Progradar Best of 2016 – Rob Fisher’s Top Ten

We are going to end 2016 at Progradar with a selection of ‘Top 10’ picks. I have asked as many contributors as would like to join in the fun to give me their best 10 albums of the year. Here we start with Rob Fisher‘s selections.

Flux – Shadowlines

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Flux perform at the Darbar Festival in London’s South Bank. They gave a superb and truly heart warming rendition of songs from their uplifting debut album ‘Shadowlines’. Since first hearing it earlier in the year I have been championing their music which is alive, fresh and above all joyful. There is an alluring blend of eclectic influences from around the world, stamped with a unique style and identity which exudes a passion for life through elegant melodies, exquisite playing and energetic rhythms.

Frost* – Falling Satellites

Glorious, sizzling, pulsating walls of sound. This is truly modern prog, aware of contemporary influences and absorbing modern ideas and sounds. It is a triumphant and shamelessly inventive experiment on how to do prog in the 21st Century, using sounds and techniques belonging to other musical contexts but making them your own. The result is a breathtaking adventure through expansive soundscapes, fascinating samplings and an album which stands as a shining beacon for genuinely creative and dynamic song writing.

Southern Empire – Southern Empire

Inspired, powerful song writing and intense levels of technical and musical virtuosity combine to create a debut album which does exemplary justice to both aspects of the term ‘progressive’ and ‘rock’. Sean Timms masterfully weaves intelligent lyrical insights with textured layers of expressive and compelling music which are psychologically perceptive, full of emotional insight and brimming with melodic creativity.

Thence – We Are Left With A Song

Thence have created what is, in effect, the soundtrack for life in the 21st century. It is an album which bristles with creativity, dynamism and enthusiasm, bringing together elements of orchestral and classical music, jazz, blues, rock and metal. The music ripples with stark contrasts, using sweeping and scintillating soundscapes to mirror the noisy backgrounds against which we live our lives. The vocals are buried in music which is humming with layers of distorted guitars, yet emerging into crystal clear oases of melodic calm and clarity. Enthralling.

Karibow – Holophinium
You can understand why Oliver Rüsing needed a two-cd release for the latest instalment of musical excellence from Karibow. The vision which inspires the album is majestic and sweeping in scope, telling stories of poignant self-discovery through vivid symphonic landscapes which are an exhilarating journey in delightfully imaginative musical creativity. From the outset you are fully engaged both intellectually as well emotionally in music which is hauntingly textured and beautifully expressed.

Damian Wilson – Built For Fighting

What an unexpected revelation and delight this fourth studio release from Damian Wilson really is. Penetrating lyrical vignettes tell poignant and moving stories, sung in a voice that portrays simply staggering levels of expression, emotion and passion. At the heart of it is the conflict between our biological and physical make up suited for life as a perpetual battle for survival, on the other the recognition that there is a kinder and gentler way of living. A remarkable and heart-breaking release.

Kaipa Da Capo – Dårskapens Monotoni

As soon as you hear the opening bars of this elegant and imposing album you both know and you feel as if you are home. Reuniting the original members of Kaipa from the mid 70’s, lush musical landscapes are built around smouldering keyboards, breath-taking guitar work, powerful bass and intricate drumming. This is prog as it was always meant to be, lovingly crafted and exquisitely played in songs which capture a bluesy, symphonic and deeply satisfying mood.

Dec Burke – Book Of Secrets

A fiercely intelligent and highly perceptive hymn to the pendulum of life as it swings between joy and despair. The album is boundlessly energetic, infused with power, drive and focus. There is an infectious conviction to the music which is expressed in a diverse mixture of styles, moods and competing instrumental emphases. The songs are incisive, vigorous and dynamic, filled with a strong sense of character and purpose.

T – Epistrophobia

A late entry to the 2016 list of releases, T’s follow up album to the fiercely powerful Fragmentropy illustrates that all good things come to those who wait. Despite having a more symphonic and even melodic character, Epistrophobia is intellectually intense and emotionally provocative in equal measure. T’s music has always demanded your time and attention when listening in return for the rewards it eventually yields and this is no exception. Profoundly brilliant.

Oak – Lighthouse

A third debut album makes my top 10 for 2016. Lighthouse is wonderfully charming and, the more you hear it, affectionately endearing. The album is a fusion and mixture of all sorts of feelings, experiences, thoughts and emotions which is expressed in music which has a vitality and dynamism that lifts you up, carries you along and sets you down again as it explores the joys and the agonies of being alive.  Upbeat instrumental work builds foundations for energetic landscapes and highly melodic harmonies.




Review – Thence – We Are Left With A Song – by Progradar


“Storytelling–that’s not the future. The future, I’m afraid, is flashes and impulses. It’s mode up of moments and fragments, and stories won’t survive.”
Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Knowing the brief attention span of most of today’s music listening populous, used to flashes of music, the instant gratification of MTV and three minute songs, would you release an album that ran for fifty seven minutes and yet had only one track on it? No, neither would I….

Well.that’s what Finnish duo Thence did with their debut release ‘These Stones Cry From The Earth’..

“We are the edge of the biggest ride in history. Is this the year when the cosmic clock finally runs down to zero days and zero hope? The deepest questions of our time are looking for answers from the past, facing alarming complexity. Vanishing species…or something? Thence is something from there. Just to feel the ambience of the surrounding world.”

Deep? quite so, this was the concept behind that first album, the music began to grow and the band felt that it must be done in this way. The album was composed and recorded almost at the same time, maybe that is the reason why the listener cannot leave it unfinished, and must listen it to the very end.


Juha Sirkkiä founded the band in 2003. However, the band had been kept in limbo until Erno Räsänen joined the band and immediately from that day they started making the first album and it finally saw the light of day in 2011.

To my ears, it was one of the most exciting, deep and innovative albums of its day. Yes, for most mere mortals, the idea of a 57 minute long track making up the entire album was, perhaps, too much but, for those of us with the requisite attention span, we were treated to an absolute musical delight.


2016 sees the duo return with the long awaited follow up ‘We Are Left With A Song’ which, this time consists of seven tracks instead of one long ‘paragraph’. The content itself has remained, broadly the same: all kinds of emotionally descriptive, diverse and beautiful music.

“Hope. Maybe it is the best adjective to describe this album. It’s a feeling, and it is wished that, after all the difficulties, there is always hope.” says Juha Sirkkiä, of the album’s theme.

I Burn The Day

Opening track I Burn The Day, The Ghost begins with birdsong and a very slow building guitar, low down and sombre and also quite apprehensive. You’re on edge, awaiting what is to come and then, bang, we’re off. A thunderous riff and epic drums power to a massive crescendo of all consuming music that takes you aback. Once you’ve recovered, the pace eases slightly as the laid back vocals begin, not to say things have calmed completely as the keys wash over you and the music drives you on. A huge wall of luscious sound assails your very soul and Juha’s slightly muted, if very noted, vocal guides you along the pathway to hope and salvation. A fast paced, powerfully upbeat and yet slightly dark tinged song that opens your eyes and awakens your senses and closes out with a lonely piano note.

No ONe

No One, Anyone, Be Someone opens with a lazy, wistful tone to the vocals and the music. All moving languidly along, unhurried and impassive. The catchy riff gives it some sort of impetus but that feeling of mellow, unhurried tranquility remains at the core. As we move through the track it takes on a more dramatic and theatrical feel as the keyboards take on the feel of a string section and bring a huge wave of emotion to run over you. Then an absolutely delightful saxophone solo adds a huge grin to my face, and no small amount of grace to this impressive track, as unexpected as it is brilliant. A pensive track that opens up to deliver a feeling of hope and optimism.


The opening to Abundance is wistful and silky smooth and you just feel yourself going with the flow as its gentle air of expectancy draws you in. The drums pound out a rhythm that gets under your skin before a suitably graceful and elegant guitar note takes up the baton. I find a sense of serenity take over my whole being as this composed and self-possessed piece of music lets me join it on its effortless travails. Juha’s vocal is totally relaxing and unruffled and matches the mood perfectly. This song leaves you in your own bubble of self-absorption as an undemanding, subdued guitar solo flows around your mind, wonderful.

There is a feel of 90’s techno synth to the opening of It Is Truth That Liberates, even the title has a touch of Massive Attack to it. The guitar is only hiding in the background though and opens up with an aggressive and dynamic riff to counter the slightly spaced out feel of the keyboards. Another track where that dense and substantial soundscape, immediately recognisable as Thence, takes centre stage before a coruscating guitar adds fire and incandescence to the mix to give a uniquely memorable sound, a complicated tapestry of music is laid before you for your delectation.


A slightly distorted guitar note jars your senses at the opening of Pursue as it jangles and resonates inside your head. A hushed, yet passionate, vocal joins the music to give a feel of yearning and hunger. A cool bass line adds gravitas, the drums and percussion giving an undercurrent of longing. You feel this is building up to something as the pace begins to pick up slightly, there’s still an anxious and expectant aura that hangs over everything though. The trance is broken by another monstrous riff that hits you hard and grabs your attention before Juha’s crying guitar adds another edge of despair but wait, you hear a baby’s cry  and sense a lifting of something oppressive, there is now more of a feeling of hope central to the music. The piano that takes up the reverie is thoughtful and reflective, it heralds the introduction the superb saxophone again. You are taken on a wondrous journey of sound and tone, one that touches your very heart and soul and, as the brilliant guitar joins the fray, it becomes an almost rapturous and utterly captivating musical experience that closes out to the yearning refrian of that extraordinary saxophone.


Oars In Our Hands opens with a seriously ominous tone, the note of the keyboards giving a feeling of foreboding before the heavy riffing begins and gives it a solid impetus and deliberate feel. This track is the one that reminds me the most of ‘These Stones….’, the scenic sound that fills the horizon and the arena filling vocals. A wide vista of musical theatre that is delivered to your senses and one that engrosses and enthralls at every turn. There is a unique quality to the music that comes from Thence and it is one that I hugely admire as this duo defy what you expect to hear from two musicians. The drama unfolds before you through the music and keeps you intrigued and immersed thoughout, once again, the potent and compelling ending to the song leaves you on a high.


The final seven minutes of the album is devoted to Life Will Get You Eventually, another song that is more than mere words and notes on a page. A melodic, symphonic soul cleansing journey of affirmation and expectancy is laid before you in its genial grace to leave you feeling like you are on the shore of an ocean as the waves gently lap around your toes. An almost infinite space lies in front of you as you gaze towards the horizon, a melodramatic scene indeed but one that this hugely involving tune imbues. The heartfelt, sincere vocals touch you deeply and the rest of the track envelops you in its sonorous embrace, as it comes to a close I honestly feel like I have been changed inside for ever, emotionally cleansed by what I have just experienced.

What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.

Released 27th May 2016

Buy ‘We Are Left With a Song’ direct from the artist