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NEO-PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Neo-Prog definition

Neo-Progressive rock (more commonly "Neo-Prog") is a subgenre of Progressive Rock that originally was used to describe artists strongly influenced by the classic symphonic prog bands that flourished during the 1970s. At the beginning of the neo-prog movement, the primary influence was early to mid-70's Genesis. Debate over when Neo-Prog actually came into being often takes place, with some asserting it began with Marillion's Script for a Jester's Tear in 1983. Others contend it began with Twelfth Night at the dawn of the 80s, while some even suggest the popular symphonic prog band Genesis gave rise to Neo-Prog with their 1976 album, A Trick of the Tail.

If one analyses the progressive movement just before 1980, then some albums which heavily influenced the Neo-Prog movement easily come to mind: Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings, Genesis - Wind & Wuthering, Genesis - And Then There Were Three, Genesis - Seconds Out, Saga - Saga, all the Camel albums between Breathless and The Single Factor included, and some Eloy's albums, especially Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes.

This new form of progressive rock originated in the UK, and is most strongly associated with bands such as Marillion, Pendragon and IQ; and while theatrical stage antics were a part of the live performances of many artists exploring this subset of the progressive rock genre it's the musical elements that are key to the genre; typified by the use of atmospheric guitar and synth soloing with symphonic leanings, with a tendency towards floating synth layers and dreamy soloing. An additional trait is the use of modern synths rather than vintage analogue synths and keyboards. The main reasons for Neo-Progressive artists to be separated from the ones exploring Symphonic Prog in the first place are the above, as well as a heavier emphasis on song-form and melody than some of their earlier symphonic counterparts.

As time went by other artists appeared that also deviated from the norms created by the classic wave of progressive rock artists in the 70's. The late 70's had given the world punk music; the 80's gave the world new wave; and the 90's grunge. These, as well as other forms, had a tremendous amount of influence outside of the progressive rock realm. The advent of the modern synth also inspired artists like Tomita, Vangelis and Kitaro to explore dreamier musical works.

These and other forms of more or less newly made musical genres influenced artists exploring progressive rock as well. Although many artists did so within the framework of 70's progressive rock, more and more artists developed a sound and style so heavily influenced by these more recent musical developments that categorizing them within the existing subgenres of progressive rock became increasingly difficult.

While the Neo-Progressive genre initially consisted of artists exploring a modernized version of Symphonic Prog, these days artists coined as Neo-Progressive cover a multitude of musical expressions, where the common denominator is the inclusion - within a progressive rock framework - of musical elements developed just prior to and after 1980. The Neo-Progressive genre in it's refined form thus covers a vast musical territory, to some extent covering all existing subsets of progressive rock and also searching out towards genres as different as new age on one side and punk and metal on the other.

Opening paragraphs written by Stonebeard, Cygnus X-2, Greenback

Revised, edited and refined April 2009 by windhawk, The Doctor and E-Dub



The neo-prog team has also decided on 5 representative albums of neo-prog that encapsulate the essence of the genre. They are as follows:


Marillion-Script for a Jester's Tear
Collage-Moonshine
Satellite-A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset
Sylvan-Posthumous Silence
Frost-Milliontown


Current Neo-Prog Team members
as at 10/07/2016

Roger (Roj)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)
Cristi
Tony (Hercules)

Neo-Prog Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Neo-Prog | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.24 | 1894 ratings
MISPLACED CHILDHOOD
Marillion
4.25 | 1044 ratings
THE ROAD OF BONES
IQ
4.22 | 1805 ratings
SCRIPT FOR A JESTER'S TEAR
Marillion
4.14 | 1176 ratings
CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
Marillion
4.16 | 577 ratings
CONTAGION
Arena
4.15 | 430 ratings
POSTHUMOUS SILENCE
Sylvan
4.10 | 820 ratings
FREQUENCY
IQ
4.09 | 980 ratings
MARBLES
Marillion
4.13 | 430 ratings
A TOWER OF SILENCE
Anubis
4.05 | 614 ratings
THE VISITOR
Arena
4.08 | 378 ratings
EMPIRES NEVER LAST
Galahad
4.03 | 835 ratings
DARK MATTER
IQ
4.05 | 577 ratings
EVER
IQ
4.10 | 301 ratings
SEVEN
Magenta
4.05 | 460 ratings
FANFARE & FANTASY
Comedy Of Errors
4.05 | 436 ratings
ALL RIGHTS REMOVED
Airbag
3.98 | 1204 ratings
FUGAZI
Marillion
4.00 | 584 ratings
THE SEVENTH HOUSE
IQ
4.09 | 196 ratings
COFFEE IN NEUKÖLLN
Barock Project
4.04 | 314 ratings
MOONSHINE
Collage

Neo-Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Neo-Prog experts team

VOICES
T
THE ART OF MADNESS
Psychedelic Ensemble, The
TRAVELLER
Magus / The Winter Tree
HUNTING THE FOX
Ines

Latest Neo-Prog Music Reviews


 Full Scale  by STRANGEFISH album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.80 | 40 ratings

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Full Scale
Strangefish Neo-Prog

Review by maryes

4 stars 4,5 stars !!! STRANGEFISH is a band which I lament their absence after 2 brilliant albums (his second and last album, until now, was release 8 years ago) ! This "Full Scale" is really full... full of different styles hard/heavy/symphonic and more... plenty complex, with lots o riffs in the hard and heavy moments ... very enchant guitar melodies insinuating symphonic prog. They produces a sound influenced by so conflicting styles, bringing to me reminiscences of DEEP PURPLE, YES, GENESIS, ECHOLYN ! Is enough to understand how they walks between so different styles listen track 4 "Take A Holiday"... their main theme recalls Deep Purple but in the middle section ( about 2 min ) a calypso or merengue theme make a break in the frenetic rhythm. The album is very close to perfection and , only by make mention my favorite tracks are: track 1 "Shifting Sands And Turning Tides" , track 3 " Listening To Ghosts " and track 5 "At First Sight"! My rate is 4 stars !!!
 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.42 | 23 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

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

5 stars Three years ago, Canadian trio Monarch Trail delivered a strong and well-received debut `Skye', a rich and quietly dynamic keyboard-dominated symphonic work that called to mind the early works of Glass Hammer and Pendragon, the vocal-focused melodicism of Izz and even the romantic longings of Camel. It was a top-notch first effort, but to say that the band has stepped up in a big way here would be an understatement! 2017's sci-fi concept tale `Sand', which sees the trio backed up by contributions from three different guitarists, offers a larger canvass of symphonic grandness and stronger instrumental themes, as well as delivering a more polished production, smoother vocals and more naturally flowing harmonies that instantly improve on those from the debut, and it quickly reveals itself to be one of the finest Symph-prog works of the year.

The album launches reliably with `Station Theme', an overture-like introductory instrumental full of Ken Baird's whirring synth themes and rousing piano by way of Rick Wakeman-like pomp as well as some eerier little fleeting gothic touches, as Dino Verginella's chunky bass grumbles through the background alongside Chris Lamont's bustling drumwork. `First Thoughts' is the first gentle vocal piece, Ken's placid voice sweetly sighing alongside soft symphonic keyboard caresses and sparse acoustic guitar, and it reminds of both the last few Comedy of Errors discs or the unashamedly romantic classic period Pendragon albums. `Back To The Start' instantly calls to mind I.Q's mysterious and melodic approach with the snaking bass over crystalline synth washes, and the touch of heavier guitars will excite fans of Arena and the earlier male-fronted version of Flamborough head. Loaded with crisp electric guitar themes and slow-burn soloing piercing through rambunctious drumming (listen to Dino's tantrum-like burst at about the 3:20 mark!), the second half in particular lifts to the highest of instrumental symphonic-prog heavens and is sheer prog bliss wrapped up in a mere seven minutes!

A nice change in direction, the lyrically reflective `Missing' might deliver a sparkling piano and cascading Mellotron introduction, but at heart it's a strong and tasteful pop tune, not unlike some of those simpler moments that show up on most Glass Hammer albums, and it holds a catchy joyful chorus that would make E.L.O green with envy - but don't worry, prog-snobs, you get to overdose on the frantic keyboard delirium solo in the middle!

But then Monarch Trail drop `Charlie's Kitchen' on us, a sumptuous instrumental feast of keyboard-slathered symphonic rapture in the tradition of bands like Trion, Willowglass and classic-era Genesis. Offering the most infectious of twinkling jazzy piano, assisted by some majestic Mellotron flutes, sweetly murmuring bass, peppy drumming and Steve Hackett-esque ringing guitars, it's a frequently whimsical slice of romantic prog that symphonic fans will adore. The group then spoil us that little bit more with `Another Silent World', a tasty final standalone spacey instrumental interlude.

And then, as every symphonic-prog album should have, we reach the `side-long' epic, the near twenty-five minute closing title- track `Sand'. While it similarly holds all the same wistful vocal passages with lengthy instrumental bursts fuelled by colourful whirring keyboards and welcome acoustic guitar breaks, it also refreshingly incorporates plenty of heavier drama and darker segments from moodier cinematic synths that shimmer with danger. The climax has guitars and keyboards reaching in unison to the heavens to end on as grandiose a note as possible, but extra special is the instrumental passage that runs from about the 4:45 mark for a full ten minutes, a truly exceptional all-out prog moment.

If bands like Comedy of Errors, Druckfarben and Barock Project have all moved up over the last few years in status with their most recent efforts in a symphonic prog style, then Monarch Trail have done exactly the same thing here with `Sand'. The first album was a great success, but here the arrangements, playing and production are all far superior than that initial effort, meaning we can only wait and see the amazing places the band head to from here! Also, here listeners will be witness to one of the most outstanding currently active keyboard players in action in Ken Baird, hopefully one to eventually be thought of in the same league as Clive Nolan, Fred Schendel, Andy Tillison, Neal Morse and Robert Reed of the modern prog era.

Chances are we're looking at potentially the greatest pure symphonic prog album of 2017 right here with Monarch Trail's `Sand', but we've definitely been handed one of the standout progressive rock releases of the year overall.

Four and a half stars.

 Second Home - Live At ProgDreams V by MYSTERY album cover DVD/Video, 2017
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Second Home - Live At ProgDreams V
Mystery Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars The music of Mystery has gone to a more progressive rock direction after their first two releases. They have reached with "Beneath The Veil of Winter's face" a wider audience of prog fans. And the time was right after four more albums to release a live DVD in Netherlands April 2016. They played songs from those four albums and especially the latest "Delusion Rain", the title track being played as a good opener for the show. "Travel to the Night" is going from classic rock to symphonic sounding a bit like Kansas. "Pride" start in a Rush style with some fine guitar playing of Michel St-Pčre who will deliver throughout the show many guitar solos, some with plenty of emotions. The band shows some impressive musicianship with plenty of instrumental breaks giving the song a little more complexity. "A Song For You" got some beautiful flute part from the singer Jean Pageau who by the way has been a good replacement for Benoit David in the singing department. In this song, we have some of the best melodies of this live show and some fine guitar playing again from Michel. "Through Different Eyes" is another strong track at the end where for a rare time that when a singer ask to the audience to sing with him it didn't sound wrong even though it was short. The show ends up with a simple classic rock song to leave in a festive mood.

If you like some good Neo Prog music with strong melodies, good musicianship and want to hear a band at his peak, this is a fine example of the band's music. For those who have purchased their latest albums, you know how they care about the production of their product, and this show is another very professional sounding live release highly recommended.

 A New Dawn by RPWL album cover DVD/Video, 2017
4.66 | 5 ratings

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A New Dawn
RPWL Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars This new DVD has been done on a bigger stage with more actors and theatrical features than any DVD's the band has made in the past. The band has stretched further the production with some narration between a lot of songs that you can watch in German or English. The audio options are generous including a Dolby atmospheric that I should try later, but the surround sound is simply awesome. The concept of the show is about the human liberation of any religions and dogmas into a new world, which explains the title "A New Dawn".

The set list is taken mostly from their latest output "Wanted". The music of RPWL is still close to Pink Floyd mostly in the singing style of the choir and the Gilmour style of singing from Yogi Lang. But I really think that their music is more enjoyable when they get away from the Pink Floyd influence and stick to their own heavy symphonic sound. Not all the songs are excellent especially in the second part of the show. I recommended the video of that show instead of the audio, because of the surround sound and the visuals.

 Visions by EMERALD DAWN, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Visions
The Emerald Dawn Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

— First review of this album —
5 stars I was thoroughly enchanted with The Emerald Dawn's debut offering, a fabulous under-produced, yet enigmatic and stark slice of music, peppered with long tracks that seep deep into the mind. Sizzling and moaning guitar leads, sweeping orchestral keyboards, occasional sax blasts and a driving beat are the highlights as well as Tree Stewart's aching voice, a truly original sound that is laden with mystery and echo.

Their sophomore album is both a continuation and a progression of their sound, a lush and suave carpet of mellotron and organ that hearkens back at Floydian realms (sax not withstanding) on which a deliberate melancholia is layered in heavenly coats, fusing into a whole that enchants and exhilarates. The add-on of bassist Jayjay Quick only further mollifies any resistance to the infusion of mood and direction, as Alan Carter's saxophone and wild guitar rants like there is no tomorrow , while Tree orchestrates with her ivories and emotes with her lungs. Drummer Jackson keeps the beat on the road and propels thoughtfully. The opening salvo is a mammoth epic a 20 minute eruption, aptly titled 'Musique Noire', a confident statement right from the get go and aimed at the melodic jugular, sublimely cinematographic, sensual and evocative. Carter's effect-drenched guitar tone is deliciously muffled, which only adds to his stylistic charm, the seduction complete with heartfelt echoed vocals and a light percussive movement. The 'waiting' section is outright celestial, pining for some unreasonable sense of longing and desire, the main melody simple yet still mesmerizing. Romantic shades of palpable emotion, everything clicks here as the perfectly placed wailing sax straight out of the classic Dick Parry mould, creates an enveloping sense of musical torpor that carves deep into the soul with intense beatitude. Insistent and relentless, truly grandiose.

A suddenly unexpected piano leads the delicate 'A Vision Left Unseen', which also has the audacity to provide a vocal duet of interesting proportions, with Carter showing off his low male voice. The 7 minute piece dashes off into the sunset, escorted by slippery guitar leads and a deliberate pulse. There is a definite Gothic gloom that only enhances the mysterious haze, as Tree Stewart peels off a wild synth solo that dazes and dares. This combination of dark and murky with romantic effervescence is quite startling, once you get it under your skin. Bassist Quick has lots of fun bending his bass into a variety of contortions. The ebb and flow keeps things percolating. Lovely is the finale, with its sad melodic outro.

Gushing along in 'Waves', another window opens up into the Emerald Dawn sound craft, one that is surely influenced by the band's geographic location, somewhere in West Cornwall. A progressive 'berceuse', gently lulled by the delicate melodies and the intense instrumental play. Tree's voice soars above the slashing crests and sails forward into the blue- green horizon. Utterly beautiful song, with a superb effect on the mind, as Tree wails like a siren on the sea. Drummer Jackson has a delicate touch that really impresses.

A foreboding thrill sweeps into 'Stranger in a Strange Land', languorous licks and tingling tremors evoke travel and exploration, sprinkled with a touch of anxiety. Yummy! The mood blooms into a grating guitar riff that highlights the trepidation, then tumbles deeply into some more experimental throes, a flute fluttering in the wind, only heightening the panic. The main melody kicks in with a cello-synth foundation on which Ally rips his guitar to shreds with a sizzling effect of passionate adventure. Wow!

As with their debut , Emerald Dawn has carved quite a niche within the prog world, a tight and evocative group of musicians who have a knack for stunning melodies within a clearly psychedelic/melancholic setting. Taking influences from stalwarts like Floyd but never cloning their sound in any way, they also possess a rare charm that is very hard to describe, a sense of originality that highlights their love for music and all done their way.

5 panoramas

 We're All In This Together by IT album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.96 | 45 ratings

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We're All In This Together
IT Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Who said that Neo-Prog could not be a used to make a deep reflection of nowadays problems?

With this album It have managed not only to create an excellent prog-rock album, they also speak about the complex political situation that we are experimenting the last years. Maybe they are being a bit too ambitious (or ingenious) if they are waiting for a real people's revolution. But it's a wonderful concept for an album anyway.

To develop this concept, they use a pristine and crystal clear production. It's obvious that they spent a lot of time not only composing the songs, but also in recording them to achieve the best possible sound. And I have the say that the album sounds fantastic, detailed and deep. Sometimes even a bit over-produced! But I'm OK with that.

Power starts the album wonderfully, with a powerful bass and a obscure and dramatic vocal interpretation. The guitars sounds great and there is a constant layer of keyboards (even mellotron), which deeply reminds me to Arena, specially the Rob Sowden's albums.

Born Into Debt contains a rather negative lyrics and it's a fine slow tempo song with good melodies. But it's a bit anodyne anyway and also very Arena resembling. And even more Arena is The Working Man, specially in the chorus and the guitar sound. They try to hide it with different effects, but the result is that the track sounds over-produced.

Last Chance has fine acoustic verses and a chorus where we can hear a slide guitar and mellotron. The solo brings automatically John Mitchell to mind... Again. But it's a correct song anyway. But surprisingly, the album gets better with Gamble the Dream, maybe the hardest moment of the album, great riffs and another good chorus. A very funny and fast song!

But wait, Voices is even better! The song starts with synthesised vocals and good keyboards, and here we can really hear the true character of the band. The Arena and IQ influences are not so obvious this time and after the third minute the band was able to compose a wonderful section which remembers me to the best musicals, containing wonderful choirs and melodies.

And The Path of Least Resistance is another hit of this album. With the Arena influenced surprisingly turned down, the beginning of the song follows the good path and style of Voices, but after that the tracks derives in darker vocal melodies and good instrumental passages till the moment 7'20'', when a great riff in the vein of Porcupine Tree starts till the end of the most progressive song of the album. And maybe the best!

House shows the influence of Steve Hogarth's Marillion, with strong bass playing and another catchy chorus. Modern Neo-Prog at its finest! Down the Hatch remembers me to Pink Floyd in the first seconds of the song, but soon a original dark melody appears with almost robotic vocals. After a mysterious instrumental interlude we can hear another great riff with strong bass and rough vocals. And at this moments it's obvious that despite their influences, this band has it's own personality.

Revolution starts with a bass which remembers me to Dream Theater. And that's not an accident, because the song has a riff in the verses that it's almost progressive metal. The chorus and instrumental interlude are more conventional, but they bring the album to and end in a rather appropriate way.

Conclusion: We're All in this Together is not the typical Neo-Prog album. Despite the strong Arena, IQ and Marillion influences the band is able to achieve its own personality, especially in the second half of the album. The result is a very funny, surprising album with a fine dark tone and strong musicianship, highlighting the good Jackson's vocals, great guitar riffs and strong bass.

In addition, the lyrics of the album are a rare gem, talking about social matter in a rather realistic and cool way. Just excellent!

Best Tracks: Power, Gamble the Dream, Voices, The Path of Least Resistance, Revolution.

My Rating: ****

 Black Garden by K2 album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.15 | 46 ratings

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Black Garden
K2 Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nş 130

K2 is a project of the bassist Ken Jaquess of the L.A. based band Atlantis, formed during the 90's. He wanted to recreate the classic 70's symphonic sound, by which he is passionate. To achieve that objective Ken searched for musicians who could recreate the sound of the instruments of those times. His choice was Shaun Guerin (vocals), Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Ryo Okumoto (keyboards), Yvette Devereaux (violin), John Miner (guitar) and Doug Sanborn (drums), and thus came their debut album 'Book Of The Dead', in 2005. The album is based on 'The Book Of The Dead', the ancient Egyptian book and which tells us the rules of the ultimate journey of the souls to the afterlife.

As Jacquess has a huge fascination with the ancient world and with all their civilizations, which was instilled by his mother, he returns in 2010 with his second album 'Black Garden'. This is another conceptual album. But this time, the concept is based around ancient Oceania, whose islands were populated by the Polynesians over 2000 years ago. The concept of the story is about the journey that the ancient Polynesians undertook sailing over a third of the world before they settled on the South Pacific islands. So, this entire story took place 2000 years before Christopher Columbus set sail. This is quite another amazing story and Ken thought it would be a great subject for the music on 'Black Garden'.

But on 'Black Garden', the line up is a bit different from their previous debut album, 'Book Of The Dead'. Shaun Guerin, unfortunately passed away soon before the debut album, Allan Holdsworth, Yvette Devereaux and John Miner left the project and don't participate on this new album. Holdsworth was replaced by Ken's friend Johnson and the vocals of the late Guerin are perfectly sung by Gleason, a vocalist who had worked in a Genesis' tribute band too, like happened with Guerin. Therefore the references to Gabriel are still intact. Together with the original drummer Sanborn, Jaquess started to work on a second studio album, but it took a long while before we could finally enjoy this second recording of K2. So, about five years later, that same quintet have finally released K2's second album, 'Black Garden'.

So, the line up on 'Black Garden' is Josh Gleason (vocals), Ken Jaquess (bass and keyboards), Karl Johnson (guitar), Ryo Okumoto (piano, moog, Hammond and synthesizer) and Doug Sanborn (drums and percussion).

The album has seven tracks. The first track 'Black Garden' which gave its name to the album is a very powerful and a great song to open the album. It's a song that reminds me their previous album with a touch of an oriental Arabic music with a touch of progressive metal, as if we were in a bazaar of any North African or Eastern medina. This is really a nice exotic track. The second track 'Passage To The Deep' is one of the two lengthiest songs on the album. Despite it's a song clearly influenced by Genesis in Gabriel's era, but in a modern way, in the beginning I think we can clearly feel the influence of IQ on it. I also want to highlight the keyboard work of Okumoto which is completely amazing and that it will be maintained throughout the album. What a nice piece of music we have here, indeed. The third track 'Windows Watch' is a very simple and beautiful ballad basically sung by Gleason and perfectly well accompanied by the piano of Okumoto, with a nice keyboard solo section. This is really a very interesting song. The fourth track 'Encounter Or Absence' is one of the songs on the album with more Genesis' influences because all its elements are there. It's a song with a mysterious and dramatic cinematic sound and it has also a great keyboard work. This is a good and melodic song. The fifth track 'Storm At Sunset' is one of the other lengthiest tracks on the album. It's another song where we can see the clear influence of Genesis in Gabriel's era, probably even more pronounced than in the previous track. This is a good and powerful song. The sixth track 'Summer's Fall' is the smallest song on the album. It's a brief piece of music only with vocals and keyboards, but it's still a good track. The seventh track 'Path Of The Warrior' is a nice ending for the album. It's the epic track on the album and the guitar sound reminds me Yes. This is a song where Ken and Okumoto perform very good keyboard solos and it has some Johnson's simple and beautiful guitar solos too.

Conclusion: I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw that K2 had a new album, because as had passed five years from their debut, I was convinced that they wouldn't release another new album. In the second place, despite the departure of great musicians, the new elements complied with that replacement. Johnson brings a reasonably work with his guitar in the traditional neo-prog leanings with a touch of prog metal and Gleason, beyond the clear resemblance with Gabriel's voice, seems the perfect reincarnation of Guerin. In the third place, and despite the clear and main influence of Genesis, Yes and Marillion, with a touch of IQ, and due to their taste for recreating the classic 70's symphonic sound, with this album K2 proved they have a very own and inimitable modern sound. However, the absence of Alan Holdsworth can be felt. His unique and intricate guitar work isn't present anymore. We may say, the super group lost its 'super'. So, despite 'Black Garden' be not as good as the previous one, it still is a good album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Moonshine by COLLAGE album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.04 | 314 ratings

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Moonshine
Collage Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This album accompanied me in a difficult and lonely time of my life... And it well always have a place in my heart.

Nevertheless, it's far from being perfect. I think the production is a bit saturated. Sometimes it's hard to discern the instruments clearly because the dense mixture of guitars and keyboards and the detailed and the enlarged drums. It's part of the charm of this album, but objectively the production could have been better in my opinion. Technical and financial limitations, I guess.

The second fact that I find a bit annoying of this album are Robert Amirian's vocals. The guy sings in a very powerful and passionate way, but sometimes he is completely out of tone. He had potential and capability to make a great job in this album, but for some reason he sounds not really well here.

However, apart of these two problems Moonshine is a pure pleasure for the ears.

Heroes Cry starts the record in a very powerful and melodic way, with very dense echoed guitars from Gil and great keyboards from Krzysztof Palczewski. The drummer of the leader Szadkowski are also very competent, and a very important part of Collage's sound, because he is the main songwriter and many songs revolve around his drum kit. The Witkowski's bass is sometimes buried under the rest of the musicians, and Amirian... He just tries.

In Your Eyes is just a masterpiece of Neo-Prog music. A true classic and a song which is perfect if you want to introduce someone to this genre. Amirian sings in a very passionate and sentimental way the romantic lyrics and the songs evolves constantly offering an incessant stream of wonderful progressive melodies. Just wonderful!

Lovely Day is another lovely song based mainly in the keyboards, spoiled again by the weak vocals. And Living in the Moonlight is another Collage's classic with dreamy melodies and this time with competent vocals from Amirian, who luckily sings in a more restrained way this time. The Blues bring back the hard rock of influences of Heroes Cry, but with an even better instrumental section. After two slow tracks The Blues was a very good choice.

Wins in the Night is another long song with folk melodies, which give a very European feeling to this album. Not so good as In Your Eyes, but also marvelous. And the ending is an imaginative homage to Richard Strauss. Moonshine is a bit darker and it has the harder guitars of the album (don't worry, they are just a bit distorted) and also the best bass playing.

War is Over ends the album with a chorus which is a bit repetitive, but with another folk ending with a very beautiful accordion played by Witkowski.

Conclusion: Collage is a very passionate, dreamy and beautiful Neo-Prog album. The songwriting is really strong, the musicians are great and despite the weak vocals the music shines through the whole record. And despite the influence is there, Collage are one of the Neo-Prog bands which managed not to sound like a 80's Marillion rip-off.

With a better vocal interpretation, this would be a true prog rock masterpiece.

Best Tracks: all of them. But In Your Eyes is just outstanding and one of the best Neo-Prog songs in history.

My rating: ****

 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.91 | 417 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Welcome to the best Arena's line-up!

And that's because Rob Sowden is the best vocalist that Arena ever had (sorry Paul Manzi) and the first who not sounded like a copy of Fish. Ian Salmon is also one hell of a bass player, and Mitchell was fully consolidated as a capital part of Arena's sound, together with the powerful Mick Pointer's drums and the great keyboards of Clive Nolan.

The production was also the best that they took pleasure in, thanks to the last and very good production of Simon Hanhart with the band. The artwork of Hugh Syme is also over the top... But let's talk about the songs!

Chosen is like a summary of what Immortal? has to offer. Strong riff, great keyboard melodies and a very talented singer. And great guitar and keyboard solos! The style of the band is a bit stronger, harder and darker as in The Visitor. Waiting for the flood confirms that Rob Sowden is a prodigious singer, with a very personal and strong voice. This song is both mellow, progressive and it has another marvelous keyboard solo. Nolan, you are God!

The Butterfly Man is like an advance of what Contagion would become a few years later. Dark, even horrifying lyrics and a very progressive and variable structure. Another great track! Ghost in the Firewall, on the contrary, is less inspired. A bit boring and not very interesting... But the lyrics help in the strange and vague concept of the album, which talks about new technologies in a rather negative and apocalyptic way.

Climbing the Net is just the opposite. A very vivid and funny track in the style of the most optimistic parts of The Visitor, with an outstanding Nolan work and splendid melodies. Perfect to be played live! And then comes Moviedrome... The longest song that Arena ever recorded and one of their finest. Just a pleasure to the ears and a true classic of Neo-Progressive rock. It has even a melody which reminds me to John Carpenter's Halloween theme! And the final section is also anthological.

Friday's Dream, is not so brilliant, but it's mid-tempo and beautiful chorus help to end this album leaving a delighted smile on our faces.

Conclusion: Immortal? is the start of the best years for Arena, and an excellent advance of what the masterpiece Contagion would be. And despite being not so good as this album, Immortal? is a very solid effort with some outstanding moments and a song (Moviedrome) which deserves to have a golden place in prog music history.

It's a shame that Arena are not able to create so wonderful albums anymore. Both The Seventh Degree of Separation and The Unquiet Sky don't stand a chance against Immortal? Maybe their next one? With the inadequate Paul Manzi as frontman I don't think so.

Best Tracks: Waiting for the Flood, The Butterfly Man, Moviedrome.

My rating: ****

 The Second Hand by ANUBIS album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 87 ratings

BUY
The Second Hand
Anubis Neo-Prog

Review by theinvisibleman

5 stars James... James... open your eyes for me....

Surrounded by breathing machines and the sound of ominous TV and radio reports I'm sucked straight into the downfall of James Osbourne-Fox. A Rupert Murdoch figure, a 1%er.

This album is the true follow up to the bands still luminous second LP, but with the concept and message drawn into even starker focus and the material more varied. Take the opening single - 'Fools Gold' and tell me it couldn't have been very at home on Marillion's Clutching at Straws or Seasons End? A Tower of Silence had a brooding intense vibe all the way through - save the end of the last track, but this one emotionally zig zags between that same intensity (The Second Hand, The Making of Me, While Rome Burns, Pages of Stone) and the more uplifting musical sections that are steeped in reverie and reminiscence (Fools Gold, These Changing Seasons trilogy, Blackout). The highly engaging way the story is structured throughout the musical journey allows the listener to see the actions of the fallen protagonist through a more sympathetic viewpoint - that he was the product of a time and class system that damaged him and many like him. It's unashamedly cognitively dissonant; and all the better for humanising him.

Musically, the performances exceed those on Tower of Silence - the drumming and bass playing have more fire and unpredictability, with Pages of Stone a highlight in its 'Passing Bell' esque arrangement and development. Anubis excel at this 'everything including the kitchen sink' style of arrangement as it reaches frightening intensity throughout.

The band have been explicit in their promo about the exclusive use of vintage instruments in this album which is where the 'all too retro' criticism in some quarters may have come from. This does work very well for the album but may not be something that will work again and again for them, so it's best not to get stuck in 1975. However, to hear a real mellotron and grinding Hammond organ and guitars with tape delay effects is a joy that always excites an old prog guy like me. People do still make music 'like that'.

The vocals are the crown jewel on this album with Robert James Moulding soaring over the band in excellent voice. From a whisper to a roar, his range and register has expanded since Tower days and his voice and lyrics are the deserved centrepiece for what must surely be one of the best symphonic progressive rock records of 2017?

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