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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 26/10/2019

Roger (Roj)
Luca (octopus-4)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)

Neo-Prog Top Albums


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

4.25 | 2112 ratings
MISPLACED CHILDHOOD
Marillion
4.25 | 1221 ratings
THE ROAD OF BONES
IQ
4.23 | 1980 ratings
SCRIPT FOR A JESTER'S TEAR
Marillion
4.16 | 1325 ratings
CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
Marillion
4.26 | 278 ratings
RESISTANCE
IQ
4.15 | 654 ratings
CONTAGION
Arena
4.15 | 478 ratings
POSTHUMOUS SILENCE
Sylvan
4.10 | 1073 ratings
MARBLES
Marillion
4.10 | 911 ratings
FREQUENCY
IQ
4.12 | 472 ratings
A TOWER OF SILENCE
Anubis
4.11 | 424 ratings
EMPIRES NEVER LAST
Galahad
4.04 | 923 ratings
DARK MATTER
IQ
4.05 | 665 ratings
EVER
IQ
4.04 | 681 ratings
THE VISITOR
Arena
4.05 | 491 ratings
FANFARE & FANTASY
Comedy Of Errors
4.08 | 329 ratings
SEVEN
Magenta
4.03 | 645 ratings
THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE
Pendragon
4.03 | 485 ratings
ALL RIGHTS REMOVED
Airbag
4.00 | 663 ratings
THE SEVENTH HOUSE
IQ
3.98 | 1325 ratings
FUGAZI
Marillion

Neo-Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE ART OF MADNESS
Psychedelic Ensemble, The
THE SPARROW
Metaphor
VOICES
T
TRAVELLER
Magus / The Winter Tree

Latest Neo-Prog Music Reviews


 Flashbacks by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
4.00 | 12 ratings

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Flashbacks
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Let down at points by somewhat variable sound quality, this soundboard-derived live album offers a live set from the summer of 1983, arguably the peak of Geoff Mann's tenure in the band (with their appearance at the Reading Festival being an especially triumphant moment). Including two runthroughs of rare epic The Collector.

Though in terms of sound quality and song selection the latest expanded version of Live and Let Live has the edge on this (the lack of a Creepshow on here is a bit of an oversight), it's still a valuable live document of the band, especially compared to Smiling At Grief Live - here it's clear that Geoff has grown into the frontman role and seems more comfortable in it, and has a great connection with the audience.

It's as evident from his between-songs patter as it is from his lyrics that Mann's concerns in both the spiritual and social sphere are clearly important to him, even when he's addressing them with humour, so his later decision to follow his calling as a vicar isn't entirely surprising in retrospect, but he's also clearly having enough fun that it can't have been an easy call at the time.

Perhaps the most significant thing about this release is the contrast offered with Live and Let Live, an excellent live set where Mann's impending departure rather overshadows affairs. Here, there's no sign he's made that momentous decision yet and Twelfth Night sound like a band poised for the big time, with a sound that clearly situates them as siblings to Script-era Marillion and early Pallas. Fate would play its cards later on, but in this instance you could have believed that Twelfth Night, with Mann at the head, were about to conquer the universe.

 Subterranea: The Concert by IQ album cover Live, 2000
4.29 | 85 ratings

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Subterranea: The Concert
IQ Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars IQ's epic 100 minute double album Subterranea was already one of their major accomplishments, and one of the things which is impressive about it is how they were able to perform the entire monster live on the supporting tour. Whilst they don't radically retool anything, there's an overall harder and heavier approach to the material here, and a few sonic differences here and there, but by and large they're able to deliver a musical experience largely reminiscent of the studio album.

What changes have been made suggest that they aren't content to merely let the compositions sit, but are always thinking of ways to add different flourishes and touches here and there, so there's enough variation that the live album is worth it if you enjoyed the studio album, and it's difficult not to be impressed by the band's ability to pull the whole package off live.

 Muttered Promises From An Ageless Pond by GALADRIEL album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.49 | 42 ratings

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Muttered Promises From An Ageless Pond
Galadriel Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars An extraordinary album of reverence and nearly-religious respect coming out of Spain, an uncommon combination of the pastoral sides of both YES (especially Wakeman and acoustic Howe) and GENESIS (all of the extraordinary diverse skills and sounds of Mssrs. Phillips, Hackett, and Rutherford) fronted by a most unique vocal talent in Seńor Jesús Filardi.

SIDE 1 - "The Day Before The Harvest":

1. "Lágada" (8:59) Prog Folk?! Ecclesiastically-inspired devotional music? Not what I was expecting! Very delicate, pastoral soundscapes open this song and proceed to kind of lazily meander across the countrysides, first with vocal and later with electric guitar lead. At 2:15 the music switches to more of a YES pattern with fast-strummed acoustic guitar with Moog-like synthesizer, organ, and electric guitar working their way within and between vocal sections. Odd staccato vocal "da-da-da"s in the fourth minute before a Moog-like solo. Hackett-like guitar and Wakeman- sounding keyboard work with English choirboy-like vocal textures. Interesting! Then violin and wonderful multiple voice harmonies in the eighth minute. This Jesús Filardi is quite a vocal find! (19.5/20)

2. "Virginal" (2:26) pure Hackett-era multi-guitar Genesis bliss! (5/5)

3. "To Die In Avalon" (10:00) opens with weird sound and weird vocals over classically-oriented piano flourishes but leads into a sparsely populated middle section with some cool piano versus Robert Fripp-like electric guitar interplay. This turns into a little more pensive time keeping in the fifth minute. Then piano takes it solo for a jazz- and-classical styled solo for the sixth minute. Peter Hammill meets Doroccus and Keith Emerson to form an early version of After Crying. Interesting and unexpected. (18.5/20)

SIDE 2 - "The Year of The Dream":

4. "Limiar (Winter's Request)" (1:26) two arpeggiated electric guitar chords are soon joined by drums and bass and keys, all performing a kind of polyrhythmic weave for the song's duration. (5/5)

5. "Landahl's Cross" (20:04) an early-GENESIS-styled epic with quite the strong BABYLON-like sound palette. The creative instrumental inputs are quite inventive and unique--like no one else in prog. How can one deny the extraordinary freshness of these compositions? Not a perfect or always fully-engaging song, but a definite piece of quality. (35/40)

Total time 42:26

The vocalist, Jesús Filardi, with his English Choir sound and style, is truly an exceptional and noteworthy talent--one who's style and sound is, in fact, unlike anything I've ever heard in progressive rock music except for the Scottish singer Matthew Corry of the 2018-debuting band EMPEROR NORTON from York. The music is highly sophisticated and complex, with extraordinary musicianship and quite confident and highly creative compositional skills.

I can only surmise that these musicians were both classically trained and highly skilled before forming this band and that they worked long and hard honing these very unusually complex songs before trying to set them to vinyl. It is unfortunate that the sound recording and engineering is not up to the levels of high quality set by the musicians and to which they deserved. Still, I feel so blessed, as if I've just entered a sacred monastery in which progressive rock music is the highest form of devotional homage.

A-/five stars; despite the poor sound engineering I consider this a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music as well as a truly unique and masterful debut album. I have to say, without question, that I consider this an "essential" album for prog lovers to hear--a listening experience that absolutely represents all of the experimental eclecticism imagined by the original "prog rock" artists of the 1960s and early 1970s.

 Don't Bring The Rain by ARAGON album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.20 | 59 ratings

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Don't Bring The Rain
Aragon Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A Marillion-inspired band of multi-nationals that formed and recorded in Australia that shows tremendous potential--greatly due to the wonderfully passionate vocal performances of lead singer Les Dougan.

1. "For Your Eyes" (4:44) opens with harpsichord-sounding guitar picking before a pulsing bass-and-drum structure is established for the singing to join in. The vocalist is dramatic, theatric, but not very impressive or winning--kind of like a weak GEDDY LEE trying to sing with the power and emotion of AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson. The music during the choruses is too standard rock, it's the down time subtleties that are interesting and engaging. (8.25/10)

2. "Company Of Wolves" (9:22) (16.5/20)

- a) Under the Hunters' Moon (3:30) babeling brook water sounds are soon joined by keys and percussives giving the soundscape a very fairy-like feeling. Barking and then heavy bass tom play enter providing quite a contrast to the delicate fairy sounds. (8/10)

- b) In the Company of Wolves (5:51) more background sounds from the fairy world before a cheap keyboard begins adding a pattern of chords. At 1:25 heavy, pounding drums re-enter before singer Les Dougan enters with a FISH- or OZZIE OSBORN-like vocal performance. The vocal dominates despite the tinny music's attempt to thicken and become more complex. Fairly impressive vocal performance. (8.5/10)

3. "The Cradle" (5:32) gentle prog start with pretty late-80s heavily chorused guitar strums over which the odd voice and stylings of Les Dougan sings. He gives it quite an impassioned try and it almost works. The background "harmony" vocals are pitiful. (8.25/10)

4. "Solstice" (3:40) opens with a fairly flagrant attempt to recreate a classic GENESIS. The metal voicings of Les Dougan soon arrive and not long thereafter the lead guitar (sounding more like BABYLON's David Boyko or MIREK GIL than Steve Hackett). Decent BABYLON-like song. (8.25/10)

5. "Cry Out" (5:33) An interesting m'lange of sound as each and every musician here seems to be drawing from different eras and styles of GENESIS or classic rock sounds, riffs, and styles. Les Dougan's singing gives it its own unique stamp (though there he uses a very familiar "St. Elmo's Fire" melody). (7.75/10)

6. "Gabrielle" (3:30) pure FISH theatrics in this vocal over acoustic guitar finger picking. Easily the best song on the album. (10/10)

7. "The Crucifixion" (15:39) (27.5/30)

- a) Part 1 (7:38) synth strings and pregnant New Wave-like bass line with straight time drum beat provide the sole backdrop for the first four minutes of Les's impassioned vocal. It works. Then there is a major softening--with only guitar and Les's whispering voice--before a burst forth into a speedy swinging pseudo-Rocky Horror-like section. At 5:50 there occurs another stop and slow down, this time for a low keyboard bass note over which spacey flanged synth strings slowly twist and snake their way to the end of this Part. (13/15)

- b) Part 2 (8:11) again the FISH and MARILLION comparisons are unavoidable. Les opens with singing over synth washes--which continue for a few minutes while eventually being joined by simple electric guitar "solo" arpeggi, bass, and drums. Les rejoins in the fourth minute to deliver an amazingly passionate "I'm still waiting" vocal before the band rises up to the album's first truly proggy instrumental passage, complete with multiple keyboard sounds and searing electric guitar soloing all at the same time. Impressive! Why they didn't do more like this I don't know. (14.5/15)

8. "For Your Eyes (Reprise)" (1:14) interesting outro. (4.5/5)

Total Time: 49:14

Odd that there are so few instrumental solos, that the songs are so reliant on a single theme and singer Les Dougan's impassioned vocals. The instrumentalists here are competent and do an admirable job of creating cohesive song constructs but their proficiency on their respective instruments seems to be under-confident and, perhaps, "under progress." Still, thanks to the stellar second half, this is an album that introduces to the world a band with tremendous potential.

B/four stars; an excellent debut for this multi-national Neo Prog band.

 Játékok by EAST album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.59 | 58 ratings

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Játékok
East Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The debut album from this Hungarian entry into Prog World, the band displays a style of music that feels quite compatible with some of the film soundtracks being commissioned of other artists of the European prog electronic and jazz-rock fusion scenes.

1. "Nyitány ~ Overture" (3:25) opens with fading in drums (sounding like the intro to "The Court of the Crimson King") before band enters with two separate progressions of synth chords accompanied by a "Run Like Hell" bass line. Synth solos melodically, repeating itself and its melody, over the next few rounds of the two separate chord progressions before being joined by a second synth before sea sounds and seagulls bridge to the next song. Kind of ELOY-ish. (8.5/10)

2. "Messze a felhőkkel ~ Far away with the clouds" (5:43) synth-based song with straight time drums and excellent fretless bass work back a pleasant vocal. I like the use of little instrumental bridges between each verse of the vocals. Nice electric guitar lead in the third and fourth minutes--kind of a cross between David Gilmour and Ray Gomez--ending just before the 4:00 mark when the music takes a radical left turn into Euro-disco electronica--a bit like TANGERINE DREAM at first, then as the two soloists--synth and electric guitar--start duelling it sounds more like JAN HAMMER and DARYL STUERMER. (9/10)

3. "Szállj most fel ~ Fly up now" (5:30) opens like a more recent BLUE ÖYSTER CULT song before backing down for some spacious time keeping from the drummer. Piano chord progressioin establishes a bare bones key for the vocalist to enter and sing over. at the 1:30 mark there is a shift as the rest of the band joins in for the vocal chorus. Interesting reversion to the BÖC motif for the extended space between verses. The chorus sections are definitely the best part of the song--though it is quite an interesting song if only for its unusualness. Cool laid back yet- emotional instrumental section with spacious piano solo, background vocalese, and bird-like synth solo. (9/10)

4. "Kék-fekete látomás ~ Blue-black vision" (2:16) opens with what sounds like a Berlin School sequence with which intermittent bass notes, synth flourishes, and disco-like cymbals play. Like soundtrack filler until a fiery electric guitar riff is thrown in near the end. Weird and yet kind of cool. (4.25/5)

5. "Gyémántmadár ~ Diamond bird" (4:00) opens with flanged electric guitar arpeggi as scaled down weave mixes in from other band members. Singing uses long drawn out notes to fit within the weave before lead synth steps in for the vocals. Sounds like DEMETRIO STRATOS singing--as a matter of fact, this could be an AREA song! (9/10)

6. "Lélegzet ~ Breath" (3:10) TONY BANKS "Fly on a Windshield"-like "vocal" synth over low keyboard bass note opens this song. Guitar arpeggi and fast synth riffs flit in and out of the spacious soundscape as fretless bass solos slowly in an almost EBERHARD WEBER way. This atmospheric song is obviously another cinematic interlude filler as was #4 "Kék-fekete látomás," bleeding directly into the next song. (4.5/5)

7. "Nézz rám ~ Look at me" (4:08) multiple synth washes, driving bass line with atmospheric muted electric guitar chords thrown in as Miklós sings in an ELOY kind of way. Nice flashy guitar solo in the third minute. There is also a bit of a Euro-pop sound and feel to this one--and it still feels cinematic like its prelude. (8.75/10)

8. "Üzenet ~ Message" (4:18) floating synth note with bass piano chords and bass and drum hits open this one before the music settles into a smoother pace as the singing joins in. At the 1:20 mark there is a deeper and more complex bridge before we return to the second verse. Continually rising synth in the sky accompanies singing for this one. Cool effect! The second time through the heavy "bridge" Miklós sings, in a much more powerful, DEMETRIO STRATOS way till the song finishes. (9/10)

9. "Epilóg ~ Epilogue" (2:28) an organ recapitulation of some of the chords and themes of the previous song before Miklós and Richard Wright-like synth sing over the organ. Again, cinematic storytelling is the feeling that I come away with from listening to this--GOBLIN-like. (4.25/5)

10. "Remény ~ Expectation" (4:33) speaking of GOBLIN, this instrumental song really does have that ominuous Euro- cinema feel to it as deep chords are alternated with spacious pauses while bass and drums plug away. Electric guitar begins to solo aggressively in the second minute and only proceeds to light it up as it plays. At the 2:30 mark the guitar stops and the syncopated chord progression from the opening takes over on its own. Then there is an unexpected turn of the corner as the song turns left, moving into a majestic chord sequence before ending with a distant-sounding synth and cymbal outro. Very interesting. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 39:31

While EAST's followup album, Hüség sounds and feels as if the band has integrated a variety of elements from other European prog rock bands, this album, to my ears, sounds more like a KLAUS SCHULZE-, ELOY-, and GOBLIN- influenced Euro-rock album. The second half (Side Two) is especially reminiscent of the cinematic music created by Italian jazz-rock fusion artists GOBLIN. While it's good, and I like it, this album is not as mature or sophisticated as Hüség.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of cinematic Euro-progressive rock music.

 Hüség by EAST album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.90 | 66 ratings

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Hüség
East Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars In 1982 most people consider Prog to be dead . . . but not in the East. Hungarian Neo Prog; some say that his may be the greatest prog album to come from behind the Iron Curtain.

1. "H's'g ~ Faith" (3:43) opens like a BABYLON song before a fairly regular pattern is established over which guitars and keys duel and duplicate each other with instrumental melodies. It's as if JAN HAMMER were the main soloist in one of JEAN-LUC PONTY's premier album lineups. Great Jazz-Rock Fusion song with fairly good sound engineering. (9.25/10)

2. "Keresd 'nmagad ~ Search yourself" (4:23) sounds like highly predictable, rather basic song from a mediocre 1970s classic rock band which happens to feature a great guitar solo and some excellent synthesizer work and a great finale. The vocal is good but suffers from a poor sound effect choice. (8.5/10)

3. "M'gikus er' ~ Magical power" (2:55) continues from the previous song but shifts from the opening into something more powerful, more engaging before speeding up to become quite an exciting instrumental jam with synth and electric guitar trading leads over the hard-driving rhythm section. (9/10)

4. "'n voltam ~ It was me" (5:56) slow guitar arpeggi in two channels as Mikl's sings. Nice vocal. He sounds like the lead singer to Polish band LIZARD. The rest of the band joins in during the second minute but the pace or structure do not change. Same with the instrumental section in the third minute--which has some awesome organ-supported choir "ahhs." Soft and delicate again for the next verse, though Mikl's does begin to get more forceful with his delivery. Repeat the choir "ahhs" (the chorus?) a couple rounds before a spacious passage is created at the end of the fifth minute to prelude a melodramatic slow instrumental finale. Great song until the finale. (9/10)

5. "A v'gtelen t'r 'r'me ~ The happiness of the endless space" (1:38) a latter-period MAHAVISHNU-like jazz-rock fusion interlude (i.e. melodic). (5/5)

6. "'jj'sz'let's ~ Born again" (3:40) opens with some spacey synths and bird song tweeting around before the song jumps into a nice, simple, slow weave for a brief lyric before a really cool stringed instrument solos. The vocal is okay until the awesome piano-emphasized chorus, which is then followed by a surprisingly simple instrumental section with dull synth solo. (8.75/10)

7. "Ablakok ~ Windows" (5:44) muted guitar arpeggi with panning space synth flourishes gives a cool opening sound. Around 40 seconds in the full band enters with a steady TD-like drum beat and fast-thumping single-note bass line while Mikl's sings in a matter-of-fact way in one of his lower registers. Nice bridge to the wonderful chorus. Love the slushy FIXX-like guitar chords. Back to the driving Berlin School-like rhythm section for the next vocal verse before another nice bridge and awesome chorus. Love the upper register bass work here! A little "Eminence Front"-like feel to this part. (9.75/10)

8. "Vesztesek ~ Losers" (3:44) opens with a little SUPERTRAMP-like keyboard that is quickly blended with other instruments before supporting another LIZARD-like vocal. Great multi-voiced chorus. Mikl's' vocal is quite impassioned. Impressive! Second chorus leads into a slow-to-build but powerful electric guitar solo that plays through a full cycle of the verse-chorus section before the song ends. Awesome! (9.5/10)

9. "Felh'k'n s't'lva ~ Walkin' on the clouds" (4:22) oepns with some really cool smooth jazzy Fender Rhodes play (think HUBERT LAWS or JOE SAMPLE) with rhythm set by percussive muted guitar arpeggi. Synths play little leads over the top for about 90 seconds before the song shifts, jumping into a full rock band 80s jazz-rock fusion style and sound. Even the synth choices and solos shout out, "1980s!" It's nice but so dated! (8.75/10)

10. "V'rni kell ~ You must wait" (5:56) nice electric piano soloing that is eventually joined by electrified classical guitar and vocals before the song switches to a synth strings and bass pedal foundation. It quickly turns instrumental with a VANGELIS-like electronic sound palette for a minute or so until everything slows down and changes palette and texture for another vocal section. (9.25/10)

11. "Mereng's ~ Meditation (2:14) soft chorus electric guitar chords arpeggiated with fretless bass accompanying while Mikl's sings in his most breathy, delicate voice. Very nice. Nice ending to a wonderful album. (4.75/5)

Total Time: 44:17

Okay, I'll accept the Neo Prog assignation but to my ears there is far less imitation of Anglo prog here than of European artists and trends--especially ELOY, the Berlin School, some of the more jazz-oriented French and Rock Progressivo Italiano trends.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and a most excellent contribution from behind the Iron Curtain. Because of its vocals and song structures, this one might even surpass the 1970s releases of SBB, FERMATA, MODRY EFEKT, and CZESŁAW NIEMEN.

 Hologram by CLEPSYDRA album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.48 | 94 ratings

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Hologram
Clepsydra Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Prog from Switzerland! Who knew!? The miraculous thing about this album, these musicians, is that they purposely chose progressive rock! In 1991!

1. "Sunrise" (1:20) the opening of a bookend pair with the finale, "Sunset," church bells chime as bass, distant drums, single plucked guitar chord and keys rise and kick into full gear before searing electric guitar ends the song. (4.25/5)

2. "New Day (Part 1)" (5:11) piano opens before Aluisio joins in singing in a relaxed, as if tired, voice. The second verse is joined by synth strings as Aluisio perks up, switching up an octave, singing with much more force and clarity. Drums and bass join in for the "time pass me by" chorus before launching into the guitar-led instrumental section. Keys do a very reserved solo as drums play beneath until sax-like guitar returns at the 3:00 mark to signal time to slow down again for Aluisio to sing, starting low and tired before quickly jumping into his more urgent pleading voice. Another melodic guitar solo finishes it off. Nice song. (8.75/10)

3. "4107" (5:12) typing on an old manual typewriter as typist recites that which he is typing. Low bass note, glockenspiel synth arpeggio and drums form spacious support to Aluisio's plaintive vocal. Electric guitar takes the lead at the end of the second minute and into the third before slowing to play arpeggiated chords. Then the music shifts for keyboard play before Gabriele takes the lead again at 3:00. Nice horn-like METHENY-ish guitar tone (in the upper registers). (8.5/10)

4. "Fleeting Moments" (3:13) opens softly, sounding like Steve Hogarth on Marillion's Marbles. Aluisio's sensitive voice in the second minute is so heart-breakingly fragile and vulnerable! What a vocalist! (9/10)

5. "Fading Clouds of Time" (3:50) opens with slow emotional electric guitar lead over synth strings until 0:54 when piano, bass and drums kick into gear. Vocals join in with a STARSHIP, JOURNEY or even BON JOVI type of sound. Song alternates soft spacious sections with full, uptempo, power chord sections while ending with a slower section for an electric guitar solo. (7.75/10)

6. "Poem For a Rainy Day" (2:11) stairway footsteps and child's voice preempt this electrified acoustic guitar lullaby. Some synth support and the addition of a classical guitar in the second minute. Nice. (There are no words to this "poem.") (4.5/5)

7. "New Day (part 2)" (6:13) up and down, as the previous version, from soft and spacious to loud and bombastic. Still, Aluisio's voice can almost win me over no matter what else is going on around or beneath him--and this is one of his finest performances on the album. Also one of the best chord progressions and electric guitar solos. (9.25/10)

8. "Sandfow" (3:17) general train station restaurant conversation, dishes noises, and PA announcements lead into a cymbal and synth supported electric guitar solo. The chorus-delayed sound of the guitar is cool. At 1:35 drums kick in and band amps up to announce their presence for a few seconds before backing down to leave a really cool, almost eerie spacious soundscape. Electric guitar eventually steps into the void with a melodic bluesy solo to the end. (5/5)

9. "For Her Eyes" (4:41) CURE-like electric guitar and electric piano open this one until Aluisio enters around the half- minute mark. The song becomes standard rock ballad support, still sounding like THE CURE though also WHITESNAKE and other 1980s hairbands. (8.5/10)

10. "Steve and Jane" (5:19) synth wash, electric piano and Aluisio open this one. Despite indications that it's going to get loud and heavy, the boys show restraint and stay quiet for the first 90 seconds. Then there is shift as a fast- picked guitar arpeggio chord sequence triggers some latent power from the keys (orchestra hits). When Aluisio returns, the music beneath is still defining itself. The keys definitely get much more prominence on this one that the rest of the album. (8.5/10)

11. "New Day (Part 3)" (2:01) opens sounding like airport/spaceport music before electric piano enters. At 1:00 synth strings form support for electric guitar to solo over. Nice brief emotional melodic solo. (4.75/5)

12. "Hologram" (7:40) Aluisio singing over amplified classical guitar turns proggy after the first minute with the arrival of drums, bass and keys. What a voice. He makes it sound so effortless! A shift at 2:45 leads to more theatric storytelling approach from Aluisio before the band kicks in and jumps forward. What sounded like they were going full SCORPIONS turns instead to something more spacious like COLLAGE. The instrumental jam we thought was coming several times before starts, in part, at 5:45 as Gabriele solos over the churchy organ and gated drums--into a long, slow fade out. (13/15)

13. Sunset (1:21) reprise of the opening song with full band engaged from opening and electric guitar doing an aggressive rock solo from the start, then ending with church bells. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 51:29

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and recommended for anyone interested in hearing a truly gifted male vocalist.

I have to report that I do prefer the original sound over the "remaster." I've never been a fan of gated or compressed drums--one of the biggest mistakes Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins ever made. It's also too bad that the 1990s had to deal with such poor, cheap sounding keyboard sounds from the plethora of everybody-can-afford cheap keyboards coming out at the time. We're still paying for it to this day with some bands that refuse to let go of those cheap old things. Overall, there is just a lot of music here that sounds as much "Prog-Wannabe" or "Near Prog" as Neo Prog.

 The Jewel by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.35 | 304 ratings

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The Jewel
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Another prominent British band that has remained fairly true to its Neo Prog roots (over a career spanning nearly 40 years and eleven studio albums), this is one of the bands whose sound has, in my opinion, improved with age-- especially since 2004 when they chose a heavier sound (which is oddly out of character for me)--though most critics have acclaimed the decade of 1991 to 2001 as their "masterpiece" era. The Jewel was the album that started it all.

1. "Higher Circles" (3:29) organ intro is joined by the others by the end of 30 seconds. Nick Barrett's PAUL WELLER/JOE STRUMMER-like "protest singing" voice starts off this anthemic song before being joined by the others in the chorus. Sounds like such a teen tough boy song! Maybe this is a remnant from where the band started; it is no indication of where they are about to take me. (7.75/10)

2. "The Pleasure Of Hope" (3:43) jumps full into power jam like a STARCASTLE opening before shifting to a MARK JOHNSON/THE THE-like song. The sound of the multiple voices singing the "Welcome home" shouts is awesome! Matter of fact, the multi-layered vocal approach throughout this song is very cool! A nice change. I like this! (9.5/10)

3. "Leviathan" (6:13) opens with a kind of RUSH/STARCASTLE/YES weave before vocals enter to give it it's own shape and sound. I don't think I've heard a "neo prog" band with a non-imitative singer before. The music is definitely in the neo prog realm but that singer is not! Nick Barrett sounds more like a 1975 East End punk rocker! I like it! And he can play a pretty cool guitar, too! Wow! I am impressed far more than I expected to be. (This is literally my very first ever listen to a Pendragon song!) The music begins to sound a little too derivative in the second half (Genesis), otherwise this might be a 10-10 song! (9.5/10)

4. "Alaska" (8:39) (18.5/20) - a) At Home With The Earth - a gentle, romantic synth and electric guitar picking opening until 0:55 when a very nice GENESISian weave is launched. Love the fretless bass! The high flute-like synth dancing in front as Nick begins to sing is a little distracting (and disappointing). The vocal is mixed strangely "out" of the soundscape and Nick's vocal has pitch issues. The chorus is a step back in the right direction, though the vocals are still pitchy. The instrumental section which follows is okay, best for the whole-band cohesiveness. (I just don't like that synth soloing.) (8.5/10) - b) Snowfall - picked 12'string guitar with very dynamic fretless bass starts off this section. Thirty seconds in it takes on a JEAN-LUC PONTY feel, sound, and pace (think of some of the cooler uptempo jams in either Cosmic Messenger or A Taste for Passion). Awesome CAMEL-esque synth soloing over this instrumental jam! (10/10)

5. "Circus" (6:34) guitar arpeggi, drums, and bass are soon joined by APP Usher keyboard arpeggio before the song shifts into third gear as a kind of CLASH/PAUL WELLER jam. The lyric is powerful and I like it's monotone shout delivery. The song then speeds off into an extraordinary instrumental jam with great driving bass and drums while Nick and Rick Carter take turns soloing and supporting each other. In the fourth minute odd upper-register major seventh chord strums sound like harps as Nick sings. The chord progressions are heavenly throughout this song, with every musician locked in on full power and tightly united throughout. GREAT song! My favorite from this album--and that's saying a lot cuz there are a lot of fine songs here! (10/10)

6. "Oh Divineo" (6:51) opens with Nick's plaintive guitar soloing, as if in a distance, as organ lays a romantic fabric beneath. The full band joins in at the end of the first minute with a swinging rhythm base as Nick continues soloing melodically over the top of a GENESIS-like "Misunderstanding" structure. When things finally break down at 2:28 to allow for a nice vocal, the lyric is surprisingly political, not romantic. The "where does the fire burn" lyric and following section are nice though quite derivative of earlier GENESIS themes. (13/15)

7. "The Black Knight" (9:57) the ususal guitar arpeggi with lone synth intro with singer Nick Barrett joining in after half a minute. Nick's vocals here are better, the melodies more engaging. Full band kicks in with some power around the two minute mark. After a second verse of vocals time and key structure shift ushers in a new more insistent vocal approach. Nice earworms from the lead guitar in the instrumental section. (17/20)

Total time 45:26

Nick Barrett's guitar playing--especially his lead soloing--is sublime; it is amazing to me how he can continually create new and always pleasing, adrenaline pumping guitar solos year after year, song after song, even multiple times within one song (even here on their debut album)! His voice, however, is an acquired taste.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a surprisingly eclectic albeit derivative collection of Neo Prog songs. Great debut album!

 1914 by ARKUS album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.22 | 21 ratings

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1914
Arkus Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Nice Neo Prog from Utrecht.

1. "Ouverture" (4:09) opens with slow build temple-like cymbal crescendo before relaxed 4/4 blues rock groove is established for synths and melodic fuzzy guitar to lead over. I'm strongly reminded of the sounds and a particular melody that TRION used in "Frank." Nice but nothing extraordinary. (8/10)

2. "Life" (7:34) opens with a slow guitar melody that gets double-timed as the full band joins in at the 0:30 mark jumping into a full rock band mode. Lead electric guitar enters and solos melodically until 1:20 when vocals join in. The guitar solos through the fourth minute, before a break allows someone to do the dishes before a reset button starts the song over and everything starts over, slow to fast, before slowing down for the final section over which the guitar solos. (12.33/15)

3. "Scared" (6:38) opens with picked acoustic guitar (12 string?). This guitar remains--more prominent than on any other song on the album. Despite the same voice and vocals, same synth washes and the same melodic noodling of the same electric guitar sound, this is a nice song. (8.5/10)

4. "No Chance" (8:19) slow electric guitar arpeggi opens this one while a different (effect?) singer sings. The song literally starts over, music and lyric, at the 4:15 mark, slow and sparse, slowly building. The seventh minute is nice but the fast-speed finish from the eighth minute is predictable. (16.5/20)

5. "Adorable Woman" (6:06) boring. Except the bass play. (8.25/10)

6. "1914" (5:40) opens as a simple, almost Folk Rock song sung in English until at 2:48 a proggy soundscape establishes itself. It's the opening song, "Overture"! Exactly! Same nice melody riff from the same sounding lead guitar. It's Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane"! Chords and melody! (8.5/10)

Total time 38:26

My biggest complaint with this album is that the band relies heavily on synth washes to provide background for every moment of every song and on one particular sound for its constantly soloing lead guitar--which results in there being very little variety in the album's sound palette from song to song. They're nice sounds--definitely derived from the 1976 post-Peter Gabriel GENESIS sound palette, but there needs to be more. Plus, the singing is rather lackluster and the lyrics rather banal.

C+/3.5 stars; a pleasant enough sounding album that, in the end, is too simple and . . . just too simple.

 Osiris by OSIRIS album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.92 | 71 ratings

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Osiris
Osiris Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Prog from Bahrain?!!! Obviously inspired by the prog giants of the 1970s, this full, keyboard- and guitar-led band of young Middle Easterners launched full on into Prog World with a skilled and highly texturized Arabian-influenced rock sound.

1. "Fantasy" (6:00) opens with synth and electric guitar establishing a fast paced weave before drums and bass join in. Bridge and shift after the one minute mark into a bluesier section with bouncy organ for reverbed voice to enter and sing--somewhat ELOY-like (the singing, that is). Instrumental returns to the opening weave alternate with singing sections until the music holds fast for a two-guitar solo in the fourth minute, which then slows down and turns into a solid one-guitar solo before sliding back into the fuller version for the dynamic closing section and synth solo (90 seconds!) (9.25/10)

2. "Sailor On The Seas Of Fate" (11:46) seagulls, TD bass synth and Hammond open this slow tempo song before Arabian percussion instruments join in. At 2:25 electric guitar takes the lead, at first as if reluctantly, then with confidence. It's like I'm listening to an Arabian Santana! There is a break at 3:33 for Fender Rhodes foundation for effected vocal. TOTO-like rock theme introduced at 4:15 in lieu of a chorus. This back-and-forth goes around for two cycles until 6:50 when a flanged acoustic guitar starts doing arpeggi with wave-like cymbal play and a Fender Rhodes piano. This continues in a pretty theme until 9:30 when a nice MiniMoog solo begins to play over the vibes for the final two minutes. (21/25)

3. "Struggle To Survive" (5:01) a purely CAMEL song, even the vocals, as if it came straight off of Mirage or Moonmadness. Nice drumming. (8.5/10)

4. "Atmun" (5:11) this instrumental opens as a basic, simple classic rock song until 2:00 when a nice new motif begins. There is a weird shift at 2:45--a bridge--leading to a passage with nice guitar and keys in the fourth minute. Cool final minute. (8.5/10)

5. "Embers Of A Flame" (5:00) after a brief rock opening a Fender Rhodes plays alone beneath gentle vocals. The rock-gentle sections cycle around twice before an uptempo jam section features a soloing electric guitar in the third minute. Great solos! From the guitar, MiniMoog, and then Hammond organ! (8.5/10)

6. "A Story Of Love" (6:15) opens with a full CAMEL/Latimer feel and sound. The chorus sounds like something straight off of LOS JAIVAS' Alturas de Macchu Picchu album! At 3:35 a more aggressive instrumental section begins in which the soloing electric guitar is in the lead. There is some pretty flashy lead guitar and MiniMoog exchanges before the music returns to the rock/Los Jaivas rotation for the final vocal section. (8.25/10)

7. "Paradox In A Major" (4:06) using either a different lead vocalist or different effects on the vocalist this song incorporates a fairly simple chordal structure to present a CAMEL sound palette. It's a very tight weave, almost classical in its structure, between the vocal verses. There is a very interesting two-channel (chorus?) effect being used on the electric bass over which a SANTANA-like guitar solo is being nicely performed. (9/10)

Total time 43:19

My favorite song elements are the Arabian percussion, eclectic electric guitar and keyboard voices, and the strong bass and drums. Everybody is competent and skilled, holding together the music flawlessly. Though the chordal structures are often quite simplistic, the transitions and shifts are usually quite dynamic and unexpected.

Four stars; a solid contribution to early 80s progressive rock music--from Bahrain!!!

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DRIFTING SUN Multi-National
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