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 John Scofield Band: ▄berjam by SCOFIELD, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.97 | 10 ratings

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John Scofield Band: ▄berjam
John Scofield Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars John Scofield established a name for himself as a jazz guitarist long before he seriously pursued a full-out solo career. He had played alongside Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny among scores of other artists and rock artists such as John Mayer and Gov't Mule. 'Uberjam' was released as The John Scofield Band and it contains several different styles of jazz influenced by electonica, funk, soul, r&b, rock and so on infused with jazz. Scofield has been known to experiment with many different styles, finding ways to meld them with jazz flavors, but sometimes has ventured far enough away from jazz to question whether he has left it all together. But he always returns. This might make you think that he is either unfocused or versatile, depending on how you look at it.

'Acidhead' starts with the psychedelic Indian sound with wordless vocals that matches the album cover. Eventually a smooth bass line and medium rhythm kicks in while guitar establishes the melody. A screechy sound counteracts the guitar as all players improvise over a funky backdrop. Nice effects and interesting sounds from the instruments turn this into an interesting opening track and prepares you for an exciting ride.

'Ideofunk' uses percussion and organ to establish the backdrop and a staccato-laden melody. A nice smooth groove eventually evokes a nice set of solos from various players including a wicked flute solo.

'Jungle Fiction' has a quick, tricky rhythm that will leave you guessing what meter it is in. But Scofield keeps a smooth guitar sound through the odd time signature which changes several times. Later, electronic and traditional drums trade off with a staccato keyboard and interesting sounding electronic effects. There is some nice and wild soloing and improvising going on in this one.

The next track takes a hip-hop funk route on 'I Brake 4 Monster Booty'. Scofield uses his signature sound effectively on this track with a heavy beat. A short rap by drummer Adam Deitch kicks in just before the 2 minute mark. I know it sounds corny, but it's actually a fun track with a lot of electronic effects that fit right in.

'Animal Farm' is a bit smoother, but has an underlying R&B drum-and-bass vibe. An interesting melody is introduced with a layered guitar that has a dissonant harmony. This also ventures into a bit of an experimental territory. There is a shaky sax riff in there too.

'Offspring' is a bit more conventional as far as a jazz fusion vibe, but with enough surprises of it's own to keep everything fresh. It has a Herbie Hancock feel at least in its interplay with an almost acid jazz format. This one also features one of the best guitar solos on the album, fast, quick and catchy. Later there is a quick percussion solo with some processed vocals.

'Tomorrow Land' slows the pace somewhat, with a softer rhythm section and a nice mellow jazz guitar. The track maintains the easy groove allowing Scofield to improvise freely.

Next is the title track 'Uberjam'. It starts out with a lot of electronic effects including the percussion. A fast paced funk pattern gets started and Scofield lays out a tricky melody which leaves room for backing instruments to show off a bit. Scofield definitely takes advantage of the track to do some tricky guitar work. Oh, and he throws the chorus of 'Blue Moon' in there if you listen closely. By the end of it all, it gets into quite an intense groove to wind it all up.

'Polo Towers' sets up a tricky rhythm section in which a layered sax lays down an unusual melody. A guitar break in the middle plays through some cool sounds and screechy textures. Later, the guitar and sax mirror each other and create a crazy vibe right at the end.

'Snap, Crackle, Pop' is another upbeat funk-fest with another great guitar solo with some unique sounds which were probably created by the electronics. The theme in this one doesn't quite match up to the faster rhythm, but that's only a minor problem. 'Lucky for Her' is the final track which ties everything up nicely in a final showcase of electronica and guitar.

In the end, it is understandable why this was released under The John Scofield Band name because the entire band makes this album what it is. But overall, it belongs to John Scofield who provides most of the solos, and to Avi Bortnick who is in charge of the electronica portion of the album, and who has a lot of say in the vibe of each track and who lays down the tricky rhythms and up-to-date sound. This is a very fun album with a lot of variety. On the surface, it may seem a little hokey, but it all pulls together nicely and leaves you feeling like you are listening to a very current recording.

John Scofield says that he like to think that Miles Davis would have loved this album because of the way it stretches Jazz fusion boundaries and how it sounds so current. Even though there are some progressive elements spread throughout the album, it is mostly just good funk fusion album and it is one that might even make you want to move around a bit. It is definitely more than just a background record, it is possibly even a party record if used in the right way, but I find that some of the tracks might be too experimental or progressive to be completely accessible. But it is definitely enjoyable and fun.

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 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.41 | 612 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by PsychoFunkSoldier

4 stars I can understand why the reviews are divided for this because I was originally disappointed when this album was released, but it has really grown on me as of late. I thought a lot of the mellow parts were cheesy and some of the heavy parts were cliche, so after about two full listens I put the album away.

Well, I picked it up this week and honestly I think it might be one of their best works. Now I go all the way back to Images & Words and Awake which are still two of my favorites along with Scenes from a Memory. After taking some time off from DT I gave this album another try and now really appreciate how all the music fits together and I've found many more pieces that I really now like. The Gift of Music and Our New World stood out right away but now some of my personal favorites include Dystopian Overature, A Life Left Behind, Three Days, The X Aspect, A New Beginning, Moment of Betrayal, and The Path That Divides.

From a performance standpoint I think it could be considered Labrie's and Rudess's best work. There's enough here for any progress I can to appreciate but this won't win you over if you've never been a fan of DT.

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 Apoteosi by APOTEOSI album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.85 | 160 ratings

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Apoteosi
Apoteosi Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

2 stars APOTEOSI was one of the many Italian prog bands that emerged toward the tail end of the scene, managed to release a single album and then disbanded never to be heard from again. This band emerged from Palmi in the Calabria region of Southern Italy and was built around the nucleus of three siblings: Silvana, Massimo and Federico IdÓ. The band was notorious for being quite young as the majority were teens at the time, however they had all been playing together for quite some time before finally getting to this one and only eponymously titled album.

This project was a family affair in every way possible since the father Salvatore IdÓ even got in on the action and released the album on his Said Records, however release didn't translate into any fame or fortune due to horrible distribution and even less than adequate exposure through marketing. This was basically a homegrown affair that has remained so until modern day when interest in the album has picked up due to the popular interest that has developed in everything 70s prog.

APOTEOSI is an awkward sounding album that seems to meander unpredictably. The main sources of reference seem to belong to the greats of the Italian era such as PFM and Banco but missing are the outstanding full-band instrumental interplay, the sizzling poetic prose and interestingly arranged composiitons that offer a a ceaseless parade of good old fashioned Italian prog passion. In fact the album seems to rely on the atmospheric meanderings through different keyboard sections that allow the weak vocal style of Silvana to play peek-a-boo every once in a while without any satisfying resolve.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspects of APOTEOSI are the excellent bass, guitar and keyboard interaction that do indeed crank out some seriously technically infused chops but they seem to get lost when the atmospheric parts find Silvana delivering some of the weakest lyrical deliveries on any progressive Italian album i've ever encountered. So woefully weak are her parts that it pretty much derails any possibly enjoyment for this album as a listening experience for no matter how graceful are the transitions, no matter how flirtatious are the flutes or jarringly brilliant are the rest of the band's roles, this one key ingredient falls flat.

One could scour the 70s of hundreds of examples of Italian prog and only come away with the fact that there was a glut of extremely competent examples of progressive rock that mixed and melded with every other musical style under the sun with some of the greatest vocalists ever to have appeared on recordings to follow suit. It almost seems that it's literally impossible for an Italian band to crank out a substandard album but i've found that APOTEOSI managed to create a substandard flop that rubs me the wrong way in about every way possible.

Firstly the drum parts are obnoxiously loud and sound canned. The mix is painful and the musical flow seems rather haphazard with the ultimate weaknesses coming from both the female and male vocal performances. This would've been a much better album if it was completely instrumental but even the compositional prowess isn't up to snuff, made especially more irrelevant considering this was unleashed as late as 1975. Yeah, there are some brilliant instrumental workouts here and there but overall this is one of the most unsatisfying Italian prog albums i've ever heard and i've heard and awful lot. Back in the vaults with this one.

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 Subject Esq. by SAHARA album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.54 | 36 ratings

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Subject Esq.
Sahara Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Starting out as one of the many 60s beat music groups that looked towards England rather than their homegrown German underground scene, SUBJECT ESQ started out humbly in 1966 as The Subjects but would change their name in 1968 to SUBJECT ESQ. The band would release this sole album under this moniker in 1972 before switching gears one more time and changing their band name to Sahara under which they would release two additional albums. Based in Munich, The Subjects turned SUBJECT ESQ were more interested in creating a hard rock tinged melodic guitar driven sound that utilized English lyrics and incorporated touches of more progressive elements such as jazz-rock and some psychedelic features.

The band spent many years on the local scene honing their skills before they got around to recording and releasing this eponymously titled SUBJECT ESQ release and therefore this debut album sound like it was delivered from a well-seasoned band that had successfully honed their Beatles melodies, their Who inspired heavy chops and incorporated a more local flavor with Embryo styled jazz-rock that offered interesting extended progressive workouts that spread out beyond the strongly melodic songwriting process. The band at this stage consisted of Michael Hofmann (flute, alto sax, vocals), Peter Stadler (keyboards), Stephan Wissnet (bass, vocals), Alex Pittwohn (mouth harp, 12-string acoustic guitar, vocals) and Harry Rosenkind (drums) but the band would add even more musicians as they continued to tour.

SUBJECT ESQ is a very strong example of completely unknown music by today's standards was ridiculously good and leaves me wondering why these guys haven't been relegated to a higher level of historical standing. The melodic hooks are solidly addictive as they immediately reel you in before the arrangements are allowed to develop into more intriguing complexities. While not exactly jazz-fusion, the jazz elements are wickedly strong as they accompany the hard rock guitar parts but are just as integral to the band's overall sound as are the guitar and bass. The vocal performances are outstanding. Vocals in German bands of the era can be less than optimal for the musical style but several vocalists exhibit very strong harmonies as well as instrumental command that ranges from technically adept to ridiculously playful.

SUBJECT ESQ was one of the underground prog legends of the Munich area in the day but never really broke beyond the German market unfortunately. With an eclectic sound that sounded part English rock including a Jethro Tullish flute performance, a jazzy rock dominance and a strong American folk element that reminds a bit of Crosby, Still and Nash, it's no wonder the band were quite popular in their region for their day as all members maintained a strong command of the instrumentation and musical delivery. This is one of those albums you can drift into decades later and the melodic hooks are so strong that it will instantly drag you in and leave you wondering why you haven't heard of them before and even worse make you wonder how many other excellent bands of similar ilk have also been lost to the bulk of product in the historical bins. This was a surprise but a pleasant one. A super strong album that deserves rediscovery.

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 Find Your Sun by D PROJECT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.97 | 63 ratings

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Find Your Sun
The D Project Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The usual top-notch instrumental performances from StÚphane and guests trying to melt multiple styles and structures into the framework of single songs. The justifications for such odd, hodge-podge, patchork compositions are only, as always, in the mind of M. DÚsbains; as usual, they don't really make sense (or pleasure) to me. I'm surprised producer Andy Jackson (whose rendering of sound quality is great) allows these often disjointed and incongruous sections to end up in their final sections. Perhaps the StÚphane-Andy team have a vision that progressive rock should always be constituted from the gluing together of many separate songs into one. (Lord, what a precedent Peter Gabriel GENESIS created with "Supper's Ready"!) As always with StÚphane albums, there are great sections, great instrumental performances, cogent and relative lyrics, yet I have trouble liking any one song start to finish. The best song he's ever produced (and the only one that remains on constant rotation among my playlists) is the amazing title song from 2006's "Shimmering Lights."

3.5 Stars based upon the strength of "The End," "Find Your Sun," and "Be Free" and 12-string guitars. You be your own judge.

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 u-B-I-Q-U-e by ART ZOYD album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.26 | 24 ratings

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u-B-I-Q-U-e
Art Zoyd RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars "Ubique" (stylized "u-B-I-Q-U-e") by Art Zoyd was released in 2001. Only two of the early members remained in the band at this time, composer and instrumentalist Gerard Hourbette and keyboardist Patricia Dallio. Besides these two, there were 3 other regular members of the band, whose line up emphasized the use of electronics. On this particular album, however, we see a movement towards the traditional instruments of their original line up in the use of an "orchestra" which consisted of 13 guitars, 3 basses, 6 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, 10 drummers, and 1 percussionist. Sounds pretty impressive, right?

Well, it is quite an impressive sound, and it is made all the better with guest conductor Michel Berckmans from "Univers Zero". Unfortunately, it isn't used as much as it should be throughout the album, and you still get left with that feeling that the overall sound depends too much upon electronics. Not that it is a bad thing, but with AZ, the sound was just more appealing when traditional instruments were used. I understand, that like Frank Zappa and other artists, that electronics can generate the perfect sound that artists want, but in the end, they can also make the music sound "fake" or clinical with lesser feel of dynamics and emotion. Some artists are out there that can pull this off, but not often.

The album is based upon the book Ubique by Phillip K. Dick, a science fiction writer. The band calls it a symphonic poem, which is an apt description. The album is divided up into two suites, "Glissements Progressifs du Plaisir" made up of the first 9 tracks, and "Metempsychose" made up of the last 7 tracks.

When the orchestra is used, the result is much better, even when it is used in tandem with the electronic instruments. The music is powerful and cinematic, a dynamic and beautiful. Whether the orchestra section is forte or pianissimo, the overall feel is much more satisfying, though at times, it is used sparingly. However, there are sections where the electronics have the say, too many of them in fact, and those sections just aren't that convincing.

The first 2 parts of the first suite are full and exciting, sounding like an authentic soundscape for the setting of the story. As the suite continues, however, electronic instruments start to take completely over and this is the case for most of the rest of the suite, which takes up a big part of the album. Things tend to get repetitive and unchanging in some sections, and quickly the listener can easily lose interest as repeated patterns and passages tend to wear on you. The last few parts of the suite start to utilize the orchestra better, and things start to improve, but you almost expect a little big more, as some sections tend to put the orchestra into the background behind the electronics.

The 2nd suite starts out with a great combination of both sources and together they create a dramatic and imposing landscape. This continues into the 3rd section of the suite which only consists of various generated noises and effects, but still carries forth the impact. After this, there are 2 long, minimalist sections, that goes on way too long (about 15 minutes) and would have been better served if there were some sort of visual to go with it, but as music, it is too repetitive and uninteresting. While it is true that with a lot of minimalist music, you can conjure up your own visuals, I find it difficult to do with this music because it is meant to portray specific scenes and the only real reaction I get is being startled at the sudden introduction of another instrument. The last two movements are short, but they re-establish the theme of the 2nd suite and things start to get interesting, but it's all over quickly.

Overall, this is the sound you expect from the electronic version of the band, but your expectations could be higher since there is a use of more traditional instruments. They could have been used a little more effectively though, and there are long sections in this overall album that hardly utilize it at all, and see very little movement in the music itself. The album still is good enough to be considered good, but your expectations wish that there was so much more here. I don't think this is an album for people interested in Art Zoyd's style to completely ignore, as there some great passages here, but it is still far from their best work, so it is not one I would start with. I might have a better understanding of the music if I was more familiar with the source of the topic the music is centered around, but it does provoke a darkness and feeling of foreboding, as you would expect in a dark sci-fi story. But a better familiarity might generate a better affinity for the music itself. I can easily settle on 3 stars for this one even with my ignorance of the inspiration of the album.

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 War Child by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.33 | 774 ratings

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War Child
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Jethro Tull has been and will (most likely) forever be a favorite band of mine. From humble beginnings on "This was" with it's very blues rock approach they certainly developed over the coming years into something completely unique and excentric, thanks in no small part to the chieftain himself, Ian Anderson. The progression was swift and breathtaking. Moving across the full spectrum of music, drawing on classical, folk, jazz, hard rock they thusly took full control over the genre known as progressive rock. I dare say no other band sounded like them.

"Warchild" came right after two of progressive rocks finest achievements: "Thick as a brick" and "A passion play". In my book these two albums with sidelong suites are five stars and utterly brilliant. The problem with "Warchild", as I see it, is not the musical content but the albums it followed. The grave complexity of "A passion play" was left behind on this one which meant taking a different turn on the highway explored for the last few years. The music was instead made up of shorter tracks, a noticable accessability and lighter textures. This did not mean they abandoned the progressive genre or complexity, they simply smoothed it out a bit. The problems I had with the album, initially, was down to exactly the things previously mentioned. All of a sudden the overblown pomp and darkness of "A passion play", which seemed like the crowning achievement of Tull, was abandoned. My thirst for ever more mindblowing concept albums with loooong suites and themes seemed unsatisfied. It took me some time to come 'round.

For me "Warchild", nowadays, is just as brilliant as anything before or after. It is an album of a unique sound. True, the sidelong suits were gong but the complexity was not. Some tracks are easily digested but not less brilliant. The album holds many of the bands best tracks. In my book "Warchild" came to be a one-off in their discography. "Minstrel in the gallery" saw them returning to the elongated tracks in "Baker St. Muse" but also the highly complex in the title track. "Warchild" is a hard rocking, folky, raw and rough and witty album with quite a dose of frustrated energy (possibly due to the bad reviews "A passion play" received) that adds accordion to the procedings. They never sounded quite like this again. Anderson sings with power and gusto and the band delivers in spades.

The album had some sort of concept, so Ian Anderson hadn't quite abandoned that idea, but is more a collection of individual songs. If you don't know the concept it doesn't matter. You will enjoy it just the same. And as far as songs go I find it hard to pick out specific tracks. Despite the obvious or supposed lack of concept it holds together very well and acts as a tapestry where every motif adds to the whole experience. The air raid sirens of the title track (which opens the album) is simply genious and the song gives quite a good idea of what to expect. Slightly askew and intense it is a bit more stripped down than the sound on the previous album but that makes it all the more powerful. And yes, listen to "Queen and country". There's a song for you. Well, to be honest I could go through every song saying the same, "Listen to...", but that would be tiresome for everyone involved.

I love this album. I do. It is great and sees Jethro Tull swagger and rock out in a majestic haze of power. It's like they wanted to shut the critics up and deliver a massive blow to everyone that didn't get "A passion play". It may take some time to warm to this album if you, like me, listened to their discography from "This was", over "Stand up" and "Benefit" and so on but do not dismiss this album as a throwaway preceeding "Minstrel in the gallery", "Songs from the wood" and the brilliant "Heavy horses". Give it a go and open your ears to some truly magnificent music.

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 This Was by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.31 | 783 ratings

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This Was
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by thief

3 stars London in 1968 lived and breathed blues rock - John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, The Yardbirds, all these groups were hip and Clapton was god. The biggest group in the pack, Cream, had already released two powerful albums and greatly influenced upcoming bands, paving the way for loud, guns blazing guitar music with extended solos and blues roots. So if you wanted to get recognition, you had to follow.

At least that's how Ian Anderson remembers the beginnings of Jethro Tull.

The band eanred public's attention at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in August 1968 and the album quickly followed. Ian felt they needed Mick Abrahams' experience and guitar skills to form a reliable foundation, while Anderson's flute playing (first year with the instrument) gave the group another dimension and let them stand out. This approach proved to be good enough to reach no. 10 on the charts.

"My Sunday Feeling" opens with prominent flute, emphatic vocals and Mick's crunchy guitar chops. I wouldn't necessarily call it a smash hit, but rather a promising band executing well-known formula - a positive, charming effort. "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You" seems to be even more Delta-inspired, with very quiet, minimalistic performance of tender guitar and harmonica, plus two guys bemoaning the imminent break-up.

"It's Breaking Me Up", although an original song, sounds just like any other straightforward blues of the era (Canned Heat, Savoy Brown etc.). Not that it's unenjoyable - relaxed atmosphere, quite potent harmonica-guitar duels and groovy drums all have its charm. Same applies to "Serenade of a Cuckoo", jazzy cover of Roland Kirk's classic, beautifully incorporating Ian's skills with the flute. Not the stuff I would be searching for myself, but on a Jethro Tull debut they sound kind of fresh and pleasing, especially that Mick Abrahams does a great job on both. I wouldn't be surprised if his skills surpassed Martin Barre's at the time.

"Move on Alone" and "Round" are too short to make or break the album, but they contribute largely to its appeal - the former with sweet orchestral arrangements and French horn, the latter with feel-good jazzy piano. At times I sense the Cream inspiration on these, but I'm not sure why.

Speaking of Cream, "Cat's Squirrel" was a popular tune back in the day and I'm glad Jethros came forward with their version. It's certainly one of the strongest points of "This Was" - we finally experience fat, distorted humbucker sound, fast tempos and Bunker blasting away. Most of Mick's soloing is apt and interesting, so we never miss Ian's voice on this one. "Dharma for One" is another potent instrumental, but this time the flute - and so-called claghorn - lead the way, right until Clive Bunker takes the rule and surprises with dope drum solo. And yes, this one is listenable!

For some reason I skipped "Beggar's Farm" - maybe the only song co-authored by Anderson & Abrahams, apparently mixing styles of the two. In its core it's a moody blues rock tune about a cheating girl, at first tender and hypnotic, but later building up in a clever way, culminating in a brilliant instrumental bridge between 2:50 and 3:40. I really like this one for showcasing all bandmates at once.

And then we have everyone's favorite song of the year, "A Song for Jeffrey"! That tune is catchier than anything you've heard before, well, at least on "This Was"! Groovy harmonica, badass guitar slides and fuzzy vocals from fuzzy radio work fantastically, and I just adore the break in the middle, so youthful and pleasant. These guys might be something, you know.

The band was clearly searching for its sound at the time, but results were promising. Even though I don't listen to blues rock often, I can tell Jethro Tull's debut was competent and enjoyable, of course if you're willing to expand beyond progressive folk they were known for later. Cool guitar chords, impressive drumming and flute's prominence are all important, but cheerful atmosphere is the most appealing factor in "This Was" formula. I'd say it ranks perfectly in the middle when compared to other debut albums - far from "Led Zeppelin I" grandeur, but also incomparably better than "From Genesis to Revelation". Three stars, well earned.

I advise you to get Remaster version including 1968 singles or "Living in the Past" compilation to fully appreciate early Jethro Tull - "Love Story" and "Christmas Song" are mandatory listens.

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 The Trail Of Tears Suite by VERTICAL ALIGNMENT album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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The Trail Of Tears Suite
Vertical Alignment Symphonic Prog

Review by Steve Conrad

— First review of this album —
4 stars Nu Na Da Ul Tsun Yi (the trail where we died)

Vertical Alignment

Mike Florio? vocals, Keyboards Doug Bowers? backing vocals, keyboards, guitar Michael Adams? drums and percussion, fretless bass Phoen1x? backing vocals, guitar, keyboards, Cherokee flute

GUESTS on Trail of Tears Suite:

DAVID WALLIMANN: Guitar

JOE DENINZON: Violin

RANDY GEORGE: Bass and Keyboard

DAVE HOPE: Bass

JAYMI MILLARD: Bass

RANDALL REEDER: Will Rogers Impersonator

ROSS RORIE: Narration

Album released December 1, 2017

The Trail of Tears Suite

What is it that spurs us towards learning about our roots, our heritage?

According to Phoen1x, it was a trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, USA, for the memorial service when his mother died.

Here in the heart of the Cherokee Nation, which had been forcibly relocated from their ancestral homes in the southeastern regions of USA, he was confronted with his own story.

The Trail of Tears Suite flowed from his pen, song after song, as he immersed himself in that tragic tale of dominant culture oppressing indigenous peoples?yet indomitable spirits who chose to survive, thrive, and ultimately to forgive.

The Music

To these ears, a clear example of vintage symphonic progressive music- filled with growling Hammond organ, synthesizers, mellotron, orchestration, acoustic and electric guitar work, sophisticated arrangements, multi-layered vocals, changing tempos and keys, keeping a high level of musicianship.

The vocals were outstanding. I wished at times that there might be a change in lead vocals simply for some variety. Steve Walsh, for all his massive musical gifts, sometimes allowed Robby Steinhardt to take the lead, or the two would do powerful duet-vocals.

The KANSAS reference is deliberate as I was reminded at times of their earlier albums, especially those tunes that focused on Native themes.

I've rarely cared for spoken words or narration during albums, and there were several of these sprinkled throughout. Although the Will Rogers portions furthered the lyrical themes being explored- and I happen to love his witticisms, most of that seemed superfluous to me.

The Lyrics

There are several ways to convey a message.

I prefer having things suggested rather than literally spelled out- as they are here. I prefer "Long distance runaround/ Long time waiting to feel the sound?", to literally saying what is happening.

Granted, it's subjective, but for me, I'd rather make my own connections, feel my own feelings, get my own references.

That said, a lot of emotional ground is covered in these lyrics, and the story is unfolded bit by bit- people being forced to leave their ancestral homes, march in severe conditions, suffer great deprivations and loss. By some estimates, nearly half of the more than 16,000 people perished in the Cherokee relocation.

Conclusion

This is a worthy consciousness-raising, thoughtful example of symphonic progressive rock played at a high level.

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 Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.13 | 1872 ratings

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Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After the impressive and very successful Scenes from a Memory, Dream Theater released an equally ambitious double album!!!

And this time they tried to modernize their music leaving a bit the typical 90's feeling of their past albums. For that they acquired influences from nu-metal and alternative metal, and even other prog metal acts like Tool (the chorus from The Great Debate sounds just like the great Los Angeles's band) with mixed results in the first CD of the album. Some tracks like The Glass Prison deserves to be remembered as true Dream Theater's classic, while others like Misunderstood and Disappear are totally forgettable. So, despite this CD showed some new paths for the band, I could never give it more than three stars.

And what about the long epic included in the second CD of the album? Here Dream Theater tried to continue the style of Metropolis Pt.2 with success, but without reaching the incredible levels of that album. Some tracks are impressive like the symphonic Overture and the great and catchy Solitary Shell, while other parts of the suite like the bit disappointing Grand Finale are not enough to consider this CD a masterpiece. For this reason, I would give this second part of the album four solid stars.

In addition, I must give a special mention to the musicians. Pretrucci and Portnoy made their most fierce work yet, while Rudess demonstrated that he is the definitive keyboard player for this band.

Best Tracks: The Glass Prison (the initial riff is impressive, and the song contains some interesting new elements) and The Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence suite.

Conclusion: Dream Theater entered in the new millennium with the desire of adding new textures to their music, which revolves between nu-metal, alternative metal, rap and some Tool sounding passages. Nevertheless, they did not forget their past with the symphonic and very prog sounding suite included in the second disc of the album.

The result is a convoluted album with some impressive moments and incredible playing from all the members of the band, but which failed to reach the levels of albums like Images and Words, Awake and Scenes from a Memory despite showing surprising new and interesting capabilities of the band.

My rating: ***

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 Liege & Lief by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.79 | 118 ratings

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Liege & Lief
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by SteveG

5 stars Finally we come to Fairport's jewel in the crown, the very celebrated Liege and Leif album from 1969. Is it worthy of it's accolades? That depends on if you like or hate the album, ultimately, as negative opinions always seem to miss the fact the fact this album is responsible for creating another folk rock subgenre. Nay Sayers also seem to miss the fact that this album is quite good, if not perfect, with first rate musicianship.

In a nutshell, Fairport took staid but interesting unaccompanied British folk standards and set them to very dramatic rock music while interfusing it with deft fiddle playing in order to give it all a rustic appeal. And for these songs it works well. The only song to resemble a conventional rock song is the lead off track "Come All Ye'" with it's conventional verse and chorus structure. The rest have the harder job of holding one's attention on longer narrative based ballads that display little change in the song's musical structure. This was easily accomplished by picking some truly interesting songs and having them sung by the one and only Sandy Denny, who could probably have made vocal exercises sound fascinating, such is the beauty of her voice, phrasing and delivery.

The production of this album is nothing to write home about, sounding quite dull and congested like demo recordings would. However, the less musically dense songs come off best as is the case with the highway bandit ballad "Reynardine", that features economical washes of guitar, bass and whooshing cymbals. This song, turned into a lycanthropic tale by folklorist Cecil Sharp, is absolutely sublime and, more then "Come All Ye", really sets the tone for the album. Following directly is the magnificent tale of betrayal and murder that holds one spell bound through five minutes of dramatic story telling to go along with it's propulsive bass and drums. This song, "Matty Groves", is the highpoint of the album and concludes with a dramatic instrumental coda featuring Richard Thompson's lead guitar kept melodic company by the late great Dave Swarbrick's violin. Swarbrick is more in a supporting role on this album and unfortunately that keeps a song like "Matty Groves" from turning into a progressive tour de force as the songs found on Fairport's follow up album Full House, but it's damn close.

"Farewell, Farewell" is an emotional ballad with lyrics written by Thompson around the melody of the traditional song "Willy O' Winsbury". Denny sells this song in a way that no one else ever could, while it's Spartan musical arrangement once again let's the song shine. The dramatic traditional ballads "The Deserter" and "Tam Lin" follow and the latter song, with long verbiage, would tax many without the dramatic stop/start rhythms and slashing electric guitars that keep it interesting. Both songs are placed around the first of Fairport's recorded jigs and reels simply titled "Medley", which is only a warmup for the ballistic hyper instrumentals that would follow on subsequent albums. The album concludes with the melancholy "Crazy Man Michael", which was written by Thompson and Swarbrick and fits the album perfectly being a tale about a man who murders his lover.

Liege and Leif is not without it's faults but it's virtues and accomplishments put it firmly in the 5 star category.

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 The Ughs by RESIDENTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.37 | 18 ratings

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The Ughs
The Residents RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Some years ago, The Residents put together some music that was supposed to be part of a new project similar to 'Eskimo' which was released way back in the 70s. This new project was called 'The Ughs!' and The Residents were going to dress up like the characters this was based on. For some reason, that idea was dropped and the basis of the music was used for a new project called 'The Voice of Midnight'. That particular project was used and released in 2007. When 2009 came around, The Residents needed some new ideas, so they revisited the original recordings and found they sounded completely different than the finished product for The Voice of Midnight, so they though, why not go back to the original 'Ughs!' Project. Thus this mostly instrumental album was released. I say mostly instrumental because, as in 'Eskimo', the vocals are done in the made- up language of the Ughs.

So, what can you expect from another release from the oddball eyeballs? Well, the unexpected is the usual answer. This unusual is made up of 10 interesting tracks, that are definitely off-kilter if you know not what you are getting into. But, now you have some idea. The music is definitely avant-ish in the same way as 'Eskimo' was. The starting track 'The Ughs' gives you a pretty good idea of what you will be hearing. People saying Ugh and other interesting noises going on is what this introductory track gives you.

'The Dancing Duck' has some quasi-chanting sounds and noises, plus a metallic instrumental sound which I have no idea how it was produced. You have flutes, chimes, and synth going on in there too, but the sound is quite tribal, and not really that bad. Where 'Eskimo' seemed almost to be an unintentional masterpiece, The Ughs gives you the feeling The Residents know what they are doing now. All of these unconventional instruments and sounds (including a processed quacking duck or something) play around a melody delivered by a flute and some other sort of tribal instrument accompanied also by tribal percussion.

'Floating Down the Nile, Pt. 2' uses a cool guitar sound that gives a sliding effect. A percussive bell rings in the background as a more traditional sounding guitar repeats the melody, and this is again repeated with both guitar styles and a violin. The tempo is dirge-like, or a slow processional march. Later, there is more tribal percussion as interesting sounds and textures are used coaxed out of traditional instruments and what-not. A tribal vocal chanting follows the percussion pattern.

'Squeaky Wheels' sounds like a melody made from . . . well, squeaky wheels. That's how it starts, but it quiets quickly with a throbbing beat and a melody from a reed instrument, a sitar and atmospheric synths. Grumbling vocals stay somewhat subdued.

'The Lonely Lotus' establishes itself with a 'hooting' sound pattern and a shrieking guitar is played. Later, other tribal sounding instruments are used, but things are kept somewhat ambient as interesting instrumental sounds take turns. After a few minutes, a rhythm is established and all of the sounds come together in a melodic theme. Then the hooting melody comes back accompanied by timpani and piano. This establishes a base for other interesting things to occur around, the influence of oriental or Indian music is obvious.

'Rendering the Bacon' begins with a low drone and soon a juice harp (or something similar) is used. Beastly sounds come in and percussion and more interesting instruments are used to establish a theme that recurs throughout the track. Towards the middle, things get more odd and minimal as odd vocal sounds and thumping come in. The thematic elements come back later with more intensity.

'The Horns of Haynesville' comes in with tribal percussion again and a high Tarzan-like squeal. More odd vocal noises are emitted. At this point, the novelty is starting to wear off as this goes on for a while, but then some unique instrumental sounds are introduced, but things remain peaceful as you hear crickets and birds in the background. A more succinct vocal melody comes in and is repeated between two vocalists, then more vocalists join and the raspy blare of a metallic sounding instrument repeats. Other chants and singing come in, but the overall feel is still somewhat peaceful even with some of the harshness of the instruments. This one meanders on too long at over 10 minutes though without much change in overall style.

'The Wondering Jew' starts out with soft atmospherics, but a sudden crash of percussion made my cat jump just as she was settling into the music. After peeling her claws out of my leg, the music starts to feel more dramatic with a synth led crescendo. But this soon quiets down to tropical sounds and a lute sounding instrument establishes a chord pattern while reeds play. Finally after 3:30, an interesting percussion pattern and mellotron take things over keeping the dramatic feel of the music.

'Charlie Chan' is an out-of-place title for this one, as it starts with a mid-eastern vibe. What is surprising is how they make layers of this strange instrument into harmonies. Processed vocals stay in the background of this mostly well-orchestrated percussive track. Processed chanting and weird vocals continue.

My cat left the room giving me an odd glare.

The last track is the 10 minute 'In the Dark'. It starts with an upbeat percussive pattern and low ebbing drones. More interesting and odd noises and textures continue. After a while, an orchestral vibe is introduced, probably produced by synths. Ominous drones and sounds of thunder follow with subdued percussion. As things continue, so do the tribal sounds and textures.

It is good to hear The Residents actually taking things seriously in the album, and it seems a lot of work and effort went into this one with the nice orchestration and use of different instruments and sounds. There is a problem in this album with some passages lasting too long, and things do sag a bit in the middle of the album. But, for the most part, interest in what is going on does tend to come back in the end. The album is surprisingly good, seriously experimental, and well produced. Yeah the sounds at times can be comical, but there is a personality to this album and to the 'culture' the band has made up that makes you feel like they really came close to another masterpiece like 'Eskimo'. Like I said though, it is easy to let your interest slip on some of the longer passages, and in places where not much happens in the music. But I have to say that this is one of The Residents better albums that is more on the serious side of music and makes you think that maybe they really did know what they were doing all along.

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 Space Guerilla by MISSUS BEASTLY album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.59 | 21 ratings

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Space Guerilla
Missus Beastly Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After two incredible Jazz/Kraut albums MISSUS BEASTLY are back. As Uwe mentions in his review the Krautrock part of the equation has been greatly reduced here. Only two of the five members from the first two albums are back leaving Mr. Schmidl to do almost all of the composing besides playing keyboards and guitar. Despite the lack of Krautrock this album has impressed me big time. It's just really well done which is no surprise and after this record Schmidl would join EMBRYO while Richter the bass and violin player would re-join AERA. Josch by the way is so good playing flute and sax here. A really enjoyable Jazz/Rock album and this was released in 1978.

"Space Guerrilla" is the almost 11 minute opener where we do get some of that Krautrock spirit. Piano only to start as drums and more start to come and go until we get a steady sound with sax over top. I like the sound 1 1/2 minutes in as bass and a beat with flute take over. Sax is back but it's the flute showing off in a major way. Love when it calms right down to an experimental Kraut routine. A change 7 minutes in as the tempo picks up with lots of intricate sounds. Pretty much piano driven to the end.

"Guitar For Sale" has a Jazz/Fusion vibe all the way with electric piano and drums. Check out the guitar after a minute and the bass 2 minutes in. It then lightens and then another calm before 4 minutes with piano and flute. "Rahstan Rolans Kirk" is flute and percussion and not much of the latter. "Fuzzy, Don't Go To The Disco" are wise words indeed for 1978. This one has some funk to it with the bass. Sax before a minute and it will come and go. Then the violin leads the way after 2 minutes soling away.

"Hoffmannstropfen" opens with bass and a beat as sax comes and goes along with e-pinao. The flute replaces the sax after 1 1/2 minutes then the sax returns after 3 minutes. Is that clavinet 3 1/2 minutes in? Bass leads before 5 minutes. "Cose Dola" contrasts the sax with the electric piano as drums support. Violin after a minute. Bass and drums only before 2 1/2 minutes then the piano returns. "For Flu" is uptempo with piano, flute and drums leading the way. A World music vibe here with that ethnic sound arriving a minute in. Themes continue to be repeated and check out a moving section before 3 1/2 minutes with piano and flute.

"King Garlic" ends it in a Jazz/Rock style. Very classy really with piano and bass leading along with drums before the flute arrives late. An excellent album for those into the Jazz/Rock style of music. These guys are players and I think it stands up well with their previous two studio albums even if it's a notch down from those.

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 Find Another Light by YESTERDAYS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
4.05 | 6 ratings

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Find Another Light
Yesterdays Symphonic Prog

Review by DenisZhukov

4 stars Find Another Light was a single by Yesterdays in 2015. It's another prog-hit jam from this band I discovered recently on Bandcamp, thanks to their third studio album "Senki madara".

This song is very catchy, melodic, it could be easily a radio hit if it wasn't composed in 7/8. Starting with a big symphonic prog intro with moog and mellotron, takes us back to Close to the Edge era Yes in a very unique way. Female lead vocals are always strong on Yesterdays recordings, this time Karola Antal's voice takes this song to the next level.

Great drumming by Kimmo P÷rsti, drummer of Samurai of Prog and Paidarion, he gives a perfect 7/8 feel that in the same time feels so natural, you won't even notice that we are dealing with a special time signature here.

Bass, guitars, mellotrons and blockfl÷tes/recorders are played by Akos Bogati-Bokor. The middle eight's polyphonic recorder part is a clear Gentle Giant tribute.

It's a very song-based composition, made me think of Neal Morse era Spocks Beard.

All in all this could be part of any good progrock album, it's a nice addition to my Yesterdays collection. Beautiful lyrics, this time in English. Since I conside their Senki madara album one of the best albums in 2018, this older single really lives up to this quality. Highly recommended!

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 The Sled by VARIOUS ARTISTS (CONCEPT ALBUMS & THEMED COMPILATIONS) album cover Studio Album, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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The Sled
Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) Various Genres

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
5 stars Here I am writing about a compilation album which you cannot buy, but is easy to obtain. Perhaps I had better let Nick Katona explain: 'Each Year we host a holiday release to showcase many bands and artists that you may not be aware of; but should be. The album will feature many styles of holiday music and original music; all of which will touch your heart and soul. May it inspire you for in giving, we receive so much more. To receive your copy as a gift from MRR and with the kind permission of all of our contributing artists we ask you to commit a great act of kindness. Send us proof of you donating to your local charity of choice, it can be your time, or tangible goods such as blankets, food or clothing. Think outside of the box, donate your time at the local food bank, soup kitchen or shelter. Certainly, the hospitals would be grateful for volunteers or donate blood today and save a life. We would like to promote the good deeds of great citizens and with your permission, we will share your photos on our page set up this holiday season to spread the good news.'

15 songs, nearly 80 minutes in length: one thing I really enjoyed about this album is the sheer variety, and it has allowed me to come across bands I have not heard of before. 'The Sled' starts with two of these, Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra and Jack Potter. 'Fall Leaves, Fall' is stunning in its arrangement, and I felt that I was listening to a reborn version of Renaissance, with beautiful orchestration, great woodwind, stunning rock guitar, and a singer who reminded me of Annie Haslam. A short piece of detective work later and I discovered that it was indeed Annie and that this song came out a few years ago. This is one of the delights of this album, as it truly is meant to be broad and wide-reaching, so while it does include songs from MRR artists, of course, it isn't restricted to just that. Jack Potter's 'Snow Globe' is delicate, starting with just piano and again wonderful vocals, this time care of Salley Elsey. Taken from the 'Pride Before The Fall' album which was released earlier this year, I was reading more about it when I started filling up and had to compose myself for a minute. The reason is that one of the guitarists is none other than Colin Tench, and I don't think any of us who knew him will ever really get over his loss last Christmas, so to find him on a Christmas album for 2018 feels both poignant and fitting. I know he would have a laugh about it.

I have always been a fan of Don Schiff, so it is great to see him here, while one of MRR's newest signings, DC Snakebuster shows that rough and raw blues, with some great harmonica, also has a place at Christmas. Federico Fantacone provides some gorgeous piano, while Darrel Treece-Birch treats us to a song from his new album, 'The first step..is to take one' with the glorious 'For Giving' which contains not only the sweeping keyboards we have come to expect but also some glorious guitar. Andy John Bradford is in fine form with 'Raise A Glass For Christmas', and overall the whole album is a delight.

So, what are you waiting for? This album is streaming until the end of January, but you can get your own copy now just by doing something for others at Christmas. Surely that is what the season should be about, instead of the commercial brashness it has become? Think outside the box, make a difference. Many already do so without any thought of reward, and for those who do, then here is a gift from some wonderful musicians just to say thanks.

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 Blueberry Cave by GARAJ MAHAL album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.26 | 6 ratings

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Blueberry Cave
Garaj Mahal Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars For some strange reason, "Blueberry Cave" by the band Garaj Mahal has not received the love it deserves on this site. The band is a jazz fusion band that relies on a progressive rock, funk, trip/hip-hop style to keep things current. They also experiment with traditional Indian music as it is sometimes intermixed into the overall picture. The use of sitar in some of the band's jams is a nice touch, and when it is used as an improvisational instrument, it is nothing short of amazing. Sometimes the band gets a little off track on this album as it tries to make things too current with Rap or 2nd rate lyrics, but this doesn't happen often and is easy to overlook considering the amount of talent these musicians have. This album also won the 6th Annual Independent Music Award for Best Jam Album, which is quite well deserved. This band is one of the tightest when it comes to their solos and jams.

"The Shadow" starts things off on a funky upbeat track, with "Hit me!" and some wordless funky vocals that fit right in to the jam. There is a cool, playful organ with drums that play right along with the organ notes. Then the guitar takes the reigns for a while before returning to the opening motif. Throughout this stop/start tricky progressiveness, things still remain funky and very danceable. Everything shines here, bass, guitar, keys and drums, all playing at full bore, with some tricky passages thrown in to keep it all interesting. The ensemble is tight and the improvised solos are right on point. The excitement of the track makes the 9 minute opening track move by quite quickly.

"Alvin" has a more solid walking beat, or should I say strut. It is a strong and confident number with a strong back beat, a scratching effect and a lot of great organ and keys carrying the tune and staccato style supporting vocals. Later when the guitar and bass play off of each other, things only get better.

Next is the 8 minute title track "Blueberry Cave". This starts off with a fast paced, descending guitar pattern that repeats itself. After a minute of this, a more smooth jazz sound takes over with a nice guitar melody and excellent bass line that vies for the spotlight and takes over the solo later. Then guitar and keys play in counterpoint to each other in rapid-fire improvised notes in a call and answer pattern while the bass continues to churn out a craziness of its own. As it continues, the band just plays off of each other trading quick solos while the drums continue unceasingly. You get to finally catch your breath in the last minute when it returns to the main theme.

" 'Spect Rap" is next, and is a short piece utilizing sitar and a more Indian-inspired funkiness with percussion and synth supporting. A rap starts later with a trip-hop feel that gets funkier the further it goes. This moves immediately into "No 'Spect" which keeps the funkiness moving along with some greath synth effects. It gets a bit heavier as electric guitar starts taking over, then singing vocals start up sometimes involving the entire band. Nice guitar effects and synth soloing comes in later with the heavy percussion continuing throughout. The last solo features a heavy guitar sound that approaches a more fusion-like style.

"Massive" features electronic effects, a sitar arpeggio pattern and a fast driving beat and bass. When the sitar drives the melody, this is a pleasant surprise as he keeps up with the rapid tempo without flinching. The sitar continues to be the centerpiece through this one even on the improvised section, while it is supported by the usual rapid fire base and percussion and some synthesizer. Later, intensity builds when the guitar adds heavier ambience, but the sitar continues to drive the track.

"Cosmic Elevator" is the next track. Starting out like it's going to be more like an atmospheric piece, synths establish a chord pattern and a start/stop percussive rhythm start bringing in other instruments and soon another funky background is established. Silly vocals come in, which could have been left off of this one. It gets better when the vocals stop and a keyboard followed by a synth solo takes over. Unfortunately, the cringe-worthy vocals and lyrics keep returning, like they are trying to be the Ohio Players or something. But these guys are better than this and would have been better off without the silly vocals. After that, the track kind of meanders like it doesn't know where to go for a while, then another nice organ and keyboard follows, but those stupid vocals come back as they sing "Come on and ride it!" Ugh!!

"Paladin" saves the day next, after that embarrassing track. This one is a fast paced jazz track with bass and keyboards playing together in an amazing showstopper. Later, a jazzy guitar solo follows as it flirts around with the theme and plays all around it in a cyclone of notes. Bass and keys return again later. And what is that in the background, wah-wah? Very cool.

"Bicycling in Bombay" comes next, and you can expect the sitar again of course, as it starts in a psychedelic style, almost creating a free form jazz feel at first, until the drums and bass signal a start to a solid beat. DJ Fly adds the turntable scratches again and this actually works with the twangy sitar sounds. Staccato vocal effects are created with the scratching effects making for an Indian-influenced hip-hop jazz feel. It's a nice mix of culture jazz.

The last track is the 11+ minute track "Celtic Indian". It establishes a complex riff and keyboard thematic elements. A nice guitar pattern is established against a heavy low end created by the bass. Then jazz guitar with effects against a smooth organ that acts as support. An interesting keyboard plays an offbeat solo while the bass tries frantically to get it on pace. When the bass bridges it all together, it mellows out a bit but it's just a short reprieve. Drums and guitar work to intensify and the band catches fire as the track continues. Just when things seem to want to go out of control, a sudden left turn slows everything to a slow tempo, but the guitar isn't happy with this and suddenly, in a progressive frenzy, everything catches fire again and actually gets rather heavy, before the drums take everything back to a steady slow tempo, but the guitar continues to fight. This time, however, everything stays calm to the end.

I don't know how in the world this album has managed to stay so low in the ratings. This band, even though they have some hiccups in the form of lyrics that should have been left out, is tight. The performances are quite amazing. And things never really let up much. It is too bad that there are those lyrical weak spots, but with performances like this, its easy to look past them. Hopefully people aren't avoiding this album because of those 2 tracks where lyrics are involved. The album goes by as quickly as the sometimes frenzied pace, the solos are amazing and spot on, the sitar adds an exciting flavor to portions of the album and even expands the genre into a new area, and the members of the band are extremely talented. This is a fun album that bubbles with excitement. I think it might be time for people to really look at this album, because it hasn't even had a decent review on the site and most of the low ratings are not even supported with a written explanation. Easily a 4 star album which would have been even higher if it wasn't for the 2 songs with lame lyrics. Not only is it amazing, it is entertaining.

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 Spirit Box by SLATTER, TOM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Spirit Box
Tom Slatter Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Tom's last releases was as part of Murder and Parliament, and their rather superb instrumental album. Here we find him back to his more usual state of affairs, blackmailing Gareth Cole (electric guitars) and Jordan Brown (acoustic bass, keyboards) to appear with him while he himself provides acoustic guitar and vocals. He describes this set as a collection of four murder ballads, and we get to meet some interesting characters during its 23 minutes. I have long felt that Tom was born in the wrong century, as I can imagine him sat in a dark corner of a pub somewhere as a travelling musician, singing and telling his stories to the brave souls willing to hear it (a bit like his gigs to be fair).

Tom has an incredible sense of humour, and if you don't believe me then just follow some of his posts on Facebook, and he often portrays a steampunk image but what this all belies is that he is a very English musician and writer who deserves close attention. I haven't heard all that he has released by any stretch, but everything I have come across has been quite superb. He has a way of telling stories which drag in the listener to sample the wares, with incredibly complex acoustic guitar. He has become associated with the progressive scene, but he has as much in common with the folk crowd, and I would imagine him going down a storm at the Cropredy Festival. If you have heard any of his material already then I am sure you have lined up to purchase this, but if you are new to his style of English folk prog crossover then you owe it to your ears to find out more.

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 Murder and Parliament by SLATTER, TOM album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Murder and Parliament
Tom Slatter Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars This may be a new band name to some, even if the concept isn't, but this is a project from none other than the quirky steampunk himself, Tom Slatter. He has been joined on this jolly jape by jazz bassist Alun Vaughan and Chrissie Caulfield on violin, and together they have conspired and perspired to bring us an incredibly varied instrumental album. For me it is full of Tom's sense of humour, even although there are no words to convey them, as he weaves melodies and counter melodies which evoke feelings of Poisoned Electrick Head and The Cardiacs while never sounding like either. We sometimes have delicate melodies, while at others it is all about intertwined electric guitars that somehow manage to make sense, even if some of the lines are distorted. They slow it down, they speed it up, and then decide to do it all over again!

I don't know why I am writing the review in this style, but it just seems right. I can imagine Matt Deacon from The Bob Lazar Project just itching to get involved with his labelmate, as they do sometimes follow similar musical paths, complex and sometimes avant garde, and always with passion and integrity. There are times when it is heads down and riff to the end, with guitar melody over the top, and Alun is adept at either providing a rock solid grounding or a counter melody all of his own, while the keyboard sounds often sound as if they belong to the Eighties as opposed to the current day. The first time I played this I managed to fall asleep and only awoke after it had finished (it was stupid o'clock in the morning and I was on a plane on the way to Australia), which seemed such a waste, especially when I started playing it again when I was slightly less comatose and realized just how much fun this is. At times straight rock, others almost RIO, others straightforward prog, there is so much going on in this album that there just isn't room for vocals.

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 Losing Sight Of What You Want by DAME, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.41 | 26 ratings

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Losing Sight Of What You Want
The Dame Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This is the debut album from Dutch neo-prog band The Dame, which as the name might suggest is built heavily around the female lead singer, Marian van Charante. They have been gaining a lot of attention for their image and style, as apparently they aim to convey a feeling of the Roaring Twenties in what they do, although it must be said that with a download as opposed to a CD that isn't necessarily apparent. For the most part, the keyboards are actually quite basic and in the background, but given that Thijs de Ruijter is actually the son of the guitarist Stephen and is just 16 years old perhaps that is understandable.

The songs feel like stories, which is very much a positive, and Marian moves between singing softly and bringing in elements of Alanis Morissette with her phrasing. It is pleasant enough, but this just doesn't shine the way it should. Some of that is down to the arrangements which feel a little clunky at times, and the production which often pushes the snare drum over the top of the guitar. The use of acoustic guitar as an additional rhythm works well, but I can't get nearly as excited over this as many others seem to be.

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 II by FÍLLAKZOID album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.91 | 14 ratings

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II
F÷llakzoid Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars FOLLAKZOID are a Psychedelic band out of Chile and this is studio album number two for this four piece released in 2013. Same lineup as on the debut and both cover arts are among my favourites. I can't say much has changed since the 2009 debut and that's a good thing. For me it's all about their sound as they trip along and jam. Some vocals and they almost speak the lyrics but they are a nice touch. Spacey synths also add to their signature sound.

"Trees" is an uptempo opener with plenty of energy as the vocals come and go. "9" has a catchy beat as vocals arrive after a minute. Synths come and go then some fuzzed out guitar too before 2 1/2 minutes then themes are repeated. "Rio" opens with sounds that echo as drums and bass join in. Distant sounding vocals before 1 1/2 minutes and they are brief. This song trips along at a mid-tempo pace and the vocals come and go.

"99" is more laid back but they amp it up quickly. Vocals join in as they echo. I really like this one. "Pulsar" is the long closer with an intense rhythm section and spacey synths over top. Very repetitive. Guitar too and then they slow it down a notch late. So another consistent album and again it's all about how this sounds for me. It's a pleasure to hear this type of music. A solid 4 stars.

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 Linoleum by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2009
3.22 | 110 ratings

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Linoleum
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Prior to the release of Road Salt One and Two, Pain of salvation released this EP called Linoleum as an aperitif!

It contains one song of Road Salt One (the fine Linoleum), one of Road Salt Two (the repetitive and disjointed Mortar Grind) and four tracks which were not included in these discs.

Sadly, If You Wait is a short blues-rock track with no interest. Gone is better but the production is too raw (just like the Road Salt albums) and it is boring and repetitive in the long term.

Bonus Track B is a curiosity just for fans, and finally Yellow Raven is a very dramatic version of an Uli John Roth song which is not enough to make this EP interesting if you are not a die-hard fan of the Road Salt era of this band.

My rating: **

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 The Opposite by REDFEARN AND THE EYESORES, ALEC K. album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 1 ratings

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The Opposite
Alec K. Redfearn And The Eyesores RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars Six years on from 'Sister Death', and Redfearn is back with his latest album with The Eyesores. Just one look at the line-up lets know that this is quite a different approach to many. Here we have Alec K. Redfearn (electrified accordion, vocals, Realistic MG-1, loops, ceremonial bell, combo organ), Ann Schattle (French horn), Christopher Sadlers (contrabass, loops, vocals) and Matt McLaren (drums, cymbals, riq, maracas, frikywa, giraffe bells, ring of edges). It comes across as Zappa playing RIO, mixing Art Zoyd with Krautrock to make music which is both intensely challenging and ( to me) incredibly compelling. The use of an accordion as often the main lead instrument, and the horn providing back-up melody, is both different but somehow totally natural.

This is a much stripped down version of the band that appeared on the last album, as not only is the core band much smaller but there are also no guests. I was rather surprised to see Orion Rigel Dommisse is no longer involved, given how important her vocals were to that release, but version appears far more focussed and edgy, while somehow managing to maintain accessibility as they continue to push boundaries. Very solid and intriguing indeed.

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 Amitabha by Alio Die & Aglaia by ALIO DIE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Amitabha by Alio Die & Aglaia
Alio Die Progressive Electronic

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Stefano Musso and Gino Fioravanti have teamed up again to produce some wonderful atmospheric and emotional electronic music

Prog Electronic artists Stefano Musso (ALIO DIE) and Gino Fioravanti (AGLAIA) have teamed up once again to create an album of hypnotic soundscapes often reminiscent of the Ambient music of Brian Eno in the early 1980s.

1. "Monte Analogo" (09:47) has a distinct feel over its opening minutes that it's going to break a full blown 1970s TANGERINE DREAM song. By the third minute, the distinctive Stefano Musso contributions make it clear that no rhythmic sequencing is going to burst forth, that we are on a typically dreamy float through the ether on one of Stefano's magic carpets. Nice fake, nice song. (9/10)

2. "Il Portale dell'Invisibile" (07:42) higher pitched reverse guitars and whistles played over multiple tracks of deep bowed double bass loops makes for an interesting astral journey. A little long and lacking in variation to make this a replay song. (8/10)

3. "Outer Space Forest" (03:43) nighttime nature noises with treated traditional Arabian instruments and radio- sample noises makes for a kind of song that Holger Czukay effected in collaboration with David Sylvian in the 1980s. (8.25/10)

4. "Celestial Stream" (12:04) is a very pleasant, meditative place to be. Rapidly vibrating foundational sound creates a feeling like space motoring, astral strobe-viewing, with super-fast-paced voice editing/clipping. Very cool! (9/10)

5. "Cosmological Scale" (06:22) pulsing synth washes, organ chords, vocal banks, treated zither strums, single bell strikes, and piano notes all make for quite a celestial sound. Not unlike a HAROLD BUDD/BRIAN ENO sound from the early 1980s. (8.75/10)

6. "New Form of Elementals" (04:02) cavern lake dripping with background bagpipe and distant tubular bell play with gurgles and deep bass notes make for another Plateaux of Mirror or On Land-like song. (8.25/10)

7. "Amitabha" (06:25) feels full on like a precursor to an Eno/Budd song from Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror ("Failing Light"); aye, this song would have fit perfectly on that album had it been a double album or the song receiving release as an extended play EP. (9/10)

8. "Bright Circles" (09:18) high pitch buzzing notes float around the soundscape as gorgeous synth washes imbue and permeate the atmosphere. But, what starts out so celestially becomes stale and old, despite some subtle inputs from heavily treated keyboard piano, flute, and voice. Still, a great song to daydream or meditate to. (9/10)

9. "Reflections on the Abyss" (07:35) the deep vibratory thrum of large industrial vehicles beneath water as birds, bells, zither, and other incidentals are thrown into the mix is quite unsettling--and quite ingenious. (8.5/10)

10. "The First Step Depends on the Last" (09:23) an opening loop of heavily-treated guitar and keyboard notes and arpeggi is gradually added to, thickening the soundscape to almost disturbingly overwhelming barrage levels. (8.5/10)

Four stars; an excellent contribution to the catalogue of Progressive Electronics.

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 Rest Of The World by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.05 | 3 ratings

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Rest Of The World
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Dave Newhouse and friends are moving a bit further away from the poppiness of their previous Canterbury association and more into experimental and avant jazz. This is most overtly on display in the attention-grabbing drumming coming from Sean RIckman.

1. "Catawampus" (7:32) multiple winds herald the opening of this song (and album) before moving bass and tight drums kick in to support the song's establishment. At 1:10 a baritone sax synth buzzsaw interjects its two notes into the equation (as the chorus?). Jarring but interesting. After the second "chorus" the song downshifts into a looser, more laid back pace within which electric guitarist Mark Stanley has a chance to show their chops. Then Dave shows off a more subdued organ solo before acoustic guitar and keys finish it off over decaying drum play. Interesting with new sounds and combinations but, overall, nothing too exciting or revolutionary. (8/10)

2. "Zed He Said" (4:22) Jerry King's simple, arpeggiated acoustic guitar chord sets the scene for Michele King's multi- tracked singing. Very nice melodies, friendly, inviting pace and structure, the instrumental mid-section is quite engaging and pleasant with some great melodies from the winds over the Vince Guraldi-like music. (8.5/10)

3. "Alchemist In The Parlor" (3:56) odd Beat-like song structure (to match the 1964 era of singer Carla Diratz's story?) turns mini-big band as the horns and keys bank together for the "chorus" sections between and after Carla's recitations. Fun music and song--kind of Jim Jarmusch-ish. Interesting story. (8.5/10)

4. "30 Degrees Of Freedom" (7:18) long introduction of keyboard rumbling and rolling as cymbols play turns into a smoother, more laid back and melodic piece at the two-minute mark. From that point on it is a very melody- oriented, two-chord groovin' song with drums and multiple horns and organ playing at complex harmonic chord play. Wailing electric guitar floats behind, panning around for a minute, before settling into a note-bending solo display in the sixth minute. Sounds really cool when the full ensemble of horns, bass tones, and keys are playing in full clutter behind. Sean Rickman is a madman! He must claim Keith Moon and The Muppets' Animal as influences! (9.25/10)

5. "Gonzalo's Paints" (2:42) very laid back, melodic, even bucolic full-band start eventually wends its way into very rich, cool, multi-track harmonies with a few instruments breaking off to solo here and there. Just a very cool, very rich tapestry, start to finish. (10/10)

6. "Miracle Walking" (3:14) three tracks (and later, more) of Dave's saxes weaving a kind of short-time rondo into chords. At the 90 second mark one sax veers off to go after a crazy free-jazz solo before returning to the fold just as the accordion makes it's debut. Nice construction! (8.5/10)

7. "Mini Hugh" (4:44) opening drum vamp as bass and, eventually, horns establish themselves. By the half-minute mark all have gelled into a steady jazz structure while the drums continue to be on full display. Sean Rickman can play! Organ, horn banks, and individual solos from alto sax, electric piano, fuzzed up bass guitar, and --all the while Sean keeps travelling over his kit as if he were on walkabout. I hear some John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison in this music. (8.5/10)

8. "That Awful Sky" (4:49) kind of DAVID TORN (or ROBERT FRIPPertronics) and MAX ROACH/PAPA JO JONES meet STEVE REICH and PETER GABRIEL. Very cool, mesmerizing, haunting song. (9/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz fusion/progressive rock. The music on Rest of the World is interesting-- especially rhythmically, harmonically, and in its sound palette. It is diverse, melodic, deeply harmonic, and full of fun and even tongue-in-cheek jocularity. Highly recommended!

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 Full House by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.66 | 67 ratings

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Full House
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by SteveG

5 stars Right after the release of the milestone Liege And Leif album, Fairport Convention saw the departure of vocalist Sandy Denny and bassist/band visionary Ashely Hutchings. But all was far lost at that juncture as guitarist Richard Thompson proved to be an able songwriter more then gifted to compose songs, in partnership with violin player Dave Swarbrick, that easily fit into Fairport's "British folk rock style". What is profoundly different from the revolutionary last album is that all of the lyrical songs on Full House, save one, are newly written as opposed to Liege And Leif's reliance on rocked up versions of British folk standards. Indeed, Thompson's macabre Poe-like lyrics combined Swarbrick's music sound more "old world" then the songs found on Liege and Leif. But its the new found musical interplay between Thompson, Swarbrick, rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol, drummer Dave Mattacks and new member Dave Pegg on bass that really sets this album on fire. As both Thompson and Swarbrick were new to front man vocal duties and sound a bit tentative at times, it was probably decided to blind their public with their musical prowess. And lucky are we musicians and music lovers for their efforts.

The songs that are most impressive as a result are "Sloth", "Doctor Of Physick", and "Poor Will and The Jolly Hangman" (now restored to the album on the 2001 remaster) which delves into almost metal like riffing in the song's wonderful coda. I've never found a satisfactory reason for why this excellent song was omitted at writer Thompson's request from the original album's release but that's probably not necessary now. The album sound's perfectly complete with it's inclusion. "Sloth", by the way, is probably Fairport's most progressive song with wonderful guitar and violin interplay between Thompson and Swarbrick in the song's extended instrumental section.

Other moments of musical achievement can found on the now prerequisite traditionally based jigs and reels of "Dirty Linen" and "Flatback Caper" which both showcase Pegg's impressive bass playing along with Swarbrick's virtuoso playing of both fiddle and mandolin. Both songs are absolutely breath taking. To even out the somber tone of Thompson's lyrics, the band reprise Denny's arrangement of the traditional "Sir Patrick Spens" and rock it up quite a bit and display some wonderful round robbin band vocals. The same can be said of the album's lead off track "Walk Awhile" which Fairport still open their live shows with today.

Simply put, one a musical level, Full House is a slight step ahead of the ground breaking Liege and Leif but I cannot imagine someone loving one and not the other. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for this classic prog folk album.

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 The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.29 | 1925 ratings

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The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

5 stars With Porcupine Tree definitely on hold and after two good albums which nevertheless failed to translate all the genius that this man showed with works like Deadwing or Fear of a Blank Planet, Steven Wilson finally released his masterpiece!!!

Because The Raven that Refused to Sing is one of the best prog records of this decade, if not the best. An outstanding album from start to finish with very weak moments inside (maybe The Pin Drop is a bit weaker, despite being a very good song) and incredible musicianship.

This time Steven Wilson finally managed to truly differentiate his solo career from the Porcupine Tree sound with a much more symphonic record, with roots in the 70's and tons of jazz elements but much more better integrated and not so boring as in Grace for Drowning.

Best Tracks: as I said, I think than The Pin Drops is a bit weaker and more inconsequential than the rest the songs, which are marvelous examples of the best prog-rock imaginable.

Conclusion: in my opinion, The Raven that Refused to Sing marked one of the clear peaks of Steven Wilson's career. A thrilling album, very well written, dark and complex. And he also managed to surround himself of the best musicians imaginable to help him record his best compositions since Fear of A Blank Planet and the result was another masterpiece of modern symphonic prog.

Thank you, Steven! This is what we expect from a man of your talent.

My rating: *****

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 Frequency by IQ album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.10 | 863 ratings

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Frequency
IQ Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Frequency is another gem from the most consistent Neo-Prog band Ever!!!

And this time IQ had to face some serious setbacks before the recording of this album, being the most serious one the loss of their co-founder and longtime keyboardist Martin Orford. I am sure that than affected this record, because despite the keyboards are pretty good, the typical Orford sound is missed. He contributed to the composition of all the tracks, and not having here in the record is rather strange.

Nevertheless, the band managed to get going and they recorded another solid album full of impressive moments and great passages. It is also a transition album in my opinion, because acts as a link of the old sound of the band, which ended with the also excellent Dark Matter, and the more modern, dark and compelling tones of the masterpiece Road of Bones.

So maybe this album is not the best from IQ. However, even being an average record for IQ, it is still better than the majority of prog records of 2009.

Best Tracks: Stronger than Friction (the most classic IQ-sounding track of the album), One Fatal Mistake (very touching lyrics), The Province of the King (the most impressive track of the album, instrumentally speaking) and Closer (I just love this song, especially the acoustic guitars)

Conclusion: Frequency is a transition album. It was recorded in a convoluted era for the band being the only album where the former keyboardist Mark Westworth and drummer Andy Edwards participated. It was also the last album with John Jowitt on board, and it contained music from Martin Orford after his departure of the band.

Nevertheless, the quality of the music is still very high and despite it is a weaker album than Dark Matter in my opinion, Frequency is another excellent IQ release and it gave us a glimpse of a very interesting new direction, which ended in the incredible Road of Bones.

My rating: ****

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 1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines by ULVER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
2.88 | 7 ratings

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1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This compilation album, which is really a remix album, was released as recognition to Ulver for their first decade of music. The remixes here were carefully done by artists selected by Ulver, and are all glitch, noise and ambient artists, plus one new Ulver track. The sound is quite similar to the minimalist approach that Ulver was taking at the time with their music. The remixes take small snippets of past Ulver tracks and turn them into something new, but, for the most part, don't expect to recognize the originals, because these tracks have been changed up into completely new tracks by the remix artists. Most of the tracks are based on source material from 'Perdition City' and the 3 EPs that came out around the same time. But there is also source material from the 'William Blake' album, 'Lyckantropen Themes' and 'Nattens Madrigal', but the remixes don't just concentrate on only one track, but incorporate aspects from various tracks within an album. I'm not going to attempt to tell you where the source material comes from on each track, because, quite frankly, it is very hard to determine in most cases. I will try to tell you what to expect though, on a track by track basis.

The album starts out with 'Crack Bug' which is the Ulver original. Starting with some percussive sounds, a moody and dark non-melodic and processed sound plays and this evolves into a sudden loud orchestra of tonal noise. It's interesting, and quite different from where the band was at at the time, because they were experimenting with minimalism and ambience, but this almost the opposite of that.

''A Little Wiser Than the Monkey, Much Wiser Than Seven' (Alexander Rishaug) begins with a high pitched metallic noise/drone with clicks and ticks. Finally, a tonal pattern starts from a synth which establishes a quasi melody, then a rough, industrial guitar sound begins and it seems to pulsate more than strum. The glitchy quality that surrounds the otherwise constant sound gives it an interesting personality. Suddenly the sound stops and things turn more ambient. The heavy sound returns later, but a bit more subdued, but it soon expands into a noise drone. This again diminishes before the end.

'Track Slow Snow' (Information) starts ambient with fluttering clicks and staccato percussive noises. Manipulated tones try to break through and this established a pattern a found and lost again quasi-melody. For a while it goes quite minimal before a processed bass begins to bring it back again. The manipulated pattern recommences. This is very cool sounding and has a slight funk/jazz feel to it even while being mostly minimalistic.

'Lycantropen Remix' (The Third Eye Foundation) utilizes processed snippets of the theme from the soundtrack surrounded by clicks, pops, and processed bell-like sounds. This is probably the most melodic of the tracks thus far, but even then, it is quite sporadic sounding. Later, swirling sythns and guitars give an almost dreamy, dronelike quality that stays in the background.

'Lost in Moments (Remix)' (Upland) has a drone in the background, some various noises like whispered voices, and some percussive glitching. The drone swirls around everything and a drumming pattern lurks subdued in the corner.

'Bog's Basil & Curry Powder Potatoes Recipe' (Bogden Raczynski) has a chip-glitch melody and style that sounds like a humorous video game soundtrack of sorts. It's a nice light-hearted track among a lot of dark and brooding ones. The frantic 1st half gives way to a more laid back 2nd half.

'Der Alte' (Martin Horntveth) starts with German dialogue, possibly from a movie maybe (?) while a string-like melody plays in the background. A soft percussion pattern starts when the dialogue stops and the melody continues. The spoken word starts again, and then suddenly everything else breaks down except for a minimal synth sound and the dialogue continues. Soon the strings come back and establish the melody again.

'He Said ' She Said' (Neotropic) is quite ambient with various noises for the first 2 minutes, then a sudden loud and heavy processed riff takes over with a steady rhythm. At 3:30, it breaks down to atmospheric sounds and a static style drone with occasional percussion. After a minute, the heavy riff and rhythm returns. There seems to be a heavily processed voice trying to sing out, but it stays muffled. The last minute returns to ambient sounds.

'I Love You, But I Prefer Trondheim, Pts. 1 ' 4' (A. Wiltzie vs. Stars of the Lid) begins with a nice, processed yet full orchestral sound, with an introduction that sounds quite familiar. After 3 minutes, this is replaced by a beautiful piano/electronic passage that moves along slowly. After a few minutes, there are some slight orchestral swells and the keyboards fade as the swells become a dynamic drone that ebbs and flows. Soon, a shimmering sound accompanies the loud to soft wave-like pattern. Definitely a stand-out track at over 10 minutes of beauty.

'Only the Poor Have to Travel' (Fennesz) is a mix of glitchy sounds with occasional keyboard snippets and atmospheric sounds traveling from one speaker to the other. It's a good one to hear with headphones and has a nice apocalyptic or otherworldly atmosphere to it.

'Ulvrmxsw5' (Pita) is the first of the last 4 tracks which are all noise oriented tracks. This one is more of a organized noise track that breaks up the source material into a virtual sound collage. All of this is under-layered by a somewhat high-pitched drone. All of the snippets seem to be sucked into the vortex of the drone becoming part of it, layer upon layer.

'Wolf Rotorvator' (Jazzkammer) is a short, dynamic noise piece that can get rather loud for short bursts. It's like 'Nattens Madrigal' was put into a blender. 'The Decent of Men' (VM) seems like a continuation of the previous track, with more noise and less dynamics. Once again, it is rather short and is probably a great track for those that like the sound of a vacuum cleaner on the fritz.

'Vow Me Ibrzu' (Merzbow) is another 10 minute track. It starts out with a repeating musical pattern that sounds like all of the sound has been flattened. It's not long before a huge layer of noisiness comes in. Among the noise drone, you can hear shadows of mostly unintelligible Ulver tracks, all mixed together. This finally stops after 4 minutes and it turns into a more minimal sound of repeating patterns but quite subdued and much fewer this time. At 6 minutes, you can hear a familiar section from one of Ulver's classics with some female vocals in the background. All of this is mixed somewhat flat, and soon, evil sounding noises come along and eat it all up, and then new repeating riffs and patterns create another noisy drone.

This is an interesting mix of styles. There are only a few places where you can recognize snippets of Ulver music, but it is mostly so processed that it all becomes new. I like most of it, but some of it can drag on a little long, and I get tired of the noise tracks quite quickly. Except for a few tracks, I would consider the Ulver original tracks much better. It is interesting to hear what you can do with recycled music, but I would put on an Ulver album over this anyday. There are some nice tracks and passages throughout though, so I believe everything evens out into a 3 star collection/collaboration.

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 Meridian (Erik Wollo) by BODDY, IAN album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 6 ratings

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Meridian (Erik Wollo)
Ian Boddy Progressive Electronic

Review by WFV

4 stars This is a dense album of contemporary electro/new age that wears repeated listenings well. This release differs from the pair's previous outing Frontiers primarily in the slower, murkier arrangements and far more deliberate delivery. While Frontiers provided the soundscape for slogging through the Everglades on a sunny day, Meridian is more of a night record, like the mist that follows a day of melted snow on a cold night. This is trudging across the tundra music. Sonic layers are revealed like a peeled onion to the patient listener. I'm somewhat new to the contemporary scene here but as time has gone on this one has risen to the top of my stack, and really is effective in hitting what I perceive they are aiming for. Not for the average prog listener of course but those inclined should find a lot to like.

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 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.53 | 304 ratings

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Noctourniquet
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

3 stars I feel as if this is essentially Octahedron fully realised, with a whole lot of electronic sound and dissonance added on top of that. What I mean by this is that it feels similar to Octahedron in some ways, mainly the large amount of ballads and softer moments, but the songwriting is much tighter and more interesting, while also, in classic Mars Volta fashion, utilises their abrasive edge. I believe that in certain regards, this is the most difficult Mars Volta album to listen to, as the heavy use of dissonant synths and the songs' tendencies to go off the rails make this an uncomfortable listen, but an overall highly rewarding one.

From the opening track 'The Whip Hand', one is immediately thrown into the deep end, with a near apocalyptic sound to it, capturing the feeling that everything is falling apart, further pushing this discomfort with the chorus synths which are borderline unlistenable, somehow working despite this, likely due to the already uneasy tone set. Aegis is a much simpler, more palatable song that uses a simple, yet good rhythm and uses a consistent, driving beat throughout the majority of the song. These two songs really highlight the duality of The Mars Volta, being able to create beautiful melodies while also being able to create nightmarish tracks that give off a real sense of discomfort. From the next four tracks, the two highlights are easily Dyslexicon and The Malkin Jewel. The former of these is one of the most engaging songs on the album for sure, applying various vocal styles and effects, while the backing instrumentals are kept fairly minimalistic other than the occasional burst of electronic noise or the energetic drumming present. The Malkin Jewel, while not as bizarre as Dyslexicon, is one of the high points on the album, being more conventional in its structure, but containing an incredible chorus and an awesome bass groove. 'In Absentia' marks the halfway point on the album, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest compositions by the band. The way it transforms blows me away no matter how many times I listen to it. It starts off highly experimental, filled with all kinds of effects, containing very little semblance of a constant rhythm or even melody, before completely changing into something so beautiful that it feels as if you're being swept away as you're listening.

The second side is much more conventional, with much more focus on the more traditional structure and songwriting. Songs like 'Imago' and 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' are simply divine, being easy to listen to, but containing plenty to enjoy despite this. The track that falls between these two, 'Molochwalker', is a more straightforward rocker, with plenty of energy, reminiscent of their first four albums. The one other highlight from this side is the closing track, 'Zed and Two Naughts' being among the most simplistic songs the band has ever written, but also one with incredible emotional impact, especially during the chorus.

Despite all of the positives this album has, there are also some things about it which drag it down. The muddy production and mix on this album are both a positive and negative to me, while it works well at times, creating further atmosphere and really allowing the electronics plastered all over the place to stand out, I also find it to take away from the song at times, most notably in terms of the drums sounding extremely washed out and muffled. Along with this, I must say that the drumming in general is nowhere near up to the regular standard for me in many songs, as I feel like the drums are much more messily played than both Jon Theodore and Thomas Pridgen. There also happens to be the issue of overplaying in certain songs, especially 'The Malkin Jewel' and the title track, which are both brought down to some extent due to their slower nature poorly fitting with the energetic drumming. I also take issue with a few of the songs, with 'Vedamalady' and the title track both sounding quite unimpressive and dull, and 'Lapochka' genuinely being one of the worst things the band has ever put out, with no decent melody, point of interest, not anything. These issues all come together, and while I absolutely love the majority of the material here, these issues are definitely enough to make me only rate it 3.5 stars (rounded down in this case). I definitely find this to be a massive step up from 'Octahedron', but still can't deny that there are a couple of significant flaws to be found here. I'd recommend to listen to this album regardless, as it is quite varied, both in terms of style and tone, and has some absolutely incredible songs that should not me missed by anyone who enjoys The Mars Volta, while also providing a unique twist to keep things interesting.

Best Tracks: In Absentia, Zed and Two Naughts, The Malkin Jewel, Dyslexicon

Worst Tracks: Vedamalady, Noctourniquet, Lapochka

Verdict: An album with incredible potential that was brought down by poor drumming and some inconsistency. Despite this, there are still a number of incredible songs that more than justify me recommending people to listen to it at least once.

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 Ever - 2018 Remix - 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition by IQ album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2018
4.98 | 9 ratings

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Ever - 2018 Remix - 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition
IQ Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I cannot resist reviewing this 25th anniversary edition of the stunning IQ's Ever!

Because this remix is simply fantastic. The guitars are much more present this time reveling details which were in hiding in the original mix and everything sounds just clean, clear and beautiful. It is still a record made in the 90's, for sure, but it sounds just perfect yet.

Ever was always one of the best neo-prog albums of the 90's, along with others like Marillion's Brave and Clepsydra's Fears, but with this remix this album has maybe reached the top of the podium.

Best Tracks: it is not a weak moment to be found in Ever, really. However, Came Down is just my favorite IQ song!

Conclusion: this edition of Ever is the definitive one. The sound is perfect, crystal clear and this remix has achieved that the music sounds not so old fashioned these days.

That's was my main complaint with the original Ever, it sounded a bit old despite being a magnificent record. So with this remix I can finally give this great album five solid stars!!!

My rating: *****

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 Roots and Roads by SASSI, YOSSI album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.72 | 24 ratings

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Roots and Roads
Yossi Sassi Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Yossi's 2016 release was credited to a band as opposed to just solo, but apart from singer Sapir Fox, all musicians in the Yossi Sassi Band were all key core members of the previous 2014 release, 'Desert Butterflies'. In many ways this is a direct continuation from the previous album, but in plenty of others it is quite different. Firstly, there are far more songs with lyrics on this album as compared to the previous one, and the roots, Middle Eastern and Israeli influences are much more to the fore. Opener 'Wings' starts gently enough, with plenty of bouzouki, but soon becomes very Jewish in its approach, and this move away from Western culture is quite evident.

The album also features the instrument invented by Yossi, the Bouzoukitara, which is a double-neck instrument, combining acoustic guitar, electric guitar and an acoustic/electric bouzouki! The double-neck instrument has a shared surface, so when one guitar is played it resonates to the open strings of the other guitar, thus allows Yossi to produce some unique sound layers, for example when playing the Electric guitar while recording the Bouzouki going through a Pre-amp or overdrive, capturing the sympathetic harmonies & over-tones it generates.

Songs such as 'Roads Less Travelled' features an introduction of acoustic instruments being with some emotional electric guitar, before the band becomes far more rock-based and Sapir takes the lead, but there are plenty of influences also changing the Western experience into something quite different. By the time of recording the band had played plenty of gigs, and there is a confidence here in all they do, as they continue to blend influences so the listener never knows quite what to expect, except that it will most definitely be worth listening to. When he wants to rock, then they do, but when they need to be more reflective, then they are also very much at home. Fluid, exciting, enjoyable, yet another album well worth discovering.

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 Desert Butterflies by SASSI, YOSSI album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 29 ratings

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Desert Butterflies
Yossi Sassi Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Multi-instrumentalist Yossi Sassi will probably always be remembered for co-founding the mighty Orphaned Land, but he left them in 2014 to concentrate on 'creative, innovative, authentic music that unites people". This is his second solo album, as he released 'Melting Clocks' while still in Orphaned Land, while this one came out not long after he left the band. Here Sassi contributes vocals, guitars (electric, nylon-string, acoustic, 7-strings), bouzouki, charrango, oud, saz, Chumbush, and keyboards. He also bring in a very diverse group of people to help him with the album, including the likes of Marty Friedman (Megadeth) and Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal (Guns 'n' Roses) who provide some solos.

There are a couple of actual songs on the album, with the rest being instrumentals, but what makes this such a delight is the way he mixes so many different musical styles and worlds together in a way which complement each other. Influences from the Middle East and Israel sit happily hand in hand with most Western rock, and blends together so it is hard to see the join. This is exactly the sort of album I would expect from him, even before listening to it, given what I have heard of Orphaned Land, but here is taking the music even further than it has before. This means that the listener is never sure what style or instrumentation is coming next, whether it be a standard blues based repeated pattern or something far more exotic. It is exciting, invigorating, and full of interest and depth.

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 Ounds by TRIP LAVA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.86 | 10 ratings

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Ounds
Trip Lava Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Multi-instrumentalist Joel Lee dropped me a line one day and asked if I would be interested in hearing his latest album, and as I continue in my search to hear weird and interesting things I of course answer in the positive and eventually the postman delivered me the CD (if you think there is no such thing as distorted time, just trying sending things to New Zealand). I was immediately intrigued by the artwork, and had already surmised that the album title was a simple anagram, but wasn't expecting to discover that all 9 numbers were also all anagrams, and all starting with the letter 'O'. I think my favourite title of these is 'Oomsmushr', which apparently is the sound of someone hallucinating.

My musical expectation by this time was for something fairly light and humorous, but it is only on the surface that this transpires. This album is intense, mixing psychedelia, space rock, RIO, krautrock, avant garde and so very much more into something which is incredibly compelling. This isn't music that could ever be listened to in the background, as it demand close attention, it is something that should only ever be played when the listener has time to sit down and devote themselves to it. The melody if often led by the keyboards, but the most important instrument is probably the bass, which underpins it all and keeps it tied together. This is progressive music which is refusing to sit anywhere the mainstream, and instead of following a path well-travelled is instead taking a machete and breaking through new ground. Bands such as Hatfield and the North are an obvious point of reference in some ways, and if you want your progressive music to be truly that, instead of regressing over tried and trusted areas, then this is for you.

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 Evership II by EVERSHIP album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.09 | 58 ratings

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Evership II
Evership Neo-Prog

Review by Jeff_the_GlassCaster

5 stars As much as I love the debut album I was a little concerned waiting for this release ? until I heard it?..

One would never guess that this is a sophomore effort ? it does not suffer from the 2nd album curse in the least. I absolutely love this album. It has an urgency that may, in part, be from how much shorter time Shane (Atkinson) had to put this effort together. II, however, has a great deal of continuity to the eponymous first album and a flow that will keep you listening all the way throughout.

Evership II opens with the song Serious Room and what an opening! A fully dramatic song that showcases the talents of this band. Recorded (in part) at RoSfest in 2017, the song begins gently lulling you in with Beau's (West) voice seductively calling. The music soothes you into a dreamy place and then builds in intensity with each line. By mid-song you will find it hard to stay in your chair! Everything about this song is why I love Prog.

Monomyth opens with the rhythm section setting an intensity that sets the stage for the song and our hero's awakening. About 3 min into the song we get the change as the music becomes mellow moving into a new awakening. One almost feels that a full orchestration will happen at any minute as our hero seems to be going through a transformation ? then acoustic guitar ?> "Hope Will Arise" -> the rhythm section awakens us into a battle sequence and conclusion. The more I listen to this song the more I love it.

The next two songs are, perhaps more rock than Prog.

Real or Imagined opens as a lovely acoustic ballad and becomes a straight on rocker ala some of the great 70's bands with some great guitar. Lyrically this one hits a little close to home ? not quite as spot on as Flying Machine from the first album did, but still awfully close.

Wanderer is a sweet, beautiful dreamy song ? just what is needed at this point of the album. Especially for what comes next??..

Isle of the Broken Tree is a continuation of Ultima Thule from the first album. This part of the story finds our hero as he is thrown from his ship as it goes over the edge of the world. What ensues (lyrically) is a wonderful conclusion to the story. What arises (musically) is a fantastic musical composition of arguably epic proportions. After all, this is Prog. For me to continue to pontificate about the virtues of this song would be a true waste of my time and yours, dear reader. It is symphonic (perhaps neo) prog at its finest.

In closing, do yourself a favor. Buy this album in what ever form you enjoy your music. You shall not be disappointed.

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 Story Tellers - Part Two by TIGER MOTH TALES album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.21 | 15 ratings

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Story Tellers - Part Two
Tiger Moth Tales Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars When fans talk about Genesis, they tend to fall into one of two camps, either those who prefer Gabriel as singer, or those who prefer Collins. I have always thought they are missing the trick, as my favourite period is that which features Steve Hackett, and this album fits in nicely with the end of his time with Genesis and his early solo works. Multi-instrumentalist Pete Jones has been spending most of the year providing vocals, keyboards and saxophone with the might Camel, but somehow he has also found time to write and record a new batch of songs which are often whimsical, even humorous, yet also an absolute delight from start to end.

After the reaction to 'The Depths of Winter' Pete decided to return to the 'Story Tellers' concept of composing songs based on stories some of his favourite childhood authors, this time including Hans Christian Andersen and A.A. Milne. As well as providing all instrumentation and vocals, he decided this time to sing some duets with his long-term singing partner Emma Friend, which certainly adds an additional element of quality to what is already a stunning album, and her performance on the ballad "Eternity" is quite superb. Back in the day, it wasn't unusual for prog bands to record something light hearted and silly, from "Benny The Bouncer" to "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles". All I can say about "Three Little Pigs" is that I love the Python-esque approach, especially the false starts to the song. I've played it multiple times, and each and every time I find myself smiling. I have a funny feeling this album is going to end up in my Top Ten for the year?.stunning.

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 Swi▀ Chalet by COS album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.43 | 18 ratings

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Swi▀ Chalet
Cos Canterbury Scene

Review by YourJefa

3 stars Clearly not one of the best COS's albums. Well, this albun was released in the early eighties and they were obviously trying to get into the New Wave era, but this album has nothing to do with the first three albums.

The influence of bands of the New Wave era like Talking Heads, Joy Division, The Cure, The Clash, The Smiths or even Blondie is notorious, but there is nothing left of the classic Canterbury Scene sounds we can appretiate in "Babel".

Some sounds like Post Punk, Reggae at some moments, sometimes it reminds me even to some eighties pop groups like Huey Lewis and The News.

It has nothing to do with the first three albums by COS, but that does not suggest it is a bad album, it's just not in the Progressive Rock/Canterbury Scene line that someone would expect after listening to those albums.

Three stars

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 The Hunter by MASTODON album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.70 | 394 ratings

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The Hunter
Mastodon Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Sadly, The Hunter was the confirmation that Mastodon are an irregular band!

After the just good Remission they released the excellent Leviathan, and after the disappointing Blood Mountain they achieved to create a true masterpiece with Crack the Skye. And what's with The Hunter? Just another letdown.

The album is not bad, but it was their most commercial yet and although that's not necessarily bad, the simpler songwriting and the short length of the songs was kind of weird after the progressive masterpiece than Crack the Skye was, and that became their music much more conventional, predictable and boring.

And that's my main problem with The Hunter. It was the first Mastodon album that bored me despite its intention to be more varied with its mellower tracks like The Hunter or The Sparrow (very boring ones) and the happy feelings of songs like Blasteroid and Stargasm.

Best Tracks: Black Tongue (a return to the fierce moments of Leviathan), Dry Bone Valley (simple, but good), The Creature Lives (rather strange, but different and catchy)

Conclusion: The Hunter was a strange change of direction for Mastodon. They abandoned the power of their first two albums and the experimentations and prog of their third and fourth records to release a much more conventional disc, much happier and radio friendly. But sadly, they became boring and predictable in the process. And that's a pity for a band so groundbreaking like Mastodon.

Nevertheless, the album is not entirely bad, and it has a pair of brilliant moments. But coming from a band which released wonderful albums like Leviathan and Crack the Sky, that's not enough.

My rating: ***

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 Blind Mice by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Blind Mice
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

— First review of this album —
5 stars At one time, the artist know as The Psychedelic Ensemble (TPE) responded to an interviewer asking why he wanted to remain anonymous, and his reply was that he didn't want his works in the progressive rock and classical genres to reflect on one another -- he wanted each to be judged independently. But it's getting harder to do, as the last few releases have demonstrated TPE's genius at composition. His classical background is becoming more and more evident in his prog works. Blind Mice clearly shows his prowess as an elite composer and highly skilled multi-instrumentalist. It would comfortably be classified in either genre. In some ways, this piece is simpler than the more energetic, highly-orchestrated works on The Tale of the Golden King or The Sunstone -- having only keyboard, guitar and violin, but at the same time, the intricate interplay between them makes it sound more complex. Davis Brooks on violin adds a sublime backdrop throughout, but really stands out in the intro and the nearly minute-long solo for the outro. More cerebral and somewhat less energetic than any of his other recent works, it remains to be seen whether this sets the tone for an upcoming release, or is an exception to the rule. Five stars all day.

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 A Drop Of Light by ALL TRAPS ON EARTH album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.36 | 30 ratings

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A Drop Of Light
All Traps On Earth Symphonic Prog

Review by proghaven

5 stars The year 2018 was in general a musically poor year. There are (at least in my subjective terms) only two 2018 prog releases which might be considered really essential and rated as instant masterpieces. One of them, Heureux! by Ange, solemnly opened the year. Another one, A Drop Of Light by All Traps On Earth, now triumphantly closes it. Usually offshoots are quite far from the 'root' artists. All Traps On Earth is not just an offshoot of Anglagard but their true continuation and development, maybe just because the band includes Anglagard's key members. A Drop Of Light continues the guideline started with the second album by Anglagard, Epilog. Undoubtedly Epilog, Viljans Oga and A Drop Of Light are three sequential links of the same evolutionary chain.

I still remember and will never forget blessed 1990s when I got acquainted with the music of Anglagard and became their dedicated listener. Hybris was nothing but cubed King Crimson and did not impress too much... just a good new music in the vein of good old music. But Epilog was a revolution in consciousness. A new paradigm, widened horizons, new relationships between sounds, new principles of arrangement... well, it's difficult to say what was NOT new and fresh in that mindblowing, breathtaking album. Two years later, the band split. Epilog became the epilogue indeed. The great novelty of the album seemingly had to remain a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.

Fortunately, the disbanding was not definitive. Sixteen years later (what are 16 years in comparison to eternity?!) Anglagard revived and released Viljans Oga, not Epilog, Part Two, but Epilog, Second Degree. And now, the band's branch made a next step (giant step I'd say!) in the same direction: please find Epilog, Third Degree, an in-depth non-invasive study on the morphology and anatomy of harmony in vivo, full of unexpected combinations of sounds, revolutionary arrangements (including brass instruments), unpredictable changes of the tonality... and jeweled with female vocal.

The last circumstance is particularly noticeable. As far as I can remember, this is for the first time in the Anglagard's history. And the vocal by Miranda Brand is amazing, she perfectly combines the operatic power and rush typical for (exempli gratia) Elena Obraztsova or Tamara Sinyavskaya, with the 'disappearing' softness of Kari Rueslatten.

Musically, the debut album by All Traps On Earth may be considered the next (4th) chapter in the Anglagard's studio discography (my apologies to the musicians if they don't agree!). And hopefully this album is not the last one in the direction of Epilog. Epilog is inexhaustible and deserves further development.

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 Rings of Earthly... Live by ANCIENT VEIL album cover Live, 2018
3.67 | 5 ratings

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Rings of Earthly... Live
Ancient Veil Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars The roots of this release are in the early Nineties when Italian prog formation Eris Pluvia released its debut album entitled Rings Of Earthly Light, 1991 to be more specific. Two band members decided to leave Eris Pluvia after this release: Alessandro Serri (vocals, guitars and flute) and Edmondo Romano (wind instruments), soon they formed a new band named Ancient Veil. In 1995 this band released their eponymous debut album, then it took more than two decades before Anceit Veil produced the successor entitled I Am Changing, in 2017. And one year later the live CD Rings Of Earthly Live, recorded in Teatro della Tosse in Genoa (between May and November 2017), it contains music from the Eris Pluvia and Ancient Veil albums.

The 12 tastefully arranged compositions on this live album sound very melodic and harmonic with a pleasant colouring by a wide range of instruments (especially saxophones and clarinet). The atmospheres shift flowing from dreamy to slow rhythms and bombastic eruptions. The one moment dreamy with tender piano, folky flutes or twanging acoustic guitar (like in the wonderful In The Rising Mist). The other moment a cheerful climate or a catchy beat with harder-edged electric guitar work and bombastic organ. The male vocals sound decent, often with a warm undertone.

My highlight is the epic Rings Of Earthly Light (17 minutes suite in 5 parts): lots of changing climates, breaks and accellarations and strong soli, from swinging piano to fiery electric guitar and screamy saxophone. The guest musician Valeria Caucino does a splendid job, what a beautiful voice!

For those who are into the more 'pastoral prog' (mellow folky atmospheres, with hints from Celeste and early PFM), blended with more dynamic and bombastic parts, this is a wonderful album to discover.

My rating: 3,5 star.

This review was recently published on the Dutch progrock website Background Magazine.

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 Untethered Angel by DREAM THEATER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
3.28 | 9 ratings

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Untethered Angel
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Cylli Kat

3 stars Typical, Paint By Numbers Dream Theater

Dream Theater - Untethered Angel - Review № Stardate 11812.07

Well, Dream Theater has unleashed a new single from their forthcoming album Distance Over Time.

meh

This is so stereotypical for Dream Theater, that I found myself realizing that (just like Hugh Syme's Shutterstock re-run covers for this single and the forthcoming album's cover) this is nothing even close to new.

This is formulaic Dream Theater all the way through.

If you dig the Dream Theater formula (as at one time, I did), you'll probably fawn all over this.

As for myself, I'm beginning to think that Dream Theater could stand to learn a bit from bands like Yes, Kaipa, Karfagen/Sunchild, Wobbler, Maschine, etc. about light and shade, depth and dynamics and genuine growth in their material.

I doubt that this single will change anyone's mind about Dream Theater. I don't believe it will garner any new fans. The faithful will love it, the haters will hate it, & I just find it too pedestrian and paint by numbers for my taste.

As always, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, kids, get your parent's permission before calling, not for use with all Hot Wheels« sets, some assembly may be required...

Three Stars ***

Grace and peace, Cylli Kat (Jim Calistro)

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 The Broadsword And The Beast by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.28 | 620 ratings

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The Broadsword And The Beast
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by thief

3 stars I've already reviewed all Jethro Tull albums from 1980s - but this one. I really like saving the good stuff for dessert and I firmly consider "The Broadsword and the Beast" the most consistent offering of the era. While "Under Wraps" utilises new, fancy keyboards as foundation of its sound, and "A" uses them to achieve more experimental, cosmic/jazzy style, "The Broadsword..." heads in a much different, catchier direction.

"Beastie" boasts heavy, recognizable guitar riffs and strong basslines. Dave Pegg isn't just another peg in the wheel (sorry for the pun) - I feel this midtempo rocker is revolving around his ballsy guitar thumping. Synthesizers are featured heavily in the intro and bring a nightmare-like ambience from outer dimensions. It's even more evident in the next track - "Clasp" intro could be the most haunting moment of the album, maybe like a darker version of Jan Hammer stuff. That buildup contrasts wildly with feel-good, almost poppy nature of the song. Somehow they managed to marry romantic vocals and Miami Vice atmosphere with folk extravaganza from previous era. Very effective combination!

"Fallen on Hard Times" follows with marching rhythm, brave vocal harmonies, inventive guitar slides and fitting synthesizer accents. At this point we all realize that Peter Vettese playing works very well IF you let him rule the background, instead of dominating all registers. He also delivers apt piano foundation, as evidenced in "Flying Colours" intro. After that first verse the track morphs into another high-powered, sexy pop-rock anthem of the 80s. I wonder if it received radio airplay - as soon as chorus arrived I wanted to buy white hi-tops and spandex apparel for my GF. It might be too progressive later on to fit the scheme though.

Side A ends with "Slow Marching Band", sentimental folky song reminiscent of "Auld Lang Syne" and times we've never seen, but remember. It would fit seamlessly on "Stormwatch" I feel. No, I'm not sad.

"Broadsword" anticipates "Braveheart" movie, at least that's the vibe I get. Slow, firm, but proudly rocking. Or maybe there is William Blake's "Jerusalem" influence in the lyrics? Not sure. This song shoots for epic feel and almost succeeds - the first time I'm a bit skeptic during this review. Still a decent one. "Pussy Willow" shakes off uncertainty - I enjoy its eerie buildup with pan flutes very much. I just wish they had taken more progressive direction later on. "Watching Me Watching You" is too close to filler quality though... There isn't much going on, other than scattered flute fills.

"Seal Driver" features more satisfying bass guitar and Hammeresque keyboards. By this point the listener knows what to expect - another cross of midtempo, heavy hitting rock and tasty synthesizers in small doses. Guitar solo at 2:20 is the strongest Barre moment of the album. Beautiful "Cheerio" leaves you longing for chilly winter or setting sails. Or both. Anyways, it's a sweet dainty melody, much like "Grace" in 1975. I wish it were longer.

"The Broadsword and the Beast" never reaches prog rock stratosphere, but what were you expecting? It's from 1982, for Christ's sake - times of Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, new wave weirdos and DMC DeLorean, six or seven years removed from golden era. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more entartaining and clever LP at the time, especially among prog rock giants (reformed King Crimson was an exception). I'm glad they cheated the world into listening to folk music with synthesizers. Even if not proggy, they are darn consistent and entertaining on this one, so I suggest you grab it and enjoy one of the last dope records of the band (not to mention an awesome album cover). Three stars easily.

PS. "The Broadsword and the Beast" tour must've been a blast, judging from live recordings on YouTube. Good material, even better form!

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 Crest Of A Knave by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.22 | 550 ratings

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Crest Of A Knave
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by thief

2 stars I've just realized most of my reviews pretty much agree with consensual opinions. In my view, post-Stormwatch albums are generally a bit weaker (in rare cases substantially). Even the lowest rated records have enjoyable moments though, which ultimately proves that Jethro Tull is a band of professionals. Heavy synthesizer use gives mixed results, aping Dire Straits is a lazy attempt to stay relevant, progressive rock is pretty much gone on 80s records. This is common knowledge now. Nevertheless I differ on one issue: it's hard to name "Crest of a Knave" a return to form, other than edging "Under Wraps" fiasco.

"Steel Monkey" introduces very subpar synths - almost annoying, really - in a hard rock formula of ZZ Top breed, I guess. Not sure about this comparison because I always avoided mindless, weary hard rocking of 1980s - you either do it convincingly ("Perfect Strangers" is a rare example) or switch to heavy/thrash metal. I hate that pseudomasculine riffing and fake bravado. "Farm on the Freeway" starts more gently, but I quickly realize we're dealing with another 80s guitar ballad-blabber without rhyme or reason. I can hardly sit through to the end - it's not an embarrassing song, but very dull and cheesy. Minus one point for senile guitar tone, it sounds like a Les Paul connected to a brown amplifier with tad of chorus and tons of boredom. Ceterum censeo - Mark Knopfler is a fraud among electric guitar "greats".

"Jump Start" is more organic and for that reason alone it ranks higher than aforementioned songs. Sure, it's still a bunch of safe ideas and too obvious guitar licks, but at least the acoustic part makes the job done. Please take notice of flute solo - maybe the best on the album. But then we have "She Said She Was a Dancer" - cringeworthy ballad featuring the cheapest keyboard sound possible. Do you remember how Zappa mocked romantic serenades of yesteryear on "Joe's Garage"? This time Jethro does it in the chorus, but takes it seriously. Now I know why this song eludes my mind when I think of "Crest of a Knave" - I always skipped it and advise you the same.

And now for some good stuff. "Dogs in the Midwinter" is both pretty and memorable, thanks to catchy intro, attractive flute melody and nice chorus - even if it's full of 'everlasting' drums and hairspray. Hard to call it 'progressive', but 'charming' is a fitting description. The song fades out with another unremarkable guitar solo - good call with cutting it short.

"Budapest" is the centrepiece and ranks above average as well. Disclaimer: I'm not interested in Ian's sexual adventures on tour AT ALL, so I just refuse to pay attention to the vocals. Let's focus on guitar arrangements instead: the acoustic licks and violin ornamentation work fantastically, and the sombre, low-key nature of the song reminds me of "Minstrel" days. Not that it's strong enough to make it then - studio outtakes from 1975 generally rank higher for me, but if you like that nocturnal atmosphere of Old Europe, "Budapest" will please you. Especially the extended instrumental part in the middle - I think it could save "Crest of a Knave" from 1 star rating singlehandedly.

"Mountain Men" is deeply entrenched in late 80s spirit, but this time musical themes behind it make up for that. Proud and steady lead guitar work echoes Iron Maiden slightly, Ian's voice is convincing despite its limitations. The middle section is my favorite 'daddy rock' part of the album. Organ/keyboard sounds are also more pleasing than usual - you can safely call it a winner.

"The Waking Edge" could use a crafty keyobardist though, it's just too simple and predictable. Fortunately Martin Barre comes forward with a pretty little solo and saves this ballad from mediocrity. The album concludes with "Raising Steam", basically copying cheesy formulas of "Steel Monkey". No thanks!

I don't recognize "Crest of a Knave's" superiority over "Rock Island", really. Sure, we have a run of decent songs between "Dogs..." and "Mountain Men", but they aren't necessarily better (or more numerous) than its successor highlights. Speaking of highlights, I really enjoy "European Legacy" or "Tundra" as well, but it doesn't prevent "Under Wraps" from getting one star rating. Applying the same logic here, "Crest of a Knave" deserves two stars (maybe 2.5, like "Rock Island") only because its lowlights are tedious, not outright embarrassing (save for "She Said She Was a Dancer").

Even if we counted "Part of the Machine" as a core part of the LP, "Crest..." remains an average recording marred with late 80s esthetics and trends. I give it a spin from time to time and enjoy half of its content, but same can be said about any other JT album. I recommend you giving it a chance if you're Jethro junkie - maybe you're more forgiving of ZZ Top/Dire Straits brand of rock.

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 The Experience by LAVI└NTICA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.97 | 11 ratings

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The Experience
LaviÓntica Crossover Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars Rather uncommon, as this Rock Progressivo Italiano album has hit me right with the first contact, the first minute. Compositional skills, symphonic touches, strings, the folk impression due to the flute, impressive guitar chords and diversified keyboards all over. Thus I would say 'The Experience', even being totally instrumental on this occasion, turns out to be a very typical genre album nevertheless. And then, according to a prog listener's view maybe, also perfectly suitable for a first contact concerning foreign beings arriving from another planet? This brings us closer to the album's concept now. Which actually deals with Galbat, an imaginary entity, who has decided to explore our physical world, for what reason ever.

Compared to the prior album bass player Paolo Perilli does not sing anymore. Why? Communication not feasible through words? And I have serious problems to deal with the cover image, rather ugly for my impression. As one might expect, this probably is reflecting distressed experiences with some exemplars of human beings that creature has encountered. That would also mean that this nice piece of music wasn't enough to convince Galbat in the end? Anyway, the detailed story may reveal more, is included in the CD booklet, which I do not have at hand yet. LAVI└NTICA obviously intend to provide food for thought. And a lovely atmosphere throughout furthermore, for example you also will stumble upon some interspersed sea rushing, birds twittering and ambient patterns again and again.

Daniele Sorrenti has joined, who will add more richness to the sound due to flute, vibraphone and minimoog. Keyboards are prominent anyway, as Luciano Stendardi and Paolo Musolino furthermore both are serving for lots of piano lines, organ swirls and symphonic patterns. The Journey marks a perfect opener crossing the ten minute mark. They are processing a varied and very charming kind of prog, warm, melodic, though not chumming up to mainstream on the other hand. 'The Experience' represents a real RPI highlight, an album which easily meets my preference. This works at best in one go, as the songs are fading into each other. Confirms my preference on bands hailing from Italy.

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 The Lighthouse (Jack Hertz & Christian Fiesel) by HERTZ, JACK album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 1 ratings

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The Lighthouse (Jack Hertz & Christian Fiesel)
Jack Hertz Progressive Electronic

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

— First review of this album —
4 stars Electronic artists Jack Hertz and Christian Fiesel have delivered numerous collaborative works together over the years, and their 2018 release proves to be one of their most special yet. `The Lighthouse' reveals itself to be an evocative title to be taken in both a literal sense and metaphorical interpretation, so while on the surface it's an exploration of beaches, mountains, ports and faraway places between land and sea, the various improvisations here also score a series of dark and unpredictable environments often punctuated with light and solace. Despite the release being a double CD, the duo stress that the album tracks are best played in a random order, with each piece being its own standalone soundtrack, and musically it blurs a range of vintage and modern electronic styles with experimental touches into unhurried arrangements.

Looking at some of the highlights, the ringing distorted rising/falling slivers, swirling effects and lulling drones of `Birds Nest at the Coastline' call to mind the early `Krautrock'-era Tangerine Dream albums, and the lightly psychedelic `Frozen Coast' is dreamy n' drowsy with no shortage of twitching electronic wisps. Soothing ambient caresses that pepper `Giant Lens' are flecked with jaggedly cavernous unease and pulsing loops, and the ethereal hums of `Heaven's Slide' weave between a backdrop of field recordings of steam powered vessels to craft an evocative soundworld.

The shimmering `Inlet Bay' is a frequently graceful space-music drift, `Outer Banks' a droning sound-collage of alien intrigue and stormy ambience, the gentle cooing synths alongside low-key Mellotron choirs of `Pier to Faraway Places' are delicate and reflective with an aching longing, and `Surf' is a restless Berlin School thriller of bubbling synths and shades of Tangerine Dream's classic `Phaedra'. Twenty-minute title track `The Lighthouse' is languidly hallucinogenic and completely enveloping, a fog of precious chimes, skittering fizzes and groaning Mellotron choirs that stretch on into infinity, and when it becomes fraught with little ghostly haunting touches and traces of a lethargic unease, it proves to be a masterclass in subtly increasing drama and growing unrest.

Challenging but not impenetrable, measured but never aimless, `Lighthouse' blurs multiple electronic styles into a kaleidoscope of aural delights that delivers endless moments of supreme beauty, deep contemplative immersion and even fascinating disquiet, and Hertz and Fiesel have delivered a stunning and unpredictably trippy ambient work of mind-bending prog-electronic beauty.

Four stars.

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 Colloids by WALFAD album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.09 | 3 ratings

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Colloids
Walfad Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Walfad were back with their fourth studio album towards the end of 2018, and between this and their previous one, singer/guitarist Wojciech Ciuraj had found time to release a solo album which wasinspired by the Polish romantic poetry of Adam Mickiewicz. None of the musicians involved in the solo effort had been in Walfad, and on the subsequent band album only bassist Radosław Żelazny previously been involved (and then only on 'Momentum') so it really is a brand new band with Wojciech driving it on. Unfortunately their web site hasn't been updated in a few years, so I actually have no idea what has been happening within the band, but it is certainly unusual to see such a change in just two years. The band has also reverted back to a quintet, which is what they were like for the debut, bringing back an additional guitarist.

This album does feel very much like a logical progression from the last one, even though most of the band have changed, with twin guitars providing additional depth and bass to the sound. There isn't as much space within the music as one has come to expect, but it still feels fresh and inviting. The use of a Hammond Organ is also a nice touch, as it adds to depth and presence, powering over the top of piano or other keyboard sounds. Even though there is a larger rock element, the different approach to keyboards has meant the band now appear even more melodic and much more crossover than previously. The vocals are sweetly sung (apparently the album has again been released in two versions, one English and one Polish), and the album is beautifully produced and engineered. Walfad have yet to make much of an impact outside their home country, but having now heard all four of their studio albums I am at a loss to understand why that is, as this is again an incredibly accessible and enjoyable piece of work.

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 Momentum by WALFAD album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.97 | 14 ratings

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Momentum
Walfad Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars 2016 saw Walfad back with their third album, two years on from 'Unsung Hero'. In the intervening time the band had been through some changes, and although singer/guitarist Wojciech Ciuraj and drummer Kacper Kucharski (apparently the band got their name from his inability to come to rehearsals) are still there, they have both a new keyboard player in Dawid Makosz and a new bassist in Radosław Żelazny. Not only has this album been released in both English and Polish language versions, but this time there are separate booklets and covers. The English shows the elevated woman with a red skirt (and a different wall), while the Polish has the woman in green. Mind you, it's probably not a good idea to pay too close attention to the lyrics, as they don't always seem to make a lot of sense.

There is a feeling here that the band have grown in confidence, and the approach is somewhat more direct with strident guitar and less of a concentration on the bass. Although there are still elements of Credo, there is also plenty of Muse and a band moving much more into the rock arena and moving away slightly from the traditional neo-prog roots they had previously. Both new musicians have fitted in well, and the swirling piano on the title cut is wonderful, ripping and creating waves of sound I could lie in all day. Wojciech is content to riff and take lead melodies when the song requires it, and is more forceful and definitely more present than on the previous release. Good use of different keyboard sounds, combined with a more powerful approach (which can also be light when required, providing strong contrasts), really demonstrates a band starting to come into their own.

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 End of the World by APHRODITE'S CHILD album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1968
3.00 | 1 ratings

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End of the World
Aphrodite's Child Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Besides the hit single 'Rain and Tears', also other songs of the debut album End of the World were released on singles. This is the title track, and it's among the more interesting Aphrodite's Child songs of the pre-666 era. Again I'd make a reference to the classic Moody Blues for the rich and warm soundscape dominated by keyboards creating orchestral nuances. The song is nocturnally atmospheric and has a lot of passion & drama, especially for the emotional vocals of Demis Roussos. Early Barclay James Harvest had songs with a similar feel.

'You Always Stand in My Way' sees the Greek trio rocking hard. Yes, this is actually a heavy rock song! Just change the Moody Blues type of Mellotron-oriented keyboard arsenal to a Hammond, and it could be an obscure Deep Purple song. A curiosity more than a recommendable or representative Aphrodite's Child number.

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 An Unsung Hero, Salty Rains & Him by WALFAD album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 51 ratings

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An Unsung Hero, Salty Rains & Him
Walfad Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Just a year on from their debut, and Polish band Walfad (We Are Looking For A Drummer) were back in the studio. They had dropped to a quartet after 'Ab Ovo', with Wojciech Ciuraj now being the sole guitarist. This now allowed their music to open up, with far more space within it, as there are times when he allows himself to concentrate on the singing and not provide any guitar at all. This means that there is a lot of space within the sound, with some luxurious bass lines often taking the lead melodic role with keyboards providing a background to be played against. It took me a while to think what band they reminded me of, but finally it clicked that in many ways they are following a very similar path to Credo after Mike Varty had joined the band. Credo had yet to morph into the huge sounding outfit they were to become, and in many ways this album contains the same amount of naivety, and is all the better for it.

All the vocals are in English, yet the booklet contains all lyrics in both Polish and English, as are the song titles, which makes me wonder if there has been a Polish language version as well, as I have come across that previously with other bands. Millenium's keyboard player Ryszard Kramarski was on hand to assist with the production, and the result is a very clean sounding album. The second song, "Leaves", is broken into four sections but it is only possible to play this as a single song on the CD, and at more than eighteen minutes long shows that the young band have a great deal of confidence. The album is laid-back for the most part, and is solid and enjoyable neo-prog.

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