Showing posts with label Prog Rock Music Talk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prog Rock Music Talk. Show all posts

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Neo Prog Review: Cosmograf-Rattrapante

Release Date: March 26 2021 (CD/Digital), May 28 2021 (Vinyl)

Label: Gravity Dream music



Cosmograf is the creative vehicle of Robin Armstrong, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals), who also records and produces his music in his home studio. Robin has released 8 albums, from the debut, End Of Ecclesia in 2009, to the album under review, Rattrapante, released earlier this year.

To quote Robin, "Rattrapante is a French word which has its root in rattraper, meaning to catch up or recapture. A Rattrapante chronograph watch can simultaneously time two events, such as a lap split time and a final race time. As such it was the perfect metaphor for our interaction with time.

Cosmograf albums tend to be either concept albums, or at least, themed in some way. The sound of Cosmograf is rooted in 70's classic rock with a progressive twist, and although I have used the term neo-prog (from Progarchives) to indicate the musical style, there are straight metal passages as well as classical styled themes.

Rattrapante is a 5-track album with a total playing of around 51 minutes (50:34) and the opening track, “In 1985” is the longest track at 12:46 min, with the third track, “I Stick To You” the shortest at 6:52 min.

The guest musicians involved with Robin, who plays guitar, keyboards, bass and provides vocals, are Kyle Fenton (drums and backing vocals), Chrissy Mostyn (vocals on track 3) and Tommy McNally (spoken words on track 5). NASA is also credited for the use of some sound clips on the album.
The opening track from Rattrapante, "In 1985" (12:43), starts with a very distinctive nod to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, with some superbly atmospheric guitar over a gently building background before Robin’s shout of “Are you ready?” sets us off on an autobiographical journey which manages to veer from the poignant to the angry. There is an insistent driving beat and a Middle Eastern influence before the guitar wielded by Robin soars above all. With references to Concorde, Spectrum, and Amstrad computers, the Back To The Future film, Live Aid, Queen, Bowie, Life On Mars and the Heysel Disaster, this opener certainly catches the listeners interest and draws them into the nostalgia, before bringing things up to date as the track progresses. The sound of crowds cheering through the music adds to the atmosphere of this being a "live" track. A different middle section leads back into the driving style on show at the start, and thus, ends a very stunning opening track to commence a superb album.

The closing track of the album, “Time Will Flow” (12:42) is a different style to the opening track, especially the moodiness of the music. There is a relatively long scene-setting start, in some ways similar to the opening of track 1. As the moody aural landscape builds, there is a voice that appears, but not that of Robin, but Tommy McNally, narrating the fact that time is a very precious commodity that should be used, but carefully. Lines such as "Time shapes. Time Destroys. Time brings an end to all your joys." And "We measure time, but waste it more, equally bound, the rich and poor. Use it well for it can’t be made. Do it now, don’t be afraid,” include atmospheric music behind the narration which builds continuously until around the halfway point in the track, when after another excellent guitar section, vocals appear, courtesy of Robin. There are superb lyrics and masterful music in this stunning track and towards the end, a question is asked. "Look back upon what is done. A life well-lived. But did you think, what did you give?" As the track closes out, Robin's voice can be heard in the distance drifting away.

is a stunning album that settles into your grey matter within a couple of plays. Cosmograf has a superbly high standard of music across all previous 7 studio albums and Rattrapante is no exception. My advice is to grab a listen to this album and then clear a space on your CD shelf to slot it into.

(If you have not heard much of Cosmograf, check out one of my radio show podcasts ("Podcast: The Ancient One - Edition 161 - Progzilla Radio ) which is “A Brief History of Cosmograf” and takes a couple of tracks from each of the 8  studio albums.)

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
June 2, 2021 

1. In 1985 (12:46)
2. Rattrapante (9:44)
3. I Stick To You (6:52)
4. Memories Lie (8:29)
5. Time Will Flow (12:43)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Crossover Prog Review: Downes Braide Association-Halcyon Hymns

Release Date: Feb 5 (Dig), Feb 12 (CD/DVD) and April 2 (Vinyl) All 2021

Label: DBA Records


The Downes Braide Association is a studio-based project by Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Chris Braide (singer/songwriter), both of whom have a rich musical heritage.

Geoff has been a member of The Buggles, Yes and Asia, while Chris has written and produced music for film scores, advertising campaigns and worked with Lana Del Ray, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, David Guetta and co-wrote the music for Seven Worlds One Planet (A David Attenborough BBC TV series) together with Hans Zimmer and Sia.

The debut album from the Downes Braide Association was issued in 2012 and titled Pictures of You, followed 3 years later by Suburban Ghosts and then in 2017 by album No 3, Skyscraper Souls. A live album from the band was also issued in 2019, DBA Live In England.

Under review is the fourth, and latest, album from Downes Braid Association, entitled Halcyon Hymns. This is a 12 track album with a total playing time of around 64 minutes (63:37), with tracks 11 (Remembrance), and 10 (Late Summer) being the longest at 11:44 minutes and the shortest at 2:24 minutes respectively.

The opening track, “Love Among The Ruins” (6:24) starts with a short spoken section before a gentle acoustic before the vocals of Chris Braide appear. The guitar of guest musician, Dave Bainbridge (Iona/Strawbs) soon soars over the track and adds an interesting dimension, as the track repeats the previous themes leading to another guitar section. A pleasant enough entry into the album, but not one that made this listener too optimistic about what was to come, and my overall impression was that the opening track overstayed its welcome and detracted from the effect “Love Among The Ruins” had.

Track No 2, “King Of The Sunset” (6:37) features additional vocals by David Longdon (Big Big Train) and more superb guitar work from Dave Bainbridge. This track is a definite grower and initially boosted my interest after the opener. The sound drops away around two minutes from the end of the track to leave an instrumental fade out featuring mandolin and guitar which was a bit unexpected. The thought that floated across my mind was that the ending section was not necessary.

As you progress through the tracks, there are some excellent passages, melodies that penetrate deep into your mind and will not go away, stunning vocals and guitar playing, and as the long track (second last on the album) approached, I was beginning to look forward to what the band could do on a 10 minute plus excursion.

The long track, “Remembrance” (11:44) starts off with piano, some spoken word By Barney Ashton Bullock before the acoustic backing starts to build courtesy of the mandolin. Excellent lyrics carry the track along and the listener eases into the journey that is unfolding. The narrative short interludes work very well but there seemed to be a fair repetition of some lyrics which, to my mind interrupted the journey. By the halfway point, the track was beginning to pull the listener back but the disappointment was that the track then seemed to retread the music that had already gone and appeared to lose its way. I think that this was another example of a track running out of ideas.

Halcyon Hymns
has its moments, but the band seem unable to maintain those high points or to use them as jumping-off points. While I was not blown away by Halcyon Hymns, that is my personal opinion, and I would suggest, as always, that you should give this album a listen and see what you think. I will go check out the earlier albums and perhaps find the spark I seemed to miss from album No 4.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
April 21, 2021

01. Love Among The Ruins (6:24)
02. King Of The Sunset (6:37)
03. Your Heart Will Find The Way (5:20)
04. Holding The Heavens (7:54)
05. Beachcombers (3:31)
06. Warm Summer Sun (4:43)
07. Today (6:59)
08. Hymn to Darkness (2:59
09. She’ll Be Riding Horses (4:35)
10. Late Summer (2:24)
11. Remembrance (11:44)
12. Epilogue (0:36)


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Prog Rock Review: Jethro Tull-A-La Mode 40th Anniversary Set (3 CD-3 DVD-Book Set)

Release Date: April 16, 2021

Label: Rhino/Parlophone


As Steven Wilson makes his way through the bountiful Jethro Tull catalog, fans get an opportunity to relive all of that great music. There are reissues and anniversary releases of many recordings available but there is a difference with these fine book editions that Jethro Tull has provided over the years. I have been the fortunate recipient of many. 

A is not one of my favorite albums although I now have an entirely different view of the recording thanks to this A-La Mode 40th Anniversary Set 3 CD-3 DVD-Book Set. What was meant to be an Ian Anderson solo album turned into a full-blown JT album and an on-stage production and video of “Slipstream.” Also included is live concert footage in between the storyline with Ian trying to escape large pink balloons and posing as a vampire in the “Sweet Dream” video and thereby chasing himself posing as that despicable Aqualung.

Wilson is a true wizard when he works with the remastering of the catalog of JT. This is, as all the others are, all-inclusive and in-depth exploring the music at different angles, and the end products all differ. Each production offers a look into aspects of the music you have never heard before. That is the entire idea with these sets and hopefully giving the long-time faithful more appreciation for the music now. In the case of A, which was underrated at the time, it most certainly accomplishes that in more ways than one would expect. Interestingly enough, the band considers the album in their top third of releases. Perhaps now so will some fans. I still a have list of my top picks and this one still is not at the top of my list even after rediscovering it with different ears. Although I did appreciate the experience and reading the entire book, which was extremely informative, and hearing the music live and remastered was refreshing.

If you are a Jethro Tull fan, there is a lot to take in with this set and it will take some time. It is time well spent I believe. If you are an average fan, you would not consider releases such as this anyway. If you love your progressive rock and are interested in hearing one of the true innovators of the genre, then, of course, any of these massive reissues is a must. That is how I perceive it, but then again, I have been loving JT since the first time I heard Aqualung and I nearly wore out War Child as a teenager in discovery mode.

The treat here is after all these years, regardless of how long you have been following the band, there is always something new to discover. It’s like a basket of Easter eggs long before the day arrives, you cannot resist looking to see what is inside. And that is what makes it worth every penny and all of the time spent soaking it all up.

Keith “MuzikMan” Founder

April 22, 2021

 Disc One: Original Album and Associated Tracks
(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. “Crossfire”
2. “Fylingdale Flyer”
3. “Working John, Working Joe”
4. “Black Sunday”
5. “Protect And Survive”
6. “Batteries Not Included”
7. “Uniform”
8. “4.W.D. (Low Ratio)”
9. “The Pine Marten’s Jig”
10. “And Further On”
Associated Tracks
11. “Crossfire” (Extended Version)
12. “Working John, Working Joe” (Take 4)
13. “Cheerio” (Early Version)
14. “Coruisk”
15. “Slipstream Intro”

Disc Two: Live at the LA Sports Arena 1980 (Part 1)

(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. “Slipstream Intro”
2. “Black Sunday”
3. “Crossfire”
4. “Songs From The Wood”
5. “Hunting Girl”
6. “The Pine Marten’s Jig”
7. “Working John, Working Joe”
8. “Heavy Horses”
9. Band Instrumental Intro
10. “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day”
11. “Instrumental” (including flute solo)

Disc Three: Live at the LA Sports Arena 1980 (Part 2)

(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. Trio Instrumental
2. Keyboard solo
3. “Batteries Not Included”
4. “Uniform” (including drum solo instrumental)
5. “Protect and Survive” (including violin solo)
6. “Bungle In The Jungle”
7. Guitar Solo/Bass solo intro to encore
8. “Aqualung”
9. “Locomotive Breath”/Instrumental/”Black Sunday” (reprise)

DVD One: Original Album and Associated Tracks

(Audio Only)
Contains Steven Wilson’s 2020 remix of the album and 5 associated tracks in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround, and stereo 96/24 LPCM. Flat transfers of the original LP master in 96/24 LPCM

DVD Two: Live At The LA Sports Arena November 1980

(Audio Only)
Contains Steven Wilson’s 2020 mix of the concert in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM
DVD Three: Slipstream Video
With audio tracks remixed by Steven Wilson in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Symphonic Prog Review: The Emerald Dawn-To Touch The Sky

Release Date: March 20, 2021

Label: World’s End Records


I have been an avid follower of the band, The Emerald Dawn, since before the release of their debut album, as I received some demo material for airplay on my radio show. With each release, the band has evolved and grown in confidence with their music and album No 4, To Touch The Sky, raises the bar yet again.

The Emerald Dawn was formed in Edinburgh in 2010 by Alan Carter (Ally) and Katrina Stewart (Tree), both multi-instrumentalists and then the band relocated to Cornwall. Joining Ally (electric and acoustic guitar, guitar synth, tenor and soprano saxophone, keyboards and vocals) and Tree (keyboards, piano, flute, acoustic guitar, percussion and vocals) was Thomas Jackson (drums) and the debut release was in 2014, Searching For The Lost Key. This first album was followed in 2017 by Visions and in 2019 by Nocturne together with some personnel changes. Under
review now is the most recent album No 4, To Touch The Sky.

The band on this newest album is Ally, Tree, Tom and David Greenaway (fretted and fretless basses) and they have produced a superbly atmospheric album. To Touch The Sky comprises just 3 tracks and has a
total playing time of just under 50 minutes (48:39), with the opening track “The Awakening” the shortest in length at 11:15 minutes and the final track, “The Ascent,” the longest at 22:17 minutes. This last track is
also split into 14 sections/parts.

The opening track, "The Awakening" (11:15), starts with a simple piano passage above some excellent bass playing and sympathetic drumming. There then follows some superb keyboard work before the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Tree enters the proceedings. This atmospheric, powerful start to the track will have drawn the listener into the world of The Emerald Dawn and the instrumental passage that follows will have transported them deeper into that realm. Some stunning guitar work by Ally carries the track along with superb support from the keyboards, bass and drums before those ethereal vocals from Tree reappear around the 7:15 minute point, and the guitar takes the lead again just after 8:00 minutes. This is the driving section towards the track finale, and the ending is reached after a short piano and guitar passage.

This has been an excellent opener to the album and should certainly have grabbed the listener by presenting them with entry into the symphonic, cinematic, powerful music of The Emerald Dawn.

Track 2, “And I Stood Transfixed” (15:07), commences with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and bass and continues the aural soundscapes that the opening track introduced. The feeling depicted in this piece of music is uncertainty and of meeting with the unknown. Melodic passages, interspersed with some stunning saxophone playing, those ethereal vocals, orchestral keyboard sweeps and gentle melodic flute hold the listener a little on edge as the music swirls through phases of light and dark. The way the band move from the light melodic passages to the darker more discordant themes and back shows the confidence that The Emerald Dawn now has in their music.

The first two tracks have been setting the scene for the 22:17 minute track, "The Ascent" when our imaginary group start on a climb having passed through feelings of excitement and uncertainty. With 14 parts to this epic track, ranging from “Exordium,” “In The Foothills,” “Passing Through The Final Village With Its Bustling Street Market, They Ponder The Challenges Ahead,” to “The Last Push,” “As The Wind Dies Down And The Clouds Part, They Find Themselves at The Summit,” “On Top Of The World” and “Addendum: The Dangerous Descent Commences,” the music of The Emerald Dawn continues to paint such detailed soundscapes that the listeners are there beside the group, feeling the emotions every step of the way.

The music starts gently before moving into a simple classically-styled piano passage with a flute motif appearing before the piano leads into the electric guitar passage leading to the start of the journey. These themes will be revisited throughout the length of the track. There is a change as those beautiful vocals appear after a stunning keyboard theme to explain that the travellers have glimpsed “The First Sight Of The Mountain." The band released a couple of the parts of "The Ascent" as a sampler/teaser before the pre-order date of To Touch The Sky, and these were part (vii), "While Pausing On A Steep Slope, They Watch An Eagle Soaring Effortlessly Above Them" and part (viii), "Resuming The Climb, They Feel The Wind Rise As The Clouds Close In." I was standing in my kitchen gazing into the distance at the snow-covered Red Cuillin mountains in the sunshine listening to these clips of music and the view, the music and my imagination all combined to produce the "perfect moment." "The Ascent" is a majestic track that shows the musical evolution of this band.

From the melodic to the edgy guitar, the stunning keyboards and piano, the ethereal vocals of Tree, the haunting flute and that superb melancholy, discordant saxophone all underpinned by stunning bass and excellent drumming, I think I have a contender for my “Album Of The Year 2021.” I am aware that it is only March, but To Touch The Sky is a magnificent album that seems to provide evidence that The Emerald Dawn are truly on their way. The first 3 albums showed a progressively evolving style, but this release has taken a quantum leap forward.

My simple advice is to clear a space on your CD shelves to house this masterpiece.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson    Prog Rock Music Talk Staff.
March 25, 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Prog/Cinematic Rock Review: Esthesis-The Awakening

Release Date: November 14, 2020

Label: Autoproduction



Esthesis is a French project formed by Aurelien Goude (keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass) and inspired by 70’s British Rock, especially prog rock. In collaboration with three other musicians, Baptiste Desmares (lead guitar), Marc Anguill (bass) and Florian Rodrigues (drums), the four-piece band have released an EP, Raising Hands, in 2019 and a full-length debut album, The Awakening, in November 2020.

I chanced upon this band by accident, and count myself very lucky to have done so, as I was instantly transfixed by the stunning music found on the full-length debut. I was lucky enough to get hold of one of the limited-edition CDs initially released as they sold out fairly quickly, but the band have now issued a standard CD to allow for the increasing demand for the bands' music.

With repeated plays, it is possible to detect very specific influences, such as Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree from the UK, Rick Miller (another great discovery I came across late in 2020) from Canada and those Norwegian giants, Airbag.

The Awakening is a six-track release with a total playing time of just shy of 60 minutes (59:39), with the opening track, “Downstream,” the longest at 16:31 minutes and the penultimate track, “The Awakening,” the shortest on offer at 6:26 minutes.

To start a debut album with “Downstream,” a 16+ minute epic, shows the self-belief that the band carry at the moment. An atmospheric start leads to guitarist, Baptiste, gets to show his bluesy side before the vocals of Aurelien appearing, smooth and understated, but so fitting the music. The track progresses with instrumental sections interspersed with those vocals and that blues styled guitar very much the central feature. The band even manage to fit in an atmospheric whistling section, which reminded this reviewer of the whistling section in the “Wind Of Change” track by the Scorpions. This opening track gently transports the listener along on a very subdued, laid back journey. During the journey, the piano of Aurelien, the guitar of Baptiste, the soft gentle vocals of Aurelien and the tight power unit of Marc (bass) and Florian (drums), flow effortlessly. At around the 9:30 minute point, there is a change in tempo increasing the urgency of the track, but the superb guitar playing maintains the atmospheric soundscape. At 11:30 minutes, another change reinstates the piano as the main instrument with the guitar slotting into the background but exerting a huge influence. A bit of vocalization adds to the aural picture the band are setting out for the listener. Entering the last 2 minutes, the track starts to drive toward a finale. Some more aggressive playing takes the track out and sets the listener up for the rest of the album.

“No Soul To Sell” (8:33) track 2 on the album is a very different style and hints at the wide-ranging ability of the musicians. With a chunkier guitar riff, more "in your face" drumming and a superb bass produce a total style contract to the opening track of The Awakening. A heavier riff-laden section fades and the bass reappears away in the distance as the track moves into an atmospheric meander, leading to an acoustic guitar passage before the organ, bass and guitar drive the track to completion.

“Chameleon” (8:06), and the fourth track, starts with an acoustic guitar riff before being joined by the smooth vocals and then some vocal harmonizing. The sound continues to be “fleshed out” by the presence of the bass and drums and ultimately, the organ appears swirling away in the background. Just before the 3:00 minute point, that bluesy style guitar soars over everything before disappearing as firstly the voice takes over and then the organ. A chunkier section of the acoustic guitar then gives way to a simple but sublime organ passage and a little more of the harmonizing vocals. An interesting change of sound style just before the 7:00 minute point ushers in a swirling heavier sounding organ that escorts the track out.

The Awakening is an amazing debut album by Esthesis which is a pleasure to listen to. From the smooth vocals, intense drumming, intricate and chunky guitars, superb bass lines and beautiful piano plus swirling organ, the members of the band grab the attention of the listener at the album outset, take them on a 60-minute journey of discovery before gently returning them as the last few notes fade away.

My simple advice is to grab a listen to The Awakening and then add it to your collection.

By the way, Esthesis has just announced that a trip-hop version of the closing track, "Still Far To Go" will be released on Bandcamp on March 5th 2021.

Jim "The Ancient One" Lawson Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
February 26, 2021

1. Downstream (16:31)
2. No Soul To Sell (8:33)
3. High Tide (10:35)
4. Chameleon (8:06)
5. The Awakening (6:26)
6. Still Far To Go (9:28)

Friday, February 12, 2021

Neo-Prog Review: Fish - Weltschmerz

Date: September 25, 2020

Label: Chocolate Frog Records (Self Released)


The new, and final studio album from Fish (David Dick), is the superb Weltschmerz, which is album No 11 from the ex-lead singer of Marillion (1981-1988). The debut release of Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors was issued 30 years ago (1990) and we have now reached the end of the line.

The album is available as a 2CD, 2CD and Blu-Ray deluxe edition, a digital version and a 2-album vinyl version.

The band on Weltschmerz is Fish (Vocals), Steve Vantis (bass/keyboards and guitar), Robin Boult (guitar), John Mitchell (guitar), Craig Blundell (drums), Dave Stewart (drums), David Jackson (saxophones), Liam Holmes (keyboards), Foss Paterson (keyboards), Doris Brendel (vocals), Mikey Owers (brass) and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (strings). Many of these musicians have been long term members of the Fish band and hence the band members are comfortable with what is required of them.

I have at this point to state that I preferred the Fish led Marillion rather than the post-Fish band, but I was never “blown away” by his solo material. There were some great tracks, but I tended to feel that the consistency of the music could be variable. That state of affairs however changed with the release of Feast Of Consequences, album No 10, which was a superb piece of work, especially the 5 part "High Woods Suite." I have looked forward to this final studio release from Fish for several months before the release.

The title, Weltschmerz, translates as world pain or world-weariness and may well sum up the feelings of the artist at the time, but the contents of this superb double album certainly are a long way from that downbeat title.
The Fish voice has been described as both distinct and also as a fusing of Roger Daltrey (The Who) and Peter Gabriel (Genesis), but it is his lyrics, classed as “poetic prose” that add an additional facet to the mans’ music. Fish can and does, interject spoken word lyrics into his music which seem to accentuate the storytelling aspect of his work.

Weltschmerz is a 10 track release with a total playing time of 84:30 minutes, track 5 “Rose Of Damascus” being the longest track at 15:45 minutes and track 4, “This Party’s Over” being the shortest at under 5 minutes (4:22).

The opening track, “Grace of God” (8:19), is exactly what I want to hear when listening to a new album, and that is something that immediately grabs the interest of the listener. There is a sparseness about the music behind the voice of Fish as he ventures into his storytelling, which is somehow very compelling. The lyrics paint such detailed scenarios that the listener becomes immersed in that storytelling.

The longest track, “Rose Of Damascus" (15:45) brings together the aspects that make the area in question such a volatile area to exist in, as seen through a young woman (Rose) who is trying to flee the war-torn area. In under 16 minutes, the listener is taken on a long journey through different sections with those superb lyrics tying everything together and trying to make sense of the problems that exist. The music twists and turns and holds the listener almost spellbound as the storyline unfolds.

Starting the second album is track 6, "Garden of Remembrance" (6:07) and is, for me, the most powerful, emotive track on Weltschmerz. Based on the changes in a relationship due to Alzheimer's, the lyrics are simple but literally oozing emotion as Fish relates the interaction, or rather, the lack of interaction between husband and wife. Musically there is a beautiful melody on piano behind his voice which underpins those lyrics, and latterly, a superb orchestral theme.

As a final studio album, Weltschmerz is an excellent way to bow out of further studio recording. Early in the review, I suggested that with the title translating as world-weariness, that could sum up how Fish must have felt with the personal situations that he had to confront during the recording process. Over the 5 years that Weltschmerz took to get to completion, he has touched on these moments throughout the ten superb, if very different, tracks and has produced a stunning swan song.

If you haven’t already purchased the album, I would humbly suggest that you give Weltschmerz a listen from start to finish and then part with some of your money to add the album to your collection.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson Prog Rock Music Staff 

February 9, 2021


CD 1:  
1. Grace Of God (8:19)
            2. Man With A Stick (6:27)
            3. Walking On Eggshells (7:18)
            4. This Party’s Over (4:22)
            5. Rose Of Damascus (15:45)

CD 2:   
  1. Garden Of Remembrance (6:07)
             2. C Song (The Trondheim Waltz) (4:41)
             3. Little Man What Now? (10:54)
             4. Waverley Steps (End Of The Line) (13:45)
             5. Weltschmerz (6:51)

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Crossover Prog Review: Lunatic Soul-Through Shaded Woods (Deluxe Edition)

Release Date: November 13 2020

Label: Kscope


Lunatic Soul was founded in 2008 in Warsaw, Poland, and to date, has released 7 studio albums, from the debut, Lunatic Soul in 2008 up to the album under review here, Through Shaded Woods earlier this year. Lunatic Soul is the creative vehicle for Marius Duda, the vocalist, and bassist for the Polish band, Riverside.

Through Shaded Woods is available as a single CD, a 2CD deluxe edition, as well as in vinyl and digital versions. The review is based on the deluxe version of the release.

Through Shaded Woods (Deluxe Edition) has 8 tracks and a total running time of just over 72 minutes (72:27) with the final track, “Transition II,” the longest at 27:45 minutes and the penultimate track, “Hylophobia” the shortest at just over 3 minutes (3:20).

Although being aware of both Riverside and Lunatic Soul and having featured tracks from Riverside on my radio show, I had never managed to “get into” Lunatic Soul releases, and I approached the review of Through Shaded Woods with no real expectations.

Regular readers of my reviews will be aware that I put a great deal of value on the opening track of releases, and am always looking for a hook, an amazing riff, basically something that “grabs your ears and shouts, Listen.”. Enter track 1 of this album, “Navvie” (4:03) and we find exactly what I am looking for. Obviously, folk-based and immersed in the more Nordic/Scandinavian folk arena, "Navvie” has a repetitive riff that becomes almost shamanic and in just over 4 minutes has succeeded in drawing the listener into a stunning mesmeric aural landscape.

Track 6, "The Fountain" (6:04), starts with a simple acoustic guitar, then Marius’s clear vocals take the track on and a piano appears in the background before moving to center stage. This is a beautiful, melodic track that flows along, carrying the listener along with it. As the song progresses there is the addition of some amazingly symphonic orchestration. Around the 4:40 minute point, there is a change to leave the piano theme to carry the track to its finale. This is another superb track from a stunning album.

The final track, “Transitions II” (27:45) is a real epic in terms of length and is a simply wonderful working and reworking of riffs and themes, reminiscent of Mike Oldfield. The original “Transitions” appears on Lunatic Soul II and initially, the opening of "Transitions II" harks back to this 2010 release. The additional instrumentation starts to suggest a change of direction and indeed, around the 4-minute mark, the “fuzzy” guitar starts the track moving into the realms of the aforementioned Mike Oldfield. For several minutes this style is maintained before moving into the sphere of New Age music, carrying the listener along with a minimalist soundscape style. The music is melodic, gentle, and intensely relaxing, before another change in style and direction nudging the 18-minute point when the piano takes on more responsibility and the other instrumentation washes in and out again, continuing the painting of an aural soundscape of gentleness, but different to that which had gone before. The track almost stops around the 21-minute mark and a very different picture comes into focus. The breathy vocals, or to be more correct, vocalizations, from Marius, float over an acoustic guitar theme and there is again a return to the folk area prevalent in “Navvie." This carries on until around 24:30 minutes when an ethereal choral section seems to appear, with an acoustic guitar theme in the background before the final section which harks back in time to a Gregorian chant before slowly fading away.

Through Shaded Woods is a superb release and well worth checking out. As I suggested early in this review, despite being aware of Lunatic Soul, I was not “into” the solo work of Marius. This album has changed my mind and I will now be revisiting the previous releases with more interest. Through Shaded Woods demands a place in many peoples’ CD collections, so grab a listen and see what you think

Jim “The Ancient One “ Lawson Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
January 22, 2021


1. Navvie (4:03)
2. The Passage (8:57)
3. Through Shaded Woods (5:51)
4 Oblivion (5:03)
5 Summoning Dance (9:52)
6. The Fountain (6:04)
7. Vyraj (5:32)
8. Hylophobia (3:20)
9. Transition II (27:45)



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Instrumental Progressive Ambient Review: Green Isac Orchestra-b a r (140 gram vinyl LP)

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Label:Spotted Peccary



My only regret after hearing the most recent Green Isac Orchestra’s release b a r, is that I did not discover them years ago! This is some of the most creative and color progressive instrumental ambient music I have heard in some time. I had the pleasure of hearing it for the first time on 140 gram vinyl.

Morten Lund and Andreas Eriksen were together know as Green Isac for 25 years as a duo only, until the Green Isac collaboration expanded to a five member ensemble and rechristened themselves Green Isac Orchestra in 2015. bar is their second release as a quintet.

There is never a dull moment on b a r, in fact, this is full of brilliantly executed compositions. The operative words here is “creative” and “expansive.”

“Volcanic” starts things off and the title is very descriptive of what you will hear to get your heart pumping and your imagination kicked into high gear. It comes in just shy of a healthy 8 minutes of instrumental bliss starting off with ambient texture and building into a volcanic eruption of sounds. The track ebbs and flows between power and softer moments provided by the cello then it switches back to that colorful blasts of passion and sound. I do not think there could have been a better track on the album to get things started. When you look and see six tracks your first impression may be that is not many however you can take my word for it, it more than fills both side of the 140 gram vinyl.

“Le Grand Sportif” is 7+ minutes and it begins with a spacey intro into nice keyboard work allowing for a minimalist approach to introduce the cello. The track engages you and is in a continual evolving cycle that can be fascinating. Some good percussive sounds push it to another level as it moves closer to the end before closing out.

“With Hat” is shorter journey at 3:25 with orchestral sounds of the cello leading the way then a heavy drone like sound comes in sounding like a powerful but suggestive hammer then the gentler part of song is ushered in with an emphasis on the synths. The track has some very strong progressive movements that would please any instrumental music listener.

Side B opens with “Don Progini” (note the last name) letting us all know if we already didn’t that this is definitely progressive music! There are some interesting changes going on in this track and so many sounds converging into a blossoming full sound taking advantage of all the tools at their disposal, the band makes sure you are still paying attention. The keyboards reminded me of Tubular Bells.

“Aarwaaken” comes in over 6 minutes and starts with a spacey/spooky synth with a world edge provided by the percussive elements then it morphs for a very short period over to classical path. Mind melting synths arrive to give it that sci-fi feel as well to keep things interesting. The only way to describe this masterful composition is to call it acoustic-progressive-ambient with a classical underpinning.

“Without Hat” closes the curtain on this aural journey starting with a guitar, which was different in comparison to all the other tracks. Various synths are the building blocks of the track and it provides excitement and leads the listener to a colorful ending to close out the album.

Why stay the same is the mantra for b a r and that works very well for this excellent recording. They never do the same thing twice and that is what makes b a r  so enjoyable and something you will want to hear more than once.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-TFOV Founder

January 3, 2021

Track List:

Side A:
1. Volcanic
2. Le Grand Sportif
3. With Hat

Side B:
4. Don Progini
5. Aarwaaken
6. Without Hat

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Stefan Elefteriu releases 'Quantum Gates' - a journey through space, time and numerous genres


The latest album from progressive odyssey Stefan Elefteriu escapes reality and lets listeners enter a world of optimism. Titled "Quantum Gates", the album features 12 tracks that soar through realms of uncertainty with reassurance. While Stefan's journey to this moment has been eventful, Stefan's no stranger to the world of music. From building his own synthesisers in Communist Romania to scoring a science fiction film, if you think it, Stefan's probably done it. An experience that showcases huge complexity, intelligence and imagination, 'Quantum Gates' is bathed in classical, rock and electronic elements. 

Stefan mentioned that the release is based on, "Twelve portals open to twelve different worlds awaiting discovery through imagination, fantasy and feelings... Go beyond the Quantum Gates and, with each re-listening, you will perceive new territories of musical expression. Let the evolution and permanent dialogue of the melodic lines - based on symphonic counterpoint - take you through a new multidimensional sound universe."

For fans of Vangelis, Pink Floyd, Jean Michael Jarre and Kraftwerk, 'Quantum Gates' is truly a special album for all prog lovers.

Album Tracks:

  1. Coming from Above

  2. Push the Beat

  3. Hold On

  4. Play of Shadows

  5. Visitor on the Timeline

  6. Flying Island

  7. Lonely Alien

  8. Blue Peaks

  9. Too High

  10. Between Two Worlds

  11. Quantum Gates

  12. The Change






Saturday, December 12, 2020

Symphonic Prog Review: Wobbler-Dwellers Of The Deep

Release Date: October 23, 2020

Label: Karisma


Wobbler originated in Honefoss, Norway in 1999, and with the release of this new album, Dwellers of the Deep, the band have now released 5 albums, since the debut, Hinterland, saw the light of day in 2005. I was fortunate enough to see this band in December 2019 when they headlined a mini-festival in Glasgow. The Prog Before Xmas (PB4X) is an annual one-day event featuring 4/5 bands with the proceeds going to named charities. This has been taking place for 5 years, but Covid-19 has caused this year’s festival to be cancelled. Last year, Wobbler played a set including many great tracks from their back catalogue, interspersed with music from the Dwellers of the Deep album and they simply “blew” the crowd away.

Dwellers of the Deep
is a 4 track album with a total time of just under 46 minutes and the final track, “Merry Macabre” is the longest on offer with a playing time of 19:00 minutes, and the penultimate track, “Naiad Dreams” is the shortest at 4:24 minutes.

The band on the album are Andreas Wettergreen Stromman Prestmo (vocals/guitar), Marius Halleland (guitar/backing vocals), Lars Frederik Froislie (keyboards), Kristian Karl Hultgren (bass) and Martin Nordrum Kneppen (drums), with Lars, Kristian and Martin original members of Wobbler. Kristian also guested on the Airbag current release, A Day At The Beach. Andreas was present in the band by album No 3, Rites At Dawn, in 2011 and Marius was onboard by album No 4 in 2017, From Silence To Somewhere.

The opening track, “By The Banks" (13:49), bursts into life with the band in full flow, soon to be joined by a bit of vocalization, then a simple keyboard and bass passage underpinned by excellent drumming. The bass and keyboards carry the track on before Andreas pitches in with his clear powerful vocals. The keyboards continue to "run" the track with those superb bass notes just in behind. The track builds and then gently subsides and the listener is both drawn in and carried along. At around the 5-minute mark, the piano has an excellent passage, very tranquil compared to what has gone before. Behind the vocals, the bass slowly builds and the guitar, drums and keyboards join the proceedings again. At the 9+ minute mark, there is a return to the tranquil style passage, and indeed, it is this contrasting switch that makes “By The Banks” an engrossing start to the album. Each member makes an amazing contribution to the sound, the clear vocals, the sweeping, soaring keyboards, the thundering, but so controlled bass, the subdued, but occasionally crunching guitar work and that superb drumming, both intense then very subtle at times.

The two shorter tracks are very different, with "Five Rooms" (8:28) being a close relative, musically speaking, to the opening track and "Naiad Dreams" (4:24), being a simply beautiful ballad with an excellent acoustic guitar start, showing the simpler, gentler side of the band. Both are excellent in their own way and set the listener up for the finale of the album.

The 19:00 minute "Merry Macabre" is a real tour-de-force, starting with a gentle introduction before the keyboards appear around the 1:00 minute point. As the vocals, bass, guitar and drums all add their presence, the band are off on a journey that encompasses all the areas that Wobbler have demonstrated throughout their back catalogue. Symphonic slices, eclectic sections and even a little jump in and out of the jazz world, appear and morph into one another, providing the listener with a stunning aural experience.

Each release has taken the band further and these 5 musicians know exactly what they want to do, and on Dwellers of the Deep, they have shown the world just what they are capable of. This is a superb album and should find a space on the
cd/vinyl shelves in all progressive music followers’ collections.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
November 27, 2020


1. By The Banks (13:49)
2. Five Rooms (08:28)
3. Naiad Dreams (04:24)
4. Merry Macabre (19:00)

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Crossover Prog Review: Gazpacho-Fireworker

Release Date: September 18, 2020

Label: K Scope


Gazpacho hail from Norway and was formed back in 1996. The release under review is the 11th studio album from the band, Fireworker, and the debut was released in 2003, Bravo. I have liked this band for several years after hearing a track on a sampler CD and have enjoyed their music immensely.

Briefly, they are one of the few bands that seem to be able to generate majestic atmospheric soundscapes, where the quiet (and even silent) moments are as important to the overall effect of the music as the superb skills of the musicians.

The band has been relatively settled, with Jan Henrik Ohme (vocals), Thomas Alexander Anderson (keyboards), and Jon Arne Vilbo (guitars) all original members of the band, who were then joined by Mikael Kromer (violin/mandolin) and Kristian Torp (bass) as guest musicians on the album No 3, Firebird, in 2005 and band members on the next release, album No 4, Night, in 2007. Finally, Lars Erik Asp (drums) appears in the band on the album No 6, Missa Atropos, in 2010 and that band has remained constant in the intervening years.

Fireworker is a 5-track album with a total playing time of just over 50 minutes (50:23), with track 1, “Space Cowboy,” the longest on offer at 19:41 minutes and track 2, “Hourglass,” the shortest at 4:15 minutes.

Gazpacho has a tradition of producing albums that fuse various situations, from deep philosophical questions to the intricacies and complexities of the human mind. Isolation was the key on earlier albums, Night and Missa Atropos, dramatic scenarios on Tick Tock and Soyuz, and theological /scientific questions on Demon and Molok.

Fireworker deals with an entity that inhabits everyone and ensures that it survives from generation to generation and can, at times, control our actions. The entity is known by several names, Fireworker, Lizard, or Space Cowboy. The entity exerts control by rewarding or punishing the individual. So, you will have gathered this is not a light-hearted musical album, but it is a wonderfully atmospheric piece of work.

The opening track, “Space Cowboy” (19:41) is a stunning piece of music by the band. Starting very simply with the superb voice of Jan Henrik Ohme, backed with subdued bass, piano, and violin, setting the scene before the band moves up a notch around the 2-minute mark. The track moves on with changing tempo from time to time. Around the 5-minute mark, a choir appears which is a warning to the individual not to get closer to the entity within. The lyrics are in a pre-language, so no easy to follow lyrics. The track then swings from Jan Henrik led atmospheric vocals and music, back and forth to the choir. Around the 13-minute point, the band moves into a more hard-hitting passage.

I will admit that this opening track did take me several listens, as well as checking the band’s explanation of the track on Facebook, before the sheer magnitude and power of the opening 19+ minutes hit home. Not the easiest track to open the album with, but when you “get it,” it is superb. A track that makes you work hard to understand it.

The next three tracks, “Hourglass” (4:15), “Fireworker” (4:41), and “Antique” (6:24) are shorter and easier to get into while continuing the atmosphere generated by the opening track.

“Hourglass” is more up-tempo with superb piano in the opening portion and a church-style organ passage before the choir re-entering. The stunning, haunting violin played by Mikael, the superb piano passages, and those crystal-clear Jan Henrik vocals make “Hourglass” and excellent 4+ minutes.

The title track, “Fireworker,” is a quite different style of a track which simply rips along, from the violin enhanced early passages, through the vocals and allows the band to flex those musical muscles. Tempo changes drive the track towards its finale which sees the song simply fade away.
“Antique” continues the gentle atmospheric soundscape with the band in superb form, little bass lines, exquisite drumming, superb piano, and guitar, all contributing behind that powerful vocal. The violin has another great passage just after 3 minutes and then moves behind the vocals, bass, drums, and keyboards as the song finishes.

The final track, “Sapien” (15:22) has a keyboard and drum intro before the rest of the band pitch in and the vocals enter just after a minute. The melodic vocal weaves its way along before becoming more forceful around the 2:30 minute point. The haunting melody drifts along, almost as a touchstone as the track progresses. Around the 5:15 minute, the band leaves a keyboard and Jan Henrik’s voice to continue the story, then return under a minute later. A gentle piano and synth passage follows and the vocals re-enter. This passage is an excellent example of how to produce an atmospheric soundscape. The musicians make it seem so simple, but they are experts at this style. The tempo rises slightly before leaving just the drums, bass, and piano to continue to build the atmosphere. At 11:00 minutes, those beautiful vocals reappear and start to carry the track towards the finale. Returning to a previous theme, the band set about completing this superb soundscape. Sparse instrumentation behind the vocals slowly builds and the track starts to fade just before the 15-minute mark.

Fireworker is simply a majestic album that requires several listens and a fair bit of work on the side of the listener, but I would suggest that the listener spends the time and makes the effort. The reward will be the full appreciation of a superb piece of work by a group of dedicated, and very skilled, musicians.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
November 12, 2020

1. Space Cowboy (19:41)
2. Hourglass (04:15)
3. Fireworker (04:41)
4. Antique (06:24)
5. Sapien (15:22)