Frontiers Announces Signing of Arc Of Life

NEW PROG ROCK GROUP FEATURING MEMBERS OF YES & SOUND OF CONTACT – DEBUT SINGLE & VIDEO ‘YOU MAKE IT REAL’ OUT NOW

Frontiers Music Srl is excited to announce the release of ARC OF LIFE’s self-titled debut album on February 12, 2021. Arc Of Life is a new progressive rock supergroup featuring three members of the current YES line-up, vocalist/guitarist Jon Davison, bassist/vocalist Billy Sherwood, and additional drummer Jay Schellen, one of the most interesting talents in the “new” progressive rock scene in the US, Dave Kerzner (Sound of Contact) on keyboards, and Jimmy Haun (also featured on YES albums in the past) on guitar. Fans can get their first taste of the band’s forthcoming debut with the new single and video, ‘You Make It Real’

Pre-order/save “Arc Of Life” HERE: https://orcd.co/arcoflife

The concept behind Arc of Life is, in keeping with the progressive rock philosophy, to craft creative, challenging, and ear-pleasing music that pushes boundaries. 

Billy Sherwood describes the music as, “interesting, with well-crafted songs, performed with precision and grace. All songs feature memorable melodies and lyrics that take the listener on a sonic adventure. Dynamic arrangements with peaks and valleys… it’s all there.”

The other idea behind the band is that YES would be a clear point of influence. But while YES is clearly the main point of comparison, a lot of musical similarities can be drawn to describe Arc Of Life’s grandiose and epic approach to music. 

In Jon Davison’s words, “Each YES member understands and supports when others may desire to explore and thrive along new artistic avenues. We then each find further inspiration to bring back to the YES fold.”

But all the descriptions are best left to the listeners to discern for themselves as repeat listens will reveal more layers. 

Arc Of Life is a true garden of delight for progressive rock fans and the band is looking forward to performing live. “Once the world gets over the COVID hump, Arc Of Life will be planning as much touring as we can fit in between YES and our other projects. Quite honestly, we’re all chomping at the bit to be out performing again!” concludes Jon Davison.

Tracklist:

1. Life Has A Way

2. Talking With Siri

3. You Make It Real

4. Until Further Notice

5. The Magic Of It All

6. Just In Sight

7. I Want To Know You Better

8. Locked Down

9. Therefore We Are

10. The End Game

Line-up:
Billy Sherwood – Bass and vocals

Jon Davison – Vocals

Jay Schellen – Drums

Jimmy Haun – Guitars

Dave Kerzner – Keyboards

Progradar Top Ten Albums of the Year 2020.

It’s that time again, that time when we supposed musical journalists put together a (subjective) list of our favourite albums that were released in 2020.

This list is very subjective and may have been different a few weeks ago, it is a list of ten albums that have touched me in any way in the previous 12 months and ones that I go back and listen to often.

There have been some that have been very close to my top ten, ‘Breaking Point’ by Jump, ‘Foxholesque’ by The Foxholes, ‘Brave New World’ by Built For The Future, ‘Dreaming City’ by Glass Hammer and ‘Beyond’ by Hibernal are just a few that were knocking on the door of my top ten and would definitely be included in a top twenty but just where do you stop!

So, here it is, my list of my top ten albums for 2020, they are in no particular order, apart from my number one and I’m sure most of you can guess what that is…

Pendragon – Love Over Fear

Intelligent and insightful lyrics and four musicians at the very top of their game are great ingredients to have when you create a new album, however Pendragon have added a dash of magic that is rarely seen in modern music nowadays. There is no such thing as the perfect record, musicians are always striving to concoct something better than has gone before but “Love Over Fear” is as close to perfection that you can get, the best album of the last twenty years in fact and, in my humble opinion, and that is a very rare beast indeed!

Released 14th February 2020

The Tangent – Auto-reconnaissance

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

Released 21st August 2020

Blue Rose Code – With Healings Of The Deepest Kind

When it comes to music that salves the soul and gives joy to the heart, this album has few peers. An utter musical joy and one that everyone should listen to at least once, it has an honesty and innocence that is rare in the music industry these days.

Released July 17th 2020

Jon Gomm – The Faintest Idea

When most people look at an acoustic guitar, they see exactly that – a wooden box with strings. As one of the pioneers of the modern fingerstyle sound, however, Jon Gomm has a rare gift for turning one instrument into what feels like an entire orchestra, with this new album he has found new emotional depths in immense melodic pop landscapes.

Released 16th October 2020.

Lunatic Soul – Through Shaded Woods

On album number seven Mariusz Duda, the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and mastermind behind Lunatic Soul is extending his musical explorations to include dark Scandinavian and Slavic folk referencing bands like Heilung or Wardruna. Following the heavily electronic sound of previous albums Fractured and Under the Fragmented SkyThrough Shaded Woods is completely devoid of electronics and is the first album in Duda’s discography, on which he plays all instruments.

Duda appears to have put the personal darkness that inspired his previous albums behind him, as more optimistic elements shine through in his new music. The album becoming musically “brighter” as it progresses – from the atmospheric introduction of “Navvie” through to the title track, which leads the listener to a melodious, trance like “Oblivion”, echoing the style of Dead Can Dance

Released 13th November

Airbag – A Day At The Beach

Airbag have returned with a complex release, musically and emotionally. A serious album and one that is seriously impressive, combining ethereal soundscapes with their signature guitar driven progressive rock. They have created a mature, powerful sound that inspires on many levels, delivering one of the most sophisticated releases of the year.

Released June 19th 2020

Dyble/Longdon – Between A Breath And A Breath

This is an album that you must listen to or you miss it at your peril. I cannot recommend this highly enough, I think it is one of my albums of the year. Indeed the beautiful music and the grace that the album offers make this worthy of a place in any albums of the year listing. Yes, it is that good, truly remarkable in fact!

(Words by John Wenlock-Smith)

Released 25th September 2020

Fish – Weltschmerz

The legendary Scottish singer’s last studio release is one of his finest and his best since ’13th Star’ (in my opinion). Grandiose in scale and delivery, the music has a maturity and melodrama missing in most of what you will hear nowadays. Fish’s songwriting abilities are as strong as they have ever been and the unique dulcet tones of his Scot’s brogue herald some of his mightiest compositions yet. A highlight of a very stellar career.

Released 25th September 2020

Silent Skies – Satellites

In this year where we have all been touched by the horrific effects of the pandemic, Vikram and Tom have given us something quite magical, an ultimately uplifting collection of beautiful songs that leave a lasting touch on our hearts and souls. ‘Satellites’ gives a feeling of hope and calm reflection that we can take into 2021 and will leave you with a smile on your face and love in your heart.

This release has jumped straight into my top 5 of the year, in fact, I love it that much I have just bought the vinyl…

Released 11th December 2020

So, here it is, my number one album of 2020 and I’m sure it will come as no surprise…

Abel Ganz – The Life Of The Honey Bee And Other Moments Of Clarity

How to sum up my feelings? I have a very close connection with Abel Ganz but that has not made any difference to how I have reviewed this album. Put simply, it is not just the best album I have heard this year, it is one of the best albums I have ever heard in my 52 years. More than just a collection of songs or even stories, it is part of the band member’s very souls and when they put all of that into making a record, you are going to get something very special indeed.

Released 6th July 2020

First Karisma Records Release of 2021 Announced – Meer – Playing House

The Norwegian 8-piece alternative progressive pop orchestra MEER is welcoming you with a massive sound, fabulous melodies, awesome harmonies and quite a few surprises.

MEER started out as a duo in Hamar, Norway in 2008, and since then the duo has expanded considerably to become what it is today – an eight-piece eclectic collective whose music is a mix of orchestral pop, classical music and progressive rock.
With their grandiose string arrangements and polyphonic vocals, MEER’s sound is far from minimalistic and flows in seemingly constant motion.

Today’s line-up comprises Johanne Kippersund on vocals, Knut Kippersund on vocals, Eivind Strømstad on guitar, Åsa Ree on violin, Ingvild Nordstoga Eide on viola, Ole Gjøstøl on piano, Morten Strypet on bass and Mats Lillehaug on drums. 


If you like your progressive rock symphonic, orchestral, melodic, catchy and with lots of energetic spurs, you should enjoy “Playing House” with MEER.

Review – Silent Skies – Satellites

The music of Silent Skies, the collaborative project between Tom S. Englund, vocalist of Swedish progressive group Evergrey, and virtuoso classical pianist Vikram Shankar, feels at once lushly cinematic, warmly intimate, darkly melancholic and incandescently beautiful. It’s making is a story of a deep musical kinship between two seemingly divergent talents.

The pair first crossed paths when the Swedish singer saw American Oberlin film score graduate Shankar’s engrossingly sensitive piano interpretation of Evergrey’s Distance on YouTube: “I heard an instant musicality coming from him” Englund says: “he can take one chord and add one melody note and immediately you understand he has this deep musical knowledge.” He sensed in Shankar a kindred musical spirit who could help him channel new forms of musical expression. A series of email exchanges between the pair gave birth to ideas of a sonic landscape rooted in cinematic score music – what they both came to see as ‘films for the inner eye’.

As they began playing together it quickly became apparent that they shared profound musical common ground. Evergrey’s music had been a founding influence on the pianist after all: “They had a huge impact on the way my playing developed.” Shankar says: “Their musical and emotional language remains a critical component to the way I write and play music. Tom’s singing in particular has been very influential – my favourite way to play melodically is to emulate and channel the emotional impact of the human voice, and his has an impact unlike any other.”

The collaboration between Vikram and Tom actually seemed to come out of nowhere for me. I was aware of Vikram’s incredible talent from his amazing instrumental project Lux Terminus and, being a long term prog metal fan, was well aware of Tom Englund’s fantastic vocal talents from Evergrey and Redemption (Vikram actually played keyboards on the band’s last album). I wouldn’t have put them together on a project as lush and magical as Silent Skies but they work perfectly, complementing each other’s talents.

The album is grandiose and full of melodramatic music that would grace many Oscar winning films as a score and yet is overflowing with emotion, graceful in places and heartfelt in others. Tom Englund has a wonderfully emotive and touching vocal delivery that shows he is no one trick pony, his charismatic singing on this album is some of the best you will hear all year and in direct contrast to the bombast of the new Evergrey album recently announced and Vikram’s tender playing is absolutely note perfect, throughly deserving of the word ‘virtuoso’ and who doesn’t love the sound of a proper grand piano, it’s both nostalgic and thought provoking at the same time.

Listening to the album takes you to a place of ethereal calm, the wistful songs are touching and moving, elaborately theatrical tracks like Horizons and Endless pairing hauntingly classical music with a melodic sensibility. The stand out tracks on this release for me are Us and Solitude, both full of an intense melancholic grace that you can feel in the tender rawness of Tom’s vocal and the stunningly sublime, exquisite and yet simple piano playing that feels like an extension of Vikram’s own soul.

The cover of Eurythmics’ 1983 hit Here Comes The Rain Again fits perfectly with the rest of the music and, being a child of the 1980’s, fills me with huge feeling of nostalgia and a wry grin on my face and the celestial instrumental 1999 closes out the album in style.

In this year where we have all been touched by the horrific effects of the pandemic, Vikram and Tom have given us something quite magical, an ultimately uplifting collection of beautiful songs that leave a lasting touch on our hearts and souls. ‘Satellites’ gives a feeling of hope and calm reflection that we can take into 2021 and will leave you with a smile on your face and love in your heart.

This release has jumped straight into my top 5 of the year, in fact, I love it that much I have just bought the vinyl…

Released 11th December 2020

Order from EMP in the UK here:

https://www.emp.co.uk/search?q=Silent+Skies

IAMTHEMORNING SHARE VIDEO FOR ‘VENI VENI EMMANUEL’

NEW EP ‘COUNTING THE GHOSTS’ OUT NOW

Iamthemorning have shared the new video for ‘Veni Veni Emmanuel’ taken from their new EP ‘Counting The Ghosts’ which is released today. Marjana from the band comments,

‘Veni Veni Emmanuel is a 12 century hymn sung in latin – the English translation exists and is somewhat more popular but I thought the Latin version will be more in line with our general style. It was arranged for 5 voices by Gleb and the arrangement is inspired by the works of Benjamin Britten. It’s kind of a timeline of music where each verse is associated with a specific time. It starts as a monody then proceeds to medieval style, then to classical european harmony and ends in 20th century.

I wish we could make a video that would do this beautiful song and arrangement justice but i guess right now in the times of pandemic when everyone’s in lockdown all is left is to “Arrange whatever pieces come your way”, which I did.’

Self released by the band to raise money to record their new album and consisting of 4 tracks, ‘Counting The Ghosts’ features 2 new original songs,’Cradle Song’ and ‘Counting The Ghosts’.

The other tracks on the EP see Iamthemorning adding their own twist to two traditional festive songs, ‘Veni Veni Emmanuel’ and the more modern piece ‘I Wonder As I Wander’.

Order the EP  – https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com

Nad Sylvan – launches new single & video for “You’ve Got To Find A Way”

Straight from his hygge home in Sweden Nad Sylvan is happy to be announcing the release of his brand-new single “You’ve Got To Find A Way”, sending  some hope and love out into this pandemic-ridden world to warm our hearts all over the globe.

After concluding the Vampirate’s trilogy, Nad now changes course on his upcoming fourth album by converting the poems of WB Yeats into music. The new album, entitled “Spiritus Mundi”, is due for release in early April 2021. “You’ve Got To Find A Way” will be a bonus track on the new album. The track functions as some kind of link between the trilogy and the new work. It’s a standalone track, not related to Yeats”s poems, but it very much showcases the new musical direction Nad has chosen to take. 

Nad comments: 

“A pandemic love song; sprung from strumming my guitar for about a year, always returning to this tune. During this time, I had met that someone while being on the road right when the pandemic hit and I abruptly had to go home. I usually don´t write on guitar, which makes this song all the more special to me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 30th October 2020

Order from Burning Shed here:

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

DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION Announce new album Halcyon Hymns

CD/DVD Released on 5th February

Downes Braide Association (DBA) announce the release of their new album Halcyon Hymns. The CD/DVD is out on 5th February 2021, and 2LP White Vinyl edition on 26th March 2021. 

The first track to be taken from the album, Love Among The Ruins, is out now:

Halcyon Hymns will be the fifth DBA collaboration and follows their previous critically-acclaimed studio albums Pictures of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls(2017). The duo have also released Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018.

Pre-order Halcyon Hymns: CD/DVD https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-cd-dvd-edition/

2LP White Vinyl:  https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-limited-edition-2lp-white-vinyl/ 

Following two more successful and enjoyable evenings at Trading Boundaries in February of 2020, Geoff Downes returned to Wales and his projects while Chris Braide returned to LA and struggled to find motivation with the unfolding events in a world of lockdown. Inspiration would return following a call from a close friend.

“Marc Almond suggested I ‘get stuck into another DBA record’ to lift the malaise,” say Braide. “Somehow It was hard to muster any enthusiasm for it. We had all been so upbeat at the recent shows and now here we were in a collective, creative void. It’s odd the way inspiration strikes though and it never ceases to delight and surprise me when the muse comes to play and it can happen at any time and without warning. 

“I opened up a folder of new DBA ideas Geoff (Downes) had sent to me a while back and which I’d listened to briefly and had made a note to do something with them at a later date. I can’t say why it happened but one day in the studio as I listened to the bits and pieces of ideas suddenly the songs started tumbling out as if by magic. I’m not exaggerating or being melodramatic. These new songs sounded like personal reflections, they just wrote themselves. It was so easy, so enjoyable and so meant to be. Like a gift.” 

A few words from Geoff: “It was so great to witness Chris’s creativity making my fundamental ideas come alive. He took the bare bones of melodies, harmonies and textures I sent him, and somehow crafted these into something way beyond my expectations or imagination. ‘Love Among The Ruins’ is one of the many examples on the album of his rare genius at work.”

Love Among The Ruins is a delightful and uplifting love song, reflecting memories and tributes of a long lost halcyon time in life. The first track to be taken from the new album, Love Among The Ruins, is out today 4th December.

Halcyon Hymns also features contributions by Marc Almond (ex-Soft Cell) and David Longdon (Big Big Train).

The CD/DVD package also includes video footage of legendary artist Roger Dean’s painting sessions as he creates the album cover artwork for Halcyon Days together with lyric videos for three tracks from the album.

Review – Voivod – Lost Machine – Live

Very few bands survive for four decades. Even fewer are those that continue to reach new creative heights, long after legendary status has been achieved. Voivod were never like other bands: even as the thrash metal scene exploded in the early ‘80s, the Jonquière, Quebec crew stood apart, both as unique visionaries and as proud subverters of the metallic norm. From early prog-thrash classics like ‘Killing Technology‘ and ‘Dimension Hatröss‘ through to the psychedelic explorations of ‘The Outer Limits‘, Voivod have been standard-bearers for individuality and creative freedom for nearly 40 years.

I am a newcomer to the band and it was cult funny music pioneers The Fierce And The Dead’s guitarist Matt Stevens who first championed the band and brought them to my attention.

After many line up changes over the years, the band returned with 2018’s ‘The Wake‘ which was hailed as the finest Voivod album since the band’s late ‘80s heyday. An extraordinary, multi-faceted prog metal colossus, it confirmed that Voivod are currently enjoying a fresh surge of power and passion, even as they approach their 40th anniversary. Confirmation that the band’s return to peak form had struck a chord with fans old and new and, not surprisingly, Voivod duly hit the road to reaffirm their status as one of metal’s most unique and powerful live acts.

It was time for Voivod to unveil a brand new live album that deftly captures the kaleidoscopic, mutant adrenalin rush of the band’s shows. Following swiftly on from this year’s ‘The End Of Dormancy‘ EP, the new live set boasts a full Voivod show, bursting with old school classics and epic new material. ‘Lost Machine – Live‘ was captured at the esteemed Quebec City Summer Fest on July 13, 2019. Recorded and mixed by Francis Perron and mastered by Yannick St-Amand, it’s a vibrant and vivid snapshot of a band at the height of their powers.

As I have already said, I have little knowledge of the band’s material so decided to take this live release on it’s own merits and, let me say, it did not disappoint in any way, shape or form.

For me, live releases are generally either very good or very bad and ‘Lost Machine – Live‘ definitely falls into the first category, a thundering behemoth of an album that pulls no punches, kicks you in the balls and then runs off into the distance while laughing maniacally.

Audibly revelling in the shared chemistry that drives them forward, Voivod cover a huge amount of musical and historical ground during ‘Lost Machine – Live‘. From vociferously raw renditions of revered classics like Psychic Vacuum and Into My Hypercube through to the incendiary prog/punk metal insurgency of recent songs like Obsolete Beings, Post Society and Iconspiracy, it’s a monstrous and intoxicating and proof that Voivod are having more fun than ever right now. a massive highlight for me is the band’s legendary cover of Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine which seems to be revitalised with a rousing energy and chaotic wonder.

These are obviously the greatest of times for Voivod.

“I think the fact that we get along so well helps tremendously,” Drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin notes. “With Chewy and Rocky’s virtuosity, and Snake and I bringing in the old school punk thrash elements, the recipe is just working perfectly. We now have played many, many shows with this formation, so we are like a machine, both live and in studio. You know, many young kids are into Voivod and other thrash metal bands nowadays, and they usually sing along to the old and new material, they seem to appreciate the whole catalogue. We still have our old friends coming to see us too, so the shows have been really packed for us around the globe the last few years.”

Holy cow, that is one manic, exhilarating thrill ride that is definitely not for the faint of heart! Imbued with a restless and chaotic energy that never lets up for a second, Voivod have released a live album that deserves to be held up there with some of the best, now does someone have a quiet, darkened room I can go and sit in for a while…

Released November 27th 2020

Order direct from the band here:

https://voivodmerch.com/en

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 4th September 2020

Order the album from Burning Shed here:

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