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THE BARDIC DEPTHS

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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The Bardic Depths biography
A UK outfit The BARDIC DEPTHS were founded by Brad BIRZER and Dave BANDANA but as sort of different rock project from BIRZER BANDANA actually. In collaboration with lots of session mussicians around the world, the combo have created the debut album (mixed and mastered by Robin ARMSTRONG), that was released in March 2020.

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3.78 | 21 ratings
The Bardic Depths
2020
3.89 | 17 ratings
Promises of Hope
2022
4.25 | 4 ratings
What We Really Like in Stories
2024

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THE BARDIC DEPTHS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Promises of Hope by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.89 | 17 ratings

BUY
Promises of Hope
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by KansasForEver2

4 stars THE BARDIC DEPTHS returns with a new line up for this second album "Promises Of Hope", the main innovation being the presence as a full member of Peter JONES, Robin ARMSTRONG co-producing the record and acting as an additional musician.

The album's synopsis was written by American history professor Brad BIRZER, co-founder of THE BARDIC DEPTHS (and co-composer of the majority of the tracks), it describes the horrors of suicide and their possible redemption. Nine titles for a little over an hour of music are on the menu. Let us also specify that this "Promises of Hope" is dedicated to the memory of David LONGDON who accidentally died too soon.

Our meal begins with "And She Appeared", one of the most energetic pieces of the album halfway between progressive and prog pop, a catchy piece which makes you want to sketch a few dance steps, frequentable without for all that shouting genius (8/10). "Regal Pride" follows this easy listening opening, a very cool "down" tempo popping also with a nice sax motif (7/10) but a bit too repetitive for my taste then the long "Consumed" and its almost eight minutes with Celtic connotations (the Penny Whistle of Peter JONES being no stranger to it), melodic rock more than progressive rock, a term also claimed by Dave BANDANA himself, one of my favorite pieces from the album (9/10).

My favorite will be the following "The Burning Flame", a slightly mysterious track in its beginning, sparsely and superbly sung (Peter JONES obviously), carried by the solo guitars of Kevin McCORMICK first then Gareth COLE then, the first beauty in music it is there (10/10). Full colors and shapes, saxophone like it was raining, only Peter JONES is capable of such a performance on the instrument, a high-end and altogether adventurous instrumental range (9/10). "Why Are You Here?" which follows, sax still in the preamble but with singing, a piece that I personally and subjectively find a little sluggish, fortunately enhanced by the work of the six strings in the middle, correct nothing more (7/10).

The two shortest tracks on the album now with firstly "Returned" with an orientalizing tendency, more pop than prog, interesting without being a peak either; note the metronomic drumming driven by Tim GEHRT, drummer of the group STREETS (Steve WALSH) at the dawn of the eighties (8/10), then "The Essence" which is frankly inspired by the same period with a flavor A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS for diehards who know (the guitar like the rhythm pair and even the vocal intonations which could come from Mike SCORE's throat!), I like it a lot but I'm not impartial on this one... .(9/10).

The end clap with "Imagine", the longest track on the record, almost ten minutes, introduced on the church organ by Richard KREUGER before the appearance of the mellotron in powerful layers (Paolo LIMOLI) coupled with the piano of the same man and the lyrical guitar of Gareth COLE, we will not forget the (again and always) cheerful saxophone of Peter which sends this totally progressive piece into another dimension, well sung by Dave BANDANA and Peter JONES and which ends as it began with a short church organ score (10/10).

Grumpy people will say that THE BARDIC DEPTHS didn't invent anything, which I agree with, but it's so pleasant and well put together that forgiveness is in order.

 Promises of Hope by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.89 | 17 ratings

BUY
Promises of Hope
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by KansasForEver

4 stars THE BARDIC DEPTHS returns with a new line up for this second album "Promises Of Hope", the main innovation being the presence as a full member of Peter JONES, Robin ARMSTRONG co-producing the disc and intervening as an additional musician.

The synopsis of the album was written by the American history professor Brad BIRZER co-founder of THE BARDIC DEPTHS (and co-composer of the majority of the songs), it describes the pangs of suicide and their possible redemption. Nine titles for just over an hour of music are on the menu. It should also be noted that this "Promises of Hope" is dedicated to the memory of David LONGDON, who died accidentally and too soon.

Our meal begins with "And She Appeared", one of the most energetic tracks on the album halfway between progressive and pop prog, a catchy track that makes you want to take a few dance steps, frequentable without however, cry genius (8/10). "Regal Pride" follows this easy-to-listen appetizer, a very cool "down" tempo also popping with a nice saxi motif (7/10) but a bit too repetitive for my taste then the long "Consumed" and its almost eight minutes with a Celtic connotation (Peter JONES' Penny Whistle being no stranger to it), melodic rock more than progressive rock, a term also claimed by Dave BANDANA himself, one of my favorite pieces from the album (9/10).

My favorite will be the following "The Burning Flame", a slightly mysterious track at its start, little and superbly sung (Peter JONES obviously), carried by the solo guitars of Kevin McCORMICK first then of Gareth COLE, the first beauty in music it is there (10/10). Full colors and shapes, saxophone as if it were raining, only Peter JONES is capable of such a performance on the instrument, a top-of-the-range and altogether adventurous instrumental range (9/10). "Why Are You Here?" what follows, sax always in the preamble but with vocals, a piece that I personally and subjectively find a little soft, fortunately enhanced by the work of the six strings in the middle, correct without more (7/10).

The two shortest titles of the album now with first of all "Returned" with an oriental tendency, more pop than prog, interesting without being a peak either; note the metronomic drumming driven by Tim GEHRT, drummer of the group STREETS (Steve WALSH) at the dawn of the eighties (8/10), then "The Essence" which is frankly inspired by the same period with a flavor A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS for diehards who know (the guitar like the rhythmic pair and even the vocal intonations that could come from Mike SCORE's throat!), I like it a lot but I'm not impartial on this one... . (9/10).

The end clap with "Imagine", the longest title on the disc, almost ten minutes, introduced on the church organ by Richard KREUGER before the appearance of the mellotron in powerful pads (Paolo LIMOLI) coupled with the piano of the same man and the lyrical guitar of Gareth COLE, we will not forget Peter's cheerful saxophone (again and always) which sends this totally progressive piece into another dimension, well sung by Dave BANDANA and Peter JONES and which ends like it started with a short church organ score (10/10).

The grumpy will say that THE BARDIC DEPTHS didn't invent anything, which I agree on, but it's so pleasant and well put together that forgiveness is in order.

 Promises of Hope by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.89 | 17 ratings

BUY
Promises of Hope
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars I first came across Dave Bandana years ago when he was in Salander, followed him to his journeys with Birzer Bandana before he formed The Bardic Depths and released the debut album back in 2020. His colleague Brad Birzer was still involved, but he had brought in a group of stellar musicians and taken a huge step up in every way. Now The Bardic Depths are back with the second album, and this feels far more like a group affair as opposed to a project. History professor Birzer has again worked with Dave on lyrics to much of the material, and the core musicians have been brought back from last time, namely Peter Jones (Camel/Tiger Moth Tales/ Red Bazar), Gareth Cole (Paul Menel/ Fractal Mirror) and Tim Gehrt (The Streets/ Steve Walsh). There are a cast of thousands in terms of guests (especially for backing vocals), but it is the core quartet who share the vast majority of the workload, with others being brought in to add additional nuances and layers as opposed to taking on key roles.

There are times when the music is quite Floydian, with "The Burning Flame" sounding as if it could have come from 'Wish You Were Here' with delicate keyboards and a wonderfully restrained guitar solo, while at others they are more into the crossover genre as opposed to symphonic. Whereas the debut album was also viewed in some ways as the third Birzer Bandana release, there is no doubt that what we have here now is a band very much performing on their own terms and with their own identity. Like most people in the prog scene, I am a massive fan of Peter Jones and what he has already achieved within the genre, but this is a band where he has little input into the actual songwriting and is onboard for his skills as a musician and singer, which means some of the pressure is off and there is no doubt he relishes the opportunity, with a saxophone lead on the instrumental "Colours and Shapes" (one of only two songs where he gets a songwriting credit) which is simply beautiful, dynamic and full of power.

Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) has again been involved as a co-producer (as well as dropping in musically here and there), and he has worked with Dave to create an environment where the guys have been able to express themselves and allow the band to truly grow as a unit. This is by far the best album I have heard from Mr. Bandana over the years, and I am truly looking forward to see what comes of this band in the future.

 The Bardic Depths by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.78 | 21 ratings

BUY
The Bardic Depths
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions

4 stars This is a project featuring UK based multi-intrumentalist Dave Bandana. An experienced person really, who already has collaborated with diverse like-minded musicians. At first glance the presence of the other band constant Brad Birzer turns out to be relatively unspectacular. Anyway, aside from the compositional aspect he arranges the comprehensive spoken word contributions all over. Which means provided in different languages, either by himself and also diverse other guest appearances. This looks like strongly pointing to a concept workout. Yep, right, dealing with the friendship of writers C.S. Lewis und J.R.R. Tolkien on this occasion. Stylistically this is lingering around diverse territories, though predominantly a symbiosis of art rock, neo prog and Pink Floyd influenced psychedelic.

Furthermore, one can say a proper selection of prog's who is who is contributing here, examplarily speaking of Peter Jones, Robin Armstrong, Gareth Cole aso. The opening track The Trenches appears like an exclamation mark, spacy kosmische elements, symphonic strings. And I would like to highlight Tim Gehrt's straight drumming later on, changing to marching mode in between. An exceptional composition without a doubt. The extended suite Depths Of Time in the same way, divided in three parts and offering quite different faces. This is an album of roundabout one hour playing time, catching you up sooner or later with its atmospheric flow, charming all the way through. Very nice saxophone input by Peter Jones. Something for relaxed moments.

 The Bardic Depths by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.78 | 21 ratings

BUY
The Bardic Depths
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Rather straightforward, simple Neo Prog with some lush atmospheric soundscapes and pulsating prog that have been set up to support the existential and anti-war themes as were discussed between authors C.S Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R.R. Tolkein (The Lord of the Rings).

1. "The Trenches" (8:35) a two minute intro of passages from letters written between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein between the two World Wars over atmospheric synth washes then vaults into motion to support a fairly easy-going but steady music with a familiar proggy sound palette. Then, int he fifth minute there is a shift as a more slow military march with synth flutes and synth strings plays while soldiers' voices can be heard beneath saying things like "Fire!" At the six minute mark a more insidious proggy motif takes over to support Dave Bandana's vocal. At 7:45 everything drops out leaving a treated "distant" vocal to sing its dirge. (17/20)

2. "Biting Coal" (7:50) slow, oscillating atmospherics underline samples of conversations in some Scandinavian language for the first half before things take a turn and Dave sings a Roger Waters-like vocal over gently-strummed acoustic guitar and lush atmospheric synths. (12.75/15)

3. "Depths Of Time" (12:35) one of the most unlikely and unexpected masterpieces of the year 2020! (23.5/25) a. - The Instant - emotional sax play over spacey synth washes and some ticking from a clock. (8.5/10) b. - The Flicker - 1980s New Wave techno disco adult jazz! Could be THE THE or SIMPLY RED. Very cool and unexpected. Refreshing and very engaging! This could've been a hit for NEW ORDER or DEPECHE MODE! (5/5) c. - The Moment - return to plaintive sax but this time over full band at half the speed and half the everything of The Flicker." Brilliant sax play, Peter Jones!--enhanced greatly by the heavy reverb. (10/10)

4. "Depths Of Imagination" (5:01) slow, thick PINK FLOYD-like music to support spoken word recitation of a passage from C.S. Lewis about creating the "fairy" world. In the second minute things turn a little more bluesy as Dave sings about the brotherhood of writing about imaginary worlds. Not much meat or variety to the song. (8.25/10)

5. "Depths Of Soul" (6:40) spacious space sounds enter and fade beneath a simple quote from Tolkien before sax, bass, and drums kick in to support lead guitarist Gareth Cole's attempt to establish melody and mood. When everything finally gels and shifts into drive at the end of the second minute, its pretty cool PINK FLOYD motif that Dave sings over. The Peter Jones (TIGER MOTH TALES) sax soli in the fourth minute is great--as is the "Lothlorian" chorus and background synths and organ in the next section. (8.75/10)

6. "The End" (7:37) electric piano and flute sound opens this before being joined by Dave's sad lyric and sad cello. Very frail and emotional. At 1:45 it's as if a whole new song starts, but it's just a lane change--to speed up a little. Dave's got a very pretty melody and sound construct here. Harmonica and deep bass notes alternate with piano chord hits in the fourth minute creating a little discordant tension. Piano then tries to take us out before giving way to organ and cello. At 5:25 there is a little pause with some pitch-bent synth chord before the song kicks out onto another side-street--this one with tom-tom play, bluesy guitar and Mellotron male chorus bank while Dave sings his final verse. Very engaging song. My favorite on the album. (13.75/15)

7. "Legacies" (9:28) there's a very serious intention to the this song as a delivery mechanism for a message: "We define the edge"--as well as more quotes read from the Lewis-Tolkien letters. Nice that it's supported by very nice music and some great solos in the end from Dave's synthesizers and then a running duel between guitarists Gareth Cole and Robin Armstrong. My third favorite song on the album. (18/20)

Total time: 57:46

A very pleasant listen if somewhat singular in its palette and mood (i.e. other than "The Flicker").

B+/4.5 stars; a surprisingly solid near-masterpiece of atmospheric, thematic progressive rock music. An album that I think I'll return to quite often for a while.

 The Bardic Depths by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.78 | 21 ratings

BUY
The Bardic Depths
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by nick_h_nz
Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

First things first. The opening of this album is simply incredible, and unbelievably engaging. I have never been so immediately entranced by an album's opening number. Over some appropriate ambient and atmospheric music and noise, a quote from one of the two bards this album is dedicated to is beautifully read, describing the wartime experience of C.S. Lewis. The quote ends with a sentence containing the words 'this is war', which are repeated by many different voices before the song kicks in with full effect. Instrumentally, it is suitably menacing, though over the top a lighter motif plays. A staccato drumbeat plays out like bullets, and the trenches go quiet. Distorted vocals sound strangely beautiful before the music comes back in with a stately and decidedly melancholy military march, underscored by the sounds of war. Honestly, I couldn't be more in love with this song, and then the vocals are finally sung at about the sixth minute and the mood is broken for me. Or, at least, it was the first couple of times I listened to this album.

Now, I realise I'm going to receive some grief for this. While a new band in a way, this is apparently more a renaming for an established act who have taken on the name The Bardic Depths for an absolutely wonderful concept album concerning the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but I had no familiarity with the artists concerned, and the vocals therefore came to me as a bit of a shock. There's actually nothing wrong with them at all. In fact, I really like them. But they don't at all, for me, fit the music. Dave Bandana has a voice that reminds me of the Johns that might be giants. Now I love TMBG, but obviously, with that similarity playing in my head (and I realise that others may not hear this at all ' we do, after all, all hear differently), I find it hard to equate the seriousness of the instrumentation and lyrics with a vocal style I associate with frivolity (admittedly very clever and enjoyable frivolity, but frivolity nevertheless).

It's taken many listens to get over this. I can enjoy music in spite of a vocalist I don't like (e.g. I like Yes, but not Jon Anderson's voice, and I like Smashing Pumpkins, but not Billy Corgan's voice), but this isn't quite the same. As, in this case, I like the music and the voice, but I struggled to manage them together. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be alone in this, so I'm going to try and avoid commenting any further on the vocals. I have no problem with them at all now, but I wanted to address this, on the odd chance that someone listens to this album and is initially put off by the vocals. Don't be! This album is awesome! So, that out of the way'

I absolutely love The Trenches. It's a perfect introduction to the album. As far as I'm aware, Lewis and Tolkien never came across each other in the war, but that's one of the things I particularly like about the way the story of their friendship is played out over this album. The album begins before they meet, and ends by reviewing their legacies, once their friendship has dissipated. The following song, Biting Coals, therefore is where we first meet both our protagonists, again with an incredibly evocative instrumental introduction. Honestly, musically this album is simply amazing. I think it would have made an amazing instrumental album, or even an album similar to Nordic Giants' Amplify Human Vibration, where spoken word is used to incredible effect.

The Kolbitars were an informal group founded by Tolkien, dedicated to reading Icelandic and Norse sagas (thus named because coal biters sit so close to the fire they virtually bite the coals). This should explain the spoken word samples you hear within Biting Coals. Lewis joined the Kolbitars, and from this group the society of Inklings as the members began trying their hand at forging their own myths. It was Lewis now, rather than Tolkien, who led the group, as the members read aloud to each other, in weekly instalments, lines from their epic works in progress. The Inklings were bards ' storytellers, and entertainers ' but mainly for themselves. As such, Biting Coals has a quite introspective vibe. And speaking of vibes, I absolutely adore the marimba on this track. (I like the vibraphone, but I love the marimba.) Again, the sung vocals don't come in until about halfway through the track, but as they are low- key (almost Floydian), they have never bothered me as much on this track as the preceding one.

Depths of Time is reminiscent of the opening track, and perhaps refers to how their shared experiences deepened their friendship over time. Neither Tolkien nor Lewis wrote a war memoir in the traditional sense, but the fictional worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia reveal much about their experiences and thoughts on the theology of war. Lewis's and Tolkien's mythologies do more than reflect the realities of war. Their characters teach readers how to respond to great conflict. Whether hobbits in Middle Earth or the Pevensie's children in Narnia, it's often the weak or powerless who, in the end, humble and defeat the mighty. The music of this track is suitably humble, until at just shy of five minutes it becomes upbeat, and some nifty sax accompanies Bandana's vocals. Lewis and Tolkien both expressed a dissatisfaction with literature, and Tolkien's letters recount that Lewis said to him that 'If they won't write the kinds of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves.' And so they wrote. And they fought. Tolkien and Lewis didn't see eye to eye on matters of literary taste. But they fought as friends. They had a rivalry, but at this stage, it was a friendly rivalry, and each found the others arguments constructive and instructive. Hence, despite lyrics describing fighting, the music of Depths of Time remains upbeat and happy. But, this is a song of three thirds, and so the music for the final four minutes or so is more sedate. Given the theme of time, I like to assume this might represent the differing writing paces of Lewis and Tolkien. While Tolkien wrestled over The Lord of the Rings for almost two decades, Lewis composed the entire seven-part Narnia series of novels in less than one.

Depths of Imagination, to me, seems to recall the Christian aspect of Lewis and Tolkien'S friendship. It may come as a surprise for many, who know of Lewis via the obviously Christian tales from Narnia, that he was an avowed atheist before meeting Tolkien. Indeed, Lewis credits Tolkien for showing him the light. Lewis believed, erroneously as many still do, that all myths are lies. Tolkien argued that myths need not be lies and that while the story of Christ may be a myth, just like the Scandinavian myths they had loved and had celebrated as Kolbitars, there was one crucial difference: The Christian myth was true. Now, as an atheist myself, I don't buy that. But almost all of the products from the depths of the imaginations of our two bards (their 'Bardic Depths') come from this one basic premise. I will admit that like much of the works of Lewis and Tolkien (which I do enjoy), this song drags a little. It is easily my least favourite track, but it is thankfully short.

Depths of Soul, which follows, is far more satisfying (and I do often skip straight from Depths of Time to Depths of Soul). I'm afraid I've never been one for paying much attention to lyrics, and there are usually only odd lines that stand out to me. So it is entirely possible (probable, even) that some of my interpretations of the songs from this album are wrong. But for me, Depths of Soul represents where it all starts to go wrong for the friendship. Despite having convinced Lewis to give up his atheism, Tolkien was somewhat dismayed to find Lewis choose to join the Anglican church (Tolkien was Catholic). The lyrics are clearly based upon the writings of the bible, as I can recognise bible quotes among them, so I don't think I can be too far wrong in my impressions.

And so we reach The End. The end of the friendship, and eventually the end of the lives of the two bards, who were never reconciled. The music is suitably melancholic. Tolkien had helped Lewis see the light and join him as a Christian, but Lewis' fame and celebrity, which arrived soon after, while Tolkien still struggled on with his novel, was at odds with Tolkien's quiet and devout ways. As their friendship waned, the two saw less and less of each other ' and less still after Lewis married a divorcee. The friendship faded away, and was never rekindled. This song has that same feeling of finality, and could easily have been the final song of the album. It definitely has the feel of a closing number.

But, just as we began the album before the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien, we end it afterwards, with their Legacies. This final song explores why their friendship left a legacy that neither Lewis nor Tolkien could have possibly created on their own, despite all their differences, and despite their friendship not lasting the distance. It brings together all the moods and sounds (including the marimba) into a triumphant and rousing epic closing number. Lewis and Tolkien are gone, but their mythologies live on, and if you are Christian then that mythology lives on, too.

This is one of the greatest concept albums I have ever heard. But even if the narrative wasn't so clear and easy to follow, it would still be great. Bookended by probably the two best tracks (my two favourites, anyway), it is almost impossible not to be carried away with the expressiveness of the music. You owe it to yourself to give this a listen.

 The Bardic Depths by BARDIC DEPTHS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.78 | 21 ratings

BUY
The Bardic Depths
The Bardic Depths Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars So here we have the debut album from The Bardic Depths, which is also their third. Confused? In some ways this is the third album from Birzer Bandana, being Dave Bandana (vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, percussion, flute and harmonica )and Brad Birzer (spoken word), but as this was such a dramatic change in so many ways they felt it was only right they started again under a new name, which makes total sense to me. I first came across Dave years ago when he was working with the other Dave in Salander (emails used to be always signed from Dave and Dave, really confusing). Over recent years he has been incredibly prolific, and he is right when he says this album deserved a new name. They have brought in many guests this time to flesh out the sound, including the likes of Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales), Tim Gehrt (Streets, Steve Walsh), Gareth Cole (Tom Slatter, Fractal Mirror) and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf). I was really pleased to see Gehrt involved as one of my pet peeves has always been the use of programmed drums, and to see live drums on at least some of the songs is a definite move in the right direction.

The new musical change, which in many ways is far more keyboards based, seems to have meant there was no room for violinist Olga Kent, which is a shame as I thought she had a lot to offer but it is going to be interesting to see where the band go from here. This is reflective but considered, delicate but with an inner strength, compassionate yet with power. The saxophone on the first section of "Depths of Time" is incredibly poignant, and with just a some held-down keyboards and a picked electric guitar to play against (plus some thunder in the background), it is incredibly dramatic.

At the time of writing this, I am the only person who has written a review of either of the Birzer Bandana albums, and no-one else has reviewed The Bardic Depths, but surely it can only be a matter of time until their name becomes more recognisable. They have moved a long way with this, created a far fuller sound, and if the next album is as far removed from this one as this is from the last, then it will be absolutely essential. As it is, this is a really nice album which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and in many ways is probably the most complete work I have heard from Dave to date, even pre- dating his relationship with Brad. Let's have real drums throughout on the next one and try to keep the same people involved as this is progressing nicely. Really nicely.

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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