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Thieves' Kitchen

Eclectic Prog

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Thieves' Kitchen Shibboleth album cover
3.41 | 65 ratings | 9 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Picture Slave (5:00)
2. De Profundis (12:36)
3. Cardinal Red (6:35)
4. Spiral Bound (4:58)
5. Chovihani Rise (23:50)
6. Surface Tension (13:18)

Total Time: 64:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Amy Darby / vocals
- Phil Mercy / guitars, mixing
- Wolfgang Kindl / keyboards
- Andy Bonham / basses
- Mark Robotham / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Triff Trafford

CD self-released - TKCD003 (2003, UK)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy THIEVES' KITCHEN Shibboleth Music

THIEVES' KITCHEN Shibboleth ratings distribution

(65 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THIEVES' KITCHEN Shibboleth reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
3 stars The third album from Britain's THIEVES' KITCHEN offering the listen a nice and wide range of musical possibilities. After leaving GREY LADY DOWN, Mark Robtham (drums) formed THIEVES' KITCHEN and several years later have struck a great chord with me in "Shibboleth" (Hebrew). Vocalist Amy Darby has a beautiful and fitting voice full of emotion and clarity. Along with Darby's beautiful voice we are treated to the instrumental prowess of Phil Mercy (guitars), Wolfgang Kindl (keyboards),Andy Bonham (bass) and Mark Robotham (drums). The end result is something very original perhaps and best interpreted IMHO as a cross of RENAISSANCE and IQ. Overall a highly intelligent album full of originality and craftsmanship needing your attention.
Review by diddy
4 stars "Shibboleth" is one of these albums you buy with no expectations. Yes, you heard the name of the band from time to time but you never really checked them out...FATAL ERROR! This album deserves to be listened. "Shibboleth" is difficult to classify. I even think that you should't try to classify it because the impacts and elements are so multifaceted and reach from Brand X-like fusion to King Crimson and even Pär Lindh Project. The style fits partially in the so called Retroprog genre as well as some fusion with Holdswoth like soloing. The female vocals are very good and reminded me of "Veni Vidi Vici" by the Pär Lindh Project.

The album starts with with a powerfull drum and bass part just to present a Holdswoth like guitar part before the vocals kick in. The variety within the first 5 minutes is so immense, some other bands could take a leaf out of their book. And you will recognize it within the first Song "The picture slave", that you have problems to categorize this band, so don't even try it, just lean back and enjoy, the next song for example. "De Profundis" is a 12 minute long epic following the direction of the opener. Maybe there are a few parts wich seem to be a bit too long and the background melodie or riff is a bit nerving in the end because it goes along with you for the whole 12 minutes. "Cardinal Red" is shorter and more compact, you can say that it really becomes the song. Some Keyboard solos make up the ending of the song. "Spiral bound" is a short piano dominated ballad, not bad. The highlight of the album for sure is the 23 minute "Chovihani Rise". It features a lot of weird instrumental parts and solos sounding totally different from each other. Some are typical fusion solos, others sound as if they belong to Retroprog or even NeoProg. Astonishing is the change between odd instrumental parts and melodious ones. A terrific song, the best one on "Shibboleth". The last track "Surface Tension" is a bit heavier in the beginning but comes down for the vocal part, rises again and features some nice soloing until the song is over. Really nice.

"Shibolleth" is the enemy of stereotyped thinking. If you sort your albums by genres, please let my know how many copies you bought to suit every genre. This is an album for fans of any kind of proggressive rock. If there is an album I would highly recommend to almost everybody, "Shibboleth" is the one. 4 stars means that this album is a good addition to ANY Prog Rock Collection.

Review by hdfisch
4 stars (Edited 10/4/2005!)

"Shibboleth" is a Hebrew word meaning "ear of grain" and the story behind is recorded in the biblical Book of Judges where it's been used as a linguistic password being pronounced differently by each tribe. In case a spy got knowledge of it he's been immediately unmasked by his mispronunciation. Okay this is just for general knowledge, let's come to the music on Shibboleth album which is much more important. One of its quite obvious features is that it sounds quite different from Argot and not only because vocals are provided by a girl now. In fact what THIEVES' KITCHEN is presenting here is a hybrid of Symphonic Progressive and Jazz-Fusion much in the CANTERBURY vein and it worked out excellent. They did not change much in regards of track length, three of the six songs are clocking between 12 and 23 minutes. Unlike most of contemporary Prog bands this one doesn't have a very clear and obvious connection to 70's Prog. In some parts bands like HATFIELD & THE NORTH, U.K. or HAPPY THE MAN might come to one's mind but the similarities are really not striking. Instead their music is so much extraordinary, often even groundbreaking and they really created their own style. The vocals of the newcomer Amy Darby are really awesome, quite laid back and are a nice balance to the often very quirky music.

The first three tracks are presenting the mentioned "Symphonic Jazz-Fusion" style in a very pure form. But apart from jazzy sections there are as well parts of excellent keyboards and guitar play like the middle one of The Picture Slave. And every now and then there is Mellotron present like in De Profundis which fits together in a wonderful way with the jazzy style. The very proggy Cardinal Red has intricate synth lines and orchestrations plus awesome guitar solos by excellent Guitarist Phil Mercy. Rhythm section by Andy Bonham and Mark Robotham is of a very high level as well. Spiral Bound , the shortest track is a very quiet and mellow song featuring mainly nice piano by Wolfgang Kindl and Amy Darby's vocals. Last two tracks contain in addition some heavy Progmetal-like elements. The very long Chovihani Rise actually consists of two songs, one split up between the beginning and the end, the other one in the middle part and has plenty of Mellotron and melodic guitar sections and the complex interaction between all instruments is just amazing. Surface Tension is even heavier with rough guitar riffs, somber sounding Mellotron and symphonic synths.

CONCLUSION: The new female singer fits even better to the band's style. Shibboleth became an excellent symphonic jazz fusion album with and one that will grow on you with every repeated listening. Highly recommended and I think it even deserves half star more than Argot which was excellent already.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. For me this is on a par with "Argot", and other than the new female vocalist it's pretty similar in style.The debut "Head" is still my favourite, it's more dynamic and exciting than "Argot" or "Shibboleth".Those latter two recordings really are more about the compositions and band play than solos and individual play. And that's what's kept me from giving them both 4 stars, as they really seem to meander along most of the time with little in the way of outbreaks. Still this is very well played and quite enjoyable. You might even say that the second and third efforts from this band are more mature than the debut, no wonder I prefer the first one.

"The Picture Slave" builds to a full sound with some excellent bass and guitar while drums pound. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. The vocals I think are a slight improvement over the previous male singer, but not much better in my opinion. The guitar is prominant before 2 1/2 minutes as mellotron then floods the scene. Piano with bass 4 minutes in followed by more guitar. "De Profundis" opens with piano as guitar comes in making some noise, followed by drums. Mellotron 1 1/2 minutes in, followed by vocals then more guitar. Sounds like flute 6 minutes in. Some aggressive guitar 8 1/2 minutes in and the mellotron a minute later is fantastic as flute joins in. These themes keep coming back. This is probably my favourite track.

"Cardinal Red" is more uptempo with vocals. I like the guitar / organ section 3 minutes in. Lots of synths a minute later. "Spiral Bound" is ballad-like with piano, reserved vocals and strummed guitar later. "Chovihani Rise" is the 24 minute epic. I like this one a lot. It builds as different instruments are added to the sound. Tasteful guitar 6 minutes in. Pleasant vocals and pleasant guitar, yes it's all really pleasant. Oh wait a minute, a change 12 minutes in to a more aggressive sound. I like the guitar a lot 16 1/2 minutes in. Another change 18 minutes in as we get back to the pleasant sounds. Although there is some minor riffing around 21 1/2 minutes. "Surface Tension" has some great organ play in it early. A calm with vocals 3 1/2 minutes in. A full sound returns as contrast continues. The organ is back 6 minutes in. Guitar and piano are both prominant the rest of the way.

Good but not great.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars This is by far their most complex work to date. They finally justify their entry into the eclectic genre; especially with the good opener ''The Picture Slave''. A quite vigorous and technical song. Great musical brio I have to say. The band is really ''ā l'unisson'' and proposes a dynamic and very attractive song. A very good debut should I say.

Their musical evolution leans more towards some symphonic jazz, which is definitely confirmed during the long ''De Profundis''. Long instrumental interplays, with here and there some fine mellotron (for the symphonic side).

The jazz mood goes on (a bit too much to my taste) with the third track. Again, the play is quite technical and sophisticated. Off-beat drumming, fine keyboards and perfect bass. But the band seems to look for complexity for the sake of it IMHHO (although the tranquil ''Spiral Bound'' proves me wrong).

The long and pleasant epic ''Chovihani Rise'' is at times on the symphonic side. The soft vocals are full of tact and beauty. It is really a plus to have Amy on the lead. But in terms of epic, don't expect too much from this one though. I know that comparison is no reason but I prefer the ones from the glory days (I guess you know the ones I'm talking about).

It is a nice composition which balances between soft /symphonic jazz and a more eclectic approach but there are few splendid nor passionate moments. Again, the middle instrumental part is quite hectic at times. I would have hoped some more feeling in here.

The closing piece (''Surface Tension'') is nothing really different from the rest of the whole: probably somewhat heavier. Still, pleasant.

This album is a mix of symphonic jazz (70%), eclectic prog (25%) and symphonic one (5%). Depending where your prog heart lies you might be found of this album or not. You know where mine resides (I guess). Three stars for ''Shibboleth''.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Another fine and good album by this UK eclectic prog band, this time their third album from 2003 enetitled Shibboleth. To my ears this is more complex then previous works and they step even further in eclectic sound but aswell I can trace some jazzy moments here and there aswell. Many listneres and critics said that they have an unique sound, I can't deny that, but I don't know if they are som damn excellent in manner of composing, the arrangements, the quirky passages, that will desearve more , again then 3 stars. The music of this album is more complex, elaborated , that for sure, but because they venture in an diffrent field combineing eclectic passages with jazz arrangements, might be a little risky. While the music is ok, even great in places, I can't rate this album more then a good release, something is missing in the whole concept, even the voice of a female singer Amy Darby is good, and has some very fine moments aswell, the album is little to forced in places. The musicianship is ok, great in many moments, specially in those neverending instrumental passages, but as a whole I'm not thrilled. 6 traks grace this album, 3 of them long and one of them very long , again more then 20 min, shows that the band has the ability to compose longer pieces, a thing whre they are better then in less lenghtier on'e. So another Thieve's Kitchen album, but I don't feel I will become a fan ever of this band, I apprecited their sound, their moder aproach to progressive music, but I hardly can considered these two albums I reviewed as essential releases of the previous decade. 3 stars, good but non essential at all.
Review by Warthur
2 stars Although the vocals of Amy Darby add a new dynamic to the music of Thieves Kitchen, I can't help but feel that Shibboleth is a step down from the excellent Argot. For one thing, the mix of the album is just slightly off - this is particularly evident with Amy's vocals, and it makes them sound rather odd and stilted. Or maybe they were meant to sound that way? That's the other thing about this album - the songwriting and performances are just very slightly off-kilter, to an extent where I am literally not sure whether they are meant to be strange and dissonant or whether it's just a case of bungled production. And when you can't tell whether someone is being experimental or out of tune, it's a problem.
Review by kev rowland
4 stars It is probably fair to say that over the years I have not been TK's biggest fan, so when this arrived in the post I was in no rush to put it in the player. However, a long drive home one day gave me the opportunity to listen to this all the way through in one sitting. But even from the first delicate notes and drum introduction of "The Picture Slave" I felt that something quite dramatic had changed either in the music or in my appreciation of it. There is a feeling of sense of purpose ? the band knows what they want to achieve and are going to get there, no matter what. This is complex prog with the entire band linking in at a very high level indeed. This hearkens back not to the heady days of neo-prog but further back to the time of bands like ELP where musical ability and a lack of knowledge or caring of boundaries made the prog scene so vibrant and exciting. There is more than a hint of jazz (particularly in some of the keyboards), and one is kept looking for the next stage.

The one thing that the band now needs to consider is whether or not they need to become one of those very rare beasts, an instrumental prog outfit. It isn't that Amy's vocals are poor, just that for most of this album there is no room for her, and even when she makes an appearance the vocals aren't as high in the mix as they might be. But, this does give the music a different edge to many.

This album has certainly caused me to have a major rethink of TK, and I am sure that many more progheads will be turned onto the band by this superb album. With one track nearly twenty-four minutes in length there is something here for everyone, with enough twists and turns to make this constantly interesting. This is an album that I have really enjoyed and which has made me look forward to the next one, which will get onto my player with far more alacrity. For more details visit the web site at

Latest members reviews

5 stars I dont think the Neo-Prog label fits this band.They sound very original unlike other Neo-Prog bands which by rule always sound like someone else mostly Genesis or Yes.The closest I can think of is Thinking Plauge because of the female vocals and the abstract music. ... (read more)

Report this review (#22544) | Posted by James Hill | Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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