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 Cronofonía by CRONOFONÍA album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Cronofonía
Cronofonía Crossover Prog

Review by nick_h_nz
Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

It's possible I have a reputation for liking bands and artists from way out in left field, but while I certainly know a fair few people who like prog but are not at all interested if it's trying too hard to emulate the classic symphonic era of the '70s, I'm not one of those. Even if I do tend towards the more esoteric and experimental, there's plenty of more mainstream fare that I thoroughly enjoy. This offering from Mexican/International band Cronofon'a is just that. It reminds me of all those '70s albums I love from King Crimson, Genesis and Yes. And there are plenty of musicians who have contributed to this project whose names will no doubt be familiar to most 'old-school' prog fans. But it never sounds tired or dated, like a retread of what's been done before, and done to death. In fact, appropriately, the music sounds completely timeless.

Appropriately, I think, because the name of both the album and the band is Cronofon'a, which is a word I'm not sure exists, but if it does I presume it has to to do with time and sound. The sound of time through the ages? The passage of time, as heard through sound? Well, it seems as likely as anything else, given the album appears to take place across an allegorical 24 hour period. The album begins with one dawn, and ends with the next ' but between these two, many years of history are covered, and the album itself was many years in the making. The Facebook page for Cronofon'a was created in 2013, and since then the project's contributors have celebrated many births (and, sadly, one death). The faithful have been informed of the progress - or otherwise - of the construction of this project, which involves thirty musicians from ten different countries. This is a truly grand affair!

The album was finally released in December 2020 in Spanish, an English language version following in April 2021. The principal protagonists are father and son Joaqu'n 'Negro' Ort'z and Pablo Patricio Ort'z, and although notionally the idea of Cronofon'a was established in 2000, it utilises many compositions made over 40 years. So certainly, the passage of time is woven throughout the album, no matter how you look at it. But how does it sound? That's actually a quite difficult question to answer because, over the course of two discs, the music covers a lot of ground. However, it is overwhelmingly in a classic and timeless symphonic prog style, which will be pleasing to the ears of many, with aspects of folk, Latin and jazz, with some heavier moments, too. One thing I love is the dramatic flair when there is a quite sudden stylistic change within a song. This happens on more than one occasion, and often when it's least expected.

I won't go so far as to say the variety of musical styles is as ambitious as the scope of the concept, but it's definitely intriguing and captivating, and (as implied above) occasionally unexpected. In a way, the album flows almost like the score or soundtrack to a film - and I am certain there will be reviews that talk of how cinematic it sounds, and how well the varied soundscapes are brought together to create one homogeneous whole. In fact, given the length of the album is also that of a film, it is even more impressive to me that it so easily maintains interest. Honestly, this album seems to go by faster than many a third its length, so much does the music draw you in. And like any good film, even once you know the story, it's still possible to be delighted by the twists and turns, even if they are no longer surprising. There are some themes that are returned to, or varied upon, which help with continuity and familiarity. It makes the album easy to listen to, and easy to love.

And that's just the music. I'm really not a great one for lyrics, and I often hear vocals as one more instrument in the mix, rather than pay attention to what is being sung. But for the purposes of this review, I did try and pay attention. I've already said how the moments of a lifetime are represented by the moments of a day, and I suspect the whole album is perhaps meant to be heard as being told by the main character, as he reflects on his life, and those closest to him. Much of the lyrical content is intimate and personal, full of hopes and regrets, dreams and worries. They are beautifully sung by the various vocalists, and again the variety helps strengthen the cinematic nature of the album, and the passage of time. I'm not often a great fan of the use of multiple vocalists, and I assumed this might be my one criticism of the album - but I really can't overstate how much the different vocalists add to my interest.

There's a quote from Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa that seems appropriate for this album: 'The perfect dictatorship is not communism, nor the USSR, nor Fidel Castro; the perfect dictatorship is Mexico. Because it is a camouflaged dictatorship.' There are two interwoven tales of Cronofon'a, one personal and one political. The album is almost a testimony of the political changes and social upheavals; and of socialism and capitalism. Sometimes only in allusions, and occasionally far more overtly, we are reminded of mass protests and demonstrations, and of the gradual revolutions that have led to a freer world. The collapse of the communist bloc in Europe, and the Mexican PRI who maintained absolute power for most of the 20th Century in opposition for the first time in 2000. The end of the album, the last few songs, the last few moments of the day before a new dawn, sound almost unremittingly hopeful.

My original review for this album was horrendously long as I wanted to write about some of the songs. But there were so many songs I wanted to include that it just wasn't possible. There is so much that could be said about each and every song. The way they relate to each other, or to the personal and/or political stories touched upon through time. The way the storyteller seems to build in confidence over the course of the day/lifetime, so that (for example) each version of My Sister and I is stronger and more assured, until the absolutely glorious fourth part. (All four parts to this song are favourites of mine). The way that the music is able to provide a sense of time and place, so that the sound reflects not so much what it is being sung about, but where and when. Everything about this album has been so well thought out, so impeccably composed, and so adroitly performed.

Cronofon'a is as prog as it comes. A double album of musical theatre that traverses history and geography, with a list of contributing musicians as long as the list of instruments played. When I review albums, I usually have to studiously avoid reading any reviews already published. In this instance, I don't think I've even seen one review, so avoiding them hasn't been difficult ' but it does make me wonder why I've not seen any. This is the sort of modern prog masterpiece I would expect to see written about everywhere. It is an album I would expect to see high up in many people's end of year lists. And yet, so far, I have seen nothing. So, if anyone has read this far, I sincerely hope that they are already listening to this album ' and if you are, and if you enjoy it as much as I do, then please share it, as this is an album that definitely deserves to be better known than it appears to be.

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 Power Windows by RUSH album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.55 | 1068 ratings

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Power Windows
Rush Heavy Prog

Review by Atomic Surf

4 stars The 80's era of Rush often gets criticism for Geddy Lee's use of synthesizers and the more mainstream sound. But underneath that, there is some very good songwriting and lyrics. On Power Windows, each song tackles a form of power ie. "The Big Money" - the power of money, "Middletown Dreams" - the power of dreams. On the song Middletown Dreams, Geddy really sings his heart out about escaping the monotony of living in a small town. The guitar and synthesizers complement each other nicely on the songs Grand Designs and Emotion Detector. Power Windows is definitely one of the better albums Rush has released and as always superb playing from the band.

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 Tale Of The Lunatic by ANWAR, FARAZ album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Tale Of The Lunatic
Faraz Anwar Progressive Metal

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

— First review of this album —
4 stars 2022 has got started with Faraz's introspective but brilliant sound operation. "Tale Of The Lunatics" was released as a Pakistani guitarist Faraz ANWAR in the beginning of 2022. Thanks to Faraz's email, I could meet and purchase such a wonderful creation. Through this album featuring his incredible guitar technique and theatrical / dynamic passages, it makes sense he's been inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen or Allan Holdsworth. Like a diverse musical powerplant produced not only with metal and rock elements but also classical or jazz ones, he plays guitar in a lively, fascinating manner all over the creation and grasps our heart strictly. Such an enthusiastic sound message can be heard from the beginning of the album "Inception" - filled with dramatic footage by energetic electric guitars, precision rhythm sections, and emotional synthesizers.

Just like a vivacious but well-matured sparkling wine, his incredibly vigorous guitar plays illuminate the depressive world under such a tough situation in the "Weight Of The World", another authentic progressive metal fantasy that sounds like Dream Theater. "One Of Them" involves massive power mixed and merged with distorted vocals and sharp-edged guitar sounds. Such a mystic cooperation gives the audience an unstable mental activity created by quiet anger and vague anxiety. In "Throw Your Swords" we can feel not only desert energy or dissonant tension but also sensitive moments or lonesome vibes. On the contrary, "Liberation" releases our inner mind from kinda virtual prison in the current circumstance, fully by powerful, delightful music potential. In the middle part Faraz's one man show should stabilize our positive intention to live a fantastic life on a regular basis. The last "Lap Lost" his masterpiece and the magnificent epilogue prescribes universal positivity of progressive metal for the audience. Full of creativity cannot remind us of depressive states nor painful futures at all. Sounds like his brilliant guitar plays and enthusiastic voices motivate the listeners definitely.

I would be wrong but it sounds like this opus, that is about the story of an imaginary angel "afaiel", protests against disclimination or human rights violations all around the world and hopes people unification and world peace / stability. This opus will give a excellent power to us regardless of the current situation. Worth giving it a listen, let me say.

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 Spiritus Mundi by SYLVAN, NAD album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.59 | 37 ratings

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Spiritus Mundi
Nad Sylvan Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars These days, Nad Sylvan is most recognised as the frontman for Steve Hackett, a position he has been in for the last 10 years, but his musical career both with bands and solo stretches all the way back to the late Seventies. After he completed his recent trilogy of albums, he was wondering about what direction he should move in next and started thinking about Andrew Laitres who had approached him previously about working on a song called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" which ended up as a bonus track on one of Nad's albums. Nad listened to some of Andrew's demo tracks, and they decided to work on them together to create a proper album.

Nad provides lead and backing vocals, keyboards, orchestration, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and programming while Andrew contributes lead and backing vocals, acoustic nylon, steel and 12 string guitars, and additional keyboards. Of course, Nad used his contacts to fill out the sound, so Tony Levin provides bass on four tracks, while Jonas Reingold is also present on bass for one. For drums, Sylvan targeted The Flower Kings drummer Mirkko DeMaio while Steve Hackett makes an appearance on one track titled "To a Child Dancing in the Wind." Lyrically the album is based on the poetry of William Butler Yeats, who is often referred to as one of the finest poets of all time (and a royal pain in the neck to anyone studying English Literature to any level as he was massively complex and fixated on gyres ? they still haunt me).

The result is something which sounds both fresh and invigorating, with lots of space within it, and the feeling that this belongs far more in the late Seventies than it does in the third decade of the 21st century. We get harpsichord at times, wonderful vocal harmonies of acoustic guitar, but more importantly there is loads of space contained within. This is a prog album to sit back and relax into, with a nice glass of pinot gris, keeping everything fresh and light. The lack of touring due to the pandemic means that Andrew in the US and Nad in Sweden could spend their time working on this and finessing it to a fine polish, resulting in something which is a delight from start to end. I sincerely hope we have more collaborations between the two in the future as this really is like a breath of fresh air.

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 2020 by DAWSON, RICHARD album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.07 | 5 ratings

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2020
Richard Dawson Prog Folk

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars Listening diary 15th January, 2022: Richard Dawson - 2020 (art rock, 2019)

If I ever return to doing yearly music awards (which I might, they are good fun), I think I might name one after this album. It would be called The Richard Dawson Award for the Album That Actually Made Me Care About Lyrics. Or something like that.

It's well documented at this point that I don't really care about lyrics in my music. I care about vocals, and the voice as an instrument, and the choice of words can obviously make or break a melody, depending on whether the words lock in with the shape of the notes, but the actual content? Don't know, don't care. I don't even know what the vast majority of my favourite songs are about; nor do I have any intention to learn.

But this album doesn't let you ignore its lyrics - in part it's due to Dawson's full frontal vocal display, but it's also the frequent usage of utterly mad lines which you just can't let fly by. I'll confess, it took until my third listen to really notice the lyrics, but the allusions to Galashiels and Lionel Messi and raising money for the British Red Cross was just too amusing for me to ignore. It probably helps considering my life situation right now. It's been a year since I last lived in Britain, and I'm beginning to miss it a lot. Dawson is from the northeast, an area I have a lot of love for, and though this record tells tales of sadness and struggle and frustration, what's endearing about it is the very English spirit to it all - the unity in having a rubbish time and finding a way to enjoy it anyway. I live in a country of saccharine optimism - New Zealand has most of its roots British culture, both England and Scotland, but instead of embracing the negatives, most people here choose to pretend they don't exist. The first time I really sat down with this album and its lyrics I got these incredibly strong feelings of homesickness - for a place that isn't my home. There's so much soul and heart here, to the point where it's made me break my own rules on talking about lyrical content in reviews.

Oh damn, I should probably talk about the music. That's what I normally do, right? Well, it's not as if this is an album that relies on its lyricism to stand up - far from it. Dawson has an incredible range of influences, but the strongest ones here to me are fellow Tynesiders Everything Everything, if you could imagine them playing sludgy art rock with strong Comus influences. He isn't afraid to veer into serious prog rock at times here, and the off-kilter avant-folk that characterised his early work is always a part of the musical palette, especially the fingerpicked guitar. The hooks here are excellent too, somehow managing to fit insanely catchy melodies into these bizarre and angular chord progressions. Some parts of it are a touch too avant for my tastes, but there are enough quality melodies here to bridge the gaps nicely.

7.5 (5th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

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 Shelter by TIME'S FORGOTTEN album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Shelter
Time's Forgotten Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Formed back in 2004 by Juan Pablo Calvo (keyboards, guitars, vocals), Time's Forgotten have long been seen as one of the top prog metal bands out of Costa Rica, but it has been ten long years since their third album, 'The Book Of Lost Words' was released. Back then they were a sextet with a male singer, but Francisco Longhi and guitarist Leonardo Rojas, have both since departed. Juan, along with Jorge Sobrado (drums), Ari Lotringer (lead guitar) and Gonzalo Trejos (bass) have now been joined by Priscilla Ruiz on lead vocals. I have not come across the previous releases, but when a singer is changed it is not unusual for a band sound to change considerably, especially if they move from male to female, so I must believe that this is a totally fresh start for them.

Given that the band was formed by the keyboard player, I expected them to be musically coming from that area but instead they are coming into the genre much more from a melodic metal stance, with prog overtones. They can slow it down when they wish, and head more into the keyboard swathed sound, yet are also happy with plenty of technical guitar riffs, really mixing and changing the set all the way through so one is never sure where the next song is going to lead. On top of that they have a singer who is able to provide gentle, almost ballad-style vocals with long-held notes without a single ounce of strain, or she can be ripping into it is with a wonderful high range and power.

There is a lightness with the heavy, which makes this an incredibly easy album to listen to the very first time it is played. They use loads of contrast, and there is little room for egos as everyone does their job without a "look at how clever I am" attitude. There is no doubt at all that Time's Forgotten are back in a big way and let us hope it is not nearly as long until we get the next album.

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 Power of Three by TIME HORIZON album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Power of Three
Time Horizon Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars As may be guessed from the title, this is the third album from Christian progressive melodic rock band Time Horizon. They have been through quite a few line-up changes since their inception, but whereas the last album was featured around the core of Ralph Otteson (keyboards, piano, Hammond organ, backing vocals), Allen White (electric and fretless bass) and Dave Miller (electric guitar, acoustic guitars) plus assorted well-known session musicians such as Jake Livgren, Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood etc, we now have a six-piece band with the trio being joined by David Bradley Mau (lead vocals, keyboards), Bruce Gaetke (drums, backing vocals, lead vocals), and Michael Gregory (electric guitar, acoustic guitars), although it should be noted that Gaetke was an original member of the band, although he performed on only a few tracks on the last album.

What strikes one immediately from the off is just how polished this is, and I was blown away as I did not expect an album of this quality from what is (to me) a totally new act. Just goes to show just how much great music there is out there, and that it is impossible to keep an eye (or ear) on everything which is going on. For me the main comparison is with Saga, perhaps not too surprising with two keyboard players in the band, yet with two guitarists what really works here is the blend between the instruments and the arrangements. There is still room for cut through, with the drums playing an incredibly important role in that area, and the vocals are spot on throughout.

This is a real crossover album in that fans of melodic progressive rock will surely fall in love with it the very first time, as did I, while fans of more straightforward melodic rock will hopefully also find plenty in here to enjoy even though there is more depth and breadth than they would normally be used to. There are times when the guys allow themselves to be rockers, with the keyboards taking more of a backseat, providing some layers and tinkling piano, and then at others they are a synth-driven outfit with polish and balls. This is not music from 2022: it could have come out at the end of the Seventies and at any point up to 2000, with flair and musicianship joining with wonderful songs and hooks. If one had told me this was a supergroup I would not have been surprised, and within the first 30 seconds of opener "Living for a Better Day" I was doing research as I was blown away by what I was hearing.

Yet another incredible release from the mighty Melodic Revolution Records label, and well worth discovering.

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 Chester Gorilla by CHESTER GORILLA album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.58 | 5 ratings

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Chester Gorilla
Chester Gorilla Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Saimon

4 stars Review #17: Chester Gorilla

An album with a nice sound, and a good vibe. Far from simple, and subtly indie. Pretty good :)

Chester Gorilla, debut work of the band with the same name, is an album with a mix of Jazz Fusion, folk and groove pretty cool.

I hope the band will release another album soon because this was really enjoyable. I listened to it for the second time when I went to the beach at sunset. Then I listened to a few songs while watching midnight in my backyard. And I must say, it's an album that can be enjoyed much more outdoors, and at any time.

To tell the truth, very diverse, fun, sentimental, with pretty clean sounds and instrumentation.

Puippara (17/20): A very friendly introduction to the album, with catchy flutes and keyboards.

Shesone (8/10): Something more "desert" ambient, with bongos, guitar standing out above the rest, and that western touch that fits quite well with the ambience of the other sounds. And I want to mention something, which is the short transitional guitar solo at minute 3:30 that reminded me a lot of "Octopus's Garden (Abbey Road)".

Peter the Elephant (4/5): We start the song with a space ambience, whales running aground, and the screams of an elephant transitioning to a guitar that would introduce the song. It is a calmer song, with saxophones in between adding one or another arrangement or arpeggio. Subtle rhythmic breaks with the soft saxophone picking up the end of some of the arrangements. "A Wildlife Song".

Aripuppollo Space (14/20): Something more dynamic. Starts with funk algorithms, progresses with a cut of quebrados and drums. And moves on to a more jazzy ambience with a focus on bass.

Guacamole (7/10): I don't know if I have much to say about this song. It's kind of simple but not that simple, and it's good. I was a little amused by the monkey sounds at the beginning. It might be the most "Jazz/Fusion" thing on the album.

The Heat (5/5): In my opinion, the best track on the album, and the only one with vocals. It has little cuts, interludes, breaks, harmonies, all together make for a great song to close the album.

8/10, 4 stars. A great album for the season, and surprising that it belongs in 2020.

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 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.82 | 41 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Canadian Ken Baird making his third attempt to broadcast to the world his reverence for all-things Tony Banks.

1. "Wither Down" (10:53) like something from Tony Banks' first solo album (though perhaps a bit better). The vocals are near-unlistenable--reminding me of Chris Squire's pitchy, strained, solo attempts. (15.5/20)

2. "Echo" (5:59) a little more complexity here. (8/10)

3. "Canyon Song" (6:32) Not seeing any above-average quality or creativity here. (7.75/10)

4. "Waves of Sound" (11:00) pretty but seems to exist solely for the purpose of placing the listener into a Mellotron coma (which can be a very pleasant place to be). Love the treated vocal, French lyrics, and free-walking bass. (16.75/20)

5. "Megalopolitana" (15:18) Kudos for Ken's sidemen for doing their best to breathe some life into this one. Some of the instrumental activity is rather interesting. The vocals (and lyrics) weigh it down (again). (24.25/30)

6. "All Kinds of Futures" (6:47) To give Ken some credit: He is one of the more gifted Tony Banks imitators--as well as one of the more spot-on Genesis re-creators. (12.25/15)

Total Time 56:29

A collection of very pretty music that sounds exactly like most of the TONY BNAKS/GENESIS-worshipping Neo Prog coming out in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Competent, rich in full keyboard sound, and pleasantly melodic but, ultimately, too derivative/imitative--and poor sound quality.

C/three stars; a nice collection of pretty exhibitions of Tony Banks worship that could be relegated to the "collectors only" pile were it not for their competency in Genesis recreation.

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 psi-hybrid by ELECTRIC ORANGE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.56 | 7 ratings

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psi-hybrid
Electric Orange Krautrock

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Dirk-Jan Müller and his band of Kosmisches groovemasters are back again with yet another highly engaging, enjoyable, and entertaining album release. Makes me wanna just sit back and veg!

1. "Report (0:57) 2. "Dilectric" (7:30) groovin' with some aliens. Very CAN-like. (13/15) 3. "Season of the Bitch" (9:32) great groove jam with sax and, later, wah-guitar soloing. I could psi-trail to this forever! (18.5/20) 4. "Shingle Robe" (7:17) very cinematic--and Australian Outback sounding. Cool shift in the middle. More alien voice recordings in the final third. (13/15) 5. "Phenomenon" (6:07) another kosmisches groove with some cool infinity guitar over the top--and dobro! (8.75/10) 6. "Psycho Harmony" (4:34) a more primal, worldly, David Sylvian-like groove (though, not uncommon to Holger Czukay, either) with Eastern percussives et al. Cool contrast between bass and flute/flute synth. Love when the bass harmonics are played solo opposite tribal drums and untuned metal percussives. (8.75/10) 7. "Mesocarp Blues" (8:52) more sedate, almost quiet jazzy groove with flute. Cool when 'tron play begins. Almost Beat/beatnik-like without it. (17/20) 8. "Subcutaneous Star" (8:21) keys give an almost orchestral/symphonic feel to this shamanic journey. Then some Frippertronics in the second half. Cool! (17.25/20) 9. "Wacky Amoebatrons" (11:07) crazy effects on guitar strums with "empty" bass and drum track beneath. And then pulsing organ chord joins and guitar groove goes more Ry Kooder--until the end of the third minute, then we go back to the experimental stringed-instruments strums & strikes--this time employing zither. When the whole band joins in again for the bounciness at the halfway point, it's good. Otherwise, it's only ? interesting. (16.5/20) 10. "Erusamu Basement" (7:34) dobro, cymbals, bass, and pulsing synth buzz open this one. Doesn't really go anywhere except to make room for guitarist to experiment. (12.5/15)

Total Time 71:51

B-/3.5 stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like to just sit back and engage with the groove while musicians experiment over the top.

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 Mysticeti Ambassadors Part 1 by ANCESTRY PROGRAM, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.52 | 14 ratings

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Mysticeti Ambassadors Part 1
The Ancestry Program Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

5 stars THE ANCESTRY PROGRAM is a German neo-prog group at first; founded very recently as a quartet by Andy, Thomas, Mani and Ben, to which Frank, touring bassist from RPWL, came to assist recently. A slap, that of the end of the year for this album, a slap with young blood for these musicians whose existence I did not know there is still a month, misery. A sound with sounds of TALK TALK, DREAM THEATER, SUBSIGNAL, HAKEN, ARENA, a melting-pot sound that left me speechless.

"Dark to Overcome" begins long (17 minutes) to give the sound bases of the group between the sweetness of the 70's and the delicious brutality of the 2000's of HAKEN; it goes everywhere and it's very melodic, bordering on dancing like TEARS FOR FEARS and TALK TALK; the voice is melodic, the musical digression with a synth eyeing the side of BANKS for a moment; there is a moment of bluesy distraction then it starts halfway on the best ARENA, it's nervous, more prog metal than neo-prog; a crazy vocal crazy break à la SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM or at TOWNSEND occurs at the end. "Gusty Ghost" for a conventional neo prog track then mixed with an electronic touch; a bit of acoustic guitar which connects on a melodic and monolithic ambient title due to the importance of the keyboards. "Lovely Lies" or the symphonic, progressive and atmospheric title as we still dream of it; a sound board where the voices are honored, it twirls everywhere. The melodic rhythm at the start gradually swells between vintage keyboards, electronic percussion, classical wind instruments with violin and cello, aerial pads and vocoder; on ARENA, AYREON, SIEGES EVEN, PINK FLOYD period 'Animals'. The finale with cataclysmic drum roll on a spatial sound makes me melt and take advantage of the power of my speakers, I find the MANFRED MANN then again PINK FLOYD, and this riff, this riff very much in the prog metal movement.

"Tiny Monsters" with this drums still highlighted bringing an ethereal voice like pop-rock TALK TALK, art-rock for these musical games with synths and other keyboards, on dancing symphonic new wave with a thunderous air on the keyboard, a must; an explosive solo in a pleasurable break on an electrified AYREON, nervous on an electronic break from the most beautiful era of TANGERINE DREAM; soaring, dreamlike with Andy highlighted; it seems conventional but inventive and varied. "Carry On (The Lyricist)" on K2000, yes this crazy series with the car followed by a maddening riff; an intro with percussions and choirs, the madness of QUEEN for a time with the baroque rock spirit, a bit of SHADOW GALLERY and other SAVATAGE with the charismatic madness of Peter GABRIEL and IQ. Rising sequence, voice à la Sid VICIOUS which disorients at 8 minutes with the piano which reverberates, the voice on GENESIS, on the 'Love Is All' then it starts again on the best progressive SAGA of 'Generation 13' and UNITOPIA by the same occasion. Good a pearl all the way to the sensual song, to the delicious atmosphere. "My Enemy" continues which will therefore sit you down for over 20 minutes non-stop; clarinet, sax, drums but what do I like, a supercharged soft 70's title; a bluesy-ballad variation on the piano that sets the tempo; thunderous break with metronomic pads on SYLVAN, vocals and this riff that comes back; final leaving on the crazy musical wanderings of a Devin TOWNSEND with soothing clarinet at the end. "Diamond Ring" ends this album on an ARK sound, yes you remember this group with Jorn on vocals; here it's soft-djent as a genre, on HAKEN again more symphonic; a passage with death voice becomes unhealthy as the air continues to rise with this intoxicating drum roll, end of course.

THE ANCESTRY PROGRAM has just released a concept album, the titles being chained and setting out a high quality musical framework. An immense album which does not invent a new genre but which synthesizes almost perfectly all the trends from the 80s, 90s to the 2010s and today. A truly unclassifiable, fresh and bewitching album that I listen to with avidity, knowing that a part 2 should be released this fall, in short I am waiting for it this time.

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 Mute by DEMIANS album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.43 | 109 ratings

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Mute
Demians Heavy Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Mute" is the 2nd full-length studio album by French progressive rock/metal act Demians. The album was released through Century Media Records/EMI Records in June 2010. It´s the successor to "Building an Empire" from 2008 and as the case was on the debut album Demians is still the one-man project of Nicholas Chapel who handles all instruments and sings all vocals on the album (although two guests appear on a couple of tracks).

Chapel is a skilled musicians, so if you didn´t know, you wouldn´t notice that he plays all instruments, because there are no weak or sub par performances on "Mute". Everything is played with the amount of skill needed and with the right passion and conviction. His vocals are strong and pleasant, although he doesn´t have the most unique sounding voice. Stylistically the music is alternative/progressive rock, which is often similar in style to Porcupine Tree and other artists in that vein. But other influences also pop up on occasion like the Soundgarden influenced "Feel Alive", or the Sigur Rós and Radiohead influences heard on some of the mellow melancholic parts of the album.

The album opens with the longest and probably most progressive song in "Swing of the Airwaves", and while Chapel visit progressive territories at other times during the album´s playing time, "Mute" isn´t the most progressive album out there. It focuses more on emotion, dynamics (heavy/mellow), and melancholy, and in that regard it´s a nicely atmospheric release. It´s an album which reeks professionalism in all departments. High level musicianship, a well sounding production job, and well written material. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 Panther by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.67 | 185 ratings

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Panther
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Iconic art prog metal inventors Pain of Salvation released their eighth studio album 'Panther' in August 2020, as usual, through Inside Out Music, and this new recording serves as a successor to their absolutely brilliant 2017 offering 'In the Passing Light of Day'. The band present a collection of nine new songs spanning across some fifty minutes of playtime, giving the world of heavy music a real breath of fresh air - this album is quite unique in terms of how it sounds like when compared to the music of Pain of Salvation's peers, and while the listener will find the usual ingredients of a good PoS album - the peculiar approach to songwriting, the memorable choruses, the thoughtful lyrics, and the variety of sounds that the band members create - there is also something that sets this record apart from the rest of the band's catalogue; It is exquisitely personalized and sincere, it is almost like a shelter for all the wayward sons out there, and a very realistic reflection on the current condition of the human spirit.

'Panther' is just as dark as it is heavy, and the overall feel that this album leaves is of something comforting, a bit like a friend who is willing to listen to you when you most need it; This, however, does not mean that the record is uplifting - it is, in fact, engaging and reflective, and it demands your full attention, as is the case with most releases by this excellent Swedish band. The album kicks off with the powerful track 'Accelerator', accompanied by a very well-shot video, the song tells the story of the disappointments you could stumble upon in a relationship, and the angst is perfectly portrayed by Daniel Gildenlöw's powerful singing. 'Unfuture' follows up, a song that builds up slowly and gradually unfolds into one of the most menacing choruses you could hear on a Pain of Salvation song. Then comes the single 'Restless Boy', a song that easily sums up what the whole thing is about. 'Wait' is a 7-minute emotional ride and a very unusually-sounding song for the band, with the ambient soundscapes and the vocal effects going on; Then there is 'Keen to a Fault', another powerful track on which Gildenlöw is exquisite. 'Fur' is a daring little instrumental leading to the almost rap-metal title track that would have certainly fitted perfectly the track list of 'Scarsick'; 'Species' is a decent metal track that comments on the storyteller's disappointment with the society he is exposed to. And finally, the 13-minute 'Icon' is an interesting composition that kind of bottles up all the different aspects of the preceding songs but the songwriting is not necessarily among the band's strongest.

In a word, 'Panther' is a strong addition to the Pain of Salvation discography, an emotional and grim collection of very innovative prog metal mixed up with their art rock inclinations that gives us Daniel Gildenlöw's pessimistic overview of the world we live in.

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 Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus by RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ, OMAR album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.55 | 27 ratings

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Eclectic Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars After a few albums of ORL getting into the more abstract territory with his music it's honestly pretty nice for him to put out a more straightforward listening experience, especially one as good and distinctive as this one. The more stripped back, focused sound presented here goes a long way as well, with a more psychedelic edge without often delving into the completely experimental, bizarre territory, instead focusing far stronger on some great rhythms and melodies with the soundscapes taking a bit of a backseat in favour of this more accessible and fun jamming. Despite all this talk about simplicity and taking a step back, I also cannot say that this is devoid of its more complex and wildly creative moments as well, whether it's through these longer tracks that are able to tell a bit or a story with its ebb and flow, having these long stretches of atmosphere broken up by intense flurries of intensity, something that's especially notable on the 11 minute Tied Prom Digs on the Docks. Some of the tracks focused very tightly on specific ideas are great as well, especially Mood Swings, which embodies its title to the fullest extent, being a disorienting ride through so many different tones and atmospheres that it's insane. Overall this is just a very, very solid album that reins in some of the more aimlessly experimental tendencies of Omar and is an amazing palette cleanser after the consistent strangeness of the past few albums, all while being a great time in its own right.

Best tracks: Sex, Consolation for Misery, Tied Prom Digs on the Docks, Mood Swings

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 In Through the Out Door by LED ZEPPELIN album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.93 | 614 ratings

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In Through the Out Door
Led Zeppelin Prog Related

Review by Dellinger

2 stars Just like Presence, I find this album more annoying than anything... without much of the hard rock songs that I love from them, let alone the epic ones. But unlike Presence, this one doesn't have a song as great as "Achilles Last Stand" to save it. I don't give it one star because there is "In the Evening", which is good, as well as "All my Love", but still they are not at the same level of their greatest songs from previous albums. It's a shame that this would be the last album they would record before the end of their career.

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 If You're Home by AUTUMN ELECTRIC album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.00 | 1 ratings

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If You're Home
Autumn Electric Crossover Prog

Review by Gallifrey

— First review of this album —
3 stars Listening diary 10th March, 2021: Autumn Electric - If You're Home (indie folk/rock, 2010)

This band's later work is some of my favourite underground prog-folk-indie crossover music, so I'm slowly exploring what seems to be an extensive back catalogue that not many have paid attention to. This is sweet, and really that's it - there's no prog here whatsoever, just some sweet and well-performed folk rock songs, with the distinctive vocal already well developed. I can't say I remember anything from it though, it just feels like a bit of an inoffensive bedroom demo. Not bad, but not notable either.

5.1 (1st listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

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 Inside by ELOY album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.79 | 473 ratings

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Inside
Eloy Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Uruk_hai

4 stars Review #202

What a drastic change in the musical style of Eloy this album was, this is where the Eloy I know and love started. "Inside" was the first attempt of Eloy to enter the fields of Progressive Rock (I say attempt assuming it was completely intentional), the mainly hard bluesy rock they played in the first album evolved to a much more spacey one with excellent keyboards, precise drums and not filled with very speed and overwhelming guitar. The opening track is the 17-minute epic "Land of no body", which has excellent instrumental sections through which Eloy explored the fields of progressive rhythm changes, the main plate on this piece is Manfred Wieczorke's keyboard, sometimes very in a Richard Wright way and sometimes even in a Keith Emerson way.

The short tracks on the B-side are also in the vein of the opening track, the Pink Floyd influence is undeniable but that is what I love about music: no matter how much influence you take from another band, it's not a copy when the ideas bring so much of original content. The rhythmic patterns in "Inside" are exquisite, the guitar solos are very energic while "Future city" is a much slower piece with the presence of acoustic guitar (occasionally) and even a little dark atmosphere. The closing track "Up and down" has a very slow and relaxed rhythm, very hypnotic in some moments with the nice touch of the choral voices, marching music, and the end with the moving sound that goes from one side of the music speaker to the other.

SONG RATING: Land of no body, 5 Inside, 4 Future city, 3 Up and down, 5

AVERAGE: 4.25

PERCENTAGE: 85

ALBUM RATING: 4 stars

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 Escape of the Phoenix by EVERGREY album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.49 | 38 ratings

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Escape of the Phoenix
Evergrey Progressive Metal

Review by eduardico21

3 stars This is my first time listening to an Evergrey album, so I don't really know how it fits in their discography. I discovered the band because I'm a big fan of Ayreon, and Englund has been one of the many invited vocalists on their albums, but I didn't listem to them at the moment. Indeed, it was a short time ago when by chance they popped on my Spotify, with the song "Eternal Nocturnal".

I really liked that song so I decided to listen to the album whole. And well, this may not be a masterpiece by any means, but I've had a fun time over the 9-10 times I've listened to it. The best thing the band has to offer are the vocals by Englund, who doesn't have super high pitched capabilities nor a crazy range of octaves, but delivers a solid and emotional performance on every song. The best ones for me are "Forever Outsider", "Where August Mourns", "Eternal Nocturnal" (the three of them being the most fast-paced of the bunch) and my favourite, the highly melancholic "Run". "The Beholder" is not among my favs as a whole but I love the middle section with James Labrie as a guest.

However, there are some drawbacks to the album too, as it tends a little too much on repetitive patterns. The structures are not interisting at all, and although the songs have interesting melodic ideas they don't surprise you at all, being very predictable. There are so many ballads/slow-paced songs for my liking too. On the other part, the guitar riffs and solos are very nice, reminding me of a more simple version of Dream Theater, but nothing really breathtaking either.

In conclusion, I believe Escape From the Phoenix to be a good album. However, i would have shortened the tracklist a bit removing the weaker songs ("Stories", "In the Absence of Sun"), and a little more variation in songwriting with different takes on structures would have benefited it. But in the end, I've had a fun time with it and I'm willing to take a bigger dive in their career.

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 Eloy by ELOY album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.90 | 276 ratings

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Eloy
Eloy Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Uruk_hai

3 stars Review #201

It is very interesting to see how different can a debut album sound from the classic and most popular following records by the same band, Eloy's debut record is an example of that: the essence of this record is very far from the spacey rock the band developed from 1973 to 1979, actually, this album is much more oriented to a bluesy Hard Rock that resembles more to bands such as Wishbone Ash, Atomic Rooster, Birth Control and Deep Purple (Evans days). The record is filled with excellent guitar riffs and very strong bass and drum lines throughout the entire piece, nothing really special or fully remarkable but absolutely enjoyable. The classic sound of Eloy would appear in their late records, this is a very nice debut but definitely not an indispensable album, entertaining and interesting to discover and occasionally listen to, but no more than that.

SONG RATING: Today, 4 Something yellow, 4 Eloy, 4 Song of a paranoid soldier, 3 Voice of revolution, 3 Isle of the sun, 3 Dillus roady, 4

AVERAGE: 3.57

PERCENTAGE: 71.43

ALBUM RATING: 3 stars

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 Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme by GHOSTBOUND album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2021
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme
Ghostbound Experimental/Post Metal

Review by sabbacc108

— First review of this album —
4 stars An excellent follow-up to their debut, Extended Play For My Sweet Mary Thyme is a nautical-themed song cycle. Opening and closing with the sound of waves, the album can be seen as an endless loop---this is reflected in the lyrics. Meditations on love and loss fill the tracks, with both opening track "And We Are Already At Sea" and the following track, "Ada, Age of Eight" contemplating the passage from life to death, and how that transition affects those left behind. "The Bosun's Lament" depicts a crew of doomed sailors, who seem to sail for eternity without ever reaching their destination. The closing two tracks, "For My Sweet Mary Thyme," and "Seaward," are both moody and epic instrumentals, their musical passages echoing the themes of the previous tracks. Throughout the record, Ghostbound play up contrasts, with frenetic tremolo-picked arpeggios giving way to smooth swells of chorused chords; gentle, finger-picked passages are slammed against walls of thundering distortion; black-metal blast beats walk incongruously arm-in-arm with laid-back jazz grooves on the kit. Nevertheless, while the first album had an occasionally piecemeal quality (inevitably due to its basis as a solo project by singer-songwriter Alec Head), this EP shows the work of a full band who have gelled their talents into a satisfying whole. Even the most idiosyncratic turns of the arrangements all eventually show an inner logic that helps to nestle them together like the carefully-crafted puzzle pieces they are.

Like the purgatorial mariners of "The Bosun's Lament," the moment the waves fade at the end of the last track, you may find yourself compelled to return again to the start of your journey.

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 Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.06 | 386 ratings

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Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Hewitt

4 stars Officially this was Hammill's second solo album (his first, Fools Mate, having been released in 1971 shortly before the final first wave Van Der Graaf Generator album Pawn Hearts) but some have argued that it's actually his third, as the first VDGG album was recorded as a solo effort, and finally issued as a group album simply due to the machinations of the music biz (and, bizarrely, in the United States only where the group had precisely no fans at the time. Count them Zero!). Hammill, on the other hand, in his sleeve notes to the 2006 remastered CD states that Chameleon was his 'first proper solo album' (Fools Mate consisting mainly of old songs written in the very early days of Van Der Graaf). Confused?

Well, what can be said without fear of contradiction is that Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night was Hammill's first release following the break up of VDGG in mid 1972. Having broken up the band (Hammill was apparently the first to say he was leaving) who did he ask to play on his solo record? His three old pals from Van Der Graaf, of course, plus part time Van man bassist Nic Potter, so from a certain perspective, Chameleon is a fully fledged VDGG reunion!

For an artist setting out on a solo career this album casts many a backward glance thematically and the 'shadow' of his former band hangs heavily across proceedings. There is at least one song written for VDGG and played live in the final phase of the band - (In the) Black Room/The Tower - and there are songs about the band and a sequel to a Van Der Graaf song. A parallel might be drawn with the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. Both records see the artist looking back at his former band and trying to find a way forward. Interestingly, for a man so often accused of being a solipsistic misery guts, Hammill's record is the less self pitying, more outward looking and ultimately more optimistic of the two.

The songs divide into piano led, acoustic guitar led and full ensemble. The opener, German Overalls, concerns an episode when VDGG ran out of money while on tour. It's a sort of diary entry, or snapshot from the touring photo album, driven by thrashy acoustic guitar with a dash of Harmonium and some surreal sound effects. The pianistic psychodrama In The End manages to be about mortality and the end of the band simultaneously.

In fact, themes of break up run throughout the album. The gentle acoustic guitar ballad Slender Threads is a meditation on a former lover and the moving piano number Easy to Slip Away is a sequel to the VDGG anthem Refugees. That song was about a group of friends in the late 1960s, in flight from the values of mainstream society, but bonded and made optimistic by their friendship. But now the friends have drifted apart and the only sliver of hope is that perhaps one day they will be reunited. The elegiac mood is enhanced by mellotron and plaintive saxophone. What's it Worth and Dropping the Torch (the latter solo acoustic guitar and the former acoustic guitar elevated by a 'mellifluteous' Jackson) are reflections on choice and responsibility.

Rock and Role is a full band effort, with PH on electric guitar, and one of the highlights of the record. It sound less like Van Der Graaf and more like a weird jump cut to the warped beat music Hammill would be purveying in the early 80s with the K Group. The grand finale, (In the) Black Room/The Tower, is pure VDGG - epic, barnstorming, packed with incredibly exciting ensemble playing and dynamic contrasts, overflowing with emotional and psychological intensity and finally cathartic, with Hammill ending the record exclaiming ecstatically that he's 'feeling like a kid again'. He's spent the entire album trying to make sense of past experience and now he's ready to move on.

In an early interview Hammill was quoted as saying that his ambition was to become 'the Hendrix of the voice'. Quite an ambition but he certainly made a very creditable stab at it. He introduced an entirely new set of tricks and tropes to the rock vocal repertoire and is on fine, if somewhat thinly recorded form, on this platter: soaring high angelically, growling low menacingly, whispering intimately, screaming frenziedly - and very often all within the same song. Hammill turns the act of singing into a theatrical event. He doesn't so much sing these songs as become them. At this stage of his career he was, if not a non musician exactly, then certainly a primitive, and the songs are essentially created by and around his voice. For all the accomplishment of his collaborators the star instrument on this album is Peter Hammill.

Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night was the start of an intensive recording period for Hammill - four groundbreaking albums in less than two years. These records established many diverse threads, both lyrically and musically, which he has spent the last half century extrapolating. It was also important for a very specific reason as it marked the start of his home recording which was eventually to ensure the continuation of his career as a recording artist. The basic tracks were recorded on a TEAC four track tape machine Hammill had purchased and then worked on at Rockfield and Trident Studios. As Hammill notes the guitar sound throughout the album is somewhat scratchy and the whole production a tad eccentric (well he was on a learning curve, and anyway, technical perfection has never really been his raison d'être).

The 2006 CD remaster includes a couple of solo live tracks recorded in Kansas City in 1978 (taken from the bootleg album Skeleton of Songs) featuring a fully unfettered Hammill, and also a recording of a very early Hammill song, Rain 3am, made around the time of Chameleon.

So, an intensely personal album made by a young man (he was a mere 24) at a crossroads in his life. But as with all of Hammill's best work, the intensely personal is transmuted into the universal. Whether you catalogue it as his second, third or whatever album, Mr H is undoubtedly right - the real Peter Hammill solo story starts here.

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 English Electric (Part One) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.21 | 1088 ratings

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English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by ElChanclas

5 stars EEPO is the seventh studio album by prog act Big Big Train and the 2nd to feature late vocalist and multi- instrumentalist David Longdon. Their music covers a lot of ground, with symphonic and folk passages cleverly mixed with their Neo prog base, and this being my personal interpretation of their art.

The First Rebreather opens the album and should be enough of a good song to bring the listener closer to the speakers (headphones or whatever) and guarantee their attention for the next hour or so. Longdon could sing like Peter Gabriel, like Phil Collins, like Sinatra, you name it! But must important he sounded like him, arguably the best voice in the modern prog world. I like all arrangements and changes along the track, as well as the different melodies used in vocals and in the guitar licks, those licks that elegantly appeared in the back of the song but at the same time fill the little gaps left by the outstanding keyboard and bass guitar displayed! Awesome start to a soon to be "classic album".

Uncle Jack is all Longdon, I'm just pretty sure (supported on interviews watched and his participation in other song's writing) this mood is his personality, it fits with him. Storytelling, happy, funny, sad, melancholic, up tempo, a weird mix of emotions with a folk structure that makes the song even more charming and somehow memorable. Again, the guitar work is brutal, simple but brutal!

Winchester from St. Giles' Hill follows entering a more British moody and thick ambience. It may sound crazy to some, but I can hear some vocal similitud to Hogarth's performance in some passages from FEAR, maybe a little influence? Why not, right? His voice was so spectacular that I'm sure it was admired even by counterparts. I'm any case, the duo Spawton-Longdon could really create some magic moments, the piano playing is also a highlight of this song which to my taste is a top song from the band's latter catalog. Spawton is a genius, period.

Judas Unrepentant. I could really write a whole review just based on the greatness of this sole track, the incredible musical variety and beautiful lyrical content (historical BTW) that it smartly holds, masterpiece! I can play it again and again, discovering new stuff every single time and vowing to admire the band's musicianship. How can a song be more perfect? Add Sjöblom in guitars and play it even louder! Violin and flute, flute and guitar, guitar and organs, organs and bass, bass and drums. Chapeau

Summoned by Bells. Soft and ballad sounding, maybe the less immediate track of the album, at least for me. At first I felt it was a little flat compared to the previous almost 30mins of music, but then I began to understand how it really worked and found answers to the all my mental inquiries, and it is a characteristic of all Spawton compositions, a constant progression of instrumentation that sometimes feel like going nowhere but once you let it kick in it takes you by the hand and guides you towards the end, happy, focused and surprised with some seductive sax that adds a jazzy prog rhythm relying in the bass guitar.

Upton Heath combines Spawton's English sense of melancholic music crafting with the positive and beautiful aura that definitely surrounded Longdon's songwriting. Nice and calm tune with that haunting cello (is that a cello) that leads the way to a mirage return to the The First Rebreather's mood.

A Boy in Darkness takes us back to the storytelling with a song that sounds very personal and very lived, showcasing Longdon's amazing voice, powerful and big, perfectly suited for a Big Big Train. Its dark but hopeful at the same time and it allows all instruments to have their moment of greatness, even the little ones like the flute and the strings, smartly placed late in the queue just when more greatness from the band will be not so easy to get, false! Incredible musical performance top to bottom. Why did I discovered this band so late in my life? Not fair, not fair we don't have that human being walking the Aretha anymore. Out of my system, thanks.

Hedgerow. I've always said that huge (and even better if epic too) incredible songs are important for me when album-closer songs are on topic, thankfully this song stands for what is needed after almost 50mins of excellency. A mix of early folky REM-like opening that blends with Collins's era Genesis to form a perfectly structured prog epic, and the strings! I just love those string arrangements and their hypnotic sound. The drumming is simply fenomenal, mandolins playing alongside electric guitar soloing like blending effortlessly two musical eras. Epic ending, epic musicianship. Can't wait to dig deeper into their whole catalog. THE END

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 Live 2011 by QUASAR album cover Live, 2012
3.70 | 8 ratings

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Live 2011
Quasar Neo-Prog

Review by DangHeck

2 stars My final purposeful excursion into the Neo-Prog band that was there from the start, Quasar.

"Seeing Stars" (5 minutes longer than the studio version off Fire in the Sky) heads off low and slow, but fairly big. I'm not big into his vocals; it is what it is. Things pick up around minute 4 and do keep ascending. Drums are nice. Keys are bright and triumphant. Female vox take the helm around minute 5 with a new rhythm, led by light cymbals and bass. The thing is, it's just so dated.

Seeing its live representation, "Power in Your Hands" must be popular(?). It was big, and almost good... I'm just not into this sort of thing, I know. It's followed by "The Loreli", ominous and "in a shroud of mystery" haha. Half of it was pretty boring.

Then the track "As You Fall Asleep" must have been aware that I would be listening to this 10+ years later... haha. I will say, the guitar riff paired with the crashing of cymbals is pretty nice. It shifts into... decent... uh... rock opera for a split second haha. Then it's Prog, I think, finally(?!) haha. Again, half a bore, but then half, for the first time on the album, good Prog! Amy Grant's Christmas album from 1983 is more progressive, though, to be completely honest...

"In the Grand Scheme of Things" certainly was a song that existed! Nice hahaha. And finally, the closer, "Mission 14", the first track that I actually had on my main playlist from the original recording (again, Fire in the Sky). The synth-guitar lead/melody around 5:40 is awesome, at least. This ones a bit like CAMEL?! They just don't make epics like they used to, though, huh?

I found most was performed satisfactorily, but much of the sonic choices are hokey and have severely dated themselves. I know people love Neo-Prog, but I have never understood it.

True Rate: 2.5/5.0

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 Slope by MOLESLOPE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.16 | 10 ratings

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Slope
Moleslope Canterbury Scene

Review by DangHeck

3 stars Canterbury Sound Modérn: Japan Chapter

And here, coming away from listening to and preparing for 'Canterbury Sound' from Italy and Spain, we have further international representation of the subgenre from Japan! [I guess if there's Zeuhl worship in this country, why wouldn't we expect other, slightly more obscure progressive idioms to be present?] This is the 2019 debut LP from moleslope, their sole release up to this point.

And right from the first notes on "Change", played on what sounds like a very convivial and welcoming Rhodes piano, and pretty immediately met with rolling drums and horn section (1 trumpeter and 1 saxophonist multi-tracked to provide a really fat, layered ensemble), they are succeeding in 'the Sound'. Though very modern and, in some ways, weirdly undeniably Japanese (I really can't describe it, but I think you'll know how I mean), this is indeed radiating elements from Kent's Jazz-obsessed scene. The piano continues to lead off in a hypnotic lilt on "Slow Snow". When the drums enter, your brain may do a slight shift to acclimate haha. Keys are soft and spacy, matched with the light fingering of sax. Perhaps most comparable here to GILGAMESH; I was trying to think of other bands. Regardless, still, even in this quieted moment, very much hearkening back to Canterbury. It's lovely.

"Shelterless" has a lovely rolling effect, led by very beefy bass. The horn section here reminded me of elements hit upon by Norway's Kent-adjacent SEVEN IMPALE. Very feeling, slightly dark. Speaking of slight, the compositional shifting of this track is very very nice. And there's a nice chordal guitar solo. Again, hypnotic. "Killer" is lead most by drums, utilizing what I assume to be the bells on the cymbals. Successful effect, but the track didn't exactly win me. Using what feels like the same rhythm from "Killer" is "Leap Second", which introduces some nice, crackling synth lead. Back into a hypnosis, but I'm still not entirely convinced. Well performed, at least.

These last few are offset by "North Wind", which was really scratchin' the ol' noggin: textural and tasty. Sounds like flute here (but credited to whom?...). Again, driven by the rolling bass. And finally, rolling right along, is "Light Night Trip", a soft number to finish out. Decent, but nothing to match the frontend strengths.

True Rate: 3.5/5.0

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 Experimental Q: Amintiri Despre Viitor by EXPERIMENTAL QUINTET album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2021
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Experimental Q: Amintiri Despre Viitor
Experimental Quintet Eclectic Prog

Review by dion

— First review of this album —
4 stars Possibly the most well kept secret of the Eastern Europe progressive rock scene (with no wondering surprise for other to surface up, still) is with no doubt the enigmatic group Experimental Q from the city of Cluj in Romania. To set things in order, this is not a compilation, but their very first original seventies recorded material intended for a LP production, postponed and forgotten and never released until 2021. So, for the factual fairness, here we have a valuable cultural restitution of that era. This was until now a wishful thinking of those who remember the past.

As well as it is a Canterbury scene, a kraut particular style and a more scented romantic genre RPI one, progressive music from Eastern Europe could have had its particular sound in the area of the progressive music, with bands like Czechoslovakian ?Collegium Musicum? or ?Fermata?, USSR?s ?Arsenal? or ?Acvarium?, or the Polish ?SBB?, ?Ossian? or ?Laboratorium?, Hungarian ?Syrius?, along with the already known Romanian ?Phoenix?, ?Sfinx?, Celelalte Cuvinte? or ?Progresiv TM?, and now ?Experimental Q?. If for a better promotion and the interest from the local production, music of this part of Europe could be very well a particular land mark for the cult of the pop music with an intellectual foundation. Its particularity may reside in the blend of the well known western genre influences of the kind with a local melancholy touch or ethnic inspiration at some point, altogether with the exoticism of a unknown language sound when lyrics sung in that typical language. This is why some will perceive Experimental Q closer to RPI movement as Romanian language is a Latin based one, nevertheless we can hear only one piece (Flori) with a smooth slippery olive oil Mediterranean vocal timbre on this album.

The title of the album, ?Amintiri despre viitor?, could possibly be much better translated into English as ?Remember the Future?. By the time when, the mostly instrumental pieces, were created, the bestseller book of Erich von D?niken, ?Chariots of the Gods?, was published in Romania under the title translated as ?Amintiri despre viitor?, a translation closer to the one in Portuguese edition as ?Recuerdos del future?. The success of that book made a lot to be inspired and become dreaming creative relied on the thematic of the book. I have no doubt that the young musicians were thinking a lot about that, as Nektar did as well on the same period of time when titled their concept album ?Remember the Future? (1973) as so. A reference to this album may as well be considered for some musical similarities with it as well. Musically speaking, Experimental Q brings a refreshing and very original sound nevertheless. Hints of Classic Baroque, plenty of jazz touches, energetic pure rock, all wrapped up in a well defined innovatively prog sound would describe their music. The craftsmanship of the compositions is perfect and the artistry coat reveals a very well trained musicians in terms of technical details and a fitting perfectly matrix together when swinging. Each player instrument in the band proves strong personalities as musicians with fair room for each to express themselves. Eugen Tunariu?s keyboards can be very classical and jazzy at times, Valentin Farcaș?s guitar could be gentle and flamboyant as well, Nicolae Bocaciu?s bass easily sustains and leads different rhythms, Nicolae Delioran?s drums lays a sustainable carpet sound with colorful nuances when needed, and Gheorghe Marcovici?s flute can be soft and romantic as Debussy?s ?Girl with Flaxen Hair? to Roland Kirk?s chaotic vocal flute style plying. Altogether a great pleasure listening to the whole record from start to end. Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection ? 4 stars

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 Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle by ALCO FRISBASS album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.09 | 24 ratings

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Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle
Alco Frisbass Eclectic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

5 stars The mystery goes on. What ford are ALCO FRISBASS crossing on this occasion? Mind you, they are getting better and better with every new album. Five new tricky songs delivered by this French trio in 2021, intensively Canterbury flavoured again. I would dare to say that Patrick Dufour, Fabrice Chouette and Frédéric Chaput are representing the non plus ultra concerning compositional skills. The tracks are instrumental all the way through, albeit Jean-Luc Payssan is guesting with a little chant contribution plus special guitar stuff. Though overall the music is very keyboard laden, okay, as it is quite usual for such a stylistical weight. Since the very start in 2015 with their eponymously named debut album they are relying on the drum programming. For one or two a deduction at source. But honestly, if you would not know that ... well, it's perfectly arranged, for me there's nothing to complain.

This is provided with some hints reminding me of Partner, Instant Curtain, Argos, and the proggy incarnation of Caravan. The title track Le Mystère Du Gué Pucelle opens the album, that unpredictable flow is immediately impressing. Especially due to the unbelievable keyboard presence. Melancholic Rhodes piano and organ are dueting for some time, swirling synths and symphonic orchestral strings are interfering later, aso aso. Variety and richness at the maximum. They don't repeat themselves here, just take the following Histoire Diffuse. My personal highlight for now, maybe because the flow is a bit space rock infected, tending towards the band Gong or so. Sélénite comes in jazz tinged, where Pulsar initiates with a vivid bass line. This trio is convincing all the way through. Following their 2018 masterpiece 'Le Bataleur' they actually did it again.

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 III Tri-Logy by KINGSTON WALL album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.06 | 123 ratings

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III Tri-Logy
Kingston Wall Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars Listening diary 13th January, 2022: Kingston Wall - III - Tri-Logy (psychedelic progressive rock, 1994)

An album that perhaps should not work. Does mid-90's psych-prog really get anyone out of their seat? Coupled with the fact that it's partly influenced by psytrance? There were a few artists kicking around doing this sort of thing in the 90s, but not many that I can say do it as convincingly as Kingston Wall. And it's all because they write good songs first, before they go and drop acid and jam out the instrumental passages. If this was half the length and all the weird psych bits were removed, it would be a passable alt-rock album with strong melodies, good performances and memorable hooks. The psych doesn't necessarily detract from that - it's more the fact that all piled together there's 70+ minutes of stuff here. But when it's good, it's some of the best that 90's prog got to.

6.8 (5th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

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 Historias del Acantilado by KANT FREUD KAFKA album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.98 | 15 ratings

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Historias del Acantilado
Kant Freud Kafka Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Catalonian Javi Herrera is back with his third Kant Freud Kafka release--this one his most polished and well-- produced if most complex collection of songs.

1. "Voz de Metal" (10:18) While I like Javi's male tenor, his lyrics and melodies aren't really to my liking. While I hear hints at previous structural, chordal, and melodic themes, I am happy to feel that this is a song of mostly original ideas. Nice engineering and balance among the sonic landscape--though Alia's beautiful mezzo-soprano perhaps should not be allowed to overshadow Javi's voice so much when it's present. Perhaps their voices could have used a little electronic enhancements as well--to increase the proggy mystique of their story. As it stands, they're a little stark and standout-ish. (And boy does Alia have some strong pipes!) (17.5/20)

2. "Carta de Gaia" (13:05) opens with a female narration over metallic chimes percussives. Acoustic steel-stringed guitars (picked and strummed). More tuned percussion joins in beneath Alia's gorgeous singing--in her wonderful, soaring, crystal-clear upper registers. The centerpiece for the first four is by far and away Ms. Herrera. Then Javi's Moogy synth takes the lead for about a minute before Alia's voice returns. Now accompanied by the Moog and her own background vocal tracks, the song just gets better. I wish I understood the lyrics! At 8:15 the full band kicks in to give it the real prog treatment. All the while Alia's vocals remain so strong, so powerful, so moving! Electric guitar soloing in the 12th minute is primo prog--excellente--over solid, engaging music! At 12:23 we return to the opening acoustic theme--with cello to help Alia finish. Beautiful! Great prog! (23/25)

3. "Conspiranoia" (4:44) piano-based instrumental with bowed acoustic bass and buzz-saw synth and tuned metallic percussives playing the whole way. More avant jazz than the previous pieces. (8.5/10)

4. "My Baby Just Scares for Me" (8:41) Fender Rhodes, electric bass, and my favorite instrument on the planet, cor anglais share the soundsphere of this one. Then, heaven to betsies! oboe joins in to work a verse with the cor anglais! I'm in heaven! Then strings show up in the mix, thickening it considerably. Gorgeous! One of my favorite chamber pieces of the year! At 4:25, a Spanish-feeling jazz combo joins in with piano. The music remains beautiful, then the bass and drums start to get a little showy, spicing up the music quite a bit. Multiple melody lines in the seventh minute compete a little for my attention, but still work. I'm not quite sure how the title fits, but, ... (17.75/20)

5. "El Acantilado" (15:00) Pure chamber rock--acoustic string quartet with synthesizer--for the first four minutes. Then drums and electric guitar enter the piece, with sequencer-like keyboard "bass" track to soon follow. The rock instruments have now taken over, are the dominant purveyors of the music--which remains pretty much the same (despite the drums and thumping bass). The heaviness of this progified version of the chamber music is a bit surprising, but you can tell these instrumentalists know what they're doing. At the seventh minute, the rock rhythm instruments desist while synth and harp continue weaving with synth bass chords and . This evolves into a pretty harp-dominated accompaniment for a Javi and Alia duet. Around 9:20 jazzy fretless bass joins in and then, with the next round, Fender Rhodes, drums, and jazz electric guitar. Then flute--which plays tag with the guitar for a bit before the two lovely voices team up in a round of vocalise before segueing back into their lyrical duet. In the 12th minute, the electric instruments are let loose to wreak havoc, followed by an emotional tenor sax! In the fourteenth minute the Arp synth and violin bring back some of the themes from the opening as the rest of the musicians seem to peter out and die off. (A metaphor for the Holocene Extinction? The Cliff!) (26.5/30)

Total Time 51:48

Though highlights for me are definitely the way the orchestral instruments and mezzosoprano are worked into the music, I am so very much in awe of Javi's compositional prowess and bold blending of classical, jazz, and proggy elements. His daughter, Alia, is quite a talent--as is bass master Dani Fernandez.

B+/four stars; an excellent display of classically- and jazz-based progressive rock music--of the highest caliber of compositional and performance skill. Highly recommended!

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 To the Far Away by BAINBRIDGE, DAVE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.45 | 36 ratings

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To the Far Away
Dave Bainbridge Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Dave Bainbridge is without any question, one of my favourite current artists, having followed his path since the early Iona days, where my left eyebrow was first raised on numerous albums by that celebrated British prog band, such as Open Sky and the Circling Hour. Since those heady days, his solo albums such as Veil of Gossamer, Celestial Fire and Celestial Fire live have been decorated with every star at my disposal, though I would have added the Victoria Cross, La Legion d'Honneur and the US Medal of Honor, thus raising the other supercilium. His work with Lifesigns and Downes/Braide on guitar and the Strawbs on keyboards proves his mettle on all forms of main rock instruments and as such, has carved out quite the reputation in the prog community. David's guitar acrobatics are spirited to say the least, a heady blend of Hackett-like melody and Holdsworthian sizzle, obviously tinged with a Celtic sheen that can not and should not be denied. The music is therefore very spiritual, with warm cascades of Uillean pipes, tin whistles and bodhran, while also incorporating violin and viola, courtesy of former Iona stalwart Frank Van Essen, a fabulous drummer who is also a crack virtuoso on the strings. But do not be fooled by this side of their repertoire as these musicians have no fear of rocking and often blazing (The Celestial Fire live album is full of classic Yes reprises that will make your jaw drop). Powerful, heartfelt, and exhilarating progressive rock of the highest order.

Lately, Dave has been working with Sally Minnear, a female vocalist with a glorious voice (that name should be familiar to those fans of the Kind Behemoth that lived in a glass house, full of power and glory with a freehanded octopus and his three friends etc..). The apple falls not far from the tree, as the two have a chemistry that is hard to describe. Spirit, I guess. The lockdown had taken Dave away from touring with both Strawbs and Lifesigns, putting himself in composing mode and the result will probably outclass the previous glories as this whopper is a timeless classic of the finest vintage.

The sea churns, the lively gale and the salty mist coalesce as one, the cold fuses with the warm heartbeat of an unconquerable soul. "Sea Gazer" is a grandiose opener, a Celtic showcase that seeks to introduce the moody atmosphere that will permeate the entire set as well as the talent that this band owns in spades, with clubs, diamonds, and hearts in tow. The aptly named finale "Something Astonishing" perfectly conveys the scintillating 72- minute journey that any music fan can enjoy by inserting this masterpiece into their eternal prog collection. Sandwiched in between these two colossal pieces, 11 other tracks offer a plethora of variations on the adventuresome theme, such as the hugely contrasted epic "Girl and the Magical Sky" where gentle child-like serenity finds delicate piano ornamentations allied with the sweetest voice on one hand, smartly clashing with bombastic swells of unmitigated explosions of fiery organ, rampaging bass and screeching electric guitars, all held in place with deft yet muscular drumming. Dave's solo is a killer. "Rain and Sun" consolidates further this divergence of attitude, acting as a near segue to the previous piece, allying swelling string orchestrations with an Oldfieldian tinge that was last heard on Mike's Voyager album. The sense of flow lingers on "Clear Skies", where a playful guitar lead scours the clouds, tin whistles in support of another powerful mellotron fueled explosion, as Jon Poole's nimble bass hopscotches over the flat stones like some drunken madman, as also expressed by a charging synth solo that just kills it. Breathtaking!

Still woozy from the onslaught, Dave propels the core 14-minute blockbuster into the melee, the astonishing "Ghost Light", a showcase piece if there ever was one, showing off the talent described earlier, Sally's voice soaring mightily one moment, then suddenly hushed in internal contemplation. The Jon Poole bass guitar carves quite the path in the undertow, nimbly lunging across the sonic landscape, with plenty of ebb and flow. A male voice belonging to Iain Hornal from 10cc and ELO fame encourages the duet, raising the stakes even higher. The electric guitar slithers and slices the spectral horizon, towering, swerving, and veering into the stars above. This is such a majestic and grandiose adventure, magnificently played and sung! Wow! Really wow!

A trio of shorter tracks certainly help calming down all the previous goose bumps, an ornate piano and voice piece that evolves quickly into an extended synth, morphing into a wicked guitar ramble. Lots of polyrhythmic drumming complicate the mood, with great indulgence and a dazzling rip on the piano. Next, Iain Hornal takes the mike and enters ballad mode, with Donockley providing the slick Celtic accoutrements and Sally joins in. Breezy, sweeping ocean mist and loads of melancholia. ''As Night Falls'' ends this triumvirate with a solo guitar rant, an oozing flurry that squeezes every ounce of passion from the stringed neck, a mix of Latimer and Holdsworth rolled in one. Divine.

Van Essen leads some spirited violins and violas, combining with Julie Cameron-Hall, on a majestic neo-classical instrumental that is painfully strident and gorgeous, overwhelming, and touching. ''Infinitude (Region of the Stars)'' is an everlasting explosion on a timeless album. I am not always a fan of such orchestral interludes but this is just plain off the charts, both in gut wrenching emotion and technique.

The next four tracks seem to reflect another set (or suite) of tunes that continue to raise the bar. Starting with the thrilling title track, a more traditional Celtic jig, except the main protagonist is a devilishly exuberant electric lead guitar, doubled by violin, aided by sturdy bass lines and extraordinary drum fills. And just to add a little Irish/Scot sauce, Uillian pipes and whistles finishes off the delight. That Celtic undertone continues on the next piece, the rather hopeful sounding ''Speed Your Journey'' , where Sally gets to sing her piece , sublimely encouraged by wicked bass and drum support. Another jig like piece serves to showcase the rather complex melody, full of swerving notes, played at blistering speeds by all the musicians, Dave leading the band on his sulfurous guitar, mellotron swirls in the background. I mean, just incredible to listen to such dexterity! (Yngwie eat your heart out!) .

And the finale, a starlit gaze into the reflected sky, searches out the last drop of creative juice, offering up a glorious, almost cathedral-like experience, where organs, guitars and choirs are ablaze in ecstasy. A no nonsense top 3 album for 2021, a true prog classic. A must hear and a must have.

5 Remote Distances

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 Visions by SOUP album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.17 | 19 ratings

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Visions
Soup Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Norwegian veterans of 18 years and six albums are back for another shot at increasing their fan base. Having really loved their 2018 release, Remedies, with their great sense of haunting melodies, and then after hearing Eav's AMAZING Giant Sky project's album release from earlier in 2021, I was filled with HIGH hopes for this unexpected windfall.

1. "Burning Bridges" (15:02) a song that really never is given a chance to get going--is stop and go for the whole of its first ten minutes! I don't get it! Not even Radiohead or Sigur Rós can get away with this! And then the final five minutes is just too repetitively monotonous despite all of the creative additions (violins, trumpets, flutes) and reminds me more of an average Post Rock song. (24.5/30)

2. "Crystalline" (7:02) the flutes and picked acoustic guitars in the opening 2:30 is a nice change--more like the Indie- Pop/Prog Folkiness of the Giant Sky album--or even ANATHEMA's albums of the 2010s. The lyrics seem like quite a little lament for the loss of the world as it was before COVID-19. I just wish the chordal structure was a little more interesting, not so endlessly repetitive. (Though, I get the inference that the world is building up to a big crescendo and blow up.) (13/15)

3. "Skins Pt. 1" (1:19) nice little post-apocalyptic, post-civilization piano epitaph. (4.25/5)

4. "Kingdom of Color" (9:11) gently picked acoustic guitar matched up with piano are nice. The heavily-treated vocal is annoying (and totally unnecessary?) Drums, bass, and keys come in giving it even more of an Indie-Pop MICE ON STILTS sound and feel. Later, violins are a very cool addition--and the arrangement for the rest of the band improves nicely. At 4:35 the Post Rock Sigur Rós explosion and Jonsí vocal is unleashed. But then everything just drops away and is replaced by an arpeggiated chord sequence picked nylon string guitar joined by piano, bass & drums, flute, and bright strings. Simple gorgeous! And the dénouement finishes with some gorgeous piano chord play. Definitely the high point of the album. (19/20)

5. "Skins Pts. 2-3" (7:23) begins as if a continuation of the previous song but quickly establishes itself as something totally separate (at least, musically). The loose, almost acoustic instrumental arrangement seems but a haphazard and perhaps unsettling background for Eav's message-filled vocal. (It seems to be about the struggles to maintain mental health and healthy relationships during the fear-filled time of the pandemic.) But then it all coalesces into a beautiful, cohesive whole--as an instrumental. Very Pink Floydian. Nice finish to the album. (13.5/15)

Total Time 39:57

B/a solid four stars; an excellent contribution of melodic prog to the Prog lexicon; strongly recommended.

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 China Rice by SOUR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2020
4.00 | 1 ratings

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China Rice
Sour Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Spacehead

— First review of this album —
4 stars Possibly being an oler geezer viewing prog through cataracts an rose tinted specs I'm kinda a tad selective perhaps harsh as to anything post 1978 tops claiming prog credentials. The tinny AOR rock influence with the over digitalised production which came to prominence in the 80s really turned me off. So when I say I really like this. Well that is something at least for me. This has a Syd Floyd reference and feel yet is still a development or Colombian or both . I hope other folkan (more knowledgeable than self give it a listen and feedback thoughts.

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 Death's Design by DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.24 | 96 ratings

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Death's Design
Diabolical Masquerade Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars The last album by the black metal experimental one-man lineup is the most experimental and incoherent at the same time. Having no less than 61 songs to cover 43 minutes, you may want to listen to this digitally and reduce the pauses between the songs to keep a better focus on the music. So which of the 61 tracks is the best one? Hmm, the repertoire is so wildly different that it is not easy to remember the motives of all tracks. Instead of developing patterns, the composer decided to come up to quantity of sketches reaching such diverse poles like world music, electronic, psychedelia, progressive metal, jazz metal or folk. Quite some track seem to have nothing to do with the rest, there is hardly any continuous development.

It is indeed a collection of ambitious parts but it fails to deliver as a whole entity.

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 Ravendusk in My Heart by DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.95 | 11 ratings

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Ravendusk in My Heart
Diabolical Masquerade Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

2 stars The first chord change of the album, major and minor alteration is a good start and sets the dark atmosphere. The one-man thinking band is not afraid to experiment, be it more traditional forms of metal (thrash/straightforward death or heavy), there are plenty of changes in music. Guitars are at best when playing atmospheric black metal seconded by progressive metal riffing. Vocals are raspy following traditional black metal. Keyboards are OK, complementary to some more mellow moments. The real weakness are the programmed drums that don't naturally have the live feeling of other instruments.

Blackheim is a strong composer and experimenter as evidenced by multiple motives in each song as opposed to raw primitive black metal. The fans of black metal will definitely appeal the vocal and riffing. I'm not that versed to compare the band to any traditional black metal group, I just known it's miles away from other experimental black metal bands like Ulver, Borknagar, Enslaved or In the woods. There are almost no acoustic moments and the brief acoustic interlude for about 1 minute is quickly compensated by relentless "The sphere in Blackheim's Shrine". For the fans of progressive or adventurous metal, you will need to give it a couple of listens to grow on you and get beyond the black metal layer.

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 Our Twilight by BARREN EARTH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2009
3.03 | 9 ratings

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Our Twilight
Barren Earth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Our Twilight" is an EP release by Finnish doom/death metal act Barren Earth. The EP was released through Peaceville Records in November 2009. Barren Earth was formed in 2007 by bassist by Olli-Pekka Laine (Amorphis). He had composed material which didn´t fit any of the other projects he was involved in and decided to form a band to record his material. Having been a member of Amorphis from 1990-2000, Laine had been an integral part of the Finnish metal scene and had many contacts within the scene, which made it possible for him to recruit seasoned musicians like guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö (Waltari, Kreator), lead vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun), guitarist Janne Perttilä (Põhjast, Rytmihäiriö, Moonsorrow), drummer Marko Tarvonen (Moonsorrow, October Falls), and keyboard player Kasper Mårtenson (Amorphis) for the project.

The EP features 4 tracks and a total playing time of 22:26 minutes. Stylistically this sounds very much like mid-90s Amorphis, which of course makes sense, since two of the members of that band from that time are part of the lineup on "Our Twilight". This is doom/death metal with 70s progressive rock leanings and strong, epic, and melancholic melodies. There is a touch of Scandinavian folk too, and again it´s hard not to think of mid-90s Amorphis. The vocals are predominantly death metal growls, but there are also several clean sung parts on the EP. Barren Earth are obviously both seasoned and skilled musicians, and "Our Twilight" reeks professionalism that you won´t find on many debut releases. Although the band don´t often stray from their musical path, the addition of Yli-Sirniö to the lineup, does result in a couple of more unconventional musical ideas (it would be strange if a member of Waltari didn´t act out just a little bit), but they are incorporated successfully into the main musical style of the album.

"Our Twilight" is a heavy and atmospheric release, and that´s one of the greatest strengths of the EP. Barren Earth balance brutal heavy doom/death metal parts with their 70s progressive rock influences very well and creates a big epic soundscape in the process. All tracks are enjoyable and memorable compositions, but I have to mention EP closer "Floodred" for it´s death metal brutality and epic clean sung parts, and "Jewel" for it´s progressive middle section. The sound production is massive, layered, and ensures the right environment for the material to shine, and upon conclusion "Our Twilight" is a quality first release by Barren Earth. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 The Roxy Performances by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Live, 2018
4.41 | 23 ratings

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The Roxy Performances
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck

4 stars For fans of the near-inimitable Frank Vincent ZAPPA, truly but of course naturally speaking as a fan, an excellent addition to any Prog collection. This has always, and therefore immediately had, struck me as the ultimate (traditional) lineup of not only The MOTHERS OF INVENTION, but of any band headed by FZ throughout: the nearest contender is the '88 Band, but that should be disqualified for being purposefully capable of handling literally any and all of his material (it's cheating! haha). The (properly, not officially speaking) third and final Mothers lineup consists of the following performers: Napoleon MURPHY BROCK (sax, flute, lead/backing vox), George DUKE (keyboards/synths, lead/backing vox), Bruce FOWLER (trombone), Tom FOWLER (bass), Ruth UNDERWOOD (percussion), Ralph HUMPHREY (drums, aux. percussion) and Chester THOMPSON (drums). It can not be beat in my opinion, and especially Napoleon sticks out to me as the latest addition and as a co-frontman. He effectively filled the shoes, in part, of not only Sal MARQUEZ of the Wazoo era, but also the incredible and intrinsic Ian UNDERWOOD! Also joining the band along with Brock was Chester as the second (though technically now primary) drummer beside Ralph. Really telling about specifically their contributions and abilities as musicians--can you imagine performing this level of music with just ~3 months of preparation under your belt?

Material on this massive 7-disc boxset covers--and I think I must be missing something here--three nights in a row (Dec. 8-10, 1973), live at LA's Roxy Theatre, as well as recording sessions two days following that third performance at Bolic Sound (Dec. 12). The former live performances, of course, appeared partially and most notably on the excellent Roxy & Elsewhere a year later (in 1974) as well as Roxy By Proxy (2014). These latter studio recordings would contribute in part to Apostrophe (') (1974) and eventually compilation albums The Lost Episodes (1996) and The Crux of the Biscuit (2016).

Aside from the entertaining and enlightening "Show Start[s]" and song intros, personal standout tracks, previously and substantially not available elsewhere before, are as follows: "Inca Roads (12-9-73)", the before spliced-out guitar solo and half of the ending on "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? (12-9-73)", "Montana (12-10-73)" [The version on YCDTOSA4 is a combination of the performances from nights 2 and 3], the very funky and experimental "Dupree's Paradise (12-10-73)" [and when the theme comes in, I'm not sure I've heard it sound still so fresh], in a relative surprise "Cosmik Debris (12-10-73)" [great sax solo followed by a keys solo], "Uncle Meat" [there's something in the way Ruth plays the marimba on Show 2 that's so crisp], "RDNZL (12-10-73 / Show 1)" [a surprising new favorite version?], and the rehearsal for "Big Swifty".

A real treat, for sure, especially for fans, but of course very very dense. Plenty of repeats, to be expected, so it became difficult to remember and then differentiate between different nights.

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 Dance of the Goodbyes by AMOEBA SPLIT album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.07 | 84 ratings

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Dance of the Goodbyes
Amoeba Split Canterbury Scene

Review by DangHeck

4 stars Canterbury Sound out of Spain? It fits the bill!

And from the get-go, Amoeba Split has the quirk and the knack and tenacity to fit the mold of my personal favorite Prog idiom. "Dedicated to Us But We Weren't Listening" is a great introduction indeed. Happy start for maximalismo. They fill every nook and cranny in your headphones, most notably driven by synth and organ (rightly so, I'd suggest).

Soft female vocals head off in the quieted "Perfumed Garden" performed by flautist María Toro. Very modern feel, despite the majority of the classic instrumentation. It should be noted that not only are keys the dominant force, but the guitar specifically is mixed surprisingly low throughout, in my opinion. Regardless, everything is working together, again, to fill your headphones totally. It will keep your attention, in the least. All picks up in the middle section of this track, not unreminiscent of middle-era SOFT MACHINE (i.e. post-WYATT, pre-true-blue-Fusion). The latter half is soft but optimistic.

"Turbulent Matrix" is a much welcomed shift, the beginning of which is very jazzy [the whole song is jazzy haha], like a cool Post-Bop. And around the 2-minute mark we finally hear some guitar in nice soloing. Certainly still in a sort of Canterbury style. Most notable is the muddy and fuzzy bass playing here, of course reminiscent of Mr. Hugh HOPPER. Around the midpoint is this very lovely synth solo. And the build at the end should appease (it does fall into something that reminded me of "Stolen Moments" which was lovely).

"Blessed Water" didn't immediately impress, but around 8 minutes, there is a slight shift, but only for a moment. And then *wham!*, 10 minutes in and we get a huge burst. Enough to yank me over to the side of the track? No, but [the part was] satisfactory in and of itself.

A Hatfield-style sub-minute interlude is found in "Qwerty"! Well done! The synth and organ is once again the driving force, but in MILLER-meets-STEWART fashion the guitar is thankfully riding right alongside. Wonderful. And that opens immediately into the 23.5-minute epic "Flight to Nowhere", starting with psychedelic wavering then nice, simple guitar lead atop dancing piano arpeggiation. The saxophone section around 5:30 is excellent and the section it introduces is very nice. Complex rhythmic something going on here, too. Definitely picked things up. Good track.

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 En Annan Varld by AGUSA album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.12 | 74 ratings

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En Annan Varld
Agusa Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Swedish instrumental prog rockers are back with a slightly shifted lineup and a much more focused retro psychedelic Prog Folk sound.

1. "Sagobrus" (25:01) nice, laid-back, simple Folk-Rock for the first five minutes. As a matter of fact, one might say that this song is divided equally into five perfect fifths. In the second fifth it goes CAMEL--or at least, tries to. All instrumentalists (guitar, organ, bass, drums) are competent and recorded and mixed fairly well, but nobody blows me away. The 1960s analog-like sound (and recording- ?) choices probably make this a great ride for people wanting to sit back and ride a nice, long wave of late-1960s nostalgia (there's a lot of Doors- and Procol Harum-like feel here). In the third fifth, the flute gives it a nice touch of Moody Blues, Focus, and Camel; the rhythm guitar play, bass, and saw-organ give an almost Supersister/Hatfield and the North funk. The fourth fifth takes a minute to define itself but ends up falling cleanly into a Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here despite the flute arpeggio that remains as a foundational motif throughout; the keyboard work and guitar are definitely straight out of Floyd. In the nineteenth minute we get another pseudo shift as the fuzzed-up bass leads over a weave of mathematic minimalism. By the 20-minute mark, we have moved into a fury of Camel-like tension building, somewhat crescendoing with the multiple guitar tracks merging and weaving in the 22nd-minute, giving it more of a Focus feel. The from 22:00 out is Camel flute and then Hammond taking turns leading the way over the driving theme carried by the rhythm section. Nice. (44.5/50)

2. "Uppenbarelser" (21:13) opens with some harp sounding like a nostalgic Celtic sea shanty. Plodding toms take over over the top of the the psychedelic synth work. This is giving me the feel of being on a journey--of some processional dance being led along the rocky Irish sea coast, flutist and dancers moving at a very slow and staccato pace, very sacred and yet also, at the same time, profanely fertility-oriented. Were it not for the organ, I would think this something that could totally be performed outdoors, while dancing along the coast! In the eighth minute electric guitars join in and the intensity rises, but then, at the 8-minute mark things thin out again, breaking down all the way to slow toms and bass. The organ, and then flute and electric guitar, take up the slow melody, and together build and build, with Cream/Eric Clapton-like electric wah guitar taking over the lead, all the way until the 13-minute mark when things break down for strummed acoustic guitar to take over leading the way. Jazzy drums, bass, gentle flute, and picked Spanish guitar make me think that the processional has moved south--perhaps into the Basque regions of Spain, or its Mediterranean coasts. Community building in the 16th and 17th minutes leads into another attempt at the guitarist to take us over the top. Unfortunately, chaos reigns over cohesion as the dance must become totally bacchanalian--until, that is, we again reach a resting/restarting point at 18:22. This is when we are reminded and/or restored to the original Celtic setting. It feels as if the message here is that it's sleep- time. The final two minutes are very bucolic in a kind of Anthony Phillips way. I do love that a cohesive story seemed to unfold here. Well done! (36/40)

Total Time 46:14

I can see how other reviews call this album full of "addictive" music--especially the second track. I, for one, love the visual and visceral image of myself fully engaged in that highly enticing fertility dance. The synth, bass, and flute performances are wonderful--never overstated or bombastic. I am not, however, very impressed with either the guitarist's electric lead work nor the drummer's timing and mix/recording/engineering choices. While I love the nostalgic feel of the retro sounds and familiar styles, I am more inclined to go back to more original material. Still, a pair of nicely composed, well-collaborated prog epic tracks.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music on the retro psych-folk-rock side of things.

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 Nanodroids by QUASAR H7 album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Nanodroids
Quasar H7 Progressive Metal

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Quasar H7 come from Isernia and took shape in 2012 on the initiative of Francesco Cipullo and Luigi Rinaldi. Their music is a brilliant mix of prog metal and jazz with reminiscences of classical music, sense of humour and passionate energy. After a hard work and some live performances on the local scene, in 2016 they self-released an excellent debut album entitled Nanodroids, recorded at Queen's Academy Studios in Isernia with a line up featuring Eleonora Moro (vocals), Francesco Cipullo (keyboards), Luigi Rinaldi (guitar), Michele Milano (drums) and Francesco Coja (bass). According to the band, it was conceived as a conceptual work with a fantasy plot half way between history and science fiction... Anyway, there's no storyline to follow and the lyrics are used just to add colours to the musical canvas, as you can guess from the album cover...

The excellent opener "Nanodroids" is a kind of manifesto of the band's approach to composition and blends prog metal with classical music and jazz with flamboyant energy and bold, original combinations. It starts by a spacey intro and heavy electric guitar riffs, then keyboards begin to weave classical arabesques alternating with electric guitar solos. As the rhythm calms down a classical piano solo passage follows and leads to an operatic choral part in a crescendo that ends... in a funny jazzy outro!

"Zantesuken" is another blow of energy and pyrotechnics with the voice of the jazz trained singer Eleonora Moro coming out of the dark and taking off to the sky for some vocal acrobatics and somersaults into the void without net... The following "Liquid Reflections" is an articulated track full of changes in rhythm and atmosphere. There are even short passages mixing prog metal with Broadway musical hints and hard rock riffs while the vocals evoke psychedelic visions emerging from the void of an inner world where dreams rule and you can fly with the black wings of a swan over an ocean of fire...

Next comes the evocative "Going Home", a calm, dreamy piece where vocals are used just like a charming instrument... Then, the following "Embrature's Return" blends a strong jazz flavour with AC/DC electric impulses before veering elsewhere. Eleonora Moro showcases here her mastering of different vocal styles going from scat to heavy metal with an excellent theatrical approach...

"Vita Fugge (Caphemba)" starts by a sound of harpsichord, then mixes opera and heavy metal with the soprano vocals flying in the air over fiery guitar solos and punching rhythms, trying to stop the circling movement of the hands of a clock... The closer "Time Around The Clock" starts by mysterious Oriental flavours, then you can hear a bizarre quote from "Pop Corn" by La Strana Società that leads in another direction. There are operatic passages, classical piano solos smothered by aggressive electric guitar riffs and a sense of constant change hanging on until the end of the album...

On the whole, a very interesting debut work!

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 Splinters, Vol. II: Bruise by BATTLESTATIONS album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.43 | 4 ratings

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Splinters, Vol. II: Bruise
Battlestations Post Rock/Math rock

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars One of my favorite artists of the 21st Century continues to evolve in ways and directions that keep blowing my mind!

1. "Bruise" (23:45) Though this one started off a bit like some of Alio Die and Jon Hassell/Brian Eno's less engaging, more challenging music, it became one of the most gut- and heart-wrenching pieces of music I've heard all year! Those chords and incidental and glitch sounds in the fifth & sixth minutes are so beautiful, so ethereal, so engaging! Then we slowly transition into the incredible eighth minute and wow! a piano chord at 7:48 nearly makes my knees buckle! Ryuichi Sakamoto land, to be sure! The shifting synth-wash chord changes are killing me! At 11:30 there begins another slow, subtle shift, taking over four minutes of peaceful water's edge bar-do to fully reveal the next motif: stark piano arpeggi flying over the drone of the Earth's deep thrum with clouds and bird synths and, later, Middle Eastern human city flitting into the astral excursion. This is one out-of-body experience that I wanted to go on forever! (47.5/50)

2. "Receptor" (8:44) a very cool series of beautifully- and seemlessly-blended loops in which simple aural tropospheres are generated using heavily-treated, dream-like effects. Not sure if this one is more Blade Runner-like industrial Off-World or street-bound Earth during COVID dystopia. My favorite sounds are the human ones-- especially the whistles. (18.5/20)

3. "Vacrys" (5:38) I hear HAROLD BUDD and ROBIN GUTHRIE in this one. (9/10)

4. "Nydised" (9:24) like an ambient percussive exploration that PAT METHENY & LYLE MAYS would use--especially if collaborating on a HANS ZIMMER soundtrack. Incredible! Like waiting at a Far-tube stop somewhere out in the cosmos! (18.5/20)

5. "Jikan" (6:07) more piano-based floating. More Budd (and Battlestations) than Guthrie or Eno. Incredible chord changes! More hypnotically incredible! (9.25/10)

6. "Unelind" (6:39) beautiful waves of synth washes among a mix of celestial "sounds" and temporal atmospherics (drums). Gorgeous and transportive: like an Ed Unitsky album cover or a steam ship into the Galactos! (9.5/10)

Total Time 61:01

This man is an absolute genius! How/Why he's not getting more attention and fame I do not understand for he's merely evolved from writing the soundtrack of our times (war, degradation, and collapse), and our kind (hope amid brutish cruelty), to the soundtracks of our future (cosmically)! This is the kind of music that makes me so proud to be Homo sapiens sapiens! I can't get enough of his chord choices and powerful, deeply moving chord changes!

A/five stars; an absolute masterpiece of Progressive Electronic music--music for our infinite future! HIGHLY recommended!

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 Avenoth by BOCCA DELLA VERITÀ, LA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.19 | 171 ratings

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Avenoth
La Bocca Della Verità Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nº 498

La Bocca Della Verità is an Italian progressive rock band founded in Rome, Italy in 2001. The sextet was formed with the purpose of reviving the progressive rock music of the 70's. First they played cover versions of British and Italian bands, especially Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, and Le Orme, which they initially did to very good effect. After a few fairly active years, the band decided that it was time for their own compositions and in 2004 they started to gather material for a conceptual album to be called "Avenoth". Working on this album took several years and "Avenoth" only saw the light of day in 2016. It's their only work, till now.

La Bocca Della Verita (The Mouth Of Truth) is an ancient marble mask dating back to Roman times. Since the 17th century, it has been in the vestibule of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, in Rome. Throughout the centuries, it became known as a lie detector. The legend tells that anyone who puts the hand into the mouth and speaks a lie will be unable to remove it. Despite running the rumor that the mouth of truth still serves this purpose nowadays, I'm not sure about it. When I was in Rome and I put my hand into the mouth, nothing happened. So, or I wasn't a liar or I deceived it.

Now seriously and about the album, "Avenoth" tells a science fiction story in the form of a fictional diary of a space ship commander. "Earth" has become practically uninhabitable due to climate changes and wars. So, a new home has to be found on another planet. For this purpose, an expedition is sent that visits different planets all over the years, but all of them turn out to be hostile to life. After many years, in the year 2161, the expedition finally reached an "Earth"-like planet, "Avenoth", where the crew was welcomed by their inhabitants. After a while, a dispute arises among the expedition members. Some are pushing for the new planet's resources to be exploited quickly. The residents are quickly enslaved and now have to do forced labor. Eventually they revolt against the invaders who are forced to flee back to their home land, "Earth". A final look from the space ship shows that the planet's environment was destroyed.

La Bocca Della Verità was formed in 2001. So, "Avenoth" doesn't happen overnight. For years, they tinkered and polished their music before they considered it ripe to be released. From the first note to the moment that the last melodic sounds fade away, the band builds up an amazing piece of work. According to good Italian custom, the album is dominated by the keys. Roaring Hammonds, atmospheric Mellotrons, dominant Moogs and everything else that keyboards can do blares from the speakers. It's not surprising that the band has two keyboardists to be able to perform this opulence well. The use of classical instruments doesn't prevent them from wrapping the sounds in a modern way. The album is full of delights, provided by a bunch of excellent musicians, in which great transitions and changes of atmosphere follow each other in a natural and smooth way. The final result is heavenly music full of great highlights.

"Avenoth" is an album with eleven tracks that has more than 77 minutes long. So, this isn't really a short album. As a conceptual album, the music flows gradually and gracefully from the beginning to the end, as happen with almost all conceptual works. The futuristic story isn't told with futuristic sounds. Musically, one goes back deep into the past, into the golden 70's. As I mentioned at the beginning, La Bocca Della Verità originally played cover versions of British and Italian prog bands from the 70's. You can hear that clearly in the music on "Avenoth". Roman sextet plays a flawless retro prog, whose inspiration lies both in Italy and England. The singing is completely in Italian. The songs aren't overly complex, but made colorful and varied, offer luxuriant symphonic passages, filigree acoustic parts, but can also rock harder at times. The focus is on the predominantly analog key sounds, which cover the whole glory of the sounds from the 70's, from a powerful organ to jubilant synths to full Mellotron, which reminds you more than once of Tony Banks. In most of the time, when a short synth solo starts, you can get the impression that it could have come from Genesis. We can also say that guitarist Roberto Bucci uses robust riffs as well as solos in Steve Hackett or Steve Rothery styles.

Conclusion: The music on "Avenoth" of La Bocca Della Verità with the so many references to the great bands of the 70's and due to the craftsmanship of the band ensures a diverse, delicious and wonderful ode to the progressive music of those years. So, it will come as no surprise that the music evokes associations with the old Genesis, but Pink Floyd, Marillion, Eloy, Steve Hackett and Gentle Giant also drop by virtually. So, "Avenoth" is a very entertaining mix of classic Italian and British symphonic prog, which may not be overly original, but it's undoubtedly entertaining and masterfully executed. All in all, this is a strong debut with a flawless production, coming in a gatefold cover with elaborate artwork. And this is all very professional. If you like keyboard drenched Italian prog with references to the music of the 70's, this album is for you. "Avenoth" is highly recommended for those who adore the prog rock music made in the classic years.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Dyble Longdon: Between a Breath and a Breath by DYBLE, JUDY album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.69 | 4 ratings

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Dyble Longdon: Between a Breath and a Breath
Judy Dyble Prog Folk

Review by Heart of the Matter

5 stars Although the collaboration Dyble-Longdon had begun previously to this venture, in BBT's album Grimspound, the question remained open: what will happen with these two working outside the frame (and the well-stablished aesthetics) of that band? Now the folkie element fed by the hands of Judy has its own right to blossom unbound, so, what then? Then the result is excellent, with musicians coming from BBT's ranks devoting themselves to the new sound.

In Astrologers we find a great balance of forces, with a delicate folk melody in the voice of Judy, and a stronger counterpart by David, who takes the side of the evil astrologers.

Obedience verges decidedly onto the folk end of the spectrum, with fabulous percussion and rhythm guitar jumping to high momentum near the end.

Tidying Away The Pieces makes the most of the timbric variety in the instruments of the guest players, like trumpet.

Between A Breath And A Breath is probably the most intertwined and intimate number here, with David opening the vocals.

France dresses a romantic fantasy by Judy with the according parisienne ambiance, accordion included.

Whisper brings the more "heavily symphonic" moment, with a gorgeous melody crying for (and getting) a lush development, including a nice pair of tasty electric guitar solos, and pastoral mini-interludes courtesy of Longdon's flute.

Heartwashing is a final open-heart showcase for Judy's romantic sensibility, with the guests contributing impressionistic harmonic background.

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 Selling England by the Pound by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.64 | 4418 ratings

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Selling England by the Pound
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by WJA-K

4 stars I like prog. There are all kinds of variations. Seems like I'm more the Yes, King Crimson and Pink Floyd type.

I do like this album. But I don't love it. It feels self-important.

Having said this, there are highlights on this for sure. I especially like Firth of the Fifth and The Cinema Show.

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight - Impressive opener. Both musically and lyrically. - 8.5/10

I know what I like - One of the few rather straightforward songs on the album. Good track. - 8/10

Firth of Fifth - This track builds and builds. The ending is the best part for me. I didn't give it the 10 out of 10 because I heard that type of guitar soloing before, and better (Robert Fripp). Still, it's a great track. 9.5/10

More fool me - The song is quite alright. But the issue is, it is out of place on this album. - 6.5/10

The Battle of Epping Forest - This is ok. I like the theme, both musically and lyrically. I have some issues with the silliness of the lyrics. The story is nice, I like the humour. But some passages feel forced. - 8/10

After the Ordeal - Great instrumental. The calm of the storm of the Epping Forest. The second half is better than the first. 8.5/10

The Cinema Show/ Aisle of Plenty - This is a strong song. Especially the instrumental section is great. One of the best of the album. - 9/10

Overall: 4 stars.

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 Mirrors by PUPIL SLICER album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Mirrors
Pupil Slicer Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars Pupil Slicer. PUPIL SLICER. That's the kind of band name that can repel prospective listeners in droves. Yet it's not really a grotesque name per se. It's not like you're approaching a band with a name like Pungent Stench (who is a real band, by the way), in which case you already suspect you're in for something outright disgusting. No, the name Pupil Slicer is a different kind of repellent... one that provokes reactions of genuine unease and discomfort. It's there to jar you out of contentment and imbue a lingering feeling of anxiety, even when nothing seems to be happening around you. Needless to say, this UK trio could not have picked a better name to represent their music.

The group's first full-length affair Mirrors sees them combining elements of mathcore, grindcore, and powerviolence as they unleash what could best be described as "controlled brutality". Much like The Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity, the sections that initially come off as mindlessly chaotic are every bit as deliberate as any of the other moments; it's all about the big picture. One must not take this album's "mathcore" tag lightly, as its complexity is really the glue that holds it together. Take the opener "Martyrs" for example; amidst the unhinged vocals and ugly distortion, the dissonant guitar jabs and off-kilter drumming create a constant sense of unpredictability. As visceral as the music often is, it's not visceral in a sloppy or haphazard way. Case in point: shorter cuts like "Stabbing Spiders" and "Vilified", in which some of the record's most abrasive and fast-paced moments are given the same intricacies and quirks as the longer tracks. The former lives up to its name, as each instrument delivers erratic and discordant staccato stabs in perfect unison; meanwhile, the latter is a striking marriage of straightforward hardcore punk passages and strange out-of-left-field tempo shifts. In the case of both songs, you never have an opportunity to breathe or relax until they finish.

As was mentioned, however, the playing is unbelievably tight and purposeful despite how uncompromising the music is. Frontwoman Kate Davies is definitely the star of the show, with her gut-wrenching screams and unorthodox guitar playing; however, drummer Josh Andrews and bassist/backing vocalist Luke Fabian provide a perfect rhythmic anchor while dishing out their own brand of manic energy. The trio's chemistry is their strongest asset, and it's heard in just about every track here. Just listen to how "Wounds Upon My Skin" shifts effortlessly from bludgeoning downtuned riffs to soft creepy ambiance in an instant. Just listen to how Andrews can switch from blastbeats to a menacing crawl at the drop of a hat in "Save the Dream, Kill Your Friends", and yet the rest of the members don't miss a beat. Of course the band still manage to add a healthy dose of dark and deranged atmosphere to the record, both in the more ominous passages and bleak lyrics. A few tracks even whip out some black metal influence, such as the tremolo/blastbeat middle section of "Collective Unconscious" or the climactic ending of "Mirrors Are More Fun Than Television". Getting back to Davies, however, the lyrics she spews out are just as intense and harsh as the music itself. The first stanza of "Martyrs" immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album:

"Acting out your sick dream, experience through agony; you're set free. Tear apart prey you seek, subhuman void of empathy, entangled greed. A slow death now"

The lyrics of Mirrors explore themes of death, violence, (self-) loathing, anger, internal conflict, fear, and - interestingly enough - empowerment. In fact, I'd argue that the main theme of the album is that of empowerment and strength; it's just expressed in darker and less conventional ways than usual. This isn't the vague and disingenuous "stand up and fight" stuff you hear in a lot of Rise Against anthems, but rather much more aggressive accounts of the cruelty and arrogance our narrator hates in the world. "Vilified" is probably the most specific example of this on the album, as the addressee has nothing better to do than cause "conflict when that feeling in you is starved" with "no regard, needless cruelty". The lyrics in "Stabbing Spiders" are a twisted and ugly metaphor for staving off one's false self, with lines such as "stabbing spiders that crawl on my skin, drilling through me within". Then there's "Husk," which ends with an even more poignant message as it addresses the same subject of falsehood in more conclusive terms:

"No more living in fear. Persistent falsehoods - a disguise. You'll end up as nothing - you're faking. Lying to survive"

The only real issue with Mirrors is that it does tend to get pretty homogeneous at times. Despite the complexity of the math-y moments, there's not much stylistic variation; if you're not listening intently enough, Davies' screams and the near-constant aggression can become one big blur after a while. But that also speaks to one of the major strengths of the record: it does demand to be listened to intently. While more variation here and there could have been welcome, the group's commitment to create such a consistently enveloping, suffocating, and oppressive experience is commendable in its own right. Mirrors is a wonderfully dark and unsettling reflection of Pupil Slicer's equally discomforting name, and it'll be exciting to see how they expand on their unique style on future records.

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 Landed by CAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.51 | 155 ratings

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Landed
Can Krautrock

Review by Uruk_hai

3 stars Review #200

I haven't heard this record until a couple of months ago, I saw a video of Can playing "Vernal equinox" alive and I got really amazed by that song, so I decided to give "Landed" a try, not their best record but actually a very interesting one, I have to say. Almost every Progressive Rock band had to change its style to a more commercial one in order to survive to the demands of the music industry; "Landed" was the incursion of Can in this commercial field: except for "Vernal equinox" and "Unfinished", the songs on this album are totally oriented to average Rock fans, obviously keeping a bit of their most classic style but in general terms: the songs are shorter than in any other Can album, lots of lyrics, silly and not very deep mantric riffs. The percussions in "Red hot Indians" are very folky, but that goes to the drain with the hideous sax filling the entire piece. I said this album is a very interesting one, but interesting doesn't necessarily mean good, it is interesting because of the change of musical direction the band took, but musically, this is merely acceptable.

SONG RATING: Full Moon on the highway, 3 Half-past one, 3 Hunters and collectors, 3 Vernal equinox, 4 Red hot Indians, 3 Unfinished, 4

AVERAGE: 3.33

PERCENTAGE: 66.67

ALBUM RATING: 3 stars

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 Soon over Babaluma by CAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.69 | 240 ratings

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Soon over Babaluma
Can Krautrock

Review by Uruk_hai

4 stars Review #199

This was actually the first album of Can that I've ever heard and, back in those days, I totally fell in love with it; I used to listen to it every single day and when I finally bought my CD copy I felt as if I had found the Holy Grail but that was twelve years ago when I was just taking baby steps into the fields of Prog and I was much easier to impress. Comparing this album with the absolute masterpieces of Can ("Tago Mago", "Future days" and "Monster movie"), "Soon over babaluma" gives the feeling that something's missing, maybe it is Damo Suzuki's vocals or maybe it is a very intense jamming section.

Some of the most futuristic moments in Can's discography came from "Soon over babaluma"; the album actually feels like the soundtrack of a science fiction movie, the ambient music that the band developed in "Future days" took a darker path and the instrumental sections took even more presence. The selection of rhythms is very varied: "Come sta la luna?" for example, brings an almost tango music with Michael Karoli's violin, a very avant-garde tango anyway, since its dark atmosphere creates an interesting contrast of textures. "Splash" is a very acid instrumental piece, while "Chain reaction" explodes into a very energic sung tune that has almost a proto-punk vibe. "Dizzy Dizzy" sounds like a very underground jazz fusion band exploring the paths of darky melodies and "Quantum physics" flirts with the Electronic school of Can's paisanos Tangerine Dream.

I do not consider this an indispensable masterpiece as I used to when I first discover it and as I still do with "Tago Mago" and "Future days", but man! This is still a terrific album.

SONG RATING: Dizzy, Dizzy, 4 Come sta la luna? 4 Splash, 5 Chain reaction, 5 Quantum physics, 4

AVERAGE: 4.4

PERCENTAGE: 88

ALBUM RATING: 4 stars

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 The Downward Spiral by NINE INCH NAILS album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.99 | 161 ratings

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The Downward Spiral
Nine Inch Nails Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars When I first spent some time with NINE INCH NAILS next album "The Fragile" I was really surprised as I was expecting a depressing and dark record like this one. It rocked hard with great vocals and it left me pleasantly surprised that I was so into it. That was some months ago and the only other NIN's record I have is this one. This was Rezner's breakout album that made him even richer than he already was. He clearly wasn't in the best place mentally when he wrote this as we get some shocking lyrics that are anti-police, anti-God, anti anything good. Such a lack of reverence.

The music itself does little for me as we get this techno, Industrial and electronics flavoured record with fake drums for the most part. It just doesn't sound good at all when compared to the next one "The Fragile". This was inspired by FLOYD's "The Wall" and Bowie's "Low" and hours were spent in the studio to make the record sound this way. There were four singles released from this record and the most famous isn't Trent's original version but Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt". Cash listened to that song over a hundred times and said it was the best anti-drug song that he ever heard. To each his own but I have no problem being the first collaborator to give this less than 4 stars. Not my scene.

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 Future Days by CAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.11 | 637 ratings

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Future Days
Can Krautrock

Review by Uruk_hai

5 stars Review #198

When the musicians know what they're doing, very organic and minimalistic music is enough to make a masterpiece, extremely complexity is not always needed. After a very average album such as "Ege bamyasi", Can came back to the long-lengthed pieces but this time they were not full of chaotic madness as "Peking O" and "Halleluhwah", actually the music on this album is much more organic and less energic; "Future days" was the last Can album featuring Damo Suzuki but actually, his contribution to this record wasn't as crucial as he did in previous albums, actually, this record could have been entirely instrumental (and it almost is) and it would have still been great.

The opening track is the almost ambient music track "Future days", its rhythm is extremely relaxed, it could pass as music for an elevator with no problem; very calm percussions and a repetitive bass note is what it has to offer, it is a perfect example of how good a song can be with such few elements. "Spray" flirts with the most psychedelic and spacey sounds of the album, its introduction is filled with very intense percussions and keyboards, reaching the end the speed of the percussions increases and the guitar replaces keyboards with a very subtle collection of patterns; probably this is the most similar to "Tago Mago" they made on this record.

"Moonshake" is great, it is the shortest track on the album but it is also the most direct, being not a very extended piece, and with easy-to-follow lyrics, it is probably the most accessible track. The almost 20-minute closing track "Bel Air" is absolutely tremendous, the rhythm doesn't change a lot through its entireness but it really doesn't need it, the song goes and goes with a very natural flow that enerves when it needs it, and then it switches back to the calm mood, the simplicity of the piece its what gives its greatness.

SONG RATING: Future days, 5 Spray, 5 Moonshake, 4 Bel Air, 5

AVERAGE: 4.75

PERCENTAGE: 95

ALBUM RATING: 5 stars

I ranked this album #54 on my TOP 100 favorite Progressive Rock albums of all time.

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 Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est by AD NAUSEAM album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.41 | 7 ratings

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Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est
Ad Nauseam Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gallifrey

3 stars Listening diary 12th January: Ad Nauseam - Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est (avant-garde technical death metal, 2015)

Is it happening? Am I starting to enjoy death metal?

I come to this one via my love for the kinds of black metal that sound like you're falling into the depths of hell. Reverb, dissonance, chaos, and drummers that defy limbs - turn the lights out and let the darkness wash over you. I even compiled as stupidly titled spotify playlist to cover it, and decided to include death metal artists with the same atmosphere too. That has brought me to Ad Nauseam, who are truly a death metal band, even if the atmosphere is more adjacent to Deathspell Omega and Svartidauði than anyone else. And despite the standard issues I have with death metal vocals and riffs, I actually find myself enjoying this. It's terrifying and menacing and captivating in the way a good horror is - somehow all without falling into the comical or silly like so much death metal does.

6.5 (2nd listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

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 Out To Sea by PERDOMO, FERNANDO album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.53 | 14 ratings

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Out To Sea
Fernando Perdomo Crossover Prog

Review by DangHeck

4 stars That's right: You should start here.

Yes, this is my fifth album today, but you can do that when 3 of the 4 have little to no interest in them, huh? Is this masochism? I'm not so sure it is this time. It's the Adderall, for sure. The first (recorded here) Perdomo releases have been mild to great disappointments and it's one of those moments where you, the listener, must make the decision about this music for yourself. This was the first release, his fourth, where it was met with more than 2 ratings/reviews before I got to it. That gives me a bit more confidence, but we'll see [Indeed, I did see]. I assume this was the album that in some way brought people's attention to his work. I wish it had been more glaringly obvious (hopefully my reviews of the previous three are of some help).

From the get-go, "The Architect" is the most rockin' and the most Progressive item we have heard from him yet! I'm genuinely excited. This sounds like YES! And I hadn't realized until now that it is an homage to excellent and I would think only slightly underrated guitarist Peter BANKS (Yes, FLASH, EMPIRE)!!! Beautiful performance. Great riffage. Everything is beautifully mixed. Praise the Lord! With the opener alone(!), I now understand the observance of this album over what came before.

"De Boerderij" (Dutch for "The Farm") is a great, quick, classic-sounding Prog number. A bright one, for sure. Another that, to me, easily could have made its way onto a late-70s Steve HACKETT (or perhaps Jon ANDERSON) album is the next, "Roses Spread All Over the World". Utilizing electric sitar, into acoustic guitar soloing, this song offers aplenty.

Continuing in the Yesque is "The Future According to Roye", but with more an addition of spacy organ. So actually more so, by the end, the track reminds me greatly of the epic "Remember the Future" by NEKTAR! Ok... it's a tribute! hahaha. That was rewarding finding that out (thanks to whomever provided that information in the details above!). "The Dream" is quite the micro-epic! Big sound. My mind here goes to contemporaries ONCE AND FUTURE BAND.

Yet another tribute (I love the conceptualization for this, really) is to "Sonja" KRISTINA of CURVED AIR. Really impressive recreations. Here, spot on. Really impressive. To wrap things up is "Dreaming in Stereo Suite", a 16-minute epic that most immediately calls mid-70s GENESIS to mind. Another impressive guitar performance from Perdomo--and much more. I have been completely, 180° flipped on his work.

If you're a fan of classic, guitar-driven Prog (with a lot of great synth), this one will do it for you. This much is clear. And if it wasn't clearer above, truly for fans of Yes, Genesis, Flash, likely CAMEL, Curved Air, Nektar and perhaps BEARDFISH or ECHOLYN or BIG BIG TRAIN. Very pleased.

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 Forsaken Innocence by DRIFTING SUN album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Forsaken Innocence
Drifting Sun Neo-Prog

Review by James R Turner

5 stars This new album from Drifting Sun, is, for my money one of the albums of 2021. On this new album Pat Ganger Sanders and co have evolved the traditional Drifting Sun sound, and with some fantastic guest collaborators like Gareth Cole, John Jowitt and Ben Bell, the sound is filled out with the unique contribution each one brings to the album.

The epic 3 part title track, which is the bulk of the album is worth the price of admission alone and is a worthy candidate for track(s) of the year.

The performances are stellar throughout, the songs are the epitome of contemporary progressive rock, and the album flows perfectly.

If you've not heard it yet, then you need this album in your life.

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