Review – UPF – Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope – by John Wenlock-Smith

Well, I may have met my match with this one but, first, let me explain. I am always talking about how progressive rock albums need both length and space in order for the music to evolve and expand enough to make music make sense. The fact that brevity is not usually a big feature of prog does actually matter, well it does to me at least. Well this latest album from United Progressive Fraternity (UPF) really challenges that idea and could be seen as overload or just simply too much!

‘Planetary Overload, Part 2 – Hope’ is nearly three hours long and has thirty-one tracks, several of which hover around the fifteen minute plus length. Alongside which the cast of contributors is huge, ranging from Steve Hackett to Jerry Marotta and all points in between but it’s fun when you can spot their contributions, like Steve Hackett’s guitar tapping on Chants of Hope.

What I will say is that, this is the equivalent of a transatlantic flight in that it’s long and the scenery changes constantly. And in a similar vein, there are many musical elements that are employed here in the rather strange, and possibly difficult, third UPF album. You get everything including speeches from the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Chief Oren Lyons amongst others, for this is very much an environmentally focused album, in that this is a plea for us to change how we exist, evolve and engage with nature.

Anyway, enough waffle from me, what exactly are you getting with this album? Well, in a nutshell, you will find some staggeringly good and complex symphonic progressive rock music with more than a touch of Peter Gabriel’s World Music thrown in for good measure. You get songs that have good messages and that actually mean something and you get excellent musicianship and some really quite remarkable playing, all wrapped up in a strong, conceptual set of 3 CD’s with excellent artwork from Ed Unitsky.

What’s not to like? Fans of antipodean prog like Unitopia and Southern Empire or even the excellent Damanek will find music to both discover and enjoy here. There are a large variety of styles used from quite aggressive passages to almost swing and orchestral sections. Faultline, for example, has heavy sections and jazzy swing tempo passages to it that are most impressive.

The album begins with Hope Is Drums Of Hope and a symphonic overture, all very ethereal and airy, before Mark ‘Truey’ Trueack’s earnest baritone vocal begins. There is a lightness of touch in this opening section with an evocative violin from Steve Unruh, who plays a large variety of instruments including guitars, bass pedals ,violin and flute and also provides lead and harmony vocals in conjunction with Trueack. These two together form the axis of UPF, although they draw on a wide array of contributors to achieve their unique sound. This opener has a hell of a lot happening during its running time including that great violin, lots of drums, a delicate piano and masses of choral type voices, its’ all very over the top but definitely appealing to these ears.

One of the album’s longer tracks, Being of Equal, has a very middle eastern sound to it, almost Arabian really. This is all very epic sounding, as the song continues a strong electronic element and bass line is added which actually fits in really well with the mystical elements. It really sounds exciting and different, there is an excellent synth burst too that really empowers the track. Yes, it is a complex and engaging track but it is also an excellent album track that really helps set out what the band are all about. This is an album that you are going to have to invest your time with in order to get the most out of it so be warned, this is going to require your efforts here, although I will point out that this will be mutually rewarding as you will encounter some really remarkable and challenging music on your journey.

Justified is another interesting track, very minimal in its sound with just a drum beat along with a sole vocal before taking a more expansive and broader musical route at the early part of the song. Lyrically it is interesting as well, lines like; “If you lay down with dogs you’re going to wake up with fleas, you’re scratching the surface not treating the disease.” It’s very well written and intelligently crafted, the touches of world music really enhance the sound they make and it’s really gorgeous in places, like on this track. Another bonus is the third disc of tracks in which, as The Romantechs they revisit several tracks and even a couple of old Unitopia tracks like Justify from ‘More Than A Dream’ and The Garden from the album of the same name. These are interesting retakes and well conceived and delivered versions of two classic songs, When you factor this bonus disc is of nearly seventy minutes duration, you can tell this is a very rewarding album when you do your part in giving it time and space in your life.

UPF certainly have a valid message wrapped in an attractive, challenging and complex musical format. There is a lot to get your teeth into so what are you waiting for? Dig in deep and enjoy the vista that United Progressive Fraternity offer with ‘Hope’.

It may be worth mentioning that ‘Hope’ continues on with themes that were both raised, voiced and addressed on their previous album ‘Planetary Overload Part One – Loss ‘ released in 2019. ‘Hope’ was delayed in part by the pandemic and continues in expressing both environmental and humanitarian issues and concerns. I also recommend that you give that one a listen as well and embrace the whole picture.

Released 15th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

UPF’s – PLANETARY OVERLOAD, PART 2 – HOPE | United Progressive Fraternity (

Review – Unitopia – Seven Chambers

“I often think in music, I live my daydreams in music, I see my life in terms of music.”Albert Einstein.

That quote is really how I see music and why I started this website in the first place, I love music and spend the vast majority of my time listening to it. Progressive rock is one style of music that I really resonate with, to me, when it is done well, it is the modern version of classical music or musical theatre, both genres where the music can be so expressive.

Well, without spoiling the conclusion of this review, this new, much anticipated, album from legendary antipodean progressive band Unitopia definitely falls into the ‘done well’ category…

As the follow-up to 2010’s ‘Artificial’ and 2012’s ‘Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk‘ (a superb assortment of classic/prog rock reinterpretations), ‘Seven Chambers‘ is Unitopia’s first new outing in over a decade. Founded by vocalist/songwriter Mark “Truey” Trueack (United Progressive Fraternity) and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms (Southern Empire,DamanekUPF) in 1996, Australian progressive fusion Unitopia have always been among the most renowned and distinctive bands of their ilk and era.

During the interim, each member kept busy with various other projects, and according to‘s Essentials’ Mark Monforti, the method of getting the group going again was endearingly fortuitous:

“A few years ago, Steve Hackett was exploring studios and players for a show in Australia, and he contacted Timms about using the studio that he and Truey still owned. That got Sean and Truey talking about possibly working on new music together. Then, I reached out to them about doing some shows. They went exceedingly well, which sort of solidified the fact that Unitopia needed to come back.”

With Timms and Trueack reunited, the duo decided to expand Unitopia by bringing in fellow UPF maestro Steve Unruh, guitarist Dr. John Greenwood, drummer Chester Thompson (Frank ZappaWeather ReportGenesis) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather ReportSantanaDavid Gilmour).

With the powerhouse duo of Timms and Greenwood on creative duties, aided and abetted by Trueack and Unruh’s songwriting skills, Unitopia have delivered something rather special. It is a truly remarkable and immersive musical experience, wonderful musical theatre at its absolute best. The songs just ebb and flow magically and the musical virtuosity on show is totally mind blowing.

In a world where the darkness seems to be overwhelming the light, it is a salve for the soul to hear an album with as much emotional depth and sheer musical beauty and bombast as this. The music is the light that fights back the darkness and gives us hope and that’s what truly great music can do and why music really can mean more to you on a daily basis.

Mark’s powerful and emotive vocals are wonderfully stirring and effective, especially on songs like Broken Heart where John Greenwood’s magical guitar playing can first be heard. The keyboards dance like little gems of sound in your mind and the ever so cultured rhythm section of Chester Thompson and Alphonso Johnson is a lesson in less is more except, of course, when more is more! The deeply thoughtful Something Invisible opens up into something strident and vibrantly dynamic where the music wends its way around your psyche like it’s almost alive. I honestly don’t think I’ve heard an album as meaningful as this in quite a long time, every note is perfectly placed and the vocals are sinuous and full of heart and soul. One of the things I really love about this album is the use of strings, Steve Unruh’s violin especially is utterly charming and full of intellect and vitality. Bittersweet is just that, the wistful guitar and piano that open the song, along with Truey’s delicate vocal are as sweet as they come, tinkling on your mind. Things get more darker and edgy in the second half of the song, very free form jazz influenced, but almost with a wry smile in the background, you just have to admire the fantastic songwriting again.

Mania is deliciously dark, there’s a sense of foreboding from the primeval opening and the crunching guitar, Mark’s vocal goes up in intensity, he really has such an expressive voice and when he sings a chorus it absolutely soars. Twelve minutes of sombre, brooding music that is brilliantly executed by all, it’s a real powerhouse of a song and an almost exhausting listen as the emotion in the track bleeds directly into you. John’s fervent guitar work is superb and, once again, Chester and Alphonso step up to the mark superbly, a highlight of the album for me. There’s refinement and elegance throughout this exquisite album and that continues with the elegant The Stroke Of Midnight, wistful and contemplative, it’s sheer grace and style are a joy to behold. Mark’s voice is as smooth as they come and the music just flows so elegantly. As a lesson in songwriting, it is nigh on perfect and the violin section will make the hairs on the back of your neck rise, it is utterly mesmerising.

If you have an album that is supposed to be progressive rock, then it needs to have an epic, or in the case of Unitopia, two epics to finish the album! First Helen gives us nineteen minutes of sheer musical brilliance with wide ranging musical styles all asked to turn up and blend in together and, boy do they ever. Symphonic rock, gypsy violin, flamenco guitar chops, heavy rock, they just keep coming. It’s a musical melting pot of sheer wonder and the band just seem to having so much fun playing it. The highlight for me is a marvellous section where Steve Unruh plays a beautiful flute alongside a stylish Elizabethan harpsichord and it just made me smile. The album closes with the widescreen wonderment of The Uncertain, a scintillating musical work that crosses the boundaries of musical theatre, classical music, progressive rock and contemporary music with abandon to deliver eighteen minutes of dazzling, intense brilliance. Mark’s vocals dip into each genre with ease as he shows off his fantastic talent and Steve delivers a violin solo that is utterly riveting and enchanting, this is six musicians working in perfect harmony, almost symbiotic and delivering the performances of their lives.

Unitopia have returned with one of the stand out releases of the year. It may be over a decade since we had any music from this uber-talented collective but, in this reinvigorated from, it would appear that they are back and even better than before. ‘Seven Chambers’ is possibly the ultimate expression of modern progressive rock and one of the highlights of this year, it just doesn’t get much better than this!

Released 25th August, 2023.

Order CD from Burning Shed here:

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Progressive fusion ensemble Unitopia announce new studio album Seven Chambers – Pre-Orders start today!

Founded by vocalist/songwriter Mark “Truey” Trueack (United Progressive Fraternity) and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms (Southern Empire,DamanekUPF) in 1996, Australian progressive fusion Unitopia have always been among the most renowned and distinctive bands of their ilk and era. Now the band is pleased to announce the new studio album Seven Chambers, due out on August 25th, 2023.

Unitopia has undoubtedly reached new creative, emotional, and intellectual heights with their latest opus, Seven Chambers (their first original collection on independent label’s Essentials). Comprised of seven tracks and lasting just over eighty minutes, it’s an incredible journey that finds Unitopiareturning at the peak of their artistic and technical prowess. 

Pre-orders for the digital and physical editions are now available via the following outlets:‘s Essentials (
Burning Shed (
Just for Kicks Music (
White Knight Records (
Unitopia’s Bandcamp page (

Plus, multiple color variations are available for the physical versions, as well as a special vinyl edition that features a die-cut cover revealing a portion of the sleeve behind it!

  1. “Broken Heart” (8:30)
  2. “Something Invisible” (6:39)
  3. “Bittersweet” (7:20)
  4. “Mania” (12:29)
  5. “The Stroke of Midnight” (9:38)
  6. “Helen” (19:14)
  7. “The Uncertain” (18:33)

As the follow-up to 2010’s Artificial and 2012’s Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk (a superb assortment of classic/prog rock reinterpretations), Seven Chambers is Unitopia’s first new outing in over a decade. During the interim, each member kept busy with various other projects, and according to‘s Essentials’ Mark Monforti, the method of getting the group going again was endearingly fortuitous:

“A few years ago, Steve Hackett was exploring studios and players for a show in Australia, and he contacted Timms about using the studio that he and Truey still owned. That got Sean and Truey talking about possibly working on new music together. Then, I reached out to them about doing some shows. They went exceedingly well, which sort of solidified the fact that Unitopia needed to come back.”

With Timms and Trueack reunited, the duo decided to expand Unitopia by bringing in fellow UPF maestro Steve Unruh, guitarist Dr. John Greenwood, drummer Chester Thompson (Frank ZappaWeather ReportGenesis) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather ReportSantanaDavid Gilmour).

Seven Chambers is a globe-spanning effort that began in 2021, with virtually every member working in their own studio in either America or Australia. Although things got off to a strong start, a few unexpected hiccups somewhat impeded the band’s headway.

“Progress was severely interrupted by Sean’s other commitments, such as moving into a renovated house and being in-demand with other projects and festivals. Then, Truey and Chester faced personal hardships. At more than one stage, it looked like the record might never happen. Luckily, the delays led to a few solo projects blossoming, and suddenly, our schedules began clearing in early 2023 and we began moving at a real pace again,” Steve Unruhexplains.

Thus, Seven Chambers is truly a testament to Unitopia’s chemistry and commitment, not only because it sees them triumphing over those setbacks but because it ended up being roughly twice as long as the original 40-minute plan (without a moment of filler!)

The band already have a few dates lined up which you can see here:

2023 Tour Dates:
3 Sept. – 2Days Prog + 1, Veruno Novara, Italy
5 Sept. – Konzertfabrik Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
9 Sept. – Neuberinhaus, Reichenbach im Vogtland, Germany
13 Sept. – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany
14 Sept. – Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
15 Sept. – Chez Paulette Pub Rock, Pagney derrière Barine, France
8 Oct. – ProgStock, Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

Mark “Truey” Trueack – vocals, songwriting
Sean Timms – songwriting, keyboards, backing vocals, various stringed instruments
Steve Unruh – songwriting, backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin
John Greenwood – songwriting, backing vocals, lead electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, programmed orchestration
Chester Thompson – drums
Alphonso Johnson – bass

Review – John Greenwood – DARK BLUE

Following a life training as a Plastic Surgeon and practicing as a Burn Surgeon and Director of the Adult Burn Centre of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. retirement has finally allowed John Greenwood to pursue some musical dreams.

Just prior to retiring, he met Mark Trueack who had been pointed his way by Jimmy Keegan (not that one), a very long-time friend of John’s and the guitarist in Trueack’s fledgling UPF Acoustic. Following a hand-injury, and unable to play, Keegan suggested that John might be interested. After a few rehearsals with UPF Acoustic, Trueack introduced John to Sean Timms, suggesting a rekindling of Unitopia and a studio album based on ailments suffered by the band’s members. At this stage, Sean helped John establish his own home studio.

John began to record a series of solo tracks (some with themes he composed as a teenager, and some completely new). The songs quickly divided into two camps; those about man’s inhumanity to man, governmental choosing of economy over citizens and even the health of the planet (DARK). The others focussed on sadness due to various forms of loss (physical, experiential, personal – BLUE). He added into that group his cover of what he considers the ultimate song of loss, Tony Banks’ Afterglow.

His ‘Dark Blue’ album features several family members (Wife, Helen, provided the inspiration and lyrics for A Proper Song; Daughter, Emma, sings on Rosco and The Ocean as well as playing the introductory ‘cello on the latter; Son, Sam, plays the Grand piano piece in The Ocean, whilst Sam’s wife Sarah plays violins on Too Late!, Too Late! Reprise and The Ocean whilst her sister Nicola plays flute on the same tracks). John’s brother-in-law, Andrew Fanning, helped with lyrics for Too Late! and The Ocean, whilst the daughter of a work colleague of John’s, Kirstin Damkat, spoke the child’s soliloquy.

A school friend of John’s (Andrew Rowland) provided all the artwork. Sean Timms added additional keyboards and some great sound effects, and a number of drummers were involved (international artist Craig Blundell and local drummers, Ben Todd and Mike Giuffreda). Sean drafted in Nick Sinclair to replace John’s bass on Rosco and Julian Ferraretto to play gypsy violin on Packin’ my Suitcase. Other than that, it’s all John on vocals, all guitars, most of the bass guitars, keyboards and orchestration.

So there is a really extensive introduction to John Greenwood’s solo album and, do you know what?, ‘Dark Blue’ has to be one of the most truly progressive albums I’ve heard this year. At times it is like musical theatre, bombastic, orchestral overtures and idiosyncratic, over the top, vocals and, at others, it is just utterly sublime, wistful and beautiful music with ethereal vocals (check out John’s daughter, Emma, on the epic The Ocean) but it never fails to captivate and engross you in it’s lengthy sixty-nine minute running time.

You’ve read about the supporting cast that helped to make this wonderful release, I mean Craig Blundell for god’s sake!, but this is John’s creation, 100% and his sureness of touch and songwriting genius can be felt in every word and note. If you’re a fan of Unitopia and UPF then you can feel the slight influences on the album and that is a good thing, the expansive music and thought provoking subject matter are cleverly integrated into this amazing creation.

The epic A Little Piece of Rosco Vidal is progressive rock at its finest, a build up of musical intensity, intricate melodies, fine vocals and music that is both cerebral and emotive, superb! The trio of Too Late!, Too Late! Reprise and The Ocean stray boldly into the territory of musical theatre where the elegant vocals of both John and Emma could grace any West End stage but it’s blended perfectly with fine progressive sensibilities to almost create its own identity and check out the wondrous violin and flute, just beautiful.

The passionate, powerful duo of Requiem and Heartless add some meat to the bones (John’s vocal on the latter is dynamic and vibrant) and the almost singer/songwriter vibe of Inside is powerfully moving. The whimsical, bluesy humour of Packin’ My Suitcase shows John’s humorous side with the gypsy violin of Julian Ferraretto the archetypal twinkle in the eye and there’s a simple splendour to The Kiss with Nick Magnus’ impressive orchestration.

John’s version of Afterglow, the moving track originally By Tony Banks, is just sublime and won’t leave a dry eye in the house and this sublime album closes with the fantastic A Proper Song, reminiscent of Wish You Were Here. Pared back acoustic guitar and elegant vocals along with Hammond Organ ( you’ve got to have a Hammond!) deliver a consummate listening experience and when the electric guitar solo kicks in, it’s just heaven!

It’s not often we hear a truly progressive release nowadays but, almost from out of nowhere, John Greenwood has entered the fray with one of the finest releases of 2023. The musicianship and songwriting are top notch and, like all the best albums, I find this on almost permanent rotation, it is, to put it simply, utterly superb!

Released 1st July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

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Review – Unitopia – More Than A Dream: The Dream Complete – by Leo Trimming

‘A journey that takes us to the ends of our lives,
A race never lost, never won.
More than a dream, less than a vision,
Adventure again just begun.’

These hopeful, inspiring lines are from The Dream Complete, the first new Unitopia song since these Australian Progressive Rock masters sadly dissolved as a band in 2012. What appeared to be a total schism with little hope of resolution a few years ago now appears to have healed enough for Mark Trueack and Sean Timms to work together again on this new song. It is included as the finale to this triple CD remastered re-release on I.Q.’s Giant Electric Pea Records of their 2005 debut album.  Resplendent with beautiful and striking new artwork by Ed Unitsky and interesting booklet notes, this is a truly sumptuous package offering far more than merely a polished up version of the original album.

After the undoubted glories of two of the finest progressive rock albums since 2000 in the shapes of ‘The Garden’ (2008) and ‘Artificial’ (2010) it seems a fitting coda to their sadly all too short lifespan as a band that they should re-release their rarer, less  well known but promising debut album with some excellent additional tracks and some interesting re-workings and remixes. The original album ‘More than a Dream’ appears to have been a rather curious mixture of styles, but there were very clear indications of the great potential that later flowered with this excellent band. Justify is the zenith of this album, an epic track bubbling with rock power, hook-filled melodies and memorable lines – it even includes a cello solo (courtesy of Jacqui Walkden) and the ethereal child soprano of Holly Trueack, daughter of vocalist and lyric writer, Mark Trueack. What more could you want from a song… apart from Pat Schirripa’s powerful and gentle guitars embellishing a piece featuring great keyboards from Sean Timms. This track truly pointed to Unitopia’s future greatness.

Another side of Unitopia is revealed in the beautiful title track More than a Dream, opening with a lovely piano motif from Timms and Trueack’s soulful, distinctive voice, delightfully backed by the Adelaide Art Orchestra. A captivating chorus in a richly laden song echoes Supertramp at their best.  Common Goal is certainly an ear catching opening with striking drum stabs and an atmospheric keyboard drenched intro before the piece thunders along with an insistent driving rhythm and some fine vocals from Mark Trueack, introducing the optimistic and positive themes which have been the hallmark of his lyrics ever since. What may be more surprising to some are the horn effects that underpin much of the song to great effect. This songs segues into a percussive throb and the fine soprano sax intro from the now sadly deceased Mike Stewart in the catchy Fate. The chorus is a real ear worm, similar to the later Lives Go Round, so it is no surprise to read in the booklet notes that Sean Timms wrote music for adverts, as this song and much of Unitopia’s canon of songs are notable for their memorable hooks and lines. Accessible songs remained paramount to this band throughout it’s career, even at it’s most epic and progressive.

This is certainly a diverse album with the orchestral intro to the light Take Good Care, which sounds like it should have been in ‘The Lion King’ musical, contrasting with the gargantuan bass of Con Delo and guitar riffing of the more rocking Ride – although these do feel lesser songs of a new band looking for an identity.

Unitopia have always been capable of moments of contemplation and beauty as shown in Slow Down and the delicate ending of Still Here… and that’s probably where the first disc should have ended! Having reached a lovely atmospheric conclusion to the original album it is mystifying why they decided to follow it with the eponymous Unitopia track. This sounds like a big band number which Frank Sinatra would have delighted in – Trueack and the band can certainly swing along in great style, but there’s a time and a place for everything. The booklet notes that they left this off the original album as it’s feel didn’t fit the rest of the album – they were right then, and should have stuck to their first instincts now. In hindsight perhaps they should have found somewhere on the additional tracks for this rather cheesey relic of their early days. Similarly, There’s a Place is a touching song commissioned for a charity album and featuring Sean Timms ex-wife, Neusa, on lead vocals. However, as an admirable but frankly virtual copy of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ it does not fit as an addition to this album and would have been better placed on the additional discs.

Nevertheless, it would be unfair to focus too much on these two slight mis-steps tacked on to this album, as it is clear that ‘More than Dream’ was a fine debut clearly indicating the great promise of this band.  In some ways it does feel like a band trying to find it’s way and it feels they were not fully formed. Perhaps it is significant that Matt Williams had not yet joined the band on guitars. Fine as the guitar contributions are to this debut album from a variety of guitarists there is not the singular style and drive that Matt undoubtedly added to the overall sound on their later albums.

The second disc in this release does feature Matt Williams as he ‘re-works’ four of the songs, particularly giving Common Goal and Fate more of a harder, rock edge with some great guitar work. In contrast his version of Justify is more ethereal . These ‘reworkings’ were part of an earlier plan for Matt to re-work the whole album in what feels like a curious attempt to present an alternative past as if he had been part of the original album. Similarly Sean Timms presents some of his own reworkings, including a more sedate version of Ride without the driving bass and guitar riff… which then strangely mutates in to some sort of Zappa-esque / King Crimson type ‘wig out’! However, Con Delo’s excellent bass is restored and given more prominence on the ‘Extended 321 edit’ of a CD single. Some of the other Sean Timms reworkings are much more dance inflected with varying success, ranging from the painful More than a Dream from 2006 to the much more engaging  and superior 2017 remix of Lives Go Round, featuring an excellent keyboard solo. 2004’s dance mix of Still Here is a little dated but enjoyable. In truth these ‘re-workings’ are varied and will divide opinion – some will delight in the different perspectives offered, whereas some may wince at some of the ‘left turns’ the producers have taken with the material. These views may be influenced by  whether one already has a relationship with the original album. Whatever one’s stance it is also probably true to say that aside from ‘ultra fans’ it is doubtful whether listeners will often turn to these alternative versions compared to the quality of most of the original songs on disc one.

The third set of this impressive set offers the most interesting offerings, which definitely make it worth it obtaining a copy of this excellent value release. Unitopia have previously contributed to rather obscure Progressive rock compilations, which have been rather expansive with a vast range of often obscure prog rock artists. Wisely, Unitopia have decided to make these two epic tracks available in this set. The Outsider originally from ‘The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft: A Synphonic Collection’ is a piece of gothic musical hammer horror, filled with eerie dialogue and atmospheric music, contrasting brooding lighter passages with impressive darker driving rock elements. Similarly the truly epic  Day 6, Tale9 from the Italian compendium ’Decameron: Ten Days in 110 Novellas – Part 2’ is a widescreen, cinematic piece described in sweeping progressive rock passages of outstanding keyboards and guitars. The previously unreleased but also atmospheric The Haunted Storm follows to make a fine triptych of rarely or never heard songs exceeding 30 minutes with so much to delight in… and it’s curious in itself that they allowed such outstanding work to be unreleased or be relatively sidelined on such projects.

This Life is a promising 1996 Mark Trueack demo of a song that later appeared on ‘The Garden’, and follows a middle section of this disc which the sleeve notes honestly admit fall in to the category ‘what were we thinking of???’ The four ‘dance mixes’ would probably have been better left off the album (and perhaps would have allowed the two rather incongruous tracks added on to disc one to find a less jarring and sympathetic sequencing?) Unitopia fans will lap up this album, but If you are unfamiliar with the band it would be a good introduction as a gateway to their later truly classic albums (and you may ask yourselves why didn’t I know about this band?!).

The final song The Dream Complete brings us full circle with a fine new song featuring Trueack, Timms and Williams and thankfully indicates a healing of relationships and a positive reflection on the past. Since 2012 Trueack and Williams have formed United Progressive Fraternity, and Timms has formed Southern Empire. Both bands have produced quality debut albums… but for some fans there is still the nagging feeling that together as Unitopia they really found something special, hitting the heights musically and spiritually. The lyrics of this song and the sleeve notes do seem to hint that perhaps the Unitopia story may not be totally complete –maybe, maybe not  –  we can dream, can’t we?

Released 27th October 2017

Order ‘More Than A Dream: The Dream Complete’ from GEP here

Review – Karibow – From Here To The Impossible – by Rob Fisher

Through a clearing in the foliage a solitary figure is perched on top of a precarious pyramid of abandoned ageing tyres, silhouetted against a sweeping azure bay from which a coastline of derelict, crumbling buildings emerge in various states of skeletal incompleteness, adorned with vegetation as nature reclaims lost ground and framed against a shrouded horizon ill lit by a murky, misty sun.

Oliver Rüsing’s powerfully evocative cover, along with the gorgeous artwork which adorns the 20 page booklet accompanying the ninth Karibow release ‘From Here To The Impossible’, merits closer scrutiny and consideration before the CD even hits the platter. As a stark and almost brutal visual metaphor for what you are about to hear, the message it conveys is as compelling as it is poignant.

Despite the dreams we harbour and the careful plans we make, life rarely goes as we would wish. Everything changes; nothing remains the same. The energy and ambition of our youth crashes against and is washed up on the shorelines of the limitations we face. The burning desire to change the world, our passion, our dreams, our hopes are forged in the burning fires of experience and gradually extinguished by the realities of daily life, the fears which hold us back and the restrictions placed or forced upon us.

The consuming focus from ‘Holophinium’ (2016) carries over to the new album. Being human is a struggle. But Rüsing’s focus has evolved; the story is no longer about the vitality and the vulnerability of being alive but on the ways in which we plot the directions we can take, the plans we make and remake, crumble or are crushed, to be rebuilt again. Life is a glorious journey of vision and re-vision. We continually build and rebuild. Everything is in perpetual flux. And in the midst of it all, passion is regained and hope is reborn. We dare to dream once more: we aspire from here to the impossible.

What strikes you instantly as you listen to the music is the drumming. Imposing, incisive and deliciously complex, its slight elevation in the mix creates the driving, dynamic and fiercely creative momentum which underpins the album. The tone is set by the dramatic and powerful jungle-esque opening of Here (Track 1), a narrative heartbeat and a startling call to wake up, confront our fears and fight for what we want.

The energy and strength of both the music and the message carries over to My Time of Your Life (Track 2). The pensive defiance enshrined in the lyric “my generation has a right to fight”, both whispered and sung, is echoed in a glorious question-and-response passage of keyboard and piano. Time may well wash away what we once held close to our hearts, but there is “still a chance for us to change the world with love and passion” (Passion, Track 3).

Never Last (Track 4) brings us, literally, to the heart of the matter with a gloriously soulful and richly melodic change of pace. The opening sentiment is whispered in our ears: “My heart is not independent, but do you think I am less than the least of all”. A delightfully restless bass line gracefully carries us through to a scintillating sax riff which is a joy to lose yourself in, eventually bringing us to rest in a beautifully hypnotic and calming narration provided by Monique van der Kolk.

Throughout the album, the interplay of the various instruments with each other is captivating. The fluid interactions create lavish walls of sound comprised of elegant shifting textures and complex, innovative arrangements. Rüsing assembles a dazzling cast of superb musicians and perceptively weaves their distinctive contributions into the flow and direction of the story.

Daniel Lopresto’s vocals in System of a Dream (Track 9) provide a grittier edge that speaks of pain, weariness and raw emotion. Sean Timms unleashes an enthralling mosaic of keyboard solos which dance and sparkle with vitality and restrained discipline. Mark Trueack brings a change of texture again on The Impossible (Track 11), creating a wonderfully nuanced call-and-response passage with Rüsing himself, leading to a building crescendo and the glorious cry: “I understand what I know can set me free, set me free!”

‘From Here to the Impossible’ is an impressive, deeply ambitious album which captures the imagination and gracefully enfolds you within layers of melodic complexity and unexpected musical delights. It will not give itself up to easy or casual listening. You will need to spend time with it; you will need to listen, to absorb and even, in places, to wrestle with where the signposts, markers and arrangements are trying to take you. And by the end you will be ready to believe that we still have it within us to change the world. Our dreams and passions make a difference, despite and in spite of the limitations which surround us.

Released 15th July 2017

Buy ‘From Here To The Impossible’ from the band’s webshop