’s sublime piano playing and accompanied by lush violin serenading the bitter-sweet realisation that the relationship is lost. Guitars join the heartbreak as the violin soars and all fades as a memory and I feel a shiver run down my spine and the hairs prickle on my arms.

The fierce torment as you Disconnect from the entreating and you are almost overwhelmed by the shuddering barrage that snaps you away with a full on musical onslaught. Tom’s emotionally wrenching pleas torturing himself, his guitar sparring with the lightening dancing fingers of  Mr Danhage, as he rends the strings across his fretboard urged on by the pulsing throb of Johan’s bass and the flying sticks of Mr Ekdahl. The pace slows with variation and an angelic like voice cries us out to the dying instrumentation.

Majestically, the band take us into the last and title track The Storm Within, all the pieces have been building to this classic piece of Evergrey bombast. All they are and have is thrown into this and elating as only a song can when it emotionally connects. Happiness and sadness ride hand in hand as the album reaches it’s fervent climax and leaves me emotionally drained.

So there you are, another year and another definite inclusion in my Top Ten of the year. Whilst this is not the same Evergrey I first heard, to me this is the new and improved model. They have progressed and I feel myself privileged and honoured to be able to listen to albums like ‘The Storm Within’. Long may they continue.

THIS is why I love music and always will, it touches you and can carry you though what ever storms you face, lifting you above it all. I will invest in this until my dying day as it’s dividends will  outweigh any losses and repay you with an Emperor sized fortune.

Released 9th September 2016

Pre-order ‘The Storm Within’ direct from the band


Review – Vista – Vista – by Kevin Thompson

Vista front cover

Thanks to modern technology Bedroom Warriors around the world are free to record their music without interference or demands from Labels or Managers. People are free to create, liberally making the music they want to make without compromise, other than the amount of instruments and recording equipment they have. It’s even possible to do it from a digital pad these days, with a studio at your fingertips, you can twiddle virtual knobs to your hearts content, until you are satisfied. Unfortunately it also means there is no quality control.

Dave Palermo hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s been a musician for many years and has recorded several albums both as a solo artist and with other bands. All songs are written and recorded by Dave and he plays all the instrumentation, keyboards, synth bass, synth guitar, and drum programming .

He named the solo project VISTA  which he sees as a metaphor for his music createability from the dictionary definition: A view, especially an attractive view from a high position. “After a hard climb, we were rewarded by a vista of rolling hills.” He says” “A song and ultimately an album are mountains to climb. An upward journey through the mind to the top where you turn around and look back at something aesthetically pleasing, entertaining, and informative for the listener. This is the goal and the standard for every piece of music I write, so I’ve called this project Vista.”

It’s at this point the PR pack goes on to list influences and the kinship with other bands, though pointing out Vista has its own style and sound, full of unique chord progressions and memorable melodies. Dave also says the new debut album includes 8 tracks of powerful synth rock. Sorry Dave it doesn’t. Though it pains me to say it I cannot agree with these comments and have deliberately not named the bands.

I really don’t know where to start, so let’s begin on the positive. Dave is clearly a competent multi-instrumentalist but I would like to see him stretched to show his full abilities which this album does not seem to do, or I hope it doesn’t. He obviously loves his music and the creative process, the instrumental tunes are nice and inoffensive. There is no growling vocals, blasphemy or swearing to be heard. I would like anyone reading this to bear in mind that these are all merely my opinions and others may well like the eight tunes presented on this album and Dave is free to ignore this review, shun me forever and pretend I don’t exist, but I cannot do this without being honest and true to myself.

I will not use the words ‘powerful’ and ‘rock’ because I at no time want to mislead anyone.

Track 1 – Aviator: Never really takes off for me and floats, drifts around like a brightly coloured balloon in a summer sky slowly deflating as the helium exits through a small pinhole.

Track 2 – Arena: Nothing to do with Clive Nolan, of which I’m sure he’ll be relieved. This is where I expected the excitement, drama and the two previously mentioned words to kick in, but no. Deflating further the balloon doesn’t even receive a kick to boost it and the arena it trails over is an overgrown ruin.

Track 3 – Virtual Safari: The balloon floats across sparse, flat tundra, dodging dried twisted trees and bushes and I want my money back as at no time does the tune create any images of virtual, majestic creatures running freely across the synthesised plains.

Track 4 – Marathon: Not related to the Rush tune of the same name, though the metaphorical balloon does seem to catch a little breeze and gain pace in comparison to the previous tracks but the music doesn’t befit the title as neither very long or epic. Half way through the album though and I am begining to feel I’m running in a marathon.

Vista back cover

Track 5 – Brigade: As an ex-military man myself I could never have marched to this beat. It doesn’t convey any sense of bombast, pride or action. There could be no chest beating swells of emotion as the only distinguishing thing on this track is a leisurely run up and down the keyboards. This should be enough to shoot further holes into the metaphoric balloon, depleting it’s momentum further. I’m tempted to go AWOL.

Track 6 – Myriad Harvest: A welcome departure into piano like intro on this track holds promise, but it doesn’t last and slips back into the synthesised anaesthesia. The old adage of ‘You reap what you sow’, never rung more true, one careless swing of the instrumental scythe and the balloon could be punctured beyond repair. With a heartbeat drum track this plods like a shire horse pulling a heavy plough.

Track 7 – Finding Destiny’s Road: We all have a destiny, be it in our hands or not and we find signs to guide us along the path. But here, someone’s pinched the road signs and we are left to wander aimlessly following the balloon as it drifts just above the road surface, ribbon trailing on the tarmac. Once again the only distinguishable piece is a few bars of piano like keys in the middle, too little to raise us and we stop suddenly at the end not knowing or particulalry caring where this takes us.

Track 8 – Devil’s Pass: Atmospheric and with a certain gloom, this is the best track, albeit the final one, on the album. It mourns the passing of the balloon as the the last desparate whisps of air are expelled and it lays motionless, done. This could have been good if longer and had built the menace and impetus, but it dies too soon. It also shows a hint of one of the bands Dave claims kinship with, I’ll leave you to guess which band.

In conclusion I have listened to this album four times fully and it has played whilst I write, I will not be listening again. I do not get paid for this and have no hidden agenda, the reviews I do are purely out of love for music. If you find riding in a lift aesthetically pleasing, getting off at the floor housing the library and feel daring at returning your library book a couple of days late, then this is the album for you.

I am proud to know a number of excellent multi-instrumentalists, one of whom I know once entered a popular TV talent competition and ended up probably hearing a similar parting sentence from the judges.

Sorry Mr Palermo, but it’s a ‘NO’ from me and I’m out.

Released July 2016

Download ‘Vista’ from CDbaby


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


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

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

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

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

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

Band 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Band 3 - Rob Monk

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

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

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

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

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

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

All bands pics – credit Rob Monk.

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

Buy ‘Your Wilderness’ from Burning Shed