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Last 50 reviews
 Syn-Code by SOFTWARE album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.64 | 6 ratings

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Syn-Code
Software Progressive Electronic

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

2 stars "Syn-Code" is one of the most ambitious albums from the German duo. Consisting in two suites of more than twenty minutes and a third track of nine minutes, the music incorporates different instruments in addition of synthesizers and has a strong orientation towards new-age. However, the long pieces lacks unity and fail at keeping the interest of the listener as for example on "Electronic-Universe Part I".

"Syn-Code-A" begins with a rainy introduction, to then unveil flute and electronic passages. The middle section displays a jungle soundscape with animal sounds, while the ending part concludes the track with aerial voices. There are a few good moments but no true musical direction.

"Syn-Code-Z" is the weakest composition of the record. It features cheesy synthesizers and electronic percussions sonorities typical of the late 80's. The "thunder" section is more lively with the apparition of electric guitar, whereas the ending is just basic new-age. The problem is that the different parts seem disconnected and the overall is not very coherent.

The final track, "Syn-Code-Sunset", has strong reminiscences of what KLAUS SCHULZE was doing in the eighties. The finale is quite mystical.

"Syn-Code" is quite an uneven and strange album. The German duo wanted to experiment and emancipate from their initial TANGERINE DREAM and KLAUS SCHULZE influences by reducing the use of electronic loops and adding novel orchestrations and sound effects. Nonetheless, the result is not convincing and difficult to follow.

The style differs from SOFTWARE's previous electronic progressive acts such as "Phancyful Fire" or "Electronic-Universe Part I". Don't choose this album if you're looking for hypnotic meditative or futuristic soundscapes. Fans of 80's new-age music may however appreciate it.

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 A Real Diamond in the Rough by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.29 | 10 ratings

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A Real Diamond in the Rough
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars A Real Diamond in the Rough!

After reading a super cool review in these pages about this 2009 "A Real Diamond in the Rough" one of the zillion releases in BUCKETHEAD's discography and my early acquaintance with lots of his works and the luck of owning a couple of my personal favorites (which I have reviewed also in these pages), well, I got caught.

A true to life stardom surrounds this anti-stardom composer/performer. As if to ellaborate on this maybe his virtuous skills, the same his detachment, his heartfelt and intelligent compositions the sum of all parts and yet something intangible is present as in his best releases.

Non-stop creativity guided by a totally inspired composer/guitarist aided by Dan Monti on drum programming and bass and Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums also and 13 tracks to prove it, which adds up to BUCKETHEAD's genius like albums.

The routes traveled are diverse, all BUCKETHEAD imprinted as expected. From classical Rock to proto/prog moods to classic like progressions to blues rooted sections to latin based rhythms to magnificent acoustic guitar only structures to clean cut Jazz swings to the experimental borders of sound engineering and to wherever the roads may lead.

The obssesive attention to detail throughout the whole album is simply remarkable.

****4 PA stars.

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 Asymmetry by KARNIVOOL album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.49 | 87 ratings

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Asymmetry
Karnivool Heavy Prog

Review by Bucklebutt

2 stars When I first found this band and listened to their albums Themata and Sound Awake, their trajectory had me pretty excited. Themata is a great alt-rock album with plenty of solid songs. Sound Awake took it up a prog notch and the result is one of my absolute favorite heavy prog albums out there, it is my aim to one day be able to drum along to the track Deadman, love it. Then 4 years later I get Asymmetry?

It's not a terrible album and there are some moments that I really generally enjoy, but those are few and far between. There isn't really a single song on the album that even stands out, the few with the moments I enjoy all have weak parts that are too much to overlook. The choruses typically go for a poppier alt-rock sound reminiscent of Themata and the heavier moments never all seem to have the same reverb heavy sound with a rhythm that doesn't ever really go anywhere.

I really hope the next record takes another direction, there is no doubt that these aren't great musicians. Looking forward to the next album with fingers crossed.

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 Havoc by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.25 | 23 ratings

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Havoc
Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Circus Maximus continue to evolve, from indulging the glossier aspects of Dream Theater prog metal sound to catering to the more popular sounds of today. On this, modern metal starts to creep into their musical palette with its deep bass grooves and stop-start riffs, and at the same time, more of the melancholic-yet-anthemic power pop that makes them sound sometimes as a heavier version of Coldplay. But unlike, say, their fellow Norwegians Leprous, the glories of old are not forgotten, as the catchy vocals and flashy solos are still prominently featured. Kind of like Architect of Fortune on their last album, they start off with The Weight that combines all of their influences into a neat 6-minute whole, while later going on to explore them in more detail. This would probably be oriented towards the more youthful demographic of prog metal fans.

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 Affinity by HAKEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Affinity
Haken Heavy Prog

Review by Blackwater Floyd

5 stars Still at the top of prog!

I was blown away by the Mountain, and, to be honest, I couldn't imagine anything coming close to it's greatness. Boy was I wrong. Haken were able to give yet another new cool spin to their already awesome music. 80's influence was there, especially in "1985", heaviness was there, as noted in "The Architect", calmer tunes, like "Red Giant"...This record has almost everything. It's not all good, though. My only criticism of this album, is that the second half seems to be less memorable than the first. It's as if they crammed their excellent tunes all together. Nevertheless the album is not short of excitement, intrigue and beautiful melodies. Some people claim this album sounds mechanic and robotic and is, thus, soulless. On the contrary, it is my belief that the "robotic" sound, as intended, means to emphasize the vibe proposed by the band.

High points: The Architect, 1985, Initiate, Bound by gravity (though not as great a closer as Somebody), Red Giant "Less high" points ;) : Earthrise (great chorus, and such a lovely tune to ease the ears after the monstrous 15 minute epic ), Lapse, the Endless knot (kind of like Never Enough in Octavarium by DT. Nice tune, but maybe the weakest on the record).

Overall, Haken do it yet again, staying true to their style while adding new twists and turns. This is in my opinion another creative masterpiece. As the mountain was a solid 5 out of 5, I'll give this one a 4.5 out of 5 (rounding up to a 5 star rating).

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 Larks' Tongues In Aspic by KING CRIMSON album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.41 | 2308 ratings

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Larks' Tongues In Aspic
King Crimson Eclectic Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja

5 stars After a string of 4 consecutive masterpieces, each with their own unique flavours and mood, some reinventing themselves completely from the last, King Crimson manages to do it again.

In 1973, prog went ham. Notable groups in the genre were putting out their most ambitious material, and King Crimson seemed to be following suit. This album, though, went just far enough that it was decades ahead of its time but somehow still retains an air of sensibility and control that makes it listenable today.

With a completely new lineup, including Yes drum virtuoso Bill Bruford, Fripp had assembled a brand new freak show flying circus of musical madmen and it proved to be one of the greatest decisions of his musical career. Gone are the woodwinds and extensive mellotron use of yore, and while I initially rejected this, the album's sound redeems itself with the addition of some real strings (David Cross on violin) and the eccentric percussion assortments of Jamie Muir.

On the surface, nothing about this album should work. It is incredibly experimental and by experimental I really mean to say the "high school chemistry teacher we all had that liked to blow up pumpkins in the hallway" type of experimental. Brutal, explosive, almost sadistic at times. But, through the genius of all those involved, it still maintains a surprising amount of listening enjoyment. Side one, although it sounds nothing like what King Crimson had done before, still offers some familiarity in its structure. "Larks' Tongues Pt. 1" offers the sort of occult-brewed jump scares and unrelenting tension that we got from "21st Century Schizoid Man", only with the dial cranked so much higher. "Book of Saturday" provides much-needed breathing room, a la "Cadence And Cascade". Then we're swept off our feet by the gorgeous "Exiles", where Cross' violin is brought to its full atmospheric effect and Robert Fripp contributes some of his finest soft guitar work. Side two offers a whole new variety of sounds, from the proto-metal "Easy Money" to the crescendo of "The Talking Drum" to the final coda of "Larks' Tongues Pt. 2", which is guaranteed to wake you up in the morning any day of the week

Ultimately, "Larks' Tongues" is a masterpiece of chaotic prog. If you're looking for some soft, melodic prog that holds your hand, pats you on the head and wipes your bum for you, then don't even think of putting this one on for a spin. But if you're looking for an album that will dominate you, perplex you, throw you in the dirt and bring you along for a ride you'll never forget, this is the album to look out for.

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 Elusive Metaphor by Alio Die & Parallel Worlds by ALIO DIE album cover Studio Album, 2015
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Elusive Metaphor by Alio Die & Parallel Worlds
Alio Die Progressive Electronic

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
5 stars This is the future!

"Elusive Metaphor" by Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso) & Parallel Worlds (aka Bakis Sirro) released in 2015 is a MASTERWORK.

7 expansive, rich in textures, truly inspired and unique compositions, including a short collaboration by the ghostly and beautiful voice of India Czajkowska (track 1), whose storm of ideas on each track gives a different and new meaning to conceptual albums.

Deep into the sequences of dream like emotions, these sonic/visions are as abstract as concrete, yet fleeting away their shapes through mutable environments, which even though "earthly", withhold an absolute deep in trance "cosmic/human" quality that is both attainable as it is possible and better yet represented through the art of music.

Progressive Electronics taken for a ride into our planet's inherent aural atmospheres in full amounts of sonic colors and their respective shades and better yet with pitch perfect music composition.

A well hidden treasure full of all the unwritten, until now, possibilities in progressive electronics and contemporary non-mainsream electronic music composition adding up to a Prog music masterpiece!

***** 5 "FULL" PA stars!

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 Olias of Sunhillow by ANDERSON, JON album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.94 | 328 ratings

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Olias of Sunhillow
Jon Anderson Prog Related

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja

3 stars The first solo album by Jon Anderson, "Olias of Sunhillow" very faithfully carries on the Yes tradition, even without the help of any of his band mates.

Written, performed and recorded entirely by Mr. Anderson, "Olias of Sunhillow" takes on a far more subdued approach to the Yes experience but it is still a great foray into Jon Anderson's fantasy world building. After all, Anderson was the world builder with Yes, often being the philosophical brainchild of the group's output. A concept album, I'm sure that you can read the synopsis in a number of other reviews. I will note that the album's story line is derived from a series of Roger Dean (who did not do the cover for "Olias", interestingly enough) paintings. Beginning with the back cover of "Fragile" and following through the stages of the four "Yessongs" paintings, "Olias" is a story of exodus, rebirth and forging new beginnings, and can make for a powerful spiritual experience to listen to.

As far as the music, it gives very "new age" vibes, with soft, lush synthesizers, plenty of acoustic guitar, and great falsetto vocal lines. It doesn't quite give the same drive or punch as Yes, but it has the same soul. In all, this is a good but non-essential album, warranting a 3 star rating. If you can find a vinyl copy, however, I'd bump the rating up to 4 stars, as it contains an incredible storybook-style multi-sided gatefold with beautiful illustrations and poetry describing the narrative. 3 stars overall.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1737 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja

2 stars Van Der Graaf Generator is a bit of a touchy subject. On the one hand, they're an incredibly influential band and if there were a prog award given out for most original sound, they'd be a shoe-in. On the other hand, this band that has a lot going for it in theory happens to have the most marmite-like, controversial vocalist on the planet, Peter Hammill. For some, Pete's vocal work can strike their ears and permeate into the deepest reaches of their souls, conjuring emotions that they didn't even know could be felt, let alone articulated. For others, Hammill's vocals strike the ear in much the same manner as a cheese grater.

So, like I said, Van Der Graaf Generator is a love it or hate it type of band and "Pawn Hearts" is probably the most extreme example of Graafian excess. Peter takes center stage, giving no room for the rest of the band, a competent bunch of musicians, to carry out any roles past giving tinny, dry, uninspired accompaniment. Hammill, on the other hand, gives himself plenty of liberty to go off on tangents, often far, far longer than I'm comfortable with.

So if you've listened to other Van der Graaf Generator works and can tolerate, or even enjoy, them, this is a good album for you to check out. But despite its ambition and influence, this album is too divisive to call essential. 2 stars; fans only.

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 Shiny Eyed Babies by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.41 | 87 ratings

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Shiny Eyed Babies
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja

2 stars After seeing an album with such few ratings (86) creep into the top 100, I was intrigued. Surely this must be an INCREDIBLE album to garner a rating even higher than albums as coveted as "Red", "Animals" or "Fragile"! Unfortunately, after several listens, I've been deceived.

I suppose that Bent Knee can be seen as a modern day Van Der Graaf Generator. It seems that most fellow reviewers have been commenting on the lead female vocals. Personally, they have a Hammill-esque marmite effect on me; some seem to adore it, I feel like my ears are being gouged an hour. The singer's voice, and its subtly grating quality, combined with the generally dark subject matter and generic sounding "metal-prog" instrumental accompaniment that seems to be the rage nowadays (you know which one I mean; put on just about any celebrated prog album of the 2010's) make for an album that I really don't care to listen to again in the future. If you enjoy Van Der Graaf Generator and darker prog, or if you like the sort of metal-ish sound that I described earlier, then this may be right up your alley. But personally I can't bring myself to give this above 2 stars.

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 Alpha Centauri by ALPHA CENTAURY album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.83 | 12 ratings

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Alpha Centauri
Alpha Centaury Symphonic Prog

Review by maryes

2 stars When I hear the first track " La montre" of this only album from the French band ALPHA CENTAURY (whitout know the line up), I thought - Oh ! The music is very similar to another great French band : In the case MEMORIANCE and his fantastic first album "Et aprés......" the record mix made me believe which I was hearing "twin lead guitars" as in MEMORIANCE... and ... I confess my mistake and worst my deception to hear the other 5 tracks ... these others don't have anything with "et aprés..." in fact the music that follows the beautiful first track sounds to me like a "jam" session , with the exception of last track "Sans nom" which are in a general way a good track, but, the final passage shows a suddenly interruption. Due this considerations my rate is only 2 stars !

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 Electronic-Universe Part I by SOFTWARE album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.34 | 7 ratings

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Electronic-Universe Part I
Software Progressive Electronic

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars

"Electronic-Universe Part I" is certainly one the most ambitious studio album from the German duo, as it opens with no less than three 20 minutes suites! As a consequence, the three other remaining tracks are short compositions, but as good as the long ones. Classic electronic prog lovers, get ready to take off.

"Fluting Electronic Universe" is a slow soft new-age piece, composed mostly of flute and synthesizers. It weaves cool dreamy soundscapes. The pleasant "Surfing Saturn" alternates spacey and ambient passages with strange sound effects. The ending can remind TANGERINE DREAM's "Logos Part 2" by moments, however a little less messy. The cosmic atmosphere corresponds to the track name. On the contrary, "Dancing Venus" is a rather odd title. Its first half is quite mysterious with its synthetic haunting voice calls, while the second half is smoother and contemplative. Enjoyable though.

The 2 minutes "Cosmic Calimba" is the shortest track of the record. The sound and style are very close to TANGERINE DREAM's "Undulation". "Add-Space-To-Time" is the best passage from this second half. A trippy and futuristic sequence with a nice progression. "Psychomellow-Planet" is pretty much in the vein of "Cosmic Calimba", however average.

Although not very innovative and a bit lengthy, "Electronic-Universe Part I" fulfils its promises and carries the listener for a long synthetic journey through different spatial soundscapes. The three first long suites are one the most adventurous pieces SOFTWARE ever composed. If you like 80's electronic progressive music like KLAUS SCHULZE or TANGERINE DREAM, you'll surely enjoy this album from this lesser-known band.

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 Maps of Non-Existent Places by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 93 ratings

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Maps of Non-Existent Places
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by marcobrusa

3 stars After the first two songs the bombastic arrangements become exhausting. The band shows great potential though, then can play many different styles. However, i think they make an abuse of heavy guitars and fast rhythmic patterns. I think i can explain why i like them but at the same time they are a little unbearable: they sound like The Mars Volta with the high pitched voice and the fast tempos, but much more musical and genuine. The arrangements sometimes are too much. No need to use violin for accompanying for example. It's weird, sometimes the instrumentation works great but sometimes not. There are no pianos nor keyboards right? So they put 3 melodic instruments (violin, sax, trumpet) to "replace" the old classic keyboards and piano we are used to in this progressive rock we like. 3.something stars. They sound very very loud so be careful!

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 Affinity by HAKEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Affinity
Haken Heavy Prog

Review by marcobrusa

2 stars I am sorry but with all due respect this album is cold. I cannot remember one single moment. I applaude the production effort and musicmanship but (i am sorry) the music seems completely uninspired. Maybe i am a grumpy cynical person but honestly the mix makes everything sound robotic as if it was made by a computer. Is it the excessive use of dynamic processors and effects the cause maybe? What's wrong people? Will i be the only one that notices this? First two albums at least were a treat for DT-like prog metal enthusiasts. This is boring. 2- stars. Level up your emotions.

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 MoRT by BLUT AUS NORD album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.15 | 12 ratings

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MoRT
Blut Aus Nord Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Whereas Blut Aus Nord's preceding album to this, The Work Which Transforms God, presented a series of compositions that juxtaposed dark industrial ambient sections with eruptions of black metal fury, here they take their experiment further. On MoRT, just as the distinctions between tracks break down (each reduced to a single chapter in one massive piece), so too does the distinction between the black metal, industrial, and ambient aspects of the group's sound, yielding a unique sonic landscape through which tormented vocals in the style of Tibetan throat singing warble.

It certainly isn't for everyone, and it's no surprise that people have an extreme reaction to it one way or another, but for my money it's one of the most rewarding sonic experiments arising from the black metal scene I have heard.

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 The Shape of Colour by INTERVALS album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.29 | 5 ratings

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The Shape of Colour
Intervals Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Immaculately played, intense instrumentals

Intervals is a well established jazz fusion metal/math/djent project from Ontario, led by Aaron Marshall. Their 2nd full length release "The Shape of Colour" was birthed after some significant turmoil in the group, including an entirely new line-up (except for Marshall) and the change to an entirely instrumental release. Reading a bit about them online the reviews of "Colours" are mixed but more positive than negative. Most the negative ones came from those who really enjoyed the previous incarnation and vocalist-since I've not heard that album I can enjoy this one on its own merits. And I did enjoy the ride.

"a delicious blend of metal, jazz, and virtuosity -- the crunchy grooves will grab you; the melodies will serenade you; and the power plays will enrapture you. Each track has its own flavor, whilst maintaining Intervals' confident sound, rhythm, and strength." -Jonathan Lin

Lin's flash assessment is good and I mostly agree. This is highly technical instrumental rock with those furious, shredding solos on every track that recall Satriani or Chris Poland in their purity and blaze. Though the players are all so technically gifted that as crazy as it sounds, it can sometimes get bit mechanized in feel. But it's a two way street and if you happen to like listening to highly proficient players shred wall to wall, floor to ceiling, this is your album. The music itself was pretty good in my book: melodic, engaging, hard hitting and consistent. The songs have moments of groove, even dreamy sections, but usually such intricacy/space to breath moments are steamrolled pretty quickly by the occasionally annoying technical rigidity and heaviness. Because of the relative uniformity of the tracks I think some listeners will find the album unmemorable. But for me there were more than enough beautiful moments of spirited interplay and melodic fusion to put this band on my radar, and I'd recommend to fans of instrumental rock without hesitation. 7/10.

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 Marsbéli Krónikák (The Martian Chronicles) by SOLARIS album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.26 | 264 ratings

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Marsbéli Krónikák (The Martian Chronicles)
Solaris Symphonic Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

4 stars Solaris' Marsbéli krónikák is a breath of fresh air for Prog in the 80's, together with Bacamarte's Depois do fim, Marco Antônio Araújo's whole discography and Abissi Infiniti's Tunnel.

Solaris is pretty much Camel, if Camel didn't change so much in the 80's and decided to record albums like The Single Factor and Stationary Traveller. The only difference really are the heavier guitars.

All in all the whole album is really solid, great flute parts, heavy guitars that Rock, keyboards that are not all that dated (for the 80's that is) and very good drumming. The production is tight, tries to go forward but doesn't bury all the sound in the terrible production of mid 80's.

My only pick with the album is that it is all instrumental. If that's not a problem for you go for it and be happy cause the album gives you that, as for me i's a bit hard to enjoy all instrumental Prog.

Anyway, great first album of this HUngarian band.

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.13 | 446 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars Welcome to the woods!

In 1967, two 17-year-old students of Ravensbourne College of Art in Bromley, Kent Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring, met. The two found mutual interest in the Velvet Underground and folk music of artists such as John Renbourn or Bert Jansch. They soon founded a folk duo and started playing in pubs and bars. In two years' time, the band grew to a sextet naming itself Comus. The group made a name for themselves in English underground. In 1970, they finally got a record contract with the Dawn label and released their first album First Utterance, which was released in early 1971.

Comus' music blends many different types of folk. These include pagan folk, medieval and renaissance English folk, acid folk, ancient Greek, swamp blues or Eastern European influences among many. All of this with an avant-garde theatrical twist to it, sort of in the vein of what Henry Cow would present a few years later. Dark, melancholic, ominous, creepy, gloomy, worrying, infernal, sinister - these are just a handful of expressions that describe the moods on this album. Despite the relative lack of success when it first came out, First Utterance later found admiration among bands such as Opeth or Current 93. Comus became David Bowie's favorites, he let them use his Arts Lab project in Beckenham, Kent. While Gryphon's music has a brighter, merrier and more optimistic plainsong-orientated style, Comus lie on the exact oposite side with a somber, almost satanic flavor.

The sextet utilizes instruments such as basic feminine 6 and 12-string acoustic guitar or hand drums as well as a violin, a cello, flutes, oboes and bassoons. Those give the band a very interesting distinctive sound. The instrumentalism and musicianship is in fact excellent, the artists make the most of their instruments with a lot of detectable soul and care. Some of the sounds like a high-pitched flute bring a very mistic element. Some of the melodies picture a dark medieval forest. The band's sound is characterized by quick, percussive rhythms with various percussion instruments, namely a demonic hand drum or tambourine. The swamp blues-style slide guitar is present and sits suprisingly well in the rather European-influenced music. The lyrics talk about mental illness, murder, or pagan ritualism. These are sung by beautiful harmony vocals with a great range from as far as a female soprano of Bobbie Watson to male bass, baritone, and tenor voices of Roger Wootton, Glen Goring and Andy Hellaby.

First Utterance consists of seven tracks (plus three on the remastered CD reissue). These despite various moods or scales do not create an impression of having a great variety between one another, still falling far from being monotonous or "single-gendered". Two pieces, namely "Drip Drip" and the Gaelic "The Herald" are longer than ten minutes (these are varied in construction), while the rest is kept fairly short, between two and six minutes.

In conclusion, Comus' First Utterance always remained a pretty obscure gem. It is, however, held in high regard by music collectors and musicians. The band's musical vision gave birth to unrepeatable moods only to be found on First Utterance. This is not a very accessible album that might not be pleasing to newcommers, but is a much-needed addition to every progressive rock collection. All in all, this is a highly recommended work. Four stars!

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 Please Don't Touch! by HACKETT, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.57 | 472 ratings

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Please Don't Touch!
Steve Hackett Eclectic Prog

Review by Per Kohler

5 stars Go west young man. Off to L.A. and America. In common with his former band mate P. Gabriel, Hackett chose to seek foreign land to record his debut work as solo artist. The reason for this can be obvious. To force one's way out from the past and to do something entirely different. On PDT Hackett goes in for to sound as un-English as possible. Not Voyage of the Acolyte Part 2 but a jazz- and blues style. The director has not entirely forgotten his roots though. Bombastic sound pictures, frail clinks, dramatic effects, romantic adventures... All for your soul and mind. An extended 12-string intro paves the way for vocalist Steve Walsh. It could just as well have meant Hackett joining American top notch act Kansas. I have to admit that Steve Walsh isn't my fave singer of all time but here he fits perfectly. 'Narnia' is as fresh as a premiere danseuse at the opera.

On 'Carry On Up the Vicarage' Hackett sings duet with himself. The light voice is recorded at half speed while the bass- is as natural as Steve himself. 'Vicarage' is as good as anything to emanate from the Genesis camp. The accessibility of 'I Know What I Like', the whimsicality of 'Willow Farm'. Pure genius! Randy Crawford pops up shortly in the vocal section. The lyric is a tribute to Agatha Christie (wasn't she involved in 'And Then There Were None' as well??). 'Racing in A' is made up of 2 separate sections. Once again Steve Walsh on voice and he's just as convincing as on 'Narnia'. Tom Fowler sounds clinical on his highly discernable bass. That's the risk with solo albums; you pay an individual for a commission. Nothing more, nothing less. Someone said that 60% of all studio musicians only play for the money. Some very convincing strings lead to a sole classical guitar. If it didn't happen it wouldn't be Steve Hackett. To edit different sections isn't unique for popular music. It even occurs in classical music and symphony orchestras.

'Kim' seriously calms down the temper. Steve on acoustic and Brother John on flute. Dedicated to spouse Kim Poor who in due order is responsible for the album cover. Inspiration comes from a shop on Portobello Road (London) which is selling articles from Victorian times. On the back cover Steve is standing at Palace Pier in Brighton. If you want a richer instrumentation listen to the version on Bay of Kings. 'How Can I' with Richie Havens on vox is the most down-to-earth and laid-back inclusion on the album. Not the most advanced piece of lyric in history. You wouldn't believe it to be a Hackett composition for obvious reasons. 'Hoping Love Will Last' feels like the records central piece and it's worth the price of the album alone. It was rehearsed in Genesis with Phil on vocals but never included on W & W. Hackett had a desire to bring in a female vocalist in the Genesis recording too. Instead it ended up here with a so far rather unknown Randy Crawford. The piano chords move the song forward to the delightful string section. A mixture between real strings and guitar synth. The strings took two weeks to record as every violin part is dubbed a number of times. Also first time for Hackett as string arranger so it was rather strenuous. Also for Graham Smith from Van Der Graaf.

'Land of a Thousand Autumns' consists of acoustic- and multi-layered gtr synth. 'Please Don't Touch' is as you probably know by now one of the many leftovers from W & W. As an amalgam with 'Wot Gorilla' but only the latter was included. There were still a lot of instrumental work from Steve on the B-side of Wuthering but PDT had to wait to this very moment. John Hackett on flute, piccolo flute and bass pedals is just as important here as his elder brother. It would still be interesting to hear Collins render the work, to cite M Rutherford; - 'the only drummer who cares about the song'.

'The Voice of Necam' is high-tech with a vengeance. Tape loop vocals, a singer sings a tone for 8-10 seconds recorded on two different tape recorders. Then transferred to 24-channel and changes speed on the tape to obtain various tones on every channel. On 'Necam' the voices are even treated through computer(please note that this is the Stone Age 1978!). Final 'Icarus Ascending' is performed by Richie Havens. A moderate and deep voice of fine standard. Once again Hackett takes out his guitar synth and this time he wants to resemble a saxophone. If you listen to the tones in the solo towards the end of instrumental section (in the middle of the tune) you're able to discern this phenomena. Tape loop on the chorus, reggae rhythms and piccolo from Bro. John. A grand mixture!

Released almost simultaneously with 'And Then There Were Three' and followed by 'P.G.2' shortly afterwards, you can state that 1978 was a productive year for the former cohesive band. Remarkably and quite unique everything still on the same label. Why not pick your favorites and turn it into The Lamb Part 2?

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 Spirit by LEGEND album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.04 | 96 ratings

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Spirit
Legend Neo-Prog

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Dark spirit

For LEGEND's 25th anniversary, the band released its fifth studio opus, "Spirit". The first thing that we can say is that Josephine Wall's artwork is just wonderful. Another important point to mention is the new vocalist Beck Sian, who replaces Kerry Parker. An inspired choice as her large range voice is quite similar to Kate Bush's and can be very theatrical at times. Furthermore, original guitarist Paul Thomson, who was absent from "Cardinal Points", has now reintegrated the band. For the first time, although composed of five songs, the title "Spirit" breaks the tradition of LEGEND's concept albums based on chronological record order. Once said, what about the music?

The style extends the own personal "pagan hard neo-prog" approach developed on the four previous records, however in a much darker and haunting atmosphere. Less folk, the music incorporates now more and more heavy and symphonic metal elements and goes back to epic compositions. This evolution shows Steve Paine and co. reaching new unexpected heights.

The opener "Leap of Faith" is simply bombastic. With its church organ and choir opening and raging guitars, this track really rocks! This beginning part sounds sometimes like THERION-meets-RUSH, while the middle part is softer. Then the beginning theme is reused and the ambiance become more oppressive, to finish with a heroic ending. Great! The only short song of the disc, "Wood for the Trees", is an epic heavy neo-prog little gem, with a powerful melody.

The 18 minutes "A Tangled Skein" is the longest composition of the album. Softer, the ambiance is sinister and haunting, like a witches dance. The ending sounds quite tribal with the percussions and the mystical flute. However, there are some repetitive passages. "Crossing of the Ways" is the only weak track of the record. Despite Beck Sian's excellent performance and its mysterious introduction, the melody is a bit boring and the light mood contrasts with the somber atmosphere of the disc. Back to epic knights tales with "State of Grace". This great ender has a delicate piano opening, that unveils a catchy rock song with raging guitars and rhythm changes. The style is in the vein of "Leap of Faith".

"Spirit" is clearly the darkest and most metallic LEGEND album to date. Most tracks displays a nightly pagan fantasy ambiance, the only fault being "Crossing of the Ways". The only other drawback is the dated 80's synthesizers sonorities, typical of the neo-prog genre. Apart from these small points, the compositions are very nice. The music is coherent with the cover art, the dark medieval forest theme is respected.

If you enjoyed the other LEGEND albums, you may be surprised at first listen but you surely won't be disappointed. "Spirit" marks an evolution for the band while keeping their own identity, and announces great things to come. Highly recommended to neo-prog, and even symphonic metal fans!

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 Fetish by SEVEN STEPS TO THE GREEN DOOR album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.98 | 189 ratings

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Fetish
Seven Steps To The Green Door Neo-Prog

Review by King Manuel

2 stars A highly ambitious album by a band of great instrumentalists that unfortunately as a whole fails: too many styles, too many changes in time signatures and keys and way too long, in my opinion. There are a number of great parts and passages on this album and a few tracks are ok but overall this album feels very disjointed and lacks something I can not really put my finger on. Which is a pity since this band is capable of delivering much more. Their previous album (The ? Book) worked for me in terms of a well-integrated concept where nothing felt out of place and which had a convincing deep emotional atmosphere. This clearly lacks here.

I gave this album many spins, hoping it would grow on me as it has so many good reviews,came with a high recommendation from a friend and I just love their previous album. The urge to fast forward or skip tracks was ever present while listening to it. Like another reviewer says: "an album one does not look forward to listen to". To make things worse, I find the cover very off putting and the "secret packaging" did not add to improve things.

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 Affinity by HAKEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Affinity
Haken Heavy Prog

Review by arschiparschi

4 stars I was already very curious to hear what Haken would have come up with for their fourth full length. After reading in Prog that they were going for 80s influences I was - as they anticipated most people to be - quite sceptical. The two singles already released beforehand - Initiate and The Endless Knot - did not impress me as much as their previous efforts had, Initiate being a very nice listen but somehow very poppy and The Endless Knot just didn't quite grab my attention despite its interesting complexity. The Endless Knot also had a slight autotune sound, which they luckily didn't use throughout the album.

But listening to this album in its intended song order now I must say that they've delivered some quality material that does not necessarily disappoint me (after all, it's difficult to follow up the great 'The Mountain'). They've managed to garner new influences - less Gentle Giant, more 80s Yes etc. - but still remain true to their own sound. The guitar sound is just like in their previous albums, lovely and smooth bass lines (as in The Architect), a distinct modern metal sound in parts (heavy, 7-string riffing in 1985 and even a blast beat as well as growling vocals in The Architect), thankfully a real drum sound and not the artificial sound so popular in the 80s and the vocals are always very recognisable (in a positive way).

As the desired sound shifted, so did especially the keyboards. I must say that I personally enjoy the warmer 70s sound more than the synthesizer-drenched sounds of the 80s but it doesn't destroy it. One criticism, however, would be that many songs have lots of underlying sound beds, which gives it a slightly overproduced, artificial sound and takes away the band-sound a bit. But the musicianship is nevertheless great as usual with plenty of odd time signatures, impressive soli and great melodies.

I will listen to it a couple more times but my first impression is positive. There is great variety in the music (some more serious as The Architect, some very poppy and cheerful as Earthrise) but I find the mix quite enjoyable. The band wanted something different than before, which is why I would not directly measure it against their previous releases. It's a good thing that they want to keep innovating their own sound and on this record they have succeeded in doing so while still retaining a high quality as well as their own identity in the music. 4 stars +. :)

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 Still Life by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.32 | 1352 ratings

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Still Life
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group RIO / Avant / Zeuhl Team & Moderator

4 stars Prayer for our still life. Regardless of my first OPETH, I could not help feeling as if this album should be one of my musical roots. Based upon melodic core metal, they keep sending out fresh troops of sensitive sound shower. Their musical box is full of sound essence of Swedish metal scene ... heavy riffs with grindcore vibes, sensitive melodic Fantasia, refined chorus along with strict rhythm section plays, extreme sharp-edged guitar solos ... all of OPETHeoretical energetic progressive strategies would be accumulated and integrated like a powerful pyramid.

On the other hand, I guess they might play fully with artistic delight for letting the audience listen to their complex melody lines in such a complicated manner, of course their playing skill, instrumental technique,or composition faculty should be awesome though. We can get immersed in their world just as if we would fall into catastrophic illusion via this massive production.

Cynically mentioning aside, their theatrical schemes and movements can be felt pretty innovative. Assume that such a death-metallic style could be heard via North European progressive metal originated with the giant vanguards in North Euro melodic (non-progressive) metal scene ... basical metal sound visions with explosive loudness and deathcore voices would be shifted to mystic gorgeous rock phrases tinged with classical flavour somehow. The first repetitive confusive conductive phrases, beautiful acoustic storytelling, aloud hardcore voices plus deep explosive phases, and polished chorus or verse ... they all hold their hands and merge themselves into others completely. There is no useless tone nor unnecessary sound. On a natural course.

We cannot frequently come across such a colourful creation filled with nonpartisan sound variations, let me say. Afraid there might be pros and cons for / against this album but this innovative cornerstone was / is another multi-flavourful gem.

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 Amoc by COMA album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.95 | 2 ratings

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Amoc
Coma Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Unusually good progressive jazzrock experiment gone terribly right, Denmark ensemble Coma's Amoc kicks some ass and made this grizzled veteran smile more than once, showing a band quite well versed in their understanding of rock and how it can interlope with almost any other form of music, even the unwilling ones. A creepy whistle intros 'Savvćrket', Jakob Mygind's sax leads a shaky mix as the band finds a pace, Viggo Steincke Bertelsen's fiery guitar pulling out a groovy vamp and some serious riffage that heats up nicely merging into 'Pigerne fra Himmelbjerget', funky 'Pulp', and cerebral 'Heavy Winter'.

'En saftig brosten' was (even in 1980) retro space-age fusion; 'Orientexpressen' tastily bobs & weaves and kicks out the rhythm; 'Love and Madness' is romantic pap; But the title cut is a prog/fusion honker reminding of John McLaughlin's dirtier days. Not entirely realized or completely finished, Amoc had more potential than it yielded but, even without the bells and whistles and pyrotechnics of an Al DiMeola, is still a rousing set of quality Hard JR/F.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.94 | 151 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars During their recording sessions for Unrest in Virgin's Manor Studios, Henry Cow were introduced to a German avant-rock band Slapp Happy. This group invited Henry Cow to guest on their new album Desperate Straights. Despite stylistic differences, the two decided to carry on playing together. In 1975, they joined forces to record an album with Henry Cow's material and named it In Praise Of Learning. Soon after, the bands started touring Western Europe for nearly two years continously and played alongside Robert Wyatt.

In Praise Of Learning is a milestone in Henry Cow's catalog. The band's dissonant free-jazz approach of Unrest is being estranged with more of "pure" avant-rock quality being put in the foreground. The contemporary jazz influences are by no means uncommon, but they are just a part of the musical extract. Although to a lesser extent, the band still shows some of their older chamber music elements, which played an important role on their previous releases. Even some Krautrock-inspired electronic effects are introduced. In addition, the band is becoming a lot more politically-oriented. We were able to catch just a glimpse of Henry Cow's political views on their debut Legend, specifically on "Nine Funerals Of Citizen King". Chris Cutler's left-wing lyrics deal with problems of social injustice as well as the ruthless music industry.

Anthony Moore, the keyboardist of Slapp Happy enriches the band's sound by adding organ as well as various electronics, while Phil Becque deals with synthesizer parts. Although it is not entirely felt, the wind section is extended with an addition of trumpet player Mongezi Feza, the comeback of Geoff Leigh (who played on Legend) on woodwinds and Peter Blegvad (who also played guitar). These combined with Lindsey Cooper's woodwinds give more of a jazzy, rather than chamber feel. Dagmar Krause, Slapp Happy's female singer adds a unique quality to the group's sound with her emotional soprano vocals. These work very well with the lyrical themes, as they picture an ordinary woman, who talks about class war. Other than that, Henry Cow's sound remains unchanged with Fred Frith's distorted guitar timbre and folk fiddle, Tim Hodgkinson's jazz-influenced piano, Chris Cutler's accurate and percise drumming or John Greaves' steady basslines.

This album contains six tracks. These are not very varied, really presenting only two or three different stlyes, but they all contribute to a very interesting and a unique whole. "Living In The Heart Of The Beast" is Henry Cow's own 15-minute suite, which opens with a dissonant distorted guitar and going through many different moody phases, it closes with a jazzy march, that brings some of more mainstream progressive rock acts to mind. I feel like this is the most representative piece of the album, both musically and lyrically. "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners" is another longer track with a very smooth jazz-rock feel, leaded by solo piano. "Beginning: The Long March" or "Morning Star" (named after a British socialist magazine) present the more experimental side of Henry Cow's sound with more of an ambient electronic free-form approach. All in all, the band organized their album time very profficiently.

In Praise Of Learning is an absolutely exceptional work with a distinctive, unique sound. This album could be the closest that Henry Cow got to being a progressive rock band and so naturally In Praise Of Learning should be quite appealing for fans of the genre. Fairly inaccessible, this recquiers much more than one or two listens to appreciate fully, But I assure you - this will be a very rewarding journey. Highly recommended, a masterpiece! 4.5 stars!

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 Beam-Scape by SOFTWARE album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.07 | 6 ratings

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Beam-Scape
Software Progressive Electronic

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

2 stars First official release by the Peter Mergener and Michael Weisser duo, "Beam-Scape" can be considered as a draft for the SOFTWARE albums that will follow. The ambient/electronic/new-age style of the band is already present, however the inspiration and ideas are still lacking. The compositions are mostly slow and do not feature enough changes to keep the listener's attention. The cold electronic sound is quite reminiscent of TANGERINE DREAM's "White Eagle" album.

The opener "RainBow" is rather average. Its first half is ambient with various bizarre sounds, while a small sequence appears on the second half. "SunBeam" contains nice synthetic electronic loops and similitudes with KLAUS SCHULZE's 80's material. A bit monotonous, but enjoyable. Not much to say about the 15 minutes "Shooting-Star", rather lengthy and boring, and "Small-Spark", which mainly consists in a repetitive sequence.

"Timber-Wave-Reflections" is a new age track, whereas the pulsing "Roots-In-Abeyance" is more lively and not bad, although it does not feature many variations. "Double-Binded-Sax" is a little messy. As its title suggests, it incorporates a saxophone but this instrument does not really add something to the ambiance. On the contrary, the ender, "Power-Of-Independence", truly stands apart the other tunes. Best track of the record, this good surprise is a nice punchy trippy tune. It proves that the band has an identity to develop.

This record has not been released under the SOFTWARE name, and for reason. Not very innovative, "Beam-Scape" only gives the listener a glimpse of what the German duo has to offer. There are some pleasant moments though, but unfortunately too rare. These ideas still require some maturation, that will arrive just one year later...

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 Solution Live - Reunion Concert in club Panama, Amsterdam by SOLUTION album cover DVD/Video, 2007
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Solution Live - Reunion Concert in club Panama, Amsterdam
Solution Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by jvandemerwe

— First review of this album —
4 stars This DVD is a reunion concert held in the Panama Club in Amsterdam. All the classics of this great Dutch rockgroup are played here. Solution was already retired when they decided to do a one-time reunion concert in 2006. This DVD shows that these "old" men didn't loose any quality. It is a great performance of one of the best music ever composed by Dutch pop artists.

The nice thing about this DVD that it shows the concert (almost?) uncut, including the flaws in the presenation. But that only adds more to how much fun the members of Solution had in doing this evening, that was attended by die- hard fans and family. But there were no flaws in the songs played. That is just a big celebration to watch.

It is only a pitty that the video is in 4:3 format, but we can be very happy that it is so much more than nothing at all. A must see/have for Solution fans, but also for everyone else that loves to see professionals doing their greatest classics.

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 Calling All Stations by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.51 | 821 ratings

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Calling All Stations
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

2 stars Nowadays everybody that follows music know about Genesis. The British band that in their heydays was the precursor and one of the best Pprogressive Rock bands out there.

Genesis fans are also very divided, or either you like the 70s or you like the 80s, very few in the middle. They were one of the rare cases of a band that went a completely different way from their initial phase and became huge, a succesful monster.

In 1991 thei released the last studio album with Phil Collins and 6 years later they decided to start again. New vocalist Ray Wilson was hired to fill the singing role while, as usual, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks provided the songs.

Now, granted, Calling All Stations is not a very bad record but it's not a very good record either. The problem with the album is that it's very average in everything. In therms of sound it's not all that different from the previous studio, We Can't Dance (that is very mediocre). Ray Wilson is not a bad singer but the problem is that he's either trying to sound sound like Phil Collins when Genesis is playing a 80's sounding track or he sounds like Peter Gabriel when the tracks ask for the 70's Genesis.

Songwriter wise the album is not very bad but we don't have any tracks that will stand out, it's just a mixed bag not very carefully thrown together. And that combined with the fact that everything sounds like or Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins makes it a bad record. Calling All Stations shouldn't have been released as a Genesis album it should have been released with another name on the cover. Same lineup but a different name could have given them more time to develope the whole project. Releasing it as a Genesis record has a shot in its own feet. So much so that not even the duo Rutherford/Banks mention this era. Differently from Ray Wilson that pretty much survive on Genesis music since then.

After all we have the worst possible thing for a record in Calling All Stations, which is: you're not very good and you're not very bad, you're just average. And average is the worst thing for any record ever released.

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 Tommy by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.95 | 455 ratings

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Tommy
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As someone who is familiar with the Who from hearing their handful of hits on classic rock FM, it's a nice surprise to find Tommy, a thoughtfully composed and well played concept album. There's a lot to like here, and I think the reviews here on the Archives speak the truth in that one's enjoyment of this album will depend on taste and biography. For me, Tommy is a mixed experience.

It's at its most enjoyable when the band is playing ambitiously, such as on songs like "Overture," "Underture." These songs have dynamic energy and very skilled delivery. The band sounds great, and it's fun to hear music from the most classic or classic rock era so skillfully played; it's a vintage sound that stands the test of time. For me this is light-years more enjoyable than anything the Beatles ever put out.

I suppose it's not a coincidence for me that my favorite songs are both instrumentals, because I found the story, lyrics, and vocal inflection bland. This is definitely a "rock-opera" album, which is a euphemism for "musical with electric guitars." I do not like musicals, and the amount of storytelling that the Who crams into this album is cumbersome and distracting. The best concept albums allow their concept to drift in and out of the abstract, so that the listener can chose to be all in to the story, or enjoy songs individually without loosing much. You can't do that with Tommy, because every song is narrative.

The rave reviews of this album often have phrases like, "when I first heard this," or, "I remember when," which points strongly towards the high marks on this album coming from nostalgia. I don't have a problem with nostalgia, because it colors much of what we like and dislike, but because I am nostalgia-less when it comes to the Who, my experience listening to Tommy was one that grabbed hold of the great moments, and was left waiting during the downtime. The flow and momentum is too weird to be a straight ahead rock album, but not so well composed to be a true prog-rock album.

An album with that many highs and lows is worth a rock-solid 3 stars. Check it out if you like the Who's "greatest hits," or if you're interested in the development of the prog-rock movement.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

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 Cardinal Points by LEGEND album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.79 | 97 ratings

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Cardinal Points
Legend Neo-Prog

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Any element you like

Fifteen years after their previous opus, LEGEND finally reunited and composed their fourth studio album, "Cardinal Points". Founder keyboardist Steve Paine and drummer John Macklin are the only original band members. The new vocalist Kerry Parker sings in a lower key than Debby Chapman. The style remains roughly the same as on the first three records, fantasy hard neo-prog. However, the music tends to be more polite, less heroic and lively than on "Triple Aspect".

"Cardinal Points" is a reference to the number four and thus continues the tradition of LEGEND's concept albums based on chronological record order. For this opus, the tracks name represent the four primary elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Furthermore, each song incorporate its corresponding sonorities.

The opening of "Carved in Stone" is quite mystical with a didgeridoo and bird sounds. Then the ambiance alternates between folk and hard prog, with flute and guitar. There is also some nice keyboards playing. "Whisper on the Wind" is softer, and even spacey by moments. Maybe the most calm composition of the record, with acoustic instruments and dreamy atmosphere. Featuring guitar and synthesizer solos, it sometimes reminds OZRIC TENTACLES by moments. Although the middle part is a bit too long, this piece is overall pleasant.

As you may expect, "Spark to a Flame" is more aggressive and punchy. Again, this piece contains cool guitar and keyboard interventions. The melody is quite epic and lyrical. The only problems are the dated 80's electronic sonorities. "Drop in the Ocean" is the longest track of the disc. With its futuristic ambient introduction, relaxing passages and various instruments, this song is also the most progressive. Orchestral keyboard sounds, acoustic guitar and flute playing by guest musician Claire Foster make the music liquid and fluid, which suits well the title. The ending is smooth but nonetheless average.

"Cardinal Points" contains some weaker and lengthy passages, as well as cheesy sonorities. Less oriented towards knights and heroic fairy tales, tending to more consensual neo-prog, the band manages however to keep their own musical identity of "pagan hard neo-prog". This fourth studio opus is a bit uneven, but overall pleasant. Recommended to neo-prog lovers and even to folk-prog fans if they're not afraid of 80's synthesizers.

This a just the beginning of LEGEND's second life...

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 Epos by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.73 | 2 ratings

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Epos
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

5 stars Kyrgyz-German black metal band Darkestrah took a huge risk with their third album by making it a single track. Granted, that single track is thirty-three and a half minutes long, so they've in good progressive rock company here, but it's a risk that could backfire tremendously if the song turned out to be boring. Fortunately, that proves not to have been the case.

The album opens with samples of waves, which is a bit clichéd but works nicely to set up the atmosphere of the album. After a few minutes of this, some black metal riffs begin to fade in before the full band starts to play. The album utilises a cello, which is excellent (my only complaint is that I wish we could hear more of it), and the vocals of Kriegtalith deserve mention here as well. It's pretty unusual to hear female black metal vocals, and she is one of the best female black metal vocalists I've ever heard. Her vocals give the music a distinctive flavour that helps their music stand out from the crowd.

Lengthy passages of this album are completely instrumental, though. About halfway there's a break for thunder and rain sound effects, and then an acoustic guitar builds a riff that the band then constructs a Kyrgyz folk-flavoured black metal passage over. No other black metal band that I'm aware of has ever crossed these disparate elements in their music, and Darkestrah here are better at it than they've ever been. The passage builds in intensity in true post-rock style until the melody shifts again and Kriegtalith's vocals come back in shortly thereafter. The musical shifts are done intelligently; it doesn't feel like a collection of songs that the band stitched together, but rather one very consciously composed opus. A few shifts later (one of which brings in the lovely cello again) we get another acoustic passage which works fantastically before introducing a new black metal theme.

After a few more shifts the album eventually recapitulates the original theme with some beautiful clean singing in what sounds like Arabic or a Central Asian language (my ear for these is not terribly great). The album closes off with wave sounds again, as I suspect not much else would have provided appropriate closure to the album. With the sound effects, we really have only slightly under thirty minutes of music here, but what's here is of such high quality that I don't expect many listeners to mind. This album is an unqualified masterpiece and fans of post-black metal and folk metal are strongly urged to check it out.

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 Medium Rare  by JADIS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2001
2.99 | 23 ratings

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Medium Rare
Jadis Neo-Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars British band Jadis plays accessible, energetic guitar-driven neo-prog (in layman's terms - long-ish songs with multiple lead themes, guitar-synth interplay), running the specter from adult-oriented rock to hard rock. This a collection of EPs and various outtakes, dating from the first decade of the band's recording career (considered to be their best, although all albums merit a spin). But given the 70-minute length, the strength of the original material and the fact that the songs have been remastered or rerecorded in a way that brings out the instrumental power of the band (important, given the later Jadis tendency to drift into blander forms of AOR), it is a worthy, if unspectacular, listen

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 Embrace of Memory by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2005
2.67 | 2 ratings

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Embrace of Memory
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

4 stars Compared to their first and third albums, Embrace of Memory comes across as being a bit musically regressive. It's pretty clearly the band's tribute to the Norwegian second wave of black metal, and it does an admirable job capturing the inhumanly cold atmosphere the best of those bands managed. The album isn't completely comprised of straight-ahead blasting; several songs (particularly the lengthier ones like "Akyr Zaman" and "Primitive Dance") have substantial dynamic shifts throughout their running time, and the album incorporates instruments like violins and various Kyrgyz folk instruments at various times.

However, this is first and foremost a black metal album. It has the atmosphere of old-school black metal and many of the songs have the structure of old-school black metal. It also has the filthy production of the genre; the drum performance is superb, but the bass-heavy drum mix means that it's frequently difficult to hear the bass player at all (though this is nothing new for black metal). It's a solid example of what it is, but whether a listener will enjoy it depends entirely on whether they enjoy old-school black metal. If you like old-school Enslaved, old-school Satyricon, old-school Emperor, and other bands of that nature, this is for you.

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 Sary Oy by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2004
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Sary Oy
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

— First review of this album —
5 stars There aren't too many well-known metal bands from Kyrgyzstan. I can only think of Darkestrah (they've since relocated to Germany, but their core membership for most of their existence was originally from Kyrgyzstan). Their debut full-length is an intriguing slab of folk-influenced progressive/post-black metal that features a surprising amount of musical variety given the genre's reputation for monotony. The music is extremely dynamic; the band have obviously listened to a lot of post-rock and have learned lessons from it.

The album, which runs for nearly forty-eight minutes, consists only of three tracks, the shortest of which, the instrumental "Jashil Oy", is still nearly eleven minutes in length. The album is apparently a concept album about three sisters; I don't know that much about it, apart from that it comes from pre-Islamic Kyrgyz myth. The band seems to be aligned with Tengrism, a form of Central Asian paganism, so it's probably not surprising. I don't usually do track-by-track reviews, but since there are only three songs here it's almost mandatory.

The opening song, which also serves as the album's title track, opens in a suitably dramatic fashion, sounding a bit like a spaghetti western soundtrack as filtered through the lens of black metal. All three of the songs have a fairly serene opening that eventually builds in intensity until the black metal parts come in. It's a bit of a formula, but it works, and why mess with it?

"Jashil Oy" is actually almost bouncy for a lot of its running time. The song uses some strange metre signature (I think it's alternating 7/4 and 8/4) for the majority of its length, which is built around a clean electric guitar riff that is surprisingly catchy. The obligatory black metal section is still less intense than is usual for the genre thanks to the lack of vocals on the song; the band uses a mouth harp to add the obligatory ethnic atmosphere. If you're not sure about black metal, start with this track.

"Kysil Oy" closes the album out on a truly epic scope. At twenty-five and a half minutes in length, it's practically the "Close to the Edge" of black metal, and I'm not just saying that because it's long. The song is heavily based around a church organ, which helps give the song one of the most dramatic build-ups in the history of the genre. The song also recapitulates a theme from the first track to give the whole album a coherence it might otherwise have lacked. It's the standout track here and if anyone reading this is inclined to listen to only one song from this album, it should be this one (unless, as mentioned above, you're not sure about black metal).

If the album has a significant flaw, it's the erratic production. It's to be expected that a then-obscure black metal band recording its first album would have amateurish production, but the upper frequency presence is pretty weak throughout the album, as if some of the instrument tracks were mixed from MP3 files, and the first two songs are examples of "loudness war" clipped masters, with the first being painfully so. What's odd is that the third song, which takes up more than half the album's running time, is completely free from any dynamic range compression shenanigans whatsoever. The difference is immediately noticeable, and kind of jarring given how loud the first two songs are in comparison.

I can't mention the band without noting the performance of their original vocalist, Kriegtalith, who performed on all the band's releases through 2014, when she left. There aren't too many female vocalists in black metal, and she performs a mixture of the traditional shrieks of the genre with some strange kind of throat singing that I can't exactly describe. It's strange, but it works with the music.

This release won't be for everyone, but fans of adventurous post-metal and black metal should definitely check it out. It's a unique and almost consistently fascinating album. I also strongly recommend their 2007 effort Epos.

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 P.X.R. 5 by HAWKWIND album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.74 | 99 ratings

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P.X.R. 5
Hawkwind Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 2.5 stars

After "Quark, Strangeness And Charm", HAWKWIND recorded PXR5 in 1978, but disbanded due to internal disagreements. The members then went on side projects. After the release of "25 Years On" and the departure of Robert Calvert, Dave Brock reformed the band with new members and finally released the album in 1979. Thus, the line-up of "PXR5" is nearly the same as on "Quark, Strangeness And Charm".

Nonetheless, the music was already turning punk, while the metal and futuristic elements developed on the innovative 1977 opus were temporarily put aside. As a consequence, the style isn't really space rock and can be compared to "25 Years On"'s, but unfortunately without the the same composition quality.

The disc is in fact half-studio half-live: "Uncle Sam's On Mars", "Robot" and "High Rise" were recorded live during the 1977 tour in England, and then remixed and overdubbed in studio, whereas "Infinity" was based on a poem Robert Calvert recited for the 1973 Space Ritual Tour.

The opener "Death Trap" is just a basic punk track, repetitive and irritating. "Jack Of Shadows" is an enjoyable soft rock with some spacey keyboards. Then the band surprisingly goes back to stoner with the psychedelic "Uncle Sam's On Mars". This song has similitudes with "Brainstorm", however smoother and much less interesting. The first half finishes with the poem "Infinity", an average space folk ballad, with various sound effects.

The second half of the record is a little more inspired. "Life Form" is a short ambient electronic introduction for "Robot", the longest track. Inspired by Isaac Asimov's trilogy, its middle-eastern aggressive riff is in the style of "Magnu". Unfortunately it fails at being the highlight, as it does not feature many variations. On the contrary, "High Rise" is the best track of the disc. An aerial trippy piece, with spacey guitars. The title track is original, a kind of half-punk, half-robotic song, but a bit difficult to follow. Ironically, this composition is better than the title tracks from the Hawks' best albums from this period.

There is not much to save from this record, except "High Rise". The band is not as innovative as on "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" and not as audacious as on "25 Years On". Last official HAWKWIND studio release with Robert Calvert, "PXR5" marks the end of an era and is Brock and co.'s first genuine fault in their rich 70's discography.

But a new decade is just about to come...

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 Deiŕ...Vu by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.08 | 3 ratings

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Deiŕ...Vu
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

3 stars One of Kevin's most rocking albums (the others being That's What You Get Babe and Yes We Have No Mananas). It's not hard rock or anything, and not prog, but it does show that he could cut loose at times. I think guitarist Ollie Halsall helped contribute towards that.

The fastest song is My Speeding Heart. It kicks the pants off anything from his laid back and slow releases (including The Unfairground). There are several songs with a Caribbean and reggae feel, as is one of his strong points. There's also some humor there as in his earlier career, though it's in a more adult and slightly jaded manner.

Decent rock, with tropical influences.

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 Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.40 | 6 ratings

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Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

2 stars Definitely NOT progressive rock, more like new wave. This is one of Kevin's strangest albums. The album was commissioned by someone else, and Kevin basically had to turn over control to the producer (his musicians, his production, his ways, his ideas). The biggest offense is using an early drum machine, keyboard bass, and sometimes electronic drums in place of real instruments and a real rhythm section. They sound quite cheesy at times, and sort of like Devo in areas, which is so not Kevin Ayers. This is almost like 180 degrees away from what he was about.

There are some decent songs on this, including 1) the heavier lead-off track Madame Butterfly, 2) probably his best version of Ollie Halsall's song Steppin' Out, and 3) Lay Lady Lay. There are several versions of those last two songs on other albums, but these might be the best. Probably the oddest song here is Who's Still Crazy? It's such a synthesized departure of Kevin's music, that he kind of rambles on in the vocal booth, obviously trashed and drugged, probably the only way to deal with the difficult situation.

I understand now why this album is so hard to find. I wouldn't be surprised if even some fans have even hidden it or removed them from circulation. There's probably a fear of giving people totally the wrong impression about Kevin.

Despite the criticism, it's still a stronger album than the last two bland duds that he released (Still Life With Guitar and The Unfairground). There's still some energy there and some life, even though it stuffed under a synthesized mess. There's more rock and drunkenness too, which is missing from his later albums.

I gave it 2-stars for the prog and rock community at large. For Ayers fans though - those who get him - I'd give it 3 stars.

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 A Salty Dog by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.55 | 199 ratings

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A Salty Dog
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by ses

4 stars Captain heavy-hearted and his men welcome you to a doleful journey among weeping seamen and crying Valkyries, in this album on life at sea.

Before the release of "A salty dog", Procol Harum already had accomplished enough to earn their place in the history books. With a worldwide hit single and a ground breaking 17-minute rock suite in their baggage, bandleader Gary Brooker and his fellow musicians manage to redefine themselves with this 1969 classic.

The sound here mixes a wide variety of influences; from the bluesy feel in "The milk of human kindness" and "Juicy John Pink", to the orchestrated grandiose on "Wreck of the Hesperus". Maracas, flutes and xylophones lark on "Boredom", with the playground touch predating The Cures "Close to me" by nearly two decades.

Despite the nautical theme, the tone of the album is in many ways similar to The Bands self-titled masterpiece released the same year; the melancholy and Gary Brookers voice isn't that far away from the Americana in songs as "The unfaithful servant". Procol Harum does not however reach to the same heights as the rich and lush song writing their Canadian counterparts delivers. Album finisher "Pilgrim's progess" is merely a? paler version of "A whiter shade of pale". And the heavenly sensations of the title track (which by no doubt is one of the best songs of the 60's) make the rest of the offering look bleak.

To me, this is the peak of Procol Harums career. "A salty dog" sometimes sails on calm sea, but when the tides arrive, it is well worth the listen.

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 Stormbringer by DEEP PURPLE album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.05 | 518 ratings

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Stormbringer
Deep Purple Proto-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Easy and approachable, Stormbringer satisfies a hard-rock itch by scratching with the right combination of loud and heavy riffing, rugged vocals by David Coverdale, and Blackmore's signature guitar soloing. John Lord's keyboards, which occasionally drift into the funky lilting of the era's R&B/Soul sound, add an interesting touch as well. Some reviewers describe that Stormbringer is an off putting album because it plays with the Deep Purple formula a little too much; after all, this is Blackmore's last record with the group before he formed the (more interesting) Rainbow. For me, my criticism drifts more to the song writing, which is about 50% creative hard rock or thoughtful balladry, and 50% sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll schlock. A few of these moments will appeal to prog fans, but for newcomers to the band Stormbringer may not be much more than a fun diversion in to '70's hard rock. Which, in scheme of things, is actually a pretty awesome place to be! Check it out after listening the bands more complete and influential works.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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 Go Too by YAMASH'TA, STOMU album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.53 | 19 ratings

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Go Too
Stomu Yamash'ta Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by VianaProghead

3 stars Review Nş 70

As I wrote before, when I reviewed the two previous albums of The Go Project, the first time I heard to talk about this musical project was in a broadcasting station in my country, following the release of their first album. I became very impressed with it, and soon as I could I bought the three albums. Unfortunately, I only could purchase "Go" some years ago, "Go Live From Paris" to a couple of years and "GoToo" was only purchased very recently.

The Go Project was born in very strange and troubled times to the progressive rock music. As many of we know, the years in late of the 70's were years of deep changes in the progressive rock world. These were the years of the revolution made by the punk movement. The punk explosion was reminding to everyone of the visceral thrill of the first principles of rock. So, projects such as Stomu Yamashta's "Go" were somehow unthinkably and weren't a commonplace in those times. Jazz meets the avant-garde at the disco? This was a very strange thing, indeed.

Anyway, Yamashta, scion of the Japan National Symphonic Orchestra, had built up a sufficient and very solid reputation as percussionist, composer and bandleader in 1976 and he was able to call upon the services of a hand full of great musicians such as Steve Winwood, Al Di Meola, Michael Shrieve and Klaus Schulze, forming The Go Project, one of the unlikelier super groups of the era.

The line up on the second studio album of this musical project is also very extensive, as happened with their first studio album, and was formed by some the musicians who had already participated on their debut studio album of the musical project, which are Stomu Yamash'ta (synthesizers, piano, tympani and percussion), Michael Shrieve (drums), Klaus Schulze (synthesizers), Al Di Meola (lead guitar) and Brother James (percussion). However, there were many other musicians who also collaborated in this second studio album. So we have Doni Harvey (vocals and guitar), Jess Roden (lead vocals), Paul Jackson (bass), Linda Lewis (lead vocals), J. Peter Robinson (keyboards) and The Martin Ford Orchestra. All the music was written by Yamash'ta and all the lyrics by Michael Quartermain. Paul Buckmaster once more made all the orchestral arrangements.

"Go Too" is the third and the last album of the Stomu Yamash'ta's Go project and was released in 1977. I must say that it isn't properly the continuation of their first album "Go". All the main musicians of their project are here, but unfortunately it lacks to it Winwood and his unmistakable voice. I don't know the reason why he doesn't participated on this second studio album. It was by his own free will or because he wasn't invited by Yamash'ta, who wanted to make something different on this album. Anyway, the lack of his presence is very noted, and whatever the reason, this album is much weaker than the previous one. However, it doesn't mean that we are in presence of a bad album. On the contrary, "Go Too" is really a good album, despite being clearly a very eclectic album, but is probably too much influenced by many and diverse musical styles such as rock, jazz, funk, electronic, pop, disco and new age.

Often considered the poor relation to the first "Go" album, the album is a totally different proposal to its illustrious predecessor. Possibly because of the time in which it was released and due the involvement of Linda Lewis, the album has received many put downs and the worst of all is that it was considered an album of electronic disco music. This is so far from the truth and is certainly a slanderous thing. It's true that gone is the fusion, gone are the solos, gone are the signature licks of the musicians and that "Go Too" saw also the Winwood's departure. But we can say that he saw the arrival of the criminally overlooked ex Alan Bown vocalist Jess Roden and the ironically unsung Linda Lewis, utilising all five octaves of her extraordinary range to stratospheric effect on madness. In truth, the album is a bizarre but generally pleasing combination of contrasting elements, ranging from the plangent balladry of "Mysteries Of Love" to the oblique Zappa harmonies and logic defying Di Meola guitar solo which fuel "Seen You Before".

Conclusion: As I said previously, when I reviewed "Go" and "Go Live From Paris", The Go Project is, in my humble opinion and unfortunately, an underrated project with very few reviews and rates on this site. Obviously, "Go Too" isn't an essential album in any progressive rock musical collection, but I sincerely think that it deserves really more than 2 stars. It represents the end of one of the strongest musical cooperation of the 70's. "Go Too" is a fine addition to the previous two albums by the ensemble and although not as interesting, progressively speaking, as the first studio album, it's still a release that offers a lot of enjoyment with great performances and, for the romantics amongst you, two excellent ballads. Still, if you are a progressive fan and a beginner with this musical project, you must start with their live album "Go Live From Paris", which is their hidden masterpiece, and avoid "Go Too", as a first listen.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Pieces Of The Unknown by UTU album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pieces Of The Unknown
UTU Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Already five weeks since my last PA review! Well, I've been very busy with my book script on Finnish prog all-time, but anyway I'm continuing my reviewing activity here - especially on new releases whenever I get them.

This one is the second album of UTU, a Finnish art/alt-pop group led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Petra Poutanen, also known as a member in the ethnic group AALTO . With only slight differences in line-up and instrumentation, Pieces of the Unknown continues in the vein of Songs in Flesh-minor (2012). Poutanen is a personal, modern female singer-songwriter comparable to e.g. Bj'rk or Regina Spektor, her smoky voice full of girlish sensitivity. The songs are, again, in a minor key and sort of introvert in spirit, as if the protagonist was a social outcast watching the sad world from a distance. Without a deeper dive into the lyrics I can't say if this image has anything to do with the artist's own intention.

On vague listening the album probably feels quite monotonous, joyless and too artsy for its own good. There may not be very memorable melodies, and the rather dry, ethnically flavoured sound featuring uncommon Instruments such as kantele, electric cello, viola -- and guzheng and sansula of which I have no clue -- rarely gives any easy hooks. But the more one concentrates on this music, the more rewarding it gets.

The dark-toned strings are effective on 'Safest Place', and Teemu kiiskil''s spatial guitar chords are beautifully interwoven with other Instruments on 'Skin' (which is inspired by novelist Monika Fagerholm). The 8-minute 'My Friend Sorrow' is the most progressive and dynamic composition. As a whole this album is emotionally strong and original music for dedicated listening. 3' stars.

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 25 Years On (as Hawklords) by HAWKWIND album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.25 | 95 ratings

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25 Years On (as Hawklords)
Hawkwind Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Punkwind

Strange title, strange cover, strange band name, what about the music? Well, it's strange too but also... really good. After the recording of PXR5 in 1978, HAWKWIND disbanded due to internal disagreements, so the members went on side projects. Dave Brock and Robert Calvert recruited bassist Harvey Bainbridge, keyboardist Steve Swindells and drummer Martin Griffin to form HAWKWLORDS. This new band recorded this album and split one year later. As this disc is now considered as part of HAWKWIND's discography, "25 Years On" is technically the last studio release of Brock and co. featuring Robert Calvert.

The music enhances certain aspects of "Quark, Strangeness and Charm", especially punk and pre-new-wave influences. The sci-fi, electronic and heavy metal aspects are however put aside. The compositions become shorter and more concise. In fact, this record the punk-iest the space rockers ever recorded. But then... is this still HAWKWIND?

"Psi Power" is a clear demonstration of this evolution. A cool punchy punk opener. The very nice "Free Fall" has a calm melancholic spacey opening and ending and become more ferocious in the middle part. "Automoton" is just a short ramshackle robotic introduction for "25 Years", a basic pop punk song. Like in "Quark, Strangeness and Charm", this title track is a bit out of place and the weakest of the record. Robert Calvert's voice is a bit irritating and the chord progression resembles "Silver Machine"'s.

"Flying Doctor" is much more convincing and aggressive with its sharp riff and vocals. Then comes "The Only Ones", a more classic song in the vein of the space ballads from "Hall of the Mountain Grill", however more concise. "(Only) The Dead Dreams Of The Cold War Kid" is another highlight of the disc. This track can be described as a pre-new- wave version of an imaginary 60's psychedelic tune. The ender, "The Age Of The Micro Man", is an enjoyable soft space piano piece.

"25 Years On" is an unique and interesting mixture of punk, pre-new-wave and space rock. Singular in HAWKWIND's discography, the music is quite innovative and proves that the band was par in par with its time, exploring new directions while keeping their own touch. Although the tracks are less remarkable than on "Quark, Strangeness and Charm", the record is overall less uneven and more coherent.

If you want pure space, psychedelic or stoner rock, this album is not the one to go with. But if you're looking for unusual and original rock, pick this disc! Even punk fans may like it! For sure, this was a daring operation, but such audaciousness allowed Brock and co. to evolve, adapt and renew.

"25 Years On" is the best HAWKWIND album from the late 70's. It's just a pity the cover art is their worst...

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 The Direction of Last Things by INTRONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 45 ratings

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The Direction of Last Things
Intronaut Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "The Direction Of Last Things" is the 5th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Intronaut. The album was released through Century Media Records in November 2015. It's the successor to "Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)" from 2013.

Stylistically Intronaut have taken a slight step back to their heavier past and reintroduce harsh shouting hardcore vocals. A feature which was almost completely missing from their sound on the predecessor. Most vocals on the album are still mellow ethereal clean singing though (I'm often reminded of Paul Masvidal from Cynic). The instrumental part of the band's music is still rooted in an adventurous playing rhythm section. Both drummer Danny Walker and bassist Joe Lester are very busy and quite inventive. The same can be said about the two guitarists/vocalists. The technical level of playing on this album is simply through the roof. There are strong jazz/fusion leanings in the music, but also sludge, post rock, mathcore, and progressive metal elements. The many styles combined it's pretty hard to make a valid description of the band's music, but atmospheric and technically well played progressive metal isn't an all wrong label.

The material on the 7 track, 46:03 minutes long album is well written, intriguing, and consistent in both style and quality. The combination of heavier hard edged parts and atmospheric mellow sections works well for the band. Even at their most aggressive and busy Intronaut have a sophisticated calm to their delivery, which means the music on "The Direction Of Last Things" is sometimes closer to rock than it is to metal. Artists like A Perfect Circle, Tool, and late era-Cynic are valid references.

"The Direction Of Last Things" is a very well produced album, featuring a clear, organic, and powerful sounding production, which fits well with the atmospheric music. So that combined with the brilliant musicianship and the adventurous songwriting, make for an intriguing listen and a high quality release. That's of course no surprise if you're familiar with Intronaut's preceeding releases, but it's still worthy of praise that they can continue to keep the quality level of their output as high as they do here. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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 Coupon by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Coupon
Buckethead Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars B U C K E T H E A D PIKE 234 - COUPON 15th album by BUCKETHEAD in 2016 (released on March 31) Clocks in at 29:47 ALL instrumental EVERYTHING performed for you by Buck-buck-buck-buckethead This one has only two long tracks

"Nail In The Clock" (13:50) starts out with distorted oddly timed guitar chords and then creates a rather theme song type of riff that falls in and out of melody while the tone changes from distorted to wah-wah-ish. It then goes on for a while alternating thrashy riffs with the post-metal type meanderings and then brings in the theme song type riff once in a while with accompanying lead guitar around it. This one is very progressive and experimental and the most interesting track i've heard from BUCKIE all year. This one is actually keeping me very interested as it changes up everything a lot but yet has similar variations on themes. Like nice guitar note bends, beefy bass lines and drums that follow the strange time sigs like a flock of birds in unison. The track evolves nicely into an appropriate shredding solo. Wow. This one has it all. It has atmosphere, technique and the element of surprise unlike way too many of these PIKEs lately. I'm utterly thrilled to hear something that does it for me!!!

"Coupon" (15:57) starts out slow with atmospheric ambient synth sounds and a slow guitar jangle. After a proper build up it bursts into a nice mid tempo guitar riff. The treble range is pure space rock and although a little Pink Floydish in tempo and style, sounds very different. Maybe more like a Steven Wilson solo only a little scarier with some haunting bends in tandem with a grungy bass line and nice ambient atmosphere. This one is highly melodic and the tones and effects of the instruments are quite pleasing. I'm liking this one a lot as well but it's not nearly as wild and progressive as "Nail In The Clock." This one is more predictable as it is a recurring melodic line over the bass and drums. Despite it being pleasing, it doesn't change things up enough to warrant its time length. An ok but not outstanding track.

LOVE track 1 which is worth the price of admission LIKE track 2 which is nice background music but nothing out of this world

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 Kveldssanger by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.58 | 84 ratings

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Kveldssanger
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars ULVER (Norwegian for "Wolves") showed themselves to be a restless pack quickly wandering into completely new territory, raising their legs, marking it and making it their own. This nomadic seeker of new sounds were already changing things up on their second album KVELDSSANGER ("Twilight Songs") by completely dropping the black metal aspects on their debut album and went full on dark Nowegian folk with emphasis on acoustic guitar, choral chanting accompanied by flutes, cello and occasional percussion. Technically the second part of the "Black Metal Trilogie," someone forgot to tell them that the metal parts apparently didn't make it into the final mix. While the folk music on this album was part of the debut, the absence of metal gives it a much mellower and laid back feel almost feeling like this could be some revivalist Renaissance music of sort.

Vocalist and founder Kristoffer Rygg admits this was an attempt to create a full-on classical piece and wasn't satisfied with the outcome but for what technical prowess this album doesn't exhibit, it more than makes up for it in atmospheric and meditative passages that find the vocal styles in perfect harmony with the classical acoustic guitar riffs and accompanying instruments. In fact, it sounds as if it was created by monks in a far away monastery evoking the sacred sounds of an era long passed with only the subtle orchestrations giving it away that it is a product of the modern era.

While the distortion of metal is nowhere to be found here, this classical imbued folk music still resinates on the darker side of things as if it is indeed the soundtrack for a pack of hungry wolves undercover of the night stalking their next victims deep in the forest under the full moon in the frigid Scandinavian winter. ULVER would once again enter black metal territory to finish out the trilogy but it should have been an obvious prognostication that this band had a hard time settling in one musical genre when after all didn't even put the black metal in the middle chapter of the "Black Metal Trilogie."

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 Equations of Meaning by PATTERSON - EYRE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.21 | 43 ratings

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Equations of Meaning
Patterson - Eyre Crossover Prog

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

4 stars Breaking news: This is NOT a "Patterson-Eyre" output! The album is clearly listed as a "Tony Patterson" project. Yes, long-time collaborator Brendan EYRE contributes to Tony's album. But only on one song. This is clearly a solo album and should be credited thusly. Equations of Meaning is a collection of lovely Neo Prog drawing from 70s ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, 80s GENESIS, and current day STEVEN WILSON with plenty of lush keyboard arrangements and ethereal vocal displays. The drum machines may drive you crazy but the songs are definitely all gorgeous, mature constructs--they will quickly dig their way into your brain and never leave--you will never want them to; they are addictive.

1. "Ghosts" (4:01) captures the quintessential sound of the gorgeous STEVE HACKETT GENESIS and solo electric guitar stylings before giving way to a more cinematic song style. Gorgeous. (9/10)

2. "The Magdalene Fields" (5:59) opens with an obvious "Entangled" GENESIS/ANTHONY PHILLIPS sound before the gorgeous AMERICA-like voice harmonies enter. The key shift down into the rather disappointing chorus are this song's only flaws. Otherwise, beautiful--especially the ethereal section beginning at 4:08. (9/10)

3. "Each Day a Colour" (4:48) opens with some gorgeous spaciness very much like the work of Steven WILSON's PORCUPINE TREE in the 1990s ("The Sky Moves Sideways" and Signify come to mind). When the band's rhythm section and vocal join in it still has a bit of the WS feel but also a kind of California dream-pop feel not unlike that of bands like PORNO FOR PYROS and WEST INDIAN GIRL. The keyboard work, chord progressions, and 'light' rhythmic approach make this another absolutely gorgeous song. (10/10)

4. "Cast Away" (2:35) again we find Tony and company masterfully replicating the STEVE HACKETT songs style when Steve is at his most melodic and intimate. Another absolutely hypnotic, dreamy gorgeous song. (9/10)

5. "The Angel and the Dreamer (i.vision, ii. journey, iii. reprise)" (7:02) feels like a long lost song from one of ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's earlier days--Pyramid or even I, Robot era--even with the ANTHONY PHILLIPS-like 12-string presence in the middle. (9/10)

6. "Beneath a Perfect Sky" (5:09) casts such a hypnotic spell of lush beauty that you may find yourself pushing the 'permanent repeat' button and lying down to sleep in a poppy field ... forever. Echo-y repeat piano chords, intermittent synth washes, Mark ISHAM-like percussive keyboard sequencing, languid drum pace, Kate Bush-like background vocal incidentals, laid back Tony Banks-ian synth soloing, even a lazy trumpet solo, all contribute to the magic here. (10/10)

7. "Sycophant" (5:23) reminds me of the cinematic work of Poland's LEBOWSKI over-lace with an intermittent Hogarth-like vocal. Pretty good song! (8/10)

8. "And When the Sky Was Opened" (2:07) could've come off of one of STEVEN WILSON's spacier 1990s albums. Really cool. I'd love to hear a 10 to 20 minute version of this. (10/10)

9. "Pilgrim" (5:24) another hypnotic technologically created beat (quite similar to that of STEVEN WILSON's song from Hand. Cannot. Erase., "Perfect Life") whose dreamy music, melodies, and vocal don't quite stand up to some of the album's other gems. But it's still great! (I love the slow, single-note piano play at the 4:00 mark. Very dreamy!) (8/10)

10. "As the Lights Go Out" (2:44) is a pretty little piano-based song embellished by the occasional contributions of synths and flutes. (9/10)

11. "The Kindest Eyes" (6:30) again replicates the beautiful harmony vocal stylings that were so perfectly perfected by AMERICA in the early 1970s--but Tony here does only that: replicates; he offers nothing new, exciting, special or innovative. It's just okay, maybe even a little disappointing for its lack of buildup or climax. It would never be a radio hit in the way that AMERICA songs were. (7/10)

4.5 stars; a near masterpiece of progressive rock music. This is without a doubt a collection of very beautiful, well composed songs. In fact, this is one of the most beautiful collections of beautiful songs I've come across in a long time. Astounding and spell-binding.

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 Metafora di un Viaggio by SEZIONE FRENANTE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.24 | 10 ratings

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Metafora di un Viaggio
Sezione Frenante Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars My good friend Jean Roby (not to be confused with John 'the Cat' Robie of Alfred Hitchcock fame, the suave cat burglar in the legendary film 'To Catch a Thief') and I have been exchanging progressive rock discussions for a couple of years now and he suggested I strive to hunt this sucker down, as it was his opinion that I would go gaga over this Italian band from Venice whose name would be translated as The Braking Section. He was dead right as this debut album owns all of the hallmarks of a classic RPI release but fondly wrapped in a modern lustre. Hints of Le Orme, PFM and Banco are front and center, festooned by some terrific modern production techniques and a pristine recording. The seasoned musicians are simply first rate, especially the bass player Sandro Bellemo who just knocks it out the park throughout the set list. The rest of the squadra are no slouches either, as Dario Mestriner plays a mean guitar with a wide variety of tones to satisfy the axe technician, keyboardist Mirco de Marchi favors rolling organ, delicate piano and subtle synthesizer moves , while drummer Alessandro Casagrande pounds like the best of them. The biggest surprise is lead lung Francesco Nardo, who owns a deluxe and expressive set of pipes that verges on the outstanding and thus providing a highly enjoyable upfront presence that does wonders to the stylish arrangements.

There are plentiful moments where the mood is perhaps closer to a lighter version of Deep Purple or even Uriah Heep what with the slick interplay between Mastriner and de Marchi as well as the rock-solid partnership on bass and drums. I was immediately impressed from the very first notes, stunned into submission by the crisp edges and overt melodies that litter this album. Fresh and powerful, the production is deliriously attractive, the melodies are simple yet divine, as I have caught myself many times humming certain passages.

When first hearing the opener 'La Quiete In Un Attimo', I was quite surprised by the sizzling touches from axeman Dario Mastriner, purveyor of stinging leads and shrieking riffs that ultimately lead to the delicate piano and the suave voice of Francesco Nardo in loving embrace.

Then comes the 2 part 'La Meta non Trovata' which offers a binary beat, dancing organs and a shuffling funky guitar swath that once again switches to a piano and voice duet, organ in the background. The guitar then scours gently like some stringed lullaby. The second part is typical RPI in all its simplicity and delicate nature. The electric guitar takes over the main melody and forges ahead with bold determination.

With 'Attesa', I was tempted to believe that I was listening to a new version of the Cars 'Let the Good Times Roll' as the first few seconds are nearly identical, before veering into outright RPI mode, with striking guitar scratches and organ rumbles. I wonder if Braking Section and Cars have anything in common? Nah'just my overtly abundant imagination. Anyway, the track then evolves into this galloping march, the raunchy bass leading the way for the thumping binary drums a la Lee Kerslake. Short, sweet and fun with a cool organ flurry to exit. 'Passagio' is a minute of oddness, the guitar and keys in a tandem tornado that kicks up a mini-storm. Only to prepare for 'Viscido Ambiente', another brief but powerful piece that has all the fine little musical touches that ultimately showcase the dazzling voice of Francesco Nardo, a clean and startling belt that has all the emotions one can ask for.

'Pace Immaginata' is perhaps the finest RPI song in a decade, a stupendous slice of perfection led by a monster bass groove that just keeps pounding furiously at your brain. Everything about this piece is sumptuous, incredible vocalizations, deadly guitar stokes, subtle keyboard interventions and tremendous drum support. The initial melody is subtly carved out on triangle hand percussion, then a takeover the lead bass jumps in to propel this masterful piece forward with drums, bass and choir in hot pursuit. A buzzing, fuzzy lead guitar really kills it. Tremendous tune.

Bass, tubular bells and e-piano infect 'Quattro Stelle', another monumental song that provides intense resolution from Nardo's booming voice, keys and guitar in unison in a decidedly Mediterranean feel (that accordion-like patch). The bass undertow is sublime, this man Bellamo knows how to play his instrument, up-front and center.

The album finishes off with 2 longer pieces, the 8 minute + epic 'Nota Stonata' forging ahead nicely, riding the bass player's crest, with the De Marchi organ loyally following behind and expert aid from drummer Casagrande. The lead singer does perhaps his finest work on this tricky vocal arrangement, both demanding and complex, a real quality delivery of an ultra-expressive melody that is not an easy chore. The honking Hammond is also in the spotlight, keeping things very 70s a la Toni Pagliuca of Le Orme legend, later tossing in some fine synthesizer layers to add to the texture.

Another superb piece is the 9 minute 'Svegliati Luce', a more tortuous composition once again dominated by a marvelous bass run, slithering synthesizers, and powerful drum support. The Hammond does it smoking thing quite convincingly, playful and burning. Guest Antonio Zullo does wonders on acoustic guitar, the choir mellotron heightening the voice to even loftier pinnacles and then one more go-around, lead guitar soloing from Mastriner that shudders and soars, while Bellamo threatens below. Bombastic symphonic prog Italian style. Si, per favore, ancora!

This is an obviously mature crew of seasoned musicians who have waited a long time to put their craft into a recording and in my opinion, they succeed brilliantly in combining the glory years with a modern, fresh and direct approach, with crystalline sound and intense presentation. This is one hell of a debut album, for sure and I thank 'the Cat' for not putting the brakes to this disc-overy !

4.5 Excursion allegories

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 Lord of Misrule by BLOOD CEREMONY album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.48 | 24 ratings

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Lord of Misrule
Blood Ceremony Heavy Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars After their second album, where they doubled down on their Black Sabbath influences, Blood Ceremony began a process of shifting from a doom metal foundation to their music to a style of heavy psych that more closely fits the Black Widow-y, proto-metal-ish, folk influenced, demonically possessed aesthetic they've been going for since their debut. On Lord of Misrule that process has been completed, and the band has crafted an honest-to-goodness dimensional portal to an alternate 1970s, where they now reside and send albums back to us. Once again, Alia O'Brien's the threefold talent to watch here, with her vocals, organ, and flute really bringing the band's sound together. Even better than its predecessor.

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 Shiny Eyed Babies by BENT KNEE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.41 | 87 ratings

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Shiny Eyed Babies
Bent Knee Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Imagine you take a vocalist like Christina Wolfe or Jarboe - someone who really isn't afraid to get into some seriously dark areas, but is also capable of singing quite beautifully as the mood demands. Add modern-day keyboard mastery, and then put her in front of the most bizarre and sonically diverse bands in rock music since Mr Bungle, and you have something that might approach the outrageous rollercoaster ride that Bent Knee offer up here.

Don't let the pretty album title - or, for that matter, the charming intro that shares its name - fool you for a second: just as you think Bent Knee are going to ease up on you, they go for the kneecaps again, creating an alternatingly intoxicating and terrifying sonic landscape. This album makes Disco Volante by Mr Bungle (the closest sonic comparison I can come up with), with all of its extremes, seem like a walk in the park - and that's before you even consider the lyrics. In some of the most beautiful moments of the album, frontwoman Courtney Swain is singing to a corpse.

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 Until All The Ghosts Are Gone by ANEKDOTEN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.21 | 464 ratings

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Until All The Ghosts Are Gone
Anekdoten Heavy Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars For a while I'd written off Anekdoten as also-rans of the Scandinavian prog scene - it's not that I didn't like their sound, From Within is a pretty good album, it's just that the sound didn't really vary enough from album to album (or, for that matter, from song to song) to really keep me interested.

Well, after taking a good long break to recharge their creative batteries I'm pleased to say that Anekdoten have pulled off the difficult task of extensively revising their sound whilst still creating something that is true to their personality and history. There's still plenty of Crimso-fied technical noodling afoot, but this time it's enhanced by a sense of playfulness and whimsy reminiscent less of 1970s prog and more of the 1960s psychedelic forerunners of the prog scene. Organ gets to play as much as, if not more than, the Mellotron which was previously the band's trademark, the vocals actually occasionally seem hopeful or cheerful, and there's a sense of dynamism and spontaneity which I haven't previously heard in Anekdoten's music, but which is extremely welcome. Welcome back, gang.

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    Maudlin Of The Well
  95. Anabelas
    Bubu
  96. Uzed
    Univers Zero
  97. Symbolic
    Death
  98. Uomo di pezza
    Le Orme
  99. Romantic Warrior
    Return To Forever
  100. Choirs Of The Eye
    Kayo Dot

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

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