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 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.97 | 16 ratings

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Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Fast forward to 2017, and Thinking Plague show no sign at all of compromising their ideals. Mike Johnson is the only person who has been there throughout, but he is steering this ship on a very clear path. The line-up now is Mike (guitar, samples, midi instruments), Mark Harris (soprano and alto saxes, B-flat standard and bass clarinets, flute), Dave Willey: (bass, drums, accordion), Elaine di Falco (voice, accordion, piano), Robin Chestnut (drums, percussion) and Bill Pohl (guitar). Now, I have come across Bill quite a few times previously, having reviewed his solo album 'Solid Earth' back in 1994, plus some other of his bands since then such as The Underground Railroad, so I was intrigued to see his involvement. He has always been a fine guitarist with a passion for music that can be somewhat different and difficult to listen to, and here is being allowed to give that full rein.

In many ways, this is a more melodic and easier album to listen to than some of their others, but that isn't to say that they have moved away from their core purpose of RIO, just that it has a slightly different flavour. There are times when the different woodwind instruments take the lead, repeating motifs, but this just allows the guitars to break in and out of the song with extremely quick runs. Elaine doesn't have the same natural other worldliness displayed by Susanne on the classic 'In This Life', but fits in perfectly with this adjusted style of music.

Thinking Plague may have changed somewhat in the intervening thirty years between these two albums, but hasn't everyone? But, they are still true to their roots and this could never be any other band. Exciting and enthralling, there really is no-one else quite like them. They will only ever appeal to a select few, but those few will be greatly enriched by hearing this.

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 In This Life by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.03 | 60 ratings

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In This Life
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Reissued as a remastered edition in 2015, 'In This Life' is not merely a fascinating album of extraordinary rock-based songs. It is a landmark recording in the life of one of America's most distinctive bands and in the international spread of Rock in Opposition-style sophisticated post-rock. Recorded in 1988-89 by Denver-based Thinking Plague, one of the most esteemed and longstanding American avant-progressive ensembles, 'In This Life' marked Thinking Plague's stylistic coming-of-age. The band had recorded two earlier albums in the years since its 1982 co-founding by Mike Johnson and Bob Drake: those early works brought Thinking Plague national "underground" acclaim. But the line-up responsible for In This Life, with Mike Johnson handling composition and Susanne Lewis supplying lyrics and vocals, proved to be the early group's ideal creative brew. It was originally released on Recommended Records (ReR), the London-based label run by Chris Cutler, founder of the Rock in Opposition movement and member of renowned band Henry Cow. One track on the album featured a guest appearance by Fred Frith, the legendary Henry Cow/Art Bears guitarist. It became ReR's first-ever release on the then-radically-new format of CD - a format that simplified the disc's international distribution.

Even now, all these years on from when it was originally released, this is in many ways quite a frightening and disturbing album, almost as if Art Zoyd have gone to another level and have then brought in a female singer who is totally at odds with what else is going on musically behind her. This was never meant to be an album that was easy to listen to, and with its discordant melodies and other worldliness, is one that will repel far more people than would ever listen to it. It is off key, it is controlled, it is anarchic, yet for me is also deeply compelling. It isn't an album that I will ever play a great deal, but I find myself drawn back to it time and again. This isn't music for a large audience on a bright sunny day, but is to be enjoyed in the night, when nothing else will suffice. RIO doesn't get much more inventive and important as this.

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 Hardwired...To Self-Destruct by METALLICA album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.58 | 60 ratings

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Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
Metallica Prog Related

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

4 stars It sometimes seems Metallica can't catch a break these days...they move on from and admirably experiment with their sound and get labelled `sell-outs', they return to something closer to their metal roots and they're accused of lazily re-creating their past - sigh! Let's just think of Metallica as simply a consistent (and frequently great) hard rock band and enjoy their latest, 2016's `Hard Wired...To Self Destruct'. Hardly some complete re-invention but absolutely delivering plenty of superb moments, this double CD/LP collection shows the band playing to their strengths and offering a set that will appeal to both fans of the pre-`Black Album' metal LP's and the eclectic hard rock of their `Load' onward sound, but delivering a work that could never be confused for anyone except Metallica.

A short and sweet statement of intent, `Hardwired' is a punchy little three-minute opener, a rudimentary and energetic thrash metal throwback of Kirk Hammett's buzzsaw-like riffing guitars, James Hetfield's charismatic snarl and Lars Ulrich's absurdly big smashing drumming that could have easily hailed from Metallica's first album `Kill 'Em All'! The gutsy `Atlas, Rise!' is full of momentum, revealing that subtle complexity found in most modern Metallica songs, with a great (if too short) wailing soloing instrumental burst in the middle, a clever and not obviously catchy chorus, and several moments that might have easily come from any Iron Maiden album with its ringing twin guitar melodies.

`Now That We're Dead' chugs with danger through lengthy instrumental stretches and not one, but two killer choruses! The verses of the celebrity damning `Moth Into Flame' would again have easily fit on their early thrashy albums but the chorus is more ambitious, `Dream No More' is a lurching slab-like dirge with a light stoner rock flavour to the verse vocals, and `Halo on Fire' offers a nice break of clean verses of mysteriously chiming guitars, a sweetly raspy Hetfield vocal and a seamless shift in and out of several highly proggy passages and a suitably epic instrumental soloing run finale - the fact that one of the most commercially successful and mainstream popular rock bands delivers stuff like this is simply inspiring, they may just convert more of the non-prog listening `muggles' yet!

The second disc's opener `Confusion' is a reliable `meat-and-two-veg' Metallica plodder, but it's not quite up to the standard of previous war-themed tracks that were always a band highlight in the past - nice battery of machine-gun drumming throughout from Lars, though! `ManUNkind' is thankfully better that its slightly cringe-worthy title, and now long-established with the band bass player Robert Trujillo gets plenty of moments to shine, with a brief solo introduction and then bouncing furiously when the main heavy grooves kick in. The track almost sounds like Metallica having a lot of fun, as the band races through a string of varied riffing passages back and forth. `Here Comes Revenge' (with a main riff that comes awfully close in parts to `Master of Puppets' `Leper Messiah'), while again not one of the more memorable tunes on the set, has a nice tension to the verses and the chorus rumbles satisfactorily even if the lyrics aren't the strongest.

`Am I Savage?' has plenty of slow grinding grooves even if the `beast of choice' lyric is a bit embarrassing and forced, `Murder One' is an admirable tribute to legendary bass player Lemmy (more likely an influence from his Motorhead days than the psychedelic warlords Hawkwind!) with reliable slow-burn trudging riffs, but thankfully frantic closer `Spit Out The Bone' is a skittering break-neck thrash-attack that has the band full of energy and inspiration tearing through a range of fiery snarling serrated riffs that again happily embraces their early days. Overall the second disc is not as strong as the first six pieces, but there's nothing outright bad to be found here, and the group end on a total killer that fans will likely go crazy for.

Some editions come with a third disc of bonus tracks - `Lords of Summer' being another dependable thrashy rocker - some medleys and covers of tracks by Rainbow, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, and a cool live concert from April 2016 that focuses on the first two albums `Kill 'Em All' and `Ride the Lightning'. All in all a welcome bonus for the bigger fans.

So the slightly try-hard artwork is kind of rubbish ("Ooh, they're sooooo hardcore, so tortured!!"), and it definitely suffers from the same filler bloat that pads out all the `Load' onward discs, but `Hard Wired...To Self Destruct' is still a ballsy, kick-ass Metallica album that many fans should enjoy. It maintains that fusion of the old and new that previous album `Death Magnetic' offered in 2008 (was it seriously that long ago already?!), and it's still great to see the band re-embracing and acknowledging their past but not merely remaking it, yet delivering simply another great Metallica disc that most fans should love.

Four stars.

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 Sound Dependence by POTAPOV, VYACHESLAV album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.15 | 8 ratings

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Sound Dependence
Vyacheslav Potapov Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars When you think of eclectic progressive rock whether it be the hard driving kind or more psychedelic in nature, many parts of the world come to mind but the former republics of the ex-USSR aren't usually amongst them. However nestled away amidst the endless supply of -STAN countries occasionally a lone progger finds his way out of the local scene and rises up to make him/herself heard on the world scene. Emerging from the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan comes the eclectic musician VYOCHESLAV POTAPOV who got interested in prog in his teen years during the 90s but due to his adventurous musical tastes in a part of the world not inclined to engage in such practices found little success in creating his dream band. By the time the millennium turned over the odometer POTAPOV was ready to take his musical endeavors in his own hands and began creating his own music in 2003 which yielded the results as this first offering to the world called 'SOUND DEPENDENCE.'

This debut album reflects the earliest efforts of POTAPOV's musical experiments and a testament to his creativity finding a way to express itself. 'SOUND DEPENDENCE' is unlike the rest of his canon and the only album to be primarily based in psychedelic rock before he would unfold his tastes into more eclectic and jazz-fusion oriented material. This debut is very much a DIY (do-it-yerself) affair and was titled 'SOUND DEPENDENCE' because it was recorded minimally with only a 6-string acoustic guitar, bass, microphone and drum samplers and had to be tweaked in the production process with different kinds of compressors that allowed the minimalism to maximize the results. True that the album feels like a homemade piece of art (because it is) but it is evident even at this primeval stage that POTAPOV had an ear for all things prog with a heavy leaning on the 60s psychedelia and Krautish lysergic offerings of the 70s.


'SOUND DEPENDENCE' sounds fairly rich considering the scant instrumentation involved. POTAPOV ekes out a plethora of possibilities despite it all and creates some crazy surreal soundscapes with some outstanding compositions. The album flows quite organically as the opening track 'Jungle' slowly unfolds its mysteries into a rhythmic march of electronic noises that slowly intermingle with the guitar and percussion. The different parts dance side by side by slowly become freer and freer until they sound like totally unrelated parts and then fall in line again. While this isn't quite progressive rock per se at this point, it is more of an experimental ambient type of album that includes rock aspects that weave in and out of the cosmic flow of things. A tripper's paradise type of album if there ever was one and probably the absolute strangest album i've ever heard from Kazakhstan! OK, maybe the only one as well ;) Just check out the sublime 'Ant Hill' where the percussion simulates the busy army of ants and the detached bass line adds strange bop inspired fret workouts.

While much of the album is a river of pleasant sounds ebbing and flowing together like a brackish river mouth meeting the sea, some tracks such as 'The Story Of Arabian Wise Man' have a definitive guitar groove that provides a melody and reminds me much of early 70s Krautock trippers such as A.R. & Machines meets Guru Guru. POTAPOV utilizes all tricks available with back masking and interesting time signatures where different sounds overlap in complex polyrhtyms garnished with sound effects and ambience. While this isn't the best of what POTAPOV has to offer, 'SOUND DEPENDENCE' is a unique listening experience that already displays fully developed compositions that don't quite reach their potential due to the underdeveloped production techniques. Still though this is a pretty good album worthy of any psychedelic rock fans' attention.

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 The Order Of The False Eye by GIGAN album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.00 | 3 ratings

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The Order Of The False Eye
Gigan Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars After emerging from the chaotic primeval lava pools that spawned other surreal metal mayhem in the form of pioneer bands like Gorguts, Mithras, Portal and Deathspell Omega, the power trio who adopted the name GIGAN, the prime nemesis that made Godzilla have very, very bad days, released their debut EP 'Footsteps Of Gigan' but quickly followed up the following year with their first full length album 'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' on Napalm Records. This band is a power trio from Tampa, FL who can deliver a massive inundation of chaotic sound that gets lumped into the world of technical death metal mostly due to the usual death metal techniques such as insane growling vocals accompanied by heavy distortion all gussied up with palm muting, tremolo picking and the ubiquitous blast beat percussive drives however GIGAN have found a way to merge these aggressive extreme metal attributes into the surreal world of psychedelia with traces of electronica and drone noises to paint a surreal sonicscape upon which to display their extreme metal creations.

The trio consists of the seasoned veterans left-handed guitarist / bassist and founder Eric Hersemann (Diabolic, Hate Eternal), Randy Piro (vocals, guitars, theremin) and Danny Ryan (drums and percussion.) The music heard on 'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' is the type of surreal metal madness that could drive the uninitiated utterly mad as the unrelenting noisefest is the name of the game only to be broken by periods of oscillating electronic pulses that seem to be the driving underpinning of the intergalactic journey and lyrical fascinations that GIGAN takes us on not dissimilar to the 21st century thrash metal kings Vektor. The opener 'Undead Auditory Emanations' displays GIGAN's full metal regalia displayed in relentless pummeling riffs and blast beats trading off with technical jazz drumming wizardry in strange new ways that keep the pace fast and driving with snarling angry vocals and Hersemann's unique spastic guitar slides and technical bass workouts.

'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' is one of those albums that didn't win me over upon a listen or two. No way. This one required a multitude of listens to allow its abrasive nature to percolate under my skin and only after nailing my attention span to the wall did it at last penetrate into my consciousness. This is not an album of catchy riffs or predictable song structures in any way, shape or form. This cacophony is almost formless in nature with only a solid rhythmic pulsation driving the music from beginning to end which finds itself most noticeable with the non-metal segments utilizing electronica and theremin sounds to create an ambient and oscillations of noise. Likewise the aggressive nature of the extreme metal simply flows over these underlying elements and creates a very bizarre stream of consciousness to say the least. Call it no wave metal if you will.

Upon first listen it does come off that the tracks don't have enough variation to them but dig beneath the surface and it's quite the opposite. While tracks do sound quite similar in the dynamics and tempos on display, the compositions actually have quite the variation of mangled and jarring progressively laced death metal riffs that have a blackened veneer with a psychedelic frosting which occasionally emerges from the din to send the listener into a pacified trance before the pummelation of the extreme metal once again arises from the abyss. This album consists of eight vocal tracks that are indeed quite similar in stylistic appearances but offer different glimpses into their psychedelic take on extreme metal and consist of 2/3 of the album. The final ninth untitled track is a 21 minute plus sprawling surreal metal fantasy instrumental which focuses on the pulsating electronics and abrasive guitar weirdness with lots of sliding and alienating licks while the drums exhibit periods of techy jazz outbursts and many moments of simple rhythm maintenance. This album was a hard one to win me over but it finally has and remains one of the absolute strangest of the strange in the extremities of surreal technical metal. Highly recommended for adventurous listeners who love to hear things that they had never even considered possible.

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 Invitation to Imperfection by MY SILENT WAKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Invitation to Imperfection
My Silent Wake Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars UK band MY SILENT WAKE first appeared back in 2005, and have been an active live and recording band for the most part ever since, although I get the impression that they have toned down their activities as a live band in the last few years. They are mainly known as a doom metal band, but also have some productions of a markedly different and experimental nature to their name. "Invitation to Imperfection" is among the latter type of albums, and was released through German label Opa Loka Records in March 2017.

'Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror." - Terry Pratchett

This quote from the late Terry Pratchett was one that frequently came to mind when I listened to the material on this album. Not because I suspect elves as such have been on the mind of the creators of this music, but due to the pagan, primal and unnerving character much of the music here has, while at the same time being striking and often beautiful. Medieval folk music is a clear inspiration it would appear, and then arguably of the kind enjoyed by people that know that Woden, Wotan and Odin are one and the same rather than the kind listened to by those active in environments were witches are forces of everything good and great, so to speak. Old pagan rather than new pagan if you like.

Plucked string instruments of various kinds and drones by way of accordion and violin are key elements on many tracks, with room for some flowing flute soloing here and there too, and the rhythms are by and large of the old percussion rather than modern drums variety as far as I can tell. Some tracks features vocals of a lo-fi character, the lo-fi aspect one I suspect is a studio crafted effect to enhance an Earthen, ancient feel to the music rather than a basic recording though.

This isn't a romantic folk music oriented production however. Those who treasure music of this kind to dance and drink to can look elsewhere, as this isn't an album that inspires anything going jolly or, indeed, golly. This is dark, solemn and serene music, more often than not with an unnerving touch. Dark fluctuating undercurrents of sound, mournful moods and atmospheres, unsettling tribal sounds and mystic shamanistic vibes is the order of the day here, alongside introspective musings and occasional forays into realms with perhaps a bit more of a haunted character to them as well. Ghostly whispered vocal effects are used extensively throughout, kind of emphasizing these aspects a bit by their mere presence. There's also room for a creation of a more distinctly otherworldly nature however: The fluctuating sounds on the song Nebula is one that will please just about anyone that finds the description cosmic ambient to be of general interest.

Amidst the more or less dark and unsettling and mournful creations there's also a massive experimental creation of an ambient nature present: The concluding mammoth composition Melodien der Waldgeister, which I guess might have been called the music of the forest spirits in English. In terms of structure a creation that follows in the footpaths of works such as Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, where the overlaying theme is someone walking between different tableaus, with different music coming from each scene visited. In this case with sounds of walking and breathing replacing the recurring theme of Mussorgsky's composition, the music from the different tableau's of a more sketchy nature and, possibly, with an underlying story of a darker overall nature. My impression is that we're following a man walking into the woods who never manage to get out again, the kind of story that may have inspired good, old J. R. R. Tolkien when he wrote the section about the Dwarves traveling through Mirkwood. Or possibly that very storyline may have been an inspiration when this more than 20 minutes long ambient epic was crafted.

For me the album title indicates something about the nature of this album: It is not a perfect album, and to be able to enjoy all of it you will need to have a rather expansive general taste in music that includes folk, ambient music and cinematic excursions, possibly also neo-folk. A certain affection for the old and original pagan philosophies, stories and landscapes probably wouldn't hurt either, but more important is a taste for music of these kinds to be mournful, dark and more or less subtly unnerving. Those who find such descriptions alluring will most likely find this album to be well worth spending quite a bit of time with.

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 Live: Made In Norway by ÄNGLAGÅRD album cover DVD/Video, 2017
5.00 | 6 ratings

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Live: Made In Norway
Änglagård Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars This is the first official video of the band in filmed in Sandvika, Norway February 21, 2015. The venue is very small probably not more that one hundred people there. So the cameras were very close capturing some really close shots of the musicians. The visuals are restricted to the basic lighting of any small clubs. But the best is the music and the discrete surround sound makes this video a very pleasant experience. I must say that the discovery of their "Hybris" album in 1993 was something special for me and I continued to follow the band even thought they made only 3 albums. In this 2 hours of music, we have a good representation of those albums, all epic songs of vintage 70's prog rock with their own style of symphonic based around the flute, guitars, and keyboards developing the melody with a solid rhythm section. The dark and melancholic atmosphere of their music must have been inspired by their long winter nights in Sweden and explain why bands coming out that country have a similar sound. So, the music here is great as we could expect and seeing this band played in front of a small crowd was like seeing a great band at their debut, but here, the band contrary to some bands that have become more popular and playing in front of larger crowd, are still living out their music of passion only.

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 Stranger Heads Prevail by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.05 | 94 ratings

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Stranger Heads Prevail
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by baantacron

5 stars I first encountered Thank You Scientist when they were opening for Haken in Glendale, CA. I'd never heard of them, despite their growing acclaim. Their set is one of the best shows I've seen and going into it blind was an incredible experience. This review isn't about their set though, it's about the album, so I'll move along to that.

The standout quality to Stranger Heads Prevail, and all of TYS's music is something I find severely lacking from the modern progressive scene. Their music is fun, especially so on this album. We've seemed to have become so hostile to the idea of accidentally making a catchy tune, that musicians will try to avoid it at all costs. Steven Wilson even jokes about this when discussing the track "Sound of Muzak".

On Stranger Heads Prevail, TYS maintains a complex and dynamic sound that utilizes every bit of their seven piece band, but doesn't bog itself down trying to be overly meaningful or deep. In a seven piece it's easy for instruments to begin getting lost in the mix, not so in this case. Each instrument has its time in the forefront leading the melody and then phases back into harmonies in a way that flows wonderfully through each track. I must admit a certain bias as trumpet player myself, the inclusion of lots of clean and technical trumpet definitely makes it easy for me to love this music, but lets be fair, the music is just generally easy to love.

While it doesn't have the unbelievably complexity of much of modern progressive rock, I still think that Stranger Heads is one of the highlights of 2016 in progressive rock. A move back to music for the masses without sacrificing their progressive core.

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 Samsara by CHATOORGOON, RANI album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Samsara
Rani Chatoorgoon Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Canadian composer and artist Rani CHATOORGOON is at this point a fairly unknown quantity. She launched her solo career back in 2009 with her debut album "Illusions of Loneliness", and have since issued a handful of singles and EPs. "Samsara" is her most recent full length production, and was self released in the early winter of 2016.

As one might suspect from the artist name as well as the title given to this production, Rani isn't the kind of person that can trace her cultural origins back ten generations in the Canadian territories. Her background appears to be a bit more colorful than that, and the music she creates most certainly incorporate a liberal amount of cultural elements not originating from Western culture. Therein lies the strength of this album as well, the manner in which it blends aspects of different cultural traditions.

The base foundation of most compositions appears to be what I'd describe as a hard but smooth and elegant variety of radio friendly hard rock. Firm riff cascades backed by solid rhythms is a staple in the greater majority of the compositions, fairly often with orchestration details appearing in key moments to add a grandiose, majestic tinge to the proceedings. With Rani's finely controlled, quality lead vocals this results in exemplary sequences of appealing music, albeit a bit too polished and anonymous if not a part of a greater totality.

It is when the compositions feature additional details that this album starts to soar to more compelling heights. First and foremost with violin, percussion and string instrument details based on Eastern and presumably Indian traditions are used more extensively throughout. A couple of cuts also comes across as including Celtic folk music details, at least as I experience them, which also fits these landscapes quite nicely.

While I do consider hard rock to be the main foundation here, the compositions does actually range from more purebred folk and world music creation to material hovering on the borderland of progressive metal. While perhaps not what I'd describe as eclectic in scope it is an exotic one at times, but also well produced and what I'd describe as generally appealing in nature and with a radio friendly sound. Quite a few cuts here appears to be ready made even for mainstream FM radio, and one can only hope that this artist somehow manage to find her way into a B-list on a substantial station at some point. The A-lists obviously unavailable for artists not already firmly established.

All in all I find "Samsara" to be a compelling album overall. Rani is a strong vocalist, her voice carrying many songs in a fine and intriguing manner, and the blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions are almost magical at best. Opening cut The Grey is the standout track here, among a dozen quality cuts this composition showcase the very best qualities of this artist and this album in an excellent manner. A perfect starting place to explore this artist in other words, and those intrigued by the notion of Eastern world music combined with sophisticated radio friendly hard rock should start right there.

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 Modern Masquerades by FRUUPP album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.23 | 102 ratings

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Modern Masquerades
Fruupp Symphonic Prog

Review by Zayash

4 stars A fine album but sadly underestimated. The Fruupp became known for outstanding Future Legends, with your sound sharp and consistent, a heavy prog of the best. Without much refinement in the compositions and production in two 'lbuns after future legends the Group also lacked certain lack of versatility, falling in worn and repetitive formulas. Then in the "Modern" the music appears redesigned and with more resources combined with a sound production (Ian Macdonald) more careful and clear. The style is more to Camel with an eclectic and very technical tone. The Heavy almost gives to rustic with more symphonic tone and elegant, with addition of wind instruments like oboe and trumpets. Peter Farrely vocals is very well fitted, with vigorous and organic interpretations (Sheba's Song is an example). 'Gormenghast' is a composition that grace a dedicated and attentive hearing: it is a work of great beauty, very delicate and rich in detail, with a bottom almost melancholy without being depressing. For the radical supporters don't accept heavier groups making cleaner and more complex music this album may not please. However, the mark of previous albums is as a background that allows new experiments and landscapes that only enrich the musical experience. In my opinion, Modern Masquerades is a great job overshadowed by nationality of the band (Ireland) and maybe by the time it was made late (1975). Before you judge, meet! It's worth it!

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 Power And Outcome by CAST album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.20 | 16 ratings

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Power And Outcome
Cast Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars

The first song "Rules of the Desert" starts the album in such uptempo mood and with a punchy style that I thought it was another band. This song is instrumental and the presence of the violin that will be constant throughout the album add a little touch to the music. The second song "Power and Outcome" bring back the vocals and reassure me that it's still the Cast traditional style. The band is back with his style of symphonic music with piano and classical arrangements. The vocals remind me of some Neo-Prog bands of the 80's and 90's which fortunately is not ruining the talented songwriting. The third track is a beautiful and peaceful ballad. "Start Again" is another instrumental track taking us back to the first song tempo but this time the guitar is taking his spot with the keyboards of Louis Alfonso Vidales. The song shows some impressive instrumental parts where the guitar is left lose in some exquisite solos. "Illusions and Tribulations" is another great track and the best way to enjoy the vocals when the music is quieter. This is a strong album of the band with some Genesis and Kansas influences that will please a bunch of Progressive Rock fans.

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 Sisyphus by TEN JINN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.92 | 5 ratings

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Sisyphus
Ten Jinn Crossover Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Formed in 1991 by John-Paul Strauss and Jimmy Borel Ten Jinn has seen the band live many line-up changes, but John-Paul is back for this new release. The band has adopted a symphonic style after their first album and in this one they have gone even further in that direction. Strauss has studied in theory and composition which results in this symphonic poem "Sisyphus" composed for piano and orchestra. It's a 26 minutes song close to classical music and they included here the instrumental version which is very logic considering the classical approach in structure and arrangements. If you enjoy the band Enid, you will enjoy this one as well, and won't get bored a minute here.

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 Pike 256 - Meteor Firefly Net by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pike 256 - Meteor Firefly Net
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 256 - Meteor Firefly Net / 13th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 4 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 42seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

"Image From The Void" (5:53) enter the slow and echoey guitar with a slight distortion and joining it is a bass and drum that weaves a melody and steady rhythm that maintains a somewhat slow pace as a lead guitar embellishes the melody even more. After a slight slow breakdown the melody picks up steam and the distorted chords hold for a while as the other instruments take a break. Nice guitar work but predictable chord progressions and nothing remotely surprising. Nice track but nothing outstandingly interesting either "Mountainous Mine" (7:08) begins slow and sweet with twangy clean guitar, intermittent bass and cymbals with an ambient backdrop but then abruptly changes into a mid tempo rocker with somewhat of a swinging sensation as the power riffs rock and roll. The track has all the traditional song fixings as it has somewhat of a chorus / verse / bridge type of construction although the main emphasis is on the melody and the guitar licks, fills and solos that embellish it. Ultimately it ends up wearing out its welcome despite an ok way of kicking things off

"Meteor Firefly Net" (9:56) also begins with a slow and almost folky type of clean guitar with an ambient backdrop albeit the bass and drum slowly ooze in early on. The guitar then breaks into some sort of rockabilly type riff before erupting into metal riffs and screeching solos. The chord progressions make interesting melodic build ups that change keys and time sigs occasionally as well. Everything builds to a frenetic crescendo and then suddenly changes back to the soft and serene elevator folk that began the track but of course, this is a BH PIKE and not for long. It erupts full fire into blistering metal riffs and guitar wankery once again but then has some progressive changes where it keeps the monotony at bay and the interesting mood enhancing elements fresh and exciting. Once again the fury is extinguished by placid dreamy clean guitar interludes with floating ambience before inevitably, you guessed it! Back into the moshpit where dragons bang their heads in the dead of night. This title track is by far the most sophisticated on the PIKE and despite having an oft dreaded lengthy time length has more than enough oomph to keep this one on full attention alert throughout its entirety. Excellent track!!!

"Nail Bridge" (6:45) starts with an unusual heavy riff that sounds like a progressive metal version of a cartoon theme song and then alternates the heavy riffs with higher register licks. After a bit of energy is expended it slows down and does a little melodic dance with clean guitar, bass and less frenetic drums. Of course nothing lasts long in BHland so as you probably guessed, IT GETS LOUD AGAIN!!! This one is pretty cool and it's all because of the strange exotic musical scale that is utilized to give a rather bizarre feel to the whole thing. Another winner!

This one is a mixed bag. I find the first two tracks rather mediocre but not horrible either. The last two tracks are quite creative and deliver a musical punch. Very nice indeed and a rare glimpse into BH's ability to deliver pleasing melodies with unorthodox creativity turned up to the max. I wish the whole PIKE was like these two finales. Since together they constitute almost 2/3 of the PIKE i'll give this one a 3 but it would be higher if the first two excited me in any way

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 Pike 255 - Abominable Snow Scalp by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.05 | 2 ratings

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Pike 255 - Abominable Snow Scalp
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 255 - Abominable Snow Scalp / 12th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 7 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 20seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

"Abominable Snow Scalp" (4:10) begins with a heavy metal epic riff sounding like something from the 80s with a similar type of melodic march incorporating crunchy chops with solos and fills. Very decent but would sound better with vocals as it seems like the missing dimension. Near the two minute mark it slows down with some nice arpeggiated guitar work and then picks up steam again with some ruff-and-tumble riffage. Very traditional metal sounding here

"Floorascents" (3:02) after a huge pause between tracks, this one finally jumps in with a similar 80s style classic metal sound complete with the melodic crunch of the riffs and nice fret work that has a rather epic style of flavor. It also has a rather 70s hard rock with bluesy touches as well that is amplified by a bluesy solo

"Headless Reflection" (6:32) begins with a rather Hendrix inspired sound effect but quickly jumps into heavy metal riffs with some jittery Van Halen type runs all peppered with quirky BH styled solo runs. This one has some nice changes and makes a nice mix of classic 80s metal with 90s industrial and alternative type styles

"Pluriverse" (3:22) is mellower than previous track with an anthemesque type melodic development and then changes it up between softer and harder passages. Another nice track that focuses on the melody instead of acrobatics

"Crator Ridge" (5:29) is a harder and heavier 90s grungy sounding alternative metal track with some more focus on classic 80s metal melody. It has a nice run of lead guitar. Towards the middle a nice slide and slower passage that really adds some variety to the track. The chord progression is slightly progressive and sounds a bit jazzy at times. One of my favorite tracks

"Door Along the Wall" (1:58) is a short little heavy metal rocker that has nice riffs but ultimately comes off as unnecessary filler

"Pincushion" (4:47) is even more upbeat with heavy riffs and sizzling solos and keeps up a frenetic pace with hyperactive riffs throughout its entirety. Nice melodic delivery and changing of riffs, licks and solos. Very well done

This is a well done PIKE that shows BUCKETHEAD's mastery of traditional metal styles and focus on the melodic aspects of music with nice counterpoints to keep it interesting. While many of his PIKEs are rather by-the-numbers or extremely experimental this one shows how well he can pull out the classic tricks as well. I'm loving this one and one of my faves of 2017

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 Pike 254 - Woven Twigs by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pike 254 - Woven Twigs
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 254 - Woven Twigs / 11th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 9 tracks all titled "Twigs" / Clocks in at 30minutes 02seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

"Twig 1 (3:10) begins with a quickened brooding bass line with a guitar creating textures above it while a drum slowly joins in and then the guitar becomes heavy metal riffage before breaking into a sizzling solo and alternates between creative riffs and solos. The guitar parts are quite interesting as it changes up the general melodic patterns with different time signatures, tempos and patterns. The weak part is that the drums sound canned from a machine. As it goes on funk guitar enters the picture as do those clean echoey arpeggiated fills against a silent backdrop. Towards the end classical guitar even enters the soundscape

"Twig 2 (3:30) as with many of these PIKEs that use a single title for all the tracks, these run together imperceptibly and could qualify as one continuous album run. "Twig 2" simply continues the change-it-up approach as this one enters funk territory, blues licks and heavy metal riffs with hyperactive solos. As time elapses, the styles change up more often and sometimes metal riffs are accompanied by clean funk guitar or squealing solos

"Twig 3" (2:54) although imperceptible as a new track does begin with a heavier riff and then starts changing around with clean sections alternating with heavier ones. The usual suspects as heard previously only mixed up in different orders and new creative touches with soloing and time frenzied tempos

"Twig 4" (2:13) likewise bursts back into metal riffs with some clean guitar licks filling in the cracks. This one is short but has some amazing guitar workouts with speed-of-light solos accompanying jazz guitar chords and tripped out licks that come and go

"Twig 5" (2:48) also changes the previous track into a heavy monstrous crusher of metal and then floats on with a rather ordinary riff but abruptly turns to funk with some grungy slide guitar behind it. Of course nothing plays out too long anymore so after a few measures it's time for some slower doomy type of metal only with some frenetic solos along for the ride and then time for some clean freaky echoey guitars again and so on and so forth

"Twig 6" (3:24) continues the tradition of beginning the track with a return to metal riffs but soon becomes rather progressive with all kinds of guitar antics whizzing around like a decapitated beast in the throes of battle. It continues with funk, blues, metal and slinks around like a caffeinated cobra in a tent filled with vermin

"Twig 7" (3:23) continues as slow creepy echo guitar with some pick slides for extra tension. It picks up steam but remains dark and mysterious until it erupts into metal riffs with some funk chords thrown in and then solo time! Towards the end the different guitar styles play together and then plays chameleon again often

"Twig 8" (4:19) continues as a heavy stomping riff monster with the same cheesy drums but then turns into a solo and then changes into the echo guitar thing and then changes again and again and again! This one is nice as it changes the melodies, the tempos, dynamics and everything

"Twig 9" (4:21) continues as a heavy metal rocker with those same cheese drums and i think you can safely assume by now that things change it up and often! And you would be correct to do so and this last segment of the "Twig" tales predictable follows the unpredictable with all the usual suspects juxtaposed into twisted tales of sonicity.

This is the type of album i love most by BH as he displays his guitar playing skills and why he is in the top of his game however this one has particularly annoying drum machine percussion that really needed some attention paid to the dynamics and playing for that matter since the guitar parts are well executed as is the bass with some creative tricks oozing out as well. My favorite type of BH style PIKE but not balanced enough to get the highest honors

3.5 rounded down

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 Transformation by FM album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.93 | 31 ratings

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Transformation
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars After a few live reunions over the 1990s and 2000s, FM began making noises about new material. The sudden passing of Nash the Slash IN 2014 meant that any further reunion would fall short of the "original" billing, and, as "Transformation" took shape, Ben Mink and Martin Deller were missing as well. Hence only Cameron Hawkins remains from the old days, accompanied by acclaimed drummer Paul DeLong and not one but two string players.

Even in their heyday FM skirted the fringes of progressive rock, melding it with pop and conventional rock of the day with middling to superb results. Given that 2015 was 35 years distant from even the small p prog efforts of this band, what hope did we have? Luckily it appears that Cameron Hawkins was buoyed by the band's reception at NEARFest 2006 and the prospect of crafting a meaningful gift for those fans and perhaps for his more deeply felt convictions. With "Transformation", he has achieved both without retreating into the band's former glories.

While references to the long gone days are apparent in his still youthful voice, the optimistic tones, and the ubiquitous strings, this effort is also more reliant on acoustic violin, viola and mandolin than before, and its spirit is more adventurous while respecting the tenets of modern vocal oriented rock in the best way imaginable. I normally don't play this trump card let alone care about it, but I hear the time signatures are all over the map here, which makes the accessibility of the tunes all the more praiseworthy. I can only think of one other relatively recent reunion that succeeds in eclipsing most of the artists' original classics, that being the second album by the even more obscure "Fuchsia". It is noteworthy that both albums are characterized by prominent strings, but otherwise have little in common.

Really, "Transformation" is that good. From the opening notes of "Brave New Worlds", I am absorbed into its idealistic grooves, luminous auras, and radiant melodies. "Cosmic Blue" is not as catchy but with some expressive violin excursions, including a spacey interlude, and dissonant harmonies, "Reboot Reawaken" is slightly more poppy and actually reminds me of a fine 1990s group called "Ocean Blue". The ending part assumes the prog mantle again. "Safe and Sound" is the most chamber like of all the tracks, all the strings playing the lead role, in a manner of ALAN PARSONS at his best. I admit part of me is wary that Mr Hawkins has found Jesus, but "The Love Bomb's slightly cheesy lyrics are devoid of that form of devotion, although I am not a fan of its plodding pace and Yes-like falsettos. The closing piece "Heaven on Earth" marks a more authentic homage to that band, with pleasantries plucked by mandolin, and what sounds like incognito flute but is probably keys from Hawkins.

I'm not as taken with "Children of Eve" and "Soldiers of Life" but they are among the more audacious pieces here and are sure to find some fans among us; I just think FM works best in the more accessible realms and always has. Cameron Hawkins should be very proud of this achievement which has been quietly collecting kudos all over the web. "Transformation" reflects a bold resolution to flourish and freshen with age, while never forgetting one's roots. 3.5 stars rounded up.

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 Hero And Heroine by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.15 | 271 ratings

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Hero And Heroine
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

5 stars In the quest to determine what separates atypical prog from the stereotypical prog sounds that have come to define the symphonic prog sub genre, one has to look past the superficial surface. Yes, Hero and Heroine contains a multi suite song complete with an opening Mellotron fest that would make former KC member Ian McDonald envious, as well as other symphonic touches courtesy of John Hawken's piano and synths. Cleaver and deft electric guitar is delivered from Dave Lambert while Chas Cronk adds his ever melodious bass lines and accents to the mix. Drummer Rod Coombes keeps the fore mentioned from becoming a sleepwalk with his solid rock drumming that's never flashy but always hits the spot both musically and metaphorically.

But there's something special that stands out about Hero And Heroine. It's not a concept album, but it feels like one with it's references to a Silver Sun, a Midnight Sun, and the feeling of "autumn coming on..." from the previously mentioned three song suite titled "Autumn". And that's not a trick of the mind.

Songwriter and vocalist Dave Cousins wrote a cycle of songs about his emotional exploits and explorations over a single day. And they, not surprisingly, are quite like ours. From the chilly doom of feeling the season's change and life with it, to pining over a lost love, to the excitement of a new sexual discovery, Dave Cousins' feelings are ours. We can relate. We love, we lose, we regret. Yet, we live on.

Is this then the benchmark for a prog masterpiece? Of course not. Not if you talk in maths. But if you live easily with emotions and can relate to another's tale of what it encompasses for all of us to be the hero and heroine of our own lives, then the Strawbs' classic 1974 album Hero and Heroine reaches that benchmark and easily surpasses it. As disparaging as Dave Cousins would find this comparison, he is the Bob Dylan of prog rock, and Hero and Heroine contains his finest work. A wonderfully lush production helps to send the album even higher. I can say no more as the words would fail me. 5 stars.

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 Warpaint by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.45 | 4 ratings

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Warpaint
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars This is quite an impressing new statement from the Oklahoma based VANGOUGH. Sometimes close to Fates Warning in style, though missing any keyboard input on the other hand. Clay Withrow has an unique singing voice available for sure and adds some doomy guitar riffs here as well. This will be recognized soon when starting with the song Morphine. Also subtle growls, which won't spoil the feel though, when it comes to my taste. While constantly alternating between heavy and atmospheric impressions, this additionally reminds me at the likes of Tool, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth at some point.

So the following Dust confirms at best where the influences are coming from. 'We are the children of machines' ... eh, I do not hope so, a metaphor for sure ... catchy, a nearly charming exemplar is on the run. The Suffering appears as a rather eclectic implementation then. Instruments and vocals are damn variating, for example we are faced with contrasting innocent acoustic and crashing electric guitars. Excellent one! The extended Black Rabbit always makes my day too, just a wonderful exploration into exclusive song writing heights.

Being about one year in the making 'Warpaint' represents a song collection of much thoughtfulness. Really enjoyable. Sorta melodic prog metal stuff I often came back to in recent times. Double tracked guitars are remarkable overall, as if they were a quartet actually. That means, regarding the stage appearance at least, they definitely will need a second guitarist to accomplish their objectives during their next tour, which is still in preparation. Attention, the rabbit is alive and on the run again!

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 Warpaint by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.45 | 4 ratings

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Warpaint
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

5 stars

I can't remember how we first got in touch, but singer/guitarist Clay Withrow and I have been in contact since the time of their stunning debut 'Manikin Parade' some eight years ago, and I have been fortunate enough to hear all their albums, of which this new release is their fifth. The first thing I noticed is that the rabbit is back, having been on the front of their third album 'Kingdom of Ruin', and the EP 'Acoustic Scars' (where he was joined with the raven from the debut). But here he seems to be way more menacing, ready for the battle that is coming as suggested by the album title. Vangough are quite a rarity in the prog field, in that firstly they are a prog metal band without a keyboard player, but also, they are a trio. Now, that's not too uncommon in some ways, as often a trio will double up on instruments in the studio, but while Clay may have put a few guitars on the same track, all we are getting are drums (Kyle Haws), bass (Jeren Martins), guitar and vocals. Before I get into the music I must also comment on the production, which is superb. There is real separation in the music, and songs such as "The Suffering" just blow away the listener with the move from gentle acoustic notes that have been plucked and gently fade to hard riffing. It is also great to be able to clearly hear the bass and drums, and the impact they are having on the song structures. This isn't a wall of mud turned up loud, this is finesse played with skill and care.

They have been cutting their teeth in the live environment, and it comes through on this album as it is easy to imagine all those songs moving well onto a stage. After a raucous performance at the annual ProgPower USA music festival in 2014, they set out on their first North American tour with Pain of Salvation and the following year with Fates Warning. The learnings they have taken from these tours have been invaluable, and (nearly) forgives them the four years it took from 'Between the Madness' to this one. Here we have a prog metal band with technical influences that aren't afraid to shift tack quite abruptly within a song, and to be punishingly heavy when it is required or more quiet and reflective as the mood takes them.

I have been playing this album a lot since I first had the opportunity to hear it, and although I've never been a fan of a rock band fading out a song (as on the aforementioned "The Suffering"), it does lead into the very different "Gravity" which goes from gentle into a Muse-inspired belter so I think I'll forgive them. I gave their debut five stars as I was so incredibly impressed, and now is the time to do the same again. Awesome. Why not pop over to vangough.bandcamp.com/album/warpaint and give it a listen, I know you'll agree.

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 Pik3 253 - Coop Erstown by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pik3 253 - Coop Erstown
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 253 - Coop Erstown / 10th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 5 tracks / Clocks in at 29minutes 44seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

"Coop Erstown" (7:24) starts immediately with a frantic distorted guitar and a fast pace that feels a bit jittery and takes no time to erupt into a frenetic guitar solo that is sorta bluesy but also a little off kilter. After a bit more metal riffage also lollygagging through the land of distortion, it takes a turn into slightly off time sigs and more wild solos. Everything seems a bit off with this one but that's what gives it a unique personality as the style itself is fairly typical for BH and these offnesses are what keep it interesting for me

"Tinkertrack" (6:32) begins hard and heavy with crunchy metal riffage and a hella beefy bass. The riffs turn into a solo and alternates the two styles. The solos are very melodic and less jittery than the previous track but it does manage to create some off-kilter time sigs and slight dissonance at time. This is a frenetic track with craploads of energy being expended. The way this one is constructed is also of interest as it is slightly off in many ways but still highly accessible. Another interesting track for BH who keeps the bluesy alternative feel fresh all the way thru

"Quadruple Chicken Barn" (4:27) breaks out da funk, mon! Heavy bass but clean guitar that worships George Clinton but ratchets up the technical wizardry to BH levels. Tasty funky groove augmented with clever solos makes this a fun little number with a chicken stuttin' feel like none other

"Clay Hen" (3:42) takes things back into heavy metal territory with heavy crunchy riffs and alternates with more treble oriented licks and solos. Somewhat progressive chord progressions make this a little more interesting than other PIKEs that utilize this same type of style

"Rooms of Brooms" (7:40) slows things down a lot and delivers an echoey clean guitar effect with some sort of melody that reminds me of Christmas songs :/ Well, only a little. It remains clean with a bass and slow drumbeat and continues to repeat the melodic development that remains calm and placid for the most part but at the end is joined by a ever quickening guitar solo that provides the only break from the monotonous chord progressions. This one is fairly unexciting

Not a bad PIKE except for the last track but it's also not a blow-yer-socks-off one either. It's a pleasant enough listen but hardly the best eggs in the chicken coop

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 Pike 252 - Bozo In The Labyrinth by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Pike 252 - Bozo In The Labyrinth
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 252 - Bozo In The Labyrinth / 9th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 6 tracks / Clocks in at 30minutes 27seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead

'Mirrors Of The Sleeping Mind' (7:36) takes off in Rancho Relaxo with light fluffy guitars, subordinate bass and dreamy drum patterns that float by like Easter chicks in an Easter basket down a serene brook in a pastural setting. A melody has been initiated in slo-mo and takes it's sweet time to develop but an ambient background wahs its way into the picture. The tempo picks up with that notorious echo guitar effect and then. After a while. A solo erupts around the same melody that had been established from the beginning. It gets more energetic and builds steam but the chord sequence stagnates and remains the same progression in a looped effect. It continues as such with bluesy solo intact. I await some sort of break from the predictability but pulling hard on the nigh rein only prolongs the misery. Meh

'Cliff Faces' (4:39) begins a tad more energetic with grungy distorted guitars and bass and drums in energetic mode from the get go but has some interesting breaks with slide guitars and staccato action. Echo guitars become more pronounced further on but ultimately this is another track that has a predictable repetitive style of riffing in alternative metal mode with some solos and a few surprises. Meh as well

'Flooded Ballroom' (7:00) is even more grungy and sounds like a Soundgarden track at first but then bursts into a true BH riff shredder. The distortion is extra thick at least for the riffs but the breaks are cleaner. The riffs sound very 70s hard rock in style with a 90s veneer to the distortion. Solos are also very 70s bluesy hard rock in style but overall this is a decent but average BH track that doesn't need to go on as long as it does

'Branch' (2:25) begins soft and sensual with clean guitars but when the drums come in they're particularly aggressive in comparison. The guitar turns to that clucking style as ambient swirls float in the background. Bass is quite subdued but there.

'The Chambers' (4:06) sounds like a 70s Van Halen inspired grungy guitar riff monster but rather weak in comparison to the greats of that era and for BH who has done this style many times at this point. Sounds a little flabby like it needs to go on a diet in order to have a little more stamina. Just an average track and fairly unremarkable

'Bozo In The Labyrinth' (4:41) erupts in a super heavy metal riff with bizarre monster noises in the background and then starts changing up the riffs a bit while remaining fast and heavy but just when you think it's gonna get even heavier it suddenly morphs into an acoustic almost flamenco type of feel but then jumps into progressive tech extreme metal and then back to the gypsy flavored acoustic style and even after a huge pause stays in that style until it's time for metal again! Heavy riffs with irregular time sigs and monstrous sprawls of riffage finally give way to an alien sounding guitar solo but then suddenly jumps back into acoustic wonderland. This is by far the best track on this PIKE. After mediocre tracks, this one saves the day and is interesting and exhilarating and even includes all the styles of the tracks before and delivers them with gusto. Great track but too late to save the album from an overall ho hum feel

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 Hyperborea by TANGERINE DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.46 | 189 ratings

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Hyperborea
Tangerine Dream Progressive Electronic

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Hyperboring!

Tangerine Dream on autopilot. Not as New Wave as White Eagle, this album sees Tangerine Dream applying their by-now standard 80s formula, which involves endless repetition of drum loops, simplistic chord progressions, and synth sequences. All is not lost - the second half of the title track (but not the first half!) is decent, and there are parts of the long epic ("Sphinx Lightning") that are OK. But the overall effect is intensely boring (not sleep-inducing - if it had been there would have been more merit here, but it is difficult to get to sleep when you are frustrated by the music!). This one is slightly better than White Eagle, but not by much. I give it 2.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates as low 2 PA stars. Only for true fans.

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 White Eagle by TANGERINE DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.18 | 168 ratings

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White Eagle
Tangerine Dream Progressive Electronic

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Tangerine Dream goes New Wave.

With each passing album through the 1980s, Tangerine Dream would seem lower their bar further. They added drum machines on repeat, and the originality of their compositions declined. This album is their first truly New Wave album, with drum machine patterns that mimic those being played in the hit singles on the radio at the time (1982). However, unlike those radio jingles, this is still instrumental music, and the result is a constant fleeting with boredom. This album is not quite 1-Star material though - there are snippets of decent music in the long piece ("Mojave Plan") and, particularly, "Convention of the 24", which raise it just enough. But I can't sit through this album all the way anymore. Unless you love early-1980s new wave songs with no singing and stretched out for what seems like hours, I would avoid this album, which is sad because I really love their earlier work, which I find very original and inventive. I give this album 2.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is low 2 PA stars.

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 Stratosfear by TANGERINE DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.93 | 470 ratings

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Stratosfear
Tangerine Dream Progressive Electronic

Review by Walkscore

2 stars The first disappointing TD album.

Although recorded in between two excellent live albums (Ricochet, and Encore), this studio album is the first disappointing release from Tangerine Dream, and unfortunately set the pattern for a series of lesser-quality albums that would follow in the late 70s and 1980s. It is on this album they start using patterned drum sequences, and standard chord progressions on some of the tunes. The title track is the worst offender. Unlike on their previous, hypnotic compositions, the repetitive rhythms here are dull, and the chord progressions are simplistic and second-rate. While the other tracks are better, instead of hypnotic they border on simply boring. The best track, and the only one that stands up to repeated listening, is the short "The Big Sleep in Search of Hands", which features a flute lead and soft piano, and a classy slow synth lead. It is telling here that the best and only lasting tune involves mainly standard instruments, instead of TD's signature synths, but such was the problem that would be faced by Tangerine Dream going forward - by the 1980s their electronic music would become too straight and uninventive to be worth listening to. While Stratosfear is still better than any of their 1980s output, it pales in comparison to Rubycon, Phaedra or Ricochet. I give this 5.4 out of 10, which is in the high 2 PA stars.

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 La Mosaïque De La Rêverie by PAGEANT album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.70 | 42 ratings

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La Mosaïque De La Rêverie
Pageant Symphonic Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams

4 stars A rock combo PAGEANT can be called as one of Japanese symphonic rock progenitors positively inspired by Genesis and 70s British progressive rock scene. The album "La Mosa'que De La R'verie" was released in 1986 as their debut creation, and it's said long time and much money were needed for the production. Well understood PAGEANT needed much expensive stuff, and this album sounds of another Japanese Fantasia for being launched in 1986. Exposure not simply of Genesis' flavour and view, but apparently of Japanese cultural dramatic "cartoon-ish" texture, can be appreciated.

Their instrumental technique is beyond expression really. For almost all of Japanese in 1980s progressive rock might be symphonic rock, and artists had tried hard to make soundscape decently symphonic we can imagine easily. Hiroko's voices sound not cute nor lovely but sharp-edged and theatrical. No suspicion she should lead this whole combo to enthusiastic sound space. In the current progressive rock scene this music style flooded with mysterious tragic storytelling melody and lyrics is not rare nor innovative but yes, 30 years before! As the frontman Ikko says, "Un Giel De Celluloide" is not fit for such a dramatic narrative touch but anything. Let me emphasize especially the titled track composed / written by Hiroko is full of creativity and original sound points of view. Unforeseeable melodic stream of the story drives the audience crazy thrilling. We should listen to and digest this stuff out without any breath. What a supra-impressive one.

For various reasons above mentioned, this album is impressive even now. One of authenticities in Japanese progressive rock world, we can call ... like the mystic sleeve pic!

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 Antimemory by VANETA album cover Studio Album, 2016
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Antimemory
Vaneta Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

— First review of this album —
5 stars A band of young men from the Santa Gabriel mountains of California--self-proclaimed "keepers of the forest"--have decided to go with a change in direction from their previous heavy metal roots into the sophisticated progressive rock alter-ego that the band had been working on on the side. I've not heard or seen any of their previous music or concerts but I hear they were stunning, breathtaking. I, for one, am grateful for their new direction--and their collaboration with Lone Pine Records' producer Bill Fiorella, as together they have come up with one of the more unique and memorable sound styles this reviewer has heard in quite a while. The production, in and of itself, is quite unusual in that all of the instruments and voices are allowed to remain so clearly distinctive no matter how dense the music gets. Every subtle noise in the soundscape is preserved--which is something I adore in music: the subtleties. The vocal arrangements alone are worth noting as guitarist Chris Durban and vocalist/guitarist Jared Paris and keyboard player Allan Hennessy do some stunning performances in all of the lead, background, and harmony capacities. These are vocals that are incredibly complicated and yet so impressively executed! It's like listening to world class dance choreography! Also, notably absent are the computer "corrected," effected, "compressed" soundscapes that have become so prevalent in music production over the past 25 years. The acoustic guitars sound like they are in the room with you; the drums sound real and full, not gated; the vocals are natural and raw, not auto-tuned. All in all, Antimemory does a wonderful job capturing an 'acoustic' sound of an electrified rock and roll band. And it works! It's awesome! It helps remind and reinforce my love of the recording styles of those 1970s masterpieces.

Lineup:

Chris M Durbin - Vocals, Guitar Jared Paris - Harmony Vocals, Guitar Andrew C Sanchez - Drums Allan Hennessy - Keys, Vocals on Last Ray Of The Sun Wyatt Martin - Bass

1. "Son of Sorrow" (6:42) opens with a minute of heavily vibrating sacred bells before guitars, piano, and bass join in to set the stage. This bass play is awesome! Vocalist Chris Durbin bids us "hello" and sings an impassioned vocal-- which is soon joined by the amazing backing harmonies of Jared Paris. This sounds so much like the best of one of my favorite bands of all-time, DOVES from Manchester, England. The build up to the chorus at 2:40 is awesome--as is the cool down in the first half of the fifth minute--which is followed by an excellent chorus section and then by a searing 45-second long lead guitar solo in the sixth minute which is then followed up by an awesome three-layered chorale vocal section to the song's end. Incredible song! One of the best things I've heard from 2016! (10/10)

2. "Looking On" (5:06) opens with vocal, rhythm guitar and bass creating a weave that sounds like . At the 0:25 the song kicks into second gear with a very engaging THE MARS VOLTA/STEVEN WILSON foundation. The two-voice delivery of the second verse is so innovative and fresh! Stunning! Another great guitar solo begins rather humanly at the end of the third minute but then shifts into super-man speed in the fourth. The distant acoustic guitar song in the third verse is so cool! It makes it sounds like a Dobro (which I love). The vocal arrangement over the fullness of sound from all band members in the final minute is, again, brilliant! Stunning song! (10/10)

3. "Ferroform" (5:52) opens with a familiar CORVUS STONE-like sound and guitar riff before a second guitar joins in with some fiery riffing. The effected vocal is cool in a hollow Greg LAKE/JIMI WILLIAMS/KING CRIMSON/DOVES "Moon Child" kind of way. As the voice comes to the fore--and is joined by the awesome wailing screams of Jared Paris--the song kicks into full speed--and into a nice long instrumental section in which guitar, bass, keys, and drums resonate in perfect cohesion. Then there is a drop off into a floating, dreamy section that is held together by a Hammond organ and some word being panned around in the background. Guitar arpeggi join in and, eventually, the band emerges out of the fog into it's full speed again (awesome bass line/play!) and then finishes with some thought-provoking piano and guitar notes and chords. Awesome! (9/10)

4. "Child" (8:26) the song's mini-epic opens in a kind of GUNS'n'ROSES-LED ZEPPELIN guitar-oriented way. Even the layered lead vocals have that kind of perfected classic rock feel to it. Into the third minute the Led Zep/G'n'R influences are still strong until there is a sudden shift at the three minute mark into a kind of THE MARS VOLTA/OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ Spanish-imbued high energy rock. The guitar play is so cool! So different--like RANDY BACHMAN on "Blue Collar" (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)--before a searing double guitar solo in the sixth minute. Man! I don't know how the band keeps up this coherent, stable intensity! Amazing! There's even some growl vocals behind the lead in this section. And then horns! Awesome horns! A saxophone lead! What a brilliant touch! For the final minute the band recoups and returns to the mature sound and pace of the opening with the song title being sung a few times by the double vocalists. Great, great song! (10/10)

5. "Last Ray of the Sun" (1:26) opens with a solo piano tinkling slowly away before setting up in a kind of "Great Gig in the Sky" (Pink Floyd) chord foundation while pianist, Allan Hennessy, sings the first verse (which turns out to be the chorus). The final 45 seconds finds the rest of the band joining in on this chorus line before letting Allan's piano finish on its own. Beautiful, haunting song! Well deserving of its presence on this album. (10/10)

6. "Mountain Chorus" (5:47) opens with acoustic guitar picking away at two chords--two heavily charged chords-- while a second, electric guitar slides and squeaks around far in the background before treated Chris' voice joins in. At 1:45 the voice again 'comes out of the closet' to sing "But it won't save you." The second verse then begins with two harmonized voices singing gently. Drummer Andrew Sanchez' cymbal play throughout this second verse is mesmerizing. I find myself reminded during this beautiful section of some the recent Prog Folk greats, FLEET FOXES, LEAFBLADE, DOVES, AUTUMN CHORUS and THE AMAZING. At 3:45 the band suddenly kicks into full gear with some energized bass, drum, guitar, voice and choral work-- which plays out till the song's end. Gorgeous song! (9/10)

7. "Antimemory" (3:18) opens with sustained computer synth noise which is then joined by guitar strum, bass, and multiple voices floating and flitting in and around the soundscape. This continues for the first two minutes before all fade out in lieu of sacred bells and shakers. A perfect ending to such a spiritually gut-wrenching album. (10/10)

Despite my high marks for each and every song--(more for their exceptional creativity, originality, beauty and promise)--I still see 'room to grow' for this band and it's sound. It will be difficult to top such an 'out of the blue' debut album, but I feel that this band of so many talents and influences can definitely refine their raw and passionate sound. The excitement I feel when hearing this album reminds me of how I felt upon hearing Manchester's DOVES debut album first time in the early 2000s (my favorite album of Y2K). This is astonishing music regardless of who is performing it--made even more remarkable for the fact that this is a debut album.

Let the world know it: VANETA is here! . . . and they are a FORCE to be reckoned with!

A masterpiece of progressive rock music and official winner of the title, ALBUM OF THE YEAR, in my books!

P.S. I want to have bass player Wyatt Martin's babies. Or, at least his autograph!

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 La Marmite Cosmique by BUKWALD, ARNAUD  album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 1 ratings

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La Marmite Cosmique
Arnaud Bukwald Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars A brilliant and totally fresh smorgasborg of avant jazz/jazz fusion song stylings from French composer/musician Arnaud Bukwald. The journey that Arnaud takes one on through the songs on this album is quite nostalgiac as there are familiar sounds, riffs, and stylings in virtually every song. And yet, the music is totally fresh, new, and unpredictable. The compositions and arrangements work very well throughout.

1. 'Chop suey' (2:15) opens the album on a wild and crazy percussive journey with xylophone and drums leading flutes and synths along like lemmings over the cliff. Then a jazzy JERRY LEE LEWIS-like piano section ushers in vocals, horns, psychedelic electric guitar lead and drums for about 30 seconds before a toilet flush signals the end and exit. (7/10)

2. 'Dedicated to Hugh' (3:10) (Hopper? or the same 'Hugh' of Robert WYATT's 1972 dedication on his first MATCHING MOLE album?) 'a m'est 'gal, for in the end this is a truly wonderful instrumental tribute to all Canterbury artists of the late 60s and 1970s'so perfectly composed and performed. (10/10)

3. 'Mars caravan' (3:06) opens with a voice sample from a 1950s-60s film about alien/(Martian) before turning into a kind of film score soundtrack to a credits roll or film montage of alien visuals. Very dramatic, even melodramatic, ' la ENNIO MORRICONE or someone else of that ilk. (8/10)

4. 'Gran Torino' (3:39) ventures into the funk jazz fusion found in a lot of late 60s early seventies film and television themes (especially Black exploitation and disco-era cinema.) Very catchy, dance-groovy. (9/10)

5. 'Time and space' (2:11) opens with heavily spaced flute and then Fender Rhodes piano play before a vocal (!) from a very deep GREG LAKE-like voice. The second minute turns into quite the upbeat 70s television theme song. Very fun song! (10/10)

6. 'Fairy Tales' (10:23) opens with its first two minutes feeling very much like a section out of ELP's 'Tarkus.' The next section shifts gears and moods into feeling like GENESIS's 'Watcher in the Sky mixed with Mike Oldfield's tubular bells. Then, at the end of the fourth minute we get to hear the sounds of birds, woodsy-lumberjack sounds, and then crackling sticks over the fire next to the babbling brook. This is then replaced by the gradual fade in at the 4:50 mark of strummed mandolin, harp, and woodwinds, before a more rollicking orchestrated section bursts in at 5:48: double bass, orchestral strings, tympani and orchestral percussion'which are soon joined by a jazzy horn section but the, just as quickly, all is dropped in favor of an extended section of some strum-play on the strings inside a piano. Slowly a mysterious organ enters in the background before tribal drum play and piano percussives play over the top. The final 45 seconds of the song engage a Moog synth solo played with tubular bells and church organ. Not all of Arno's influences/references are clear to me. He's told me that Cyrille Verdeaux, Art Zoyd, Gong, and Ange are among his all-time favorites'all of whom are not as familiar to me as they could be'thus I suspect that some of the references I miss are from nods to those bands. (9/10)

7. 'Cirrus sequence' (9:26) opens with a combination of STEVE HOWE acoustic guitar harmonics play with David Gilmour 'Wish You Were Here' blues guitar lead and synth play common to TANGERINE DREAM work taking turns and then woven together. Clever and awesome! After the 3:40 mark, the Wish You Were Here' section ends and an eerie, spacey 'screaming alien howler monkey' section plays out over the same crackling fire noises from the previous song to the end of the song. Again, I am disappointed to say that this reference is lost upon me. But it is unique and interesting. (8/10)

8. 'T'ton effrayant - sauerkraut' (16:57) is a tribute to the Kosmische Musik (aka 'Krautrock') happening in the musk schools and hippie ashrams in Germany in the late 60s and early 70s. Bands like CAN, ASH RA TEMPEL, NEU!, AMON D''L, and even FAUST can be heard in this one. The shifts in the play of the rhythm section in this one are particularly noteworthy and fascinating. You can tell Arnaud gave great attention and love to the details of this one. Synths, percussions, saxes, and effects all play such critical roles in the weave of this one. It is hypnotic as well as trippy (like a circus-like acid trip). The Kraut rock fathers would be proud! At 8:10 there is a break leading into another GENESIS-like organ-synth and martial drum-led 'Watcher of the Skies' section before the previous Kosmische rhtythm reestablishes itself to support various independent appearances from Keith Emerson synth, Mellotron, Another break at 10:30 yields a very airy-empty space wash out of which a 'rocket takeoff' rising synth not appears and leads us into a very spacey, Berlin School of Electronic Music section. Could be straight out of any of TANGERINE DREAM, Manuel G'TTSCHING or the KLAUS-meister's 1970s masterpieces. Brilliant! Masterful end with avery slowly decaying synth sequence. My favorite song on this wonderful album! (10/10)

A near-masterpiece of true progressive rock music. Check this guy's music out! You won't be sorry!

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 Gila - Free Electric Sound by GILA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.10 | 166 ratings

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Gila - Free Electric Sound
Gila Krautrock

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

4 stars German band Gila was formed in 1969 around guitarist Conny Veit, a Krautrock notable who would also go on to contribute to the music of Popul Vuh and Guru Guru. Their debut `Gila (Free Electric Sound)' arrived in 1971, a predominantly instrumental disc with a refreshing raw sound of spacey rock improvisations, lengthy psych guitar solos backed by plenty of organ, and it frequently reminds of the psych/acid/space early period of Pink Floyd with its fuzzy meandering atmospheres, as well as touches of Dom and Agitation Free.

An early Guru Guru and Hendrix acid rock style permeates opener `Aggression', all Conny's plodding and grooving heavy guitars, Daniel Alluno's rambunctious drumming, murky slithering bass with tickles of Hammond organ rolling around the background, and there's just a touch of spacey echoing in the final moments to hint at what's to come. The nearly thirteen minute cosmic jam `Kommunikation' weaves through everything from acoustic acid-folk shambles, distortion- heavy drones, sudden tempo changes, Embryo-like ethnic flavours and endless drowsy guitar strains with a touch of that mellow bluesy tone and those shimmering reaching piercings that David Gilmour perfected on the early Floyd albums. Walter Wiederkehr's punctuating bass is thick and fluid, Fritz Scheyhing subtly employs runaway electric piano tiptoes and panning organ swirls, and there's even brief ethereal treated vocals and wasted spoken word passages to end a killer first side.

The mantra-like `Kollaps' is all humming feedback droning, whirring Hammond organ, mysterious creeping bass and dreamy weeping guitar tendrils that turn rumbling and splintering, reminding very much again of the early psychedelic Pink Floyd works. `Kontakt' opens as a disorientating collage of shuffling mucky distortion and eerie voices before coming down as an early Deuter-like acid/folk Eastern-flavoured acoustic guitar meditation. There's shades of German band Agitation Free's blend of electronics and ethnic elements in the ten-minute two-part finale, `Kollektivitat' first starting life with reflective and joyful Hammond organ soloing, subdued drumming that carefully builds, seductive purring bass and chiming guitars with bluesy tinges. The Hammond eventually turns scratchy laced with dangerous quickening drums and manic twisting guitar jangles before `Individualitat' dissolves into furious tabla and distortion, although the mere fade-out to close the whole album is a bit of an uninspired letdown!

`Gila' is perhaps similar to an album like, say, the self-titled first Cosmic Jokers album from 1974 that offers many textbook examples of that would be recurring sounds and styles on the Krautrock- flavoured works, but without the more uncompromising and abrasive harder qualities that make up many of those discs, so this could appeal to newcomers and be an ideal introduction. There's certainly more important, experimental and ground-breaking Krautrock discs to explore, but there's not a poor second of music on `Gila', and it definitely deserves to be a proud part of any Krautrock collection.

Four stars.

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 Launch Overture by ALVARADO, LEON album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2016
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Launch Overture
Leon Alvarado Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars Tormato

The opening track from the album The Future Left Behind by Leon Alvarado is here presented in an alternate edit on this digital single. Actually, calling it an "edit" undersells it somewhat as it is really more of an alternate arrangement of the tune with some parts that came at the beginning of the album version now appear instead at the end of the track. It is hard to say which version is better, but it is anyway the best song from the album and a nice one in its own right. Yes legends Rick Wakeman and Billy Sherwood appear as guests on the track with Rick doing a Moog solo and Billy playing guitars. The cover art clearly gives a nod to Yes' Tormato.

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 The Future Left Behind by ALVARADO, LEON album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.00 | 3 ratings

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The Future Left Behind
Leon Alvarado Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Journey into space

The structure of The Future Left Behind by Leon Alvarado is clearly modelled on Rick Wakeman's Journey To The Centre of The Earth with similarly styled narration alternating with instrumental music. Wakeman himself actually appears here as a guest contributing a Moog solo to the opening Launch Overture. The guitars are provided by another Yes-man in Billy Sherwood with the exception of the lovely acoustic guitar piece To Be Loved which is played by Johnny Bruhns (at some point Sherwood's band mate in Circa). Everything else is done by Alvarado who plays keyboards and drums among other things. The drums is the weakest link in the sound and it would have been much advisable to hire another drummer for the proceedings. The narration is well done and the story paints a bleak picture of our planet's future albeit with some silver linings. Still, as is often the case with narration on music albums, it tends to get tedious on repeated listens. Thankfully the narration is isolated to separate tracks that can easily be programmed out leaving around 35 minutes of decent instrumental music.

Hardly a groundbreaking release, but pleasant enough.

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 Tonight  by FM album cover Studio Album, 1987
1.75 | 17 ratings

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Tonight
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Only two years passed between "Con-test" and the 1987 release "Tonight", but FM had nonetheless withstood another lineup change, adding several well known names of the Canadian scene and a full time electric guitarist for the first time. Most of the better cuts here are offered in the first half, including the catchy "Magic in Your Eyes" and "Dream Girl", and the ambiently textured "Alone Together" that includes a fine power ballad lead guitar solo. The album might be a bit lighter in feel than "Con-test" but that's not necessarily a positive. The nadir is struck with a poor adaptation of a song that I doubt many of us pine for, "Good Vibrations", but that's only the most egregious misstep. "I'm not bad" and "Lost in Thought" are not even up to the modest standards being set by the FM of the mid 1980s.

"Tonight" is essentially another undistinguished album of 1980s rock from FM, aimed at keeping the band viable through difficult times. If it did succeed, apparently it wasn't enough, for this would be the last major release by FM until 2015. Avoid.

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 Con-Test  by FM album cover Studio Album, 1985
2.34 | 19 ratings

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Con-Test
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars FM was a band dogged by misfortune during their critical early years, not the least of which was their propensity to sign with previously reliable record labels just before they went belly up, sort of like the hapless investor who always buys high and sells low. These of course severely curtailed whatever promotional boost might have been granted, and then came the 'dead prog' era of the mid 1980s, and the departure of Ben Mink. FM appeared left for dead, when their fortunes were resurrected by none other than original member Nash the Slash, who rejoined and signed them to Quality Records just before it too dropped the oar.

The recorded result of this chaotic time was 'Con-test', which did mark a modest return to the Canadian airwaves, in a far more streamlined and compressed form than hitherto imaginable. Through their 4 prior releases FM always retained sufficient prog quotient to avoid the sell-out label, but here they are in survival mode, which is pretty much as kind as I can be. This is moderately catchy 1980s rock with a steady electronic beat, distorted keys and guitars, the latter courtesy of Mink himself as a guest member, and repetitive vocal hooks.

Several of the best tunes here like 'Just Like You', 'We Hold on' and 'Distant Early Warning' ' approach the style and substance of the ROCKWELL hit 'Somebody's Watching me', or GOLDEN EARRING's 'Twilight Zone' from the same era, that is, catchy, slightly paranoid songs that rely on repetition and a hook or two, blended with some old school 1960s pop typical of that era. Even at that level, 'Con-test' is kind of a flop because FM never really had the tools to write a bona fide hit. Not much space is given for solos or instrumental fireworks, but 'The Only way to win' has a pretty intro on electric mandolin and some appealing keyboard touches. In fact, half the songs here are somewhat enjoyable to listen to, but the closing two numbers are excruciatingly difficult, indicating that even highly compromised inspiration had its limits.

As a prog album, 'Con-test' is a scam; as a rock album of its time, it's actually more than competent. For you to decide.

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 The Storm Within by EVERGREY album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 16 ratings

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The Storm Within
Evergrey Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "The Storm Within" is the 10th full-length studio album by Swedish power metal act Evergrey. The album was released through AFM Records in September 2016. It's the successor to "Hymns for the Broken" from 2014, which by many is considered a comeback album of sorts, because lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund reunited with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage after a lineup turmoil in 2010 meant that those two left Evergrey. Apparently the marriage is happy again though because "The Storm Within" features the exact same lineup who recorded "Hymns for the Broken (2014)".

Stylistically the music on "The Storm Within" pretty much continues the anthemic power metal with a melancholic atmosphere, that Evergrey also played on the predecessor. In fact this is unmistakably the sound of Evergrey with Tom Englund's distinct sounding vocals in front, melodic and occasional thrash metal oriented guitar playing (the thrash metal riffs are more an influence rather than a dominant element of the band's sound), supporting keyboards for texture, and a powerful and tight playing rhythm section. The quality of the performances is high throughout. Here I'll have to give a special mention to Henrik Danhage's guitar solos. He is a brilliant guitar player, and his solos on this album definitely help elevate the music to higher levels.

The songwriting is generally top notch professional too. Tracks like "Distance", "In Orbit" (featuring Floor Jansen of Nightwish), and the atmospheric title track (which reminds me quite a lot of Anathema) are among the highlights, but "The Storm Within" is overall a pretty consistent quality release. The only track which doesn't quite reach the high quality of the rest of the material is the saccarine power ballad "The Paradox of the Flame" (a duet power balled with Tom's wife Carina Englund). When Evergrey touch that territory is when they are worst.

"The Storm Within" features a powerful, detailed, and well sounding production, which suits the music perfectly and upon conclusion it's another quality release by Evergrey. There's not much development of sound, and I could have done with a few more tempo changes as most of the tracks don't leave mid-pace, but on a whole it's still a very professional and well sounding release, and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating isn't all wrong.

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 Otra Dimensión by EKOS album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.69 | 32 ratings

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Otra Dimensión
Ekos Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ricardootero

5 stars I´ve been a fan for more than 50 years, I still remember the first time i had the chance to hear The Beatles back in 1965, surprisingly, this open my ears and consciousness. to different styles of music, starting with groups like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, Family, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Black Sabbath, The Flock, Ultimate Spinach, etc., a perfect mix of Progressive, Metal, Symphonic, Prog Related , Eclectic, Psychedelic/Space Rock, etc., a broad styles of fantastic bands and styles.

Taking me by surprise, I got hold of the new Ekos, album, my! what a refreshing surprise. Recording full of dramatical changes, great guitar riffs in the vein of Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, pastoral keyboard passages, amazing vocals, great peaceful atmospheric moments, perfectly balanced. The more you hear it, the more it grows on you. Probably the best recording in years of a Mexican band,

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 Devil's Labyrinth by MOONWAGON album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Devil's Labyrinth
Moonwagon Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Finnish space rock band Moonwagon are still going strong. The third album The Rule of Three (2015) was the first one by the trio line-up (after the departure of synth wizard Ami Hassinen) and marked slightly rockier sound. This new five-track EP misses about ten minutes to be counted as a proper album, but it's a worthy release nevertheless. The title track starts in a very ballsy way with heavy drumming and roaring guitars & bass. Despite the evil title, it's rather uplifting guitar-oriented hard rocker with gorgeous synth passages. There are also a little bit of vocals, shouting one sentence a few time in the background. An unnecessary and very Hawkwind-like feature.

'Haunted Hallways' has a vibrating organ in the foreground. Roughly midway there's a delicious proggier section featuring glockenspiel, and towards the end psychedelic synth work finishes the trippy effectiveness of the composition. 'Alchemy' features bouzouki and ukulele to make it a very fresh and original. I've always appreciated the way Moonwagon combines spaceyness and more down-to-earth elements totally sovereignly. The briefest track 'Dus Aster' is a pure synth piece reminiscent of VANGELIS and JARRE, a delightful step aside from the rock orientation.

It changes seamlessly into the 8-minute 'South of Bermuda' that offers more of the hard-boiled space rock (some angry voice again...) that would get boring if there wasn't also pretty cool synth parts. As this track takes almost one third of the total length, and it misses the freshness of other tracks, my rating remains three stars. I hope Moonwagon won't steer their style more towards the vocal-added, beat-heavy Hawkwind territory and thus decrease their originality.

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 Space Oddity [Aka: David Bowie, Man Of Words/Man Of Music] by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.35 | 244 ratings

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Space Oddity [Aka: David Bowie, Man Of Words/Man Of Music]
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by VianaProghead

3 stars Review Nº 112

'Space Oddity' is the second studio album of David Bowie and was released in 1969. It was regarded as a mix of folk, rock, psychedelic, space, pop and progressive rock and a transition album between the music of the 60's and what would be the future music of the 70's. So, basically 'Space Oddity' can be viewed, in retrospect, as all that Bowie had been and a little of what he would become, in the next years. It represents a big step in relation with his debut album. It was regarded as a mix of folk, rock, psychedelic, spacey music, pop and progressive rock. We can say that basically it's a transition album between the music of the 60's and what would be the future music of the 70's.

'Space Oddity' has ten tracks. All songs were written and composed by Bowie. The first track is the title track 'Space Oddity'. It was released as a single in 1969. The song is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, which name alludes to the science fiction film '2001: A Space Odyssey', directed by Stanley Kubrick. This is a fantastic song with interesting lyrics and good music, very relevant even today, and is a mark of the end of the 60's. It became an icon and a masterful song of him. Rick Wakeman was superb on the mellotron and gives to the track a progressive final touch. The second track 'Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed' is another great song that starts with Bowie's 12 string acoustic guitar and that soon moves into a more rock style with great rhythm and a fantastic harmonica working. This is a typical folk/rock song in the usual Bob Dylan's musical style. The third track '(Don't Sit Down)' is a very short track with only 40 seconds. It can't be considered properly a song. It has no musical structure but only a spontaneous studio joke made during the recording sessions. In some later releases, it was even removed, showing that it can't be considered properly a truly song. The fourth track 'Letter To Hermione' is a nice acoustic ballad, the first of the album. It's a love letter to Hermione Farthingale that became Bowie's girlfriend and they lived together for a short while, in London. It's a beautiful and interesting song where Bowie shows his soul in a very real and poignant way. The fifth track 'Cygnet Committee' is a very ambitious progressive folk rock song and represents one of the lengthiest Bowie's studio recording songs. Lyrically is very strong and one of the highlights of the album. It's an epic track with nearly 10 minutes long and where Bowie provides a beautiful vocal work. It's a lengthy song that gradually moves from slow to rapid and vice versa. The sixth track 'Janine' is the second folk rock song on the album with a pure Bob Dylan's musical style. It's a beautiful acoustic ballad with nice and interesting lyrics and where the melody has an interesting flowing. It's a song with a nice mixture of acoustic and electric guitar works, a good bass line and where Bowie's vocals serve the song perfectly well. The seventh track 'An Occasional Dream' is a short and gentle love song with a beautiful flute musical arrangement about a very brief and intense affair. We are in presence of another folk rock ballad with a very interesting, pleasant and peaceful tune. The eighth track 'Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud' was the song chosen to be released as the B side of the single 'Space Oddity'. It's one of the most progressive songs on the album in the pure symphonic style. It's a song with good lyrics and is divided into several musical sections, which features full orchestral arrangements. It's also the debut song recorded by Bowie with Mick Ronson. The ninth track 'God Knows I'm Good' is another folk song where Bowie plays his 12 string acoustic guitar, which he often do on the album. It has a nice melody and an interesting catchy story, a woman stealing food and saying to God that she remains a good person. It's a very good folk song with great acoustic guitar working. The tenth and last track 'Memory Of A Free Festival' is the second epic song of the album. It's a psychedelic folk space rock song with good lyrics and nice tunes. The track is about a festival that Bowie organized in London, in 1969. I agree with some reviewers when they say that the first part is very interesting, but the second part is a little bit repetitive. Anyway, this is an interesting way to close this nice album.

Conclusion: This is my first review of a Bowie's studio album on Progarchives. However, I had already reviewed his live album 'Stage', before. This is also one my oldest albums in my vinyl collection and I must confess that I always had a soft spot for this album. It always was and it still remains to me, as one of my favourite albums from Bowie. I can clearly see some parallelism between 'Space Oddity', Genesis' 'Trespass' and Tim Buckley's 'Goodbye And Hello', but due to different reasons. 'Space Oddity' is for Bowie's fans the same thing that 'Trespass' is for Genesis' fans. Despite both albums being the second studio albums from them, both represent, in a certain way, their real debut album. By the other hand, 'Space Oddity' and 'Goodbye And Hello' are two excellent albums and both represent, in my humble opinion, two of the best and most representative albums from progressive folk and psychedelic music. They represent, in my humble opinion, two of the best examples of the changing of the rock music in the end of the 60's. So, despite it can't be considered a masterpiece or an excellent album it has its merits and deserves to be fully appreciated.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 My Foolish Heart by TOWNER,RALPH album cover Studio Album, 2017
5.00 | 2 ratings

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My Foolish Heart
Ralph Towner Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A guitar only release by master guitar player Ralph Towner.

It is hard not to feel surprised and delighted with "My Foolish Heart", 2017. Its precise and up front beauty resides in many factors starting with its compositions. Eight new original ones, alongside a couple of Towner's OREGON repertoire ("Shard" & "Rewind"), a tribute oriented one to the late Paul Bley ("Blue As In Bley") and a heartfelt cover of Victor Young's "My Foolish Heart".

How refreshing to listen to Jazz rooted guitar compositions which are so creatively crafted, with such an innovative spirit and such an enticing and masterful performance, yet deeply modern in language without the aid of "modern Jazz cliches" nor "Latin" flavors.

Pure and flawless Ralph Towner and as good as he gets!

*****5 PA stars.

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 Atlantis by EARTH AND FIRE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.47 | 87 ratings

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Atlantis
Earth And Fire Symphonic Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams

5 stars First to say, the logotype mixture of the band name and the album title is awesome. :D

Journey to Atlantis, a great journey for me. It's very surprising the evaluation for the album "Atlantis" would not be so high and decent as I've expected, even though it was released just after Earth And Fire's masterpiece "Song Of The Marching Children". Surely the longest titled track (upon the entire A Side) plays the role of the signboard of this creation with colourful passions and appearances (hard rock, folk, symphonic, psychedelic, and so on). The first melodic attack along with Chris' crying guitar plays would absorb the audience conspicuously. Sounds like Japanese Enka flooded with emotional, tragic texture ... it might be a tad rare a suite gets started with such a strict sadness of melody lines. As the suite goes ahead, the guitar essays will explode more and more emotionally. Jerney's voices are not so perfect but our heart would get attracted deeply, especially in the part "Destruction" drenched in fruitful soundscape. Who cannot appreciate this suite eh?

On the other side ... a couple of melodic gems are upon the B Side really, let's listen. "Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight" is one of the most popular, most acceptable songs of all upon their career. Gerard's keyboard / mellotron play is crazy delightful and drives other instruments / voices more and more of uptempo. In the last phase of "Fanfare" following a psychic sound drama "Interlude", some mysterious, sorrowful phrases drag the audience into the Earth like Classical polyphony or canon (obviously the Baroque scene had exerted much influence upon their creativity). Jerney's fragile but enthusiastic voices give definite power to us in solitude. "Theme From Atlantis" sounds like another excerpt of the magnificent A-Side suite but mystic rites not heard before should be there definitely. The epilogue of this album "Love, Please Close The Door" quite suitable for the suite finale might feature solemn "down-to-the earth" I suppose.

For me this Symphonic Progressive Crystal can be called as one of cornerstones, like the previous masterpiece of Earth And Fire.

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 Rosetta by VANGELIS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.58 | 20 ratings

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Rosetta
Vangelis Prog Related

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

4 stars `Rosetta' is a very unexpected but welcome return album from legendary Greek composer Vangelis, his first non-soundtrack work in over fifteen years, and an intelligent, exquisite and atmospheric work it proves to be. Space travel has been a recurring motif in some of the keyboardist's earlier back-catalogue, including 1976's experimental space physics-themed electronic work `Albedo 0.39' and the divisive neo-classical `Mythodea' in 2001, and the artist here offers a fully instrumental collection of elegant ambient/electronic compositions dedicated to the Rosetta space probe mission and its team.

Opener ` Origins (Arrival)' is a widescreen cinematic-flavoured synth overture with trickles of electronic loops dancing majestically in the classic Vangelis manner, regal organ piercing the black space canvass, drifting seamlessly into the sprinkling of chimes and low-key ebbing hum that infuses `Starstuff's gentle ambient caress and its lightest of rising/falling oscillations. Mystery permeates `Infinitude's classical sweep of synth choirs and emulated orchestration, tasteful romantic themes suddenly rising up between the glorious twinkling piano and ringing crystalline slivers of `Exo Genesis' that could have easily appeared on many of the artist's Seventies works, and the brief `Celestial Whispers' is a cooing synth lullaby. Gurgling break-neck sequencer patterns bounce over brooding darker soundtrack-like veils and tense rumbling drums throughout `Albedo 0.06', and the contemplative synth rumination of `Sunlight' rises with joyful grandeur in its uplifting second half.

The title track `Rosetta' is a strange one...it's a welcome change from what's been presented on the first half of the disc, but it implements guitars, trumpet and orchestration (hard to tell if they're all emulated on the keyboard or the real deal here, as no firm instrument list is provided in the CD booklet) to present a slightly syrupy romantic theme that would call to mind the pristine fragility of `La Petite Fille de la mer' off his wondrous early 1970 soundtrack `L'Apocalypse des Animaux' if it was much more restrained. `Philae's Descent' is another of those frantic and busy electronic- symphonic scores fraught with tension that popped up on his `Albedo 0.39' and `Heaven and Hell' LP's, while `Mission Accomplie (Rosetta's Waltz)' is a victorious synth fanfare that may remind some of his `Chariots of Fire' soundtrack.

`Perihelion' is far more intriguing, an electronic nightmare of bombastic orchestral-like blasts and wild distortion, but it oddly mines slight elements of well-known Pink Floyd pieces, mostly the darker synths of `Welcome to the Machine' and pulsing breathless beats of `On the Run', but there's also lovely light fizzing washes and electric piano tiptoes in the softly gliding outro. `Elegy' is one last sumptuous classical piece, and closer `Return To The Void' is a final spacey soundscape of liquid trickles and deep-space immersion teeming with life in the manner of early Tangerine Dream just as they were switching to more electronic dominated pieces. It's a beautifully surreal and trippy finish, and it's just a little bit of a shame that this set hold more of these sparse and dreamy pieces.

Although `Rosetta' doesn't quite recapture that schizophrenic, anything goes from album to album creativity and freedom of his first two decades (and nor should it have been expected to!), there's so many nods and instantly identifiable qualities to a wealth of past Vangelis works throughout it that fans of this master composer will lap up. Tasteful and sophisticated, yet certainly not commercial or anything close to something that could be dismissed merely as `New Age' music, `Rosetta' is a dignified and eloquent work from a master composter of intelligent music that progressive-electronic and eclectic keyboard works fans should highly appreciate.

Four stars.

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 In The Passing Light Of Day by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 158 ratings

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In The Passing Light Of Day
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

Review by Corcoranw687

5 stars There is no way to give out less than 5 stars here. This is the latest album from a musician who has always worn his heart and influences on his sleeve, but the only band you can be reminded of is Pain of Salvation. This album has it all; balls-out prog metal like "Full Throttle Tribe", a fun vocal-focused single in "Reasons" which stays in your head for days, and the emotional heavyweights you can always expect from Daniel Gildenlow. We get some very sexual lyrics in "Tongue of God" and during the super cool "Meaningless" which is the song I'd recommend you check out first. My favourite is opener "On A Tuesday", the spoken and sung verses caught me off guard at first before I was introduced to the big chorus. The album was inspired partly by Daniel's battle with flesh eating bacteria, feeling helpless in a hospital bed, and his wife watching him suffer and the impact it had on her. Like much of his music, this is a very personal album from an incredible musician that begs to be heard at least once no matter what you like. This album reminds me of Remedy Lane more than their others albums, but like each new Pain of Salvation album it's a completely new beast, and in my opinion their best album yet.

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 Surveillance  by FM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.34 | 55 ratings

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Surveillance
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars In the contrivance of memories, accuracy be damned, "Surveillance" was FM's follow up to the classic "Black Noise" release. For almost 40 years I paid it no mind, for I had seen the band around the time of its release and was appalled by the foul sci fi pop of "Rocket Roll" as well as the cover of "Things to Come", while probably not being quite ready for the esoteric pieces they may have performed from this album. The gulf between the exhilarating "Phasors on Stun" and "Rocket Roll" is as wide as any I can think of between opening numbers of "successive" releases.

That major misstep aside, this is actually far superior than I could have imagined. The vibe is pretty consistently upbeat, and cool enough to compensate for the seriousness of the lyrics. On the basis of the lightheartedness of this fare, it's hard to believe it's the same group that produced the foreboding epic "Black Noise" but, even more so, the relentlessly dark album "City of Fear" that followed. The best two tracks here occur back to back. "Seventh Heaven" is a thoroughly enjoyable self referential goodbye to the 1970s and look ahead to the 1980s. It also seems to have inspirited the entire early catalogue of Bahraini prog band OSIRIS who, if anything, improved on the blueprint. "Father Time" is a vivacious slightly jazzy number that is enriched by Hawkins' vocalizations in the break.

Several instrumentals amply manifest that the proggy FM is still around if truncated. "Horizons" and "Random Harvest" are a bit too similar but with plenty of oblique angles demarcated throughout to keep them fresh. "Destruction" is more complex, robust on the outside and tender within. Even "Shapes of things" is not as dire as my younger petulant self might have hastily decreed.

The main weaknesses of the album are that it lacks absolutely brilliant tracks that both "Black Noise" and "City of Fear" possessed in the plural, and that it might be a tad more keyboard dominated than an album by a band with an electric mandolinist has any right to be. It makes up for these by perhaps being the most consistent FM album of the early years, and, as such, "Surveillance" merits your scrutiny.

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 Headroom: Direct to Disc by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.69 | 78 ratings

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Headroom: Direct to Disc
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars While one can spot references to the prior "Black Noise" as well as hints later incorporated in "Surveillance", "Direct to Disk" or "Headroom" is largely a one-off in the FM discography. My recollection is that "Black Noise" didn't really get much attention until a couple of years after release, so this recording was made in a vacuum of sorts, and perhaps as a way to bond with the new violinist/mandolinist Ben Mink who had already replaced Nash the Slash..

Vocals are sparse and buried in the mix when present, and the styles range from flourishing PONTY like jazz to MAHIVISHNU like spaciness and back again, the rhythm section amply propping up the electric strings and keyboards. Each of the two long pieces are subdivided but it's a challenge to discern where one movement ends and the next begins. Ultimately, while the band playing is rather tight given the improvised nature of the material, and highly skilled bordering on virtuous at times, this is only fleetingly engaging music, which is ultimately how I judge material, prog or not. Direct to Disk is as good an argument for FM as a full fledged prog rock band as any release, but it's not even close to their finest moment. 2.5 stars rounded down.

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 Heaven And Beyond by KNIGHT AREA album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.18 | 26 ratings

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Heaven And Beyond
Knight Area Neo-Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Heaven and Beyond is an attempt to bridge the hard rock guitar hero approach of Hyperdrive with the more symphonic rock stylings of earlier albums with a dash of Queen-like baroque pomposity thrown in. Looks like a formula for a predictable heavy prog-lite approach, and it kind of is, but not as bad as it sounds. The playing is very professional and the bass is booming as always. I like the flow of the album - it starts very appealing with a flashy instrumental intro to Unbroken, a song that is followed by a shorter rocker before going into a slower darker number, which is relieved by an even shorter and poppier rocker. It may not be as catchy a work as previous albums, but what we come to expect from Knight Area is evenness and that is delivered.

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 Beyond Magnetic by METALLICA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
2.80 | 42 ratings

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Beyond Magnetic
Metallica Prog Related

Review by thwok

3 stars BEYOND MAGNETIC is a short collection of left over tracks released between the excellent DEATH MAGNETIC and HARDWIRED TO SELF DESTRUCT. Critical consensus over DEATH MAGNETIC varied considerably. Your take on this EP may fall in line with what you think of that album. This is not quite up to the level of DEATH MAGNETIC, which I suppose is why it was released separately, but it's still terrific. The sound here is similar to the earlier album; my favorite track here is "Just A Bullet Away". I think "Rebel of Babylon" overstays its welcome. This EP doesn't break new ground, which is a good definition of "progressiveness", but Metallica doesn't have to at this point. On the whole, BEYOND MAGNETIC measures up the usual high standard set by one of the most innovative bands in metal history.

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 Rubycon by TANGERINE DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.25 | 792 ratings

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Rubycon
Tangerine Dream Progressive Electronic

Review by Walkscore

4 stars The Quintessential Tangerine Dream!

Their best album - very close to 5 Stars! In the 1980s Tangerine Dream would become cheesy, but on this album they are at their most inventive. They use a large swath of electronic instruments (the original analog synths) but also guitars, melotrons, and traditional instruments played through various effects (delay, etc) to produce a highly original and musical album. While they established the basis for their sound on the previous "Phaedra" album, it is on this one that they excel. The result is an original mix of psychedelic soundscape, haunting and emotive , futuristic repetitive synth sequences, and experimental musique concrette, but without the limitations of any kind of pre-set structure (no time signatures, key signatures or chord progressions to worry about). It works exceptionally well, taking you on a sound voyage that is like no other. Later on, Tangerine Dream would start using drum machines, chord progressions, and structured melody lines, which sometimes worked and sometimes did not, and in doing so lose some of the magic of unstructured but highly musical soundscape exploration that this album characterises. Highly recommended. I give this 8.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is just shy of my criteria for 5 stars. So, at the top end of 4 PA stars.

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 Invention of Knowledge by ANDERSON/STOLT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.68 | 181 ratings

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Invention of Knowledge
Anderson/Stolt Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Better than most Jon Anderson solo albums.

Many reviewers have suggested this album comes across as a parts Olias of Sunhillow and Tales from Topographic Oceans, and I would not, on the whole, disagree. However, it is missing key elements of both albums that pushed them into 'excellent' territory. On the positive side, all the music on this album is highly listenable all the way through, which can't be said for most Jon Anderson solo albums (which often have duds that must be skipped over, except Olias of course), and all of the pieces here are solid even if not highly memorable. Jon Anderson's lyrics here are also pretty good - better than a lot of his more cheesy lyrics on some of his solo albums, and his voice has kept well - he sounds pretty darn good for a 70-year old! So, good on these scores, and worth picking up for these reasons. On the negative side, the vocals are too constant, with insufficient instrumental breaks. While I generally love Jon Anderson's vocals, too much of a good thing can be a bit tiring to listen to - there is not sufficient time to wander off into the music before perking up one's ears again for the lyrics. Related to this, while the music behind the lyrics is excellent, it is not sufficiently the focus of the album. Often the excellent playing is too low in the mix (leaving the vocals always up front and centre), and the musical interludes are too short. Among the great thing about Yes (and the Flower Kings and Roine Stolt's solo work) was/is the high degree of musicality in their instrumental sections, and you can hear right away the potential for this in this album too, but alas there are no extended instrumental pieces (not even extended new-age-y ethereal tails like on Olias) - AND there are not enough guitar solos! Roine Stolt is a fantastic player and on a duet album one would like to hear him play the guitar some more (there are a number of short solos, but most are more like bridges or transitions than real solos). Saying all this, I don't want to give a bad impression of this album - it is actually very good for what it is and worth hearing. I have listened to this about 10 times now, and I find a number of sections quite musical, and nothing is off-putting. But it is not quite 4-star material. I give this album 7.7 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

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 The Sum Of No Evil by FLOWER KINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.81 | 496 ratings

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The Sum Of No Evil
The Flower Kings Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

5 stars One of two TFK masterpieces!

While 'Unfold the Future' is often lauded as one of TFK's best albums, Sum of No Evil is often overlooked. But I think it qualifies as the second TFK masterpiece, and thus deserves much more attention. Many reviewers here on PA have rated this down, but I think this is a problematic result of the way ratings work on sites like this, and not a reflection of the true musical value of this great work. When someone is rating an album that we all know well (say, a classic album from the 70s), it is one we have listened to for years, multiple times. So, even for those albums that are very dense, complex and difficult to penetrate at first (think, a lot of the more difficult albums by Yes, GG, the Hatfield's, etc), after multiple listens over many years emerges the musicality that was initially impenetrable to the listener. So, we can say that Tales is a great, musical album and rate it accordingly. However, when a recent album is released, many reviewers will listen to it once or twice, and then review it. The more difficult-to-penetrate albums are then rated down, because they have not had the luxury of multiple listens yet. And multiple listens are absolutely essential - much of the pleasure of good music is derived from the anticipation of knowing what comes next - satisfying that anticipation releases endorphins in the brain, leading to the pleasure we experience when a great section of music we have listened to many times arrives. But an album one listens to once or twice cannot, by definition, do this, particularly one that is more complex and difficult to get initially, even when they are highly musical. Meanwhile, other more-accessible albums that one can easily 'get' on first or second listen then get higher ratings (think many of the recent neo-prog albums). Even worse, on first listen, one might catch a few musical or lyrical references to those older classic 70s albums, and if at the same time the rest of the music seems impenetrable, it is so easy to be derogatory and label the music as just "retro-prog". I think this is patently unfair, and so I make a policy of only reviewing albums that I have listened to multiple times, and also of reviewing the music AS music, regardless of when and by whom it was made, or what is on the album cover.

And this album, to me, stands up there with the best of many of the classics. If it had been released in 1975, I think it would be up there in the top 100. I think if it had the benefit of decades, by now reviewers would know it inside out and would have a different take. It is both very dense (so requiring MANY multiple listens) AND very musical. It takes a long while to cognitively map this album, but once you do, one finds an exceptionally satisfying and beautiful set of music. Even the short slower tune, "Trading My Soul", which many reviewers here on PA seem to dismiss as it strikes them as less progressive and sappy (probably after one or two listens), is exceptionally musical and poignant. It all flows together very well, and even though this album is another example of an over-extended TFK set (over 78 minutes!), it carries you along and the time flies quickly. You don't want it to end!

While TKF albums and songs are, for the most part, not notable for their lyrics, this album is an exception. I really appreciate Roine Stolt's lyrics here - instead of searching around for external topics to write about (like he did in Adam and Eve, and Paradox Hotel), Stolt here writes from the heart. Reviewers seem to have latched onto a few lines (like the title and some lyrics in the long epic "Love is the Only Answer") in their arguments for why this album might be graded down, or deemed retro, etc, without actually listening to the content of the lyrics. Now I don't know Roine Stolt (and have never met him) but it seems to me this is his most personal TFK album. Indeed, I think the entire album is a dialogue with himself about the benefits of continuing with TFK, the sacrifices he and his family have made, and even his relationship with music itself. Stolt is someone who has given his entire life to music, but despite building a small but solid TFK following the band remained precarious. On this album, it seems he is letting on that he has decided to give it one more try, to follow his heart one more time, knowing full well he was getting older, 'trading his soul', and soon would have to make some decisions and reconcile with his other loved ones. Many of the songs are full of personal thoughts (including references to some of Stolt's favourite songs, and heroes, which on this album often take on multiple meanings). "Love is the Only Answer" is not a sappy throwaway, but an internal dialogue negotiating with darkness. The closing piece ("Life in Motion") ended up having a double meaning. He was coming home again to music. But after the tour ('Kaput'!), he folded the TFK for 5 years and actually did go home. Perhaps he was too emotionally drained, perhaps the opportunity to rejoin Transatlantic was just too lucrative, perhaps a number of things, but I wonder what would have happened with TFK if this album had been the one to take off. Regardless, I see this album as a huge musical accomplishment. It contains some of TFK's best compositions, and some of Stolt's most personal and (to me) interesting lyrics. There is not an unmusical minute on it, let alone an unmusical song (whereas other TFK albums usually contain a few duds, this one is just so musical all the way through). The first (and second, and third) time I listened to this, I found it too dense to form an opinion about it, but if I had to might have agreed with those who said it is fragmented and impenetrable. It is a good thing I didn't review it then! I have by now listened to this over 50 times. It is one of the few albums in my collection that just keeps getting better with each listen (those pro-musical endorphins at work!). It is a real keeper. I give it 9.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, and so 5 PA stars.

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 The Rainmaker by FLOWER KINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.48 | 397 ratings

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The Rainmaker
The Flower Kings Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Very good - high 3*!

This album is often viewed less worthy than other TFK albums. However, there is some excellent music on here. This album is the last album to feature Jamie Salazar on drums, who had played with the TFK since inception (and on the album that started it all, The Flower King). I don't have any inside information about the band, but Salazar officially quit in May 2001, and listening to this it seems that Stolt may have rushed the recording process in order to be able to get Salazar to play on it (and the title "Rainmaker" - clearly a double-entendre - does this also refer to Salazar - the one who brought the 'rain' (Stolt crying?)). Some of the songs are mere fragments (eg "Red Alert") that would have been great if developed into, or made part of, longer pieces, while others (eg "World without Heart", "Thru the Walls", "Elaine") feel like they were written, or wrapped up, quickly. I also wonder if the last song "Serious Dreamers" is not about the loss of Salazar, who apparently quit not for emotional or musical reasons, but for entirely pragmatic reasons. While I think many of the songs are great, I do think there is a problem with the running order. Unfortunately, at key points the songs do not flow well from one to another, and I actually think it opens with the wrong song. While on first glance "Last Minute on Earth" sounds like a good opener, after multiple listens I think it would have been better near the end. 'Last Minute' sets a sad-ish tone, and as a longish and often harder-edged song, exacts a bit more from the listener than many other tunes, which is good but means they may be tired by the time the rest of the album comes along. "World without Heart" should also be near the end - it doesn't work as a second song. The best piece on the album is the longest one, "Road to Sanctuary", up there with the best TFK pieces, and if this had opened the album I think it would have set the tone differently. Saying this, I also agree that a number of tunes on this album don't seem as well worked out. Even 'Road' should have been longer - just when it seems it would be great for it to come back to the main theme (after 14 minutes, thus creating an extended epic) it ends. Did the band not have time to make sure this one lived up to its potential? "Serious Dreamers" is excellent, and it grooves. However, the groove is interupted on a number of occassions - if this had been played live a number of times first I think the band would have realised a better arrangement. "Rainmaker" And songs like "Elaine" and "Thru the Walls" are filler (although "Elaine" has a really fantastic bass-led section at its coda - that minute alone is worth the price of the album!). I really like the title track, but it is mainly a guitar solo, and could have been developed more into something with even more musical and emotional weight. So, on the whole, lots of excellent music, but an album that seems to miss its potential, possibly because the band didn't have enough time to really think/play through the music before it had to be recorded. On balance, I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translate to the high end of 3 PA stars.

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 The Flower King  by STOLT, ROINE album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.10 | 239 ratings

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The Flower King
Roine Stolt Symphonic Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Very close to 5 Stars!

A very musical and passionate statement. This is the album that started it all for the Flower Kings (Stolt formed his touring band for this album using the players on it, his brother on bass, and Thomas Bodin on Keyboards, and christened them the Flower Kings for the tour, thus beginning a great musical legacy). Deciding it was time to record music he truly liked, and to communicate some of the ideas felt strongly about, Stolt wrote and produced this album on his own. It is always better when the artist has complete control over the music, and it really works here. This is a very musical album. While the strongest is the long epic "Humanizzimo" and some of the tunes in the middle ("Magic Circus of Zeb", "Pilgrims Inn", "Sounds of Violence") all the songs here are above par and they flow together very well. Probably the weakest is the title track, almost bordering on cheesy, but it is saved by the arrangement (while "Close Your Eyes" also borders on cheesy - this is the song I skip over). There are some excellent guitar solos on this album. Roine Stolt is a fantastic guitar player, and does not shy away from composing his songs around some great guitar work. He also shows himself to be an excellent multi-instrumentalist - he plays all the keys and bass on the album, leaving only the drums/percussion and saxes, and back-up vocals, to his guests. The return to the opening theme at the end ("Scanning the Greenhouse") ties everything together nicely and provides an exceptional and emotional closer to the album. Overall, a very satisfying musical experience. I give this 8.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is just 0.1 shy of 5 stars (and so, 4 PA stars).

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 Heat of the Moment by ASIA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
4.05 | 3 ratings

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Heat of the Moment
Asia Prog Related

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I think that it was in late 1981 or in early 1982 that I read in a newspaper or in a Rock magazine about the formation of ASIA. a new band formed by four former members of some Prog Rock bands. John Wetton (ex- member of KING CRIMSON, URIAH HEEP, UK and others) was the main founder of the band, and in late 1980-early 1981 he met Steve Howe (ex-member of YES), and both started planning to form a new band and to write songs together. It seems that ASIA also was put together by a manager and by some record industry executives, and in fact several other musicians auditioned to be members of the band (Trevor Rabin, among them). But the original line-up was ready by 1981 with the addition of Cal Palmer (ex-member of ELP) on drums and Geoff Downes on keyboards (ex-member of THE BUGGLES and YES).

By mid 1982 I remember that I visited one day a record shop in my city (one of the several record shops which were closed in 1982-83 after another economic crisis in my country), and I was seeing the LPs there, when the person who was selling the albums there was playing in a turntable the first ASIA's album. I asked him: "Which album is that?" and he showed me the album cover of ASIA's first album. The song which I was listening to then was to "Heat of the Moment". I don't remember if I stayed in the record shop enough time to listen to the full album or if it was played in full, but I liked a lot "Heat of the Moment". It maybe was until some weeks later that I bought the album in another record shop (maybe the prices of the imported LPs were cheaper in the other record shop, I don't remember well now). But some weeks later I went to the first record shop that I visited to buy a T-shirt which had the cover art of the album printed at the front. Very good memories of that time.

Maybe Wetton and Howe started the band, but in the end the best working songwriting team in the band was by Wetton and Downes, who wrote the main Hit Singles that the band had.

"Heat of the Moment" is a song composed by Wetton and Downes which curiously has Steve Howe playing the main riff of the song. It is mainly a song written for the guitar, and it obviously has a lot of Pop Rock influences with very good arrangements. The lyrics are also very Pop Rock influenced, without having "deep meaning". So it was a song mainly written having Radio playing in mind. But it is a very good song. But I don't like the official video of this song which I watched to in youtube some years ago.

In the Side B of this single there is "Time Again", the only song of the band which was credited to be written by the four original members of the band (Downes-Howe-Palmer-Wetton). It really was a song with a lot of Prog Rock music inlfuences which some songs of their first album still had. It maybe was the most Prog Rock song that their first album had, and it worked very well.

If ASIA was a disappointment for a lot of Prog Rock fans with their albums having a lot of Pop Rock songs, it still had a lot of quality in some songs, with some of them still being influenced by Prog Rock ("Time Again" was one of them). Their first album is very good despite that criticism. And both songs from this single are very good.

John Wetton died in 31-January-2017. The band is going to do a tour with Billy Sherwood replacing Wetton. Even Wetton asked Sherwood to replace him even before his death from cancer. Wetton knew that maybe he couldn't tour with ASIA due to his health problems. Howe was replaced some years ago by a young guitarist called Sam Coulson.

ASIA's first album was released thirty five years ago in 18-March-1982.

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