Wheel announce third studio album ‘Charismatic Leaders’; launch first single ‘Empire’ & European tour dates

Anglo-Finnish progressive metallers Wheel are pleased to announce the release of their much-anticipated third studio album ‘Charismatic Leaders’ on the 3rd May 2024 (InsideOutMusic). The album was meticulously crafted to meet Wheel’s ever-heightening benchmarks and recording with engineers/co-producers Daniel Bergstrand and Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) stretched from August to December 2023. The end result, mixed by Forrester Savell, has consolidated all the gains of what came before: singer/guitarist James Lascelles, lead guitarist Jussi Turunen and drummer Santeri Saksala’s third album represents their heaviest and most conscious music to date.

To mark the announcement, the band have launched the first single taken from the album, and you can watch the video for ‘Empire’ here:

Vocalist & guitarist James Lascelles comments of the track: “This is probably the most metal song I have ever written – it is intense as all hell when it kicks in and it keeps finding new ways to punch you in the face all the way to the end! Santeri did an incredible job with the drum track on this one and playing it live is really going to take some work in the rehearsal room.. 

Lyrically, it is about media empires and the effect they have on wider society – all of us are influenced to some degree, even if we would rather not admit it. Issues that require nuance are presented as binaries and opposing views are made into caricatures – a target for us to rage at that far too often, doesn’t even exist. This is not a new phenomenon by any means but it is one that seems to have been catalysed by the modern landscape of media, the internet and populist politics. As you might be able to tell from the mood of the song, this pisses me off immensely and it was cathartic to vent about it.”

‘Charismatic Leaders’ clocks in at just under 50 minutes, and will be available as a Limited CD Digipak (also featuring the Rumination EP tracks as bonus), and a Gatefold 180g LP, both featuring artwork from Lucas Mayer (Long Distance Calling, Blackout Problems). Pre-order your copy now here:

Wheel – Empire (lnk.to)

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.     Empire 04:20

2.     Porcelain 07:12

3.     Submission 10:46

4.     Saboteur 09:01

5.     Disciple 04:12

6.     Caught in the Afterglow 01:12

7.     The Freeze 10:35

The band will be celebrating the release of their new album with their first ever shows in Australia (supporting label-mates Caligula’s Horse) as well as their first ever North American headline shows. Later in the year the band will return to Europe for further headline dates, which have just been announced and can be found below:

31st October – Olympia, Tampere, Finland

1st November – Sawohouse UG, Kuopio, Finland

2nd November – On The Rocks, Helsinki, Finland

7th November – Lutakko, Jyväskylä, Finland

8th November – Finlandia-Klubi, Lahti, Finland

9th November – 45 Special, Oulu, Finland

15th November – Logo, Hamburg, Germany

16th November – Melkweg Up, Amsterdam, Netherlands

17th November – 013, Tilburg, Netherlands

19th November – Rebellion, Manchester, UK

20th November – Cathouse, Glasgow, UK

21st November – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK

22nd November – 1865, Southampton, UK

23rd November – Underworld, London, UK

24th November – Thekla, Bristol, UK

26th November – Kavka, Antwerp, Belgium

27th November – Luxor, Cologne, Germany

28th November – Colos Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany

30th November – Backstage, Paris, France

2nd December – Komplex, Zurich, Switzerland

3rd December – Legend, Milan, Italy

4th December – Backstage Halle, Munich, Germany

5th December – Analog Music Hall, Budapest, Hungary

6th December – Chelsea, Vienna, Austria

8th December – Hyrdrozagadka, Warsaw, Poland

10th December – Lido, Berlin, Germany

11th December – Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, Denmark

12th December – John Dee, Oslo, Norway

13th December – Nalen Klubb, Stockholm, Sweden

Since forming in 2015, Wheel have swiftly grown from underdogs of Helsinki, Finland, to an international tour de force. The angular riffs, unforgettable melodies and adventurous scope of the trio’s 2019 debut, Moving Backwards, was instantly adored by fans of megastars from Tool to Coheed & Cambria. Then, 2021 follow-up Resident Humanreceived rave reviews from publications across the planet, praising its sonic evolution and bravely dystopian themes.

China based Progressive quartet OU announces sophomore album, 蘇醒 II: Frailty, starts Pre-Order and releases new single for title track “蘇醒Frailty” 

The Chinese Progressive Metal Band OU (pronunciation: “O”) is set to unleash their mesmerizing sound in their upcoming sophomore album, 蘇醒 II: Frailty. Co-produced, mixed and feat. Devin Townsend. Their newest track “蘇醒Frailty” describes how life unfolds, drop by drop, as a fleeting thread in the ticking dance of time. Let OU navigate you through the depths of Progressive Metal, offering a unique perspective on the fragility and beauty of our existence.

Stream ”蘇醒Frailty” HERE; the awesome music video can be watched here now:

Pre-Order 蘇醒 II: Frailty here: 

蘇醒 II: Frailty (lnk.to)

OU comments on the new single: “OU is back! Life unfolds, drop by drop, a fleeting thread in the ticking dance of time. A brief bloom, a withered leaf, breathing in the rhythm of day and night. The river of life, a pale countdown, flowing soil beneath the dreamy sky. Pieces fall, growing without words, returning to the dust. The flower of life bears its fruit, lost in the vast expanse. A poignant journey, from bloom to disappearance, echoing the eternal tick tock of existence. The debut offering ‘蘇醒 Frailty” from our new album ‘OU – 蘇醒 II: Frailty‘ has arrived, and we’re excited to share it with you all.”

They add on the album announcement: “We are very excited to present our forthcoming album OU – 蘇醒 II: Frailty, due for an April 26th release via InsideOutMusic. We were honoured to have the privilege on working with the mighty Devin Townsend to produce this album in order to further explore and enhance our sound, working to provide a sonic adventure for you all.”

蘇醒II: Frailty Tracklist:

1. 蘇醒 Frailty

2. 淨化 Purge

3. 海 Ocean

4. 血液 Redemption

5. 衍生 Capture and Elongate (Serenity)

6. 破魂 Spirit Broken

7. 歪歪地愛 yyds

8. 輪迴 Reborn

9. 念 Recall

The album will be available in the following versions:

·       Ltd. CD Jewelcase 

·       Ltd. White-Black Marbled 1LP 180g Vinyl – Strictly limited to only 1000 copies worldwide

·       Digital Album

****

Hailing from the vibrant musical scene of Beijing, China, OU emerged onto the global stage with their debut album one in 2022, leaving listeners awestruck and craving more. With an unparalleled fusion of metal, electronica, ambient textures, and captivating melodies, OU defies convention, offering a sonic journey unlike any other, that invites listeners into their world.

Fast forward to 2023, and OU found themselves in esteemed company, collaborating with none other than the visionary Devin Townsend to craft their highly anticipated sophomore effort, 蘇醒 II: Frailty, slated for release on April 26th, 2024. This upcoming album promises to push boundaries even further, introducing prog fans to a realm of sound that challenges the very definition of genre itself. OU invites you to join them on this exhilarating sound odyssey, where familiarity meets innovation, and every note resonates with unprecedented intensity.

OU Lineup:
Lynn Wu – Vocals
Anthony Vanacore – Drums
Jing Zhang – Guitars
Chris Cui – Bass

Review – Whom Gods Destroy – Insanium – by John Wenlock-Smith

Prog metal and I have an uneasy relationship really, I have never been a huge follower of listener of the form, preferring melody and subtlety over bombast and thrash. So, why does this album appeal to me? Well, the answer lies in the origins of the band, one that emerged from the discarded ashes of Sons Of Apollo that featured Mike Portnoy,  Billy Sheehan,  Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Jeff Scott Soto and Derek Sherinian. Sons Of Apollo produced two studio albums and a live CD/DVD set but then fell apart when the pandemic derailed their touring activities. After that cleared, some of the members had chosen to resume earlier existing project, Portnoy with Transatlantic and the Neil Morse Band and Sheehan to his Winery Dogs project. All of this left Sherinian and Thal without anything on their immediate horizon so the two decided to start an new endeavour, with Dino Jelusick coming in on vocals and two new faces; Yas Nomura on bass and drummer Bruno Valverde .

The album promises to be a bit harder edged and more technically progressive in sound, which showcases the excellent musicianship of the players involved. For me, pretty much anything Derek Sherinian is involved with is at least worth hearing as he always plays interesting parts and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal is also excellent to hear. The album, ‘Insanium’, is released on the 15th March by Inside Out/Sony Music and has 9 tracks, 10 if you get the 2CD version which has an instrumental version of the album and a bonus track (Requiem).

I’ve had this album for a while and I really like it. Yes, it is a heavy album but the playing is superb throughout and the vocals are clear and powerfully delivered by Dino. Let’s have a closer look shall we…

The album opens with In The Name Of War, an excellent introduction to what follows afterwards beginning with some very stylish piano runs before a powerful guitar line enters and the drums power through. The song is certainly powerful and asStatement of intent, this group means business and takes no prisoners here! It has very good keyboard textures and fine playing from all concerned, there is a fiery solo from Thal, but, for me it is the magical keyboards of Derek Sherinian that truly delight, the piece closes as it began with more stylish piano. Over Again is next and this has a very sludge like riff, it sounds quite brutal and the chorus is definitely a lesson in contrast to the main riff. Again, this has space for another fiery guitar solo from Ron Thal which is followed by some amazing Sherinian synth lines making this is a very strong track. The Decision’s longer running time gives space for the great dynamics that are at the heart of the song, a track is about persevering and deciding to carry on once again. It’s another excellent piece with lots of flashy keyboards that add to, but don’t dominate, the track. Also noteworthy is the solid bass playing of Yas Nomura and the powerhouse drumming of Bruno Valverde.

Crawl, again, has a fair degree of brutality to its sound, powerfully delivered by all parties. Strong riffing overlaid with keyboards and punchy bass make a good impression on this listener, as does another excellent guitar break from Thal that is again taken over by the dynamic keyboards of Derek Sherinian who really excels on this album. Find My Way Back is about returning home and finding that that is not a home anymore, things have changed and not especially for the better. The song opens with Hammond Organ and a gentle acoustic guitar part then, after the first verse, it switches to electric guitar and the vocals and overall sound have more than a touch of a Whitesnake power ballad to them. Another emotional guitar solo adds good colour to this actually rather sad tale which shows a different side to this band. Crucified is heavy right from the off with swirling keyboard lines and a solid rhythm section powering away. This song is really heavy and has strong echoes of Judas Priest in their ‘Sin After Sin’ era, except this track is heavier with more keyboards, a really strong and solid piece, all told.

Keeper Of The Gate treats us to another doom laden riff, this one has echoes of Dio’s ‘The last In Line’, it has that sort of touch to it somehow, not a bad thing in my opinion. Another excellent and fluid guitar solo enlivens this song greatly, as does the sympathetic keyboard support from Derek, another winner here

Hypernova 158 is pretty much a showcase for Derek Sherinian to do his stuff, backed by everyone else, as he delivers a very sinewy keyboard sound, admirably supported by some nice bass lines from Nomura and solid riffing from Thal, not to mention the drum dynamics that Valverde brings to the brief musical interlude, it’s a riveting performance. This is followed by the albums title, and final, track, Insanium. The song has three parts, Home For All, Abandoned and Reprise. Together these three parts complete the song along with a wild guitar solo before entering the Reprise section of the song, with more sludgy guitar riffs. It is an interesting conclusion to what is unquestionably a major new talent in the Progressive Metal field.

As to whether this is a one off project or a full time and focus project will depend on how it is received I guess but, for those who mourn the end of Sons Of Apollo, as I did, this do very nicely! I wish them success in their endeavours and eagerly await a second instalment and possible live activities before too long.

Released 15th March, 2024.

Order from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/whom-gods-destroy_insanium_cd

Book Review – Harvey Lee – Backstage Pass – by John Wenlock-Smith

Appearances can be deceptive I often find, people who, on first meeting, come across well and then turn out to be horrible, albums that look great but turn out to be difficult and unsatisfactory on further investigation, I guess such is the nature of life? So, when the offer of reviewing this book came about I was not really that bothered, however, as one of my favourite books of all time is ‘Diary Of A Rock And Roll Star’ by Ian Hunter, I was definitely interested to at least read the book. In my mind I had a big brash American cigar smoking ego mountain tells tales of his own greatness. I actually got it all wrong, so very wrong and let me explain why.

Harvey Lee is British and was born in Newcastle, he moved to Manchester as a youngster, not California, as I originally thought. He left school with few formal qualifications, what he did possess though was a work ethic and a willingness to learn, adapt to situations and to try to make the best of whatever scenario he found himself in. This short book hails itself as not only a memoir of some definitely off the wall and unreal adventures, but also some genuinely useful and helpful information for you to apply to your own individual situation.

Harvey has led a most interesting and colourful life, the overwhelming majority of which has seen a love of AC/DC and especially their ‘Back In Black’ album of 1980. This album had a monumental impact on young Harvey, an impact that still resonates today, some 44 years on. This excellent book tells that story of how a young uneducated lad from Manchester toured the USA with the likes of Herman’s Hermits and honed his marketing skills in that arena, he even ended up being their bass player for a few shows, as well as sound engineer and front of house man.

Throughout the book you will read of how Harvey overcame obstacles and found new ways to address difficult and challenging situations. Later on, Harvey was able to transfer those skills into the gaming world where his innovative approach to issues paid handsome results for the likes of Virgin and Microsoft and their Xbox console.

In amongst this you will read about Smalltown Heroes, a band from Sunderland who should have been massive and, despite several years of actively trying to break through, managed to fall through the gaps. You’ll also read of exploits in the gaming world and corporate screw ups, it’s a cautionary tale at times but all the more rewarding as it is all true. Harvey gives the outline but doesn’t reveal any truly sordid details, It may have happened but a gentleman never tells! Harvey has a quiet dignity and professional manner that seldom slips. Along the way you will hear about the time that Harvey played an important role in the AC/DC ‘Bonfire’ box set and how the band repaid that kindness.

The Book is generally positive and honest recollection of an most interesting period of one man’s unusual life story. Also each chapter of the book represents a song title so you can make your own compilation CD to go with the book, or play it on a suitable streaming service of your choice. I found this book to be delightful and so much so that I’ve tracked down a copy of the Smalltown Heroes CD to enjoy at my leisure, I recommend this to anyone who will find its mix of music, gaming and business acumen interesting.

Harvey comes across as a very genial, yet fiercely impressive, force of nature but one who has the best interests of all in place, he appears to be a great honest and humble man. Read about his exploits in bringing the Xbox to the World, adventures in Europe, travelling the USA as a part of Herman’s Hermits and far more, oh and the incident with trapped wind at a most inappropriate time!

I did expressly appreciate his hard earned and well considered business advice, and his life hints as well, there is much wisdom there. Well worth a read in my humble opinion.

Published 14th February, 2024.

Order here:

Harvey Lee’s Backstage Pass. 50% Rock and Roll | 50% Business | 100% True (harvey-lee.com)

TRANSATLANTIC announce mammoth ‘Live at Morsefest 2022: The Absolute Whirlwind’ release

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – have announced the release of ‘Live at Morsefest 2022: The Absolute Whirlwind’ for the 26th April 2024. This mammoth Limited 5CD + 2 Blu-ray Artbook set features both sets from Morsefest in their entirety, with nearly 4 and a half hours of music in total. 

To coincide with the announcement, the band have launched a live clip of the track ‘Can You Feel It’, taken from night 2, and you can watch that video here:

Pre-order the album as a Limited 5CD + Blu-ray artbook, featuring an extensive 36-page booklet including photos and liner notes, here:

Transatlantic – Can You Feel It (Live at Morsefest 2022) (lnk.to)

Mike Portnoy comments:

“Not to be confused by last years live release of our last show in Paris, THIS release of TA at Morsefest 2022 represents the most epic and mammoth of all TA Live releases! 

2 Nights, 2 completely different sets, 2 TA concept albums done in their entirety…accompanied with Strings, Horns, Percussion, Female Vocals, etc…Transatlantic has always been about “More Never Is Enough”, but no live TA release has ever been more EPIC than this one…It’s the ULTIMATE Live TA experience!” 

Neal Morse adds:

“At long last, a musical dream come true in true epic fashion! To play The Absolute Universe, The Whirlwind, and other great pieces of music with Transatlantic, along with an amazing string section, background singers, etc. What more could any musician ask for? This is the very best of the very best in my view. I hope you all enjoy experiencing this as much as we enjoyed performing it!“

Roine Stolt comments: 

“Playing Morsefest was quite a task, learning all the different material for the 2 different shows.  

We even got a chance to play that Procol Harum tune, that is dear to me & takes me back to my teenage years, just getting to know what prog is/was. The addition of the strings and choir at Morsefest, plus Philip adding percussion lent a different and perhaps more of an orchestral side. That worked really well and made these 2 nights very special.”

 Pete Trewavas comments:

“To play Morsefest 2022 was an absolute pleasure for me and gave us a natural break at the end of the North American leg of The Absolute Universe tour, where we regrouped at Neal’s to rehearse for the two shows, back where we had rehearsed for the tour some four or five weeks earlier.

We had 3 days I think it was to refresh The Whirlwind full version and learn ‘In Held T’was In I’. The festival was an absolute blast. We were all super relaxed and enjoying ourselves probably due to the little break from touring back to rehearsing. 

Neal had been wanting to get Transatlantic at MorseFest since we released Whirlwind and it never panned out for various reasons, so it felt fitting that we got it all together for The Absolute Universe tour.”

Morsefest, the festival put on by Neal Morse annually in Nashville, Tennessee has been in existence since 2014. Typically, the weekend-long event celebrated music from Neal’s solo work and other bands from his career.  But with each passing Morsefest, there had been one question lingering among the faithful audience that returned every year…when will Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas perform at Morsefest?  In 2022, at the 9th Morsefest, it finally happened and in epic Transatlantic fashion.  

In 2021, Transatlantic released The Absolute Universe, the band’s 5th album since forming in 2000. However, as the band’s motto is “More Is Never Enough,” ‘The Absolute Universe’ was released as two different versions – ‘The Breath of Life (Abridged version)’, and ‘Forevermore (Extended version)’.  In addition, the band combined those two versions for an Ultimate Edition of the album. With touring restrictions due to the pandemic finally lifted, the band finally started their tour in April 2022 ending up at Morsefest on the weekend of April 29th and 30th. 

The weekend at Morsefest provided 2 nights of shows.  For night one, the band performed their classic album ‘The Whirlwind’ in its entirety, the first time they had done so in 10 years.  The evening also added “Into the Blue” and “Shine” from the band’s 4th album ‘Kaleidoscope’ as well as the classic ballad “We All Need Some Light.” As a surprise, the band played a song they’ve never performed live before – their cover of the Procol Harum classic “In Held ‘Twas In I” from the first Transatlantic album ‘SMPTe.’ 

Night 2 saw the full performance of The Absolute Universe – The Ultimate Edition, combining all of the tracks from the 2 versions of the album.  The night closed with a medley of tracks from the band’s first two albums including “All of the Above,” “My New World,” and “Stranger In Your Soul.” 

For the first time, the band performed alongside a choir and string section, making these shows truly special for those who were in attendance.  Now, you can experience these incredible performances for yourself with the release of this Limited Deluxe 5CD+2Blu-ray artbook, featuring an extensive 36-page booklet with photos, contained within a hardcover.  

Night 1 Tracklisting: 

1. Into The Blue 

2. In Held (‘Twas) In I 

3. Shine 

4. We All Need Some Light 

5. Overture/Whirlwind 

6. The Wind Blew Them All Away 

7. On The Prowl 

8. A Man Can Feel 

9. Out Of The Night 

10. Rose Colored Glasses 

11. Evermore 

12. Set Us Free 

13. Lay Down Your Life 

14. Pieces of Heaven 

15. Is It Really Happening? 

16. Dancing With Eternal Glory/Whirlwind (Reprise)

Night 2 Tracklisting: 

1. Overture 

2. Reaching For The Sky 

3. Higher Than The Morning 

4. The Darkness In The Light 

5. Take Now My Soul 

6. Bully 

7. Rainbow Sky 

8. Looking For The Light

 9. The World We Used To Know 

10. The Sun Comes Up Today 

11. Love Made A Way (Prelude) 

12. Owl Howl 

13. Solitude 

14. Belong 

15. Lonesome Rebel 

16. Can You Feel It 

17. Looking For The Light (Reprise) 

18. The Greatest Story Never Ends 

19. Love Made A Way 

20. Bridge Across Forever

21. The Final Medley

SiX By SiX (featuring Ian Crichton, Nigel Glockler & Robert Berry) announce sophomore album ‘Beyond Shadowland’

Launch first single ‘The Arms Of A Word’

SiX By SiX, the progressive power trio comprising Ian Crichton (Saga), Nigel Glockler (Saxon) and Robert Berry (3.2), are pleased to announce the release of their sophomore album ‘Beyond Shadowland’ on InsideOutMusic on 26th April 2024. The band reconvened in Berry’s own Soundtek Studios in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2023 to bend, shape, hammer and caress their diverse musical talents into 11 impressive new tracks.  With this album, they continue to define and build upon their unique melodic space, welding guitar-driven rock, metal and prog into a unique and powerful sonic setting.

To coincide with the announcement of the new album, the band have released the first single ‘The Arms Of A Word’, a track which reflects on the division driven by a click-bait driven media. 

You can watch the brand new video here:

Ian Crichton comments: “On the new record we kept our style but have written stylistically some quite different tunes. I gave Robert a lot of parts, sections, licks, middle 8’s, etc. He added verses, bridges, etc… and vocals!  He’s a brilliant arranger. Of course, Nigel is a powerhouse. As always, he played great on this record.”

Nigel Glockler adds: “Playing with Ian and Robert is always terrific. Making this album was a productive time. Ultimately, we narrowed things down to eleven tunes. Good ones too!. I left the sessions feeling very pleased. I think everybody’s going to be impressed with the new album.”

Robert Berry continues: “I’ve always believed that music has the power to bring people together. This record is a testament to that notion. As always, working with Ian and Nigel on an actual second album was a moving experience for me.  Truly special.”

‘Beyond Shadowland’ will be available as a Limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 180g Black 2LP (featuring 4 exclusive bonus tracks) & as a Digital Album. The artwork was once again created by Rob Fowler.

Pre-order now here:

Six By Six – The Arms of a Word (lnk.to)

The full tracklisting is as follows:

1.     Wren 

2.     The Arms of a Word  

3.     Can’t Live Like This  

4.     Obiliex

5.     Only You Can Decide  

6.     Titans 

7.     Outside Looking In  

8.     Spectre

9.     Sympathise  

10.  One Step

11.  The Mission

Vinyl-only bonus tracks:

1.     SiX By SiX Orchestra Medley

2.     The Arms of a Word (Instrumental)

3.     Honor Bridge

4.     The Mission (Instrumental)

The bands self-titled debut, released in 2022, established the trio as a power chord-driven celebration of artistry, passion and persistence. Prog Magazine said that the record was “exciting, often potent and demands repeated listens”, while Classic Rock Magazine called it “an inspired opening salvo that bubbles with chemistry.”

Background:

Ian Crichton is best known as one of the founding members of Saga, alongside his brother Jim. Saga went on to sell roughly 10 million albums world-wide and continue to perform around the world. As the driving force behind SiX By SiX, Ian takes a cunning turn, in assembling another potent band but one that focuses on his guitar prowess.  This time with established players, each with a celebrated past, refined skills, and unlimited potential.  

Band picture by Dave Lepori.

Nigel Glockler began his career in 1980 as the drummer for the British band Krakatoa. In 1981 he found an opportunity with singer Toyah.  By the end of the year, he joined metal legends, Saxon. Except for two brief absences, Nigel has been behind his massive drum kit as an integral part of Saxon ever since.His powerhouse drumming is the engine that drives SiX By SiX’s songs forwards relentlessly.

Robert Berry first gained international attention with San Francisco-based Hush, releasing well-received recordings and then touring the USA. In the mid-1980s Berry’s first solo album garnered positive reviews in the most influential trade publications and attracted the attention of several major labels. At the suggestion of one of those labels, Robert moved to the UK to work with guitarist Steve Howe (of Yes fame) along with drummer Nigel Glockler in an effort to revitalize GTR. When GTR stalled, Robert partnered with British rock legends Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer to form ‘3’.  With Emerson and Palmer, Robert achieved a top ten charting single and toured the USA. Robert’s melodic sensibilities complement Ian’s extraordinary guitar and Nigel’s signature drumming perfectly.

RIVERSIDE – Announce UK/Ireland Tour

Support from Klone (Unplugged) / Launch “Making of ID.Entity” documentary online

Poland’s pioneering and leading Progressive Rock band RIVERSIDE are pleased to announce a UK/Ireland tour in support of their latest studio album “ID.Entity”, released last year via InsideOutMusic.

RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda checked in with the following comment:

“We’re coming back! We remember the fantastic shows in the UK and Ireland in the spring of 2023. Because we haven’t visited the Islands too often since the ‘Wasteland’ tour, we will return with our biggest UK/Ireland tour to date. We’d be very happy to meet you all (again). So before we close the chapter on ‘ID.Entity’ and take a break, come join us!”

 RIVERSIDE’s UK/Ireland tour will feature Klone as special guests with a special “unplugged” set. Klone’s Guillaume Bernard adds:

We are really happy to share the stage with Riverside on this UK/Ireland tour. We are very excited to play in great venues, like the amazing KOKO in London, where we played 12 years ago with Gojira.  This time we will play ‘unplugged’ versions of our songs, but be sure that it will sound huge and heavy!”

RIVERSIDE – United Kingdom / Ireland Tour 2024
+ Special Guests KLONE (‘Unplugged’)

12.05.2024 Norwich (UK) – Epic Studios

13.05.2024 Birmingham (UK) – 02 Institute 1

15.05.2024 Belfast (UK) – Limelight 1

16.05.2024 Dublin (UK) – Academy

18.05.2024 Glasgow (UK) – The Old Fruit Market

19.05.2024 London (UK) – Koko

20.05.2024 Bristol (UK) – SWX

21.05.2024 Manchester (UK) – 02 Ritz

Tickets on sale tomorrow morning:

Riverside – Gigs (riversideband.pl)

Previous to this tour, RIVERSIDE will be performing in North America and Latin America as well appearing on several festival events in the summer as follows:

RIVERSIDE – Live 2024:

08.03.2024 Port Canaveral (USA) – Cruise To The Edge Festival

15.03.2024 Guadalajara (Mexico) – C3 Stage

17,03.2024 Monterrey (Mexico) – Café Iguana

19.03.2024 Mexico City (Mexico) – Auditorio Blackberry

21.03.2024 Bogotá (Colombia) – Teatro Astor Plaza

23.03.2024 San José (Costa Rica) – Pepper Club

28.03.2024 Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Groove

03.04.2024 São Paulo (Brazil) – Carioca Club

06.04.2024 Santiago (Chile) – Teatro Caupolicán

01.06.2024 Warsaw (Poland) – Torwar Hall

05-08.06.2024 Sölvesborg (Sweden) – Sweden Rock Festival

19-22.06.2024 Murcia (Spain) – Rock Imperium Festival

28-30.06.2024 Helsinki (Finland) – Tuska Festival

18-21.07.2024 Jarocin (Poland) – Jarocin Festival

19.07.2024 Sankt Goarshausen (Germany) – Night Of The Prog Festival

07-10.08.2024 Jaroměř (Czech Republic) – Brutal Assault

16.08.2024 Carhaix-Plouguer (France) – Motocultor Festival

And many more shows to be announced soon…

Tickets: Riverside – Gigs (riversideband.pl)

Most recently, RIVERSIDE have launched their “Making of ‘ID.Entity'” documentary, directed by Marcin Zawadziński. The documentary was screened a year ago at RIVERSIDE’s promotional meetings in Helios cinemas in Poland for the release of their latest studio album “’ID.Entity’ and now everyone will finally be able to watch it online, everywhere. 

Check it out here:

“ID.Entity”, the group’s 8th studio album was recorded and mixed in two studios – The Boogie Town Studio in Otwock with Paweł Marciniak and in Serakos studio in Warsaw with Magda and Robert Srzedniccy -, mastered by Robert Szydło and produced by RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda himself. The “ID.Entity” artwork was created by Polish artist Jarek Kubicki.

“ID.Entity” achieved the following outstanding chart positions upon release: Germany: # 4, Poland: # 2, Switzerland: # 6, The Netherlands: # 9, Finland: # 14, Austria: # 22, Belgium: # 97, France: # 155, UK: # 89, UK / Rock Charts: # 3, USA / Top New Artist Albums: # 7, USA / Current Album Sales: # 61, USA / Hard Music Albums: # 9, USA / Current Rock Albums: # 20.

Check out the singles/videos off “ID.Entity” here:

“I’m Done With You”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q6XJfKxKb4

“Self-Aware (Single Edit)”: https://youtu.be/Weuo4hgVHyY

“Friend or Foe? (Single Edit)”: https://youtu.be/EWQQFjyHtro

And also check out two interesting videos in which the RIVERSIDE band members chat about “ID.Entity”:


About “ID.Entity” Pt. 1: https://youtu.be/_fK-qO6qVI8

About “ID.Entity” Pt. 2: https://youtu.be/awsIdOpgpO8

Can still order “ID.Entity” in its various formats here:
https://riverside.lnk.to/IDEntity

Or here:

https://riverside.lnk.to/IDEntitybio

And check out a YouTube playlist of visualizer clips for the entire album’s material here:

RIVERSIDE line-up:

Michał Łapaj – keyboards and Hammond Organ
Mariusz Duda – vocal, bass
Maciej Meller – guitar
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums

Jo Beth Young Announces New Album – ‘Broken Spells’ – Pre-Orders Open Now, Release Date 1st March, 2024.

An ethereal, powerful and emotional expedition in the art of breaking spells personally and collectively, BROKEN SPELLS is the eagerly anticipated 3rd album from acclaimed UK Neo-Folk artist Jo Beth Young (formerly Talitha Rise/RISE). 

Welcome to a world of electro-folk, dreamy, progressive and sometimes gut punching tracks from Neo-folk singer/songwriter and musician Jo Beth Young. ‘Broken Spells’ does not shy away from diving straight into difficult and deeper themes such as overcoming narcissistic abuse (Wolf Song) the lies that lead a soldier into war (Lazuli) spiritual warfare (Adversity) a collective book-of-revelations-style warning (Burning) themes of guilt and wrongdoing for an upcoming film soundtrack (Standstill) and ultimate truths being revealed in (Ockham’s Razor) to name a few.  

Over the four years she spent making it, Jo Beth went from “confirmed life-long” pagan and non dualist to a born again Christian, a radical journey she says can be heard in the songs as they unfold.  

Jo Beth says: “I think I was questioning absolutely everything in life when I started this album. What was happening in the media, the government, the World and to us as beings. I  was also looking into what was happening inside of me. This meant asking myself deep questions such as whether for all my beliefs I was a good person? Had I been corrupted in any way? Did I need to purify my intentions in life? Looking at the World I started asking, does evil really exist? And if it does, does that mean the opposite must also exist and be true?” 

“I started to see that there was something bigger than personal and physical conflict going on, that there was indeed a bigger spiritual war at play. I came to realise that spells are everywhere. When we believe anything we’re told or is spoken over our life, that is a spell in itself. I was exploring how I could break these? How we could find truth and clarity? I think that’s really the living impetus behind the songs; Seeking truth and breaking strongholds and illusions.

Pre-order the album here:

Broken Spells – JO BETH YOUNG

Unlike anything Jo Beth has attempted before, this record has her hand in it from conception to mixing and features stunning performances from regular contributors Peter Yates on Guitars (Fields Of The Nephillim) Ben Roberts on Cello (Silver Moth/Prosthetic Head) Jules Bangs on Bass (Herija) as well as a guest appearances from her Nightsong colleague John Reed (Steel Guitar) and band member Jay Newton (Abrasive Trees) on Piano.  

Along with her diverse and accomplished vocals (which are very much forefront) Jo Beth plays a multitude of instruments on the record, from acoustic and electric guitars, pianos, keys and synths, bowed guitars, home made percussion and field recordings including a recording of her washing machine in ‘Kinder Sea’. This time she experiments with loops and beats with the help of another long term collaborator; Alpujarra based Producer and Musician Matt Blackie (Spain). 

The whole project was recorded on her laptop in the attic of her home at the time in the West of Ireland. Jo Beth was turned down for a grant to finish the record over 5 times, forcing her to  mix the last of it herself; an endeavour she was surprised to take on. 

Jo Beth says: “I thought ‘Strangers’ was a very DIY record but this one has absolutely no studio hours in it at all and is very home made. Perhaps the most ambitious bit of ‘bedroom’ recording yet. They say necessity is the mother of invention and  I’ve become fond of the imperfections of the record caused by the situation. For instance on ‘Kinder Sea’ you can hear the old electric meter running through my guitar amp at the intro, a situation I couldn’t remedy so left in!”

For all it’s DIY creation, Broken Spells is potentially Jo Beth Young’s strongest work yet; An accomplished set of cinematic, dreamy, powerful, hypnotic and deeply thought provoking songs that lead the listener from darkness to the light. 

The album single ‘Standstill’ will be released at the same time as the album on March 1st 2024. 

After her 2023 Shadow Navigation Show Tour, Jo Beth will be performing a few select UK dates later in 2024 tba via her website. 

Pre-order ‘Broken Spells’ Here:

Broken Spells – JO BETH YOUNG

Review – Matt Steady – Presence – by John Wenlock-Smith

This was actually released back in 2023 so this review is probably a little overdue now but, still, it is definitely worthy of a review in my opinion.

I came across Matt Steady’s music through an advert on Facebook in which he was offering an albums worth of his Celtic Prog guitar works, a sampler of his earlier albums that also included two tracks lifted from this release, ‘Presence’. This sampler was mine for the price of postage, however, what made this album appeal to me was the endorsements of Dave Brons (whose albums I have previously reviewed) and also of Dave Bainbridge, both of whom had very positive things to say about Matt’s music. Positive proof that people do value the opinions of those they respect, this made this free album offer more enticing and so I opted to listen for myself.

Matt is an interesting fellow, he is by day a foster carer, which he does in conjunction with his wife, with Matt being the main carer. This is, of itself, a very laudable calling, however ,despite having a house full of children, in between this activity he creates his own music, which ranges in style between Celtic and folk, along with blues and heavy rock. I received the sampler and thoroughly enjoyed it, I talked to Matt and offered to review it for Progradar. Matt said that it was a sampler and asked would I review his latest album, ‘Presence’, instead, which is when I found out that it was a recent, 2023, release.

That is the long way of telling you about this review, ‘Presence’ is a ten track, fully instrumental, album of mood music. That said, it is not mere background music, rather this is a more emotional type of music, music that connects with you and makes you feel something. That is the aim at the heart of the album,

The album begins with a stunning guitar instrumental called Deep Calls To Deep, which has an excellent melody line. The track opens with epic keyboard swathes and percussion before a sinewy guitar line is added that bleeds emotion. This line just ascends and soars in a very recognisable style of a certain Gilmour chap, making for an epic instrumental opening salvo and sets the listener up for some feelings in the music. It is all very well done and the playing is excellent, quite what emotion this track conveys is not entirely clear, I suspect it is love, a very deep love though. Constant is a slightly eastern mystical sounding track, emotively it shows perseverance or patience. Again, this track has some excellent guitar playing throughout, swift flurries of notes over a constantly shifting rhythm pattern, all very impressive sounding indeed. Espresso has an interesting opening part full of burbling synths followed by another strong and fluid guitar line with a lovely tone to it, very clear and pronounced. Again the emotion it seeks to convey is not fully clear, although it sounds fantastic anyway.

Next up is Reign which may be representative of power. This piece has a somewhat suppressed guitar tone, like it is being held back somehow. It is a great tone though, which is what it is all about, as any guitarist will tell you, it’s all about the tone you get and apply in your sound and, well, this track has oceans of tone! Perforate has a funky groove and guitar fills. Matt gets some great sounds on this track, I love the funky groove and the ending solo, delivered by Dave Brons, is excellent. Uprising has a strong thrust and some great keyboards, it has a very muscular feel to it which suggests the emotion is overcoming adversity and being resilient and strong in the face of oppression, again this track really makes an impact. Foundation implies strength in a relationship and life in general. Emotion oozes throughout the track which has Terl Bryant’s drums thundering away throughout, giving a very solid base from which Matt can fly free and he does that remarkably well and fluidly.

Jelly Babies is the next track and, again, the emotion is unclear but I suspect it is joy as the track is fairly joyful in nature. Reed is the penultimate track and this one suggests resilience and letting life flow over and around you without breaking your spirit. In fact, the whole album suggests a kind of spirituality that offers hope and comfort when needed. Matt plays a violin part in the early section before switching to a fiery electric guitar solo, it sounds very epic indeed, a very strong track overall. The final piece is Sunrise and it has another stirring guitar line. This track suggests gratitude for another day of living and also for all that are around us, it is a lovely and fitting conclusion for an amazing album of moods.

There is some real graceful and empathetic music on offer here, it is a collection of tracks that will lift your spirits and provide sustenance in times of need. This self-released album has some rather excellent performances and stirring music in its short, forty minute, duration.

I really like it, and you can get it for yourself direct from the artist at the link below, as well as ‘The Dragons Refrain’ sampler.

Release 2nd September, 2023.

Order direct from the artists here:

mattsteady.com

Order from bandcamp here:

Presence | Matt Steady (bandcamp.com)\

Behind ‘The Likes Of Us, An In-Depth Interview With Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton

I caught up with Big Big Train’s de facto leader Greg Spawton for a highly enjoyable chat ahead of the release of the band’s highly anticipated new album and a tour which, for the first time, takes in multiple venues across the US, as well as Europe and, of course, the UK.

Progradar: Do you think that ‘The Likes of Us’, while generally moving away from the historical stories of past BBT albums, still has a strong link with the band’s past?

Greg: Yes, I think it does, we were pretty keen not to try and reinvent the wheel with this album. The most important thing to us was to absolutely make sure it was us at the top of our game. One of the issues we had during the covid era when all of the touring gets cancelled was, what do you do now? make an album! and I think that one of the problems for us was that we were almost pushed into the album thing without having a masterplan for the two albums that we made in that time and I’m very much a person who likes a masterplan for albums.

I don’t like albums that are just an accumulation of songs, it needs to be an entity in its own right. There were two things, firstly with the terrible tragedy that we’ve been through, and the new singer in Alberto (Bravin), we knew it had to be us at the top of our game, secondly we needed to make sure we thought about it, planned it and made an holistic album that works as an entity rather than just a collection of tunes.

Progradar: It’s a proper ‘old school’ album where you would listen to it from start to finish. It’s not a Spotify album where you just pick and choose the odd tracks to listen to.

Greg: That’s exactly right! I listen to Spotify etc. myself but I like to be drawn in to a recording. The great albums, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Selling England By The Pound’, albums like that, you put them on, maybe you only intend to listen to a couple of songs, you almost can’t help yourself and they pull you in because they’re so well paced and constructed thematically. You just can’t help yourself and that is what we were trying to do with this one for sure.

Progradar: While the last few albums have all been veery good, to me, ‘The Likes Of Us’ has taken the band back to the heights of ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ duo of releases, do you feel that you are firing on all cylinders and pushing that creativity again?

Greg: To be honest, I think we’re in a battle for survival, David (Longdon) was my musical brother, he was a hugely well loved character and an incredible singer and songwriter. You can’t lose a character like that without potentially losing the heart and soul of the band so, therefore, for us to try to do what we’re trying to do, to carry on and keep the heart of the band going, it is a battle for survival. I think that we can thrive and survive, I am very proud of this album, we sought to look at albums like the ones you mentioned (‘The Underfall Yard’ etc.), learn from what we did then and try and make sure that’s where we are.

One of the things that’s been really beneficial for me is Alberto’s attitude to this. This is a big deal for him as well, he was singing in Italy’s biggest progressive rock band, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), he wasn’t one of the older guys in the band, he wasn’t leading the band like he is in Big Big Train. It’s a big step for him and the way he’s put his heart and soul into it, the way he’s following in David’s footsteps without trying to be another David, on all those things, his judgment’s been very sound all the way through.

He’s had a huge impact on this album with songwriting and he’s mixed it with Rob Aubrey as well, that’s taken a big burden off my shoulders, I’ve been carrying this load for a long time. Without David I was kind of frightened that it would be just me, NDV (Nick D’Virgilio) and Rikard (Sjöblom) carrying the burden but we’ve got Alby, we’ve got Clare and Oskar, we’ve got the people that we need to keep things moving forward.

Progradar: Do you feel that the release of the album and the forthcoming tour is bringing the cathartic process to a close after David’s death?

Greg: It will never completely go away and neither should it, I still think of David every single day and I’m sure I always will. Grief is an interesting thing, time doesn’t heal but time certainly helps the scars close over a little bit. I think the thing with me, NDV and Rikard, the three that have been in the band the longest, we were thinking what else can we do, almost, we had that conversation about whether or not it’s right to continue or whether or not WE want to continue.

We’ve all put our hearts and souls into this, as David did, so we felt that we owed it to ourselves, and also to the memory of David, to try to carry on but what we didn’t want to was just to carry on and try to be David again. It had to be on our terms with a new singer who brought his own thing, his own talents in to it, so that’s how we’ve tried to move forward. Yes, it has been a cathartic experience but it will never completely go away, it just never will.

Big Big Train | Trieste, May 2023 | ph Massimo Goina

Progradar: The current line up seems extremely strong, does it have the longevity of the classic line-up and does it feel strange to be the last original member of the band?

Greg: It does feel strange in that respect, I’m the ‘old guy’ in the band from every aspect, I’m the oldest band member and I’m also the last person from the original line up, there’s also NDV from the re-booted line-up of 2009 of course. I don’t know how it makes me feel to be honest, I’m still carrying the torch for the band. The main thing is, does the music have integrity, does it still carry the hearts and souls and passions? it sounds like a pat answer but it has to have integrity.

I think you can sniff it, sniff if a band is either coasting or doesn’t have integrity in what they’re doing and I think that, on this album, the attention to detail, you can hear how carefully we crafted the material. People might come along and say that their affection for the band’s previous personnel is such that they can’t really go with the new line up, that’s fine, that’s up to them but I hope that they will at least listen and, if they do go, okay, that may not be for me but the band’s got integrity and it’s kept its soul.

Progradar: I think what you were saying there about integrity harks back to the Spotify generation. I use Spotify, 99% of the time for my running playlists but, if someone mentions to me or points out a record, things aren’t cheap anymore and I like buying vinyl. Therefore I’m not going to lay out £30 or £40 on something I haven’t heard, I will check it out on Spotify first and if I like it, then I’ll go buy it! There are certain artists who I have a history with, Big Big Train for instance, and I will buy most things they release without having heard the music.

Greg: I’m no different, there are a handful of bands whose music I will just buy, for a sense of loyalty, a sense of supporting them, Elbow is a good example. I will always buy their records, I haven’t connected as much with the last couple of records they’ve release as I have with some of their earlier stuff but I’ll still support them because they mean something to me as part of my being really.

I’m like you, I use Spotify as a sampling device, it’s a great way of just checking something out. There’s a wall of music out there now, especially for someone like you and the work you do in progressive rock, you must be inundated with stuff. You can’t not use Spotify to check things out otherwise you just end up going bankrupt frankly!

Progradar: Has signing with InsideOut put any requirements on you as a band where, before, the whole creative process and release was controlled by yourselves?

Greg: We signed with them cautiously, it was a big deal for me to actually to become a ‘grown up’ band and sign but they’ve been brilliant. I was so used to us being completely in control of our destiny and that was the fear, that we would lose some degree of control, they’ve been fantastic though. The thing is, Freddy (Palmer) and Thomas Waber, they knew who they were signing so they know what Big Big Train is all about, it’s that 70’s progressive rock vibe, historical songs, that sort of thing. They fully understand it and they understand our back story, that we’ve been used to doing things ourselves.

They’ve been incredibly respectful, will tell us what they think is right and, at the end of the day, they will make the decisions but they listen to us. I feel totally in partnership with them and they want us to do well, it helps them, as well as us, if we do well. InsideOut is part of Sony Music and Sony Japan have got completely behind the album and have had it all translated into Japanese, really pushing us there and maybe, someday, we’ll get out to Japan. We’re delighted with the relationship, people slag record labels off, sometimes for good reason but I couldn’t speak more highly of InsideOut.

Progradar: You said that Alberto has been brought into BBT not just as a vocalist but, also, for his musical skills and songwriting ability. Has this given an extra dimension when you create new music now or has he seamlessly filled the gap left by David?

Greg: I’ve got to the stage in my life where I’ve been through a couple of terrible tragedies recently, David passed away and my stepfather has had a nine month illness which killed him, you read about how dreadful long term illnesses can be and end of life care at the extreme end of that. I’ve been through a couple of very traumatic things in terms of the people around me that I love so I try to find things in life that are positive because I’ve been though so much that has been negative.

One of the positives is the relationship that I have developed with Alberto, he’s become a very dear friend, we’ve been writing songs together, we talk all the time. When we’re on the tour bus he and I get up early in the morning and we go for a walk together and we go and investigate things. We were at a museum, in Copenhagen I think it was, and we were bouncing ideas off each other about what we were seeing there. He’s very much become a musical soulmate and that’s not to diminish in any way, shape or form the relationship I had with David.

I just feel blessed, absolutely blessed, that I’ve got another person in my life, It’s a different relationship but it’s also a very important one. The relationships I’ve got with Rikard and NDV and all the others have all been important to me and I do need those people around me, I’m not a Steven Wilson, I need to bounce things off other people and discuss things with those around me to make the most of what I can do.

Progradar: It is the band’s first tour of the US, was that a difficult thing to organise logistically and how much are you looking forward to playing in the US?

Greg: Logistically everything is difficult to organise with Big Big Train! Along with all the other complexities of having an American drummer, a Swedish guitar player and all the rest, I then go and choose an Italian singer! Our manager was going, oh my god, no, please! It makes everything really hard and more expensive but you’ve got to go with the people you think are the right people to work with and every decision that’s been made with regard to the personnel in the band has been a good call and we’re multi-national and it’s expensive.

The States is a nightmare, it’s a nightmare because the United States government don’t make it easy for bands to get out there and most bands at our level can’t afford to do it, we can only just about afford to do it. As it did during the Covid era, it’s cost us something like ten thousand pounds in visas and also there’s the bureaucratic rigmarole to go up to the embassies and stuff like that. It’s not to be undertaken lightly, we’re going to lose money on that tour, ticket sales are kind of okay, they’re not amazing.

The States is a huge place, us Europeans, we all know it’s a continent but we still struggle to get our heads around quite how much of a continent it is! You’re not dealing with the UK, you’re dealing, effectively, with something the size of Europe and with all the challenges that gives you. It’s a big thing for us but all I can do is look back on the 70’s bands like Genesis, one of the stories I remember is that they played New York and they went down great, they thought they’d conquered America, of course, they hadn’t even started, they’d just dipped their toe in the water in one city in a huge country.

We’re going to try and go through that process if we can, the visas last for a year so, if we can, we’re going to try and get there twice in the year and see how it goes. We need to build the audience across the world, I have to be honest with you, my hunch is that the Cruise (To The Edge) is going to be just as important to playing the States in itself because I think most of the fans on the cruise are American so, hopefully, they enjoy us and go back and spread the word a bit.

Progradar: The band has always had a strong and supportive following in the UK, does playing live in the UK almost feel comfortable now? if that’s the right word?

Greg: The UK is definitely our biggest fanbase so it’s easy to connect with, it’s still very patchy though. We put the tour out there yesterday and it certainly looks like within a week or two the Manchester show will be sold out and Milton Keynes will be sold out but some of the others haven’t sold many tickets at all yet. Obviously, we’ve got a plan over the next six months to sell a lot more tickets, so we hope to get a number of shows sold out, we’ve got to reach regions in the UK that we haven’t been to before, we’re trying to do that. On the continent, we’ve only played one show in Italy, which is bonkers! We need to get there as well.

The truth is, the future of the band has to be an international thing, we need to be able to play across the world, we have to have listeners across the world because the progressive rock audience is dedicated, it’s hardcore but it’s thinly spread, unquestionably it is thinly spread. If we were a prog-metal band, I think we’d be able to access a bigger audience more easily but with the sort of music that we play, sort of 70’s style prog, it’s definitely harder. The UK is a great place to build from but we’ve got to spread the word across the world.

Progradar: Where is your favourite venue to play live?

Greg: My favourite so far has been Loreley because of the scale and the ‘prog’, when you’re on the stage, if a dragon flew past it wouldn’t surprise you! I also love the Boerderij, the Boerderij is brilliant, we’re doing a weekend residency there, so those two venues. The Boerderij is great because it is a brilliant, purpose built venue, the staff there are fantastic supporters of prog rock and the fans come out.

Progradar: Have you already started the creative process for the next album or are concentrating on this one (‘The Likes Of Us’) first?

Greg: No, we have, there’s lots of conversations about when we’re going to record it and where, as you know, this one was recorded in a room together, we’re going to do the same thing with the next album. There’s talk of it being a concept, or part of it will be a concept album, the management are a little wary about that, they’re like, please don’t do that!

We may smuggle in a bit of a concept, maybe half a concept album and then finish it off, I don’t know, we’re still talking about it. There’s lots of writing going on and I’m delighted that Rikard has written a nice long, chunky piece of music, we’re all looking forward to getting our teeth into it and it’s going to be a good thing.

Progradar: What do you see as the future of the band with all the talk about streaming and people not buying physical product as much anymore? I see BBT as a ‘physical’ band and have all the vinyl, you could say that this grates with the Spotify culture?

Greg: There’s definitely a clash of cultures there, the interesting thing is that the record companies own a significant proportion of the streaming sites so they know that’s the future, realistically. I just hope it can be a future that can incorporate the value of physical product, alongside the value of the ease of streaming.

I think the future for us in the next two or three years is we’re going to gig hard but I hope ‘The Likes Of Us’ is a successful album in terms of sales. We’ve had a couple of Top 40 albums in the UK and I think if we can sneak back into the Top 40 then I think it will feel like we’ve got momentum again. There’s a line in the album, ‘make the most of the light left in the day’ which is what we’re trying to do.

Progradar: I think it deserves to be a success, I think it’s up there with ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ albums, I really do!

Greg: Thank you, it’s important, your word carries weight for people that aren’t sure. I’ve read a couple of responses to your review where people are saying, ‘that’s interesting, you obviously really believe in this album’. The reviews are important.

Progradar: Do you have a favourite track on the album or is that like asking you who is your favourite child?

Greg: It’s hard for me to answer that, on different days, different tracks hit me differently. Sometimes I get a big lift from a certain track, sometimes I get a bit of a wobbly lip from other tracks. I’m wimping out but I genuinely can’t say which of the eights track is my favourite.

Progradar; I find it very similar for myself, there’s times when it’s Beneath The Masts, because I love a prog epic but when I was listening to it as I was writing the review, the one that really stood out for me was, well there’s two, I love Love Is The Light, it’s up there with Curator Of Butterflies, in my opinion and then the other one that really hit me was Light Left In The Day. It’s a brilliant opening track, it’s just everything that I feel is brilliant about Big Big Train in one song.

Greg: Yes, it (Light Left In The Day) came together really well, it’s mostly written by Alby. It’s clever, he’s brought together most of the album motifs, which is a really difficult job to do and I added a little bit at the top of it, the ‘tailenders’ thing.

I think what I like about that is that is does set out our stall, you get a bit of 12 string and a vocal, so you hear Alby right at the top and then you get the brass band coming in and it’s like, whoa! there’s a little bit of warmth comes in.

I think the Big Big Train fans of old will be thinking, okay, I’m on steady ground here, and then you get this four minutes of kind of showy musicianship which a prog band does, like an overture thing. I agree, it’s a good starter, it kicks the album off well.

Progradar: Just one last question, recommend me an album that you like, that you are listening to at the moment?

Greg: Okay, I can do, a recent one, an album by The Twenty Committee.

Progradar: I think I wrote the first review of that!

Greg: Fantastic! I really, really like them, Geoffrey Langley is their main guy in the band. In fact, I said to him it reminds me a bit of the band UK and I don’t think he was particularly aware of UK. It’s got some fusion chops in it, he’s a really talented guy, that’s the album I’d recommend. I could say that Radiohead offshoot band but, no, this is a younger band as well, this is a fantastic album, I’m glad you asked that and I’m glad I get to mention them because I think they need to start making waves.

Progradar: So that concludes the questions, hopefully we’ll be able to catch up on the tour, I’m attending the Whitley Bay gig, thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

Greg: Fantastic, we’ll definitely catch up there and, no problem, it’s been great to chat again.

‘The Likes Of Us’ is released on 1st March, 2024 and can be ordered here:

Big Big Train – Miramare (Single Edit) (lnk.to)

The band hit the road for the US, Europe and UK on 1st March, 2024 and tickets can be ordered here:

Live – Big Big Train

You can read my review of ‘The Likes Of Us’ here:

Review – Big Big Train – The Likes Of Us – Progradar