Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography

THINKING PLAGUE

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Thinking Plague picture
Thinking Plague biography
Formed in Denver, Colorado, USA in 1981 - Still active as of 2018

Intro from Thinking Plague website

"Thinking Plague is a musical group from Colorado that explores the frontiers where rock, folk, jazz and modern symphonic music meet. Through these explorations, the band has created "a genre of music unto itself, eclectically derivative in a bold way and spectacularly innovative in the old-fashioned sense of genuine originality" (Andy Watson - Journal Wired Summer/Fall 1990). Thinking Plague's music combines lyricism with intense and sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic ideas. Their influences cover a spectrum ranging from Beatles and Byrds to Henry Cow and William Schuman. At moments the sound of Thinking Plague may begin to resemble pop or jazz music only to be stretched or "morphed" in the next instant into new regions that often defy categorization. The songs have often been compared to modern film music (with vocals), and can seem like journeys through an inner world.."

The band started in around 1980 with Bob DRAKE (bassist / drummer) & Mike Johnson (guitar) as an outlet for basement experimentation. They had met in 1978 in various cover bands. By 1982 they were ready to try and perform some of this material in a live setting. Sharon Bradford (vocals), Harry Fleishman (keyboards), and Rick Arsenault (drums) were added to the line-up to perform a number of shows around Denver. After these were poorly received the decision was made to focus on releasing the material. The live line-up minus Rick recorded & self-released the debut album, Thinking Plague, in 1984 as a run of 500 LP's with hand stenciled covers. The album was distributed, amongst others, by Recommended & Wayside, and received positive reviews amongst avant listeners.

In 1985 Mike & Bob started looking for new band members and started work on the next album. This line-up was made up of Suzanne Lewis (vocals), Mark Fuller (drums) and Eric Moon (keyboards). The recordings started with Warheads, an old 1980 song, the rest of the album was made up from live warehouse recordings from 86, home recordings from Bob & Suzanne and the studio based track Moonsongs. That track had Mark McCoin added to provide tribal drumming. The album, Moonsongs, was released in 86 on cassette and 87 on LP. The album received critical acclaim. In 1987 Lawrence Ha...
read more

THINKING PLAGUE Videos (YouTube and more)


Showing only random 3 | Search and add more videos to THINKING PLAGUE

Buy THINKING PLAGUE Music


In This LifeIn This Life
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$12.91
$9.97 (used)
Hoping Against HopeHoping Against Hope
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$12.99
$12.98 (used)
Decline And FallDecline And Fall
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$25.03 (used)
In ExtremisIn Extremis
Alliance 2017
$5.99 (used)
The Early Plague YearsThe Early Plague Years
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$45.00
$96.43 (used)
A History Of MadnessA History Of Madness
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$68.17 (used)
In This LifeIn This Life
Rer 2003
$21.73
$15.95 (used)
In This Life by Thinking PlagueIn This Life by Thinking Plague
CUNEIFORM
$37.89
Upon Both Your HousesUpon Both Your Houses
NEARFest Records 2006
$61.52
Right Now on Ebay (logo)

More places to buy THINKING PLAGUE music online Buy THINKING PLAGUE & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

THINKING PLAGUE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THINKING PLAGUE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.52 | 32 ratings
A Thinking Plague
1984
3.61 | 36 ratings
Moonsongs
1987
4.01 | 70 ratings
In This Life
1989
4.33 | 174 ratings
In Extremis
1998
4.14 | 83 ratings
A History Of Madness
2003
3.40 | 56 ratings
Decline And Fall
2012
3.78 | 81 ratings
Hoping Against Hope
2017

THINKING PLAGUE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 19 ratings
Upon Both Your Houses
2004

THINKING PLAGUE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THINKING PLAGUE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 24 ratings
Early Plague Years
2000

THINKING PLAGUE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

THINKING PLAGUE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Early Plague Years by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
4.07 | 24 ratings

BUY
Early Plague Years
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars As THINKING PLAGUE became more and more an established force to be reckoned with in the world of avant-prog, the band continued to attract more adventurous music lovers which naturally resulted in fans wanting to hear the earlier albums that preceded the powerhouse masterpieces like "In Extremis." Mike Johnson, the band's only continuous member throughout its existence mistakenly thought the master tapes for the first two albums "A Thinking Plague" and "Moonsongs" had gone missing but somewhere along the line emerged and offered a chance for long awaited re-releases.

The two early albums underwent a complete remastering which included original member Bob Drake in the process. Instead of re-releasing each album individually, both albums have been included in their entirety on the compilation EARLY PLAGUE YEARS which was released in the year 2000 on Cuneiform Records. While i have never had the pleasure of listening to the original vinyl editions, the tracks on EARLY PLAGUE YEARS have an amazingly powerful production that sounds as if they were recorded in the modern era. At long last the early albums were available and by all means should not be missed by THINKING PLAGUE fans. Reviews for each album are on their respective pages.

If you're at all curious as to how Mike Johnson and Bob Drake took a handful of crazy basement recording experiments and developed them into the avant-garde grandioseness of THINKING PLAGUE, this combo pack not only gives a historical context as to how this came to be but also hosts some equally captivating art rock / avant-prog in the midst of the pop rich 80s straight out of the deepest recesses of the underground. The only head scratcher i have with this one is that it presents the two albums out of order. "Moonsongs" comes first followed by "A Thinking Plague." A minor quip but a curiosity nonetheless. Personally i find these early recordings to be ever bit as exciting as their latest ones.

 Moonsongs by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.61 | 36 ratings

BUY
Moonsongs
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars Bob Drake and Mike Johnson's THINKING PLAGUE may have gone under the radar with their debut "A Thinking Plague" in 1984, but garnered enough positive criticism by the prog community to warrant continuing on. They immediately began to record material the following year but many changes were afoot. Firstly, the dynamic duo disbanded all the members on board and started from scratch. The new lineup included the addition of vocalist Suzanne Lewis and keyboardist Eric Jacobson as well as drummer Mark Fuller who technically joined in on some of the tracks of the debut.

Another big change was that the basement of an old slaughterhouse which they called The Packing House Studios was no longer available and the band began to enter various low budget studios to carry forth their mission. Work was slow and meticulous and it took two long years before the sophomore album MOONSONGS was released but it was this second offering where the band proved themselves to be a major powerhouse in the world of avant-prog with a more refined and distinct style that displayed the unique mix of Zappa styled orchestral arrangements teased out with aspects of folk, jazz, classical, rock and extreme experimentalism.

Known at the time as prog rock collage music, THINKING PLAGUE found new creative ways to mix and manipulate chamber rock string sections, free improvisation, tribal percussion and eerie atmospheric mood settings. While the band was official a quintet, a few session musicians provided the occasional alto and soprano sax. MOONSONGS basically takes the debut's approach and expands its horizons into more complex and darker pastures with contributions from more band members including singer / songwriter / vocalist Susanne Lewis who also created the cover artwork.

It seems to me that at its heart, THINKING PLACE is really an anarchy-punk band that just happened to be more musically inclined. Tracks like the opening "Warheads" echoes a dark disrespect for the war machine through a series of sound collages that initiate with a rather punk-like guitar riffing that drifts off into ethereal rolls of sound punctuated by an off-kilter jazzified percussive beat. While the opener offers hints of the debut album, the following "Etude For Combo" finds a fully functioning band embracing the height of avant-garde weirdness as the angular rhythms, time signature rich grooves and overall esoteric mood swings are in full regalia and thus taking the adventurous antics of the debut into the stratosphere of possibilities.

"Collarless Fog That One Day Soon" is a completely psycho-ambient parade into the subconscious and is basically a three minute plus interlude that debuts the band's ability to create long drawn out nerve racking atmospheres that serve as connective tissue between tracks. The following "Inside Out" follows the other-worldly effect with Lewis' vocals emerging from an ambient soup that sounds like it was beamed to the Earth from an extraterrestrial race in a galaxy far, far away. The track that cemented THINKING PLAGUE as one of the 80s greatest progressive contributions is the fifteen and a half minute closing title track which Johnson perfectly describes as a "tribal-pagan-environmental-anti-materialistic avant-rock ritual." While beginning as if dropped down in a pygmy ceremony in the jungles of Africa, wends and winds around the classic THINKING PLAGUE universe of ever- changing compositional weirdness and goes full circle by the same tribal percussion that began the journey.

With their sophomore album, THINKING PLAGUE became an underground sensation in the prog and art rock world and with two uniquely bizarre albums under their belt found themselves touring with Sonic Youth. MOONSONGS perfectly picks up from the debut and expands the musical lexicon in myriad directions by taking the Henry Cow angularism, Zappa-esque jazz-rock, Dagmar Krause slightly off vocals and countless other experimental features to bizarre new heights. The band perfectly mixed their rock sensibilities in a sea of genre bending possibilities in a very restrained manner that allowed the elements to come and go as was organically ordained and nothing really feels forced in any way.

MOONSONGS was released in 1986 on cassette only on the Endemic label and then the following year on vinyl LOP on Dead Man's Curve Records. The album has never seen another release in its own right but together with the debut "A Thinking Plague," has been remastered and released in its entirety on the twofer compilation "Early Plague Years." This second release is utterly brilliant and should not be missed by fans of complex avant-prog that takes liberties beyond your wildest dreams. The first two THINKING PLAGUE albums are quite unique in comparison to their other albums that follow. They are equally art rock as they are progressive avant-garde and capture the spirit of not only the Henry Cow club but also display some of that Talking Heads new wave and punk rock spirit. An equally dynamic second offering not to be missed.

 A Thinking Plague by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.52 | 32 ratings

BUY
A Thinking Plague
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars While the 80s are more known for the catchier commercial aspects of music such as the new wave hits of early MTV, the decade of heavy metal reaching its full maturity and tons of other styles under the sun, there were also many strange avant-garde musicians lurking around like small mammals under the feet of behemoth dinosaurs in the Cretaceous that while barely noticed and even less appreciated managed to buck the trend and evolve their own brand of bizarre and complex music in a feisty DIY ethic. In the process of this musical rebellion they literally defied every musical trend of the day.

The Denver, Colorado based THINKING PLAGUE was one of these strange new musical entities to emerge in 1982 after founders Mike Johnson and Bob Drake met back in 78 in various cover bands. Their appetites for the experimental found them creating new musical Frankensteins in the form of basement recordings and their eclectic palettes also found them taking the errant ethos of punk with the musical disregard of no wave and married them to the avant-garde angularity of 70s Rock In Opposition bands from such progressive bands like Henry Cow and Art Bears.

After recruiting several new members such as the classically trained vocalist Sharon Bradford, keyboardist Harry Fleishman and percussionist Rick Arsaenault, Johnson (guitar, piano, vocals) and Drake (bass, percussion, guitar, balalaika, keys) began to concoct their own brand of avant-garde prog and offer the public a taste with a few live performances. Predictably the band found little tolerance for the bold intellectual complexities of their style and they instead commenced on to forge some new tracks for their debut album.

Bradford, Fleishman and Fuller were the primary players and recorded several tracks on a primitive 8-track in the basement of an old slaughterhouse that they penned Packing House Studios. After a year of refining their bizarre mix of Zappa inspired orchestral arrangements laced with collage techniques that liberally mixed aspects of folk, jazz, classical and rock, the band emerged in 1984 with their debut album A THINKING PLAGUE on their independent Endemic label. The album was limited to only 500 vinyl LPs with each cover created by Drake depicting a flea done by stencil and spray paint. While clearly existing at the lowest dredges of the underground, THINKING PLAGUE found a few interested distributors including Recommended Records and Cuneiform.

While not exactly finding their music on MTV or college radio stations, the avant-garde and prog critics were impressed. While THINKING PLAGUE have over the years become one of avant-prog's most demanding and consistent musical experiences, the debut is quite unique in their canon. The overall trend of an album consisting of a few short tracks and a select few extremely lengthy multi-themed prog suits had already developed on A THINKING PLAGUE with the fifteen minute closer 'Thorns Of Blue And Red / The War' setting the stage for the more complex albums to follow.

Album number 1 displays the origins of the band's idiosyncrasies with not only the expected prog from the Henry Cow and family camp but also surprisingly displays contemporary influences ranging from the more pop hook world of new wave as well as the alternative rock universe. While clearly displaying elements of the classic THINKING PLAGUE sound, tracks like the opening 'I Do Not Live' and 'The Taste That Lingers On' are downright catchy in comparison and sound closer to quirky bands such as Family Fodder or even the Cardiacs with more rhythmic grooves and a straight forwardness that eschews the nebulous angularity of the longer tracks. But make no mistake, amongst theses catchy grooves emerge ethereal angular vocal outbursts, freaked out instrumental noodling as well as other weirdness.

A THINKING PLAGUE was released once in 1984 on vinyl and then never again which has made this one pretty much a true obscurity until Mike Johnson found the master tapes for the first two albums many years later (they had been presumed lost). While there has never been an official re-pressing of this debut, the album was remastered along with 'Moonsongs' and released as the compilation 'Early Plague Years' in its entirety. While many complex bands require several albums to warm up to get their groove on, THINKING PLAGUE scored with their very first release. While not as over the top complex as albums like 'In Extremis,' this one works quite well in its own context with its quirky more accessible charm, with 'accessible' in terms of THINKING PLAGUE's later years. This would've obviously gone over the heads of the average person of the day but an essential addition for fans. Brilliant debut.

 Upon Both Your Houses  by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Live, 2004
3.98 | 19 ratings

BUY
Upon Both Your Houses
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It was a ton of fun listening to this album a lot last week. Not sure what people thought who were parked beside me at traffic lights(haha). Yes Deborah Perry has a unique delivery doesn't she. She is in perfect form here on this live recording from Nearfest in the year 2000. This wasn't released until 2004 though. So the most current album from this band before this concert was "In Extremis" and five of the ten tracks on here from albums are from that one. Three from "In This Life" and two from "Moonsongs" although one of those is called "Exerpt From Moonsongs".

Highlight for me by far is the epic "Kingdom Come" from "In Extremis" clocking in at 13 1/2 minutes where they get dark and heavy at times. I mean this is all over the place with Deborah's outstanding vocals, Willey's deep, in your face bass lines, kerman's incredibe drum work and Johnson's sublime guitar expressions. This track has it all, and I had this one cranked! Lots of highlights though but I've reviewed all these songs before pretty much. We have two non album songs in "Piano Solo" and "Hamster Dance'' the latter I could have done without.

A must for Plague-heads out there but then you probably already have this. It was just great to have them in my play list everyday for over a week. Amazing band!

 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 81 ratings

BUY
Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Hoping Against Hope finds Thinking Plague in their third album in a row of failing to make an impression on me. Solid though I consider their work up to In Extremis to be, their albums since then have felt a little too much like regurgitating the same-ol' Thinking Plague sound as developed on those albums rather than appreciably developing it further. For some fans, that might be exactly what you want; the band can hardly be accused of betraying their roots if they never develop away from them, after all. At the same time, the lack of novelty wears on me and I find my attention wandering whenever I try to listen to the album.
 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 81 ratings

BUY
Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

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

5 stars Oh my gawd! This is the kind of stuff that gives me progasms! Colorado's coolest mutilators of pop melodies have once again delivered six intriguing tracks freshly collected from the meat grinder and shipped off to market. THINKING PLAGUE has been the nightmares of bubblegum pop addicts for over three decades now and continues to ratchet up the tension and complexity levels on every "whenever they get around to it" release. HOPING AGAINST HOPE is only the seventh studio album released since their debut which came out all the way back in 1984 when Madonna and Michael Jackson were ruling the world on the pop charts. Fast forward to 2017 and the sound that was established on the debut "A Thinking Plague" has kept the same formula of putting the extra helping of avant in the Rock In Opposition styled prog that takes what predecessors like Henry Cow and Art Bears began and put it all on steroids. HOPING AGAINST HOPE is one of the densest and most angular releases of the year and is guaranteed never to be played at wedding ceremonies or birthday parties for moppets.

At this point in the band's career, Mike Johnson is not only the founder but the only member to have been constant since album number one and what makes THINKING PLAGUE rise above the ranks of the ever growing list of avant-proggers out there is his unique classical and electronic music studies that have afforded him the luxury of crafting out an exquisite and decorative compositional style that actually pans out to be bona fide alternative arrangements rather than just striving to be weird for weird's sake and on HOPING FOR HOPE these talents have only grown into some of the most sophisticated and complex with a new sense of bravado. One of the sources for the more complex sounds emanating from my speakers is the addition of a second guitarist in the form of Bill Pohl which allows more colorful expressions of tangled counterpoints that take systems borrowed from the most convoluted jazz sounds and somehow sift them into a gnarled imbroglio of competing anti-melodies that avoid collision like a clever colony of ants. Phrasings, time signatures, tempos and timbres compete for dominance but ultimately cooperate to demonstrate the most alien of soundscapes possible.

Once again Elaine Di Falco joins the team on vocals with her avant-prog standard type of delivery which keeps the leash on the boys who seem like their chomping at the bit to fully blast off from the Dagmar Krause antecedents that allow some sort of logical placement of this intellectually challenging musical puzzle. The atmospheres are thick and intense like Holst's "Mars" segment on "The Planets" which warns of impending warfare of the world as the sax, clarinet, oboe and flute conspire to weave a web of startling counterpoints that inspire as much awe as a faux missile attack threat appearing on your cell phone text. Another factor that seems to have developed is a more sophisticated King Crimson sort of heavy guitar bantering which adds a major sense of heft to the established unnerving anti-melodies that ratchet up the tension and then successful bombard the ear canals with a sense of bombast on top of the sense of impending dread and apocalyptica that always hints at but never quite attains a logical resolution.

Stylistically HOPING AGAINST HOPE is very similar to previous THINKING PLAGUE works with four shorter tracks swimming amidst two bloated behemoths that extend over the ten minute mark. Also the tracks straddle around in the predictable unpredictable manner with only Di Falco's vocal trails providing some sort of thread that ties all the disparate counterpoints together, however the compositions have taken on a new sense of urgency like a village that has taken root next to a volcano about to erupt and the anxiety beckons a more vehement response. While placidity isn't unknown on HOPING AGAINST HOPE, it's the violent aftermath that sets this release apart from earlier albums and the compositions have taken on unthinkable complexities making the peregrination to a top ranking of a 10 on my personal progometer scale of complexity. While most prog bands well into their fourth decade show signs of wear and fatigue or at least complacency in their craft, Johnson and his THINKING PLAGUE seem re-energized and ready to float off to the next world without one little iota of compromise. If anything, a determination of creating the most mangled melodic complexities seems to be of a most exigent priority.

Once again THINKING PLAGUE creates another successful soundtrack for an alternative universe with cleverly crafted precision that leaves me gasping for air after the multiple series of prograsm inducing exaltation. While it's never a sure bet that Johnson and friends will ever deliver a new album filled with the usual suspects of highly-developed and subtle musical configurations, one thing is a given at this point and that is the fact that when they finally do arise from the PLAGUE cave under the cover of surreptitiousness, they are guaranteed to leave jaws gaping as they perform the avant-prog equivalent of Cirque du Soleil styled performances that always lead me to wonder how far the whole avant-prog thing can go. Apparently it's in no danger of running out of steam. This has probably reached the ranks of "In Extremis" in my book with its sheer audacity to unapologetically develop and drift in any direction seen fit. Stunning and utterly unique THINKING PLAGUE continues to dazzle as they effectively build upon what they've done before yet with the paradox of doing so in both logical and illogical manners. The only problem is that this is exhausting music but well worth the workout.

 In Extremis by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.33 | 174 ratings

BUY
In Extremis
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars In Extreme Oddity: 9/10

THINKING PLAGUE always had it rough for their unique musical style. Forming and disbanding constantly and receiving modest attention for their releases, it wasn't until the release of IN EXTREMIS in 1998 (the band had reformed just two years earlier) that they acquired (rather moderate) stardom and recognition within many avant- rock circles.

IN EXTREMIS is a difficult album to describe, even within the Avant-Prog genre. Let's begin by making one thing clear: THINKING PLAGUE is not the type of avant-garde band that is absolutely inaccessible (aka weird for the sake of weirdness). They DO sound like, uhm, identifiable music, the only catch is that everything - song structure, chord progression, vocal rhythm, etc - is absolutely unconventional and unexpected. Planned to border cacophony (creating unpredictable and eerie sounds) but not going as far as sounding bad. You can also expect EXTREME complexity and rigid structures; TP is to prog what prog is to pop. You'll hear all the time lush polyphony with constant odd time signatures shift and restless, ever-changing sections consisting of several instruments. However, THINKING PLAGUE make their intricate music flow natural - quite an accomplishment - and you won't notice its elaborate nature unless you pay attention to that.

Amusingly, the vocalist of that mad band has quite a tender voice. I ended up loving Deborah Perry as much as I love Jon Anderson. They both offer gentle, delicate and soprano (acute/high-pitched) vocals, but differently from our British friend whose vocals fit seamlessly in the joyful and mystical atmosphere of his band, Perry's performance is antithetical: her delicacy contrasts with the bustling instrumental clash that accompanies her voice. Initially, it feels odd (just like everything else in THINKING PLAGUE) but as you get used it feels more and more natural and part of the band's eccentric style. After all, it doesn't sound disjunct or like a failed stunt.

Dead Silence and Behold the Man are the first two tracks and offer Perry's vocals. They're great openers and demonstrate the band's RIOish tendencies and influences. This Weird Wind is less daring and more symphonic at some points and features male vocals but is equally a great listen. Les Etudes d'Organism is the most accessible track, offering a typical avant-prog approach to music with much more conventional songwriting and melodies. It is entirely instrumental. Maelstrom and The Aesthete returns with Perry's vocals but isn't as memorable as the first two. Lastly, Kingdom Come is a veiled critique of the hypocrisy of divinity (which is all so holy and pitiful yet created a world with suffering and damnation) with heeeeavy symphonic tendencies.

Overall, I'd say listening to IN EXTREMIS is like being an astronaut plunging in an unforeseen and utterly weird planet. Although you are familiar with the very foundational characteristics of that planet (such as, you're in that planet), pretty much everything else on it is different, unlike anything you've ever seen and known. But hey, that's the point of avant-prog, which is why I pretty confidently claim that THINKING PLAGUE is a hell of an accomplished band.

 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 81 ratings

BUY
Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The last THINKING PLAGUE album I enjoyed this much was "In Extremis" and while I don't rate this one quite that high this has been such a pleasant surprise for me. I found the previous album "Decline And Fall" difficult to digest but this one was love at first listen and that love continues to grow after many listens. My first listen of this album was like meeting an old friend, I was pretty happy. Elaine Di Falco is back on vocals and we get the usual dark atmospheres with plenty of horns, mostly sax and clarinets of different varieties along with accordion, bassoon, flute and the usual "rock" instruments.

"The Echoes Of Their Cries" opens with a dark atmosphere as piano, bass, drums and more come and go before vocals and a steady sound arrive a minute in. Some nice guitar follows as the vocals step aside quickly. Soon drums, horns and many intricate sounds fill the air. A calm before 2 minutes then Elaine is back singing. Her vocals are stronger at 3 1/2 minutes, love the instrumental work here. So good. A dark calm around 4 1/2 minutes but then it kicks back in quickly, vocal melodies too. I like the accordion in this one from Elaine.

"Thus Have We Made The World" is dark and atmospheric until it kicks in with bass and drums. Man this sounds amazing, really powerful as horns and many intricate sounds also help out. So impressive! Outbursts of sound come and go 2 minutes in before a calm arrives at 2 1/2 minutes. It kicks back in before another calm arrives at 3 1/2 minutes. Love these contrasts. Eerie sounds before 5 minutes and beyond and check out that bass.

"Commuting To Murder" starts off sounding too light to be THINKING PLAGUE then Elaine arrive singing followed by a more typical THINKING PLAGUE sound after a minute with the bass and drums kicking in. A calm follows then check out the bass 2 minutes in! Sax follows then guitar before the vocals return. Accordion after 3 1/2 minutes as the vocals stop. Such an impressive instrumental section here. It's lighter again around 4 minutes like the intro as it ends like it began.

"Hoping Against Hope" is an incredible track. Again heavy and dark is the way I'd describe the start with oboe over top I believe. Vocals after a minute and when she stops singing we get an amazing section beginning 2 minutes in. She's back but whispering this time then singing a minute later. She doesn't sing for long each time and again I love the instrumental passages on this one. It picks up after 4 minutes with piano, horns, bass and drums. It's building as we get some excellent guitar, drums and more. Another calm 6 1/2 minutes in and soon bassoon arrives(yeah it does!). This is dark as vocals return before 8 minutes. Shuffling drums, flute and more end it. What a song!

"The Great Leap" features Simon Steensland on bass which is very cool. Another melancholic piece with vocals. Gloomy is the word. Some power before 2 1/2 minutes but it's brief as the vocals return.

"A Dirge For The Unwitting" is the almost 14 minute closer and it doesn't deviate from the sound that has gone on before thankfully. Yes "dirge" is a good description of a lot of what we hear on this album. This is fairly slow moving with some outbursts. Nice bass work and I like the sax. It calms right down at 3 minutes and it doesn't start to build until after 6 minutes then it kicks in before 7 minutes. It settles back again quickly. Vocals arrive 8 minutes in followed by some avant guitar lines before 9 minutes. It settles again with vocals and eerie sounds. It picks up again 12 minutes in with a lot of depressing sounds(haha). I love it!

This is where I start to compile my "best of" list for 2017 as I was waiting for that first 2017 album to really wow me. I am almost giddy about this one, just how dark and atmospheric it is. Yes the best since "In Extremis" in my opinion. Mike Johnson is so freaking talented but then so is the whole band. Check out the album art as well. This is first class all the way.

 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 81 ratings

BUY
Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by cirrusbay

5 stars I really don't have the words for how well crafted and amazing this album is. Full of strange beauty and subtle intricacies, this is an album to listen to loud, at night, when you can focus on every note and allow yourself to be completely captivated. Every note seems perfectly placed, and whereas fast runs are usually found in solos, here they are found in subtle and almost delicate, yet intense forays of composition, which to my ears is a much more effective and appealing way to demonstrate one's chops. But chops are not really what this is about. I have to apologize, I so rarely write a review, and don't want to bungle it up with repetitive adjectives, but don't know how else to explain this. This album, furthering the sound of their previous album, is in a world of its own. I know of nothing else out there that sounds quite like this. A touch of King Crimson, yes, but only a touch. I tend to think, how can one listen and not be blown away, but in a world we have to hope against hope in, for many reasons, I think it will be truly appreciated only by the relative few. Too bad. This deserves so much more. Even among the prog communities.
 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 81 ratings

BUY
Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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

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

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

Thanks to NogbadTheBad for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives