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 Zhongyu by ZHONGYU album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Zhongyu
Zhongyu Eclectic Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars Review originally published at: www.therocktologist.com

This is a gem!

I have to thank Leonardo from Moonjune Records for introducing me to amazing bands / musicians / projects that nowadays are creating wonderful things. One of them is Zhongyu, this US project in which members of Moraine (a band I like a lot) team up with Jon Davis and Randy Doak in order to create an experimental and instrumental album that gives only satisfactory results, gathering the talent of its members and the cultural backgroun they have, in an album that has inherent Chinese motifs (such as the band's name or the cover art) and mandatory progressive arrangements in which bands such as King Crimson cannot go unnoticed.

Here we can enjoy 12 tracks and nearly an hour of experimental music made by veterans that have a lot to say and offer. It opens with "Apple of My Mind's Eye 2" a short and weird introduction that leads to "Tourture Chambers of Commerce" which since the first seconds shows a tense and dark atmosphere that later opens the road to a new journey, a journey full of colors and nuances that will bring to our memory the mighty King Crimson due to the stick and strings, including the amazing violin that puts even a more delicious condiment to an already incredible dish.

The oriental reminiscences come next with "Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted", in which a quite different sound appears, giving us calmer atmospheres and folkish passages created by typical oriental instruments and the exquisite use of wind instruments such as flute. One can easily enjoy the music and dive into the Chinese culture. "Hydraulic Fracas" is hypnotic, relaxing and mesmerizing at the same time. First it brings us a kind of chaotic flute introduction and then little by little other instruments joins and together build up a new structure that put some tension to the atmosphere. Some minutes later violin appear, and flute, guitar, bass and drums make together a solid experimental track for the likes of progressive rock lovers. "Tunnel at the End of Light" is a great exampe of what progressive and experimental rock are, taking in one hand some Crimsonian elements and in the other hand some RIO nuances

The Chinese motifs comeback with "Apple of My Mind's Eye 1" which is as short as its second (but first) part. "Half Remembered Drowning Dream" is a difficult song, I mean, it could be one of the weirdest tracks here due to its difference from the previous ones; here it has a soft sound and countless atmospheres that you either notice or unnotice, I must be honest but I did not catch it the first times I listened to it, in fact I don't really remember it sound, but I remember that it caused me some strange feelings. But well, the slow atmosphere continues in the first moments of "Sleepwalking the Dog", but later it becomes more interesting and spacey, reminding me of some Gong tunes.

"Wanderland Wonderlust" returns with oriental / Chinese reminiscences; folk passages beautifully created by violin, flute, strings and percussion, all the instruments, all the musicians have a crucial role in this song and in the whole album, all are equally important. This song is wonderful, in fact. "Cat Hair All Over It" is a short track in which stick speaks with guitar, creating an experimental dialogue in which later other instruments join. "MBBL" has a jazzy feeling which is almost mandatory due to the addition of a trumpet, howeverm, the word "experimental" is always present in Zhongyu's music, giving us vivid moments of avant-garde. The album finishes with "All Food Comes From China", which as you can imagine, bring back the traditional Chinese instruments and sound. Atmospheric, relaxing and introspective, a nice way to finish a pretty original and wonderful album, highly recommendable without a doubt.

Enjoy it!

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 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.59 | 42 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by poslednijat_colobar
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Return to Ommadawn rearranges Mike Oldfield's top 3 albums with a look to the top 1 spot of its conceptual predecessor

It is just inspiring to witness such a phenomenon with a legendary artist who produced plenty of mediocre albums recent years and now returns with a shining continuation of his sacred trademark after all these years and decades. I think Return to Ommadawn easily assumes the second place in Mike Oldfield's discography with its balanced refinement and grace of the sound and transition between the parts of both compositions. The mature energy and the particoloured harmony stream from the whole album. The Celtic folklore influence is beautifully blended with Mike Oldfield's typical progressive / new age / classic guitar style in an extremely intensively emotional whispering and weeping manner. The flow of the compositions is excellent. Each part interrupts exactly where it should. These are some of the components where Ommadawn II prevails over Ommadawn I. Of course, the rough youthful beauty of the simultaneous combination of all parts' ideas at the end of the first composition of Ommadawn I is unachievable at that age, but the passion here prevails. Personally I can't stop listen to this amazing album. Strongly recommended to all romantic warriors...

One of the best albums of the decade.

Potentially the best crossover prog album of all time.

Expressiveness at top level.

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 Morning Jigsaw by A FORMAL HORSE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Morning Jigsaw
A Formal Horse Heavy Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars So nice!

This is one of the things I love from internet. Last week A Formal Horse followed me on Twiter, I didn't know who they were but of course entered to their profile and read some of them, then I knew they were a band whose music might interest me so, what do you think I immediately did? I opened Spotify, searched them and found this wonderful 2015 EP entitled Morning Jigsaw which has left me happy and satisfied the three times I've listened to it so far.

This is a short EP that offers high quality music that has some elements of heavy prog with lighter passages in the vein of Bent Knee that might appeal to any fan of prog rock easy to dig. It opens with "Morning Jigsaw" which happens to be the longest song. It has some nice changes but overall shares a heavy spirit in the instrumental moments, with a cool bass sound by the way; but a heavy sound that contrasts when female vocals appear, producing tender textures and a beautiful range, her voice might remind you of Kate Bush, Paatos or Magenta in some ways. The sound is clearly modern progressive rock, hope you get me.

The combo "To The Beach" and "(And Not Back)" give us 5-6 nice minutes of cool catchy prog that anyone could enjoy no matter the mood. I like the power of guitars and drums contrasted with the voice of the singer. The second part is instrumental, bringing cool bass lines and a nice structure. All of a sudden these two tracks have finished, meaning I've enjoyed them. "The King" is my favorite track. I like its gentle sound, the guitars and how beautiful sound with the vocals. The first two minutes are calmer but then the guitars become more aggressive, adding that inherent heavy prog sound to the music of A Formal Horse. Its five minutes are incredible, beautiful. My favorite track, I repeat.

The album finishes with "Dim" which has a calm start but then all of a sudden becomes explosive, heavy and powerful so you might want to do the headbanging haha, this track wonderfully represents what the term "heavy prog" is, despite its soft and catchier moments, overall is a solid and powerful song that nicely finish this cool EP.

This is by no means the best thing I've ever heard, no, but I am really happy to have discovered their music thanks to a simple follow on social networks, so thank you guys for incidentally introducing me to your music.

Enjoy it!

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 1759 by RED SAND album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.18 | 13 ratings

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1759
Red Sand Neo-Prog

Review by tbstars1

2 stars I have followed Red Sand devotedly since Mirror of Insanity burst wondrously onto the prog scene over a decade ago. They are a great band and have delivered a succession of memorable releases ever since. It was therefore with significant anticipation that I settled down to listen to 1759, which, on the strength of the ratings distribution, currently rates as the band's finest offering so far. Ouch! Not so, to these ears, I'm afraid. I found it disjointed, almost plodding, with very little to tap into the memory banks. I'm sure there's a worthy structure and purpose in it all, and a meaningful story to be told, but that's not why I listen to music. I like to be transported. Sadly, setting aside a quite phenomenal (and all too short) blazing guitar attack towards the end of My Mind, very little stirred me - I just couldn't work out where it was all coming from or heading. Without doubt Red Sand's most disappointing release to date, in my opinion.

Not everyone likes more of the same, otherwise there can be no progression. So I guess I'm just a stick-in-the-mud. So be it. My Red Sand mud is warm and comforting. 1759 isn't.

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 Kogel Mogel by SOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.54 | 3 ratings

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Kogel Mogel
SOT RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Pretty nice, quirky and interesting!

I would like to thank Skjalg Reithaug for contacting me and introducing me to the world of SOT, this trio than in 2016 produced their third studio album entitled Kogel Mogel, whose dogma is: "all music is to be recorded live without any overdubs." This is a short release in which the band offers 9 tracks and a total time of 34 minutes in which we can feel an obvious sense of craziness and fun that are spread through guitar, drums, trumpets and vocals, mainly, accompanied by some other instruments.

The first song is "Tømmer" and I bet the vocals will be the first thing that hit your mind and memory here, they are funny. The work of the tuba is great, because it produces the sound of a bass guitar, of course one can notice is not a bass, but I, at least, don't miss it. This extraordinary work is present in "Salt 3/4", in moments reminding me a bit of Primus. The guitars and drums are great as well, I assume the name of Frank Zappa is truly familiar for the musicians. "Kjede Tegn" has a friendly repetitive rhythm that might be considered rock or avant-rock, sometimes guitars sound heavier which is great; and later they make a change, it is a bit slower but the presence of "fun" is inherent and that is more evident where the vocals appear.

In the next 3 songs the band introduces us to a new element, a sax player who creates new nuances and of course, change a little bit the direction of the music. "Strøsalt" is a slow track, with a jazzy feeling in which the sax is the main element. "Ekspertgraad" is a more explosive track that truly contrasts with its predecessor. Here there is a cool communion between drums, guitars, sax and tuba, all is fast at an unison, all is great. The sax participation finishes with "Ind", a song that is much different than the previous two (all of them are different, by the way). This time they produce a sexy and spacey sound

"Commandore" has an explosive start, with some rock and avant garde elements that are fulfilled by jazzy nuances and the fun element, adding even a kind of march sound at the end. "Byttomfot" starts with a new marching sound, drums, tuba and voices; later guitar joins, produce new elements with different tempo but then return for a split moment to the marching sound. This is a pretty cool track that I have enjoyed a lot, interesting and odd. The album finishes with "Elma", a relaxing song, I don't know if it could even fit under the new age genre, but it is totally different to the previous songs. This is atmospheric and peaceful. A song that clearly says goodbye and thanks.

Listen to it! You can have half an hour of good and different music that may open your mind, but I have to be honest and say that I would like to see some longer songs with more power, something that this album lacks in moments.

Enjoy it!

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 Amenophis by AMENOPHIS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.98 | 91 ratings

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Amenophis
Amenophis Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In the same year as Yes seemed to hammer the final nail into the coffin of their classic sound with 90125, Amenophis offered up a reinvigorated take on it on this delicious album. Not content to be a mere clone band, the German unit do an excellent job of updating the Yes approach both for 80s production standards and synthesisers. In particular, they seem to have a real knack for appreciating the particular properties and possibilities of 80s synthesisers, rather than making the error of simply treating them like fancy updated versions of 1970s synths, and they really go to town with exploring the possibilities of applying this to a mid-1970s Yes sound.

As well as the music, Amenophis also update their lyrical concerns for a new generation whilst still retaining the air of fantasy which was so appealing about Yes. This is perhaps best realised on The Last Requiem, in which 1980s concerns about a resurgence of the Cold War and a potential nuclear conflagration creep into the lyrical approach and also inform some spooky sections which, outside of The Gates of Delirium, Yes never approached in terms of atmosphere (though the music here is not quite so complex as that epic).

Although the followup would prove to be a major misstep, Amenophis' debut stands as a worthy contribution to the prog revival of the early 1980s, and in particular an interesting instance of a band incorporating sonic advances of the 1980s into a prog framework without sliding into full-blown neo-prog.

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 Just A Poke by SWEET SMOKE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.85 | 94 ratings

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Just A Poke
Sweet Smoke Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Nobody could accuse Sweet Smoke of being coy or subtle about their interests - with a band name, album title, and cover art like that, you know you're in for a jam so psychedelic that you can almost smell the bong smoke. Emerging from that early 1970s era where the border between psychedelic rock and progressive rock wasn't especially well-established, the group sits on the psychedelic side of the line whilst taking ample influence from the progressive side, with jazzy touches spicing up their performance and the album consisting of just two side-ling jams.

It's very much a product of its time, but it's a pretty decent product at that. There's a bit towards the end of the side 1 jam, Baby Night, where the performers coalesce into this great little cover of the Doors' Soft Parade, which I actually think is better than the Doors' own studio rendition of the song; their loose jam band take on it reinvests it with the acid rock wildness that the rather overpolite production on the Doors album of the same name robbed the composition of. Delicious stuff.

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 Alice in Wonderland by NEUSCHWANSTEIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.75 | 49 ratings

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Alice in Wonderland
Neuschwanstein Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is a bit of prog archaeology on the part of Musea. See, for a good long while Neuschwanstein were seen by much of the prog world as one-album wonders, with only the Battlement release to stand as evidence of their existence. However, the lucky few who had seen Neuschwanstein live back in the day knew that there was more to it than that - that they'd also developed a conceptual stage show based around the classic Alice In Wonderland story, and had indeed first come to the notice of the German prog scene by winning a competition with this creation. This album consists of demo recordings made in 1976 of the music and narration of the stage show.

Much like Happy the Man's Death's Crown or Soft Machine's Spaced, then, this is an archival release of material originally intended to accompany a visual performance on stage - and as with those releases, it's a little flawed as a result. Listeners will likely find the recording quality very frustrating; there's clearly some very nice Genesis-esque pastoral prog being played here, but with that appalling background hiss in the way it simply doesn't sound as good as it might have had it been recorded to a professional studio standard. And the occasional narration breaking up the instrumentals is a bit obtrusive and hurts the flow of things.

Uiltimately, listening to a piece like this you are only getting half the picture; like the albums I've mentioned (or, for that matter, Pink Floyd's The Wall), this was created with a particular visual experience in mind, and without those visuals the material is somewhat hampered. On top of that, the recording quality just cuts the album's legs out from under it. It's a testament to Neuschwanstein's talents that it still sounds pretty good despite all that, but this is very much a shiny curiosity rather than a long-lost classic.

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 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.59 | 42 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by franp

4 stars Hey Mike you did it right this time ! This is not a full return to Ommadown actually; reminescences of the Distant Earth songs are lying there obviously. But hey, now for sure you got rid of your 90ies and new millelium errances and deliver pleasure and dream again !

Curiously, the overall tone reminds me of the "Instrumental side" of the little known "The complete" compilation : Arrival, William Tell Overture, In Dulci Jubilo, Portsmouth, Guilty ... Not these songs, but the feeling of the side as a whole...

This feeling has a name : Joy. This album is joyfull. Think joyfuyll the way Mozart wrote in is early years.

From a progressive point of view my only regrets would be a relative lack of dynamics on both sides, and the lack of development of some themes. I cannot give it a full 5 but a solid 4 and believe it ranks among the top five better MO album.

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 Magic Bus by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.49 | 21 ratings

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Magic Bus
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Magic Bus' debut album is an absolutely delightful excursion into mildly Canterbury-flavoured hippie prog. Take Caravan at around the time of In the Land of Grey and Pink and imagine where they would have gone if, instead of taking their sound in a jazzier direction as on Waterloo Lily, they had instead looked back to their psychedelic roots and injected the fairytale tone of Grey and Pink with a bit of West Coast sunshine and maybe a slice of early Steve Hillage; the place you end up may well be along the Magic Bus's route.

This debut album is a charming excursion into a realm of warm, comfy, psychedelic Canterbury-flavoured prog whose benign nature conceals some really neat instrumental chops. It's fantastic to hear some new musicians taking up the baton of this side of prog, and I can only hope there are many more stops for the Magic Bus along its journey.

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 La Terra by AKTUALA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.70 | 29 ratings

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La Terra
Aktuala Prog Folk

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Aktuala were an Italian band that operated between 1973 and 1976, initially led by husband and wife duo Walter and Laura Maioli, both collectors of ancient and ethnic instruments, but including additional musicians who together recorded three sublime `world music' albums in their short period active. 1974's `La Terra' saw Laura depart, but Walter had gathered together many of the same musicians from the debut again as well as new contributors, and, much like their self-titled debut, it's a fully instrumental mix of acoustic raga-rock/prog folk with strong elements of jazz, psychedelic and Krautrock-like sounds, just given a more fully developed focus throughout the four improvisations on offer.

Eight minute opener `Mina' is instantly spirited and lively, as hazy harmonica, frantic acoustic guitar strums, darting sax and exotic percussion weave joyfully together, only slowing down momentarily for the briefest of meditative thoughtful breaks in the middle before finally rising in rapturous glory. `Mud' initially reminds of the early Deuter albums, faraway psych flute wisps flitting about over a gentle rumbling of tabla and thrumming acoustic guitars laced with a dusty mystery, before morphing into a wild outburst of horns and sax jazziness and culminating in a searing bow crescendo that reminds of the dirty violin peppered throughout the early Amon Duul discs. Side B's `Sar' opens as a dreamy wash of swirling harp and twirling flute before carefully building into a breathless experimental Popul Vuh-esque energetic ethnic acoustic drone with ripples of spiralling ringing percussion. The title track `La Terra', the longest piece here at over ten minutes, concocts a lethargic sunny air of groaning sitar and a tinkling of chimes that gradually lurches to life with clipping tabla, floating sax drifts, unwinding harp and world-weary chants twisting into overwhelming mantra-like themes.

The recent GDR CD reissue from 2013 adds a bonus track in the form of `Dagli Etruschi a Picasso', taken from a 2003 solo album by flautist Walter Maioli. It would probably be better if these unrelated pieces weren't added on simply to pad out the shorter original running time of these sort of albums, but thankfully it's a lovely droning Etruscan flute piece that perfectly compliments the vintage material and doesn't sound out of place at all. The CD comes with a lavish Italian language booklet that includes rare photos, as well as highlighting poster art of the Villa Pamphili festival that ran between the 20-24th September 1974, where Aktuala got to perform alongside other many notable Italian acts such as Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Murple, Il Volo, Biglietto per L'Inferno, Ibis, Jumbo, Semiramis, Perigeo, Samadhi, Sensations' Fix and others - some fine company right there!

`La Terra' is usually considered Aktuala's defining musical statement, and it's not hard to see why considering how it has a stronger sense of direction and purpose. Perhaps the debut has slightly stronger psychedelic passages, a few more delicious hints of danger and longer sparse moments without as many instruments playing in unison, but this follow-up still manages occasional welcome unhinged bursts and maintains the evocative spiritual and meditative traits of the first work. Fans of bands such as Embryo, the Third Ear Band and Oregon will be excited by much of what this group does, so too those that love the early albums of Agitation Free and Deuter. Listeners of world music, ethnic-flavoured psychedelic sounds and even the more meditative moments of Krautrock should absolutely explore this obscure little Italian collective, whose small but precious and eclectic discography are well overdue for some renewed exposure.

Four stars

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 Deadly Care (OST) by TANGERINE DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.08 | 18 ratings

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Deadly Care (OST)
Tangerine Dream Progressive Electronic

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

2 stars This is one of the many movie soundtracks released by Tangerine Dream in the '80s. Actually Christopher Franke was still in duo with Edgar Froese.

I haven't seen the movie, but I guess it was quite a sad story. The music is extremely melodic, with no rhythm at all. Apart of few tracks like in example "The Hospital Room" whose first half reminded me of Camel's RAIN DANCES, there's very few in this album that scores only 33 minutes in length, also considering that some tracks contain reprises and quotes from the main theme.

"More Pills" is another 1 minute track which could have been extended, but unfortunately it remains just a sort of false start. I mean that taken one by one they are decent, but none of them can be remembered after the first listen, if not for the title track which has several reprises.

This music was likely appropriate for a movie which, I have read, is about a nurse in a war zone getting involved in drugs. From a progressive point of view it's absolutely non-essential. Not the worst thing released by TD in that period, but it can be forgotten in the huge production of this kind in these years.

Forgettable.

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 Quarteto 1111 by QUARTETO 1111 album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.32 | 10 ratings

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Quarteto 1111
Quarteto 1111 Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

3 stars Review Nº 103

"Quarteto 1111" is the eponymous debut studio album of Quarteto 1111 and was released in 1970. From the sound of groups inspired by The Shadows, Quarteto 1111 was born. They became a very different case in the Portuguese music, not only due to the use of Portuguese language, which was unusual at the time, but also because musically it was a very different band from the others. They closed themselves in a garage one year and half to make this album.

First of all, before to talk about the album, it's very important to know the conditions of the life in my country in those troubled times to can understand better the appearance of this progressive rock band named Quarteto 1111. Portugal lived a very difficult dictatorial political regime with censorship. One of the main slogans of Salazar's regime was, "orgulhosamente sós" (proud to be alone). This meant that we could live alone and isolated from the rest of the world and that we could be proud of that. We also lived in difficult times because we were in war in our African colonies, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, with their liberation movements who claimed for freedom and independence.

So, it was in those troubled times that appeared Quarteto 1111, which was the first progressive rock band in Portugal. It was founded in 1967 in Estoril, a place near Lisbon. It's also one of the most influential progressive rock bands in Portugal. The Beatles and The Shadows were the main inspiration for the most bands and Quarteto 1111 wasn't an exception. The group had many problems with censorship, because of songs that were politically charged and contested. They released their debut work with the same name in 1970. The album was sent off the market by the Committee of Censorship. In 1974 the band released "Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê, Cantamos Pessoas Vivas", an album strongly influenced by progressive rock groups like King Crimson, Renaissance, Yes and Genesis.

So, in the early of 1970, Quarteto 1111 released their self-titled debut conceptual album, which deals with racism issues, immigration and the colonial war. Troubled by the interventionism of the issues to the dictatorial regime, the censorship removed the album from the market in the same week of its release, preventing the contact with what would be one of the best albums of the Portuguese music, in those times, able to compete in boldness, quality and innovation, with what was created abroad at the time, all over the world. Those were really troubled times, indeed. But unfortunately, even today and in some places, we live yet in a world like this. It seems that we aren't able to learn with history.

Lyrically, the album deals especially with three main characteristics. First, all its lyrics are in Portuguese, which is a usual trademark of the group. Later they began to sing in English trying the internationalization with songs such as "Back To The Country" and "Ode To The Beatles", which were released as singles. Second, the usual use of lyrics of some of the greatest Portuguese poets, which is the case of "As Trovas Do Vento Que Passa" with a poem of Manuel Alegre, a great Portuguese contemporaneous poet, which became a very important symbolic song, a kind of a symbol of the resistance of the Portuguese University students against the dictatorship regime in Portugal. Third, the focus of the lyrics in the issues mentioned by me, such as, the immigration with "João Nada", "Domingo Em Bidonville" and "Estrada Para A Minha Aldeia" or the racism issues with "Pigmentação", "Maria Negra" and "Escravatura".

Musically, the album is heavily influenced by the psychedelic and folk styles. However and while retaining the band's initial psych-folk heritage, this album of Quarteto 1111 goes deeper into a psychedelic through magnetic tape experimentation effects, and also a more clear influence from the mid-60's jazz and R&B. The songs range from the folk of "João Nada" or the version of "Trovas Do Vento Que Passa" of Adriano Correia de Oliveira (another great Portuguese poet), through the soul of "Pigmentação", the funk madness of "A Fuga Dos Grilos", the pop of "Estrada Para A Minha Aldeia" or the psychedelia of "Maria Negra". The album represented an escape from the narrowness of a country which was not interested in change, remaining at the same time inextricably linked to it or what it could do.

Conclusion: This eponymous debut album of Quarteto 1111 is a very good album to get where José Cid get started in the world of the progressive rock music. We mustn't forget that Portugal was never a hotbed of progressive rock. So, this album of Quarteto 1111, despite be more a psychedelic and pop album, represents the beginning of the progressive rock in Portugal. We can say that it was a kind of a breath of fresh air in Portugal, at the time. It represents the beginning of the good things that would appear in the next years, after the fall of the dictatorship regime, in 1974, by the revolution that came to be known as the Carnation Revolution. So, this album opens the door to some of the best progressive albums ever made in Portugal in the 70's, like "Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê, Cantamos Pessoas Vivas" of Quarteto 1111, "10.000 Anos Anos Depois Entre Vénus E Marte" of José Cid, "Mestre" of Petrus Castrus, "Dos Benefícios Dum Vendido No Reino Dos Bonifácios" of Banda Do Casaco and "Mistérios E Maravilhas" of Tantra.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Masque by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.65 | 445 ratings

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Masque
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars A mixed bag of an album - one wonders whether the title was Kansas' sneaky way of letting the world know that this didn't represent their real identity, but merely offered a veneer of commerciality for the sake of appeasing their record company. It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man) is just as vapid a piece of mid-1970s hard rock as the title implies, with occasional organ breaks from Steve Walsh which feel like a pastiche of Tony Kaye's playing on the Yes Album, only less prominent because we can't turn off those MOR radio listeners, can we?

From there the album veers between chasing a broader audience and catering to those fond of their more progressive style; Two Cents Worth feels like a failed attempt to mimic Steely Dan, for instance, whilst on tracks like Icarus (Bourne on Wings of Steel) or concluding micro-epic The Pinnacle the band offer polished, quality progressive pieces which demonstrate where their affections truly lie. It's only on such pieces that Kansas feel like they're actually expressing a distinct personality, rather than masquerading as one chart-topping AOR outfit or another.

Because of the presence of the superior pieces, this album isn't a complete waste of time, but at the same time it's rather badly sabotaged by the presence of some real clunkers, with the result that even if you are sold on Kansas' particular style of progressive rock, you may well find that you're better served if you can find a decent compilation or live album covering the better numbers from here and leaving the album itself on the shelf.

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 As The Flower Withers by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.60 | 47 ratings

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As The Flower Withers
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Although subsequent albums like Turn Loose the Swans seem to be regarded as the peak of early My Dying Bride, it's actually this debut album of theirs which has won me around to their brand of death-doom. I suspect the reason it's often overlooked is that it has a somewhat simpler, stripped-down sound: there's still some violin, but it's not especially promiment, and the vocals only come from Aaron Stainthorpe and they are mostly in a death growl. But with their sound pared back like this, you can really appreciate the group's ability to switch between slow, doomy gloom and faster death metal-oriented playing at the drop of a hat. It isn't without its issues - in particular, I think Rick Miah's drum sound is occasionally a bit thin - but it's a solid start for the band and enough to prompt me to take a second look at them.

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 The Angel And The Dark River by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.76 | 61 ratings

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The Angel And The Dark River
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Angel and the Dark River is a refinement and purification of the Goth-doom approach My Dying Bride prototyped on Turn Loose the Swans. With the death metal influences leeched out, the band present a mixture of reasonably slow riffs (though not as slow or heavy as the sort of material stoner doom and traditional doom bands typically play) with lyrics intoned in a mournful voice. Neither this album or its predecessor really click with me, but I think this one comes a bit closer - having settled on a particular musical direction, the band go all-out to capture it and the desired atmosphere.

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 Revelator by ROZ VITALIS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.70 | 23 ratings

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Revelator
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The early, more experimental-oriented stuff of the instrumental Russian act Roz Vitalis really isn't for me. And once again, after reviewing Compassionzer (2007), I'm a bit disappointed for this album not to resemble more notably the excellent, finely produced Lavoro d'Amore (2015). I can repeat my thoughts on slightly hollow sound, playful but rather nonsense keyboard-centred compositions and the overall direction for the better. First, the list of five musicians looks better than how the album actually sounds. This is to say that keyboard player and main composer Ivan Rozmainsky keeps the spotlight too much on himself, ie. the arrangements still leave guitars, flutes and rhythm section way too much in the background. Or is it just amateurish production that makes the sound somewhat cold?

The opening title track is a typical slice of RV: lots of changes in tempo without the certain flow. The music feels like a backing for an avantgardish silent film of slapstick. 'Warm Tuesday' starts as a pretty, moody tune in which acoustic and electric guitars play softly, and wanders into the more eclectic direction. The Finnish album Ultramarine (2000) by GROOVECTOR comes to my mind, but Roz Vitalis's music lacks the similar symphonically structured, natural flow. The next track is nothing but that hollow-sounding organ quirkiness. 'Painsadist (Hit Version)' has a humorous title but although the rest of the band is well involved, the track gives nothing to me. 'Underfrog': flute and bass have their nice supporting roles in this cold, swampy silliness. Delicate 'Midwinter Tulips' starring piano and acoustic guitar is a highlight and a breath of fresh air, and it's short enough not to suddenly shift into the typical RV style.

Perhaps the album gets better towards the end and slightly increases the emotional substance in melodies, but for my taste there's still too much of that slapstick flavour around. The closing track 'Silver Melting' is another ambience-oriented moody highlight. For the most part this album remains quite meaningless to me, but I can recommend it to avant-minded listeners who are less emotionally oriented than me.

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 A Rainbow In Curved Air by RILEY, TERRY album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.31 | 51 ratings

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A Rainbow In Curved Air
Terry Riley Prog Related

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars This is without a doubt a landmark in the world of minimalist music, and perhaps one of the finest examples of the style you're going to hear. I am not going to get into some intellectual ramblings, which seems to be a big habit when many review his music. I don't have some fancy PhD or from an upper-middle class background, what concerns me is the music. This album no doubt had a huge impact on the progressive electronic scene. You can notice the influence of this album and Terry Riley in general on Galactic Explorers' Epitaph For Venus (you can get this on CD on the Psi-Fi label), for example, and mid period Tangerine Dream probably would not be where they were without Riley. Outside the progressive electronic world Soft Machine was inspired by this. Make no doubt that "Out Bloody Rageous ", for example has this album written all over it, especially all those droning organs and those electric piano passages. "A Rainbow in Curved Air" (the track) features a bunch of overlapping organ and electric harpsichords, it seems a lot of tape loops are being used to create some of these effects heard here. He appears to use a Yamaha organ, rather than the standard Hammond organ. "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" features not just his reed playing, but a droning organ. This piece is really dark and ominous. It's hard to believe the recordings came out in 1969 (but composed some time earlier, apparently around 1966-67). it's definitely much more in tune with the next decade, as far removed from flower power, and images of psychedelic painted VW buses, as you can imagine but still have a psychedelic trip, but hardly a pop psychedelic trip like you would the Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints". This is nothing short of an essential album that's a must have.

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 Total Absence by FATAL FUSION album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.43 | 34 ratings

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Total Absence
Fatal Fusion Crossover Prog

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

2 stars Vintage prog with limitations

It is difficult to categorise Fatal Fusion judging from this disc; vintage prog is probably the most accurate description since the sounds clearly rises from the 70's. From hard rock-infused riffs, to organ and hammond-filled passages, the band clearly show their keeness on keeping to their roots.

There is a mutiltude of elements and styles in their, otherwise stuck-to-the-roots, crossover prog. There are bombastic, epic intros (The Gates of Ishtar), heavy rock fantasy-driven tunes (Shadow of the King), fusionesque and uptempo melodies (Astral Flight), nostalgic low tempo tracks in the vein of Blood Ceremony (Forgotten One, The Emperor's Letter) and long epics guided by the giants of the 70's such as Pink Floyd and Genesis (Endless Ocean Blue and Total Absence). Hammond and organ dominate the sound of the album while the guitars and drums generate a more demo-like feeling, and it is unclear if this was intended or is a production limitation. Although it does stand out, it does somehow blend with the atmosphere.

Hints of Deep Purple and (more) of Wishbone Ash, some fantasy Neo-prog sounds in the vein of Marillion and a heavy rock Sabbathy mood are the strongest characteristics of Total Absence, which suffers from a major flaw: the vocals appear distinctly ''in-front'' and harsh - not out of tune but out of shape, they could put you off from enjoying this album. Perhaps this is why I find the instrumental track as the highlight of this album. Not that the rest of the music is overtly impressive: yes, the players are skilled but the tunes lack inspiration and innovation, charting on a well-trodden path. Had it not been for the vocals, I might have given this a few more chances, but as it stands it is very difficult to go back, other than spinning the enjoyable Astral Flight. Fans of vintage prog might find more to like than I did.

2.5

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 By The Way by FRUMPY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.29 | 42 ratings

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By The Way
Frumpy Eclectic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After disagreements over musical directions of the band, founder member and main character of the band, keyboardist Jean Jacques Kravetz left the band and released a solo album (with vocalist Inga Rumpf singing on one track). This was a major blow, since his heavy Hammond frills were the Frumpy´s trademark up till then. Although he did came back in time for the recording of their third LP his input was minimal in terms of songwriting, Rumpf taking much of the that role herself. The presence of another keyboards-man, Ervwin kani suggests he did not played on all tracks, although there is no way to find out which ones, if that´s the case. Anyway, By The Way is a much more guitar based record than their previous efforts. Strangely on some CD editions guitarist is not mentioned, making some people believe, wrongly, that Inga Rumpf took all the guitar duties (she did played some acosutic guitar on this album though). But all the electric guitar oarts are played by the same Rainer Baumann as before. The difference now is that he had much more room to expand his skills and he does that very well, by the way (no pun intended).

As for the songs, themselves they are a little more simpler and more "radio friendly" (for the time) than their previous works, with Rumpf´s vocals reaching a new level of versatility and range. She does remind me of a german version of Babe Ruth´s great Jenny Haan. But there´s just enough keyboards here to satisfy most old fans. And it kind of showed new paths this band could travel if they had stick together. Unfortunately this was not to be, Frumpy breaking up soon after this album was out. Rumpf, Kravetz and bassist Karl Heinz Schott joining forces for their next project, the equally interesting and good Atlantis (sadly still not here on PA).

Although different from the two previous CDs, By The Way proved Frumpy could manage a very fine record without the "Kravetz sound". All songs are good and there was more experiments (specially on the guitar parts), with songs like Release and Singing Songs proving that they had all the chops and talented needed to be on par with the best hard rock bands of the time. It is only a shame they never realize their full potential as an international act, nor got the recognition they surely deserved.

Rating: if PA was a hard rock site this would be a 4 or even 4.5 stars rate, but as it is I can only give it 3,5 stars, Very good but not really essential in terms of prog music. If do like the style, however, you should check out this forgotten gem.

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 The Mountain of Fate by OBERON album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 3 ratings

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The Mountain of Fate
Oberon Crossover Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Visions for people who still want to dream, and listen..."

That quote is from their web page. Oberon is the performance duo of Yuri Crescenzio and Alberto Baretta of Padua, Italy, two young guys with big creative dreams. You can hear it through and through on this delightful debut album, a conceptual work rooted in Greek mythology but seeking to comment on modern dysfunctions as well. The guys are lovers of many classic bands and have sought to create a retro-sound work that provides new adventures for other fans of those days. Prog snobs, bless their hearts, may look down their noses at bands they call "derivative" but I could care less whether a band is seeking to be "progressive." I'm a music fan first.

I was cracking a smile almost from the git-go over what was coming at me. I love it when I hear this kind of pure musical excitement from a band. They are all-over-the-map in the best way, drawing from sounds as divergent as medieval folk, stoner psych-rock, and dark symphonic. I hear bits of Jacula, Spiral, Akron, Hero, Spettri, Fiaba, as well as many vintage RPI bands who would incorporate heavy with acoustic. The production is somewhat primitive sounding but as I mentioned they were going for a 70s underground vibe here I believe, so it works just fine. No gloss is needed for this kind of adventure.

Between the hard rock sections of doomy, at times Sabbath-ey sounding drums and guitar, there are these wonderful breaks where you just drift away to acoustic guitar interludes. The other secret weapon are the spirited vocals of Elena Dainese, bringing some female energy for a nice variation of the sound palette. Her only mistake is singing in English -- it really should be some kind of international artistic crime whenever Italian bands use English. To possess the world's most beautiful language but not use it. Tragic. Nevertheless, the album succeeds anyway. My favorite element here is the fantastic, trippy keyboard parts, providing such rich atmosphere and taking the sound well beyond hard rock. The tracks can be mysterious and classically tinged one moment and driving riffage the next, then off into a dreamy break. The last track is a 9-minute, 4-part suite which will please any fan of heavy keyboard embellished art-rock.

While there is always room for improvement I have to say I was truly charmed by Oberon. These days, I find I appreciate these kinds of passionate homemade projects over the sprawling and stuffy 80 minute, super refined, over-produced monsters. Instead of it being a chore to get through, this album is a joy. In the HamelinProg blog Yuri speaks about his pride in the finished work, where two young men punched through their dream without allowing the inevitable obstacles stand in their way. I can hear their heart beating throughout this work.

I wish them the best on their next album coming in 2017. Kudos to Salus Art for the enchanting album cover.

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 Wintergatan by WINTERGATAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.92 | 3 ratings

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Wintergatan
Wintergatan Crossover Prog

Review by Kingsnake

5 stars Finally Wintergaten made it into the Progarchives.

This band is really something special. They experiment with all kinds of (sometimes selfmade) instruments, using typewriters as drummachines etc.

Most of the songs are short and have a swedish folk-influence. Sometimes they use accordeon to give a it folkish feel. Some songs sound more like synthpop. But all songs are instrumental so it's never really pop. They use different and difficult rhythms and tempo changes throughout the songs to make it sound really progressive.

Apart from the shorter songs, the band created a real progessive epic, clocking at almost 15 minutes, wich starts beaufitful and serene an ends with a heavy distorted guitar and thunderous drums. In this song the listener goes through all kinds of moods and tempos but always the band maintain real nice melodies.

The band members are really gifted and skillful but they never lose themselves in narcisistic soloiing. This album is the brightest and most complete progressive rock album I have heard in decades. It sounds fresh, playfull, warm and sympathetic. This album can be played on repeat, over and over again.

Really recommended to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

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 F E A R (F*** Everyone And Run) by MARILLION album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.70 | 192 ratings

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F E A R (F*** Everyone And Run)
Marillion Neo-Prog

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars A new renaissance for Marillion!

My relationship with Marillion has been an idle one for quite a few years now. I'm a big fan of the classic Fish era material and do enjoy the early Hogharth era releases up until Afraid Of Sunlight, yes that includes the somewhat controversial Holidays In Eden. After 1995 the band continued their cycle of album releases which to me sounded pretty bland and unfocused. The band did manage to get praise for the 2004 release Marbles but I'm still not entirely sure why it's such a popular release. Maybe it has to do with the band finally getting their first cohesive release in years? After two more releases Marillion finally hit rock bottom with the release of Less Is More, a studio album which consisted of new acoustic arrangements of some previously released tracks. To me it sounded like the band was no longer even trying to make any new creative choices and instead were just pandering to their existing fanbase.

Then something happened with the release of Sounds That Can't Be Made, which partly could be attributed to Steve Hogharth's strong lyrics that moved away from his otherwise very personal reflections and became more concerned with the world of today. I remember hearing Power for the first time at a concert and taken by the delivery and message of the new material. After listening to the entire Sounds That Can't Be Made I was definitely impressed by many of the compositions but there were still a few lesser tracks that dragged the overall experience for me.

Four years passed and a new Marillion album was beginning to make headlines. At first I was only barely enthusiastic about the news, writing off Sounds That Can't Be Made as a minor spark in the band's catalog and assuming that they'll get back to business as usual on F E A R... how wrong it was of me to assume this! After hearing the EP The New Kings, which predated the release by a few month, my mind definitely began to change since what I was hearing on this four part suite was a more aggressive and revitalized band. Musically the material is fueled by genius keyboard arrangements by Mark Kelly, which don't distract from the overall flow of the music while creating just enough groove for the other band members to contribute to. Steve Rothery performs some of his most memorable guitar work in years, which could be attributed to the new energy that he's received by working on his solo work with the Steve Rothery band. Ultimately it's Steve Hogharth's lyrics and vocal performance that completes the material and makes it some of the most memorable work from Marillion in decades!

The album consists of merely six compositions, three of which take up more than 75 % of the album time and thus are the backbone of this marvelous album. Of the three I probably enjoy El Dorado and The New Kings the most but The Leavers is not far behind the other two. These three compositions have an overall theme that reflects upon the current state of affairs in the world and taps in the dark side of the politics and world economy. The three remaining shorter songs are by no means lesser than the rest and manage to complete the transitions between the multi suite tracks. Living In F E A R is probably my least favorite composition on the album but it's mostly due to it's last 2 minutes which, in my opinion, could have been omitted from the track. White Paper is my favorite of the "shorter" tracks due to it's sleek progression, which almost makes it a multi suite in a mini format, and the strong melodic hooks in the vocal delivery. Tomorrow's New Country finishes off the album with an epilogue and makes me wonder whether this is the new direction that Marillion is planning to expand on in the future? I guess only time will tell.

To me F E A R is the best Marillion album since the 1987 release of Clutching At Straws but the journey here was long and quite a bumpy one. Please give this album at least three spins before making your judgment. For me it took more than 10 repeated listens for the tracks to settle into what I now consider an excellent release from one of the under-appreciated band's of modern progressive rock.

***** star songs: F E A R (4:07) The Grandchildren Of Apes (2:35) Vapour Trails In The Sky (4:49) White Paper (7:18) Fuck Everyone And Run (4:22) Russia's Locked Doors (6:24) Why Is Nothing Ever True? (3:24)

**** star songs: Long-Shadowed Sun (1:26) The Gold (6:13) Demolished Lives (2:23) Living In F E A R (6:25) Wake Up In Music (4:27) The Remainers (1:34) The Jumble Of Days (4:20) One Tonight (3:56) A Scary Sky (2:33) Tomorrow's New Country (1:47)

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 Plankton: A Fruits de Mer Collection by VARIOUS ARTISTS (LABEL SAMPLERS) album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2013
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Plankton: A Fruits de Mer Collection
Various Artists (Label Samplers) Various Genres

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars UK label Fruits de Mer Records started out back in 2008, with a clear concept in mind and learning the skills of marketing along the way. From the initial phase of being more or less ignored, in the span of a few years they have established themselves as a strong name in their specific field of the music business. The compilation "Plankton" features a selection of material released in the first two years of the label's existence, initially made as a cover CD for Record Collector Magazine in 2013 and then in late 2016 also made available to buy as a regular CD from the label itself.

As usual the quality of the material is good to excellent, and for those with an interest or passion for vintage style psychedelic rock it'll be quite the pleasant experience indeed. From a psyched up take on George Martin's classic Theme One to a cover of Brian Eno's Baby's on Fire there's great variety in the source material covered, ranging from pastoral excursions and 60's psychedelic pop/rock to vintage space rock and krautrock. Tracks originally from Pink Floyd and Amon Duul II representing the latter, while Tudor Lodge and Strawberry Alarm Clock are examples of the former. As they are presented in these cover versions at least: I haven't checked with the originals to hear just how much these reinterpretations are different from the originals.

In my view there's one cut here that stands a head and a shoulder above the rest though, namely Vibravoid's take on Pink Floyd's classic Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. A firmly retro-oriented take on this track, with a plethora of odd and eerie sounds, but with a firmer and more concise delivery that adds a tension and hardness to this track that manage to elevate the sheer cosmic nature of the song and a highly appealing manner.

If you have an interest in psychedelic rock, be it progressive or not, this is a fine collection of material of classic tracks and forgotten jewels from yesteryear as explored and performed by contemporary artists. Those with an interest for material of this kind should not be disappointed by the material presented here.

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 Spiral Revelation by ROACH, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.51 | 3 ratings

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Spiral Revelation
Steve Roach Progressive Electronic

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Cool, attractive and tactically low keyed, but nevertheless totally creative cosmic-pulse driven electronics, coming from an always daring as prolific musician like Steve Roach is good news from any progressive electronic angle one can look into.

When this kind of sophistication occurs, everything turns to the basic premise of music composition. How well can you write enticing, deep and personal melody lines, which no matter when or how presented should trascend their natural state of sound to become tri-dimensional entities as real as our apparently solid flesh and bones? And of course be unique in doing so. Small feat!

"Spiral Revelation" released at the end of 2016 kind of makes up for a year of very few really surprising prog/electronic releases and does so with a bang!

*****5 "FULL" PA stars.

When the word "SPIRAL" appears in any of Steve Roach's albums, something is really cooking!

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 Stolen Thoughts by RETROSPECTIVE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.98 | 21 ratings

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Stolen Thoughts
Retrospective Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars This 2008 album was the debut from Polish group Retrospective, and is a concept about the growth of a child into adulthood, and the loss of imagination, innocence and carelessness that comes it. I was incredibly impressed with the follow-up 'Lost In Perception', which came out in 2012, but it has taken me a while to look backwards, and I am glad that I did. Musically they have been heavily inspired by their counterparts Riverside, yet there are also elements of Muse and Porcupine Tree in music that is often dark and mysterious. It is strange to think that there are two guitarists at play here, as it is all about bringing the right emotional content to the music as opposed to crunching out the riffs. Łukasz Marszałek on bass is also very much a key player to the band, as he underpins what is going on with wonderful counterpoint, while guitarists Maciej Klimek and Alan Szczepaniak are often matching him. The production on the drums of Robert Kusik is strong and clean, while keyboard player Beata Łagoda uses many different styles, switching to piano when it is the optimum time to do so.

So, the music is both powerful and emotional, and it needs a very special voice indeed to rise over this, and here there is the lustrous rich and edgy baritone of Jakub Roszak. Many singers cut through music like a knife, thin and powerful, reaching heights that many cannot imagine, while here Jakub is a thick carpet ? joined to the music beneath him, and with a power and breadth that cannot be contained. Will there ever be an end to the amazing prog bands coming out of Poland? I certainly hope not

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 Future Awaits by RC2 album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.98 | 27 ratings

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Future Awaits
RC2 Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars RC2 was formed in Caracas, Venezuela, during 1999 following the break-up of Radio Clip, a popular act that released four albums in Venezuela between 1988 and 1994, selling thousands of albums, having number 1 singles and Gold records on the Venezuelan charts. Radio Clip started off as quite a pop-oriented outfit, but became much heavier throughout their career. After three of the members left, Arturo Torres (bass) and Félix Duque (lead vocals) decided that they wanted to keep working together, and brought in some more musicians and the group moved more into a progressive rock direction, and they changed the name. It was again put on hold when Arturo moved to the States, but the rest of ythe guys decided to continue, and the line-up stabilised with Félix, Eduardo Benatar (drums), Demian Mejicano (guitar), Rafael Paz (keyboards) and Pedro Misle (bass). Their history is rather unusual and complex, has involved such minor things such as people moving to Spain, playing their first concert only after they had been together for four years, then later landing the opening slot for Dream Theater in Venezuela only for their current guitarist to be unavailable, so their previous guitarist (who hadn't played with them for five years) rehearsed with them for three days to get the job done!

'Future Awaits' was their second album, and the first to be performed in English. Apparently the debut, which was released some five years prior to this one, was very much in the prog metal camp, but this is much more symphonic in nature. Mauricio Barroeta had replaced Demian, but the rest of the line-up remained the same. I wasn't sure what to expect from a Venezuelan progtressive rock act, but it certainly wasn't a delicate and symphonic album with as much strenhgth and depth as this one. The drums and bass are much higher in the mix, and Edurado in particular has produced an incredibly dominant performance ? he understands the impact he has, so there are complete sectins where he doesn't play at all, and others where he is providing much more of a polyrhythmic performance that one would normally expect from this style of music.

All the songs are infectious, compelling, and totally enjoyablel on first hearing. It is hard to imagine that apparently the music was written and recorded with none of the lyrics or even the melody lines worked out beforehand. The instrumental "El Diablo Suelte" is a load of fun, and is easily the most South American thing out there, with some wonderful picked guitar lines, and is that a ukelele I hear? There is a lot here to enjoy, and fans of bands such as Genesis, Kansas and Styx and even The Flower Kings will get a lot out of this.

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 All Life is One by ELEGANT SIMPLICITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.91 | 3 ratings

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All Life is One
Elegant Simplicity Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars The first thing one notices when studying this 2015 release is the large number of performers taking part, and the second thing is that neither of Steven's long-time collaborators, Ken Senior and Christopher Knight, have a part to play on this album (although apparently, they were involved with the original demos). It is also quite a short album, in that it is only just over forty minutes in length, although originally it was destined to be more than an hour. But although it is shorter, it is easily one of the most diverse that multi- instrumentalist Steven McCabe has released so far. Sometimes it is just him, sometimes he may have a drummer and a singer, but this time we have a whole host of guests: he hasn't even provided bass on this album, but instead has used three different bassists in Jair- Rohm Parker Wells, Damjan Kapor and Justin Bassman. Nathaniel Graham provides the drums, with David Lipari Jr on vocals, but the biggest difference to the overall sound is the use of other musicians who have been invited to take part. With William Stewart (violin), Nathan Madsen (saxophone), Allen Bruce Ray (native American flutes) and Hendrick Valera (flute) there is a far greater depth and diversity to the sound than previously apparent.

Of course, at the heart of this is still Steven's fluid guitar and deft keyboards, but this time there is more for him to play against and with. He can be belting away with great over the top axework as on "Falling To The Ground", and then Nathan demands to make an entrance and the piece is transformed. There are still heavy Camel influences, particularly with some wonderfully dated keyboard sounds combining with the great guitars. Polished, dynamic, one must wonder what is going to be next for ES. Will the next album continue in the same vein, or will it be back to more of a multi-instrumentalist style? We must wait and see, but until then I will enjoy this polished melodic progressive rock album that is a sheer joy to listen to.

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 Enraptured E.P by ELEGANT SIMPLICITY album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2014
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Enraptured E.P
Elegant Simplicity Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Steven McCabe has been pursuing his musical path as Elegant Simplicity for more than twenty years now, sometimes solo, and sometimes with some guest musicians. This three track EP was released in 2014, and he brought in two different drummers to assist, but apart from that this short instrumental release is all Steven. Immediately before playing this for the first time I had been playing the 2014 remaster of his 2002 album 'Architect Of Light', and they are completely different entities altogether, with this being far more reflective and almost gentle in manner. Two of the pieces are just over four minutes in length, while opener "Enraptured I" just gets to ninety seconds. For fans of classic Camel, this release is a taster of the delights of what is now a comprehensive canon. I have known Steven since the days of his cassette releases (which I still have!), and I have yet to hear something of his that I don't like. His beautiful guitar solos, against perfectly balanced keyboards and piano, make this EP a delight

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 Hegaiamas: A Song for Freedom by NEED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.09 | 3 ratings

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Hegaiamas: A Song for Freedom
Need Progressive Metal

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars 2017 started off pretty well.

This is the 4th album of the Athenians who steadily gain pace after appearing in ProgPower a couple of years or so ago.

The acid prog metal sound of the band found in the previous album still makes its way in tracks such as ''Tilikum'', albeit in a smaller scale; this fact makes the album more digestible than its predecessor. Jon V's vocals range from melodic to acid-thrashy, their tone mostly resembling to Ray Alder but also not afraid of experimenting in Warrel Dane-like fashion. This is supported from the overall sound of Hegaiamas, which reveals its main influence in the face of Fates Warning; riffy, melodic, contemporary prog metal.

The album starts off with the two most accessible tunes and highlights, Rememory and Alltribe, a great way to get the listener interested in the rest. The heaviness increases with Therianthrope and Riverthane reaching its peak with Tilikum before dropping to a 5-minute narration of a dream / piano piece in the form of I.O.T.A.; although completely different than the rest, it's an interesting interlude in the ongoing bombardment of riffage. The ghost of Nevermore hangs over the heavier tunes, ensuring that no cheesiness is let through the door (I think I can hear some drop-D tunes here and there but don't hold me to this). The 20+ min. title track is solid proof that NEED can survive epic songs withoug losing the listener in the maze of riffs. Complex but not too much, heavy and melodic enough to keep the balance. The tunes on this song slightly resemble to "Memory Palace" of Between Buried and Me which brings a faint (and positive) smile to my face.

The selective appearance of Evergrey, Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation confirm that NEED have filtered and mastered their influences. Quality-wise, this sits up there with the best ever Greek prog-metal releases (e.g. Until Rain's Anthem to Creation). The production is pristine and flawless, the musicianship superb; narrations could be cut down a little. I suspect the next step is that they create something entirely of their own character. Until then, they will certainly be a fresh breath of modern quality prog metal.

4(-)

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 God Won't Give Up by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.00 | 49 ratings

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God Won't Give Up
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by martindavey87

3 stars As if the name of the album wasn't a big enough clue, I had no idea what I was purchasing when I picked this CD up, instead, I was more bewildered at the fact that I was finding this in a charity shop for £2, amongst all the charity shop regulars such as Phil Collins, Finley Quaye and Barry Mannilow.

So I get home, pop the CD in the player eagerly awaiting some prog epic akin to Spock's Beard or Transatlantic, and instead, I get pianos and organs and gospel choirs singing about "His mercy endureth-ing". The album is aptly titled "God Won't Give Up" for a reason.

But hey, never mind! I'm a big Neal Morse fan and I'll listen to anything, so let's give it a spin, or two... or three... or, hold on... I'm starting to like this!!!

The problem with music like this, as evidenced by my own initial attitude, is peoples ignorance and general intolerance of it. People can be too quick to judge based simply on the premise that they don't need anyone preaching to them. And that's where they're wrong. Morse isn't preaching to anyone. He isn't trying to persuade us to go to church. Or read the bible. Or pray every night before going to bed. He's merely singing about his own love of God. And to tell the truth... views on religion aside, the music itself is so damn catchy and uplifting that it's hard not to enjoy it. Regardless of lyrical themes.

This is far from the prog greatness you'd expect from a man who fronted one of the genres most beloved cult bands, but it's still a record worth checking out. Morse's voice is always a pleasure to listen to, and with some hidden gems on it such as 'King of Love', 'Love Like You' and 'Sing My Love' (you can really feel the love on this album eh?) it'd be a shame to dismiss some great songwriting due to nothing more than prejudice.

Unless you're a death metal enthusiast. You probably won't enjoy this.

'God Won't Give Up' is far from the type of album I'd rant and rave about, and there's countless other things I'd rather listen to than any kind of Christian music, but with that said, it's definitely been an eye opener for me, not to judge anything without having heard it myself, and that sometimes the most enjoyable music can come from the most unlikeliest sources.

Now then... Cannibal Corpse, anyone?

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 The Violent Sleep Of Reason by MESHUGGAH album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.21 | 30 ratings

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The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Meshuggah Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars "The Violent Sleep of Reason" is the 9th full-length studio album by Swedish technical extreme metal act Meshuggah. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in October 2016. It´s the successor to "Koloss" from 2012 and features the same lineup as the predecessor. "The Violent Sleep of Reason" is a self- produced effort. Engineering was done by prolific Danish producer/engineer Tue Madsen at Puk Studios in Denmark. The album was recorded live in the studio, with all members playing simultaneously. So it´s basically a "live in the studio" recording, but you probably wouldn´t be able to hear it if you didn´t know it. Meshuggah are one tight playing unit. A well oiled machine. And even when they do something like this, everything is still delivered with militant precision.

Stylistically "The Violent Sleep of Reason" features very few surprises if you´re already familiar with the last couple of releases by Meshuggah. Crushingly heavy downtuned angular played guitars/bass riffs, the odd fusion jazz styled guitar solo/theme, technical drumming, crazy time signatures, and Jens Kidman´s raw aggressive vocals in front. It´s safe to say they don´t step out of their comfort zone much on this album, but the quality of the material is as usual incredibly high and the band´s sound is as unique as ever. I understand if some people feel Meshuggah have stagnated and that their style has become a one-dimensional and predictable size, because in some ways that´s true, but if you listen a bit more closely to what the band have to offer, you´ll notice that they still make little tweaks to their core sound. It´s nothing that changes their overall musical style, but there is enough development to keep the listener on his/her toes and ensure that "The Violent Sleep of Reason" stands out as an individual entity in the band´s discography.

The material on the 10 track, 58:55 minutes long album is as mentioned above of a very high quality. The tracks are written in an incredibly clever way and the technical details featured on the tracks are quite stunning. That´s not unusual for Meshuggah though, and it wouldn´t be enough if the tracks weren´t powerful and memorable too. That´s fortunately the case here though, and while there are a couple of tracks which don´t stand out as much as the best tracks on the album, every track is still of a high quality. Highlight include "Born in Dissonance", "MonstroCity", and "Nostrum", but "Violent Sleep of Reason" (which features some very intriguing lead guitar melodies/themes) and the crushingly heavy and therefore aptly titled "By the Ton" also deserve a mention.

"The Violent Sleep of Reason" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, and despite how it was recorded, the album features the cold, clinical, and dark atmosphere, which suits Meshuggah´s music so well. It´s still organic to a degree though, and it´s certainly not a polished and lifeless sounding production.

So they´ve done it again...created another masterful release, which defies catagorization and which just sounds unmistakably like Meshuggah. The fans will probably praise this one as they´ve praised the band´s previous efforts, while the critics will say the same as they always do. This is not an album that´ll change that. Meshuggah´s music is still as demanding and inaccessible as it´s been from day one, and "The Violent Sleep of Reason" requires as much attention from the listener as every preceding release by the band before it. But once you lock into that crushingly heavy odd-metered hypnotic groove it´ll never let go. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

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 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.81 | 282 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Sorceress" is the 12th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive metal act Opeth. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in September 2016. It's the successor to "Pale Communion" from 2014 and it features the same lineup as the predecessor. Mikael 'kerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Mart'n M'ndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik 'kesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards).

Stylistically "Sorceress" continues the progressive rock/folk direction from the last couple of releases, and just to get it out of the way, there is nothing on this album which is related to their progressive doom/death metal past. This is purely 70s influenced progressive rock with strong folk leanings, and the occasional nod towards 70s hard rock and jazz rock/fusion.

The material on the 11 track, 56:35 minutes long album is generally well written and relatively memorable. There's great dynamic on the album with both hard rocking louder parts, mellow melancolic folky parts, and epic moments. "Sorceress" is predominantly to the soft side though. Tracks like the title track, "The Wilde Flowers", and "Strange Brew" feature some hard rocking moments, but there are several very mellow emotive tracks featured on the album too. The predominantly instrumental "The Seventh Sojourn" is a standout track, as a result of the middle eastern influenced melody themes. The limited edition of "Sorceress" features the two studio bonus studio tracks "The Ward" and "Spring MCMLXXIV" (and a couple of live tracks) and both tracks are good quality compositions, which could easily have made it unto the standard edition of the album.

"Sorceress" is a well produced album, featuring an organic sounding production. It's a sound which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Sorceress" is a another quality release by Opeth. To my ears it doesn't reach the heights of "Pale Communion (2014)", because the melody lines just aren't as interesting or as memorable as much of the material on that album. It doesn't sound like "Heritage (2011)" either, because it's more structured and less progressive in nature, so on the positive side Opeth have again managed to release an album with an individual identity. On the negative side there aren't that many tracks on the album which stand out as highlights. The quality is as mentioned good and there's a professional touch to both compositions, production, and musicianship, but I'm missing some musical magic here. In the end "Sorceress" sounds a bit too safe and derivative of the band's influences. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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 Nucleus by ANEKDOTEN album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.99 | 338 ratings

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Nucleus
Anekdoten Heavy Prog

Review by Progfan97402

3 stars Although I've been aware of Anekdoten since 1996, I only bothered buying any of their stuff recently. I was able to acquire original CD copies of Vemod and Nucleus for cheap, which helped me. I can understand why it took me this long to bother buying anything from them. They're simply overrated. They're not bad, but let me explain. Most detractors will accuse these albums as being nothing more than Red-era King Crimson ripoffs. That's not what bother me, but when I listen to this, it sounds more like '90s alternative rock that happens to used quite a lot of Mellotron. That grungy guitar from Niklas Berg could easily come from any given hard-edge alternative rock album of the '90s as would be King Crimson. Anekdoten is often referred to as a retro prog band, but to my ears it sounds clearly from the 1990s. Änglagård is much more retro, even though there's some traits yout can tell that it originated in the 1990s (despite the complete lack of digital keyboards). Regardless, I can see why Anekdoten appeals to many, because you can't deny the intensity of these songs. Nucleus is their second album, released in December 1995, and it sounds like a continuation of its predecessor, although perhaps a heavier approach. Anna Sofi Dahlberg gives some nice mournful cello work, and Niklas Berg is nothing short of a tron fanatic, so there's really no need in saying that on any given Anekdoten release you get treated with plenty of Mellotron. Honestly I'm really torn about this, I guess I need to be in the mood. I really can give it a three and a half star rating. I really feel that being blown away by Änglagård that I was perhaps expecting a bit more with Anekdoten. But even if it's not entirely my thing, I can still recommend Nucleus for those who like their style.

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 Live at Babooinumfest by PANDORA SNAIL album cover Live, 2017
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Live at Babooinumfest
Pandora Snail Eclectic Prog

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars This live release from this Russian band is somewhat of a preview of what the sophomore album will sound like. All but one track here is a new composition (although I don't know if every track will make the new album). The sound on this recording is very good; in particular, I love the tone of the bass. The music of Pandora Snail is instrumental and can be described as a mix of fusion and symphonic prog. The version of "James Pont" from the debut here is similar in sound but better performed than the album version. The newer tracks are generally in the same style as the debut album. Two songs specifically stand out to me: "Epsilon" and "Moment Of Eternity." The former opens with some tuned percussion (not sure if that is a glockenspiel or something similar) and a rhythm section which vaguely reminds me of the band Tortoise. Great classical styled piano playing here. In addition also some lovely emotional violin work. I like the riff/groove they get into towards the end.

"Moment Of Eternity" is one of two tracks that feature a guest trumpeter. Fast paced classical piano opens the piece, joined by some sympathetic trumpet. I love when the harder-edged synth comes in, turning the track temporarily into some kind of synth-rock. Great trumpet solo later on. Overall a nice release worthy of your attention. The album is available on Bandcamp. it will be interesting to hear how the new album will sound like. If you like modern instrumental 'eclectic prog' with an emphasis for the fusion-y as well as the symphonic, this music might be what you are looking for. I will ultimately give this a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

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 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.59 | 42 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by andreol263

5 stars From Mike discography i've listened to Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, from these three albums my favorite has to be Ommadawn really, so beautifully made, has a incredible natural feel to it, one of my favorite albums for sure, but when i see the score and reviews from later albums i can feel that if i listen to any of these i'm gonna be dissapointed, after seeing the documentary from Mr.Oldfield i was more sad than before, because i know how a genius this man is and he can do extraordinary music like it's early years, and here is it, Return to Ommadawn, 42 years after Ommadawn...He made it again? made another beautiful extraordinare album? or just made a mediocre new-age album like these albums from these last years?

From the flute and glockenspiel in the beggining of Return To Ommadawn, Part 1 i was already happy, happy to know that the feel from 42 years ago returned, and i was right!

Return to Ommadawn, Part 1: recovered the feeling from the 70s, of grandiose and natural music, it really feel like a continuation, like anything between these years have not existed, from the flute to the voices in the middle of the composition, remembering the listener of Ommadawn even more, from the extremely diverse instruments played by this only genius mind, the mandolin, the guitar, the glockenspiel, so beautiful!!

Return to Ommadawn, Part 2: it has to be my favorite track, because of the acoustic guitar work, remembering of Hergest Ridge, and finally, my favorite part but short, the 'On Horseback' recall at the final, just finished one of the best albums i've heard and that i can't stop listening(i just listened it 8 times non-stop, hell, i'm listening it right now!). Yes people, the genius the multi-instrumentalist genius is back, and on a level that top even the proper Tubular Bells and Ommadawn!!

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 Terrapin by OUTRUN THE SUNLIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Terrapin
Outrun The Sunlight Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars US band OUTRUN THE SUNLIGHT was formed back in 2011, and from their base in Chicago they have launched a good handful of EPs and singles since then, as well as two full length studio albums. "Terrapin" is the most recent of the latter, and was self released in 2014.

It's always interesting on some level or other to come across bands that mix and blend elements in a more or less unusual manner. This instrumental band from the US is a good example of that, and while I do suspect that their variety of progressive metal is one with more of a niche appeal, they are well aware of what they want to do, how to achieve it and executes it with good quality as well.

Wandering, ever changing and constantly developing compositions is the forte of this band. The compositions ebb and flow in pace, intensity and mood, only rarely exploring a set theme or lead motif extensively, instead opting to constantly move forward. Classic progressive metal combinations of guitar riffs and keyboards do have their place just as much as delicate interludes of a more ambient nature. Dark, almost oppressive chugging riff cascades alternate quite nicely with sequences with a lighter, flowing expression with plenty of leeway for keyboard textures and delicate guitar fluctuations, and the rhythm department chimes in with appropriate backing at all times.

The peculiarities of this band is that they also add in a few additional elements. Nervously echoing, plucked guitars as well as the more dramatic, swirling light toned guitars layers that both have a strong post-rock aesthetic to them are recurring elements throughout, and on a lesser scale there are also some instances of the darker, bouncy guitar riffs that I mainly associate with djent. That these two also combines from time to time merits a mention, and also that the band blends those two expressions rather nicely indeed.

Personally I didn't get all that much out of this album, as I didn't really find any of the compositions to be that appealing. This perhaps because I get the feeling that this is a production that operates out from a more technical foundation than an emotional one, where the greater majority of the material is dominated by a constantly changing nature. Those find of quirky, technical progressive metal should find this album to be of general interest however, and then especially those who find themselves intrigued by a band that adds post-rock and djent flavoring to the proceedings.

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 Black Widow III  by BLACK WIDOW album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.54 | 47 ratings

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Black Widow III
Black Widow Heavy Prog

Review by poito

4 stars Every release of this band has a different taste, surely because of the many changes in members, but also because they probably were all the time looking for a style they would feel comfortable. Actually, the band never hit the streets, but the reason is simple, they were not original, even in this album it isclear they inspired in Genesis. It is not a question of the major acts taking it all in the business; not in this case, they never had enough to offer that might stand out. Let's admit the distance, please. This third album is probably the most interesting for symphonic Proggers and no doubt their best music achievement so far. The first release was a bit naïf, and the second was awfully produced. This is so pleasant to listen. Great symphonic Prog indeed and it was their first, as I said. The long opening theme has some moments, but is globally dull. The rest is much more interesting with tracks like Lonely Man, The King Of Hearts, and Old Man. Had they stayed in this line, they would have made it. They were good at it and it wasn't too late; other symphonic bands began even later, such as Frenchie Ange, but in the end you need to have a genius composer such as Decamps or simply you won't endure. The material in this album was inspired enough, and though it might appear a bit worn to the ears of the music scavengers at the time, it has certainly gained with the years, and make me think the band deserved more support and a continuation. Pity. By the way, the only resemblance with Black Sabbath is in the name.

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 Sacrifice by BLACK WIDOW album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.64 | 128 ratings

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Sacrifice
Black Widow Heavy Prog

Review by poito

2 stars 2.5

Sometimes one has to be indulgent with music of this epoch, if only because it is when most modern music is rooted on, hundreds of bands exploring new sounds and stepping on new grass. There were highly skillful musicians with classical formation grabbing guitars and Hammond organs, but there were also lots of street boys striking keys and strings for the first time in their life, and many had enough imagination or musical instinct, even creativity, to throw themselves out to the road and try. Black Widow is one of the later, clever guys with some instinct and not much musicianship who knew how to catch up with their contemporary heroes. This first release is a good example, and if you don't listen to their subsequent work, the distance could make one think they were original, but they weren't. Their satanic stuff is rather naïve, just an excuse to stand out of pairs without much success. Lucky us the non-native English people who may disconnect very easy of the lyrics and listen to the music without distraction. You know where I am going: the album has mostly an historical value. I would only spare a couple of tracks just for the collection, the closing theme, Sacrifice that contains probably the best Hammond play in their career, and no fireworks anyway, and Conjuration, a track that waves a catchy bombastic tune that I still don't know if it is of their own.

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 Openspace by OPENSPACE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.97 | 10 ratings

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Openspace
Openspace Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Openspace came together in Poland towards the end of 2003 with the core of Rafał Szulkowski (drums), Marcin Zahn (guitars) and Robert Zahn (bass). Over the next few years some other musicians came and went, then in February 2006 Marcin Korzeniewski joined on keyboards and vocals. After positive reviews for their demo recordings, they signed to Lynx Music who released this their debut in 2008. Although this contains the high level of melody and hooks that one has come to expect from Polish progressive bands, these are very much more into the prog metal end of the spectrum. But, they don't crunch like Threshold or have the delicacy and intricacy of Dream Theater: this is much more like a heavier version of Enchant. There are hooks aplenty, and although they come together like a well lubricated rock behemoth at times, there is also plenty of space within the music for emotion and vitality to shine through. They're also not afraid to mix up the keyboard sounds, so it can go from Hammond and Mellotron style through to something far more modern while the guitars can be gently picked, riffed, or take the lead with some soaring Gary Chandler style lines. They use piano when necessary, as well as fretless bass, as well as moving through musical styles, and it is this diversity of approach combined with some great melodies that makes this such an interesting and compelling piece of work.

They did release a follow-up album a few years later, but both Marcin and his brother Robert Zahn have left the band, so I'm not sure of their current status, which is a shame as this album showed some real promise.

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 Plastic Soup by PBII album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.86 | 37 ratings

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Plastic Soup
PBII Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Michel van Wassem (keyboards, vocals), Ronald Brautigam (guitars) and Tom van der Meulen (drums) are all well-known within the progressive scene for being founder members of the mighty Plackband, a highly regarded Dutch group who sadly never reached their full potential. Here they are back together (hence the band name), and they have been joined by Harry den Hartog on bass. It is strange to think that the core of this band started playing together in the Seventies, as this has much more in common with the neo prog scene of the early Nineties, than what was around twenty years earlier. Musically this is an incredibly powerful piece of work, with great performances from all four. Ronald's guitar style is incredibly reminiscent of Alan Morse, and "In The Arms Of A Gemini", in particular, contains some Spock's Beard moments, but there are also strong elements of Galahad and Pendragon as well as more American melodic stylings. This is strong stuff, with some crunching guitars, great over the top keyboard, and a dynamic rhythm section. Harry sometimes provides gentle fretless bass as a counterpoint, while others it is a fretted plectrum-led attack that gives the music a totally different feel.

The vocals for the most part have a slightly harsh edge, they haven't been smoothed out too much, and that is totally in feeling with this concept album, as this is a call to arms about the state of our environment, and what we are doing to our seas. The term "plastic soup" refers to the way that carrier bags react when they are in the sea. Dutch minister Jacqueline Cramer said "I think it's great PBII chose plastic soup as a topic on their new album! The more people know about it, the better!". The longest song, at nearly thirteen minutes, is the title cut and contains the thought provoking lyrics "It's plastic soup, it chokes the oceans, while all of mankind fails, will we ever hear again, the singing of the whales."

Musically and lyrically this is a wonderful piece of work that anyone into melodic or neo prog will get a great deal from. Well worth investigating

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 Blueprint by SEBASTIAN HARDIE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.71 | 66 ratings

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Blueprint
Sebastian Hardie Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sebastian Hardie was easily Australia´s prime prog band at the 70´s with two classic albums: Four Season (1975) and Windchase (1976). Although the original band did reunite for some shows during the early 90´s I don´t think anyone really took seriously a new studio album of original songs. Most reunion albums are a waste of time and I was quite surprised when I found that the classic line up was back again and had indeed recorded a full set of new songs. And even more surprised by the fact that the new CD, Blueprint was a very good one!

Blueprint was released early in 2016 in Brazil. Although I had heard it by the time it was released, I was eager to get the beautiful jewel case edition. That´s when I found out that I did not write a review for this album. Sebastian Hardie is an interesting band that has its particular way of delivering a symphonic progressive rock that is not as flashy or as pompous as Yes or ELP, but closer to the more discreet dutch legends Focus (minus the flute and with "real" vocals, if you know what I mean). This is specially true for the final track, the unfortunately short instrumental, Shame. So we have some fine vintage sounding keyboards (Hammond, mellotron, ARP strings) and, with a tight rhythm section, making a exquisite musical background landscape for Mario Millo excellent guitar work (yes, sometimes he seems to be uncanny emulating Jan Akkerman, but never a copycat). Millo was never a terrific singer, and yet his vocals are just perfect for this kind of music.

As for the songs themselves they are all excellent, very much as the classic Sebastian Hardie sound, with a more sophisticated and modern recording, of course. The album was very well produced and mixed. I also enjoyed the jazzy elements that can be found on several parts, like in Another String..., quite different from the rest fo the tunes. The only fault (if you can call it that) I found with Blueprint is its relatively short running time, leaving just a little more than 40 minutes of music. But this is the kind of CD you hear from beginning to end with the same pleasure. And probably, like me, you´ll listen to it again after the last chords fade away, feeling it ended just too soon.

Certainly this is one fo the best comebacks ever.

Rating: something between 4 and 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

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 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.59 | 42 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

5 stars I have been waiting for this album for so long, only two listens in but its a real return to form for Mike Oldfield. Two long pieces wholly played by Mike and a return to primarily acoustic instruments. Lots of pastoral and Celtic feel. There are occasional references back to the previous masterpiece, Ommadawn, but this is essentially a completely new work in the style on the classic Hergest Ridge to Incantations period. Also nice to see a return of bouzouki, mandolin, harp and glockenspiel, though it is primarily a guitar & bass album heavily featuring his definitive tone. This may be my favorite album by him since Amarok. It ebbs and flows, has peaks and valleys, it a beautiful album. Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of his classic period.

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 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.59 | 42 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by Replayer

4 stars The long-awaited sequel to Ommadawn (even though Mike previously stated Amarok was a sort of Ommadawn II) is finally released. This is the first album consisting of side-long tracks (can the term still be used when albums aren't released on vinyl anymore?) Mike released since 1978's Incantations and I'm glad to see hasn't lost his touch.

As expected, the album continues with Ommadawn's Celtic influences and reuses a lot of its instrumentation, such as penny whistles, African drums, Bodhran, glockenspiel, mandolin and climactic guitar solos.

In contrast to Ommadawn, where he had plenty of collaborators (notably, The Chieftains' Paddy Moloney on uilleann pipes, the South African Jabula drummers, Terry Oldfield on panpipes, Clodagh Simonds, Bridget St John and Sally Oldfield on vocals), Mike played all the instruments this time around, except for some vocal excerpts from Ommadawn.

The themes are shorter and sparser this time around. The music is much more uplifting and lacking the original's mysteriousness. Sonically, this is a safe album, not treading any new significant ground, which is the reason I am withholding the fifth star. Despite this, I think it lives up to the name of successor to Ommadawn.

The electric guitar and bass are much more prevalent, though Mike also plays plenty of acoustic instruments, such as guitars, acoustic bass, Celtic harp, mandolin, ukulele and banjo. Interestingly, this is the first Oldfield album to feature the Mellotron (I think those are Mellotron strings around the 8 and 15 minute marks). Several of the bass riffs remind me of the Master of Ceremonies section in Tubular Bells, though I didn't hear yet another variation on the Tubular Bells introductory theme, thankfully.

The melodies are a bit more saccharine this time around, reminding me of Voyager (at one point halfway through Part 2 I thought I recognized the Song of the Sun theme), but without the new age synths. One guitar solo reminded me my favorite Amarok guitar solo around the 6 minute mark, but sadly there were no cathartic moments such as the guitar solos ending Part 1 and Part 2 of the original. Still, I'm glad to see the musicianship is still excellent and that Mike still has an ear for memorable themes.

I haven't heard the albums Oldfield released between Guitars and Music of the Spheres, but I can wholeheartedly state that this is his best album I've heard since The Songs of Distant Earth. Return to Ommadawn may not be very adventurous, but it still is a masterfully played instrumental album in the vein of Oldfield's 70's compositions. A few years ago, I honestly didn't think Mike would ever return to long-form instrumental compositions and this will prove to be real treat for his devoted fans.

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 Joe's Camouflage by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.00 | 21 ratings

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Joe's Camouflage
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Alucard
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The Crux of the biscuit # 3

The tracks for 'Joe's Camouflage' were recorded during rehearsals in the summer of 1975 on a 4 track recorder by Denny Walley.

In the summer of 1975 Zappa was looking for musicians for a forthcoming world tour. For these rehearsals he kept Napoleon Murphy Brook, Terry Bozzio, Denny Walley and added Andre Lewis on keyboards and vocals, Novi Novag on viola, keyboards and vocals, Robert Camarena on guitar and vocals and former Mothers member Roy Estrada on bass and vocals. This would be in majority also the band going on the 75/76 world tour.

Knowing that it would be impossible for new musicians to learn the highly complex music of the former Mothers, Zappa moved on and for one simplified his music and put himself more on the forefront as a soloist.

The new compositions, he rehearsed in the summer of 75 were to a large extent short modal pieces that could serve as a foil for extended solos, 'Black Napkins' becoming the most well known, which makes here its first appearance.

So what's on the menu :

Two older tracks 'T'mershi Duween', one of the staples of the former Mothers shows which would not remain on the concert list and 'Take your clothes off' in a reggae version. Maybe a coincidence, but 1975 was also the year that Bob Marley was becoming popular and Zappa would use quite often reggae versions of his songs from now on.

Two new social commentary songs that would remain for quite a long time in the live repertory: 'Honey, Honey' and 'The Illinois Enema Bandit'. The versions here are basic, but the lyrics are already definitive.

As already mentioned the main dish on this record is 'Black Napkins' in a nearly finished version with a great solo and good viola work by Novag.

'Phyniox' is an interesting overture in form of a march that Zappa would never use again.

'Reeny Ra' sounds a bit like an older Pachuco influenced track maybe with the idea to feature Roy Estrada on vocals. This version without lyrics and only Zappa style vocalizing gives way to a great Zappa solo including a citation of 'T'mershi Duween'. From some studio chatter one could guess that Zappa wanted to combine both pieces. 'Sleep Dirt', the track that would appear as a acoustic guitar duet on 'Sleep Dirt' appears here with Zappa double tracking on acoustic guitar plus viola and some bass.

'Any Downers' is build around a riff and serves as background track for a dialogue improvisation between Zappa and Napoleon (like 'Room Service') about drug users and some Pachuco vocals by Estrada including also a great Zappa solo. This track would also not appear elsewhere.

All in all an interesting document, seen that half of the tracks have never appeared elsewhere and that the musicians have never played again in that combination. The sound is good even so the balance between the instruments is not perfect.

The two records that would make a good complementary listen are 'Zoot Allures' (studio) and FZ: OZ (from the early 76 Australia tour)

4,0 Stars for Zappa fans

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 Triplet (Tommy Betzler and Michael Brückner feat. Sammy David) by BRÜCKNER, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Triplet (Tommy Betzler and Michael Brückner feat. Sammy David)
Michael Brückner Progressive Electronic

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars With their first album being playfully called `Two' (a reference to the actual pairing up of German electronic artist Michael Brückner and electronic-percussionist Tommy Betzler, not their second album!), it only makes sense that the duo name their follow-up `Triplet', right?! In this case, it's a reference to the added prominence of guitarist Sammy David, who contributed to parts of the first collaboration but appears in greater capacity here, and, like the debut, it helps make `Triplet' a first-rate crossover work that sits perfectly between ambient spacey electronics with something closer to a more accessible progressive rock approach.

The four pieces on offer here are essentially later studio adaptions of ideas and themes that the main trio of musicians here mostly improvised at the E-Live festival at Oirschot in the Netherlands on October 29th 2016. Eighteen minute opener `The Trip' moves between a reflective atmospheric mood and lively stronger colourful bursts. Introduced by one of those stark piano ruminations that Brückner always does so well, whirring spacey trills and eerie Mellotron flute wisps flit around mellow bluesy Pink Floyd-like ringing guitar soloing. Guest keyboardist Fredryk Jona again contributes some tasty and delirious Moog Voyager solos, and once Tommy's electronic drums and pattering of percussion carefully break to the surface and take hold alongside softly bouncing sequencer patterns, the piece lightly comes to resemble Tangerine Dream's `Force Majeure' album.

Brückner and his electronics mostly step back for `Trilogy', allowing guitarist Sammy David to take much of the spotlight with plentiful soloing frequently in the manner of David Gilmour, but also adopting a tougher hard rock drive in parts, Tommy's constant punchy e-drumming pushing the piece towards an 80's Tangerine Dream flavour. `Doublette' then returns to the core pairing of Brückner and Betzler for a lengthy twenty-three minute workout that seamlessly transitions back and forth between softly sweeping cinematic-like synths, unhurried ambient deep-space drifts and liquid programmed trickles with stronger up-tempo rhythmic bursts fuelled by Tommy's drums, and it makes for a varied and unpredictable piece full of crowd-pleasing soloing.

The main CD also includes a bonus track of a live-in-the-studio interpretation from the four musicians of the third and longest set from the above mentioned show, here entitled `(Three) To the Flame of Life'. Rumbles of drums and cymbal crashes build behind weeping and spacey synth cries, programming slithers, buoyant beats and bubbling wavering psychedelic spirals bleeding over gutsy guitar soloing and peppy drumming, with a dreamy closing few minutes culminating in an uplifting triumphant finale.

Note that some versions of the `Triplet' CD come with a limited DVD-R (that admittedly works best accessing it from your computer) of rehearsals, interviews and rough concert footage of the main three musicians performing at the above mentioned festival in the Netherlands, and it's wonderful to see the musicians in action at their improvisational best backed to the hypnotic psychedelic visuals provided by Edward Rink and Jeroen Bouma.

Overall, the addictive and richly subtle`Triplet' would be ideal for listeners who frequently find a lot of prog-electronic/ambient music too vague or repetitive, as the musicians here have created a diverse, focused and interesting collection that remains exploratory and atmospheric but also melodic and easily approached. It has a great crossover appeal for general prog-rock fans with its liberal use of guitar, and overall the set is full of movement, energy and colour. If something that often sounds like a modern interpretation of Tangerine Dream's `Force Majeure/Cyclone'-era sounds intriguing, investigate `Triplet' immediately, and you won't find a better line-up of Michael Brückner, Tommy Betzler and their musical friends to deliver the goods!

Four stars.

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 Sersophane by GÖSTA BERLINGS SAGA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.40 | 22 ratings

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Sersophane
Gösta Berlings Saga Eclectic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars I have been following the band since their debut and each time I listen to their music, I am surprised how good these guys are. The music here is instrumental mixing symphonic, zeuhl and avant-garde in the style of the Swedish tradition that has started with Anglagard and Anekdoten. The band enjoy stretch out the notes and extend the song with some repeated beats that are hypnotic for the listener. The breaks are always spot on with the appropriate moods for each section showing the dark and the light side of the music. The atmosphere created by the guitar lines and the precise and obsessive drums patterns are impressive. You can feel the spontaneity and freedom in the band's music but it never loses his sense of the melody. In this sense, I think it's a return to the raw sound of their album "Detta Har Hänt". The only weakness of this album is that the delightful experience lasts only 39 minutes!

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 Ghost Of A Rose by BLACKMORE'S NIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.27 | 65 ratings

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Ghost Of A Rose
Blackmore's Night Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars On Ghost of a Rose, Blackmore and Night try to more fully integrate electronic sounds into their medieval folk style, with mixed results. The drum machine doesn't add a whole lot to their cover of Diamonds and Rust, but on the whole that cover feels misjudged to me - it doesn't feel like it hits anything not covered either by the Joan Baez original or the Judas Priest update. On the other hand, the synthesisers are used to good effect on the opening Way to Mandalay - but that's the best bit about the song, which is otherwise a smooth, poppy number that is slightly too Ren Faire to actually be pop but is a little too pop to scratch the medieval folk itch, leaving me wondering just who, exactly, this album is supposed to please.

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 For This We Fought the Battle of Ages by SUBROSA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 2 ratings

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For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
Subrosa Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another solid doom metal release from SubRosa, enriched as always by distinctive vocals and the twin violin sound of Pack and Pendleton. This time around, it seems to me that the band allow more post-rock influences to creep into their sound, in terms of production style, songwriting, and overall performance and aesthetic. This is not a radical departure - a slight post-rock influence by way of sludge metal has been present in their music for a good long while - and whilst it's not the sort of thing which will win over doom metal purists, SubRosa have never been an entirely purist doom metal act anyway. It is, however, just enough of a twist to keep things interesting, despite SubRosa ploughing this particular furrow since No Help For the Mighty Ones.

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 A Vision Of Angels by GEE, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.55 | 26 ratings

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A Vision Of Angels
Peter Gee Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars This has been a long-time friend, 20 years on now, that keeps me sporadic company and I have never graced it with a review. Surely not a masterpiece in the conventional 'fan' sense but we all have some pet favorites that do not necessarily hit the spotlight and get any astrological awards. Peter Gee is not an unknown entity, having manned the bass guitar for celebrated neo-prog stalwarts Pendragon since nearly the beginning, and still loyal to Nick Barrett and Clive Nolan to this day. Safe to say his day gig is cement solid. In 1997, he released this second solo album to little or no fanfare and that is a shocking injustice as this album is quite a joy to listen to, offering homogeneity and diversity , albeit in a mellower, folkier vein than the parent group. It is not a religious album even though with titles such as "Faith", "Orphans" and "Jordan", one might be tempted to classify this as a Christian recording. Actually, it is full of interpretations of specific scripture passages. But upon closer inspection, the brute reality is that it's an album about that weird thingy called love. Not exactly Tolkien-esque prog material but what the hell! What draws me regularly back to this lovely jewel are the masterful melodies that are just simply world- class and not just here and there, it's the spirit behind the opus.

The 10 minute extravaganza "Always" ushers in a jazzy style, almost Stealy Dan in approach that immediately gets the positive buzz going, a slinky affair full of breezy bravado and great playing. Elegant piano kicks the main melody into gear, a ravishing display of simplicity and emotion, introducing the the more upbeat tempo that is solidly maintained by Gee's bass guitar and Jadis regular Steve Christy's fluffy drumming. Guitarist Ian Salmon lays down some slick riffs that keep the mood 'always' exciting, vocalist Simon Clew agonizing about the 'darkness of the night' choir in tow, followed up by a mid-section that first gives keyboardist Clive Nolan a thrilling synth foray to execute and then, Nick Barret the platform to show off his mighty lead guitar skills, one of the very best solos in his illustrious career. Fascinating and eternal.

The quasi-bucolic "Heart's Desire" is all about fragility, the hushed Clew vocals curled around a lovely acoustic guitar accompaniment, piano in contrast, weaving slowly a main melody that is breathlessly beautiful 'safe in your arms' and 'an angel of mercy'. The emotional lyrics are simple but poignant, the music matching the delicacy of the intent, serving up a highly honest, undisguised and under-produced piece of genius. Nolan's keyboard work is understated yet brilliant. Very British and very pleasant, indeed. "Lost and Found" is a surely too syrupy for some of the harder- edged boys out there but it's a grand melodic song, full of that sincerity so lacking in modern music at times. Think song-oriented Anthony Phillips material circa "Sides" or "Wise After the Event", an underwhelming, bucolic, symphonic very Arthurian style that is addictive for those with zero expectations.

The short "Faith" is a sparse little ditty, delivered by acoustic guitar and vocals that espouse the circumstances of 'living in the shadows', a song about trust, that one very rare ingredient in today's world. Flimsy and pretty. More melancholy in a sad and breezy way with the candid "Never Could Say Goodbye", fueled by a jazz-blues disposition that could easily be heard in some pub /lounge that has a more eclectic style. Romantic, cool, suave and well-played.

The big winner here is the 8 minute instrumental blow out "Orphans" which could effortlessly pass as an Andy Latimer classic, a slow burgeoning masterpiece that leaves Nick Barrett the opportunity to build up quite a thundery arrangement, the fabulous choir work is pure heaven (Tina Riley), winking at past glories such as PF's "The Great Gig in the Sky" or KC's "Sailors Tale" and then the apotheosis, a scorching, stunning and whopping solo that will shriek the neighbors. Again, one of Barrett's finest!

The more overtly symphonic "Jordan" is another highlight track, a leading piano galvanizing the composition to aim towards a higher plane, crafting another mammoth melody that stays etched in the mind. This is what one would call an anthem, as the vocals inspire a nearly gospel feel, with the piano, the simple beat and the bass scouring the soul. The chorus is massive and impetuous, the fragility still present in spades. My favorite track is the last one, the ultra-corny, overtly romantic, shiveringly sappy, and yet memorable love song "I Believe in Love", armed with the most puerile lyrics ever. I care not, sucker for shedding a tear or two at the loves that have gone into my shell full of pearled memories. Gorgeous simplicity

For most, a maudlin 3.5 but like I said, I have a VERY soft spot for this comfortable pillow. 4.5 Apparitions of Cherubs

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    Gentle Giant
  54. Hand. Cannot. Erase.
    Steven Wilson
  55. Rock Bottom
    Robert Wyatt
  56. A Trick Of The Tail
    Genesis
  57. Free Hand
    Gentle Giant
  58. Zarathustra
    Museo Rosenbach
  59. In The Land Of Grey And Pink
    Caravan
  60. Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
    Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
  61. Blackwater Park
    Opeth
  62. Second Life Syndrome
    Riverside
  63. The Road Of Bones
    IQ
  64. Misplaced Childhood
    Marillion
  65. Ghost Reveries
    Opeth
  66. In Absentia
    Porcupine Tree
  67. Space Shanty
    Khan
  68. Emerson Lake & Palmer
    Emerson Lake & Palmer
  69. Fear Of A Blank Planet
    Porcupine Tree
  70. Hatfield And The North
    Hatfield And The North
  71. Acquiring The Taste
    Gentle Giant
  72. Spectrum
    Billy Cobham
  73. Arbeit Macht Frei
    Area
  74. Viljans Öga
    Änglagård
  75. The Inner Mounting Flame
    Mahavishnu Orchestra
  76. Hamburger Concerto
    Focus
  77. K.A
    Magma
  78. Rubycon
    Tangerine Dream
  79. If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
    Caravan
  80. Anabelas
    Bubu
  81. Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 - You
    Gong
  82. Script For A Jester's Tear
    Marillion
  83. The Perfect Element - Part 1
    Pain Of Salvation
  84. Romantic Warrior
    Return To Forever
  85. Elegant Gypsy
    Al Di Meola
  86. Voyage Of The Acolyte
    Steve Hackett
  87. L'Isola Di Niente
    Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
  88. Crimson
    Edge of Sanity
  89. Bitches Brew
    Miles Davis
  90. Remedy Lane
    Pain Of Salvation
  91. Bantam To Behemoth
    Birds And Buildings
  92. Felona E Sorona
    Le Orme
  93. Doomsday Afternoon
    Phideaux
  94. Lateralus
    Tool
  95. Grace For Drowning
    Steven Wilson
  96. Leftoverture
    Kansas
  97. Sing To God
    Cardiacs
  98. Caravanserai
    Santana
  99. Part The Second
    Maudlin Of The Well
  100. Uzed
    Univers Zero

* Weighted Ratings (aka WR), used for ordering, is cached and re-calculated every 15 minutes.

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