Review – Retreat From Moscow – Dreams, Myths and Machines

Retreat from Moscow return in 2023 with their second album ‘Dreams, Myths and Machines’, the album follows on from the January 2021 release of their superb debut album ‘The World As We Knew It’, a record that was 40 years in the making.

‘Dreams, Myths and Machines‘ was forged over the past three years by original band members John Harris (guitar, vocals, keyboards and flute), Andrew Raymond (keyboards), Tony Lewis (bass) and Greg Haver (drums and percussion) with special guests Robin Armstrong of Cosmograf, Andy Tillison of The Tangent, Pete Kirby of Skylines and American vocalist Jillian Slade.

The album draws on themes of Welsh and Greek mythology, dystopian futures, social anxiety and colonial whitewashing and had a complex gestation during 2021 and 2022, with Haver recording behind the closed borders of New Zealand. With co-producer Clint Murphy (Enter Shikari, Thunder, Two Year Break) at the helm, the album was created in a variety of recording environments, including the legendary Rockfield studios in Wales. The band and team have taken their time and embraced varying themes, while pushing the boundaries of their extended compositions, adding to their musical lexicon.

“Retreat From Moscow’s first album ‘The World As We Knew It’ was the band looking back to our early days at the turn of the 1980’s, retracing our youth and memories through the songs. ‘Dreams, Myths and Machines’ is the band embracing our present and the lives we’ve led”, says New Zealand based drummer Greg Haver. “The new album is an exciting blend of stories past and present framed within the RFM prog rock soundscape” explains the band’s vocalist and guitarist, John Harris.

There’s a definite feel of 80’s Marillion about this release along with hints of the classy, educated pop/rock of It Bites, a superb coalition of sounds that delivers the band’s own inimitable sound, if you’ve heard the band’s debut release then you will recognise this immediately. In John Harris they have a very distinctive vocalist, his voice is all soul and gravelly, whisky soaked vowels at times and I, for one, really like it.

When writing long songs, you really have to be skilled to make sure there are no lulls or pointless sections just to extend the length of the track and Retreat From Moscow are real masters of this. From the upbeat, lush tones of opener Saving California with its driving guitar and rhythm section and the swirling keyboards and high energy feel of Flowerbride, there’s an instant connection with this release. It harks back to the time when music was heard in analogue and you waited for the Top 40 on the radio (or Top Of The Pops if you were lucky enough to won a TV!) to hear the best music and, if you were old enough (or not, if the case may be!), you would actually venture out and hear music live! This album is the sound of nostalgia to me, maybe I’m showing my age but I love it.

As most of you know, I’m an avid runner so a song with the title of Running Man is going to appeal, even before I’ve heard it! This short and punchy song is dynamic and melodic in equal measure with superb keyboards and elegant guitar and the bass and rums of rhythm section Tony Lewis and Greg Haver are rock solid. Things get more intricate with the sombre I Can Hear You Calling, an emotive track where Jillian Slade shines as the foil to John’s ever impressive voice. It’s a song full of sentiment and barely held back sorrow but there’s beauty in even the darkest of subjects and this piece of music delivers like watching the rain fall while sat in front of a warming fire. Windchill sees the appearance of Robin Armstrong whose wonderfully fluid and intensely passionate guitar adds layers of warmth and sentiment to a gorgeously wistful and poignant song. As I get further into this superb release I am ever more impressed by the skill on show and the eloquent songwriting and it is completely evident on this exquisite track.

Time is really flying and yet we’re only half way into this immersive album, the laid back intro to Time Traveller almost leaving you in a musical vacuum as the soundscape touches your synapses before John’s edgy guitar kicks in along with harmonised vocals. It’s all very 80’s and done incredibly well. I’ve mentioned nostalgia before and the wistful feeling that this thoughtful music engenders really does take me back to a time where everything felt much simpler to deal with. It’s easy to just lose yourself in the music, especially the very Floyd-esque section half way through the song. The Machine Stops is, perhaps, my favourite track on the album (although I do keep changing my mind as they are all so good!), it’s soulful and inventive and features one of the most innovative keyboard players alive today in Andy Tillison and he delivers one of his trademark solos here, as well as organ embellishments. The song itself builds gradually, layer by layer, inviting you in to the creative process and enveloping you in its warm musical embrace. This insightful musical journey ebbs and flows and is never less than engaging, especially when it reaches a crescendo and goes firing off on all its metaphorical (keyboard infused) cylinders. When progressive music is as good as this, it really doesn’t get any better and I could listen to tracks like this all day.

Oh yes, we are going right back to the heyday of 80’s neo-prog with the highly enjoyable Assassin’s Cloak, a track that would have graced any album from the prog luminaries of that age but, more importantly, one that’s bang up to date in production qualities and delivery. To me, it’s one of the highlights of what is already a highly impressive release. With superb vocals, potent musicianship and energetic enthusiasm to spare, it really is a magnificent romp. The album closes with the electronic edge of DNA, a thoughtful, penetrating and astute homage to the discovery of the chains of human existence. With its measured, metronomic rhythm laid down perfectly by Tony and Greg, Andrew’s delightful keys and John’s stylish guitar and vocals, this is progressive rock at its most penetrating, add in the voice over from Drew Berry and we really have something very special here.

What was that saying about difficult second albums? Well, with ‘Dreams, Myths and Machines’, Retreat From Moscow have totally debunked that myth. Intelligent, insightful and thoughtful and sprinkled with progressive rock stardust, it is a wonderfully immersive listen. There you go, in this case, nostalgia definitely IS what it used to be!

Released 18th August, 2023.

Order the CD from Gravity Dream here:

Retreat From Moscow – Dreams, Myths and Machines CD Pre-Order – Gravity Dream Music

Review – Retreat From Moscow – The World As We Knew It

Retreat from Moscow originally hail from Cardiff, Wales, UK and gigged extensively from 1979- 1981. Fast forward 40 years and the band of core members, Andrew Raymond (keyboards and more), Greg Haver (drums and more), Tony Lewis (bass and more) and John Harris (vocals and more) reformed in 2019 to start recording old and new material for a new album, ‘The World As We Knew It‘.

The roots of their music is influenced by the progressive giants of the 70s but their sound nods more to the 80s new wave of progressive music with strong melody, big keyboards and choruses, and soaring vocals.

“It is somewhat ironic that after releasing our first single in 1980, Retreat From Moscow have waited forty years to produce an album only to have the proposed launch postponed by a worldwide pandemic.” says guitarist, John ‘Harpo’ Harris. “Yet from those early, heady days at school listening to bands like Genesis, Tull, King Crimson, Camel and Caravan, even though the journey has been a long one, it has been worth the wait.”

2022 has started with some very good album releases and Retreat From Moscow have joined that heady mix with what must be considered as one of the best recent debut albums. There are nods to the progressive greats and to the heights of Neo-Prog in the late 80’s and early 90’s but, throughout this impressive release, the band resolutely follow their own direction.

There’s power, poise, precision and subtlety throughout. ‘The World As We Knew It’ may be forty years in the making but it impresses at every turn. Opening track The One You Left Behind prowls along with a menacing atmosphere, the dynamic rhythm section and hard edged guitars driving the song along and John Harris’ dynamic vocal providing the focal point. Radiation is fleet of foot and a genuinely feel good hard rock romp with a proper feel of nostalgia, the guitar work from Harris is just sublime. The wick is turned down a bit on the delightful neo-prog infused Henrietta, invoking Fish era Marillion but with the band’s own signature sound front and centre. Andrew Raymond’s silky keyboards are all over this elegant song and just add to the good natured mood that this record engenders.

Raymond’s skill is central to the opening of the vibrantly upbeat I’m Alive that screams 70’s prog at you at full volume. I honestly feel that anyone who has great progressive rock in their blood will absolutely love this album, the songwriting and musicianship are just top notch! Constantinople brings an oasis of calm and sophistication to the album. The vocals are restrained and the music, especially the beautiful flute and passionate guitar, sophisticated. The longest track on the album, coming in at over eleven minutes, Home, tells you all you need to know about this accomplished band. Their songwriting is excellent and their skill even better, a sublime listening experience that envelops the listener and draws them in to their expertly crafted musical world. Not a note is wasted and every song is an utterly absorbing experience. That hard rock edge returns to Armed Combat, moving away from the more progressive arena to deliver a track that wouldn’t be out of place on any 80’s rock album. It may just be me but the bass, drums and keys just shout Level 42 and I just love it! anyone else?

A gently meandering piece of music, Moving Down is wistfully serene and a pure gem. One of the best songs on the album, the thoughtful vocals and reflective music are just wonderful and just check out that guitar solo, it’s just heavenly. Perception is another fast moving track with a definitive hard rock edge that this outstanding band do so very well. Guitar, drums, bass and keys all work in perfect harmony to give John’s vocal a perfect backdrop to work on. Have 70’s Genesis arrived in the building as the first notes of Mandragora echo in your speakers? You’d be excused for thinking so as this exceptional track ebbs and flows, yet another song where Retreat From Moscow give their own unique slant on what has gone before. All good things must unfortunately come to an end and the album comes to a close with the elegant composure of Don’t Look Back. A slow burning opening with more of that exquisite flute and impassioned vocals gives a restrained tone to the song, everything tranquil and peaceful. The tempo increases though and the song opens up into something impressively fluid and mercurial, Andrew Raymond’s keyboard solo adding another layer of class before the guitar joins in to add fervour and passion, it’s a glorious ending to the album.

Robin Armstrong’s Gravity Dream Label has accrued a pretty impressive roster in a short period of time and the outstanding Retreat From Moscow are another high calibre artist to join him. In ‘The World As We Knew It’ they have crafted an album that is creative, inventive and inspirational, it is a breathtaking debut that will grace many end of the year ‘best of’ lists and one that the band should be rightfully very proud of.

Released 21st January, 2022

Order from bandcamp here:

The World As We Knew It | Retreat From Moscow (